Thus begins our Journey Into Africa: Part Deux, since coming to southern Africa really feels like beginning a second part of the trip. We're out of the Sahara, the heat, the sand, and the Arab world and into lush green jungles, darker skinned locals, and a different flavor of lifestyle. We're happy. Not that northern Africa wasn't an awesome experience, we feel more than ready to take on new atmospheres, and what better timing than right around the middle of our trip?
South Africa in Two Weeks
Differences In Culture
Our trip was mostly in the presence of Canadian expats, so whether we got a full "South African experience" remains to be seen. However, we were able to meet locals who frequent Paolo's restaurant, Paolo himself being mostly South African (with a Portuguese twist, or maybe that's reversed) and we got to help the Salvation Army with the locals who have had the hardest of breaks. With that, we did see some variety in cultural differences than our own.
The biggest to be seen is White South Africa vs. Black South Africa. Apartheid was not so long ago surprisingly (12 years only!) and the scars and resentments and cultural norms are still present in a variety of ways. Not until I got to Mozambique did I finally encounter the stereotypical White ZA who claims not to be racist, and then casually in the same sentence expresses how all Blacks are a worthless subspecies. Coming from a very White Guilt society that is America and being without race discrimination (arguably) for over 60 years, my eyes almost popped out of my head. You hear about these types of people, but it never prepares you when you finally face one. And I believe it's still a different kind of racism than you hear coming from old Grandma Josephine in the dirty South. Nucking Futs.
Another which was heavily discussed during our stay was the "worry about today, today and tomorrow, tomorrow" mentality. I'm still wondering if this is strictly Black ZA or both, but it seems the Whites and Blacks have been brought up slightly differently for many generations beyond apartheid, that it could be restricted to the Blacks whose roots are in traditional mentality instead of European ties from colonialization. This mentality can certainly be a good one if used properly and one I think many western civilizations would benefit from incorporating more of it into their lives, but it seems to be mostly a hinderance here in ZA. A person will make some money that day and they spend it that day, and never ever ever do they think about saving or preparing for something in the future to happen... EVER. Oftentimes, too, if one person in the family makes the money and they have ANY leftover (because, Hey bread was on sale this week!) then they are expected to hand it over to other family members so THEY can spend it that day.
A minor cultural difference is the view they have on different work or jobs. I was a little prepared for this, or at least reminded of it, from reading a book I'm currently on in my kindle called "Half a Rising Sun" where people are expected to have "houseboys" or "houseladies" depending on your sex. In ZA, both Paolo and our expat friends Arlene and Martin have a houselady a few times a week to take care of everything from cleaning, laundry, cooking, and sometimes maintenance. It's quite frowned upon to NOT have a houselady if you were to move here because it's a highly respected job to have and you would be viewed as very elitist.
We didn't get to know Paolo's lady very well, but had fun hearing stories from him about her giving him shit all the time and talking back to his girlfriend Rebecca, leaving adorably polite Rebecca flustered. We did get to see Ar's and Marty's lady Fortunate often and really loved her company while she putzed around the house and also had a habit of giving Arlene shit - usually over her attire or vulgarity.
What I expected vs. Reality
While Jake and I weren't so dumb and out of the loop as to the development of ZA, I'm sure the level of "city life" we encountered was still a shock to the both of us. I defintely knew to expect skyscrapers and sidewalks, but for some reason I still didn't have it straight in my head as to how it would be laid out or the thoroughness of the infrastructure.
What we got turned out to remind us quite heavily of Hawaii (I guess Oahu specifically since that was the only island we were on). Not just the city part, but the weather and atmosphere was fairly similar to a Hawaiian winter as well. That was probably more of the reality check for me, was I had no idea what type of environment South Africa was in. I knew the Congo was dense jungle-forest, and everyone can picture the desert, and of course there's the National Geographic land of Serengheti, but what WAS South Africa? It was by the ocean, sure, but so was Morocco and we saw what that looked like... So yeah, Hawaii-ish
1. A plastic grocery bag is called a "pocket" and when I was first asked if I wanted one, had to think for a second before she pointed at it. They also charge for them like Europe which is nice.
2. They drive on the left like their kooky Euro colonizers.
3. When there is one lane (even two sometimes), slow cars drive almost completely on the shoulder for people to pass them.
4. They farm trees. On our long distance drives, we'd see forest after forest that was tall skinny trees lined up like you see the mangroves in central Cali.
5. Their word for "cool" or "awesome" is lekker.
6. The native tribe/language in the area is Zulu, which, yes, is one of the clicky languages.
We didn't come across too many foreigners except one other American at Paolo's restaurant who was studying Culinary Arts. He had a brother (or cousin?) who lived in ZA for some time though, and he seemed to have travelled here and there a bit. We liked him a lot. Some political/cultural/religious conversation was going on between some of us (the American, Jake and I, and one of our favorite locals Nikki) and the table next to us which was a quite annoying hippyish woman native to ZA (white) and the American had a lot of good input and certainly didn't come off arrogant as most do, so that was good.
Otherwise, I'm sure our expat friends and their collegues coould be considered travelers though maybe not so tourist, and we enjoyed their company a great great deal. The foreigners that are abundant here, now "naturalized," are Indians (who were used for slavery back in the day) and obviously the Dutch, where the Afrikaans language derives from and how ZA was colonized to begin with. Besides that, it's hard to think of many people wanting to come to ZA unless they know a thing or two about the world, and for the most part, that tends to make people pretty cool.
RATING: 9.5/10 South Africa is awesome and I think it will only get better with time.
Now, personally, my own likes and dislikes and feelings invoked etc etc. I don't know if there is anything I really disliked about the place. The only think I can think of but never encountered, is the crime rate. Joberg seems to be ridiculous and most other towns and cities had warnings of high theft rates and some armed robberies at times too. Drugs are a problem, as with all places that have distinct lines between the wealthy and poverty and between races. Here it's the sniffing glue or roof tar. The kids you can tell are on something are fairly grotesque (like those meth billboards you see, really) and inside I feel both rage and pity, and then guilty for either.
But I definitely loved the environment, the atmosphere, and I love hearing South Africans speak because it's one of my favorite accents (though many White ZAs sound straight Australian to me). All the locals we hung out with were fun and funny and our couchsurfing host Paolo was amazing in about a million different ways. Definitely someone I'm sad I can't hang out with every day and be apart of my regular circle of friends. But that's what traveling is all about, right? It's nice meeting people that "fit" you rather than a slew of coworkers and area-location friends in your 5 mile radius from home.
Things from here I wish was back home: SIR JUICE, delicious fruit, cheap cheeses, my own Fortunate, piri-piri sauce, 18-ft wave swells, ZA accents.....
Yes, that is a dung beetle pushing a pineapple
Things I'm missing: Nutella (it's been expensive since we left Morocco!), baguettes, dirt cheap food in general, Steve, Colorado Mountains (and friends to be there with), Fred (though seriously, Paolo's cat Tuk satisfied my silly cat need), Santa Cruz everything, certain music I've been without, oh the list goes on and on =)
But really, I felt so comfortable here, so much more than northern Africa, though I must say, less "safe" since in N.Africa tourism is so needed, the police and shop-keepers and various locals really look out for your well-being. Here, we stand out and nobody cares if we have a good or bad time in the process because fuck-all. However, I think my spunky personality, tattoos and shaved head tends to confuse and amuse people enough that they don't remember to hassel us or no longer care to because they enjoy us. I'm hoping that gets us all the way to Ethiopia unscathed...
So we've got a general plan for the rest of our trip here. This weekend, our current couchsurfing host Paolo is taking us to Mozambique - to a town after which is restaurant is named and themed after. The solid line indicates a sure thing and red "x" a sure destination.
After that, obviously we leave to fate and the elements. We would like to see Malawi, so the hope is that we find some truck or bus heading up to the capital while we're near Mozambique's capital Maputo. Once we get there, however, it seems straightforward to get to Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania.
In Tanz, we'll be staying with a friend of Jake's who lives a little more inland and working on a water conservation project where we hope to do more of what we did in Durban and help get some balls rolling in the right direction for fundraising and global awareness of the situation there. We'll have some more time to kill, similar to South Africa, so after some help there, we may pop on over to Zanzibar and see what it has to offer (provided we don't die in one of the fairly common boating accidents that seem to occur when ferrying over there).
From there, our goal is Ethiopia. We'll have to pass through Kenya, which we're a little apprehensive about, but it should be a worthwhile experience. We're trying to be in Ethiopia by the end of October to meet up with Anthony and help with a little farm branding (as in advertisement). It's not the most accurate way to describe the project, but obviously that's another blog post when the time comes.
My next big post should be my South Africa summary. I almost don't want to write it because honestly, we really don't want to leave yet. But until next time I guess...
Downtown central Durban. Except the last one is of bats in Umhlanga, that one I wasn't doing the filmy thing, but I love bats, wanted to share.
Anyway, I was inspired by some film pictures I saw and wanted to see if I could edit pictures to look the same. I happened to have just taken these a few days ago and thought they'd be the perfect ones to play with. I'm pretty satisfied, I don't know, what do you think? Too much? Not enough? Stupid?
Jake and I continue to have amazing experiences in South Africa - there seems to be no end to the good fortune that comes our way in the form of people, weather, time, and kindness.
Our host doesn't seem to be sick of us quite yet even though we've stayed here longer than we tend to due to not wanting to overstay our welcome. We feel very welcome and try to be the best surfers we can.
We've also had the fantastic opportunity to meet up with the parents of a girl we met in Morocco (remember our favorite hostel
in the entire world?). Caylee was this animated Canadian
whom Jake and I instantly loved and wanted to get to know more. Her stories had us rolling every night. So when she found out we'd be in South Africa some time, well that's where she was just at visiting her parents and "here is their contact information." As soon as we got into Durban we called to figure out how to meet and when we returned from St. Lucia, Caylee's mom Arlene offered o pick us up and show us more of town.
We had a very wonderful day around downtown Durban and the beach promenade, finding gifts for friends and some needed sandals for myself. That night her houselady made us lasagna that was to die for and we were able to see how open-hearted and generous both of Caylee's parents are.
Just about the loveliest people Jake and I have encountered.
What we'd like to do more of while here: HELP
The next day we asked Arlene if we could see the Township (aka the slums) and volunteer with her through the local Salvation Army. So late in the morning we headed over to sort bread and pick up soup. When we arrived, we saw the bread and soup had been taken care of and due to the weather, there was far less than what they were used to unfortunately. When the people lined up, they were a little agitated with me and Jake for taking pictures, assuming we were with the local paper and going to turn them in or get them in trouble. However, one of the lead ladies, Octavia, asked them in Zulu and in English if it would be okay that we photograph for our country to get more help to them. About 1/3 of the guys were okay with it and separated accordingly. When we weren't taking photos, we were handing out bread and soup with the rest of the Army workers and saying hi to the people ("Sawubona! Unjani brudda?").
After handing out at the church, it was time to drive up to the township and see the women and the children who line up. This is where we met a South African girl named Jo who drive us up in the Army van while Arlene drove herself and some other young workers in her car. Here we got to see the poorest type of neighborhood and how the people live day to day life. The statistic is 99% of the people have HIV and the ones with full blown AIDS are separated from the community like lepers. They have a school and shops to sell things and services to provide, just like other "self-sustaining" towns. But these areas need so much more help due to the economic crisis and the way the president Zuma has rid almost every good thing Nelson Mandela helped establish. Some of the pictures below show the housing that has recently been built due to government funding and donations. But the houses are poorly built and not suitable to put in furniture and other living requirements.
Meeting these children and mothers, grandmothers, and other townfolk, your heart immediately goes out to them and more than anything I'd like to be apart of a community that helps all over the world. But right now I'm here and I'll be honing my energy for this community. I'll probably set up a donation page soon, but more than anything, these people need more food and more people willing to donate their time. So I'm going to try and reach out to local hotels and restaurants that have a lot of leftover food that usually just gets thrown out. And then larger hotels that base out of the U.S. if they can donate as well. If anyone has more experience in this area, too, please let me know what you've done with success or other suggestions you may have.
Thanks to our latest couchsurfing host, Paolo, we are able to trek to some amazing places in South Africa (and Mozambique soon!). Last weekend we drove to St. Lucia just north of Durban to fish, see hippos, and drive some game reserve loops on our way to a beach for more fishing!
We have certainly fallen in love with this place in the few days we've been here. Jake and I agree it reminds us of winter in Hawaii and we are so thankful to finally be away from heat and sand!
So our weekend was spent in an adorable bungalow where we had monkeys wake us up jumping on the tin roofs and a gorgeous view next to a lake where hippos have been known to frequent. We saw crocs, hippos, zebra, rhino, buffalo, mongoose, warthogs, .... I'm sorry dad, but the zoo just won't be the same again.
If you're curious as to the final verdict on me staying or going:
Last time I checked votes, it was 50/50! Thanks guys, that backfired haha. Fun to see how many people stress like I do versus the people that say "phucket!"
However, I think I'm staying. Money problems will ALWAYS be there and really, I might struggle for a few months, but probably no more than that, and what's a few months in the scheme of life? It's much easier to see things now, get this experience now, and be better prepared for more experiences in the future. I'm having a blast, and I know people are there for me when I need help (if I ever get brave enough to ask for it other than joking around). So the plan is get to Ethiopia by October and fly home mid December. Probably going to buy our tickets back this week (maybe even today!). Wish us luck on good deal fairies!
These flavors need to be in America... or maybe not because then I would start eating chips.
Since they're "kind of a big deal" I thought I'd share my Giza pictures on our last day in Egypt. The day was pretty successful. We had good timing as far as seeing what we wanted to, then getting back in time to get our stuff together, buy more El Abd pastries, and walk to the bus stop to head to the airport (which took over an hour and a half! Traffic is nuts).
Our flight to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia was really comfortable on a considerably large plane and then our second leg from Jeddah to Johannesburg was even better, being in something in the middle of first and economy class, plenty of leg room, and surprisingly comfortable sleep.
We wanted to steer clear of Jo'Burg because it didn't seem like much more than a typical city but with an extraordinary amount of crime we thought we'd avoid. Our mission was to get to Durban as quickly as possible. We usually bus or train it for cost-cutting, but across the board it seemed like we should fly there instead. So quick like a fox we looked into it before stepping out of the airport and found a flight which we had to RUN to get to, but it worked out and in about an hour we were touching down in Durban.
So I'm thinking of cutting my trip short and heading back to the states in two weeks. I don't have enough money to finish this trip and if I go back now I'll be able to pay my bills on time and have enough to hold me over until I find a job. If I stay, then I'll be at ZERO when I get back with a ton more credit card debt and things could be rough for a few months.
However, some of you are aware as to how resourceful I can be and I think I'm smart enough to balance some things out so I take the weakest blow from life. I just don't know what to do.
It's stressful thinking about money (and some of you are also aware of my stress levels and coping with such) but this trip is in a way that it gets BETTER and BETTER with each stop and experience. Without a doubt what awaits us in the next few months will be unparalleled and especially when we get to Ethiopia, what we'll be able to do with these coffee farms will be everything I want my international travels to be. It'd be a shame to cut out early and miss all of that.
So... vote? What would you do?
This is a little early, as we have one more day in Egypt (sort of, our plane leaves 11pm tomorrow night) and we plan on seeing the pyramids of Giza (hopefully we remember to wake up early) - however, I feel it's still a good summary (only 9 days here, WOW)
Well I completely skipped the Tunisia summary. I really liked it there but not sure if I'll ever write about it now, however, Jake is working on the video of that place
, whereas we will probably not have a video for Egypt (save the one with the Italianos singing in Alex).
So here we go! Cultural Differences
Egypt is a Muslim country (surprise!) and with it are the typical things we've seen in Morocco and Tunisia. Prayer five times a day through loud speakers. Friday is their holy day
(so their weekends are Friday/Saturday). Everything is closed on Fridays except for some food places. And people stare at me funny for my tattoos and any exposed skin (omgah ANKLES! Welcome to the renaissance).
On top of that, Egyptians seem to be much more forward
with me than Morocco and Tunisia. We had heard it is rougher here than Morocco hagglers due to the drop in tourism and needing to be more aggressive, but we thought it would be the touts and sellers that would be in our face. While some do not take no for an answer no matter how many languages you say it or hoow many times or how many various volumes, we found them to be much easier than Moroccans. What WAS rougher was the constant male attention I've received, regardless of having my male companion. I would hold Jake's hand (later to find out that is actually frowned upon many places) and confirm that we were married when asked, but it did not stop 15 year old boys ask to marry me, touch my legs and hands when sitting next to me, and being shouted at, gawked at, and receiving confessions of love, admiration, and compliments of my "magic eyes." Jake was often told "What a lucky man to have such a beautiful/good woman!"
and questions about our happy marriage. When walking down streets, men smoking shisha and drinking coffee sitting at cafes would often make "tsk" sounds, hissing sounds, or kissing sounds to grab my attention. I often ignored these because (A) I am not a cat, and (B) I was terrified that if I looked I would be greeted with much worse vulgar mouth gestures.
That being said, and knowing most of these compliments were probaby more aggressive ways of trying to get baksheesh
, the attention was all positive comments and compliments and though it made me uncomfortable, I can't hardly wait for southern Africa where we will be considered "white devils" and children being told bedtime stories about us eating babies to keep our skin white. Le sigh... What I Expected vs. Reality
Again, we expected to be grabbed more, forced to hold items in hopes we'll buy them, nonstop pestering for money,
and general "sell sell sell buy buy buy" annoyances. I was even piccturing revolution violence, protests, and maybe getting caught in unwanted political stresses among the people while walking around. I heard Sinai was the only real place for this, but I hear about Cairo protests often and the day we were leaving Tunisia, we saw news about another in some Cairo square. I was stressed. Reality proved much different.
Maybe I didn't realize how much dealing with touts in Morocco helped prepare me, but I just did not find Egyptian sellers to be quite so stressful and annoying. The people here have a GREAT sense of humor and we hardly encountered annoying touts
except for the train station in Luxor where the same man came to us over and over and over and over and when we toured Karnak and were pressured to buy statue souvenirs. However, these being the most touristy areas in the city and this city almost relying SOLELY on tourism, it came as no surprise, or rather, we were more understanding. Cairo and Alexandria were the easiest to be in due to many other industries than tourism for support,
and Cairo is so MASSIVE, we only had time to see a small part of downtown where it was very reminiscent of typical downtown city life you see anywhere in the world. Luxor was still great, but the relentless flies (they take lessons from the touts apparently, or vice versa!) and the tourist traps made it a bit tiring. Nuances
The funniest one is that at night almost nobody uses headlights
on their car. They feel they just don't need them since lights on the street and so many other cars light up the way. But when you step into the street, they will be sure to flash you often and with their brights. Thanks, maybe you should just keep them on so I can see you. Honking
is the other thing. They like to drive down the street honking abusively as possible and often for no reason. Sometimes it's a "Hey I see you walking on the sidewalk and I'm coming behind you, careful!" And same for other cars to let them know they're coming. But a lot of times, it's just layin on the horn drivin down an empty street. Other tourists here
We met one American at the airport we got coffee and shisha with later in Cairo. Ryan is a traveling folkpunk looking for anarchy-friendly places in the world and seems successful in that endeavor. He is eccentric and tells amazing stories with animated conversations and we loved him immediately. Check out his website http://www.riotfolk.org/
if you're interested. I know I'll be involving myself as soon as I get back to the States.
In Luxor we got to surf with FOUR other people at the same time. An Argentinian girl who was very nice and knew plenty about the area. Our host was from Uruguay, so they got to converse in their native languages often which I'm sure they both loved. Then three guys, two brits and a yank(sorta), have been bike touring the whole way down Africa raising money for music and children which is serendipitous because that's just what Jake and I want to do in South America! They are super cool to hang with and we spent most of our time in Luxor exploring the place with them. Be sure to check their site as well: http://daringdynamos.com/
and follow them through to South Africa.
Other than that, we had met people in Morocco who went through Egypt before coming to Morocco and they were all cool too. However, in Karnak, we were bombarded with tourists from a bus and generally I was a bit annoyed with them. All I kept noticing was the women in skimpy tank tops, short shorts, or tiny miniskirt dresses and all I could think about was "Why come here?" It was such shameless disrespect for the local culture and then having arrived via Tour Bus, all I can think of is that they're secluded on some resort and only want to see places a tour bus can take them to. It filled me with a sense of pride to be as sensitive as I was, but also made me even more self conscious and mad at myself for not going even further to cover up more parts of myself and try to figure out their hair scarves. Still, in long pants and a cardi in 104F weather, I hope they realize I'm trying. Feelings
This place immediately fills me with wonder, passion, curiosity, and amazement. The culture here is SO old
and feels proud in their history. I feel like an utter child here, being both young and out of touch with the political environment in context, as well as being American and from such a young country.
I've also come to have a certain respect for Islamic culture, but wish I had more time to understand the role they play in a society that is so much older than the religion they've adopted. I find myself wondering if anyone worships the old gods and keep to ancient ways. I feel like a western religion is a mockery to a civilization adept enough to have built giant pyramids 4000 years ago to almost perfect mathematical perfection. Ponderings..
One of my main concerns here though is with the drop in tourism
and how heavily Egypt as a whole has always depended on it. It has increased the stress dramatically for the locals and in just 2 days we saw three intense fights break out
, one that was clearly over us. The struggle is there are 10 men who own ferry boats across the Nile and now there are only enough tourists to support maybe 3 of them. So aggression happens when a ferryman convinces us to go on his boat and then maybe we're bombarded by another and in the confusion of language and figuring things out, we follow him instead, maybe thinking they are the same boat. So then ferryman #1 assumes his fare was just stolen from him. FIGHT. That's his livlihood, his food for the day. And while some cases are not so extreme (because they make enough money), I'm sure there are plenty of times it is that severe and families do potentially go hungry because of dwindling business. This is what we encountered most in Luxor (again, a city almost solely dependent on tourism) but we see it elsewhere too. It breaks your heart to see the tension rise and knowing that your choice to spend money so directly affects their lives. It's especially hard because neither Jake nor I have the funds to do this trip very properly and looking out for our own skins means we're finding food and activities with the person willing to give it to us for just $1 less. We're not even providing baksheesh in accordance with custom because the taxes and service charges that are added on to everything force us to not have funds for an additional 15% or so. It's a hard life, but I hope to make it up in many future visits to this place
with better planning and funding. Likes/Dislikes
I definitely do not enjoy the sexual harassment, even though I tend to receive a lot worse in America, the quantity received here is a bit much sometimes.
Other things aren't so much dislikes, but it's hard to haggle for everything all the time, and people wanting to talk to us constantly to have an excuse to speak English (or get money) and oh yeah! Jake and I are CONSTANTLY being asked to take pictures with them. We go to museums to see local art but end up being the subject! Likes, however, are plentiful, but notably, being the fatty that I am, FOOD.
Food is fucking delicious here and the cheapest I can ever imagine food being. We often spent MAYBE $3 between us for food all day. And filling good food. Kushari is one of our favorites, and we couldn't ever pass up Falafel sandwhiches which were anywhere from 15 to 30 cents each depending on where in town you were getting it.
One of the best sandwiches we got was in touristy Luxor where we had two Egyptian boys order for us so we could get the "Egyptian price" which was probably STILL higher than the actual price, but was also only 30 cents for us, so we weren't complaining! The falafel there was heavenly though and I'm inclined to find those boys so they can order again for us (though one was one of the 15 year olds trying to get handsy with me... But I guess for sandwiches, worth it).
Also, there is a famous bakery in Cairo with two locations called El Abd and OH.MY.GAWD.
For what we would have EASILY spent $30 on in America, cost us less than $3 here. Danishes filled with cheese, topped with jams, croissants of all kinds, large flakey pastries filled with sweet spreads, stuffed pizzas made with pastry dough, coookies, candied nuts, truffles, and heavenly layered cakes that weren't "cakey" (because I hate cake) but instead pastry like. Jake and I found every excuse to go there every chance we got and I almost cried every time because of how delicious and cheap it was and also to participate in something so famous among locals and tourists in a country so far away felt amazing.
Yeah between Barcelona and Egypt, I will not look like a starved African child when I get back... Overall rating: 9/10
- Need way more time when I come back. Summer vacation is just about over, anyone have any trips worth reviewing or talking about? Favorite thing you've done over the weekend?
I think my favorite to see this weekend was Karnak... Or maybe Giza pyramids...