Sunday, July 19, 2009

Greetings and Salutations from Cape Town!

We are in South Africa! By we, I mean my sister and I. We spent about a week and a half in Mozambique and I think my sister was ready for running water by the end, judging by the joy on her face and the way she seemed to hug any hotel bed we got. She pointed out things that I have just grown accustomed to, but it's been a bit tough for her to handle. She and Timba are now best friends - he showed his love for her by charging her as she walked out of the latrine at night. I think he doesn't like you if he doesn't charge you and try to take you out at the knees. My students saw her playing with him and their mouths were hanging open with surprise. "Teacher, your sister doesn't have fear of dogs?" Kara got to come to school with me and experience a couple of chapa rides (including one where she ripped her pants) and we walked to Monapo Rio to go see a couple of my best students' houses. She got to carry water (but not on her head - that's only for us seasoned veterans), wash clothes and dishes, and cook like a peace corps volunteer. I'm fairly certain it was everything she ever dreamed it would be. After Nampula, we headed down to Maputo and saw my host family and stayed with them for a night. She got to meet some other PCVs in the capital before heading on to Cape Town.

South Africa is a beautiful country! We are in the Western Cape area and I would recommend it to anybody! So far, we have been quite busy. We have seen the Slave Lodge (where they used to house slaves before they were to be sold) and the Aquarium. The Cape Town aquarium is an aquarium on steroids. Sharks, manta rays, giant sea turtles, and crazy looking giant crabs were the highlights. One of my highlights that day was definitely the Victoria's Wharf shopping center. I think my sister was slightly embarassed by my shoes and socks so I got some new ones to not tarnish the family name. I can't help it my socks have lost their brilliant white color. I would now call it more of a taupe color, worn with love. And I got some more clothes because it turns out Cape Town is pretty cold since it's winter here.

We also went to Table Mountain and Robben Island. Table Mountain is surrounded by the city and it's gorgeous! There's a cable car that takes you to the top so you don't have to hike. In my opinion, if you want to hike, you're weird...and athletic, I suppose. Robben Island was interesting too. Each tour is guided by an ex-prisoner of the island. You get the history of the island (never knew it used to be a lepers' colony!) and a tour of the cells. I got to see Mandela's prison cell where he wrote The Long Walk to Freedom! And today is his birthday! Pretty interesting. And at the end of the tour, you have the option of looking at the penguin colony or the gift shop. I went to look at keychains and Kara went for the penguins and saw them AND a snake that, according to her, was gigantic. I'm convinced it was a baby grass snake but she describes it as a black mamba. We'll just say it was somewhere in between.

After being in the city and seeing TWO movies in a REAL theater (Bruno and The Proposal), we decided to head in a rental car to Simon's Town for some more penguins and Stellenbosch for wine tasting and sleeping. Penguins actually smell bad but they are so adorable, you just want to pinch their little flippers. And we drove to Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve to climb a really high lighthouse and reach the most south-western point of Africa. The climb was steeper than anticipated and I was unjustly accused of telling Kara she was panting like a little dog. Along the drive, we saw Ostriches as well. There are signs everywhere to not feed baboons and saying they are dangerous, so to avoid them. I, personally, find baboons, chimps, monkeys, apes, etc. to be kind of creepy, so you won't find me trying to approach one to put a bow in it's hair any time soon. Baboons are ugly and mean animals anyway. We pulled into Stellenbosch and my sister finally calmed down a bit after driving on the left side of the road all day. It didn't exactly comfort me at first when she held up her forefinger and thumb on both hand to figure out which direction was right or left. But don't you worry, Mom and Dad, she gets a gold star in my book. We haven't even gotten lost because of her driving and my excellent navigational skills. Only turned around twice!

We spent a night at super nice B&B in Stellenbosch and signed up for wine tour with a really nice guy who kindly explained the wine making and tasting process for us. We visited three wineries and tried a lot of wine (Kara got to use a spitoon cuz she was driving! Jealous? Yes). In my opinion, wine starts to look and taste the same after a while. "Oh, well this one is sharp and sugary and goes well with chicken or salads or pasta." Ugh. Just give me a Fanta already! "This one has a woody, earthy taste as it sat in the barrel for longer. It also tastes toastier because of the toasted French oak that was used in the lining of the barrel." I don't know how they memorize that kind of information. One can easily drink a lot of wine on those tours but it just ended up making me sleepy, which pleased my sister greatly as I am the map-reader in the car (Kara: Erin, how far away is Houwhoek? - Me: I dunno, like an inch). The most interesting part in it all was seeing the wine process and cellars and the views. The views were gorgeous! Vineyards for as far as the eye can see, with mountains in the backdrop. The views made it for me...that and a bird pooping on Kara's shirt.

After the wine tours, we headed down to Hermanus to do some whale watching. We tried looking a bit but those whales are hard to sight. We saw one in the far distance but not much luck thus far. We'll try again in the morning. We have a super nice bed and breakfast. Our room has a patio with an ocean view to do some whale watching. The whales are the part of our big five (rock dassies on table mountain, penguins, baboons, ostriches and whales). Tomorrow, we head back to Cape Town for a couple more nights in the city. I think we will go on a day safari to see the real big five Monday. Tuesday, it's the bus back to Maputo - which is probably good because I'm eating my weight in ice cream, biltong (South African beef jerkey - which grosses Kara out when I eat it - "sounds like you're chewing your cud"), and cheese. It would be wonderful to live in South Africa one day. The scenery is beautiful and it's so serene. I'm jealous of everyone who lives here and I hope to return for longer than a week in the future. Hope all is well in the states! Four months left for this gal in Mozambique! I'll update pictures asap!


Charlene said...

Mom and I are relieved and glad you're both having a good time.It comforts us to know Kara is still alive and you have not abandoned her. Driving on the left side of the road and using your hands to determine direction doesn't exactly give us the warm fuzzies though. Have a great time and we'll talk on Sunday. Kara- don't forget the croc tooth!!


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