Saturday, January 26, 2008

If it's too hot and too windy, it must be the Cape Summer

After being out of commission due to tonsillitis, I'm back at full speed again!

I started feeling bad last week: sore muscles, fever, tight chest, very sore spine (no idea why) and then raging fire in the throat. Good thing Matt insisted i go to the doctor's, i thought it would just pass.

It's nice to not be like a lazy lump-on-a-log and get out and enjoy the Cape Summer. And what a scorching summer it's turning out to be.

Temperatures are hovering around the low 40's, and as most houses and buildings are without air-con, all you can do is sweat it out or soak in the pool (which is like a hot bath itself).

Since the new school term has started again, I'm getting back into my routine of teaching at the Hout Bay Music Project.

We've inherited a whole new group of extremely excited and eager-beavers to learn a stringed instrument - my job is to teach them how to read notation, count, and all "that boring stuff" :p

In the mornings, I'm occupied with the ABC FOR LIFE Literacy Project, which has really taken off.

Teachers are basically forcing most of their kids onto our program so we need to hire another fulltime teacher and get a classroom built. Pronto.

It's a mission organizing volunteers' schedules, following-up on donors, and basically coordinating with the school/principal but we've received quite a lot of generous donations since our November fundraiser so things are able to move rather quickly at least.

It still stuns me at the amount of wealth in Hout Bay, but at least most people see the benefit in donating to their community.

Social-wise, we've been meeting up with friends a lot recently for beach picnics, braais, movies, theatre-going (saw The Merchant of Venice at the Maynardville Open-Air Theatre last week), Innebandy-playing (a fun and exhausting Swedish version of floor hockey), and some board game-playing.

Friday night we had tickets to see a cricket match at the Newlands Cricket Stadium, probably one of the most scenic settings, set against the majestic Table Mountain.

It was my first game ever, and i managed to understand most of the rules and follow along.

We arrived just before 6pm, about 4 hours into the match already, but seeing as cricket games can go on for hours, we didn't want to arrive too early and just bake in the sun.

The South Africa Proteas were up against the West Indies, and out of a 5-game tournament, this was number 2.

See pic of cricket players on the field, a happy biltong vendor and some audience members lining up to buy beer barefoot!

We still can't get used to the idea that people (children and adults) walk around barefoot in petrol stations, in supermarkets, in public washrooms and even in cricket stadiums! ugh!

I have to admit though, the best part was probably all the interesting people-watching you can do.

There were families, young couples, old couples, serious cricket fans who come on their own and wear headphones to listen to the commentary, and then people like us, who just want to experience it for the first time.

Getting back home well after midnight, i was exhausted; i can only imagine what the players must've been feeling.

Last night, we had a group of 14 over for chili con carne and a game of Cranium, and of course, the WII.

Today, we decided to check off one of our "must do's" before we leave: rent little scooters and go exploring.

It was fantastic, more fun than i imagined, but oh - the WIND! Horrendous!

We took our little bright yellow Chinese-made scooters down to Kommetjie and its lighthouse (see pic), through Scarborough and over the top to Simon's Town, where we stopped to have a drink and shared a slice of citrus cheesecake (against our new health regime, but hey, it was the weekend!)

On the way back over Ou Kaapseweg, the wind was so strong, it nearly knocked us over!

We were following a bakkie (SA lingo for 'truck') that was carrying a mattress and a baseboard on its roof.

Suddenly, a huge gust of wind came through and threw the mattresses off the roof and onto the road.

Everyone screeched to a halt. Luckily we didn't get hit.

As we continued on our way, we noticed the mattresses were only attached by a single piece of electrical wire!! No wonder it blew off!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

orchestrated to be

Again, meeting inspirational people last night has given me a healthy dose of What Is Possible In This World. It's like suddenly being told there is no Santa Claus. I have suddenly been let in on the big secret that there is no such thing as a coincidence. Not when people are thrusted into your life like smiling angels with a not-so-hidden-message.

It is truly uplifting when I meet and hear people's stories of what they are doing as individuals, collaborating with other individuals to make a difference, their difference, the way they know best. I'm envious of those who can drop it all and pursue it with fervor and unrelenting passion. But more than that, I am inspired. And I could use a bit of inspiration these days.

I was never a religious one, but i read on a friend's blog today that "God creates with a sense of humour", and I think there may be some slight truth in that.

On the up again!

my own best enemy

I let myself get to myself.

I need to take charge and be a positive force for myself.

What does that entail? It means thinking positively, and believing in myself and not letting others cloud my vision.

So obvious. So difficult.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

How to pass a perfect sunday in Cape Town

On Sunday we set out at 12 noon for our 5 and half hour hike. That was mistake number one.

But luckily that was it.

Despite the scorching heat and uphill climb with my legs screaming "Why didn't you take me in the opposite direction?", we managed to complete another leg of our long-term goal of hiking from Signal Hill all the way to the Cape Point.

We calculated that we have about 3 or 4 more days of gruelling walks, with one overnight section, but then we'll have done it!

See pic of me ecstatic to on top of Table Mountain, and the view across the ridge, looking down onto Camps Bay.

That night we had some friends around for a braai.

We cooked up some delicious tongue, seasoned with salt and pepper and lemon juice (from the lemons on our lemon tree in the garden).

I can happily report that everyone enjoyed it.

We all agreed it tasted a bit like salty sausage.

See Matt getting acquainted with The Tongue pre-braai, and everyone sampling the fare with their sundowners.

It was a windy evening and the boats across the harbour were getting whipped around pretty bad.

The Cape wind is indescribable and until you've experienced it, you won't know the true meaning of windstorm.

I've been woken up on several occasions from the howls and hisses of this wind, and, unable to sleep immediately, plot emergency exit strategies if our roof was to suddenly be ripped off.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

inspire me

There is something very therapeutic in writing. There is an element of healing in writing, in creating music, in painting. Such outlets for such energy, be it good or bad, is a vital in maintaining one's sanity.

While being in a contemplative slump recently, the powers that be intervened and introduced me to women who were making it their mission to provide such creative energy outlets for kids around the world.

Today I met the founder of Let Love Lead, an organization in NYC that does just that. Often, kids are unwilling to discuss trauma in their lives (abuse, rape, death, etc) and allowing them to express themselves (perhaps anonymously if need be) is a way to acknowledge "the issue" as much as they want/need to, and then, along with the ill feelings, release it.

Adults, on the other hand, require similar methods i think.

Always, when I remove myself temporarily from my current situation, something or someone is gently thrusted into my life to inspire me again. I don't ask why anymore, I just embrace it. Thankful.

The day, turning out to be a good one, has flown by. It often does when you're having fun. Or when you have a lot on your mind.

ready or not, happy new year

New Year is supposed to bring fresh optimistic thoughts of the next twelve months to come, of the resolutions to be fulfilled and of the experiences and adventures yet to be had.

Already, i feel a sense of confusion, of not being in control of my bearings. When there are so many unknowns in the equation, you are left clinging to the hard facts. Thankful to be in good health, to be debt free, to be fed, clothed, housed and loved ... shouldn't that be enough?

But things are growing around me faster than i can catch up. It's like my shoes are 5 sizes bigger than I can suitably walk in.

I seem to yearn for more lately. More stability and routine, a chance to develop professionally and really dive into something I believe in, knowing I can see it out to the end. I yearn for more "knowns".

I've been neglecting my writing lately, i know. We have had a whirlwind of visitors, weekends away, and just recently, a long-distance road trip which took us to Lesotho and Kruger National Park, through Johannesburg and back again.

2008 will be actively dedicated to finding a happy realistic medium where I can be in control of Me and where I will be able to walk for miles in shoes that fit my feet.

Monday, January 07, 2008

Homeward bound & 10 gold flakes richer!

After succeeding in spotting our lion(s) yesterday, we decided to try our luck at something else: gold panning!

Just an hour and a half hour south from where we were staying in Komatiport (about 10 minutes away from the Mozambican border), is the splendid town of Barberton.

In the late 19th century there was a huge gold rush and Barberton was home to South African's first stock exchange.

Initially we wanted to visit the Agnes Mine (spelled incorrectly in the Lonely Planet as "Atlas" so those who are going to visit one day, beware because there is only the one sign) and then try the gold-panning.

But the mine closed indefinitely due to the heavy winter rains.

Instead, we had an exclusive tour with the South African champion of gold-panning: Danny Brink.

He will be representing his country in Spain for the World Gold-Panning competition in June!

Ankle-deep in the stream, we panned for a couple of hours and to our surprise, found 10 flakes altogether!

Danny put them in little vials with water and then he glued them onto a charm as a necklace when we were finished.

There is quite a technique to the whole process, very graceful and fluid.

I now kind of understand the "rush" people talk about when they find gold, and how addictive it can be.

There's always that feeling of "just one more pan and then I'll go home."

Nearing the end of our big roadtrip, the next morning we left Komatiport and drove the 4.5 hrs to Joburg.

There was a lot of traffic on the road as families were returning home after the holidays.

We checked into the Brown Sugar Backpacker's Lodge and walked down to the Bruma Market (just a bunch of well organized stalls set up in a safe fenced-off site) and then to Chinatown where we GORGED on everything from har gao, siu mai, ma po tofu, char siu, bamboo and mushrooms, hot and spicy soup, and very tasty fluffy rice.

Sorry, no pics. We were too busy stuffing our faces.

We also stopped off at a bakery and bought egg tarts and other goodies for the drive tomorrow. See pic of Matt eating his egg tart behind the wheel.

The next morning, Matt and I left for our return journey back to Cape Town.

See Anice waving us goodbye, looking a bit apprehensive to be left alone in "one of the most dangerous cities in the world."

She would be staying an extra day in Joburg to visit the Apartheid Museum and do a Soweto Township tour, flying back to Accra the following evening.

When we asked what the best part about visiting us in SA was, she said it was definitely the food, and the variety of it. It was back to foufou and maize meals for her!

We overnighted in Colesburg in a beautiful peaceful lodge overlooing the Orange River (see pic) and the following day made our way back home to Hout Bay by mid-afternoon.

It was indeed very nice to be home again. After driving over 6,6000 km this holiday in just two weeks, Matt didn't leave the house for 6 days when we returned! Unless you count getting the paper or throwing the rubbish away ;)

Well, now I understand much better how vast and diverse Lesotho and South Africa are, in terms of landscape, climate and of course, people.

But there was definitely an overarching theme of friendly and helpful people wherever we went. Though it is usually the case when travelling, I noticed it more frequently this time round. Very special.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The King is definitely worth waiting for

If you aren't staying in Kruger National Park itself, you'd better get to a Park gate bright and early to ensure you'll get in.

Due to the strict quota, if you don't come early enough, chances are you won't get into the park at all.

We were at Croc River Bridge Gate by 5:30am and already there were dozens of cars lined up.

Well, as they say "
pictures speak louder than words", i'll let ours do the talking.

In a nutshell, it was a day of warthogs, buffaloes, hippos, elephants, giraffes, zebras, kudu, springbok, baboons, vervet monkeys, and even bats sleeping upside down in a hut while we had our lunch!

The only thing we hadn't spotted yet (besides the cheetah and leopard, which are very difficult to spot anyways), was the lion.

We drove and drove and drove - all at 50 km/hr, the max speed limit in the park - but no luck.

And just when we had resigned ourselves to the fact that we wouldn't see a lion that day, driving back towards the gate before closing time (6:30pm), we met a big traffic jam of cars, jeeps, and safari vans, all with heads and limbs sticking out.

The woman in the car beside us mouthed the word "LION" and pointed up ahead.

We couldn't believe it! And a few seconds later, we spotted them. An elegant lioness and her stunning male companion.

All the cars were trying to push and nudge their way up to get better shots.

Our luck came through right then and the lions walked right behind us and beside our car window.

The male lion even brushed his tail against the side mirror!

I was so ridiculously happy for the rest of the night; my Kruger safari was complete!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

an adrenalin-filled day

Early to rise again, we were going to do a one day full-on white water tubing on the Sabie River.

It was incredibly fun, gliding through the narrow streams, sliding down all the rockpools and jumping off a 3, 7 and 8 metre cliff!

See Anice jumping, arms spread out as we were instructed to do.

Well organized with juice and coffees and biscuits at the end of our journey, we managed to keep everyone together and not have any serious incidents.

In the afternoon, we toured the Shangana Cultural Village, a living museum to show tourists the traditional Shangan culture and community.

See Matt blowing into the horn of a male kudu to welcome everyone to the community tour.

The chief was elsewhere "at a meeting", and so we greeted the second in line, his brother. See pic of him weaving something on his throne.

I was not too impressed with the whole set-up. Our guide, though very knowledgeable, was obviously reciting from a previously memorized text.

Even meeting the Shangoma of the village (a woman wearing a frilly wig with all her magic objects) was a rehearsed event where she would say no more than three words describing certain objects in front of her.

As if on cue and without missing a beat, our guide would jump in and burst into this long, elaborated speech about what was supposedly just stated in 3 words.

Driving back, we encountered more excitement as we took some backroads by mistake and ran over a
black mamba - the largest venomous snake in Africa, and the second venomous in the world (after the King Cobra)!

Its one bite contains enough venom to kill 20-40 grown men!

We quickly did a U-Turn to snap a picture, careful not to roll down our windows too much.

After getting lost and realizing we were doing one huge loop, we passed the same section of the road but didn't see the mamba there anymore. It must've slithered away into the tall grass. Phew!

Apparently they are quite rare to spot so we were lucky. We hoped our luck would continue into tomorrow and we would see a lion or two in Kruger.