Thursday, January 29, 2009

the most recent days

Hello, hello to alllll! YAYAYAYAYA! Laura and Julie are no longer sick. We all went to the doctor on Monday and found out Julie had strep and Laura had strep and tonsilitis. It was a pretty fun apt. to be in, let me tell you! But they are cured now so I have my partners in crime back, thank god. So anyways, it is the 29th..i know its been a few days, but once again i just haven't sat down to do this..its harder then it seems, so hush. Most recently I have been spending my days at the beach. We've been going to Miezenberg mostly (I said Leesenberg last time but that was because I was still an idiot American..i know my shit now.) AND I have been taking the train even with my little falling incident. Such a badass...i do tend to hustle off the train and throw some bows so no one holds me back..either way, I'm a trooper.  Oh and a little may seem like my life is a joke right now and I'm doing nothing but having the greatest time ever but real life starts soon. Registration for classes is next week and I start on the 13th. 

On Sunday...myself and about 10 others went to the Green Market in the Indian section of Cape Town. It was a pretty low-key market with kind of the same stuff at every stand but I did a totally awesome bargaining job for 8 bangle bracelets. I give all of the credit to China Town, so thank you. We then went to go find this Malawian restaurant that our sweet driver Al told us about. After we do our hike up this massive hill (wasnt expecting table mountain take 2, but wahtever, the view was great) to the top where we were told this restaurant was...IT WAS CLOSED. I was sweaty and hungry and unhappy. We have come to find out that most everything in all of Cape Town is closed on Sundays. Actually a lot is closed all weekend. People love their time of rest and hanging's def a different lifestyle. We did end up finding a Cafe in Rondesbosch (part of CT right next Mowbray, where I live) that was super good. A very good day of beautiful views and new and interesting things. Actually all of the museums that I am going to visit are in the Indian part of town so i will be heading back that way soon. That
night, we went to this place called La Med. Great, chill atmosphere. It is in town and basically everyone spends their days on the beach then heads the the bar for happy hour then the rest of the night. We didn't do the beach thing then went later in the night...def a good time. Ohhhh except for some of the creepers there. They were all wasted and were awkwardly macking on a lot of us girls...super weird but our guy friends were standing up for us so nothing bad happened. Oh speaking of something bad happening...a kid on my programs comp got stolen the other day. He was an idiot though and left his window open. The program specifically told us to not do that cause people will try to break in...and they did. Pretty scary. So NOW they are deciding to beef up the bars on the windows and stuff. Sounds scarier than it is. I honestly haven't felt unsafe once since I've been here so I'm just going to go ahead and call that a fluke. Anyways..back to my life.

Tuesday. Laura, katelyn (one of our awesome friends on the trip) and I went to Cocoa Wah Wah. What to say about cocoa except that it is AWESOME. It is an internet cafe where they have the cheapest and yummiest food. And this amazing smoothie that is mango and mint. Try it out sometime..its way good. While we were sitting there this very nice lady and her daughter sitting next to us started chatting it up. She saw the jew star necklace on my neck..duhh..we always seem to find each other and started talking to me about her friday night shabbat dinner. She invited me and any of my friends to come and I think Laura, Julie and I are going to go. Julie is going to be such a great Jew after this hahaahah. very nice lady though so it should be interesting. That night we went to a bar called Tin Roof...they LOOOOVE their American 90's music. It's hilarious. I heard a lot of Blink 182 that night...go Travis Barker. Anyways, it was a fun, silly bar that we will probably be attending a lot of on Monday nights. They have a great 2 for 1 special for like 3 hrs. on top of all drinks being about 2-3 American dollars, which is pretty standard here. 

The next couple days were spent at the beach getting nice and tan. I am once again turning my ridiculously dark hue while everyone else is burning, i know, i know, i suck. People are def starting to think Im Safrican. cooooool. So those were just blah days at the beach and now onto what I did today!!! Mom, you are going to be so so so proud of me!!! 

I WENT BIKING! I have not been on a bike since i learned when i was 8 years old...13 years. So that saying, you'll remember, its like riding a bike doesn't necessarily work for me. Oh well. So, my friend Aaron conned me into going to Stellenbosch (where all the wineries are) to do a bike n wine tour around 4 different wineries. It was great!! After a little bit of unsteadiness (only like 5 mins) it was like riding a bike, weirdddd!!! It was totally great, though my ass really took a beating from it. At each winery we tried 5 different wines and had a glass of wine at lunch. Needless to say by the end we all could have potentially gotten BUI's (biking under the could happen! but not here...) A really really fun day and a nice exercise though. Bottles here, good bottles, are also super cheap..shocker. For a bottle of very good wine, you pay at most 80 rand..which is a whopping 8 dollars. The exchange rate is really really great. Anywho...I am off the get ready to go out. We are going to this bar called Springbok in Claremont. It is Thursday Jug night which is a whole lot like half fast except for the fact that you buy one jug (pitcher) for 40 rand...4 dollars and get free refills. Boulder would be loving it. Anyways, i miss you all and will post soon. 

ohhh and im a total idiot. my skype name is actually feinbers NOT stevi. sowwy

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

stev and laur jan 27 morning


(legally blonde)

Monday, January 26, 2009

13-18 January: McDonald's do Cape Town

Welcome to Cape Town! Oy so much catching up to do!!
So we arrive in Cape Town where we are staying at an apartment on the V&A waterfront – a very touristy area that looks like any other vacation spot on the water, so we hate it from the first dinner but some people seem to love it. We ate at a restaurant called Balducci’s which was SO good, but the menu was all pictures of naked women.

We get a late start the next morning (14th) and drive to find my apartment. We get the landlord’s number and meet her once we find the apt. She says my room (Kendal Court apt 6) isn’t ready yet, but she will show me two other ones. The rooms are all huge and really nice. She says I can move in on Sunday – a day before everyone else arrives. Of course we also see a ton of sketchy looking people walking by wearing full-body orange suits whom we pray aren’t prisoners.
Then we moved on to our first winery called Groot Constantia – it’s the most touristy, but it was pretty quiet when we were there. We met the owner, Diana, who is really smart and gave us the insider knowledge about South Africa. Then we went to another winery called Constantia Uitsig (pronounced eight-such with a Yiddish ch- sound). We ate lunch at the Italian restaurant there and it was delectable.
AND THEN we wanted to climb to the top of a mountain called Lion’s Head, but we were unclear as to where to start so we started on Signal Hill, a place where the crazys go to praise the full moon. We started the hike from signal hill and the views in incredible. I wish the internet here wasn’t so ghett because you NEED to see pictures of how amazing this city is. Mom is afraid to hike if it started to get too dark, so we ended the hike early and got drinks in a town called Camps Bay where the beaches are. This town is really SoCal and beautiful, and the people there are GORGEOUS. Holy potatoes, I have never seen a place so heaviliy populated with beautiful people.

Thursday morning (the 15th) we take the cable car up to the top of the famous Table Mountain. We took some pictures of flowers for Uncle Hugh. Then we went out to Hout Bay where there was construction on this scenic drive out to Chapman’s Peak so we ate at Wimpy’s – a fast food chain – and it was GROSS. And you may or may not know that I have the taste buds of a three year old so I usually salivate over the thought of fast food. I guess I’ll also mention here that ketchup in this darling country is awful. Its watery and tastes like tomato juice. And for me, an avid ketchup lover, this is not gonna fly for 6 months. So that night we stopped in a super market and bought Heinz ketchup and I have been bringing it around with me to every nice restaurant and sneaking it on my plate when the wait staff isn’t looking.
We continue that day driving towards Cape Point – the most sounthern point other than Antarctica. The Simonstown beaches are famous for having PENQUINS! We only saw 3, but these beaches were really nice. We continued on to Cape Pt and took the Funicular tram up to the top. Cape Point is famous for having baboons, which are evil animals that like to steal food and your soul. There are warnings everywhere not to eat food or to keep your windows open because the baboons will steal it and can get into your car. When we finished looking at Cape Point, we came back down on the Funicular and kept making jokes that we should buy food so we can see some baboons, since we hadn’t seen any yet. Either way, I was starving so I bought a bag of chips and a soda and was hanging out as my mom was taking a video of a baboon like 10 stories up on a rock. All of a sudden the baboon sees my chips and disappears, only to reappear 2 seconds later near us. The guards start yelling at the baboon and chasing it with a stick, and a lady tells me to get rid of my food. Next thing I know the baboon has come out of a different entrance and is watching me and walking closer. Dad yells to jump in the car which is pretty far away so I run to the car and just as I jump in and close the door the baboon is right under the door and if I had taken an extra second he would have gotten me! SCARY. And you all thought monkeys were cute little munchkins.
We finished the day in Kalk Bay, a cute hippie town near Cape Point. In this town, as in all towns in SA, stores close at 530 or 6. This is because people love to get their party on or love to get their sleep on. I don’t know, but working past 530 is unheard of. So we window shop and wind up eating at this weird Cuban place that Alex picked out. At first I’m all grumpy mcgrumpster because of the aforementioned premature tastebuds but this place is COOL. The inside is filled with random, mismatching tables, lamps, chairs, artwork all from Cuba and other commie countries, and everything is for sale. The food was also delicious, so everyone left happy.

Friday, Jan 16th
So whenever I would mention my travel plans to SA a ton of people said they would never think of going there, EVERYONE added their 2 cents about safety, and then there was this third group that was ever expanding of people coming out of the woodwork saying they’ve been here or know people here. Its like a hidden secret you only find out about once you’re going to SA. You mention Cape Town and they pull you into this back room where there are lock boxes filled with pictures they hide behind all of the family Cancun shots. It’s strange. But everyone seems to know someone that has been here or lives here. ANYWAY our soccer mom family friends – I’ll withhold their names until you all travel to SA – have been here on business a few times and gave us the name of a guy Joe Hannen who owns a small tourism company and who can take us on day tours of the wine country. Wine? McDonalds are in.
Joe Hannen (I call him Joe-Hannen-burg, HAHAHAHA) picks us up bright and early and onward we go! First we go to this Afrikaans language memorial in a town called Paarl, pearl in English – confusing, I know. It’s a beautiful monument, but I’m still confused why we aren’t being served wine so we jump in the car and head to our first winery in Paarl: Laborie. Lets add here that we all LOVE Joe right away, and the boys make plans to golf with him and he wants me to babysit his children. We stock up on dessert wines at Laborie then head onto Haute Cabriere in Franschoek – the French Corner in English. Here we also had lunch in a Frans restaurant (my taste buds are aging!) and shopped around the overly expensive touristy town. Next we stop at Spier winery, one I had been really looking forward to because you can pet CHEETAHS there. But after going on safari we hated seeing the cheetahs in their enclosed areas and did not want to have a “cheetah encounter” PLUS the cubs were over a year old and looked like the adult cheetahs, I wanted to see some cheetah puff balls, but they don’t let the cheetahs know each other biblically in captivity so no new babies were there. Wiggidy wack. So we bounced. We didn’t even stay for the wine.
The boys ate dinner at a steak house called Balthazar’s and mom and I saw Vicky Cristina Barcelona in the movie theatre. A) the movie was AMAZING. B) movies are only 33 rand, aka $3.30, another example of how cheap everything is here. C) an example of how overly nice SA people are, my mom and I started talking to this mother and daughter and she friended me on facebook right there on her phone! I know from Microsoft word spell check that you adult readers have no idea what that means since “friended” and “facebook” haven’t been added to Webster’s yet. In time, in time.

17th – Saturday
R&R day. Apt till 13h00 (1pm) and then beach on the north shore. They call (“they” being the generic they/the Man) CT the “windy city” and we learned this the hard way at this beach on the north shore. Since it had no wind protection, Jude Alex and I acted as wood being filed down by sand paper. Five minutes in, we were black from the sand and couldn’t hear each other since every crevice, namely our ears, were blocked with sand. I think we fought the wind for an hour and headed to the restaurant where Jeffy was eating lunch. We all walked in looking like sand prisoners, and I couldn’t enjoy my meal because I forgot my Heinz at home! Dinner on Long Street at a tapas place called Fork, and it was incredible – all the food here is amazing.

18th – Sunday – move in day!
We walk to find this famous Sunday morning market in Green Point but because of all the World Cup 2010 construction, we can’t find it and just wind up eating instead at the Waterfront. Reminder that the Waterfront is real touristy, but there is a concert going on in this little amphitheatre outside and there is a Man Band (boy band with 4 late-30-year-old men wishing they were teens) singing songs in English and Afrikaans. They weren’t terrible, but they weren’t magical either because their voices didn’t mesh well. In Afrikaans, “danke” - pronounced donkey – means “thank you.” So the last song we could stand out of the Man Band was when they said thank you in song – in Afrikaans. This meant that – since we only know danke – the lyrics sounded like “that is myyy donkeyyy” over and over in harmony. We couldn’t stop laughing so we just left, but the lyrics really touched us and we kept singing them the rest of the trip but with our own interpretations: “alex is myyy donkey,” etc.
I called this Move-In Day because as you recall from the beginning of this post, the landlord promised I could move in today to Kendal SIX. But when we arrive, my apartment is still being painted, my apartment being Kendal five. This is when we realize the landlords are twilight zone creepy, and the lady sounds like Salad Fingers, a weird cartoon to which I’ve provided a link so you can understand how this woman speaks: .
We left the twilight zone with a warning that we were actually bringing stuff to move in tomorrow, when the other students were supposed to arrive. Dinner at Kirstenbosch gardens where we arrived way early to read our books and be lazy, and wound up listening to the Sunday concert from afar so we could get waiter service at the bad restaurant there. I ordered Mac & Cheese because of the tastebud disorder and because nothing looked good on the menu, and they put it in the shape of a smiley face on my plate. Like, I understand that my tastebuds are wack, but that doesn’t mean my mind is deficient, I could take it in a slab if need be. Good thing I had the Heinz with me.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Jan 18-25 through Stevi's eyes

So I know it has taken forever for me to post but I have just been so busy getting everything together, seeing everything and drinking. Let me start by saying that this place is absolutely amazing and even more than I thought it would be. So I guess I shall start from the beginning.
I flew from JFK to Dakar, plane was supposed to just stop in Dakar and people could get on and off then continue to Cape Town. Everything was running smoothly until we were about to take off and a light came on on the pilots dashboard saying there was a problem with one of the flaps on the wings (ya know, the thing that helps the plane slow down..kind of important.) Needless to say the mechanics in wonderful Dakar were not able to fix the problem so we were stuck in Senegal for 24 hours. Driving through Dakar to get to our hotel I was freaking out (on the inside) because this place was not the most safe looking or comfortable place to be. I thought to myself, welcome to fucking Africa Stevi, this is what you asked for. But, Delta put us up at a great hotel (someone said it was a 5 star) where they comped our food and drinks, which was awesome. Luckily, there were about 10 other kids on my program on the plane so I was able to get to know them pretty well. The next night we finally made it to Cape Town! I am living in Mowbray in Cape Town. I guess the best way to explain it is (for you connecticut people) what North Stamford is or Shippan or Downtown...just a section of the city. Boulder peeps its like North Boulder or the Hill. Kinda confusing. Anyways, I am living with Laura and Julie and its been perfect. They are getting along great..just as I would have guessed.

On to the next couple days...we basically had orientation for our program where they fed us a lot of information on registering for classes and really important info. It kinda sucks but we have to go stand in line, or as they call it, a cue (sp?) for about 10 hrs on the day of registration for classes. They explained CT (abbrev of Cape Town) as a first world city in a third world country...makes sense. They have most of our technology but apparently not the whole online registration. Ohhhh welll. That afternoon about 10 of took a taxi to Camp's of the beaches in CT. It was one of the most beautiful sights I have seen so far. It is a known fact tat the waters at camps bay are ridiculously cold so I was only able to touch my toes in the water then run away. No swimming for me. They had a little boardwalk with shops and food next to the beach so Laura, Julie and I went to eat at a little restaurant called Caprese that was super good. It helped that all of the people at the restaurant, customers and waiters, were for some reason gorgeous. Oh ya, i forgot! The people here and BEAUTIFUL. It doesnt hurt that they have sexy accents too. But the people are just gorgeous...I wonder what they would think of Americans if they came to the US. I doubt they would think we were a beautiful looking country haha. Laura is very intent on thinking that everyone is very intrigued by us Americans and that they think we are really beautiful too. I think they are just looking at us cause we stick out so much. Later that night we went out to a part of town called the Observatory (they call is Obs...which only helps with our abbreviating...totally awesome). We went to a couple bars. The first was Stones where it was a lot of tourists and the second was Roots. Roots had an awesome layout. You walked in and you were on sand where they was a bar and everything. The next room was full of people and played techno music and another bar. Then the last room was another bar with lounge chairs and no roof so you could see the stars..super cool. I decided that it would be a wonderful idea to take shots with a boy in our program (Robby) called Bob Marley shots. They were really sweet and colorful which is always exciting. My head was not happy with me that next morning. Fun bars though.

The next day we were told to be ready by 9 to do orientation part deux. So as someone that loves to be on time I woke up at 830 and was ready to go by 9. I have learned that CT lies when they say be ready by this time. If they say know you arent leaving until 10. This did not make me happy but I am getting used to it and kinda liking the slower pace to life. After orientation the 3 of us (laura, julie and i) met up with Lauras fam on the last day of their trip. We headed to Stelenbosh which is about an hr outside of CT to go to lunch and a winery. THe wine was super good, as was the food. Laura, Julie and I proceeded to buy 9 bottles of wine between the 3 of us. It's okay though...a bottle of wine costs around 40 rand here which is 4 US dollars. AWESOME. Everything is just super cheap. It's great. I keep thinking Im playing with monopoly money and that it's not real...that will for sure bite me in the ass soon. It's fun for now though. We ran errands for the rest of the day and came back to the apt and passed out. I had only gotten about 5 hrs of the sleep combined from the previous 2 nights.

Next day...we hiked up table mountain!!! I had wanted to do this so so badly and I was able to accomplish it with the program planning a trip for us. The hike took us around 6 hrs altogether...4 and a half of those were spent getting up. It was a tough hike but so so worth it. The views from up there were stunning. The top of table mountain is the highest point in CT. People really enjoyed saying they were the highest people in CT (funny because everyone smokes weed here so they thought it was hilarious.) Everyone was ridiculously tired after the hike so we all took an hour nap, woke up and got ready to go out once again. It was a kid on our program, Chris's 21st birthday so some of the mentors (the people helping us out with everything...they are awesome and around our age) filled up an entire bathtub of alcohol in a couple of the kids rooms and we partied there. The drinking age is 18 here but for some reason they Safricans love to celebrate the not complaining. It was a lot of fun. Julie and I decided it would be a great idea to stay out till 5 and 6 AM. Really smart choices. I have found that people here start their nights of drinking earlier and end later. It kinda puts Boulder to shame...doesn't replace the people though. I still love you guys so no worries!

The next day around 20 of us went to Leesenberg beach. Surfing is really huge are sharks and shark attacks (2nd highest in shark attacks in the world.) It really put me at ease to swim in the water. I did though and this water was much warmer than at Camps Bay. I decided that day was not my day to learn how to surf though. I will learn by the end of my time here! I am determined. Luckily, no shark attacks on this day. The sun was gorgeous and hot and we all learned from the day before that the sun is really strong. people were getting burned through their clothes...pretty crazy. I did pretty well with the sun...i have a good base but everyone else seemed to get toasted. Totally spolotchy in really weird and awkward places. It was funny. So it was an amazing and relaxing day at the beach. We left to take the train home around 5. The program had told us not to take the train after 6 just because sketchier people tend to ride the train at later hrs so we wanted to get out of there. We finally got on the train where we met some weirdo people...but we were in a group of about 10 so we were safe. BUT...(sweet story). Our stop came up so everyone was filing out. In Africa...apparently they dont believe in stopping the trains for a long period of time to wait for everyone to get off. Instead, they stopped the train for literally 5 seconds. People were still getting off of the train and they started closing the doors and moving. 5 of us still were not off of the train. So i thought, what the hell, I'm getting off this train. I didnt think twice and I jumped (the train was still somewhat crawling but def moving.) I jumped and cleared it but Laura decided she needed just jump a second after me, tangle my feet up and fall on me. Lets just say the concrete and I became close enemies. I scraped up my knees and foot...luckily I didnt face plant. Laura and Julie both fell as well. It was quite a sight to see. The people at the stop just kinda looked at us and laughed at the stupid Americans...figures. And the train just kept trotting along. I have always wanted to jump off a moving train though. So it worked out well! I got my wish and a sweet story out of it. Side note..Laura is sick right now. Im thinking she has the flu or strep throat. She slept all day at the beach yesterday, passed out in her bed once we got home last night and has been in bed all day today sleeping. We are going to the doctor tomorrow. Pretty shitty. Last night a big group of us went out to dinner at this really yummy restaurant in another part of CT called Green Point. We finished dinner at 1145 or so and took a cab to Long Street, where they have a lot of fun bars. After a couple failed choices of bars we finally made it to a place called Cafe Baghdad where they were mixing some amazing house music. We danced our asses off for a couple hours...a good time to say the least.

On to today..we went to the flea market and ripped some people off with was awesome! haha. And now I am here...writing this to all of you. Anyways, CT is everything I hoped it would be and much much more. The scenery is beautiful, the people are incredibly nice and gorgeous and life is great. Until next time...I love you all!


Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Panorama Route Jan 11-13

Ok here we go – blentry number 2!! PS blentry = blog entry. Start getting used to these mashed words bc they come out of my mouth (typing mouth) a lot.

So I left you at Chapungu which – again – was just incredible. January 11th. We leave and get a ride to the Hoedspruit airport where we rent a car. Mom is a little paranoid (what? Mom paranoid? No way) about our suitcases fitting in a car so she asks to make sure that we get a big car when she ordered it through our travel agent. So we’re expecting a small euro SUV or something but they lead us to this 10-person van – a Toyota Quantum. The quantum of solace. So now each suitcase gets its own seat and me and mom get our own rows of 3 seats – Jeffy and Alex in the front navigating. I don’t feel too silly about driving this Brady Bunch van, but as in some other countries South Africans drive on the left side of the road. Dad is an excellent driver, but even this took some getting used to – of course he got to do this in a van that is meant to max at 60mph AND with a standard transmission. And to make this all better, the turning signal was on the right hand side of the steering wheel which (for the 3 days we had the Quantum) led the windshield wipers to swing every time we were about to turn. Anywho we drive to the Panorama Route, which is a long drive through a beautiful mountain area that has all of these waterfalls and other nature thingies. Our first stop were these potholes that were naturally formed in the rock bed of a river – pictures to follow. They actually were really cool, but how long can you stare at rocks? Next we drove to Graskop, another town along the route, famous for Pancakes. There were signs everywhere like, FIRST PANCAKES! SINCE 1989. Hmm. We ate lunch somewhere, but couldn’t concentrate because mom had a HUGE hole in the butt of her pants. And it started “small” (barely covered by her tied-around-the-waist jacket) and continued to disintegrate until there were basically no pant left. Okay I’m exaggerating, but who puts on pants with a huge whole in the first place? We find this adorable little boutique that weaves silk clothing. Mom gots some pants that don’t disappear as you wear them, I a shirt, and alex a white silk shirt (pimp). Onward! So we leave this area and I’m feeling really funky so I fall asleep in the car.

Next thing I know we are at our beautiful hotel in Hazyview along the panorama route and I have a FEVER – so the whole Hazyview memory is a little…hazy. I slept until the next morning, but J, J, A had dinner at the restaurant at the hotel and Alex had latkas! I’m still resentful that they didn’t bring any back to the room. We stayed at the Rizzington Inn and it had just been struck by a tornado, but it still looked like heaven. The lady there – Harriett – is mom’s hotel manager god. Anyone is organized and happy is mom’s god, but Harriett was apparently especially wonderful so I’ll document it. Harriett thinks my fever was a bad reaction to the malaria pills so I stopped taking them and got better! And no malaria either even though my legs had enough mosquito bites to pass for chicken pox (mom says the mosquitoes like me because I’m sweet!).

Next morning (Jan 12th) I am still fevered, but I am a trucker and went with it. Unfortunately for the second day in a row there were clouds filling the mountains so we didn’t even get to see all of the views. First we drove to MacMac Falls, a waterfall of the MacMac persuasion. It would have been beautiful, but there is only this small viewing area at the top of the mountain far away from the actual waterfall. So we couldn’t see anything and couldn’t even get a good angle for a picture to pretend to all of you that we were closer. So we left, but not before mom bought some Curios – or African stuff. We bought a mask and a little elephant out of stone and mom spent hours (minutes, but a lot of them) deciding which salad bowl to buy and she decided on none of them. Then, to scare the disease out of me, Alex and I did this COOL freefall thing. It’s a 20-story tandem drop over a waterfall and then at the bottom of the fall we swing back and forth over the river. The fall was so scary that I couldn’t even scream, so mom’s video is silence with her going “oh god oh god oh god” and then when we start swinging I start screaming. But it was amazing. UNTIL we had to walk back up those 20 stories on slippery wooden stairs along the side of a mountain. They don’t tell you that little tidbit until you have no choice. And then we bought more honey nut Curios from the local Africans.

Our last day up north was spent driving from our hotel to this little town called White River, which had adorable little shops including this furniture store called Equilibrium. The owner carves everything in the store – tables, beds, sinks, doors, everything from African wood and it is incredible. I could have lived in the store. Of course ma and pa took his card and are planning to put his stuff in our new house since he ships from Tampa and he can design custom pieces! And then we go to Kruger Airport to fly to Cape Town!!!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Laura and the McDonald clan go on SAFARI - Jan 7-11

Hi! So I (Laura) have made it safely to SA! …10 days ago. Because of a lack of internet in the African bush and an erratic fear of this being too big a project for me to keep up with, I have regretfully not written on this blog. And even now I type this out on Microsoft Word first with an understanding that the internet connection here at the African Elite Properties on the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town (henceforth cited at CT) is grasping for its last breath each time I ask facebook to do anything. SO I will attempt to catch you up as quickly and thoroughly as possible and post it when I can. Today is Friday January 16th and we have been in CT for about 4 days now. But let’s start at the beginning…

My family and I flew into Johannesburg on Jan 7th and we stayed in a hotel right near the airport since we went back to the airport the following morning to leave for our safari. Thurs Jan 8th we leave Joburg and fly into Hoedspruit airport, which is made up of one small building, one runway, and baggage check is a small cart.

Mom at Hoedspruit, isnt she gorgey?

For those of you who do not know SA (all of you) Joburg is the main city and is sort of in the center of the country. Most of the safaris take place in the northeast corner near or in Kruger National Park. Contrary to our original beliefs, our safari was not in Kruger but in a section of private game reserves right outside of Hoedspruit, and right next to Kruger. Our little game reserve (little meaning about 100,000 acres) was called Thorneybush – named after the thorny bushes that attack you as you drive by in the safari jeeps. We stayed at a lodge called Chapungu, which is a smaller subset of Thorneybush Main Lodge. Main lodge holds a maximum of 48 people and a spa, which the mcdonald family took over one afternoon. Chapungu houses 16 max guests, all in 2-person “tents.” I thought we were going to be roughing it with the rhinos, but this place was incredible – the tents were like little cottages with huge beds, AC, a big bathroom with a shower leading outdoors, and an outdoor Jacuzzi (which would all be quite romantic if I hadn’t been staying with kin, or if I was from WestVa). I’ll try to post as many pics as possible, but it really was amazing. And to humblize us bushmen, I find out that we’re not even staying in the highest class “tents” which were in another Thorneybush lodge at that point being housed by Elton John and his “people.” So as we were doing our game drives we had to keep a look out for lions and zebras and Elton Johns – oh my!
Unfortunately we missed EJ – even in his bedazzled safari outfits – but we heard that if anyone took a picture of him on route, his driver would be fired (not okay because we LOVED our drivers).

Alex on our romantic porch:

So at Chapungu there were 8 of these bungalow tents. The lodge was managed by Chara, who is a beautiful white SA woman who is just the perfect host – friendly and charming and funny. She was great, cept she named her new baby Jemima so I do question her judgment up to a point. Then within the lodge our two main servers were Daniel and Service (brothers, maybe twin black South Africans who my dad LOVED), and our chef was Whitney. Our meals were included as part of the lodge stay and we therefore ate them all together. At dinner the chef had to “present” our meal by saying what we were about to eat. Whitney had this great accent, but she was all types of awkward during these presentations and Eugene, the driver for the other jeep, explained that the other people in the kitchen were too shy to present so Whitney always did it. I really can’t imagine their attempts after Whitney.

Our jeep was driven during the first 2 days by Ishmael and Ishmael (Ish squared), and then Ish1 went on vacation so Richard took over as driver with Ish2 as tracker. Ish2 were black Africans and grew up in the area so Ish2 has grown up tracking animals with his family, whereas Richard – an English speaking SA (aka white) had to take courses to learn how to track before he could become certified as a ranger.
Side note: SA as a whole is very un-PC about race because race seems to explain a lot of background about people and for now it is their way of being PC to explain people as their race and/or language/tribe – who knows when and if this will change. Also, Afrikaaner and English SAs are different – Afrikaans being the Dutch-based language here. But they are different culturally – Afrikaaners are usually much more stuck up and into flashing their wealth (from the words of our wine-tasting guide, Joe – whom we love, Jeffy and Alex are even golfing with him on Wed). They were also the group of people who led the Apartheid and were and are still the most racist. Of course not all of them are though, so be nice. But it is interesting to note that, esp in Cape Town, almost everyone speaks both Afrikaans and English, though English is the major language. SA has 11 national languages, most of which are tribal languages spoken mostly outside of the cities. Population-wise SA is about 20% White (half of that Afrikaaner, half English), 10% coloured (half black, half white), 10% Indian, and 60% black.

Okay enough history – go google it if you’re so interested. Our safari was amazing, despite the lack of Elton sitings, because we saw every animal we wanted to see and more even though the summer months are supposedly the hardest viewing months since the grass is so high. The tour guide books said we probably wouldn’t see anything, but 5 minutes into the first ride we see a pride of lions (the Northern Pride of Thorneybush) which consisted of 1 male and 4 female, all of whom were HUGE, leading to a few heart palpitations on my part. 10 minutes later we find a cheetah and her three 4.5-month-old cubs sleeping. And the story continues. Our ranger/tracker teams, especially Ish2, were amazing. I owe them all of the credit. I’ll attempt to post the best pics of each animal once I have a few more bars of internet life and some videos, which all include creepy narration by yours truly, usually in a British/SA accent. This is not to say the accents are the same, but that my interpretation of both is rather similar. But yes, reviewing the videos we either have Jeffy repeating facts he’s heard earlier, Jude asking 294 questions, and/or Alex and I breathing heavily and sounding like Harry Potter.

Being that our lodge only housed 16 people we did become quite close with the other lodgers, and I really believe the setting and environment were perfect – cousins Paul and Steven would have loved all of the schmoozing. What was most amazing (and Paul, be jealous) is that every group we met was from a different country. Mike and Marie, who we only met briefly, were an unmarried couple. Mike was an ex-marine or something from the UK and Marie was this crazy, funny woman from SA, but they currently live in England. Next comes Vince, father to Sean, who are from Virginia outside DC (boring, I know), but they had their own stories to tell. Vince worked to train and find jobs for groups of oppressed people and he traveled all around the world every year doing so, this trip actually marked his retirement and the end of a 2-month travel around Africa with Sean. Sean is currently at Georgetown Law and was funny and nice, but not boyfriend material – sorry Aunt Ricki. Next come Phillip and Michelle, married couple from Ireland. If anyone is going to Ireland any time soon, this couple owns a 5-star hotel in a redone castle in Ireland and the two of them (people not hotels) are hilarious. Phillip is a serious Irish drinker – brandy and rum are his drinks of choice, and he can even put Jeffy under the table – not a liver-conscious life decision. He also kind of looks like Shrek, minus the green hue. Michelle is actually really pretty (Princess Fiona?) and seems to laugh at everything, maybe because Phillip was so funny, but she was great – you could imagine her being equally good at Chara’s job.. since she does the same thing. They were the other 2 in our jeep on the game drives so it was tons of fun to have them. Next are the 4 swedes. They were in their late 20s, early 30s, but you really couldn’t tell since they all looked so Swedish and they had been on holiday for 4 weeks so their blond hair was lighter than their tan/burnt skin. Two of them were named Andreas, and Alex claims the other two were Frederic and Johann, but I really couldn’t tell you. I loved them though. Two especially were hilarious and charming, and I want to say one of those two was the cutest, but they all looked the same. They were also great guides since they had spent so much time traveling SA. The last couple was Martin and Susanne. They were from the Netherlands and I really liked them too. They came later than everyone else (Mike and Marie had already left) and we thought they were going to stick to themselves, but they were actually my parents’ favorites. Keep in mind that my parents and Vince were the oldest people there and the other couples were in their early 30s. Martin and Susanne were great though. They had been dating for 7 years and JUST got engaged two days before they came to Chapungu. Susanne was really pretty, but looked like the aforementioned Swedes, and Martin was a hottie patottie. Too bad about le engagement. So that rounded out the crew.

We talked a lot while we were there about how great the setting was for bonding us as one group since there were max 16 guests, but Chara said that most groups do not bond as we did since some older couples stick to themselves and sometimes not all of the guests speak English. So we were lucky, and between all of the factors I really think we had the most amazing experience we could have had on a safari and it certainly exceeded all expectations while fulfilling a dream of mine and pops. So all in all, amazing. Go to chapungu. And stuff me in your suitcase. And say hi to Jemima.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pre-Safrica Post

Hi friends and fam! We are posting our first post! Laura leaves in 3 days, but Stevi still has weeks to go. Stevi is nervous to be travelling alone, but knows that she will make it through the fire.

Our goals for the trip:
-do everything.
-hike up table mountain tons of times
-learn to surf
-make out with safricans (no HIV though)
-make friends
-stay safe from pick-pocketers
-travel in and around SA
-laura: try new food, but not anything from the sea. ew.
-keep this blog up to date with tons of posts and pics and giggles
-write in our personal journals
-sky dive
-swim with sharks (in cages. duh)
-learn about the history of the country
-play soccer and rugby
-go to rugby matches
-not feel like tourists
-get immersed in culture
-do community things in the townships
-make safrican friends
-work out and NOT gain lbs

dear readers,

(L typing). stevi and i went to sleepaway camp together for 4 summers and became lifelong friends. sometimes we abbreviate words so deal with it. laura attends colgate university in ny and stevi goes to university of colorado at boulder. we are BFFs. please leave comments on our posts and feel free to email us individually. we hope you like our blog. ENJOY.

love, laura and stevi