Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The rest of the holiday

So I will try to catch you all up on what has been going on for the past two weeks (and supplement the guest blog post that I hope you all enjoyed ☺). I apologize if this comes out as a list of “we did this, then this, then this” I will do my best to avoid that but it might be tricky to fit it all in!
The last few days in Cape Town continued to be incredible. We lucked out and had beautiful weather on our last day, which was when we drove down the Cape of Good Hope. We got to see African penguins (too funny!) and miles and miles of gorgeous coastline. We hiked to the lighthouse at the tip of cape point, and it was absolutely spectacular. We ended the trip with one last ridiculous night out, full of far too much dancing and after about an hour of sleep, we got back on the bus for another long but uneventful trip back to Windhoek.
I met my parents in Windhoek (yay!!!) and after a night in there we headed to a cat reserve. We did cheetah and leopard tracking, which was absolutely amazing (and which my dad already mentioned… kind of) and we had these spectacular rooms with windows that looked out across a plain full of animals.
After two days we went up to Etosha, Namibia’s biggest national park, and saw tons of animals, as you might have gathered. I will let the guest blog do the talking there.
My parents got to come see my house in Uis and we spent a couple days hanging out (they wanted to fix everything in my house) and hiking to see the cave paintings nearby. It was fun to get to show them my school and my town, as well as see a side of Namibia that they might not have gotten to if we had just kept hopping from gorgeous lodge to gorgeous lodge. We also spent a couple of days in Swakopmund, which was fun since I have obviously told them lots and lots about it! On the way out of Swakop, we did a boat tour which was pretty entertaining. My mom and I had a full-grown male seal sit on our laps and we got to see dolphins playing in the water. Then we headed south and visited a national park where we got to see the red dunes that you will see lots of pictures of if you find any book about Namibia. We ran into some of my friends in both Swakop and Soussesvlei and my parents got a kick out of meeting them.
We headed back up to Windhoek where I bade goodbye to my parents and said hello to my entire group who had re-convened for mid-service. This whole past weekend I have been having sessions with the group and getting ready to go back to teaching. We also got to have some fun-- we had a big braai with live music and lots of friends on Saturday night, which was definitely the highlight of the weekend.
I got back to Uis last night, sad after many goodbyes and wishing I was more ready to start teaching. Today I get to just get ready for classes and settle back in to my routine, which is a bit different now that I have a new roommate (I promise to tell you more about her as I learn more, for now her name is either Megan or Maggie, she is from Swakopmund, likes singing and seems incredibly nice). I hope everyone enjoyed the month of May as much as I did!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Guest Blog (Tina's Dad)

Greetings from the Namib, Namibia. Most of Namibia is in the Khalari, but the Namib Desert runs along the coast, from 40-80 km inland. We are there, in Swakopmund, taking a tour-the-town and hang out day.
Perhaps you had my misconception: Christina actually lives in Uis, despite not living in the town. This is because “town” refers to about a fourth of Uis’ population, with straight grid streets, a supermarket, restaurants, gas station and tourist facilities. It is mostly white, but some black Africans, too. The other part of Uis is the “location”, which is >99,9% black (guess who) and separated from the “town” by a brick plant and abandoned tin mine, about 4 miles distance. The structure is an apparent remnant of apartheid which, because its so structurally ingrained, seems like it will be a long time in fading away. A lot of cities have these.
It appears that everyone knows Miss Tina. Children and others wave, and even people in town who she does not know treat her like a long-lost friend. So although not terribly inviting toward a true friendship, the community is quite friendly.
Seeing Christina’s place, as parents, we wanted to do an episode of one of those home makeover TV shows, although that, predictably, was not going to sit well with her. We did do some compromises. We bought fabric to replace the missing backs on the kitchen chairs, a bowl, (even though she insisted the deep plate worked fine for soup and cereal) and kitchen knives since food would get caught in the leatherman, We learned she’s a bit self-conscious about being perceived as rich after some kids saw into her cupboard and said “wow” at the amount of rice, oil and seasonings that were present. (We were less impressed!) Computer and iPod are kept from public view.
The school is plain, but quite nice, and we loved the library. All the books are classified as 1 thru 5, based on reading difficulty, which makes them a little easier to file. There’s nothing to sit on, so we got some pillows from the China Store as our contribution, and brought some National Geographic posters. The bookshelves need constant work. The actual shelves are only a fraction of the depth of the bookcase, so books are always falling down the back. But bottom line, its quite a cheery, inviting place.
Our travels have been without adverse incident so far, not counting Tina’s sprained ankle and wrist, sore throat and cold, food poisoning (nasty, the hotel staff wanted to get a doctor) and sunburn. Patti and I are quite pleased with things going otherwise so smoothly.

Ultimate animals:
BIGGEST: Namibian elephant, the largest strain in Africa, almost as big as the oiliphants in Lord of the Rings. I have seen elephants, but these were startling, towering about the trees and eating the tops.
Wimpiest: Anopheles mosquito, a no-show in this dry weather. We stopped our malaria prophylaxis early, a mortal sin in the annals of Infectious Diseases.
Startling: The Red Hartebeast is a creature out of mythology. It quite large, with the muscular body of a horse, a long neck, and the head of an antelope. We only saw them a few times, but they were back in the trees, the way centaurs usually are in paintings. Awesome.
Beautiful: Lavender-breasted roller. Black and a bluish aquamarine complement the purple breast when in flight.
Dumbest: the African sand grouse which will watch the tires of your Toyota truck slowly run over him unless you are careful to steer around.
Saddest: The wildebeest male, who when dethroned as leader of his harem by a younger, stronger male, is exiled from wildebeestdom. But being a social, herd animal, it will attach itself to another species herd, like a bunch of springbok, and follow them around in its retirement.
OILO (Once in a lifetime opportunity): The leopard, with blood on the chops from a baby kudu, looking you intently in the eyes from 9 feet away as your driver mistakenly gets between the leopard and what’s left of her kill.
Transparent: The rounded ears and black eyes being the only discernible features in the high grass as the cheetah looks up to see who is there.
Least responsive to negative reinforcement: That would be Patti, who could never believe in the baking desert sun of late afternoon that she would need anything warmer than short sleeves after sunset, despite the four previous nights’ experiences.
Most delicious: So far, either oryx or kudu. Each is also pretty impressive when not being eaten.
Most under appreciated: The springbok is underrated because it is so common. But it is a truly beautiful animal with an amazing vertical bounce.
Best architects: Termites. Second place, weaverbirds.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Down South

After a nine hour kombi ride to Windhoek and two days there just eating, taking care of errands, seeing a movie (in a theater!), visiting friends, and getting far too tied up in the drama of the hostel where we stayed for one of the nights, it was time to head to South Africa. Four of us took a 22 hour bus ride from Windhoek to Capetown, and it was surprisingly nice. The seats reclined to almost laying down and were incredibly comfortable, so aside from the terrible movie they showed (seriously... someone should imdb "Birdie and Bogey") we were all amazed how smoothly the trip was.
We arrived in the afternoon on saturday tired and a bit dazed from the journey but pushed through for a nice dinner and then going out on Long Street. Long Street is what I imagine New Orleans to be like-- there are bars and restaurants lining both sides of a cramped street with balconies full of people talking, laughing, and dancing. We watched one of the car guards do a great dance performance in the street, enjoyed pina coladas at a cuban place, and met julia's friends (and their entire soccer team) for dancing. It was a great welcome to Capetown.
The next day we rode the cable car up table mountain, which is just outside the city. It gives you a spectacular view of everything-- on one side the ocean and the city sprawled out (we could even see the world cup stadium!) on another side a smaller mountain poking up and to the other side the vineyards crawling inland. It was breathtaking, and we spent far more time than anticipated wandering around on top of it.
We also visited Robben island, which was interesting, but a bit bizarre because most of the time is spent on a bus or being hurried through rooms that have been made into makeshift museums (really really hurried through). The last part of the tour, however, was guided by a former inmate of the prison and it was very interesting to get to hear from him.
Right now we are in Stellenbosch, which is a smaller town right in the middle of the wine country. We did tastings yesterday and the first one was wonderful- good wine and the guy who worked there had the attitude that "you like what you like, not what you're supposed to like" which was fabulous since none of us are exactly wine experts... Then we went to the goats do roam vineyard and had amazing cheeses with the wine.

I absolutely love capetown. Maybe it's just because it's nice to be back in a real city (we all went through some culture shock) but it is clean, full of wonderful restaurants, cafes, galleries, and funky little shops. People have been nothing but friendly and with the ocean on one side and table mountain on the other, it would be easy to miss how beautiful the buildings in the city are.
The plan is to head back to capetown later today and maybe see the cape of good hope later this week, but mostly we are all enjoying relaxing, eating, and lots of good wine!