Saturday, July 7, 2007

My South Africa Trip - Blog 1

Mike and I are in South Africa. The flights were long and tiring. We flew eight hours from Atlanta to Dakar, where we landed to refuel and make a crew change. We weren't allowed to deplane. Several Dakar airport personnel boarded our plan and searched it for explosives and other contraband. Afterwards, they walked through the cabin spraying an insectiside, which they claim was approved by the World Health Organization (WHO). Afterwards, the plan left for Johannesburg, another eight-hour flight. From Johannesburg, we changed planes and flew a little more than two hours to Cape Town.

We arrived in Capetown on Friday around 8:15pm--which, given the six hour time difference, made it about 2:15pm EST. We will be in Capetown from Friday through Wednesday, July 11th. On Wednesday, we leave Capetown and head to Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. Friday, July 13th, we leave Victoria Falls and head to Johannesburg. We will only be in Johannesburg for one night. Saturday, Juy 14th, we take a flight into the Timbavati Nature Reserve, which runs parallel to the Western border of the famous Kruger National Park. We will be on safari at Kings Camp until July 17th. We head back to Georgia at 2:00pm on Tuesday, July 17th, and arrive in Atlanta early Wednesday morning. This is going to be the trip of a lifetime!

Here is a photo of Mike in the Johannesburg airport. We were waiting to catch our flight to Cape Town.

In an effort to stay in touch, I thought I would try and blog pretty regularly while on this trip. So, if you'll forgive me, I'd like to start right before we left the house--on Thursday. Given the fact that I am a model consumer of highly-processed American food, I'm afraid my daily meals are going to be the main area of concern. I packed a box of Ritz crackers and some fat-free Pringles in case I can't find anything to eat. I also brought some Charmin mini packs because one never knows how to properly gauge the softness of toilet paper in foreign countries. A girl's gotta take precautions, you know.

I've been asking Mike about our flights and since you have to fly from one city to another here (because they are just too far apart), I was wondering if we would be on a plane with any chickens and/or goats. He just laughed and told me that I've been watching too many movies. Although, you have to admit, since we have to fly everywhere, I could definitely see the possibility of being on the same plan with someone transporting some livestock he/she plans to use for trade. You think? I'll be sure to let you know if there are any chickens or goats on any of our flights. I hope there is at least one, that way I can have the last laugh, not Mike. See, when you think of Africa and riding in planes, don't you think it's entirely possible that this little kid and his chicken could be sitting in the seat right beside of me on the plane? I do.

Anywho.....back to it. We arrived at our hotel last night and it's a nice hotel. We have an excellent view of Table Mountain right outside of our window. Here are a couple of pics that I took from our hotel window.

Breakfast was great. Since I'm such a picky eater I always wonder what they are gonna have that I'm able to eat. Seriously, I am the poster child for American high-fat, highly processed foods. When you depend on sugar and cabohydrates as your main form of sustenance, meals can be a major cause for concern. There were all kinds of foods from which to choose this morning. I'm always skeptical of eggs and meat at hotels, so I chose the more safe route. I had a roll with ham and cheese--nice. Question: if all chickens are more or less the same, and lay similar eggs, why are scrambled eggs more brown in foreign countries?

We thought it would be a good idea to just make it a light day today since we were still kinda tired from all of the travelling, so we decided to hang out at the waterfront and take in the local atmosphere. There was mall, much like our malls with several stores selling inferior products at superior prices. We didn't buy anything today but scoped out some definite gift possibilities. As we were walking about, we came across some young dancers performing for the crowd. Here is a little video I shot of them. They were young and full of energy. They looked a little too young to be moving the way they moved, but I guess that's how it goes. I'm sure it's just because I'm old and only getting older.

Right behind the dancers was a section of ground skirted off with several inflated animals and jump castles for the youngsters. The inflatable animals were from Atlanta's own Cartoon Network--they were of Scooby Doo and his pals. America is everywhere. As we were walking through the local crafts market (which very closely resembled an international market in the states--with lots of cheap trinkets sold by people who also offer to read your fortune and give
you a quick foot massage--we ran across an item that must be a foreigner's interpretation of true American culture. It was a coin-operated machine that seemed to promise the true American experience. It came complete the Confederate battle flag.

We also took a nice little stroll through the aquarium here. We watched a fish feeding and learned some things about sharks--particularly snaggle-tooth sharks. The message basically consisted of telling us that most people are ignorant about sharks and they are far less dangerous than we think. There was a creative educational video playing on our way out of the aquarium that did an excellent job conveying the mesage. I didn't record it, but I found this recording on YouTube.

To take a break from all of the walking we decided to see if there was a local theater--there were two: an arts cinema and a regular, mainstream theater. We opted for the arts cinema and saw the movie Shortbus. The film itself is very risque and it does show actual sex acts, but I do think the movie was very well done and it was interesting. Everyone in the movie was searching for something in his/her life and the common bond that united all of them was sex, whether it be with each other or by themselves. I love movies that show the vulnerabilities of everyday people in everyday situations. I think we often try to be more than what we are and when we don't live up to our expectations we feel depressed or disappointed in ourselves. Always wanting something more than what we currently have or had is an interesting part of human nature and I like it when
movies explore people's actions in trying to attain that something. This was one of those movies.

It looks like a travelling documentary film festival is also coming to Cape Town in a few weeks. So, if you're in the area be sure to check it out.

Tomorrow, we are going to Robben Island. This is the island where Nelson Mandela was jailed. We will see the actual jail cell where he was held as a political prisoner for over twenty years, finally getting released in 1990. After his release, Mandela was voted president in 1994, after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993. Even though Apartheid was legally put into place in the 1940's, the oppression did not really end until the election of 1994, with the appointment of Nelson Mandela. So, the end of segregation is really young here. But, enough with the overly simplistic history lesson. We're gonna get on a boat tomorrow and go to an island. We're also gonna get to see the African (jackass) penguins that populate the island--SWEET! You know, penguins are my favorite animals.

One final picture for you (from the waterfront):

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