We headed out to an evening baseball game at the Kyocera Dome Osaka. I loved the deep green of the turf against the vibrant orange of the baseball diamond. Attending a baseball game in Japan is one of the top 10 things you must do when you get the chance. I finally got to hang out with Drew, one of my staff colleagues and a fellow UVA grad (Go Hoos!). He is 3 years younger than I am, but we were both Resident Assistants in college so I knew him from our time on staff, something we both agree changed our lives.
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not a big baseball aficionado, I love going to games for the fresh air, beer and pretzels. The comaraderie of friends laughing in the sunshine. This was no different (minus the sun due to the dome being an indoor sort of thing). Very cool beer dispensing method!
It was fun to watch the Japanese fans root on the Orix Buffaloes (yes, they spell it with an “e”) with their numerous coordinated cheers, the HUGE team flags and their love for each player. Every.single.player. has his own song, and the fans know each one. It was great to crowd watch because in between bouts of riotous cheering the Japanese fans are very sedate and quiet. They are either all cheering together or totally quiet, there’s no random hootin’ and hollerin’, its all or nothing.
I had yak noodles and fried squid on a stick at the game, same same..but different (some of yall will get that!).
**In response to the comments: I’m not ready to come home yet, so I banish any such conversation on that topic!
The weather in Kobe is gorgeous. Just perfect for strolling and hopping on and off the impressively spotless rail system. The people are all smiles and style. Everyone is rocking either the Armani businesswear or the Hipster kid/Hip Hop/Glam Grunge look. They definitely appreciate individuality and artistic expression.Â We hit up Uoyatei for some conveyor belt sushi. Real sushi, not that supermarket stuff (that I confess that I love). Fresh wasabi, sweet ginger, hot green tea – spring in Japan. Amazing.
I loved all of your comments on the last few posts, though I couldn’t respond, they made me laugh all over again. I’ve added links to the pictures if you’re interested or at workÂ with a free high-speed connection.
Hong Kong is like Manhattan x 100. Some things happened in Hong Kong that I just can’t even talk about. Not because it would compromise me you understand, but I’m protecting the people I was with.
I led a trip out to the Chinese Cuisine Training Institute (CCTI), which was amazing. CCTI is the elite culinary school in the region and when we stepped in the place you knew why. The facilities, head chef, cutie-pie chefs in training and fire, along with lots of amazing food made for a great afternoon of culture and cuisine. I spent the majority of my time trying to communicate with my Chinese chef partner and convincing him to let me turn up the flames on our dishes. We made a Sweet and Sour Pork and a Beef with Black Pepper Sauce. Yum, I mean like, make your eyes cross good. Like almost better than…nevermind. I think you get it. Anyway, I highly recommend a trip out to CCTI if you get a chance. And I’m falling in lurve with hot tea. There were dozens of varieties on display to smell and sample.
Hong Kong in general is pretty expensive but there are lots of knock-off markets, cheap deals on street food and lots of cheap beer. On the other hand, there was a LINE outside the damn Louis Vuitton store. A line people. Who has that kind of money?
Hong Kong is beautiful and the weather was cooler than we’ve had anywhere we’ve been so far except possibly south africa. Exempting the cooking class, we were in “dance” mode which turned into “karaoke” mode which turned into “who has the camera” mode. You know its going to be a late night when you go out for Chinese food at 10pm before hitting the club! It was funny walking around and seeing people carrying beers, winecoolers, etc and just sipping while they were strolling through the city blocks. This looked tempting, but I contained myself.
We ended up at a couple of different lounges hanging with locals who bought us fruity drinks, tequila sunrises and my favorite, whiskey with green tea (sounds terrible but it was nice and mellow). I went from singing my heart out to wondering how the hell the sun had managed to rise while we were laughing at ourselvesÂ (picture of aforementioned afro being groomed by G). There was nothing left to do except grab some early morning McDonald’s (yes, even in Hong Kong it was fabulous and necessary) and sleep a couple of hours before getting back into “adventure traveler” mode. Don’t judge me too harshly for having a good time. Sometimes you have to step out smelling extra good, with a little cash in your pocket and a terrible 80’s song in your heart. Yes, even me.
I am loyal and consant in my love for travel, as I have not always been loyal and constant in my other loves. I feel about travel the way a happy new mother feels about her impossible, colicky, restless newborn baby-I just don’t care what it puts me through. Because I adore it. Because it’s mine.
–Elizabeth Gilbert author
My second day on Mauritius we hit the beach at Ile de Deux Cocos (Two Coconut Island) via glass bottom boats. My life will never be the same. I think the students liked it too! There were probably 9 faculty and staff and 60 students on the island which sounds terrible but was really quite perfect.
We were greeted in true fantasy island style with cold face towels, mimosas, an open bar, free snorkel equipment and lounge chairs (pictured above) hammocks, cabanas, and a BBQ lunch of chicken, shrimp, fish, lamb, salads, breads, and on and on.
They had to pry our toasted, sand-crusted, worn-out bodies off the island. One of the owners (it is owned by a conglomerate) was on hand to wish us safe travels and make sure we didn’t make off with any of his crystalware, silverware, beach gear or the like.
In a journey of almost 6 weeks with a pace that makes my head spin daily, it was nice to chase sand crabs, ooh and ahh over fish, decide wether to snorkel or nap first (snorkel!), chicken or shrimp (both), hammock or lounge (neither!).
There were strolling guitar players who serenaded us as we napped and played in the sun and shade. Paradise, really. Because everyone was happy, content, relaxed. That night the “crew” that I hung out with in Cape Town insisted that IÂ go out with them, but when I heard that the ride they arranged wasn’t due to come back to this side of the island until 4am….I laughed and laughed and told them “you couldn’t PAY me to hang out with yall like that again.” Plus, the next day I headed out for some deep sea fishing funÂ and had to be up at 5:15am. So I caught up with some students that I didn’t know well and had yummy chinese food until we couldn’t keep our eyes open or our heads out of our plates.
I thought it was hilarious that our boat was named Zazou 3Â (Wasn’t that the dude in “The Life Aquatic?”). This was another one of my goals…to go deep sea fishing, something I’ve been wanting to do for a few years now but had neither the time or the money in ample supply at the same time. And after this trip out to catch some beast of the deep, I can honestly say I’d rather stand on the docks and just throw my money into the ocean, because deep sea fishing is a gamble. And despite our gear, guides, and good attitudes, all we caught was sight of a Chinese navy ship, and 3 birds. I guess after Fantasy Island, I was due to draw a short straw.
I spent my last day on Mauritius at a Botanical Garden (yall know how I love a botanicalÂ garden) this was theÂ best worst Bo-Garden ever. Turtles, ????Â (I have no idea what these are because NOTHING was labeled!), oh wait here are some FLOWERS! Imagine that-and lots and lots of trees. I shouldn’t complain since it was free. Of course I was out and about with Shayla and so the day had to decend into foolishness. We got mistaken for South African tourists, she was assumed to be a cook on the ship, our cab driver tried to shake us down for an extra $5US after taking us on a skeevy city tour, we ate some sketchy ice cream, shot amazing views of the city and she got groped on the water taxi. So we’ve dubbed Mauritius “The Island We Hate to Love.”
CHENNAI, INDIA: Here we come!
So, after one of the best days ever, I had to go and be silly by not being ready to let the vibe go, and so I went out. Again.
We hit Marvel on Long Street. Again. And it was pleasantly comfortable in crowd size. The joke about Long Street (District full of bars, cafes, boutiques, etc) is that you can’t go out and get home before 4am. And it was true. Again. And just like in Mexico, the people I seem to attract are all types of off limits, like the 23 year old cutie pie black dude from England. Why are you all up in my ear telling me you live two blocks away? Why are you telling me your Baby Mamma lives in Mauritius (our next port)? Why is your butter smooth voice and baby face reminding me that you are YOUNGER THAN MY BABY BROTHER! Get out of here, scram crumbsnatcher!
I got to sleep in the next morning until 9:30am! (something that is RARE on this trip). I pulled myself and my life together to make a good smelling entrance to my cooking class (yipee!). I was the trip leader over to the Bo-Kaap district (predominantly Muslim) where we had an amazing time at the museum and then had a hands-on tour of the oldest spice trader in the area (Atlas Trading), then off to Savaya’s house for an afternoon of food, foibles and fun.
Savaya, showed us how to make Samosas (think filo dough with seasoned meat inside then fried), Roti bread (yum! Stacey are you drooling?) and Chicken Curry (double drool). Their house was painted a beautiful meditaranean green on the outside and cool whites and pastels inside. It was warm and welcoming and Savaya has a warm spirit and a gift for entertaining.
After class I caught up with Sherri (another SAS staffer) who wanted to hit a particular restaurant in the Bo-Kaap. We found it then I dragged her back to the spice store where we both bought a ton of stuff. I picked up some Masala, Tandoori, Braai (bbq), and Peri-Peri spices. A whole bag full of stuff for less than $14 US including some tea, souvenirs, and some snacks for my next stretch on board the ship.
Next we headed downtown a little ways to Musica Africa where I burned up my credit card and bought up all kinds of music. I got some Kwaito (african hip hop), Cape Town Jazz, African Choir Music, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, African R&B, etc. I guess music is going to be one of the central themes of this trip for me since I’ve bought fantastic tunes in Puerto Rico, Salvador and now Cape Town. I picked up some souvenirs for my parents, siblings, nephew and Chris and Tracy who are watching my rental property for me. Mailed postcards, more souvenirs for friends and colleagues. I want to give everyone a little piece of So. Africa.
I met up with Shayla to take our Robben Island tour at 4:15pm. I had talked her into going on the last ferry over so we could do the tour at sunset which I thought would be cool. It was. The ferry ride out to the former prison, most well known for being the place Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years, took about 25 minutes in the warm sun and salty sea spray. Shayla and I laughed and played with our digital cameras and tried to figure out what nationality the people around us might be.
The first part of the tour was of the Island itself, we saw the elusive white rabbit, penguins, spring bok and the outer facilities (lighthouse, school, etc). Our bus guide lived on the island when he was younger, his mother was a teacher at the school for the families of the guards.
The acutual prison tour was hard for me. The description of the conditions of the prisoners, the way they were treated based on race, the countless lives and families that were torn apart because of political ideology all made me angry. We got to see Nelson Mandela’s cell, the tour of the prison facility is given by a former inmate which is a concept that I loved. Our guide showed us his former cell, spoke of his experiences and in his regal manner spoke of the ultimate ego-less act…forgiveness. He told us how most of the guards and former inmates are now cordial/friends, they gather annually and there is no animosity.
I wonder if I could live that divine act? Hell, I still hold playground grudges from 1983. We all got to crowd into the group cell and feel how small it was, wonder how we would have survived in such conditions, swore we would have escaped, the usualÂ stuff you think in these situations because you have no idea what you would/could do.
Strolling around the prison as the sun set, the wind picked up and the animals quieted down, was powerful. I promised myself that I would buy a copy of Mandela’s book, A Long Walk to Freedom. That though I’m traveling with another historical Rabble Rouser for Peace (Tutu), that there are so many who sacrificed so much for so long, without complaint, and I need to know their stories.
The ferry ride back over to Cape Town was in almost complete darkness as the last rays of the sun hugged the horizon. The stars popped out one by one, shining jewels in an inky black sky, until we got closer to the glare of the city lights. I was lost in my thoughts on the ride back, the boat was moving fast through the spray and it was cold. I pulled up my hood and gazed at the sky, trying to identify stars, versus planes, versus satellites.
Shay and I immediately ran to the book store which was due to close at 9pm and we made it with about a 1/2 hour to spare. I picked up Mandela’s book, A book on Desmond Tutu, a cookbook on How to Braai (bbq) to supplement the recipes we got from Savaya at our cooking class, and some gifts and goodies. We ate close by the harbor, both exhausted, chilled after the boat ride, and with lots of activities left to enjoy. She is off to skydive and I am heading out to Meerkat Manor in the morning.
I was asleep by 10pm. The siren call of Long Street was broken at last.
I love this photo, not that it is well shot, but the context. The poster in the back is rather inflammatory without seeing the whole thing. It’s a beer ad that says basically “I hate being white because people assume I’m a racist…” but goes on to point out that South Africans come in all shades and unity trumps ignorance. Add to the foreground this picture of us (5 Americans – 1 African American (me), 1 Bi raciacial (black & italian), 1 Mexican American, and 2 Caucasian American) and I guess this poster could really be almost anywhere in terms of the issues that most countries are dealing with around race. The beautiful thing is that across the table from us are 5 South Africans and I like the symbolism that the table represents, we’re all reaching out across a divide to understand each other better.
After church w/ the Archbishop and crew, I hightailed it back to the ship to change clothes and meet up with Samuel, Lydia, Ammy (ah-me) & Danny to take an independent Township tour. Samuel has friends of friends who hooked us up with Gerald, a local media personality and Gerald gave us a peek inside of his world. No tour buses, no staring at people from behind panes of glass, no group ogling of the locals, we were going to get into the township and look people in the eye, connect, communicate…or so I hoped.
I should have known the day would disintegrate into a comedy of errors when Gerald rolls up to pick up the 5 of us in a 2 door BMW convertible. We were all like “no way, we’re not going to ride through a township in a Beemer are we?” but we packed in like sardines and chipped in to gas up the car and off we went. The Townships are hard to describe. they are like large ghettos with shacks, few running water sources, high population density, lots of trash blowing about, anything that can be used in some way is put to work, people, materials, ideas. But that would only be 1/2 of the picture. Most of the people in the townships are educated, there are lots of entreprenuerial pursuits being undertaken and there are relative middle class folks as well, some sections are nicer than others in terms of building materials, relative amounts of land per house, etc. The townships are a direct result of the impacts and residue of Apartheid, the unequal distribution of land, the stolen resources…it all sounds too familiar.
Gerald first took us out to Khayelitsha township (Shameka, I liked your vote for Soweto, but we never made it out there!), the largest township in Cape Town with something like 1.4 million people living in a fairly small area. We were warned not to go to townships on our own and I’ll admit that I questioned the sanity of our decision to go even with a guide, but Gerald parked and ushered us into a shabeen (local bar) called Morgan’s Place, and my fears melted away. People were either super friendly to us or paid us no attention. For the rest of the day I would never sense animosity, malicious intent, or even an ounce of ill will toward us. On the contrary we were turning down beers from the locals, playing a game called “waterfall” that I won’t discuss right now (smile) and talking all over each other “what languages do you speak? were you born in cape town? where is your family? why do you want to come to America?” and answering their questions “yes America has similar race problems, but I can live, work and play anywhere I want, yes I like hip hop music, no I am not married and I don’t have kids”
We were having such a good time in the little tin bar, snapping pictures, writing down propper spellings of our names, getting e-mail addresses and learning how to say hi in 3 different African languages, that when Gerald said it was time to go, we protested noisily, but he assured us that more and better were waiting. He took us to his home which was very obviously upper middle class and we finally got to joke him about his modeling career (hair products, corn flakes, clothes) and got to see some of the ads he has been in. Even more heartwarming were the 2 teenagers that were at his house, under the watchful eye of a neighbor, doing their homework in a clean, quiet space. I loved it. We got to see his bachelor pad, pics of his family and hit the bathroom before we tucked ourselves into the BMW again. He dropped the top and the afternoon sun, coupled with the breeze, the music (kwaito), the vibe and the continual realization that “Hey Man, we’re in South Africa!” overwhelmed me with what I can only describe as joy. We were all feeling it as people waved to us, we waved back, the music blasting with table mountain and the blue sky as backdrops.
Next we headed to Nyanga township for the best braai (think bbq) I’ve ever had. I’m not kidding. Maphindi’s is a butchery/restaurant and all the meat is fresh and seasoned and grilled/cooked to perfection. I was a little skeptical when we first sat down at a stainless steel table with nothing but a stack of napkins and a loaf of white bread (what?!), but when the meat came out (and it was ALL meat, no veggies, no potatoes, nothing but meat), we were like a pack of wild hyenas who hadn’t eaten in weeks! The meat was cleaned from the bones by our teeth and hands, the loaf of bread was reduced to a demolished plastic bag and some random crumbs. Little did we know that Gerald had called the owner and he was making his way towards us. Khaya and his family own Maphindi’s and a couple of other local businesses. He was funny, handsome and gracious as he gave us a full tour of the facility, including the expansion they’ve almost completed, the banquet rooms and finally the rooftop where we could see the township, the airport tower and the power plant as well as kids playing soccer on the schoolyard. The whole neighborhood was buzzing with energy and activity, Maphindi’s doesn’t serve or allow alcohol on premises so that the restaurant can be family friendly and I found myself falling a little bit in lurve with the idea of marrying a South African entreprenuer with a family business…but alas, Khaya is happily married and I am happily unmarried, so we kissed on the cheeks, hugged a bit too long and said our goodbyes.
At this point it was about 3pm and I thought Gerald would probably be ready to get rid of us and take us back to the ship, but we drove around for a while looking at the townships, the cityscape, the types of businesses and services that were around. Finally we slowed a bit and turned a corner into what looked to be the biggest block party I’ve ever seen. Out of nowhere there were more than 4,000 people, cars, dogs, beer bottles, stereos and did I mention PEOPLE!
We parked the car, which was a miracle in itself, and grabbed stickers, pens and pencils to give to the kids, stuffed some rand (so. african money) into our pockets and locked everything in the trunk before joining in the revelry. We made our way to a cargo container which doubled as a “brew thru” — a place where you could purchase beverages, we picked up Savanna Cider and made our way into the thick of things where we danced for almost 4 hours non-stop. The music was AMAZING, Kwaito is so. african hip hop with jazz and house infused and reminds me of early hip hop (which i love) and international house music (which i like a lot). Gerald taught us a sexy trick where you open one beer bottle with another and we were all thinking about who we could impress with such useful knowledge!
We met up with Nanna (a doctor from Ghana) and his girlfriend Maria (from Namibia) and all 4000 pairs of eyes were on them almost all day as they were a stunning couple with a knack for dancing suggestively. Our group swelled to about 12, but we kept mixing and mingling with local 20 and 30 somethings, dancing with anyone who would subject themselves to our enthusiastic appreciation of the DJ.
We shared beer, wine and cider with other visitors from the UK, Germany and France, dodged the local boy’s (and girl’s) attempts at kisses, and went to the bathroom 3 at a time because, hey…that’s just what they do here. And I don’t mean 3 people you know at a time, I mean you go in and 2 other women would push in too. At 8pm the DJ shut down so he could take a nap before he had to spin at a club downtown that evening so the party was over whether we wanted it to be or not.
We got quiet and somber on the way back to the ship, coming off of a natural high, knowing that a day like this would happen only so many times even in the most blessed life, believing that there was some magic to the particular mix of people that shared the experience, and knowing that our time in Cape Town would dwindle fast. All of this served to make us teary-eyed. At the dock, we couldn’t let go of the day (or Gerald) and stood around for another 45 minutes re-hashing the day as if we hadn’t all been there together. Ammy and Lydia cried so much they got the hiccups. I just tried to soak it all up, breathe it all in, and thank God for the chance to see, touch, taste, smell and feel, to be overwhelmed with sensation, overtaken by joy and overcome with gratitude. It really was one of the top 5 best days of my life.
Wow. 24 hours in Cape Town and I can tell you that I think I want to live here at some point. Like now.
Yesterday was one of the most random days I’ve ever had in terms of activities, conversations, events.
After the diplomatic briefing I was cleaning up some conversations and giggling about various things when the Archbishop stops in front of me with the Premier of Cape Town and proceeds to introduce me to him. Yeah, you read that right. Archbishop Tutu introduced me to the Premier of Cape Town. Which is like having Oprah introduce you to Governor Arnold Schwartzenegger. Wild.
It gets better (and since we’re name dropping anyway)…I got to meet Arch’s wifey! She’s adorale, and together they are the most smiley, 64 teeth showing powerhouse of compassion you can imagine. I’ve had breakfast and dinner with the Arch a few times and he’s always joking me about my relative (to him I guess) youth and I’m always asking him “are you causing trouble young man?” so yeah, I’ve got inside jokes with an amazing guy. More on that later, back to yesterday….
So afer trampling everyone down the gangway I figured out how to get some money (south african “rand” = 7.11/ US $1) then we hit “Docks” restaurant and scoped out tickets for Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned for 18 of his 27 years). Due to the high demand, tourist season and general interest, by the time we got to the ticket office there was nothing available until Monday so we laid down our rands (and don’t you always feel super rich when you have foreign currency?” The notes are like 1,000 rand and you feel all wealthy until you realize its only about $145 and you’ve spent half of it on wine, music, peri-peri wings, and the like…wait, maybe that’s just me.
We roamed around all afternoon before checking our bank accounts online (alot of people got ATM bombed in Salvador and have watched scary amounts being withdrawn from their accounts). We watched this guy (pictured above) perform a street show that was the best worst thing I’ve ever seen. His shenanigans were more like a train wreck than a feat of amazing accomplishment, but as I’ve said before…I lurve an entreprenuerial spirit, plus he probably makes more money than I do.
After freshening we ran out to meet up with our waiter from lunch out for cocktails at Manegbas, a jazz bar (Jazz Safari begins!). I cut out after an hour to head to U of Cape Town theatre for an evening of high culture and froo-froo artsy type stuff. It turned out to be pretty great. Red wine, good food and appearances by the director tend to have that affect on me I guess?
After getting our culture on, we changed clothes and hit Cantina Tequila (yes a Mexican bar in South Africa!) then cabbed it over to Long Street which was packed with bars, clubs, pubs, etc and we got our dance on until it got too hot at Marvel. The music was phenomenal, but I need a fire code to be enforced and for there to be an observed “maximum capacity” for these places! there were 4,234 people in a little corner spot that might have fit 200. I didn’t stay inside long because I had taken off my money belt (its pretty safe most places here) and had my coolpix in one front pocket and my cash and a credit card in another. It was too packed in the dance spots for me to be able to guard my pockets well so we just danced out front behind the velvet rope. As tends to happen, we wrapped up the night (3AM for me) with a stop for some Peri Peri wings! I LOVE Peri-Peri sauce (an african hot sauce) and want to bring bottles of it home with me.
Tomorrow should be low key since I’m the Duty Dean and have to stay within 10 miles of the ship in case of any emergencies. After getting to sleep at 4AM, I’m not going to complain. Pics later when I find cheaper internet.
Wait, yall thought I was falling in love with a person? Not this time around, but this feels just as wonderful.