Saturday, April 29, 2006


We finally went to see Tsotsi, a recently released South African film. The movie recently won an Acadamy Award for best foreign language film. Despite that accomplishment, I was still half expecting to see a movie that was good, but not great. I was suprised and can say that Tsotsi is one of the best movies I have seen in a very long time. It combines those key elements of poignancy and entertainment. It really makes you think and consider new points of view, but also keeps you entertained throughout. It would be great for anyone to see, whether they have been to South Africa or not.

Friday, April 21, 2006

On vacation

I just got back from my first real vacation in Africa. Have taken plenty of extended weekend trips (like the last one to Cape Town), but this is my first week long trip. I met my dad in Johannesburg and we first flew to Kruger. We spent 2 nights in a SA National Parks camp and 2 nights in a private game reserve, Lukimbi Lodge. While the SANP lodge was very nice, it really paled in comparison to the private lodge. We then met Kylie back in Jo-burg and headed north to Livingstone, Zambia. There we stayed at a cool, rustic lodge and did the tourist circuit of Victoria Falls, a Zambezi River cruise, and a very cool gorge swing. Then we head all the way back to Durban so my dad could see where I lived, worked, and surfed.

While this short entry doesnt do the trip justice, I am short on time these days. After all, I leave very soon!! So I hope the following picutres at least provide a pictoral depiction of the trip.
This elephant was in "must" which apparently meant it was mating season and that he was really pissed off. He walked towards our Land Rover and made some menacing huffing noises. But we yielded to him, and this was about as close as we came to being sat on or tusked. It was pretty frightening though to be on the receiving end of such a large animal's aggresion.

Picture of me on the front of the Land Rover holding my favorite African beer, a Windhoek (pronounced vind-hook). a.k.a. the capital of Namibia.

Does this picture make you want to sing "cha-ma, cha-ma, cha-ma, cha-ma, cha-ma cha-meleon." It does for me.
The amazing view from Taita Falcon Lodge. We ate breakfast and dinner from the deck that looked over the Batoka Gorge. I was convinced I could throw a rock over the edge to the river. Despite multiple attmeps, I never really even came close. Now my shoulder hurts.

Incredible Victoria Falls. We visited just after the rainy season at the peak of the flow over the falls. The spray from the falls was quite intense. It was a beautiful, sunny day, yet it felt like a full on hurricane in dark stormy weather. Pretty amazing.

The intrepid traveling trio about 30 meters upstream from the falls. Notice the massive spray behind us.

My Dad and I, shortly after we convinced him to try the gorge swing in Zambia. We were actually quite proud of him for giving it a try. While I obviously managed to shave in the time between the previous 2 pictures, I am, infact, wearing the same smelly shirt.

Me making the jump off the gorge swing. Was a little scary the first time, but pretty fun once the swing caught you.

Can you believe there was a 30 foot scorpion outside our room in Zambia? This was one of the many intimidating bugs we had to contend with at our rustic lodge.

And finally, back to civilization in Durban. Kylie set up an amazing dinner for us at a nearby Thai restauraunt. We invited all our friends and had dinner for 12. The food, the company and the atmosphere were all amazing. It was probably one of my favorite nights in Durban. Note Nupe at the far end of the table. He's been back in SA for a few short weeks and we were happy to have him around.

Friday, April 07, 2006

The other side of Florida Road

So, you might recall my entry about our beloved Florida Road. I had described it as a fun, safe oasis in Durban where you can stroll from bar to restauraunt and forget that you are in one of the most dangerous cities in Africa.

That is unless you were strolling tonight and encountered the knife fight that happened no less than 20 feet from our restaurant. I present it here in a somewhat lighthearted manner, but a the time, it was anything but.

We first noticed a gathering of police cars around one of the cross streets that we use to get to Florida Road from our house. We were a little worried because while we always considered Florida road to be safe, the cross street (really more of an alley) is dark and a little scary. So we wanted to know if anything had unsafe happened on our somewhat hidden shortcut.

We saw police and a medic hovering around a particular corner outside a restaurant. They seemed concerned and were talking on their radios and walking around briskly. Their actions seemed rapid and purposeful. Then we noticed they were carefully stepping over a body that was laying on the sidewalk. We were shocked to see a black man on his back with his limbs sprawled out awkwardly around him. After a careful look, it was clear that he was not breathing.

Not know what else to do, we just stood there and stared. I couldnt believe what I was seeing. It was hard to believe that a man was lying dead on the sidewalk where we so frequently walked. We asked some people what had happened, and they said that two car guards had gotten into a fight and one was stabbed in the heart.

A car guard is a very common job in South Africa. They stand and wait in your parking lot while you are away, ostensibly to prevent crime and theft. You typically give them a few Rands when you return. They range from very official car guards with uniforms who are often employed by a shopping mall, to the unsavory, often drunk ones that you only give money to because you are afraid they might attack you if you dont.

Apparently, two of them had gotten into an altercation over who deserved the 3 Rand tip (about 50 cents) and one was stabbed as a result. There was no blood on the sidewalk and I imagined the man was stabbed in the heart, causing it to stop pumping instaneously. It occured literally a few steps from a popular Italian sidewalk cafe. It was tragic and surreal to see the lifeless body on the pavement next to a crowded restaurant full of white diners. Unbelievably, most of them continued to eat, not paying too much attention to the commotion.

So this was our first real brush with crime and violence in Durban so far, and I am hoping it is our last (yes, I just knocked on some wood). While it likely doesnt happen very often on this side of town, I unfortunately think its not too uncommon of an occurence in Durban. It still seems like an unreal scenario and one I likely wont forget.

I just looked over my old post about Florida Road (see link above) and it seems quite ironic that I had been so recently touting it as a safe, fun, hip place to spend an evening. Kind of makes me feel trite and superficial after what I saw tonight. Unfortunately violent crime has become a real part of South Africa, whether it occurs in the townships or on Florida Road.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

10,000th day in Cape Town

Today is my 10,000th day. Having calculated it a few months ago (at I knew that it landed on April 1st. Kind of ironic, but true. 10,000 days is 27 years, 4 months, and 18 days. Perhaps yours has passed you by, or maybe its just around the corner, but its worth noting either way.

I am currently in Cape Town, over on the west coast of South Africa. Its truly one of the most beautiful cities on the planet. Set on a long peninsula with a 3,000 foot mountain range in the middle. Its a very progressive, exciting, cosmopolitan city that still has close ties to nature, the ocean, and the environment. You come here to visit, and immediately start thinking of how you might be able to find your future job here some day.

We spent the morning driving down the cape peninsula, stopping at some beautiful beaches along the way. We drove up a windey steep road to Chapman's peak with stunning views of the sea and mountains to the right. Then we stopped off to see the penguins at Boulder's beach in Simon's Town.

After lunch and an ice cream cone, we are now heading to the Cape Town International Jazz Festival. Hoping the rest of the day will be as fun as the first half. What a great way to spend my 10,000th day.