Friday, February 18, 2011

And so it Goes

Posted at local time

I think I'll preface this entry with the following: I don't think I've ever been this busy for such an extended period in my life; comparable only to a night before a final or the night before a paper was due at UCD.  It's almost like half of the reason I'm looking forward to coming home is that I'll have some time to RELAX.  However, I've been keeping up with juggling a working life and a highly active social life quite successfully.  I can handle it :)

So, where are we... Mid Feb already?  That means it's time to come home.  My flight home leaves OR Tambo International Airport at 8:20 pm on Thursday the 24th-- and for the next 17 hours, I'll be wining (tres chic!)  and dining (involuntary shiver) at 37,000 feet.  Maybe I can hibernate for most of that period.  It would drastically shorten that crazy long flight if I were unconscious!  To add insult to injury, I have another five hours after I take off from Atlanta.  I'll be home on Friday morning at around 10:30. And so it goes!

Some highlights over the past few months:

  • The Game Reserve trip... What an unbelievable experience. 5 Star accommodation in the form of my own personal suite, 700+ photos of close viewings of Leopard (male and female, with cubs), Cheetah, Elephant, Giraffe, Lion, Lioness (and cubs), Kudu, Antelope, Hippopotamus, Warthog, and more.  Easily the most incredible thing I've done in my life thus far.
  • The South African Police Force (SAPS) and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD).  I won't go into too much detail, but I do have to say that my experiences with them were very interesting.  Ask me in person!
  • The enchanting union of Gareth and Angela Myers.  What a beautiful occasion-- It was such an untold honor to be present at their fairly exclusive wedding.  That said, the absolute and infinite hospitality of all the Myerses here has been greatly appreciated.  I feel as though I'm part of the family when I'm around them.
  • The trip to Botswana. I had a good time for this short-lived jaunt into another African country.  Lazing by the pool, enjoying a bit of sun and a refreshing dip, then sinking into hotel linens.  Air Botswana even had Biltong on the flight!
  • University of the Witwatersrand Street Party.  All I have to say about this one is "yassus."  Reminded me a lot of when I went to Santa Barbara for Halloween.  So much fun!  The night before, I went to a rugby game at Wits.  It was like being at an English soccer match...  There's video for this one! Among many other things, of course.
A sincere and heartfelt thank you goes out to my aunt Penny for many reasons, including but not limited to providing me with a place to stay, putting up with my late nights, and feeding me.

To everyone I've met, especially those who came through for me in many different ways, including Penny, Ricci, Natalie, Bianca, Rory, Johnny, Lauren, Carli, Adam, Kim, Gareth and Angie, Dani, Gary, Abby, Ed, Jarrad, Jess, Chelsea, Ash, and so many, many more.  You guys have all been so amazing and I'm so happy to have been accepted into your groups.  I know we'll be in touch, and if you guys come to LA, don't hesitate to contact me.  I'm only too pleased to help you guys out in the City of Angels!

They say that all good things come to an end, and maybe they do.  I think of leaving South Africa not so much as an end, but more of a "to be continued."  I will be back here in no uncertain terms.  This country has given me so much, and I return to the USA a better person after my experiences here.

Fear not, this won't be my last entry.  Even though I'm giving up my rental car, I've still got 6 days to fill with much of the same social activity that has populated the last 4 months.  Speaking of the rental car, number 5 was a success.  I would gladly advocate a Toyota Tazz to any one of my friends; even though it's not available in the States.  I'm a bit sad to see it go, but am REALLY looking forward to driving my S80 when I get home.  Might have to reset the clock though!

Incidentally, I'm really looking forward to being able to use my iPhone as a phone again.  Seeing 3G in the header will be such a relief.  Using it as, essentially, an iPod was convenient, but I'm looking forward to the convenience of having access to anything anywhere, regardless of WiFi.  Carrying two phones has been pretty cumbersome!

Life is filled with experiences, positive and negative, that define and shape our paths.  The path I've traveled for the last four months has seen me through a monopoly of good times, and I know that this can continue anywhere I go.

Life is a series of paths.  And so it goes.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Botswana, et al.

Posted at 12:17 pm local time

Hello readers, it's been a while (again) but here I am to provide you with another update.

I went to Botswana on Monday (24 Jan) for a night and had a hell of a time. Here are my impressions:

What an interesting excursion.  It was nice to have a hotel room all to myself in a new and unfamiliar city.  Upon arriving, I settled down into my accommodation after feeling the humid Gaborone heat infiltrate my very being.

After a little relaxation, I went down to explore the hotel and grounds.  I found that I would have to take a taxi to town if I wanted to look around, but then discovered that it was raining and there was flooding in a few areas, which resulted in a lot of traffic.  Scratch that idea!  I went to the casino in the hotel, where the odds were worse than in Vegas.  After an hour or so in there, I went back to the pool deck to see if anything had changed weather-wise. The sun had come out, and a few revelers were out basking in its glory.  I jumped back upstairs, changed into my boardshorts, and went for a lie down by the pool.  I ordered a castle lager, and spread out underneath the Miami-like sun, then went for a swim.  The environment was very resort-esque and beautiful.

After my swim, I went back tot my room and found out about the Moscow airport blasts.  Terrorists are truly despicable creatures.  They really will stop at nothing, I suppose.  After watching the scenes of carnage for a half hour or so, I showered in the rather grandiose shower, and got ready for dinner.

Dinner was a nice affair, I had my choice of two venues: Savuti or Mahogany.  Savuti had a buffet style dining experience, whereas mahogany offered an a-la-carte style.  Considering the fact that I was alone, I decided to just go for the buffet.  I did not regret my decision.  Curry, Mongolian BBQ, several types of salad, and an extensive dessert selection was available.  I tried a little bit of almost everything.

Sleeping that night wasn't too easy-- the air conditioning unit was very loud but impossible to be comfortable without.  I did have a few periods of sleep, however.

When I arose in the morning, I showered again and went down to see what the included breakfast buffet had to offer.  Omelets, toast, an assortment of fruit, juices, and other goodies greeted me in the brief Botswana morning sun-- before it started raining again.  I indulged in an omelet, toast, some cantaloupe, and coffee before preparing to check out and leave.

All in all, it was a fun little jaunt into Botswana, and I had a great time.  The flight was very easy at a mere 35 minutes, and they served us biltong!  I love biltong, and will miss it very much when I go home.  Fortunately my Mom put me on to a nice place in Hollywood that makes their own biltong and I'll be going there at least once every few weeks!

Back to the grind in South Africa now I suppose, let's see what I've been up to the past few weeks, and what I've got in store for the future:

At the Rosebank mall, there is a market every Sunday that I love to go to.  There are always very interesting wares on display there, including many trinkets and fine sculptures and such.  I will be bringing a few home!  Some of the best Indian Samosas I've ever had are sold there, and I usually get a few to munch on while browsing.

I've been jolling (partying) a lot, as usual. I frequent places such as those in Parkhurst, Greenside, and the club "Clapham Gold." I've also gone to sports clubs at the Zoo lake close to where I'm staying, including Zoo Lake Sports Club and the Bowls club at same.  The environment is infectious; everyone is excited and there is a hell of an energy.  Places are often packed beyond capacity with revelers.  Nightlife is so accessible out here, and I can always find a few mates who are up for a last minute jol!

The other night, I was with a friend of mine and two girls when we got pulled over.  The cops were driving a citigolf outfitted in full police regalia.  They asked my mate and me to get out of the car and searched it for paraphernalia, and found nothing.  I was wearing my boardshorts, and they said that the pockets were very full.  I have to carry a lot in SA, and I had my iphone and wallet in one pocket, then my SA phone and two sets of keys in the other pocket.  The amount of keys one has to carry in SA is absolutely ridiculous!  They also went through the girls' purses. After they discovered that we weren't hiding anything, they sent us on our way.  A rare case of RSA police actually doing their job and not bribing! Well, from what I hear, anyway.

Tonight I'm going to the Zone at Rosebank to meet up with a group of mates for a birthday.  It should be fun!  I'm looking forward to it.  Tomorrow is Thursday, and Thursday is a big night. I'll most likely be going out to either Clapham or Parkhurst.  Greenside will probably feature on Friday or Saturday night.

Speaking of Saturday night, I may go out for Karaoke again at the Colony Arms.  I went on Tuesday of last week to the Waverley Soccer Club, and decided to sing for a crowd that my aunt sometimes goes with.  Apparently I did really well, because after singing "Save Tonight" by Eagle Eye Cherry and "Can't Help Falling in Love" in the style of Elvis, I received a standing ovation from many of the patrons.  My aunt was shocked and has been telling me (and anyone who'll listen) how shocked she is that I can sing for several days since then.  I'm amazed that I was received so well; I think I need voice lessons!

My flight home is booked for February 24th, and I'm starting to look forward to coming home.  I miss my family, puppy, friends, car, room, bed, and the ocean!  And it'll be nice to use my iphone as a phone again too, lol.  See you all soon! Less than a month :)

Alright, I think that's it for now.  I couldn't update at home because the internet was out (AGAIN!!!!!!! ARGH!!) but as of this morning it was working again.  Hopefully this one will hold out longer than a few weeks, as is custom with the ADSL line in my aunt's house.  Strange!

Cheers guys, hope your week is off to a great start!


Wednesday, January 12, 2011


Posted at 10:37 pm local time

I'm sorry to say that my computer problems went from bad to worse, and my laptop now refuses to work for longer than a few seconds after turning on before blacking out and giving up.  I guess I'll just have to deal.  Thankfully I'm now doing a bit of work for my cousin's husband's sister's husband, and he's loaned me a laptop so I can give my iPhone a rest because it's been my sole connection to the internet since before the New Year.  Oh well!

Speaking of the New Year, I certainly hope that my friends and readers brought it in in style.  I had a great time at a house in Morningside, surrounded by friends. South Africa's celebration of the new year is similar to that at home.  There are lots of parties, but they have fireworks.  People asked me if we had fireworks on New Years, and I told them that fieworks were usually reserved for Independence Day.  They looked puzzled.

So back to 2011.  I wasn't sad to see 2010 go.  It was a year filled with pain for me starting with a bang and twinge of epic pain which caused me to lose 15-20 pounds and go through a period of sincere agony.  Those of you familiar with the circumstances, I thank you again and again for helping me make it through them-- your assistance was invaluable to me.  It didn't get much better from there, as life had two more hurdles to throw at me, in the form of losing my dogs Lucy and Matisse.  Such incredible animals I will never know.  Matisse was not very intelligent, but he looked it, and was one of the most unconditionally loving beings I've ever had contact with.  Lucy was equally as loving, but was so smart she could even open doors, even ones opening inward.  If one of us got locked out of the house, she would be able to open the front door, and even had discretion as to who she would open it for.  I took the loss hard; those dogs were the reason I made it through my university career.

In September, we got another lovely little Aussie, named Cody.  I miss him so much and if I ever find myself feeling a little homesick, I scroll through the pictures on my phone and remember what's waiting for me when I get home.  He'll look much different, however.  He already does! Anyway, the year drew to a close with another great loss for my family, which I won't detail.  In short, for me, the only good news 2010 brought was a new puppy, and graduation from UC Davis with a BA in English and Creative Writing.  Good riddance.

2011 has been off to a phenomenal start here in Johannesburg.  I've got plenty of friends, I'm social, busy, always happy and and meeting new people.  Between Christmas and New Years, the entire city packed their bags and left.  Many businesses were closed.  Robots (traffic lights) were all kinds of messed up, but there were few cars on the road to be hampered by this, and the few that were there just ran them anyway.  One can't deny that this city has got character!  I did have some friends in town to keep busy with, and we all got up to some fun times at the places that were still open, which were few.  The criminals were also home for the holidays, so Joburg enjoyed a sort of serene stasis.  I found it very relaxing. 

And now that, too, has come to an end. The people are back, the roads busy and bustling.  The beggars that I'm so used to are back in the middle of the road, constituting living obstacles during active traffic that I have become so adept at avoiding.  All my SA friends have returned from holiday and are still rearing to go out.  Tomorrow night I believe we're all going to Clapham Gold  (a club in Four Ways) again and I'm preparing for a long, fun night!  I've definitely done my fair share here, and am continuing to have an amazing time.

That brings me to a bit of news.  I may be staying for an extra month, as long as I can get my Visa sorted.  I'll update when I learn the outcome of that.  Otherwise, it's home on January 19th.  I was thinking about how long it's been and how much has probably changed since late October.  Then I realized that it's been nearly 3 months since I last saw my dad, sister, Cody, my friends at home, my bed, car, parked without a club, left a window open... There are definitely very many things about home that I love and miss, and when I go back, I know I'll have a different sort of appreciation for everything I have there.  Until I do, I'm loving life, living life, and having a hell of a time with some incredible people in some incredible places. 

Here's to South Africa, and the life I never knew I had.  Cheers!


Monday, December 20, 2010

It's been a month...

Posted at (or attempts to post started at) 12:49 pm local time

It's been a month, and I honestly haven't been able to post due to a few reasons.  Warning, this is a bit of a venting.  Otherwise,  I can't say that too much has changed, but here's reasons+ news. lol

Reason 1: Laptop trouble.
My laptop somehow managed to take more of a beating in South Africa than it's taken during five years of use in the US.  I really don't know how, as I had been using it as normal for a few weeks until it somehow managed to suffer two major maladies.  The first is a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) problem that is due to a design flaw that allows the motherboard to flex enough to make the chip which constitutes the GPU to separate from its mount, causing a critical error resulting in a black screen for me. Long sentence, but bear with me-- it's taken me an hour to load the interface which allows me to post; more about that later.  Basically, I have to use my laptop on a flat surface, and type with exceptional care so as not to jiggle the GPU enough to cause the blackout.

The second reason involves a titanium alloy hinge that broke.  I REALLY have no idea how that happened.  It's the least of my worries, seeing as I can still use the screen, but coupled with the GPU problem, I'm screwed.  Sigh.  That's life!  Time for a new laptop!

Reason 2: Lightning and electronic equipment do not like each other.
A few weeks ago, there was a terrific electrical storm, which saw lightning strike the ground near my aunt's house at least twice.  I was in the kitchen for both of them, and one struck across the street, sending what I thought was electricity cascading across the sink.  The second one was accompanied by a pop somewhere in the vicinity of my aunt's office, and I later discovered that it hit a phone line, traveled through the router/modem, and fried the ethernet port on my aunt's computer.  I'm pretty sure it totaled the router/modem too, because though I can connect to the wireless, I have no internet when I try to use it.  After logging into the router config utility, everything looks fine and the ADSL diagnostics indicate no real fault. Considering I can't connect to anything, I beg to differ.  Everyone goes away in December for the holidays, so it's been a real bother trying to get anyone to come out and fix it.  Alas, screwed again.

Reason 3: Slow internet at work.
When I started my internship, we were in a building that had internet trouble. I posted my last entry while there, and although I still had internet at my aunt's house during that time, the trouble with my laptop was prohibitive.  We moved into a stunning new building last week, but the internet is worse than it was at the other building because the provider couldn't coordinate in time.  We have one ADSL line feeding everyone again, but this time there are networking hurdles that are complicating things.  It took me over 20 reload attempts (and almost 2 hours) to get to the interface to type this entry.  I'm really not excited to find out how many attempts it will take me to actually post it.  Facebook won't load. won't load. The only thing that seems to be working without flaws is skype, but no one is ever on it so that's a bit useless.  Oh well.

All of this goes to show how dependent we are upon technology.  I wouldn't change anything about it, but I can just only hope that things get sorted in the near future.  It's driving me crazy!  All of the aforementioned are reasons why no one has seen any pictures from me.  It's really not easy when this combination of events creates the perfect storm.  Cross your fingers for me, and my apologies yet again.  End venting.


Well, my mom left on December 7th. Since then, I've still been out and about as much as before.  My cousin jetted off to Thailand, and from what I've heard, he's having a good time.  I plan to begin my vacation this week, and will probably take off work tomorrow (Tuesday) or Wednesday.  This weekend I took some time off of having drinks.  Last Wednesday night I had a bit of a rough time, but the night was fantastic and I won't complain about that!  I've been loving the social atmosphere and been enjoying all of my time out.

Yesterday, I went to a braai with my aunt and met a few of her tennis friends.  It became a bit of a headhunting endeavor- something I can't complain about because now I've got all these headhunters looking out for girls to introduce me to! Haha, how ideal!  Too funny.  They say the best way to meet people is through people you already know. I know it's impossible to meet people at clubs because it's far too loud to have a conversation with them and get to know them.  That- coupled with the different South African dialects I've encountered- has been making that bit a bit difficult. I've had my successes, however!

One encounters negatives and positives everywhere he/she goes.  We all know this, and sometimes I feel that I know it especially well.  I've been having more of a good time than bad and I'm very happy about that.  There have been a few down moments, but for each bad moment I have, there are 3 good ones.  These, above all, are what defines this trip and has resulted in its overall success.

I would like to be in contact with my friends at home in Los Angeles more.  When I am online, I always have skype open, but the only people who are ever on are my mom, my aunt, and my friend Natalie. Yes Natalie, you got a shout out :) I know that there is a crazy time difference, and I know that everyone has their own lives, so I deal.  But for those of you who are out there reading this, I hope to get in contact with you soon.  Obviously I'd rather skype because then we can talk, but I'll try to get emails out to you guys.  The fact that the slow internet at work is my only option at the moment doesn't help.  I really hope that the internet at home is up and running again soon.

If I could say one sentence to all you guys at home, it would be this: I'm having an amazing time and keeping very busy, but when it comes time to return home, I'll be ready for it.

Alright, time to go get some lunch!  And to see how long it takes to publish this update.  That's not counting how long it takes to announce it on Facebook too.  Argh!!!!!!!!  Cheers guys, enjoy your week!


Friday, November 26, 2010

Quintessential Heaven.

Posted at 1:20 pm local time

It has been a crazy week!  I can't even begin to tell you how incredibly it started, but I'll certainly try to do it justice. 

I went to a private game reserve in Sabi Sands with my mom and aunt on Saturday morning.  The nearest main city is called Nelspruit (pronounced nelsprate) and it's located in the province of Mpumalanga.  I sit here trying to frame my experiences there into words, and I feel like it's negating the fact that I have a BA in English.  I honestly have never had a more amazing time than the time I spent in the African Bushveld.  Even the trip to Savanna Private Game Reserve was interesting; I liken it to a far more interesting version of I-5 North.  One thing I couldn't quite wrap my head around was the fact that people were just walking across the highway as cars going 120 km/h (around 75 mph) whizzed by.  That's South Africa I guess!

Throughout the stay at Savanna, we were treated like royalty.  After a harrowing, 15-20 km dirt road drive, we were greeted by a very friendly woman named Lorna who immediately made us feel like we were family-- she got us wine and sat down with us in the gorgeous lodge area as we surveyed the area with eyes that were thirstily drinking in the serene landscape.  We sat and chatted for a while, and then we went to our rooms to settle in.  The first night, my accommodation was in the Pilot's room-- a quaint and comfortable room designated for the pilot of guests which were flown in.  I was happy with it, but Lorna said that she could possibly move me into a suite the following night if I was lucky.  After settling in, I went to go see what my mom and aunt's accommodation was like, and what I would see would actually leave me speechless.

When you walk up to the suites in Savannah, you actually walk in the "back door."  One might think that the front door would be a better choice, but there is no front door per se, because the bathroom area of the suite is closest to the path.  This all transpired because the back door is essentially a wall of glass framed in rich wood, with two sliding glass doors replete with screens that back straight up to a private plunge pool and the wild and untamed elegance of the bushveld. Upon entering the suite, I was struck by the steep, thatched hip roof, beautiful white linen sheets and mosquito nets enclosing the beds.  It served as sharp contrast to the bushveld (herein after referred to as the "bush") just feet away behind me.  My mom and my aunt looked absolutely delighted and, to be honest, I thought the three of us would unleash the little kid in ourselves and just start jumping up and down in pure and raw excitement.  I walked through to the bathroom and was equally stunned by the location-defying chicness.  Several sliding panels of translucent glass served as a door to an outdoor shower, sheltered and privatized by bamboo shoots.  Smack in the middle of the large bathroom itself was a nicely sized tub.  Off to the right was a room with a toilet, and to the left a niche with his/her showers with rain-type heads.  I recall asking how all of it had gotten there; the location was fairly remote and I could never have envisioned that sort of luxury to exist out there.  I never got an answer, but I wasn't upset.  It made the experience that much more magical.

After relaxing for a while, we were told that at 3:30 lunch would be served, and that we would go on a game drive directly afterward.  Lunch was perfect after the long drive from Johannesburg (just under 7 hours).  The food was excellent; if I'm not mistaken we had fresh sole, salad, and some fruit.  At this point we met our game ranger/driver, Paddy, as well as our tracker, James.  For the next few days, these guys were our family.  Here, we also met the people who were going to be in our Land Rover-- a mother and daughter from Australia and a Dutch couple, and they became family as well.   After lunch, Paddy "fetched his toys," which consisted of a proper rifle, the Land Rover, and his photography accoutrement.  We all hopped in and that's when the adventure started.  Almost immediately, we came across a giant group of elephants.  They're MASSIVE and you do not want to piss them off.  Paddy got us situated so that they'd walk right by us, and they accepted us with no question.  From there we journeyed to see a leopard and her cubs, who were feeding on a kill.  The smell was interesting, to say the least, but watching it was so enrapturing that I just couldn't take my eyes off the carnage happening before us.  I think that later that evening we also saw a lioness and her cubs as well.  My 700+ photos will help jog my memory a bit, and I'll post the best shots when I've got them on my computer and edited.  Darkness began to settle upon us, and we stopped in a large clearing to have drinks and snacks.  It is so quiet, and so dark when the sun sets.  I felt perfectly content, although I knew that at any moment a multitude of animals engineered to kill could take any one of our lives.  There's something about having a gin and tonic out in the bush after dusk that is so contradictory to reason.  But it was a moment, resplendent in the sleek evening dress of the night sky, that has indelibly imprinted itself upon my mind.

Dinner that night was absolutely enchanting.  A table had been beautifully laid out in an area partially enclosed in a bamboo fence strung with lanterns. The table also had kerosene lanterns on it, which lit the faces of our group in a soft and dancing light that mimicked our entertainment for the night.  A local choir had come to put on a show before dinner, and the energetic African music permeated our ears in the most wonderful way.  Their aura was infectious and I even found myself trying to harmonize with them, albeit silently.   After that we were told what was on the menu for the night; boerewors, chicken, ostrich, and salad.  I wasn't brave enough to try the ostrich, but boerewors (a type of sausage) is a South African braai (bbq) staple that I am completely enamored of.  The chicken was quite good too.  Excellent food, excellent company-- I was content with all and everything in the world in that moment. I stayed up until past 12 talking to everyone, once again proving the cliche, "time flies when you're having fun."  Afterward, I had to be escorted to the pilot's room to retire for the night.  You're not allowed to wander around by yourself at night, because the consequences could result in that lovely scene I described above involving the leopard and her cubs.  I did not want to be that Impala, that's for sure.

5:00 am, and my iPhone jarred me awake from a comfortable slumber.  I had a half hour to get ready and have a bit of coffee before our morning game drive.  Bleary-eyed but oh so excited, I sucked down the coffee and we all piled into the Land Rover again.  We saw a few elephants on the way back out into the bush, but didn't stop for them because Paddy had gotten wind of a sighting.  The memories are blurring together a little bit for me because we saw so many animals so many times that it's hard to remember individual sightings.  Again, when I get the pictures sorted I'll be able to remember the timeline more accurately.  However, I do recall that we got to see the mapogo (mapocho) lions.  They were having a bit of a lie down but even in slumber they blew my mind.  The size of their paws was incredible.  At one point, one of them got up, walked over, and looked straight at me from about 5 feet away for a duration of 15 seconds.  Being eye to eye with death for 15 seconds did not allow that time to pass quickly, but I felt like I connected with him, and he decided it wasn't my time to go.  I was told not to move, so I couldn't get a picture of him looking at me.  He carried on and flopped down in the shade of a tree at the side of the road-- back to sleep.  We saw the Mapogos again the next day but they were sleeping again.  Ah, a lion’s life.  From there, we heard about a cheetah sighting so we high-tailed it over and found a cheetah munching on a baby antelope.  It was also kind of grotesque to watch but equally as riveting as the leopard’s kill the previous day.   We also heard about some rhino, and ran into Zebra on the way over.  After that, we stopped by the side of a river and had cookies and coffee/ tea.  I must say that I'm glad I'm a guy when it came to nature calling in the middle of the bush.  I can’t believe how lucky we were to see so many of Africa’s animals in even just two days.  We saw some kudu on the way back, and then went to have a bit of breakfast and relax for a bit before the afternoon drive again.

True to her word, Lorna moved me into the suite next door to my mom and aunt during that period.  I had a queen bed all to myself, in the same accommodations I described earlier, with one addition.  There was a door that I assumed led through to my mom and aunt's suite, but I noticed that there was a building in between that wasn't their suite.  When I opened the interleading door, I found a passageway that led to a gigantic sitting room with leather couches, a bookshelf/ TV unit, a fireplace, kitchen, and bar. It was too gorgeous.  I was sorry that I couldn’t share such a beautiful experience with someone else, but at the same time it was pretty intense to think that I had the suite all to myself.  I had a dip in the plunge pool and wandered around the grounds before getting ready for lunch. I found showering in the outdoor shower particularly enjoyable.  There’s something so liberating about showering under the sky—It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that and I found it very invigorating.  Lunch was excellent, on par with the other meals I’d had thus far at Savanna, and then it was off to another game drive, during which I saw many of the aforementioned animals again.  Too much is not enough, however, when it comes to being face to face with animals in the wild.  I believe that during this drive, we were leaving a male leopard that we’d just spend around 10 minutes with, when a troop of baboons came through and chased him.  The baboons were quite scary; they made these wild shouting noises that made the hair on the back of my neck stand up.  More sightings, and then back for dinner.

Savanna's staff went above and beyond to make the entire experience in the bush an incredibly memorable one.  When I returned to my suite, I found the mosquito nets had been released from their ties.  They hung delicately from their frame above the bed, opalescent in the soft light from the bedside lamps.  When I went through to the bathroom, I found a bubblebath waiting for me, complete with a glass of sherry and candles.  Sinking into that bath with the sherry was a heavenly experience, and I had to take a picture on my phone (pg 13 maybe, but nowhere close to R lol).  Then off to another amazing dinner and socializing with our group.  After dinner I had a rousing game of chess with miss Australia which I let her win, and then we all retired for the night. 

The next day was very bittersweet, except other than our experiences it wasn't sweet at all, so make that bitter.  Leaving Savanna was something I was not looking forward to, so it was with a heavy heart that I got out of bed at 5am and suited up for our last game drive.  This day was very similar to the one before, except we saw some hippos in a waterhole.  They didn't really come out of the water at all so we just saw their heads, but I wasn't complaining; I was happy to have seen them at all. After that drive, we headed back for some breakfast, and then we had to hit the road.  It was very difficult to say goodbye to the people we had banded together with; but I'm sure that somewhere down the line, our paths will cross again.  I certainly hope that they do!

A thousand and one thanks to my dad's friend David for making our stay at Savanna possible.  I sincerely recommend that if you're in the market for a trip to the bushveld, you look up Savanna Private Game Reserve.  I've heard on multiple counts that it's impossible to compare other game trips to this one, and I believe it with no doubt whatsoever. I'll post pictures soon, I'll edit and upload them this weekend.

The rest of the week in comparison has been pretty slow. I missed Thanksgiving last night, but I did manage to partake in a candlelighting picnic in the park at Zoo Lake which is close to my aunt's house. We met up with one of my mom's friends and her family for dinner afterward, and I had a hell of a time.  Again, I have to go back to how amazing the people here can be.  Hopefully on Saturday I'll see them again and have a right proper jol (South African word for night about the town, or just fun time).  My weekend is quite open at the moment, but I'm sure that something will materialize and I'll get a fun time out of it.  It has been happening every weekend thus far! Perfectly ideal, if you ask me. And no excuse for me not to get those pictures sorted!

I suppose it's worth mentioning that the hired car I had broke down in the middle of a busy street during a thunderstorm.  That was exciting, in a sitting duck sort of a way.  After a bit everything got sorted, and I'm now driving a Toyota, which is much more reliable.  There are several things wrong with it though, so I'm hoping to change companies this weekend.  It's actually quite sensical if you think about it.  These old cars are at the most vulnerable point of their existence, and they get people driving them hard day in and day out. No wonder they break down.  They're cheap, but in life you get what you pay for, and it's much better to have money to do things rather than wasting it on a rental car.  There is a point, however, where it's not feasible to be changing out cars every few days, so we'll see what happens.

Right, well it's time for me to get some stuff done, so I'll update later with the pictures.  Happy Thanksgiving to all, and to all a good night! Or good morning.  Gotta love the time difference!



Friday, November 19, 2010

Busy, Busy, Busy...

12:20 am local time.

So I've been keeping very busy, as you may have gleaned from the title.  Been working away and jumping into Johannesburg's nightlife left and right.

I'm finally doing stuff at MR... I was given a project, and have assisted on some TV ad edits for a major burger chain here called Wimpy.  It's been a hectic week.  This is still interspersed with lots of time sitting around trying to get assigned a task, but I'm still learning so I think they're a bit loathe to give me anything that's too intensive, and I think I agree with that tactic.  We'll see how it continues to pain out.

On to a subject that involves mobility.  I've now gone through three rental cars.  The first one was a VW citigolf chico probably made within my lifetime which had various issues- including but not limited to slight overheating, oil pump trouble, and the rather handy ability to have trouble starting while parked on hills.  Big fat X.  Next, it was on to a Mazda 323 that was definitely older than I am.  This one had four DIFFERENT tires (tyres, for you SA people watching for my assimilation into the culture here) and a very angry clutch and alignment problem.  The one benefit I saw was that it had 5 gears, and had a slight power advantage over the chico; at least until the other day, when a myriad of things went wrong with it.  I was parked in the MR parking lot and started the car, at which point I noticed some pretty intense valve tick, so I became worried it had no oil and turned it off.  I checked the oil, found it still had enough (although it was VERY dirty) and started it again: no tick.  Then, as I was driving along Grayston drive in Sandton looking for a car hire place, I noticed that when the car would idle it would shake badly, and there was a very perceptible drop in power.  I've had a misfire in my Volvo S80, so I knew the symptoms and knew the car had misfired.  Another fat X, and the next day I swapped it out for my current car, another citigolf.

This citigolf is probably the best car they have on the lot.  It's newer (I'm thinking circa 2004-5), has a tachometer, digital clock in the gauge cluster, and a built in gearlock for antitheft.  The key is even newer; it looks like the service key for most new VWs nowadays.  It does have its share of problems, however.  Second gear's synchros are toast, so if I don't double-clutch or wait for the RPMs to drop, I get a lovely, grating crunch when I move the shifter through second gear's gate.  This one starts fairly readily, but it has two very gnarly cracks in the windscreen that run from the headliner to the dash.  Meh.  It'll do until I change companies at the end of next week :)

Tonight, I saw The Social Network.  I'm not sure how accurate the portrayal of Mark Zuckerberg is, but to be honest, I find him to be abhorrent as a human being if it is accurate.  I even considered deleting my facebook; if he could have been that terrible to his one and only friend, why would he care about the rest of us "farm animals?"  Lovely.  So that movie left me musing quite hard.  Of course, this was all driven out of my mind by the fact that my aunt's car battery had died, and no one had jumper cables.  We tried to roll-start the car but the immobilizer (immobiliser) was NOT having it.  Fortunately one of the guys who watches cars in the lot (Every parking lot in South Africa has several questionably legitimate people hanging around lots wearing reflective vests looking for tips) had a set of jumper cables in his car and helped us out.  No more leaving your headlights on, Penny!

On Saturday, it's off to the game reserve in Sabi Sands, called Savannah.  I'm super excited, it's going to be awesome.  5 hour drive early in the morning, and we should be just in time for lunch.  I'll take lots of pictures. I get Monday off, and I'm very excited to just have a day to appropriate all the experiences in the game reserve and relax a  bit.  Again, a game reserve is not for hunting, it's for viewing the animals in their natural habitat.  I'll be sure to expound upon this after I actually experience it.  I know I'll have a lot to say!

Alright my friends, it's time for me to depart.  I have to get up early tomorrow and brave the roads in South Africa to get to MR and finalize my project.  Wish me luck :)

Cheers, keep LA warm and ready for me when I return in two months!


PS:  (Friday, November 19, 2010) I was going to post this the other night, but started to have issues with my laptop.  The screen started to turn off at random intervals, and then the computer would reboot, and I figured something was wrong with my GPU (Graphics Processing Unit).  After doing some research, I found out that my particular model of IBM Thinkpad laptops were prone to a loose GPU issue, so I took the keyboard off and attempted to exact a fix for it.  While doing it, I thought that I may as well try a system restore, and after doing so, I haven't had any trouble thus far.  Wish me luck!  5 years for of having no critical hardware failures with a heavily used laptop computer is quite a run!

Off to the game reserve tomorrow.  I'll update on Monday!  :)

Cheers everyone,


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Harrowing week

Local time: 2:48 pm

One hell of a delay later, here I am.  Apologies for the prolonged lapse of time between entries.

It's been a very busy week. On Tuesday, I began something of an internship at Metropolitanrepublic- an ad agency here in Johannesburg.  It's been a very busy time; quite overwhelming as one would expect of such a creativity-driven business. I've had a good time so far, it's nice to be out of the house and around lots of people.  I think it can only perpetuate good times here in South Africa.

With the good must come the bad, I suppose. Out of respect for my mother, I won't directly mention what happened.  I will say, however, that life is short, and that carpe diem is a phrase that many people should know and think about a few times a week.  You never know what may be around that next bend in the road- realistically as well as metaphorically speaking.

I have stood witness to a few rather ballistic storms the past few days. You have not seen a thunderstorm until you've spent some time in South Africa during Spring and Summer.  I rented a little Citigolf Chico, and was barraged by rain on my trip home on Friday.  Fortunately, the windscreen wipers worked.  Unfortunately, the driver's side one was loose, and began to rather lethally adjust position until it was almost off the windscreen; wiping naught but air and a small patch of glass.  Enter harrowing.  A vice-grip and a bit of torque fixed that little number after I arrived home.

Today I went with my mom to the Sunday market at Rosebank Mall, which is just up the street from us.  I had some EXCELLENT (with emphasis on the excel bit) samosas at the food court.  For those unfamiliar, a samosa is a classic Indian cuisine staple in the form of a triangular pastry filled with anything from mixed vegetables and spices to meats and spices.  There is a high Indian population here, and the food you get is really top-notch.  The market itself is incredibly interesting.  The people, the wares, the sights, sounds and smells... It's a sensory extravaganza, of sorts.  What a vibe.

A social update: I've continued the trend of meeting many people, and had the embarrassingly nice experience of exchanging numbers with a few girls at dinner last night, thanks to my Aunt.  She leaned over to two pretty girls eating next to us and told them her nephew was in town from America, then asked if they could recommend some places for me to go to.  They spouted off a few place based upon some of my interests, and then THEY gave ME their numbers.  How unheard of... I can't actually remember the last time a girl gave me her number unsolicited, let alone two at the same time.  Gotta love that American shock value!  We'll see what transpires, they were very nice and I think the best way for me to get out and have fun is with a girl on each arm ;)

Now I'm off to the war (WWII) memorial nearby.  Should be quite thrilling for me, for those of you who know about my technical curiosity.  After that, a brisk walk in the park with my cousin and his girlfriend, and then an open evening.

There goes that weird bird who sounds like a rubber chicken being squeezed...  On a side note, the avian population here has some interesting sounds.  Another bird sounds like a person spouting nonsense at random  intervals, followed by a sound reminiscent of someone honking their car horn several times, then driving by while holding it; creating a doppler effect.  I'm quite the imaginative one, no?

Cheers guys,