December 29, 2011
I can't believe how much I have done since I last posted, and that was less than a week ago! On Friday, it was my room mate's birthday and after work we headed into town for my first time to go to the beach. Getting to the beach was a bit of a hassle. We had to take a mini bus after we got off at the Cape Town train station. We went out to lunch right on the street off the beach. It was so healthy and so delicious. Then we walked across the street to Camps Bay beach. It was so ridiculously windy. We ended up paying for beach chairs to try to escape the wind blowing the sand all over us and stinging us. We only stayed for a little while, but it was beautiful. It is amazing to me still that the beach and the mountain and the city are all in the same place. It just does not seem logical to have all those together, but there they are right in front of my face.
Later that evening we met up with a few more volunteers and took a car, via the driver named Archie, to town to "Club 31." It was super nice inside, very modern. It was in a very tall building and the club was on the 31st floor, hence its name. We bought Jeske several birthday drinks and I kept it to two drinks to make it not so crazy. I have never really enjoyed clubbing because I'm a terrible dancer, but I did have a lot of fun, surprisingly. And it was not like in Boston where if you dance, strange men try to dance with you. I did not have that problem and I kept to dancing in our little group. It was very refreshing to not feel threatened by creepy men.
Christmas Eve was a bit of a nightmare. Pam's family is huge. Very huge. 11 siblings in her family and all are married and have kids and have been divorced and have gotten remarried with other kids. The whole 9 yards. In South Africa, it is a much bigger deal to celebrate on Christmas Eve than it is on the actual Christmas day. They all came over whenever they pleased and ate the tons of food on platters that Pam and I prepared. She has this one sister who was super drunk and her dress kept sliding off her chest exposing herself and she was dancing and going wild in the living room. Pam's mom kept apologizing to me for her behavior and I just laughed it off. Then at midnight, it is tradition for everyone to shake hands and kiss each other on the cheeks and say "Merry Christmas" and then they all leave. I could not wait for midnight. There were so many people in her small house it was very crowded and people kept asking me the same questions about myself over and over.
Christmas day was very nice and relaxing. I was not expecting this because of how the night before had gone. I slept in until 11 and only a few of her family members came over around 1pm for Christmas lunch. Then they left and I went in my room and read my book for about 3 hours. It was very nice. Pam loved the salt water taffy I brought her from Boston. She asked if she had to share with anyone and I said of course not, it is her candy after all.
This picture is of Pam's mom showing off the "rooti" that Pam made on Christmas day lunch. It is similar to naan in India, you put curry and meat on it and then wrap it up. It was very good, but so much butter was put into it, that's probably what made it taste so good.
On Monday I had off from work because of what South African's call "Boxing Day" and I was getting a bit antsy from being cooped up in house for days without going anywhere. I felt like I was wasting my time here, even though it was only too days. So I decided to try and take the train by myself and go into town to look around. I was nervous about it, but I'm glad I did it because now I am much more confident with the trains. I remember feeling the same way when I first was living in Boston. Unfortunately when I got to town, nearly everything was closed because Boxing Day is considered a holiday. I was bummed and did not know where to go. I caved and went to a McDonald's that was right outside the train station. Surprisingly it was very nice inside, a lot nicer than any of the restaurants I've been in so far here. People here talk about McDonald's and KFC as if they are great places to eat and can live off of it. I got some kind of chicken fold over sandwich. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that good either. McDonald's is the same everywhere you go, just FYI.
Tuesday was great. I'm so glad I got this experience. Alyce, another volunteer here, texted me asking if I wanted to go hiking up Table Mountain and of course I said yes. An excuse to get out of the house on yet again another day off from work. It was probably the hardest workout I've ever done. The mountain is very steep and quite dangerous to climb. The first part of the hike was like constantly climbing stairs. It was awful. The majority of the group was moving quite fast too and I had to keep taking breaks and at one point I thought I might even throw up and collapse. The second half of the hike was much easier, well it wasn't climbing stairs anymore. At one point, there were rocks with tiny streams of water flowing down them that made them slippery and we had to basically rock climb up a very steep cliff. A French volunteer climbing in front of me slipped on the rock and started to slide backwards. She screamed and I grabbed her and made sure she didn't fall. I could not believe that I could have very well saved her life, or at least from her being seriously injured.
Once we got to the top of the mountain, 2 and a half hours later, it was flat and very easy to walk on. It was a huge relief. I was not sure i was even going to make it all the way up at some moments. We all met up as a group so that we could all walk to the cable cars together. It was cooler on top and hard to see each other because we were in the clouds. It was cool but also a little scary. We kept getting scared that we would lose each other, so we kept making sure that we were all together and waited for each other when some lagged behind.
At the cable cars there was also an area for scenic view and a gift shop and a small restaurant. I grabbed a few post cards and got a much deserved beer and a sandwich. We also took pictures up there, the clouds coming over the mountain were so cool. It was strange that we were up in the clouds.
Taking the cable cars down was really neat. I wish I took a picture of the actual cable cars, I just have a picture of myself in one.
Yesterday, work was very interesting. We had a new client come in and I was asked to join my boss Maria in the consultation with him to take notes as her assistant. The man was very desperate and sweet. He was from the Congo and was denied refugee status in South Africa and wanted us to help him. I felt so sorry for him and I really feel like we can help because the current political climate over there is not good with two people claiming themselves both the elected president. I became very interested in refugee rights and when I wrote in my journal when I got back from work that night I wrote about how I want to do something about refugees coming to South Africa for my thesis when I get back to school.
After work, Jeske and I went to town to go to the Castle that is there. It was built in the late 1600s and was used by both the Dutch and the English when they occupied South Africa. There were several museums inside too which were very interesting to look through. One that was the most interesting to me was it was actual furniture and other household things from when people lived there. There was also a torture chamber and then a museum devoted to the Boer War and other military items.
Today we are going to go back into town and then go to another museum. I'm not sure which ones, but I'm sure I will enjoy it either way.
December 23, 2011
I have been here for a few days now. I have been constantly trying to remind myself that it is not only Christmas time, but it is the month of December as well. It is very easy to get lost in the idea that it is July in the United States and not African summer time.
When I first got off the plane, it was very hot, probably the hottest that it has been so far. I was nervous that the driver would be creepy, but he was fine. His name is Denver, (like in Colorado as he said) and he has never left South Africa in his life of about 40 years or so, at least that was the age I got when I looked at him. He brought me not to the host family that I was said to go to on the website, but to a random family called the Nelson's that I know nothing about. That was a little nerve racking. I still couldn't get out of my head that Projects Abroad was an internet scam.
The family is very nice and friendly from the members that I have met so far. The woman who owns the house I'm staying in, Pam, is a young grandmother of 5 grandkids. She has darker skin than me and short, straight black hair. The house was a bit weird to get used to at first because Pam sleeps in a room that has 2 bed and I have to walk through her room in the morning to use the "volunteer bathroom" when there is a perfectly good bathroom next to the kitchen. Not sure why she set it up that way, but whatever, I don't want to ask questions to offend anyone.
I have a room mate, Jeske, who turned 26 today actually. She is Dutch, so that is a bit friendly since I have had a Dutch room mate before! She is very nice and has been helping me feel safe on the train and in the neighborhood. Today, the 2 of us are planning on going to the beach after we get out of work at 1pm, for her birthday.
Work has been kind of challenging so far. I was given 3 files yesterday on my first day and I have to work with real clients who are dealing with serious legal issues when I have never had any legal experience or any kind of legal classes in college or anywhere. I am basically clueless when most other volunteers in the office have or are studying law. It is a little intimidating. Everyone is very helpful though. It is a bit scary that I am not just working on a school project, I am actually working on someone's file that is a real person and needs my help. It's insane to put that kind of importance on someone who knows next to nothing about law. I hope I don't seriously let anyone down.
Many of the clients are refugees and people who cannot afford a lawyer, so they look to us volunteers for advice on what to do. Since we have access to the internet and many people here have studied a bit of law, they can give our best advice. I feel under-qualified, but everyone keeps assuring me that it will get easier.
The train was a bit scary at first because almost everyone had warned me to be careful on the train and not to ride alone or ride after 6pm, bla bla bla. The only contradiction to that though, is that my room mate has been riding on the train by herself for most of the time that she has been here. I do not feel comfortable yet in riding by myself, but hopefully soon I will because I have hardly seen any of Cape Town.
The weather has been phenomenal. It has probably been in the 70s most days with a breeze. Perfect. Not too hot, not too cold. Yesterday morning it poured until the early afternoon. It made everything outside a bit cooler and it was almost sweatshirt weather, but I toughed it out in a Tshirt.
It is going to be weird being in a house for Christmas with a family I just met. I bought them a present, but on the card I wrote it to the family that I was originally assigned to, I'm sure that won't matter, but I will have to explain and that could get a little odd.
I really like the view of Table Mountain. It is so pretty to look at every morning. I'm sure the locals don't look at it and appreciate it, I know I wouldn't if I saw it every day. I can't wait to climb it. There is a free hike in a couple weeks that I can go with other volunteers. No one I know, but it will still be fun.
The money conversion was in my favor, thank goodness. I was scared it was going to be like the Euro and I was going to get ripped off and feel poor the entire time I was here and limit what I could do. It is just under $8 per 1 Rand. Which is awesome. Things that would be $5 or more dollars in the US are like $1 here.
Alright, I'm going to get back to doing some research at work. I will try to keep this updated, but I am not very good at updating blogs. Love and miss my friends and family <3
A week into overlanding and I’m not quite sure where to begin! I met up with my group for dinner last Thursday and I am pleased to say they are all lovely. We are thirteen, six guys and seven girls, and between us we represent six different nations (Britain, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, Australia and New Zealand). We also have three crew members with us: our leader, Matt (British), our driver and mechanic, Gino (Spanish) and our chef, Charles (Kenyan). I feel this is a nice size of group because we are big enough that there is always someone different to talk to but small enough that we can spread out on our truck! We are all already very attached to our truck. She is called Imani and she will be my home for three weeks, but some of the people in the group are travelling to Nairobi (eight weeks) and 6 of the 13 are actually continuing all the way to Cairo, an epic four month adventure. So it is imperative that we look after Imani – she has already had one puncture.
We set off on last Friday lunchtime on a temporary smaller truck, in accordance with South African laws about bringing vehicles into the country. Our first night’s camping was in Citrusdal, in a South African wine region. We camped on lush grass, had lovely clean bathrooms and spent the evening doing a wine tasting. I decided that if overlanding was like that then I could definitely get used to it, even if it did involve sleeping in a tent. The standard of campsite certainly hasn’t continued exactly on the same level as that first stop but on the whole I have been impressed. Hot showers have been available at all but one campsite so far, and a couple have even had swimming pools! On top of this, we are incredibly lucky to have the amazing Charles with us (our chef – see above). The thirteen of us are divided up into four smaller cook groups, but our duties consist only of unloading all the food and cooking equipment from the truck and then chopping veg. Charles prepares us huge fantastic meals, so far including stir fry, sausage stew and barbecued pork chips. And that’s just dinner – we can also have bacon and eggs for breakfast some mornings, and we eat amazing salads, sandwiches or toasties for lunch. I don’t think I’m going to starve.
Tina (my tentmate) and I have got rather nifty and putting a tent up and down, even if we have broken a few nails in the process. We are all also getting better at the process of unpacking and repacking everything onto Imani. I should also mention ‘flapping’, an overlanding term for the process by which we dry dishes so that they don’t go back into the truck damp. It is exactly what it sounds like – after each meal you will see most of the group standing around flapping plates, cutlery, pans and mugs, one in each hand, until they are completely dry. It is quite a funny sight. Also, on Tuesday night we camped at our first bush camp. This meant that I survived a night without any showers, toilets, no running water in fact, shock horror. Just to make it clear that I am actually camping and not on a luxury holiday!
We crossed into Namibia on Saturday, and met Imani at a campsite in Noordoewer, very close to the border. On Sunday, after a leisurely morning by the Orange River, we made our way to Fish River Canyon. This is the second biggest canyon in the world after the Grand Canyon and it was pretty spectacular. We walked along the edge of it (not too close to the edge, I hasten to add) and then sat and watched the sunset, while enjoying a Savannah, the best cider we have found in southern Africa. It was beautiful. Monday was a long driving day. A lot of what we are seeing on this tour is in northern Namibia and Botswana and that is a long haul from Cape Town so we have had to get a lot of hours under our belt.
All the driving was made worth it on Tuesday though. We were up at 4am (yes, really) to pack up our tents and be at Dune 45, one of the sand dunes in the Namibian desert, for sunrise. We climbed up the side of it, which was surprisingly tough even at 5am. It was definitely worth the effort though, because the view was amazing. As the sun came up the sand of the dunes turned an amazing reddy-orange colour, just like I always imagined the desert! From there we went on a walk into the desert, to an area called the Dead Pan. This was the bottom of a river many hundreds of thousands, or millions, of years ago and now looks somewhat extra-terrestrial. Apparently some scenes from Star Wars were filmed there and the BBC had been there a week before filming a documentary. It was very impressive, not least because of how vast it was; it was quite difficult to have any sense of perspective as we approached it. I was very glad we did this walk into the desert at 9am because it was already feeling very hot. And that fantastic day was wrapped up with the aforementioned bush camp, where I was able to spend the night asleep in the open air on top of an enormous rock in the middle of nowhere in Namibia. Quite an amazing place to spend the night.
I am writing this from Swakopmund, the biggest town we have visited since we left Cape Town, though it is still relatively small! We have been here three nights because it is the ‘adventure capital’ of Namibia and a base for a number of adrenaline fuelled activities. Sadly I am not very adventurous at all and I am sure you will all be disappointed to hear that instead of jumping out of a plane over the Namib desert, I opted for a spot of fishing! I had a great time though. I had never fished before and the minute I cast my line for the first time it came right back up with a catfish on each hook! Beginners luck, but it was still a very successful few hours. I think I caught around 25 fish, a lot more catfish and also some cob and one very small shark! One person in the group actually caught a shark which was about a metre long, and someone else caught a stingray. I hasten to add that we threw those back. We still ended up with quite a haul of fish, though, and we will be barbecuing some tonight for dinner. I spent yesterday doing some more souvenir shopping and sitting around in cafes, which I have to say suited me a lot more than skydiving.
This afternoon we set off on the road again, en route to the Spitzkoppe mountain and then Etosha National Park. I will not have Internet again until right at the end of the trip, or possible until I am home, so I will have to write an extra long blog about the next two weeks once I am home. This time in two weeks I will be on a plane back to London. See you all then!
Oh, and some first overlanding photos are now on facebook: http:/
Visit Our Main Sites
Be Our Friend