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Holiday Day 2 – Lion Park

Sunday was Jacob’s first full day here, and we had an excellent day planned.  First thing on the agenda was the Lion Park, which is like a mini game reserve with an emphasis on…lions.  To begin with, we picked Keri up (I was so glad to finally be able to give her a lift rather than the other way around), and had my first experience with Wimpy for breakfast.  Wimpy is mostly about burgers, but Jacob and I had breakfast sandwiches and wraps to start our day off right.

The Lion Park is about 30-40 minutes out of town, and it was nice to get to drive out and see a bit more of Johannesburg and the actual province of Gauteng.  Once you get farther out of the city the landscape gets much drier, more brown than green with low, rolling hills.  It reminded me again of the American Southwest.

Once we got to the park, the first thing that we did was head straight to the lion cubs.  Included in the price of your ticket is the opportunity to get up close and personal with some baby lions, and that is exactly what we did.  They were unbearably adorable, but they weren’t exactly cuddly.  It was clear that they were just putting up with the hundreds of people that came to pet them on a daily basis.  However, they certainly didn’t mind being touched, as long as you stayed away from their head, paws and tail.  Their fur was a bit rougher than I expected, but I have no idea why I thought a lion’s coat would be downy and soft.  The most amazing thing about them is their eyes.  They’re this light beige color, almost matching their coats, and it’s pretty disarming.  This little experience has definitely been one of the highlights so far, and I would have stayed with the cubs all day if I could.

Next activity was giraffe feeding!  You buy a bag of food, and they have a platform set up so you are at the height of the giraffe’s head, and he just eats right out of your hand.  Let me get the obvious out of the way: giraffes are huge.  I know you know giraffes are huge, but you don’t really realize it until you are standing face to face with one and you realize that it’s head is pretty much the size of your torso.  However, the giraffe we were feeding was amazingly chill and gentle.  The way it eats out of your hand is totally weird.  Generally they’re using their tongues to grab leaves of off trees, so they’re used to wrapping it around things, and that’s exactly what it does to your hand.  It wraps its looooong, slimy tongue around your hand to get the feed, which is gross and awesome at the same time.  I would definitely enjoy having a pet giraffe.  There were also ostriches in the enclosure that were looking for some food.  Ostriches, like most other birds, are awkward, aggressive and obnoxious.  They are pretty funny to watch though, and Jacob was the most intrepid out of all of us and fed a few of the ostriches.

We took a short break after feeding to watch a bit of rugby.  The rugby world cup has just started in New Zealand, which is HUGE in South Africa.  It was South Africa’s first game against Wales, and it was pretty tight throughout.  I’m hoping that Jacob and I get a chance to see a whole proper game in Cape Town, because the atmosphere is really fun.

After our break we headed out to the game drive.  There is a mini reserve that you drive through first that has zebra, wildebeest, and all kinds of bok…blesbok, springbok…there are a lot.  After that we headed over to the drive through lion camps, and we were in luck because on Sundays they do public feedings.  We drove through the first lion camp, and to our amazement, there were giant lions right at the entrance as we drove through.  They have no qualms about being close to cars, and as I drove in there was a full grown male lion about 1 foot from my car door.  Seriously amazing.  After that we headed to the White Lion camp, and got a good parking spot for the feeding.  The way that this works is there’s a bakkie (pickup truck) that has a cage built onto the back of it.  There is a guy in the cage, and he’s driven around while occasionally throwing a hunk of meat out of a small opening.  Each lion gets their own piece and they go to town.  It wasn’t nearly as gross or visceral as I thought it was going to be, which was good, because we needed a large appetite for where we were heading next.

Before we left, we also got to see some wild dogs and cheetahs.  Cheetahs have always kind of terrified me.  They are breathtakingly beautiful, especially up close, but they always look like they’re ready to attack.  By this time we were starving so we headed for lunch, which I’ll tell you about in my next post.

 
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Posted by on September 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Holiday Day 1 – Jacob’s Here!

On Saturday, Jacob’s plane got in at 8:35 am.  Keri was her usual amazing self and dropped me off at the airport to go fetch him.  Fortunately we found each other immediately, which was a miracle in the sea of people.  There are actually a lot of shops in the airport, including a Woolie’s, so the first thing we did was get some grocery supplies from there and then grab some coffee from Mugg & Bean.  Then we were off to get our rental car.

To put it mildly, I was a bit anxious about my first driving experience in the country.  Even though I learned how to drive on a manual transmission, it’s been a year or two since I’ve had to do it.  Add to that having the driver’s seat on the right side of the car, having to shift with my left hand, drive on the left side of the road, deal with Joburg’s crazy traffic and not having any idea where in the hell I was….yeah, I was nervous.  We picked up the car from the rental place, which is a sporty little red Nissan hatchback.  We had also gotten ourselves a GPS, but because we were afraid that the route it was going to take us to get back to campus would go through town, I decided to just print directions up from Google maps.  I had looked at the map and I was pretty confident that I understood what was going on.

Cut to me sitting down in the driver’s seat.  WEIRD.  However, there was nothing to do but take the first step, and we were off.  Once I got going it wasn’t that bad.  My only issue is that I tend to list to the left because I’m used to the right side of the lane being much further from me, so Jacob was remaining vigilant and warning me when I was about to drive us off of the road.

The problems began when we ran into construction.  Because of the construction, exits weren’t numbered, so while I knew what highways were coming up, I had no idea which direction I would actually be going.  Sure enough, I got on the right freeway going in the wrong direction for about 20km.  Whoops.  Fortunately, we managed to figure it out, turn ourselves around and made it safely back to campus.  I’ve got to say, I did give myself a little pat on the back.

Our first activity was our friend Roger’s birthday party.  He and Greg held it at their house in Victory Park, and it was the perfect day.  Not too hot, nice and sunny, and we were outside by the pool and the bar chatting, eating and drinking all day.  Roger and Greg’s friends were lovely and accommodating, and it was the perfect first activity for a jetlagged Jacob, as not much was required of him.  However, after about 4 hours in the sun, fatigue was beginning to set in.  We headed back to campus so that Jacob could get a short nap in before our activities for the evening.

We went to dinner at a Portuguese restaurant called Nuno’s in a neighborhood called Melville.  Melville is another one of those neighborhoods like Greenside or Parkhurst that has a bunch of bars and restaurants, but it’s a little bit more chill.  We had a great meal.  Jacob tried Mozambique style prawns in a spicy beer sauce.  They were definitely labor intensive but worth it, and he had it alongside his first South African beer, my favorite, Black Label.  It was on draught there and it was sooooo delicious.  I had some grilled fish, and once again was presented with a plethora of sauces with which to accentuate my dish.  We were able to sit outside and have a nice leisurely evening.

After dinner, we headed over to Greenside to meet Keri and Ana for drinks at our favorite, the Office.  We hit some more driving trouble here, as our cracked out GPS took us the wrong way on one way streets and ran us in the dead ends.  Also, we were driving in the dark, and none of the streets were lit, so it was a really special experience.  I definitely got flustered enough to stop paying attention and start driving on the right side of the road for a couple of seconds.  Fortunately, there was nobody else on that particular street, so I managed not to kill anybody.  We did finally get ourselves sorted and to the bar, and indulged in a much needed cocktail.

Jacob was able to hang in there until about 11:00, but the jet lag seriously caught up with him, so we packed up, headed home, and passed out in my veeerrryyyy cozy dorm twin bed.  I can’t wait until we’re in Cape Town and have a proper bed again.  So far this holiday is going wonderfully.

Next up, lions, giraffes, and lots and lots of meat.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Keri’s Birthday

Hey there!  So, I don’t have that much exciting news as I’m nearing Spring Break and schoolwork is getting a bit more intense.  However, I did get to celebrate Keri’s birthday with her last Saturday which was great fun.  Keri and her mom were nice enough to pick me up from the mall and drop us off at our chosen destination for the evening, The Office, back in Greenside.

The place gets super crowded on weekends, so Ana, Keri and I showed up pretty early to get a table which meant we had a long night ahead of us.  However, it was nice to sit while it was still quiet and enjoy cocktails before the night got loud and crazy.  We started the night off with mojitos and caiparinhas and waited for everyone to show up.  One of the girls’ friends who showed up early was Harriet, a lovely girl who is in the middle of med school, so she was very excited to have a night off and to not be on call the next day.

After it hit about 9 o’clock everyone started showing up.  From then on it was your pretty standard birthday celebration.  Lot’s of good friends, a crowded and loud bar, good dancing and lots of drinks.  I’m pretty sure Keri had a great time, and held her own very well, seeing as the poor girl kept getting shots shoved in her face.  We were all exhausted by the end of the night, but I’m just glad that I was able to help her celebrate.

The preceding week had two in-class presentations in it, so I was happy for a reason to let loose.  I am currently procrastinating the book review that is due tomorrow, because I simply don’t want to do it.  I’ll make quick work of it once I start writing, but I’m finding being a self-starter massively difficult today.  I also need to get ahead of myself this week, as next week is spring break.  And…Jacob is coming!  He’ll be here on Saturday and doesn’t leave until next Sunday, so I’ll have lots of fun adventures to relate.

Until then, I guess I better start working…

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Pinkiefest

On Saturday I had the opportunity to go to Pinkiefest 2011, a festival benefiting a charity and also a good excuse to party.  The charity that was benefited this year was an annual rescue center.  The concept is pretty good; you pay R200 (basically 30 bucks) for the all day festival that includes free alcohol, bands, DJs and other entertainment.  It’s set up in the middle of a park so there was lots of space.  Everyone is also supposed to dress in pink, and lots of people got very creative with their costumes.  Overall it was packed with probably over a thousand people, and plenty of pink to go around.

I went with Keri, Ana, and Georgie, and we arrived about an hour after everything got going at 2.  You get a bracelet and a cup.  The cup idea is actually pretty smart; instead of people carrying bottles and cans around and making an awful mess of the whole place, you just keep refilling one cup over and over which cuts down on the mess.  The weather cooperated nicely for us, and it was already pretty hot by the time we got there.  We headed to the tent that was designated the “ladies bar” because it was shaded and less crowded.  This also meant that the bar was tended by shirtless men, and only girly drinks were available.  In this case it meant brutal fruit in strawberry and cranberry flavors because they were, what else, pink.

There were two main areas set up in the festival, the first being the outdoor area with a stage for live bands and a tented area with DJs, a dance floor and other performances.  The girls knew a lot of people there, so we spent a lot of time socializing, drinking, dancing and listening to bands.  The drinks were basic, with brutal fruit and beer being the main options, but there was a very delicious and dangerous punch that was served jungle juice style…straight out of a giant bin on the ground.  When it got a little darker performances started in the tented area so we moved over there.  There was the most amazing beatboxer I’ve ever seen live (except for JT…don’t judge), followed by a group of guys putting on a drum performance that was really awesome.

The action started to die down around 8, mainly because the liquor started to run out, so we decided to head to the next venue.  We miraculously managed to find a cab that wasn’t charging exorbitant prices, and the cab driver, Thomas, was very pleasant.  He played us love songs all the way to the bar.  We went to the Colony Arms, which is just a little pub in the back a kind of strip mall, but it’s very popular and lots of fun.  I think that karaoke was on that night, but I definitely avoided that at all costs…  What I did not avoid was trying cane for the first time.  Cane is basically like rum, and one of the specialties at this bar is the cane train.  In order to construct a cane train, you take a 2 liter bottle, slice off the top, fill it up to a certain point with cane, and then finish it off with cream soda.  Then you drink it.  Here, take a look.  You can see from the look on my face that I knew what I was getting into.  This little baby is not a joke, but it sure does go down easy.

Many of our friends who were at Pinkiefest followed suit and came to Colony, so we kept the party going there and had a great time for the rest of the night.  I kept a couple of the guys entertained by repeating the word “strawberry” over and over; apparently they can not get enough entertainment from my American accent.  At the end of the night we got a much surlier cab driver, but that did not stop us from making him take us to McDonald’s on the way home, as we had barely eaten all day.  Georgie was nice enough to let Keri and I crash at her house, and crash is exactly what we did after we were done eating.

I’m not gonna lie; Sunday was a rough day.  Apparently the word for hangover here is babalas….and that’s what I was.  Very very babalas.  However, I had a great time, and it gave me an excuse to stay in bed and read all day.

 
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Posted by on August 31, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Sushi and Steak

First thing, I’ve added more pictures to Flickr, so you can see more of what is going on here.  I would really like to be able to put photos in the blog, but due to connectivity issues here it is really seeming impossible.

So, as we know, I had a busy weekend which continued right on into Monday and Tuesday.  Monday night I helped two friends, Esther and Katherine celebrate their birthday by joining them for all-you-can-eat sushi at a place called Yamazaki at a mall up farther north than I had been before called Cedar Square.  I drove with my friend Nicole and her boyfriend Ludo along with our friend Alecia, and before we headed out to dinner they informed me that Hooters had recently opened up in Joburg, which I found hilarious.  We decided that we needed to stop there for a pre-dinner drink.  As you can see from the picture it’s pretty much the same exact thing.  It looks very much like an American sports bar on the inside, along with girls running around in tiny orange shorts and scrunchy white socks.  They still advertise wings as being their specialty, but prawns are on there as well.  I can’t say I recall that being an American specialty.  I tried Amstel lager for the first time.  This may not sound that special, but it’s different in SA.  It’s not Amstel light, it’s lager, it’s in a green bottle, and it’s brewed in SA…so though the label looks exactly the same they are apparently two totally different beers.

After Hooters, it was on to sushi.  It was a good deal if you can eat a lot of food, literally almost anything on the menu except the highest tier sushi for what was equivalent to $19.  I can’t believe how much food we all put away.  Sushi was pretty standard, but I did try mussels with wasabi mayo that I had never had before.  The mayo at this place was definitely a little sweeter than I was used to, but still delicious.  Also, I had never had a bow tie before, which is a kind of dessert.  It’s basically like wonton dough that’s formed into a bow tie, deep fried and slathered in a thick sugar syrup.  Delicious.  Do people generally eat these all the time?  I’d never seen it before.  After dinner we went downstairs to a restaurant called Cubana’s, which had very fancy cocktails for one last birthday drink.  One of the guys we were with used to bartend there, and so picked drinks for everybody.  I was presented with a drink called the Infidel (of course, being the American in the group) which ended up being like a raspberry whiskey sour, and was quite scrumptious.

The night ended on a bit of a sour note as we were driving home.  Later in the evening, Joburg police forces set up roadblocks around town for a variety of reasons, including checking to make sure the car is registered, all the lights are working, drivers aren’t drunk, and the newest law, to make sure you have a triangle in your car.  Triangles are light reflecting devices that you’re supposed to have in case you have car trouble so that it’s safer on the road when you’re pulled over.  It’s also an easy way for the police to ticket you, as apparently it’s not yet widely known that it is now a law to have one.  So of course, we got randomly selected to pull over at a road block and everything was going fine until the cop asked Ludo if he had a triangle.  Dang.  Ludo had not yet gotten a triangle for the car, and so he ended up having to get out of the car and have a 30 minute conversation with the cop that ended up with a ticket and a R500 fine.  Apparently it took so long because the cop was really just looking for a bribe from Ludo, but when it was clear that it was not going to happen, he went with the ticket.  The police force is pretty bribe-able here, which apparently how people get out of being arrested for drunk driving a lot.  Hopefully I never have to deal with it, because I have a feeling I would not be a smooth operator.

The next night I went out to dinner with my friend Yejin and some others.  We went to a restaurant called Moyo, which is pan-African cuisine; you can get food from pretty much any region.  I had my first proper steak here (I can’t believe it has taken me a month) and it was delicious.  The restaurant itself is a little kitchy, as evidenced by the guy roaming around doing face paintings, which we could not escape from.  However, the decor and the atmosphere were fun, and the meal very tasty.  I mentioned that I had been craving ice cream lately, as there’s no place for me really to get it.  Good for my waistline, bad for my tastebuds.  So, we went to Steers, which is a fast food place here with really good soft serve and an excellent caramel dip.

This weekend was so fun, but after 4 days of nonstop eating, I am ready to take a break.

 
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Posted by on August 26, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Apartheid museum and Soweto

Sunday was a day of good adventures.  My friend Teresa, who is an American that has relocated to Johannesburg came to pick me up for a day out.  Her friend Ablorde, who is also another American who is just here for 3 months working, was kind enough to drive both of us, as we’re both living in Joburg without cars.

The first stop was the apartheid museum.  First of all, although most Americans pronounce apartheid like apart-eyed, here it’s pronounced apart-ate.  The museum here is a bit south of the city and ginormous.  It’s also quite well kept and has a unique structure so you kind of walk through it like a maze.  The first thing that happens is that when you buy your ticket, you get randomly classified as white or non-white (I think every other ticket prints out opposite) and you have to enter the entrance that is designated for you, so you are immediately separated from half of your group.  It’s a small thing, but it’s a good way to start the whole experience, to be forced to be separated from something that’s comfortable for you.

The museum basically works chronologically, starting from the very beginning of history in Africa, moving to the time when European settlers came to Southern Africa and onwards from there.  I’ve read a lot about apartheid, and I think that most people have a basic understanding of what happens, but the museum goes into intricate detail and gives a much better understanding of what life was actually like under apartheid.  There are also many visual aids and videos, which were illuminating.  It’s definitely not a feel good museum, but it’s super informative and great to give you an idea of how South Africa got where it is today.

After the museum, we went to meet A’s friend Monde in Soweto.  Soweto is a neighborhood south of the city, and under apartheid was one of the black townships that people were relocated to when whites wanted to make more room for themselves in the city.  There are parts of Soweto that are much nicer now, but driving down there was the first time that I really saw a serious amount of the poverty that affects so many people here.  I’m relatively sheltered on campus and in areas with malls and bars and such, but once you get out of the city and start driving south, the poverty gap becomes much more apparent.

Regardless, there are still places to go and have fun in Soweto.  After we met up with Monde, he took us to something called a shisanyama, which is basically a giant outdoor area that’s been set up with tables and tented.  There’s a giant braai where you can buy meat, and you can buy six packs of beer and such.  There’s also a DJ table set up, and the entire time we were there they were playing house music (it’s VERY popular here).  Actually by the time we left it was starting to feel like a dance club.  Fortunately Monde’s friends were already there and had a table, so we were able to sit down, chill, have a few beers and a lot of meat.  At one point the braai ran out of meat, so they had to go get more and people were carrying huge sides of beef through the crowd.  It was awesome.

I also had pap and chakalaka for the first time.  Pap is basically a starch made from corn or maize.  It’s like very thick polenta; you can pick chunks of it up and eat it with your fingers.  Chakalaka is almost like pico de gallo.  There’s tomatoes, onions and raw chilis, as well as beans.  It’s the perfect accompaniment to chargrilled meat.  At one point in the night, a girl came up to Teresa and I to ask where we were from…apparently we look pretty blatantly American?  Shocker.  We were there for about 3 hours, and with all the music, dancing, beer and meat it was a good time.

I did take pictures, and hopefully I’ll be able to upload them to my flickr page in the next couple of days.  Cheers!

 
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Posted by on August 23, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Weekend Fun

I’ve been busier as of late, as I’ve just determined the subject for one of my three giant papers due this semester.  I’ve gone with Nigeria for my conflict class, and as I don’t know anything about Nigeria, I’ve had to play catch-up with epic amounts of reading.  However, I still managed to get out and see the light of day for a bit this weekend, which was great as the weather is finally turning around and bringing warm temperatures my way.

Friday night my friend Nicole invited me to join her at the planetarium.  I had not been to a planetarium since…I can’t remember the last time I went to a planetarium, so I readily accepted.  The Johannesburg Planetarium is actually right on campus at Wits, and about a 3 minute walk for me, so it was very easy.  The show was their last of the series “The Winter Skies.”  The Planetarium itself is nice and big, and visually the show was beautiful.  The music that went along with the show was pretty 80’s fabulous, and the recorded track at the beginning sounded like the movie previews guy, so that was awesome.  The man who narrated the show was super knowledgeable, and was able to answer everyone’s questions.  Of course, he kept asking the audience questions that nobody knew the answer to so sometimes it felt a bit like a lecture, but he kept a good sense of humor going through the whole thing.  It was funny, because he actually started the show with the stars oriented so that the sky looked as it would if we were in New York City.  Of course, I was the only one who realized that if you were in NYC, you wouldn’t see a single star…but that’s neither here nor there.  Then the stars got moved to the Southern Hemisphere, so I had no idea what was going on…I don’t think I’ve ever seen the Southern Cross.  Needless to say I learned a lot.

Sidenote:  They let you bring in snacks to the planetarium, so I got to try two new kinds of candy: Smarties and All-Sorts.  Smarties are not like the American candy; instead they are more like M&M’s.  The all-sorts are licorice candies which I thought I would hate since I hate licorice, but the licorice is surrounded by sweet gummies, so they’re actually quite nice.  I know this is riveting information.

Saturday was a big day.  I took the bus to Rosebank again so I could do a little window shopping before picking up supplies for a braai that Keri and here sister, Kim, were taking me to later that day.  I still haven’t tried any clothes on in shops down here because I have no idea how the sizing works, and I was too lazy on Saturday to figure it out.

With braai supplies in hand (boerewors and buns), Keri and Kim picked me up and we drove to their friend Chantelle’s house for the braai.  Apparently they had just moved into this house, but it looked great and the house itself was lovely.  Almost southwestern in nature I guess, with white walls and stone floors.  The back yard had a pool and citrus trees, and the next yard over had the most amazing tree house for kids I had ever seen.  I reverted back to 9 years old and really wanted to go play in it.

This braai was more serious than the first one I went to, as by the time the party really got going there were probably about 30 people there.  The grill itself was also much bigger, being an oil drum cut in half with a grate over it.  And sure enough, it was completely full of meat once the fire got going.  The braai was being held, among other reasons, in honor of the rugby game that was on that night.  I may have this wrong, but right now we’re in Tri Nations, between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, and Saturday it was South Africa against New Zealand.  The best part of the game (for me) was during the National Anthems.  First of all, when the South African national anthem came on, everybody in the house stopped what they were doing, circled around the TV, stood up and sang the national anthem.  It was awesome.  We never do that anymore in the States even though we bark about patriotism nonstop.  We’re going to have to step it up if we want to be on par with other nations.  Then the New Zealand anthem played, and the New Zealand team has an awesome tradition of doing a war dance after the anthem to intimidate whoever they’re playing.  If you’ve ever seen the movie Whale Rider, it’s in that style.

My friend Greg had also invited me to a movie night at his house that evening, so after I few hours at the braai I headed over there.  Greg and Roger have a beautiful house in a neighborhood called Victory park, along with three beautiful dogs.  When I got there there was champagne and pizza to be had, so I went ahead and indulged in a second dinner.  The movie on the program for the evening was Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which is one of my favorites, so I had a great time winding down and laughing along with everyone who was there.

Next up: my adventures to the Apartheid Museum and Soweto.

 
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Posted by on August 22, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

America does not set one up for success.

It’s true.  Sure, we’re all born lucky if we’re born in America.  Everything we could possibly want is an arm’s reach away, life is massively convenient, we have access to education, work, technology, fine food, etc., etc.  However.  America does not have it together when it comes to compatibility with the rest of the world.

My brain is knackered.  Exhausted, because literally EVERYTHING that has to do with measurement is different from the system in which I am comfortable.  Let’s start with money.  First if all, yes I’m aware that if you enter a different country anywhere the currency is going to be different relative to the dollar, so it’s not really America’s fault that I have to do calculations.  Whatever, I’m still over trying to divide ever price by 7, or 6.92, or whatever the exchange rate is that day just to figure out what it’s going to pull out of my bank account back home.  Also, foreign transaction fees sucks.

Secondly, can the United States please get with the program and switch over to the metric system already?  Seriously, we’re the only country that doesn’t right?  I haven’t really done a lot of research on the subject, but I’m pretty sure we’re the only idiots still lagging behind.  Centimeters and meters, ok, I can get that, I guess that kind of taught us that in elementary school.  And maybe milliliters and liters are ok too, except trying to figure that out in ounces is ridiculous.  Trying to figure out what the price of gas here relative to the States is ridiculous.  First you’ve got the money, about 10 rand, but that’s per liter (litre?), which is smaller than a gallon, and then I have no idea how many liters/gallons of gas a car tank holds here.  UGH.  For those of you that care, today, it is 7.2 rand per dollar, and there are basically 4 liters in a gallon which means gas is about… $5.55 a gallon??  Jeez, gas is expensive here.  And see?  Now my brain is tired.  I actually probably did that wrong, I never said I was a math savant.

Then, nutritionally we do everything the same, except for calories.  It’s not calories, it’s kilojoules, which are way smaller than calories.  This means that if you happen to glance at nutrition facts without thinking, you think that everything you’re eating is massively horrible for you.  It’s about 4 kj to 1 cal, so once my brain takes a breath and realizes that 1000 kj is not actually all that bad, I can feel free to eat without a panic attack.  Still, more anxiety than I need in my life.

Finally, there is driving.  Ok…so maybe it’s not America’s bad on this one, as most people drive on the right side of the road and South Africa is one of those weird countries that drives on the left (thank you British colonialism).  However, that doesn’t change the fact that if I grew up in the United Kingdom I would have a much easier time transitioning to South Africa.  Getting used to being on the left side of the road with the driver on the right hand side is hard.  It is REALLY counter intuitive.  I’ve been here for a month and I still haven’t got the complete hang of it.  Which means I am having panic attacks about when I actually have to drive on the left side of the road.  Seriously, I had a nightmare two nights ago about learning to drive here.  I’m sure that I’m going to cause massive traffic accidents by going the wrong way around a roundabout and cost myself a broken leg and a gazillion dollars in insurance.  At least I know how to drive manual, as that’s the standard down here as well.

This left side of the road thing also translates to walking.  I’m definitely used to passing on the right when hustling down the street, and back home I’m always the person that gets pissed if somebody is walking towards me on the wrong side of the sidewalk.  Jeez, you’re in America, get it right.  Well, now I’m the jerk walking on the wrong side of the sidewalk and people have to dodge around me before I realize the error of my ways.  I guess I deserve it.

What will happen with all of this is that just as I am getting ready to leave this country I will have it all down, and then I’ll have to go back to the States and relearn my whole life again.  Or America could just convert to the metric system while I’m away.

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Birds.

I am not a giant fan of birds.  I know a lot of you out there love birds, and I’m sorry.  It could be that I’m traumatized by the 8 or 9 birds I couldn’t keep alive in high school.  Now it’s mostly pigeons.  I hate pigeons.  I kick pigeons.  There are plenty of pigeons here (and I was desperately hoping that they wouldn’t be in Africa) for me to sneer at, but there is a new bird that is climbing the ranks in terms of things that irritate me.  The hadeda ibis.  Sure, it looks kind of cool and you might think that it would be cool to see these walking around on campus.  Don’t be fooled.  Listen to THIS.  I especially like the hadeda combined with the egyptian goose.  Lovely.

Today was a perfect day: yoga, coffee, snuggling up with a book during a thunderstorm…all interrupted at regular intervals by the hadeda.  Outside my window, flying overhead, they were mocking my attempt at having a peaceful day.  Oh, and they also like to start around 5 am.  Geese, pigeons and hadedas, please stop ruining it for other perfectly pleasant birds.

 
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Posted by on August 15, 2011 in Uncategorized

 

Sunday Funday

My Dad has requested that I try to make my blogs a bit more concise, because apparently he doesn’t have time to read whole entries.  Thanks, Dad.  I suppose I do tend to be a bit verbose, so perhaps on days that I don’t do anything specific I’ll write little blurbs for all my busy friends out there.  We’ll see.  Today I did get to do fun things so this might be a little lengthier.  SORRY, DAD 😉

Today I tried my hand at the Wits bus system.  There are actually 3 different campuses to Wits, the main one on which I reside, the education campus and the management campus.  During the week, there is a free bus that runs between all 3 campuses.  On the weekend it also adds a stop at Rosebank, one of the big shopping centers in town.  Keri wanted to meet me in Rosebank for the market and lunch, so I decided to take the bus in to see how it worked.  It was super simple.  There’s one bus stop on campus, on Sundays it comes every hour to go to Rosebank, and everyone just piles on.  The bus is more like a tour bus than a city bus, so it’s pretty comfortable, and it’s a pretty quick trip to Rosebank.  Now that I know how it works I’m probably going to spend every Saturday at the mall instead of studying.  Oops.

When I got to Rosebank, the first thing that Keri and I did was walk around the African market that runs every Sunday in the parking area.  It’s a giant market that is basically a whole lot of crafts and food tables, and it’s really wonderful.  There is literally anything you could want there, from jewelry to kitchenwares to animals skins to giant wooden giraffes.  There were some beautiful spice tables that I always see in other peoples pictures when they go abroad and I finally got to see one for myself.  I also got to try proper biltong for the first time, which is basically like beef jerky, but better.  The kind that Keri prefers and I really like is the wet biltong, which is dried meat, but it’s still a bit rare so it has great flavor and good texture to it.  I’m excited to go back and purchase some exotic flavors; you can get everything from ostrich to kudu to springbok.  Yum.

After the market, Keri and I walked into the actual mall to have a look at the stores.  There’s a great pharmacy call Clicks which is just like a CVS, and I was thankfully able to get some more Ibuprofen as it is my lifeblood and I had just run out.  It’s called Nurofen here, and you have to get it behind the counter, but I’m just happy to have it back in my life.  The mall itself is just like any mall, but the restaurants in the mall are all very nice looking.  Keri and I went to one called Tsunami Seafood for sushi.  I LOVE sushi, and it was quite good and affordable.  As it was a mild day, we sat outside and got to watch some African dancers out on the street while enjoying our lunch.

After lunch, I got to go to Woolie’s (Woolworths) again, and spent my life savings on groceries, but it was worth it!  Seriously, that food is delicious and will last me a couple of weeks.  We then met up with our friend Yejin.  Yejin was a fellow exchange student at Wits from GW, though she was studying here last year.  She graduated from GW in the spring and landed a job in Joburg, so she lives here now!  We headed out for coffee next, at a place called Motherland Coffee.  It’s quite similar to a Starbucks, offering lots of different latte options, but still no filter coffee.  However, my Americano was the next best thing.  Yejin, Keri and I had a really lovely hour catching up and sipping our drinks, and then it was time to head home.

It’s supposed to rain here in the next couple of days, and it’s already looking and sounding very ominous.  I’m so excited for my first Joburg thunderstorm, and I’ve got a tin roof, so that should be pretty intense.

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 14, 2011 in Uncategorized