Sunday, October 28, 2007

California Here I Come...

right back where I started from! (those of you who know the song and any more of the words should feel free to sing amongst yourselves)

Hey All,

Though it's hard to believe it, I'm down to my last few days in Africa!

Spent the last 2 days in the North Drakensberg mountain range. Went on a day trip to Lesotho organized by the backpacker place I was staying (Amphitheater). What a beautiful country! High up in the mountains and a very rugged terrain, we visited a town in the northeast that doesn't get tourists except for those that come on this trip.

Took a hike, chatted with the locals, met a traditional healer and took lots of pictures of the kids - a most excellent way to spend one of my last days. Would upload photos but am at a place with no usb connection. (Sigh)

Am now waiting to meet Sr. Jean, the former high school teacher of my friend Una. I'll spend my last few days with her in Pretoria finding out all about the projects she is working on then Wednesday (Halloween) I'll get on a plane and head home.

For Halloween this year, I will be dressed as an airline passenger. I think it will be my most convincing costume yet.

Looking forward to seeing you all when I'm back in San Francisco. If you're reading this and you're local... call me, we should do lunch!

Miss K

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Diggin' Durban


That's Xhosa for "hi y'all". (When you are pronouncing Xhosa, please to be clicking where you see an X.) Of course, I've learned some Xhosa just in time to head to Zulu country where it will no longer be that useful but I try.

My time in Coffee Bay was filled with nature, culture and rugby. Last Saturday, I went on a 3.5 hour hike along the coast, up hills, over rivers, seeing dolphins, sheep and cows on the beach and eventually ending up at the Hole in the Wall - a rock formation where the sea comes crashing through, yes a hole in a big rock wall. The scenery was amazing, which made a good excuse to stop and rest.

Later that night I went with some people to a Xhosa village where we tried some home brewed beer. If you take any beer you may have and add milk and handful of grass from your lawn, that's about what it tasted like. Women in the neighborhood danced in one of the houses and we all joined in at the end - a very fun time. The next night, I spent the night in one of the people's houses. It was fabulous and boring all at once and I spent most of my time singing with the girls in the family.

The last two days in Durban have been divine, as people here are fond of saying. Monday I met up with the filmmaker who I met at a party in Cape Town. She and I met for lunch and were filmed by a local film crew that the Dream Team sent. The conversation was fabulous and I learned that she started doing the work she does with limited formal training... there's hope for me yet.

Next, the crew and I went to the Victoria Street Market to film an interview with me then ask random people to tell us about their dreams. People were very reluctant to talk on camera that day but when I went back today to do some souvenir shopping... people couldn't stop talking to me. It was actually wonderful to hear from locals about life in Durban and how they also want to see more positive portrayals of Africa.

All that and I met a woman who made wildlife documentaries who thinks that a travel show focused on community tourism and social responsibility type issues is a good idea. Catch the wave while you can.

I fly out a week from today and I can hardly believe it. I've been thinking a lot about recent conversations I've had with people about the impact you have on others when you're following your dreams and especially about an exchange I had with a woman in Cintsa.

On my last morning there, I went for a walk on the beach. In the distance I could see about 5 whales breaching, sticking their tails out of the water and generally having a good time. I saw a couple on the beach who was also watching them and we stopped to talk. I told the woman, I'm not sure what the whales are thinking but to me, they look very happy. She said, "Of course they are, they're doing what God made them to do." Her husband replied, "Shouldn't we all?" Well, yes.

So my message to me and to you is... figure out what you're meant to be doing and do it. It will make you happy and that will have a positive impact on the people around you. I've had a wonderful time chasing this dream of mine around Africa and I'm expecting wonderful things to happen as I start chasing it back to San Francisco.

Miss K

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Two Weeks To Go!!!

Hi All,

I can't believe I'll be home two weeks from today!

I have been running around like crazy trying to fit 3 more months worth of activities and stories into these last two weeks.

Things I Did in Cape Town I Never Thought I Would:
  1. Snorkel with seals - it was fabulous when I wasn't freaking out
  2. Drive - on the left side and in a stick shift thank you very much
  3. Watch rugby - Springboks are in the World Cup finals Sunday... country is going crazy

I'm now in Cintsa at a place called Buccaneers Backpackers, making my way rather quickly towards Pretoria. No photos on this blog as it's not possible from here. Will overwhelm you next time with a picture of me standing where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.

As I meet more people and talk more about what I'm trying to put together, I learn about more and more programs and projects that I just don't have time to visit. Two very worthy ones are listed in brief at the end of the blog. South Africa is full of people taking steps, both big and small, to make a positive impact on other people's lives. I'm doing what I can counteract all the negative information you hear about this country (and all the others I've visited) and spread around a little love.

Two projects I did get to visit in Cape Town were African Angels and Bulugha Farm School.

African Angels is a not-for-profit organization based on the East Coast of South Africa, in a small coastal hamlet called Chintsa. African Angels is dedicated to identifying and distributing sponsorship for the education of needy and disadvantaged African children - our African Angels - so their future, their family's future and their country's future is brighter.

Bulugha is a school (on a farm) that has 3 classrooms, 3 toilets and 193 kids. Every Thursday, the kids perform a concert where they sing their hearts out and the backpackers and travelers that attend leave a donation which is then used to buy food for the breakfast and lunch. It was a wonderful experience and as soon as I can get a short video put together to show you, I will.

I'm heading to Coffee Bay tomorrow (where I will stay through the rugby final although I've just heard there is no tv!) and then to Durban. In Durban, I'll be talking to a filmmaker I met in Cape Town to find out more about how she got started and how it all works.

Future Filming for DREAM

As you know, the Dream team filmed me in Cape Town as I followed up on a story. They will also be coming to Durban to film me as I follow up on this fabulous connection. And where are they after that? Filming my triumphant return to SFO!

If you'd like to be there, let me know and I can get you details. For those of you with Monday-Friday 9-5 jobs... you may need to be sick. Did I just hear you cough?

See many of you very soon!

Miss K

More Projects in South Africa

Monkey Biz
Monkeybiz supplies richly coloured glass beads to women in the townships of Cape Town. The 450 women involved in the project are currently producing exquisite hand beaded artworks - each a unique one-off creation. The women are paid for each piece they produce; and since they work from home, can look after their families and avoid transport costs.

We run an HIV/AIDS Wellness Clinic located in the heart of Cape Town, which provides skills training and HIV/AIDS support for low-income HIV+ women. This thriving centre, started in 2003, caters for 60 women once a week, offering them beadwork training, HIV/AIDS counseling, yoga therapy, homeopathic HIV/AIDS treatment and basic nutrition.

Simply put, our biggest project has one objective: to guarantee the fundamental right of children to have access to education in an environment that is both pleasant and favourable to learning.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Leaving Cape Town - Or Else I'll Have to Live Here

Hi All,

After 2 weeks, I'm finally leaving Cape Town. I'd be quite happy to stay here for another month or another few year s, but I must make my way towards Johannesburg to, if nothing else, fly home. There is a gang of people at the backpackers who have all been here for about the same 2 week period as me and no one wants to leave as we have a fun time running around together. I think I'm being talked into getting a facebook account so that I will be able to keep up with them all. Aw.

Earlier in the week I had my 15 minutes of fame in Cape Town. The crew came to Longstreet Backpackers in the morning and they filmed me packing up my gear in the dorm room and then reenacting a phone call to a woman named Abigail at Heartworks, the store we were going to visit that morning.

Once at the store, they filmed me filming her while people walked around the shop and wondered what was going on. Afterwards, we went to lunch and then had the interview at the beach with Camps Bay and the 12 Apostles (some big mountains) in the background.

To the question of how my life philosophy has changed since I've been in Africa, I had to admit that I wasn't sure what my life philosophy was before I came since coming here I'm doing a better job of embracing the improv mantra of "being in the present". There is so much going on both in Cape Town specifically and Africa in general that I'm always missing out on some story and it's impossible for me to visit all the places that have been recommended. What I'm getting better at (though I still struggle) is staying focused on where I am and what I'm doing right now and letting go of the feeling that I need to do it all. Not sure if that counts as a life philosophy but that's what I'm trying to focus on now.

The Dream people are checking into the budget to see if they can film me again when I hit Durban. Reason being, I met a woman who is a filmmaker and I've got plans to meet her and find out more about what she does, how she got started, etc. and they're interested in seeing that.

The rest of my time here has really been about being a tourist. Went to see the Cape of Good Hope (the most southwesterly point
of Africa - how random). That is not where the Atlantic and Indian oceans meet, and yet it is still a scenic, lovely, windy time.

On the way, we stopped by the Boulders park to see penguins. They are lovely to look at, though right now, they don't do much besides molt. Tomorrow, I will rent a car with some Irish women from the gang and drive out to do some whale watching and find the point where the oceans meet - the southern most point in Africa. I'm going to have to give driving on the left side of the road a try... though I'm a bit nerviosa.

Have been on a wine tour, am going on a boat ride today and spent some time the other day wandering the Bo-Kaap neighborhood with incredibly bright houses and Cape Malay influences and food. Lovely, delicious, diverse.

Cape Town has been fabulous and though it's hard for me to leave, I can't wait to come back.

Catch up with you in a few more days!

Miss K

"Y'all come back now, ya hear?"

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Cruising in Cape Town

Hey All, Howzit?

That's the South African equivalent of "how you doin?". While I don't use the local lingo yet, I am starting to understand it. "Lekker" means good and when you tell someone something they can't believe, they do not say "shut up!" or "really?", they say "is it?". The only thing I love more than that is that when you thank someone, instead of saying "you're welcome" people say "pleasure". I doubt that it always is a pleasure for them bringing you a coffee or selling you a postcard, but it sounds nice.

Cape Town reminds me a bit of San Francisco. There is a very touristy waterfront, there is an island off the coast that used to be a prison and there are a ton of funky boutique stores and restaurants for your eating and shopping pleasure. South Africa, of course has Nelson Mandela and the US has, well... enough of this comparison stuff.

In the last few days, now out of my funk and rockin' Cape Town like the Superstar I am, I decided to let events for the day with the film crew unfold and have been playing tourist instead of freaking out (at least not full time).

I took a tram (which they call a cable car and technically, it is a car of sorts traveling on an overhead cable but I can't think of it as a cable car so call it a tram), yes a tram to the top of Table Mountain and took in the stunning views of Cape Town, Camps Bay and the surrounding mountains. Some people abseil down the mountain (basically repel down it on ropes), some people hike down, I took the tram. Did I mention it spins 360 degrees while moving along the cable?

Yesterday I went to Robben Island, a former prison and now a World Heritage site. Full of political prisoners, the most famous being Nelson Mandela, it was opened as a prison in 1963 - the same year Alcatraz closed. The tours are led by former inmates, which is very interesting as they speak from experience. Our guy talked about training in Angola to fight the apartheid system and being caught and arrested. He said he's not bitter about being in prison as all the former inmates realize that reconciliation is the only way to move the country forward. All that and a penguin colony too!

What else, what else... a township tour, a visit to the local aquarium to see the South African marine life and some giant spider crabs from Japan, which were very scary/impressive looking, and divers feeding the sharks.

In Cape Town, I feel more like a tourist, seeing sights in an environment that is not that different from the environment I live in. It's less like the rest of Africa where I felt like I was on a giant adventure and everything was so new/different/fabulous/frustrating.

But I did jump off the beaten path. Went to a place called "The Farm" which is associated with Longstreet Backpackers where I'm staying. Here, a man named Andre raises farm animals and takes in orphaned children. I spent a full day there talking with Andre and the kids while a pig sniffed my ankle and a goose bit my leg (revenge for killing his cousin in Madagascar? perhaps). I gave one of the girls, Asavella, my camera and she ran around taking photos... including this self portrait. I then stayed for dinner and met and interesting group of South Africans who had come over, including a filmmaker from Durban I will try to meet up with as I make my way to Jo'burg. You can read more about what Andre is doing at Hope for the Children.

The film crew is coming tomorrow - I've made arrangements to visit a store that sells crafts made by local artists, much of it from recycled materials. I also have a list of 12 introspective essay questions to consider tonight. "12. From a strictly "life philosophy" perspective please tell us how the time you have spent in Africa has changed you as a person". Oh dear.

Will definitely check in after the shoot tomorrow to let you all know how it goes. I'm thrilled that there will be an interview in a location in Africa and that there will be someone else to worry about the lighting and sound besides me.

All that and there plans among the backpackers for karaoke on Thursday night and I already have a guy who wants to sing "I Got You Babe" with me. Cape Town won't know what hit them.

Until the next installment,
Miss K

The evil crab says "keep reading".

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Play That Funky Music White Girl

Hey All,

The last few days in Namibia I have been in a bit of a funk about this trip.

I can tell I'm getting more homesick because almost everything now reminds me of people back home and of home itself. The foggy west coast of Swakopmund, Namibia? Just like San Francisco. The outdoor plaza of a shopping mall in Windhoek, Namibia? Just like Oakland City Center (if Oakland had no Asian people). But then, as I was people watching from a restaurant in the mall called "In's Wiener" (what?), a woman walked by in a dress with poofy shoulders and a matching head wrap that came to two points on each side of her head reminding me both of the Flying Nun and a cape buffalo. I suppose I'm not at home after all.

Homesickness and fashion aside, I feel like I'm losing focus on the dream. I haven't filmed anything since the Habitat team in Malawi in early September. I have nothing scheduled to film in Cape Town when a film crew will spend 2 days following me around. I have no idea what I'm going to do with all the footage when I get back. I don't know how in the world I think I can have a show when I don't have the foggiest idea of what you need to do create one. How long will my money last, how will I eat, what will I do? On and on my tale of self pity goes. Are you crying yet?

But then this morning at 3:30am, as I was sitting on another bus filling out the departure card for Namibian immigration, I decided to list something new for my occupation. On the last half dozen cards, I have been putting "filmmaker". This morning in the box marked occupation, I wrote - "superstar". Knowing that I have officially entered South Africa as a superstar has done wonders for my self esteem and motivation. It makes me smile when I think of it.

Favorite Namibian City Names

  • Otjiwarongo - where we stayed for 5 hours waiting for our bus to be fixed
  • Okahandja - where the wind goes sweeping down the plain
  • Gross Barmen - where, what, they spit in your beer?

Am now in Cape Town and, although all I've done so far is have a shower and eat some lunch at a restaurant called Lola's that's like a Haight Street/Castro/East Village/London big, gay disco, I LOVE IT!!

I trust I will come up with something to do with the film crew. I am, after all, a superstar.

Miss K