Everyone Can Make a Record, But Not Everyone Should

I couldn't look away...I just COULD.NOT.LOOK.AWAY.
The enthusiasm is incredible.
The random capital letters....
The woman rebel who is actually *gasp* swearing!
The underwear on someones head in the sound room??
The mustaches...
THE ENDING -oy, the ending!!!!

I may be singing this in my head the rest of the week now.

I Bless The Rains Down In Africa

A week ago, I was riding in an open-air jeep, freezing while wearing 4 t-shirts and a thin sweatshirt, being pummeled by rain in the middle of South Africa.
Today, I woke up at 10am, lounged about, had a 90 minute massage and did some yard work.

What a difference a week makes.

I was in South Africa for work, but took an extra two days off so that I could take a four-day safari. Most people save up for month and months and plan far in advance for a safari...I had two weeks to plan. Financially, it would have been much better to have months and months to plan, but that's what credit cards are for, right? It's like layaway (for those of us who relied on layaway back in the day). Because of my lack of time, I was limited on options for where to stay. Because of my lack of funds, I was even more limited on where to stay. In the end, I was quite happy with where I ended up - at Shindzela, a tented safari camp. It's like camping, but a little bit more luxury. I had a private bathroom, attached to my tent, but it was open-air so it wasn't luxurious by far.
The weather was quite cold and windy the first day I was there, then quite rainy and cold the second. The third and fourth days though - beautiful. Just beautiful.

Interested in seeing where I stayed? Here's a short tour:

You have to keep the bathroom zipped up since it's open to the outdoors, or baboons will come in and wreck havoc on your world.

My guide, Monica, told me a story about how when she first visited the bush years ago, her and her mom and now-husband Peter stopped at a vista to enjoy the view and this lovely little baboon was sitting nearby. Excited, they offered the little guy a piece of bread. And within 30 seconds, there were about 35-40 baboons surrounding them. Moral of the story -never feed the monkeys! We had a baboon come by the camp just after lunch one day and all the guests were excited and preparing to take pictures, but Monica and Peter started yelling at it and scared it away. Baboons are NEVER welcome.

We also had a hyena that approached us while we were at dinner. Monica just suddenly got up, grabbed her gun and ran from the table, calling over her shoulder: "TORCH PLEASE." Peter jumped up, grabbed the flashlight (torch) and followed. I guess the hyena was being quite bold and had decided to come join us for dinner. They are huge pests for the management as they knock over the garbage and create havoc in the kitchen. Honey badgers are also a huge pest for them, though we never saw them.

There is a resident male elephant that likes to come through camp, mostly at night. The path he prefers is right past my tent and directly in the path of the solar panels that provide the limited electricity at camp. He gets caught in the wires and unplugs them every time, but luckily has not damaged the solar panels themselves.

The game drives were great - even in the pelting rain. It was just peaceful. I say this - but a safari game drive is just sitting in a jeep for four hours at a time, going up and down and around on this dirt trail, hoping you'll come across a wild animal. But being out in the open, knowing you are totally exposed and FREE - it's peaceful. It's not like going to a game park where you get to drive around with wild animals (which my coworkers and I did and every lion pic I have is from that game drive). It's different. It's like being in True Nature. You turn a corner and suddenly you are watching wild elephants. Or you come up over the hill and you see a brand new baby giraffe.

This is a giraffe that was very recently born, maybe that morning or the prior night. It still has it's umbilical cord attached.

This was probably one of the highlights of my safari. I really love giraffes - they are both clumsy and graceful at the same time. They have those gorgeous eyes and eyelashes. And now I have witnessed that they love deeply and truly.

While driving in the middle of nowhere Africa, looking out over the view, I thought it was a perfect chance to contemplate life and think about where I'm going, where I want to go, where I've gone right, or wrong...
Instead, I spent a lot of time singing songs from The Lion King.
And then I forced myself to quit...and put Africa by Toto on repeat in my mind. But I don't know most of the song, so really I just kept singing "I blessed the rains down in Africa."

And I did. I blessed the rains in Africa. I hope to return someday and highly encourage you all to try to make it there. Such an amazing trip - I have many stories from my journey, but I'll end for now with a series of photos:

Oh My, Elephants Charging..My Response: A Giggle

I have just returned from AFRICA!!!!  Every time I have thought about going to Africa, in my head, I shout the name - it's just too unbelievable. But I was there, and it still seems slightly unbelievable.
I have much to share - about the country, about Johannesburg, about the food, about the animals, about the land, about my experiences...but this was my last 40 hours:
Starting on Tues morning - ending at noon on Wednesday:

  • 5:30am: Wakeup call
  • 6:00am - 9:45am: Morning game drive
  • 10:00 - 11:00am: Shuttle service to take me from the campground where I was staying to the city nearby
  • 11:00 - 11:30am: Peer pressured into having a double shot of rum at the local pub where I was awaiting the next shuttle
  • 11:45 - 5:15pm: Beautiful drive through the countryside to get to the airport
  • 5:30 - 7:30pm: Check in, spend last handful of South African Rand (dollars), stand in line for ages, take a nice anxiety pill.
  • 8:30pm - get on flight to Atlanta for SIXTEEN hours
  • ...no idea what time or day it is anymore....
  • 3 hour layover in Atlanta. Spend most of it observing people imaging who are celebrities (I think I may have seen the Duggers)
  • 5.5 hrs on a flight from Atlanta to Portland
  • 10 min shuttle to my car
  • 25 min drive - HOME!!!!
I have elephant dung on my tennis shoes, sand in my backpack, ridiculously smelly laundry to get done, and about 900 photos to get sorted. And TONS to blog about.

But for now - here's a fun video from one of my safari game drives when an elephant decided to charge at our vehicle (listen for the giggle):

Note that this is a teenage female - she's not a mom protecting her baby, not an aggressive lone male. Just a naughty teenager. We'd been sitting in the same spot for about 15-20 minutes observing the herd and she suddenly got a bit irritated with us watching.

Random Notes from South Africa

The bus system in Johannesburg isn't very robust, but what they do have is what they call Shared Taxi's.

Shared taxis are a really crazy, but wonderful idea. There are these mini-vans that go all over Johannesburg and it's kind of a hop-on, hop-off type thing. You pay this small amount of money and it takes you where you need to go. Great, right?

What's not so great is that the shared taxi business puts itself above the law. They don't necessarily have to follow any of the street laws that cars have to follow. They stop ON FREEWAYS or on busy streets...anywhere they find someone who needs a ride. You don't often have much warning that they are about to stop either-it just happens. And they honk a TON.

The people who don't use them are not fond of them, and for good reason. They just do their own thing and get away with it. For example, you could have four cars waiting to turn right. The shared taxi will drive around the four cars and weave their way to the front so they can go first. They drive like they are late for little league and they are quick to stop whenever. The great thing about the shared taxis though are that they aer a great resource for the poor folks to get from one area to another for WAY cheap.

Something really interesting about the shared taxi system - they don't have any specific routes or stops. They will pick you up in any location, at any time. You simply stand on the side of the road and you hold your hand out. There are different hand signals to indicate where you are going. If the van has room (they always make room) and if they are going that way, it will stop and pick you up. I asked a local how someone would know the correct hand signal and he explained it this way - If you are poor in Johannesburg, you grow up in a certain neighborhood. You know everyone in that neighborhood. You grow up, you likely stay at home or you move into a location in the same neighborhood. Everyone knows everyone. In the states, we might not talk to our neighbors, but in Joburg, everyone knows each other. So if you are going to go somewhere across town, someone you know will know you are going there and they will tell you what hand signal to use to get there via shared taxi. It's interesting to see people standing all over town just holding out a few fingers pointed up, or just one finger pointed down, maybe four pointed to the side.

KFC is huge here. They have them all over it seems. People love KFC!  McDonalds is around, but isn't very popular. Our tour guide last Sunday said this: black people really like chicken. I cringed a bit when he said it, as we're so ingrained to be sensitive to saying stereotypes that could be construed as offensive, but he was just saying what he knows to be true. To be clear-I don't in any way think he's racist in saying that, especially having spent the day with him and if you listen to the way he talks, you would think he was black himself. He had such heart-felt words all day about the inequality towards blacks, the unfairness of the laws, etc.

FYI - there is not ONE Starbucks in Johannesburg. Not even one!!! It's actually a bit refreshing. They did have a Starbucks here during the Olympics in 2010, but as soon as the Olympics were over, Starbucks closed up and moved out. My colleague said that it's just not feasible for Starbucks to be here, as nobody can afford to pay their prices.

Traffic signals in South Africa (or at least in Johannesburg) are called "robots." Nobody knows why. The word in the Afrikaan language doesn't sound like it and it translates directly to mean signal light, so it's just an odd cultural thing that's been around...but nobody I've talked to seems to know why. It's funny to hear them called that-this morning our driver said, "sorry for the delay, the robots were not working on most of the street."

Hard to tell in the picture of this robot, but the don't walk symbol is a man with his legs apart. The walk symbol is legs open, as if walking.


I am, I really am!!!

This is the end of my first full day in South Africa - and to say I am crazy overwhelmed with all I have experienced so far would be an understatement.
I planned a tour with a local man who started a tour company with his wife. They got amazing reviews on TravelAdvisor and I can see why. He had SO MUCH information to share on the city, it was a million times better than anything I could have learned in a book. The history here, with apartheid and the gold mines and the segregated sections of the city is pretty intense.
  • They had concentration camps here in the early 1900's!! - started by the British!!
  • KFC is everywhere here, McDonalds is here, but is not popular.
  • Starbucks came in for the 2010 Olympics, but left immediately afterwards.
  • In 1976, a group of children (!) revolted against the governments order that they learn a certain language affiliated with apartheid and 15,000 of them took to the streets for a peaceful protest and were very successful...until an executive order came down from some government official to OPEN FIRE on the crowd-OF CHILDREN. Hundreds died, mostly children.

....there were a million other things, but I'm off to bed for now! This week is very work-focused and then next week is safari-time!

Every Human Is A Potential Friend

I read this book recently called MSF Seeking BFF - all about a married woman who moved with her husband to Chicago and found that she was missing her BFF's in her home town.  Females don't make best friends easily as adults, it sometimes just *happens*, but if it doesn't...it doesn't. And what the author found was-you have to make  LOT of effort to make new friends.

I haven't really got a female BFF, but I have a fair amount of friends who are wonderful, for wonderful reasons.

But is that enough? The author does a great job of discussing different theories on friendship and bringing in results of studies done on friendship and talking with "experts" - it was a really easy, good read. Highly recommend it!!

I recently went to California for another work training and took this book with me. I nearly finished it on the trip, and it really did inspire me to talk to more people than I normally would. Sometimes I go to a class or training and I might smile at someone, or maybe laugh at their joke in class, or maybe have a short conversation while we're on break, but I don't always go out of my way to really talk. So this trip I decided to practice just being friendly for friendliness-sake.

This comes REALLY easy to some people. I know a few people who will talk to anyone at any time about any thing. And they don't feel awkward or strange or anything, and I don't think that the people they talk to are thinking that either. I'm not really one of those people. I have to put effort in. And I would say a lot of time-I don't make the effort. Which means I've lost out on a TON of chances to make a friend!!!

So back to my training - I did it - I practiced being more outgoing with strangers and it worked out well. One of the ladies I made effort with was not really my type. I gave it a long, hard try multiple times (in case she was having a bad day or something) and we just weren't a good match. I'm sure she had no issues with me, since she did all the talking and never once asked me a question or showed interest in me, but I was left knowing a lot of her life history. No give and take type friendships-no thanks!

I had a long chat with a man from Belgium who was in my class. I asked him quite a number of questions about his work and then it moved easily into discussions about his life in Belgium, and then flowed right into conversations about his family -with him asking me questions about each of mine as well. We just had a nice conversation. I wouldn't say we are going to be lifelong friends but he had interesting stories and I'm glad I had the chance to hear them. I think he would probably say the same about me-I had interesting things to share also.

I hung out with a couple of ladies one afternoon and had some good conversations, everything flowed well and I was glad to have them to hang out with. The four of us (the ladies and Mr. Belgium) planned a road trip into San Francisco 40 minutes before class ended. Spontaneous and adventuresome!!!  We saw some seals, played tourists, ate at the pier and shared an enjoyable evening. I'll probably never see them again - but it was a fun time and I'm glad I made that effort.

I'm preparing to head off to South Africa for work soon and I am looking forward to talking with more people and learning some interesting stories. Life is a big story - we are all just writing it one page/day at a time and I really am enjoying hearing others tales...and hopefully some new friends will be in my life with this new "talk to anyone" look on life.

The Young Star of the Sea World Dolphin Show!

I have this little Sony cassette recorder that I thought might come in handy in college. I've had it since 1996. I've moved maybe 4 or 5 times since college and for some reason I kept this outdated little thing.

In the last 12 years, I think the only time it was used was when my ex-punk-rock-boyfriend Brian set it to record, set it down on a table and then taped 30 minutes of our boring normal conversation, twice he did this! He even flipped the tape over for the different conversations. So strange, that punk rock Brian was.

On the first side of the tape is us recounting the night prior where I got drunk and apparently there were all kinds of funny things that happened at the bar. Typical day-after recounting of drunken escapades. We only talked for about 15 minutes, and then the rest of the tape is apparently just my cockatiel Charlie whistling after we left the room.

The other side of the tape is us watching some kind of documentary of tribal people who do certain ritualistic behaviors that made us repeatedly scream and laugh in horror. The best part of the documentary side is that I got to hear the voice of  9 year old Andrew. Apparently Andrew had a loose tooth and punk-rock-Brian and I took great delight in threatening to pull his tooth. Andrew didn't want to go to bed, so by not listening and going to bed, he was choosing to stay in the living room with us, and the only way he could stay in the living room was if he let Punk Rock Brian pull his tooth, which made him squeal and scream and apparently at one point, shed a tear-which we laughed about (great parenting, Kaylen), but then Andrew was laughing too, so I guess it wasn't too threatening to him. It was just fun to peek in on 2001 Kaylen and Andrew and hear a bit of the conversation. Except the part where I yelled "BRUSH YOUR TEETH" in this high-pitch crazy-mom sounding voice.

These days everyone has capability of taking videos and it's no big thing to go back in time and relive the past. For us elders though - it's not as easy. The past is gone and unless we happened to borrow or *gasp* buy a twelve-fifteen pound video recorder, there just isn't the joy of watching a lot of home videos. I wish I had borrowed one much more often than I did. Especially with my memory failing me already...it won't be long before I'll forget my entire history. I'll just be perpetually waking up and living in the moment, wondering what happened to me. Aside from the things I've blogged about, of course.

The other day I was asked the name of my doctor from 2001 so we could verify what shots I had before moving to Korea. I have NO recollection at all of what doctor I went to, what insurance I had, whether it was a male or female, what part of town it was located...NOTHING. Not one tiny piece of memory is linked to anything medical for me in 2001. It's so frustrating. This is much too soon to be blacking out pieces of my life. I'm not even 40!!

And so the little trip down memory was sweet. I got the chance to hear a normal every day time with my little pumpkin head, who I refer to on the tape as "Bubby" and who laughed as a 9 year old does, free and full of life with no worries about a care in the world. Except holding on to that little loose tooth.

Bubby and I went to Disneyworld one summer when I first started college and luckily, the college allowed students to borrow video cameras! So I lugged this mammoth thing across the country with us and got some great video...like this one where young Andrew was selected from the crowd at Sea World to actually BE part of the show. He was awesome, even at a young age.


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