Sunday, June 28, 2009

Travels in Africa

I have not been a good travel blogger. I had big plans to post
updates every few days, but that is much harder than I thought.
First, it's hard to find time to put pictures online and write an
update. And second, the internet connection is slow and unreliable as
I travel around. Connecting can be a pain. So, those are my excuses.
But, I will post better updates with photos after I get home. It will
be delayed news.

The short update is that we have been spending time exploring
Swaziland which is a beautiful country with rolling hills, mountains,
forests, river areas, etc. Stephanie took us to some great shops
where women create beautiful handmade things like baskets, jewelry
and weavings. The income helps them stay at home and care for their
household and make money at the same time.

We've also been taking trips into South Africa to Sodwana Bay
(Beach), Kruger National Park (game reserve), and the Drakensberg
Mountains (mountain hikes and more). I'll post more pictures later,
but here are a few snippets of my trip so far.

Tonight we are headed to the Confederation Cup Finals (soccer), USA
vs. Brazil, in Johannesburg, South Africa. I fly out tomorrow for

the beach at Sodwana Bay, South Africa

relaxing after a day of diving/snorkeling in Sodwana Bay with our South African friends

crafts at the market

handmade glass at the Ngwenya Glass Factory in Swaziland

the streets of Mbabane, Swaziland

Phophoyane Falls Lodge in Swaziland

Phophoyane Falls Lodge

Tintsaba, handmade baskets, jewerly and weavings that provide income for rural families

children learning outside a school in Swaziland

a zebra at Kruger National Park

a Kruger sunset

the Drakensberg mountains, South Africa

Friday, June 12, 2009

First full day in Mbabane

Thursday, June 11, 2009

We arrived yesterday in Mbabane yesterday after a morning at the
Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. I learned a lot. To enter the
museum, you could only enter through the door marked with your
'category', white or black. In reality, Apartheid had four
categories, white, black (Bantu), colored and Asian. Everything was
segregated. One of the ultimate goals was to move all non-white
categories outside the cities and build high speed rails to transport
them in to work each day. There is so much more to it, but I will
save it for another time.

Today was our first full day in Mbabane. This photo is us having
lunch at Nando's, one of Stephanie's favorite lunch spots. In the
photo are Stephanie, me, and Amy. The three of us met in Japan when
we were all teaching English with the JET program. Stephanie is a
pediatrician who works here in Mbabane at an HIV clinic for children.
She gave us a tour of the clinic today. It has beautiful architecture
and is new and modern. It opened in 2006 with a grant from Bristol-
Myers. Stephanie also gave a presentation on malnutrition in children
to some of the student doctors who are visiting. She deals with many
patient problems that just don't exist or are very rare in the US.
Many of the resources here for children with HIV comes from foreign
aid. The HIV drugs typically come from the Global Fund or PEPFAR. The
Clinton Foundation donates PlumpyNut, a food source for children with
malnutrition. All HIV/AIDS care in Swaziland is free. Depending on
the statistics you use, between 25 and 40 percent of the population
has HIV. This trip is already an eye-opening experience. It makes me
very thankful for the resources and comforts I have at home. As Amy
said, "Thank you universe for my life."

The Swaziland landscape is beautiful. It's hilly and green with
concrete buildings all around that remind me of Mexico. I'm still
waiting for the sun to come out and really show the beauty. Amy and
Stephanie think it looks a lot like Scotland. The grocery store in
Mbabane has pretty much everything you could want. Stephanie's life
here reminds me of my life in Monterrey in some ways.

Tomorrow we are leaving for Sodwana Bay in South Africa. The others
are going to dive. I'll hang out by the beach. After that, Amy and I
are going to try and head towards Durban, South Africa. One of the
former students from my school in Mexico (ASFM) is in Durban with a
college group from Yale, so hopefully we'll be able to meet up. It's
such a small world. So, I will probably be without internet for
awhile, but I'll post again when I can. (Speaking of internet, I've
realized how much I take high speed for frustrating to
wait for each page to load....ugh!) I've posted more pictures on my
flickr account, so click the see more photos link on the side to see

Until next time....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Day One

Tuesday, June 9th

I arrived in Johannesburg, South Africa this morning after a long journey that had me in 3 countries on 3 different continents in 24 hours. My route was Chicago - Raleigh/Durham - London - Johannesburg. I spent a few hours in London with a JET friend catching up, seeing the theater district, Trafalgar Square, Leicester Square, and eating Korean food. It was a nice way to spend a 12 hour layover. Thanks Jamil.

My flights weren't too bad. They still serve meals on international flights and the British Airways flight had a TV with many movie and music choices for each person individually. (Why is it that every non-American airline I've ever used is so much nicer than an American airline? Although nothing beats the video game controller that popped out the side of the seat on an Asian flight I took once.)

We are in Johannesburg for only one night until we fly out tomorrow for Swaziland. The South Africans I've met so far have been friendly and helpful. The security guard down the street appreciated that I smiled and stopped for a few minutes to chat with him.

The picture is my first meal here. I bought it at the supermarket down the street. It's not particularly African, but I have no idea what African food is yet. I will find out and share. Note that I had to pay for the plastic bag she packed my groceries in. Maybe we'd waste less if we had to pay for our bags at the grocery store. I don't know how much I paid though because I don't understand the money yet. I just held out my hand and let her take the right coins!

Off to Mbabane to see Stephanie tomorrow!

Monday, June 8, 2009

Blogging from cell phone

Enjoying a coffee before heading to joburg via london. To swaziland wed. Refreshingly, no starbucks there i think?

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Monday, June 1, 2009

Packing for a Trip

What Should I Take?

I am leaving next Sunday for Swaziland, South Africa, and London. I started gathering things I want to bring with me today. You would think I'd have the art of packing perfected, but it seems more difficult every trip I take. This time, I am determined to pack as light as possible forgoing fashion and extras luxuries. I hope I succeed. (My running shoes will make the cut...I can't lose everything I've worked for after 26.2! Besides the Bix and the Rock 'n' Roll Half Chicago are waiting for me.)

I called the hotel I booked for the first night to arrange airport transportation this morning. When a woman answered, I realized that none of my extra languages will work in South Africa. I quickly remembered to slow down my English to communicate with her. In the end, she told me that she had my reservation and to call back tomorrow to give someone the details of my arrival. As native English speakers, we are lucky. Many people in other countries do have some English ability. We call these countries assuming someone can help us in our own language. But, can others assume that about our country and their language?

Other preparations include buying extra health insurance and sharing my emergency contact information with the friends I am traveling with. My friend Amy brought these things to my attention. She looks at travel differently now that she has a career in a study abroad program for a university. We never thought about these things throughout all our Asian escapades.

I am getting excited for our plans to visit a game park, go diving/snorkeling on the coast, and learn about African culture in general. I hope to post updates and photos here when I have internet access. Thanks for reading!