Sorry for not writing in a while. We got back to the U.S. December 4th and hung out in Maryland a week before being home
home in Denver on the 11th. However, I got SUPER sick during our 61-hour transit from Ethiopia to NYC and basically out of commission since then. I'm feeling a bit better but have a lot of work to do before my next post. But here's the plan:
- Next post will be a picture summary of Ethiopia
- The post I'm most looking forward to is a vector-image stats page highlighting various aspects of our trip, but I have to ask a friend to help make it for me.
- Then it's finally moving forward onto other blog endeavors including knitting patterns and some raw food recipes I've been thinking about the last few months
So lots to look forward to and hopefully these posts will be starting to go up within this week. However, there are some fun parties we're hosting (Walking Dead Season 3 Marathon that involves pretending we're in a zombie apocalypse and only eating canned food and not having electricity or running water, as well as a food-based Africa themed party) and I have to look for a job, and plan Xmas food making.... etc etc so much to do now that we're home!
Our time in Tanzania is coming to an end this weekend. We're going to Dar Es Salaam Saturday and will spend about a week there before flying to Ethiopia next Friday. Flying turned out to be minimally more expensive than bussing all the way there and we don't have to get on 20-hr bus rides and pay expensive Kenya Visa fees. With how deep-fried I am, we thought it worth the extra cost.
It's also almost exactly a month before we fly back to the States and with that, I thought I'd post about some things I'm looking forward to as well as some hopes and dreams I hope I move forward with when back. Anticipating:
1. FOOD. Man I am such a foodie. We've had some pretty awesome food here. Most of the time it's very basic, but Jake and I aren't picky eaters and we've always appreciated all the various simple combos we've come across (tomato avocado cheese sandwich anyone?). And most of our favorite foods found in America have pretty much been satisfied here… or Spain, thank goodness for our Spain detour.
But two major things we haven't been able to eat are (1) doughnuts and (2) bagels. Not that we care about satisfying unhealthy cravings, I mean, let's live a little, right? We also have had mostly poor excuses for pizza, so a good margarita thin crust or a meaty deep dish might be in order…
Other than that, it's mostly places
I miss: In Colorado - Leela's, Snooze, Illegal Pete's, that Louisiana place that I never remember the name of, DBC
. In California - Surfer Joe's, Submarine Express, every single place in Santa Cruz, Souplantation
, my grandma's cooking. And Austin omg - Jo's Coffee, Noble Pig, Kerby Lane, Frank. And then what all three have in common: Del Taco, and I'm due for a Fogo de Chao visit. Ugh meat coma.
We're planning a stay in Jake's hometown/state Maryland where he promises me crab cakes (and football) and maybe something with lobster… and that's also where we will get amazing doughnuts I'm told.
2. Grocery stores.
3. Music I've been missing (or lost in Jerba, damn it!)
4. Driving a car (though not looking forward to the several 16-hr drives that await me)
5. CLOTHES. I might burn every piece of clothing I took on this trip so I never have to look at them again.
6. Mostly, Raw Food and working out. Furreal. Things I will be striving for:
- 1. School. I'm going to try and work my way into a PhD program methinks.
- 2. Paying off my debt. To be honest, I had plenty before this trip, but I think I have a solid plan to be debt free in about a year… not including school loans, those are perma-put off until I die, The Man can eat it.
- 3. This blog! Probably because it's the one thing I can work on while I'm here that it's at the forefront of my wishes. I can't wait to play around and try to get it to look the way I want (will probably never happen, but playing is fun too)
- 4. Picking up a few new hobbies: some instruments, parkour, astronomy, more programing languages, and finishing current projects in hobbies I already do, which basically means knitting.
- 5. I have some crazy fitness goals. I think it'll take 3 months to get to my peak last time and then I'm going to crank it up another 3 months to see where it gets me, but hopefully it's Olympian abs...
- 6. Saving up for my next adventure, which may be sooner than you think (*cough Hawaii* *cough* February* *cough cough*)
I think I learned a little more about myself, my limits, my desires, my tolerances (or lack thereof), and how I hope to live as a human being on this earth. I think I have a better understanding on how to improve myself, but as always it will be a struggle and I'm sure I'll forget from time to time, because human brains aren't phenomenal. But yeah. Good stuff. Always. Lessons. Always.Well this could potentially be my last post in Africa
because I'm not sure what Dar has in store for us (plus we'll be pretty busy) and internet sounds super bleak in Ethiopia (plus we'll be pretty busy).
So see you in a month!
So I thought it time to have another trip update for future plans.
Coffee Farm Project:
When Jake and I first expressed our interest in coming to Africa, Peter of Denver Bicycle Cafè
put Jake in contact with Anthony who is helping Ethiopian Coffee Farmers become more known with every cup of coffee.
The story goes like this: Coffee's birthplace is Ethiopia.
Something the majority of people don't know I believe. I think most Americans at least associate coffee with South America. However, it migrated there from Ethiopia and it's roots are still heavily in Eastern Africa. Anthony wants farmers to get their recognition and utilize Fair Trade to help their livelihood in this bustling and quickly expanding industry. Jake comes into the picture (pun intended) by doing photos and video for these farms to help with this "branding" you might say.
However, some snags have occurred and this year's crop isn't what Anthony had hoped for. There's been a huge lack in communication with us and so things have been slightly up in the air. We wanted to be there for 3 months, but then it was going to look like 2.5 months and now that we're leaving the beginning of December it was just going to be one month since the date kept pushing closer and closer to November. Now we're still waiting for some reply to our request to be there longer, but as of now it looks like we're showing up the second week of November and will spend 5 - 7 days touring the farm but obviously Jake won't have time for any photo and video work. That leaves us with about 2 weeks to hang out in Ethiopia as tourists, hopefully able to check out old ruins and historical sites.
Then we're back home! Things may change slightly until then, but otherwise, I may just update with some pictures of cool things and stuff I hope to do once back in the States….
Well I feel better. Refreshed a bit. I needed a few days to myself and not traveling about to recover some. Last weekend we got to go camping and while I wasn't quite ready to feel uprooted again, it was nice to hike around and get out of the house a while.
We went to the nearby Udzungwa Mountains National Park and hiked the Sonje Trail which goes to three different waterfalls and is around 6 - 7 km roundtrip through some steep terrain. It really got me excited for some future hiking in Colorado, but the scenery here was pretty amazing. I had fun taking pictures, but today I hate all of them. Le sigh, PMS maybe? Perhaps I'll like them or do something different with them later...
I wrote this review one month into the trip, and everything I feel after 3.5 months is about the same, with one major change I'll write in red.
I bought 2 new bags specifically for this trip and I feel obligated to review them, my choices in what to bring in general, and maybe things I really love vs. What I would do differently next time - maybe they can be future reference tips for me or anyone else who wants to do similar traveling.
Bag 1: LowePro Photo Sport 200 AW Backpack
I wasn't quite sure what type of main bag to get for this trip, but being a safari and I figured lots of walking, a hiking backpack would work best. I had one in my closet but I wasn't fond of it and I thought it'd be better to go as small as possible, so I was set to seek a 65L or less bag that had all the amenities I wanted so I wouldn't want to poke my eyes out 3 weeks in. I looked at a few at REI and had my heart set on 2 or 3 before really thinking about what to do with my camera.
I've been in love with my PorteenGear
camera bag and it looks so chic, I was definitely considering that being my other bag but then I remembered all the times I've taken it on day trips and how bad my shoulders and back would hurt after carrying it around just a few hours! Well that certainly wouldn't do for a 6 month-long safari, now would it? So when Jake and I went to one of his favorite camera stores in Denver, they had a wide selection of bags to look at and by chance I came across a small LowePro bag I had discovered online a few days before and wanted to see it in person before buying.
They have two sizes in this style, one super small (seriously a day trip) and the other a bit bigger. I obviously needed the larger one and checked it out a ton before deciding it would probably be the best option, especially since it was carry-on size and fuck baggage fees, amiright? So off I went and ordered the cheapest one I could find, I believe I paid $118 at the time?http://products.lowepro.com/product/Photo-Sport%20200%20AW,2271.htm
The Lowepro bag, after a month of usage, has proven noteworthy and without a doubt one of my favorite purchases of all time. They have black and orange available, and I chose black for this trip to not be an eye-sore and a tourist flag, but I think I may go for their smaller day bag when I get back in the flashier color.
There are two compartments, one for the camera, and one for whatever else you might fit in a bag. The camera compartment is classically padded with an adjustable insert divider to split the load. I have it adjusted to perfectly fit my flash and additional lens on one side, with my charger, camera body with lens attached, and accessory bag with flash gels on the other. Everything is comfortably snug and it remains easy to zip up the side. *The camera compartment zipper has broken at exactly the 3 month mark. I've had to ghetto-rig it shut with bungee cords and snap straps, which have been working pretty well actually and still make things easily accessible thankfully, or I'd be pretty pissed. I'm going to contact LowePro about the warranty and see what can be done. I'm still in love with the bag and believe I just have a lemon (some mediocre stitching), so we'll see what happens with a new bag.*
Then the top opens and in there I have my rain jacket, bathing suit, thermal shirt, long sleeve button up, 2 t-shirts, 3 tank tops, yoga pants, yoga shorts, outdoor pants, a pair of jeans, my hiking shoes, and 7 pairs of undies. I often cram my toiletries and soaps in there too and it seems to cinch just fine. Then I have a side pocket for bottles of water (that I just crammed more camera gear into: my mini tripod, battery grip, and batteries galore), a front pocket perfect for my notebook (that's paper, not a laptop), and a top zipper pocket for quick access items, but it's not very large or expandable (maybe the one thing I'd change). There are also two pockets on the hip belt (which I might add is extremely comfortable) and enough cinches and loops that I can tie or hang anything I could think of bringing. I bought D-ring clips since those are handy for random shit, as well as some more adjustable buckle straps and a large round of velcro strap to attach what extra things I need to on the outside. Everything sits perfectly on this bag and it remains extremely light and compact.
The back has a container for a Camelpak bladder (I bought a 3L one since I like to imagine being lost in the Sahara for 3 months) and the padding is stiff and supportive. There are also buckle straps on the bottom where I rolled up 3 of my RenFaire gypsy scarfs to better blend in with the locals (and I'm SOOO glad I did!!). Currently I have the blanket we bought in Chefchaouen rolled in there too and all four of those items just barely fit, but they're holding fine.
The outside is a nice nylon that so far has been very sturdy (though we'll see what years bring instead of a mere month) and it has a stowe-away rain cover too, woohoo!
As of now, it weighs in at 11ish kilos and is very comfortable to walk around in for long periods. Though when we had to change tactics to get on a RyanAir flight, Jake packed it to about 20kg and it got a bit uncomfortable after an hour of walking, though I probably could have adjusted it a little better, I still can't see myself doing it long periods. However, I don't see myself carrying that bag on ridiculous adventures that require lugging 20-30kg around and would have another bag for that most likely. My 10-12kg is just fine though.
Bag 2: Timbuk2 Classic Messenger Bag (Size XS)
Now what was I going to do for a second bag, which would most likely act as my day bag as well as holding all my immediate necessities for quick retrieval, not to mention that one small bag was probably not going to fit everything needed for a 6-month excursion. I thought about hoisting another backpack in the front, but that seemed... Cliché I guess? I needed compact, but compartmentalized and über useful. REI was having their yearly blowout sale for members, and I was waiting for the perfect excuse to become one, so I did that and then checked out my options. I was hoping for an elaborate fanny pack, but found myself drawn to a number of small shoulder bags that did just seem like slightly larger fanny packs and were compact enough not to be unsightly.
A number of well-received name brands lay before me in all manner of sizes, shapes, and awesome colors. But I came across a decision between two - I think both were Timbuk2 bags....maybe I'll look online before I post this to confirm. And while I wanted a fuscia pink and purple ridiculous eye-catching bag, I chose for the subtle and more-fitting black. And it was their classic bag in the just-released mini format that had the right accessories and sale price for me.www.timbuk2.com/tb2/products/classic-messenger
I LOVE TIMBUK2 AND CAN SO SEE WHY HIPSTER CYCLISTS HAVE THEM. Not to mention how stoked I am that they made a mini replica of their most popular classic bag, because it is the bees knees. Another one of my fave purchases of all time. In fact, if I could have a top 3, it'd be these two bags and my Toms.
This bag has everything the larger classic bag, just mini in size. The strap adjusting eluded me for a bit, but when I saw a girl in Denver hoist her classic bag up, I realized I just needed to get with the program and deal with how weird it looks. It's grown on me and I no longer care about having a thick weird loop because it hangs pretty well. The quick adjust buckle is pretty handy when I have it pulled up to my upper back and need to throw it off quickly to access it.
There are so many goddamn pockets and zippers, I didn't even see them all until we were about to start our trip. There are two "hidden" zippers that are super hard to see if you're not looking for them, which is awesome for potential thefts, and one of them even has more compartments and zippers on the inside. It's a labyrinth of pockets! My wet-dream of bags. It has a long strap for a keyring inside, perfectly sized pockets for credit cards, IDs, and my passport. I have my bottle opener inside, my headlamp, my hard drive case, two bags of food, a huge camping cup/pot, all my meds, more toiletries, bug sprays, Emergen-C packets, my kindle, my tablet and its keyboard accessory case
, and all my plug adapters and chargers.
When I use it as a day bag, I put my camera accessory bag, extra lens and camera inside with my kindle and tablet/keyboard and it closes just fine. That might be my favorite part about this bag. The velcro closures are top notch and on top of that there are two buckles that can be adjusted easily to cinch it as tight as you can get it, and it feels SO secure. Sometimes I stuff this thing so ridiculously that the velcro can't touch, but I just buckle it and cinch it tight and nothing comes close to falling out.
The entire inside and flap are also lined with waterproof plastic that I was able to test in South Africa's pouring rain and it kept everything perfectly dry. The thing feels like an indestructible rock. And the best part is how comfortable it sits. I carry that thing around all day as a day pack and barely notice it by the time I take it off after 6 hours of walking around town. It's so easy to access everything while still keeping it secure from other people. I'm so so so in love with it and am really excited to use it as my every day "purse" when I'm back in the states. Not to mention riding my bike around with it!
Well what to write? There’s so much and yet so little. We have been traveling over two weeks I guess without much internet. I haven’t missed it, really. And when I checked my email, I had 28 messages and over half where unnecessary bullshit. Traveling has been tough though. Not for any real reason except that I’m tired. Three and a half months is a long time in Africa when your home changes every 2 days. Most places in the world I wouldn’t be so ready to come home, but this place makes me tired. I feel burnt out, which is sad because we’re seeing a lot of beautiful places, people, things - and I just don’t really care anymore.
So we’re in Tanzania now. Jake is working on a volunteer project with his photography. He seems really happy to be doing it. I just feel like I’m biding time until we get on the plane in Addis. I’m having a good time, don’t get me wrong, but I’m working on defense mechanisms that get me through situations I know I can’t change, so why make it worse by pretending to be miserable? Might as well ride it out with some happy. But I haven’t felt like taking any pictures and when I do I don’t want to edit them. I keep looking through phone pics hoping to find some inspiration like “Oh yeah, that was so ridiculous, I can’t wait to share that with people!” but then I get through them all and think “meh.” Burnt out.
Sorry I’m being a Debbie Downer right now! Not what you were hoping to read probably. Maybe something really nuts will happen that snaps me out of it. I’m still excited for coffee farms though, that just sounds too cool.
We finally feel like we're at a final sprint in our trip. There are two deadlines we have been shooting for: The beginning of October to be in Tanzania for Jake to do photos and video for a water conservation project. And the end of October to be in Ethiopia to do the same for some coffee farm "branding" (again, something I'll explain when we're near there). It's finally the beginning of October and we're in Malawi, which borders southern Tanzania. Not bad.
We rushed through Mozambique to get here in time because apparently we spent too long in South Africa, which by no means was a bad thing, but we weren't able to explore Mozambique too much since we spent about 7 or 8 days total there (and most of that felt like it was in a chapa!). And Mozambique (or Moçambique to the locals) is a large country. But here's what we got from it and why we want to come back for an extended stay:
I should start by saying our original plan was to go through Zimbabwe (or Botswana) and to Zambia because they have a walking safari that didn't seem too expensive ($40 USD) and the people seem interesting (in all 3 countries, really). However, due to our couch surfing host Paolo being a Portuguese restaurant owner themed after a town in Moçambique, we were presented with the opportunity to go there one weekend and therefore decided to travel north that way. The town: Ponta D'Ouro.
Ponta is the border town of Moça
and after a surprisingly expensive Visa fee and Paolo haggling in Portuguese, we were on our way in a 4x4 since that's the only way to travel in most of the country. We stayed at a camp in town called DevOcean Diving
run by some amazing and fun people that Paolo has known for some time in a tented caravan of sorts.
After the weekend, Paolo went back to South Africa and we had to find transport to the capital Maputo. We thought we had a couch surfing host there, but travel was longer than expected and when we got there we were told it was too late in the night to figure out transport in this confusing town. So we stayed at a hostel called Fatima's Place that seriously had the most comfortable beds ever. Good night's sleep for sure! Here is where we had to get extra pages in Jake's poor old passport through our embassy but when we arrived it was Dia de Revoluçion! and everything was closed. So Maputo we had to spend some unwanted extended time to take care of everything.
It gave us time to figure out our route though, which we decided would be: Maputo -> Inhambane -> Maxixe -> Vilankulo (stay one night) -> Biera (stay two nights) -> Quelimane (stay one night) -> MALAWI.
The first leg which brought us to Vilankulo after 15 hours of travel was rough but not bad, and because we got out of Maputo a day earlier than expected, allowed us two days there instead of leaving the very next morning at 5am. Good thing too because check out my last post to see where we were!
Then we did another 10 hours to get to Biera which turned out to be wayyyyy expensive for a night and Biera was NOT very awesome to be at all! But in a panic of "What in the fuck are we going to do for money if we have to stay here two nights?!!" I rerouted us away from the next two places. We still had to stay one night, but our new route would overall save us money to make up for it.
So now it was: Biera -> Chimoio (stay one night) -> Malawi. And when I looked, it was really Chimoio we should have done from the beginning and NOT Biera at all. But timing at least led us to meet a Belgium girl who was going to Blantyre, Malawi the same day as us, so we got to figure everything out together and she had come from Malawi a few weeks prior so really helped us out that way. Chimoio (she-MOY-yo) is also another place we'd like to come back and spend more time in. Laid against the mountains, it was gorgeous with awesome hiking opportunities.
Well that was a rush! But in that rush of a few days, we really fell in love with this place! The beaches get more and more spectacular the more north you go and the people are amazing! Mozambique tends to be known for it's rough and tumble political situation, but you'd hardly be able to tell on the local level. The theme here is "patience" as they exhibit an exorbitant amount of it. It was nice knowing we didn't have to rush in trying to understand something or someone understanding us and anytime we needed help, whether it was to ask 15 times when the bus was coming, or setting up our new SIM card, or asking for directions, we were always met with kindness and patience. Even the friggin BABIES were patient. Most of our bus/chapa rides were 6-10 hours in length and had a TON of children ranging from infant to 6 year olds and were SILENT the entire trip. "What? 10 hours on a cramped bus or van and no toys to play with and my mom barely paying attention to me except to hand me a cookie every so often? No problem." I mean, these trips were rough, bumpy, tedious, dusty, noisy. Nothing. Kids would MAYBE whine/cry for about 15 seconds and then be fine. And it was once. In 10 hours. Once. And only half the kids. The other half perfect 100% of the time. Only in Mozambique do I not dread sitting next to a child for a 10 hour journey. Seriously if I adopt it's going to be a ridiculously patient Mozambique child. Just sayin'.
Also, land in Vilankulos cost like $5000 USD and if you put up some hostel accommodation…. I can now see why Bruno and his French girlfriend Valerie gave up Europe to come live there and own a backpackers camp. Basically I want to buy a 4x4, buy some land, and dive and hike my way around Moçambique forever.
Due to the lack of planning and short time we saved money, our African Safari has been governed by the cheapest places to stay. We love when we get lucky couchsurfing, but due to the spontaneity nature of our travels, doesn't happen as often as we'd like. That's where hostels and budget hotels come in. Most times, we're looking for the cheapest, and sometimes we have the option to choose between several places based on user review or location. All the hostels and accommodation so far has at least met our standards or exceeded them and we really haven't come across too many lemons.
And then every so often we come across a real gem and are wowed by the luxury for such a low budget. Enter The Zombie Cucumber
in Vilankulos, Mozambique.
There are three levels of comfort depending on your budget: dorms, chalets, and rooms. We stayed in the dorms for two nights, so that's all I can comment on at the moment, but the chalets were double bed huts without bathrooms, and the rooms were behind the bar and more like hotel rooms. The dorms were just 350 Meticals a person, which comes to around $12 USD a night, pretty average for us and definitely on the lower end of prices in all of Mozambique.
The dorm was simply a large communal-style hut with 8 or 10 twin beds laid in a circle complete with mosquito netting (and those buggers are everywhere here!). The bathrooms (Casa de Banho) was just outside next door with two showers that have the option of hot water upon request. The whole place felt tropical and adorably quaint, but very simple if you don't mind that type of thing (Jake and I are more for atmosphere than amenities, so we were in heaven).
There is a restaurant "building" to order a very good selection of food at pretty reasonable prices (or super reasonable when you think about "going out" prices anywhere in the world) but with so few people there while we were (we had the place to ourselves the first night!) it felt more natural to eat around the bar and talk with the workers and Bruno, the owner, when he was around.
The bar surrounds a nice pool with a few tables and chairs laid out for more eating and/or drinking, and the entire encampment is connected with dirt pathways lined with lantern-topped posts.
We arrived a little late in the evening via chapa, and when we got out were greeted by the nicest staff who helped carry our bags up to the bar and offered us food and drinks. Shortly after Bruno came by, an ex-Belgium whose heart was stolen by the Vilankulos paradise, and we all got to chat for several hours over local beer and extra garlicky pizza. We were told the week was desolate and we were the only people to come for days. The high season hadn't started yet, and though we normally like when more people are around to chat with, it was pretty nice to have a quiet night and be welcomed so warmly.
The following day a couple French girls came to stay in the newly renovated rooms up top, but otherwise we really had the place all to ourselves. The staff are all very fun to talk to and even the guys outside who try to sell their boat rides to the islands are very nice as well and due to the quiet week, we got to hang out with them a good while our second day there.
Vilankulos is overall a very relaxing and beautiful place to be and with budget options like The Zombie Cucumber right on the beach that take care of you so well, it's easy to spend a lot of time there and participate in all the activities it has to offer, like snorkeling, diving, going to the islands with monkeys, or do what we did and hunt for crabs and seashells along the amazing coast.
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...