Friday, December 25, 2009

more vacation photos!

Hey everyone! It's Justine's sister, Erin. So I finally got the rest of the pictures off of Justine's memory card that she gave me to use in my camera. Here's a link to my Facebook albums of all of our adventures. Even if you don't have Facebook you should be able to view them. (I think, I'm not very good at this blogging thing!) We had an amazing time, and I can't believe that it's all over. Who knew that the two of us could spend 3 weeks together and not kill each other! (I love you 'teen!) Merry Christmas everybody!!
-Erin :)

And here's a preview of the rest of the trip that Justine couldn't show you in her previous post....

Friday, December 11, 2009

It's raining, it's pouring...

This week, I helped another volunteer paint health-related (and other random) signs at her school and I found one of her sayings particularly inspiring. It's a quote from South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu:

"Never let anyone tell you that what you're doing is insignificant."

I thought it was particularly pertinent to what I do on an everyday basis and I thought I'd share.

In other news, my Kiswahili is rapidly improving, thanks to Rosetta Stone, and I've watched a million movies this week. Mostly, I'm escaping the rain that has been constantly falling since I returned from vacation.

If you'd like to know what it's like to be me this week, go stand in the shower, fully clothed, with only cold water on. Then, imagine that you're walking in these conditions for about 5k, in flip-flops, just to get anywhere. There's wind, and with every step you slide a little bit on the muddy path, nearly falling flat on your face several times. It's so windy that your umbrella finally loses its will to live and no longer stays open on its own, so you hold it. And then, at the end of this adventure, you make it to some building, some form of public transport, some shelter where everything is wet, everything is cold, everything is muddy. But at least you're out of the wind. My house is flooded, and even where it isn't wet, it's wet. Every morning I take my sheets and blankets off my mattress and hang them from a rope in my house so they can air out becuase my mattress is so constantly damp that if I leave them on my bed, they mildew. It's gross...

See, you'd probably stay inside and learn Swahili, too.

That's all for today. I'm meeting some friends in the afternoon, then going out to Pasture Valley Children's Home to visit the kids and Peter and Michelle. My Partnership Project is finally submitted, so I'll let you know when it's on the website.

Love from the Swaz!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Reasons why I love my life...

FINALLY, after months of meticulous planning, countless emails with confused backpackers’ lodges and car rental companies, a 209-day countdown and frantic, last-minute preparations in my community, Erin, Jess and Brittney arrived in the Johannesburg Airport on the evening of November 8, and (after a long-awaited Arby’s Roast Beef sandwich and root beer smuggled to me by Brittney) vacation FINALLY commenced!

That first night we did more talking than sleeping (and I took my first hot shower in months!), then rushed to the Jo’burg Bus Station early Monday morning to catch our 8:00 bus to Maputo. With it, we got an unwelcome lesson on the unreliability of public transport in Africa.

Around 9:30, we boarded our 8:00 am bus to Maputo. Still sitting on the bus at the station at 10:30, the “conductor” interrupted the bad R&B music blaring from the loudspeakers to inform us that our bus was experiencing mechanical problems (faulty hydraulics) and, unfortunately, would not be leaving that day. Excellent! After lots of complaining, the company offered to send a replacement bus to take us to Maputo, so all we had to do was wait. We offloaded the bus and camped out at a nearby picnic table for the long haul. An hour passed. Two hours. Three hours, 1:30, still no bus.

Finally, around 2:00, an angry Mozambican man staged a coup and got the manager of the bus company out to figure out what was going on. Apparently, nobody had called the bus company to inform them of the problem so, while they COULD send a replacement bus, nobody at the bus company was aware that we needed one. Welcome to Africa! Finally, after some free Chickin’ Lickin’ (like KFC) courtesy of the bus company, we left for Maputo at 4:00pm, some 8 hours behind schedule.

Some 10 hours later we checked into our hostel in Maputo and, after a quick shower and a few hours of sleep, boarded another bus to Tofo, another 8 hours north. So far, we’d spent 48 hours on vacation and done nothing but sleep and wait/sit on buses. We were grumpy and our ankles were swollen, but, as soon as we sat down at a little beach cafĂ© to enjoy fresh barracuda and coconut rice with a bottle of Fanta orange (all for about $3), everything seemed worth it.

Tofo (or “Tofu”) is a backpacker-friendly, white-sand-and-fresh-fish kind of low-budget resort town on the Indian Ocean where time doesn’t matter and no shirt or shoes (or pants) are required anywhere. The water is warm, the waves are mostly calm, everyone speaks English and everything—the craft market, small grocery stores, bootleg liquor vendors, backpackers and restaurants—are all within a 10 minute walk of the water. As if the beautiful beach, fresh fish and relaxed atmosphere weren’t worth all the hours it took to get there, we came to go snorkeling with whale sharks.

Whale sharks aren’t really whales, they’re sharks—the biggest fish in the ocean. And they’re HUGE! An adult whale shark can be bigger than a school bus, but they’re completely harmless (as long as you don’t touch their razor-sharp fins). Not a lot is known about them, where they breed, how far they travel, how many of them exist in the world, but for some reason Tofo has a large number of juvenile males, each between 4 and 10 meters long, and a handful of females. One morning, we slathered ourselves in SPF 30 and, along with an awkward American couple and a team of whale shark researchers from All About Africa, pushed a 6-meter motorized raft into the ocean in search of really, really big fish.

From the raft, a whale shark appears as a big black mass moving just below the surface of the water, and an experienced spotter can see them a hundred meters away. When somebody spotted one, the raft would speed up and drop all of us off some 20 meters (or sometimes less) in front of the beast so that we’d be able to swim along with him/her for as long as we could keep up, or until it got spooked and dived too deep for our snorkels to go. The researchers from All About Africa (a really cool organization!) were documenting and tracking the whale shark population in the area, so they jumped in hurriedly to snap photos of the shark’s right and left flanks, to determine its sex (males have TWO penises, just in case one breaks) and to approximate its size, age and health. In our three hours on the sea, we found 5 or 6 whale sharks (we found the same one twice, we think), two different kinds of dolphins (bottlenose and something else), and a very large number of angry jellyfish (proof of this is still festering on my left ankle)—an excellent day.

My personal favorite was whale shark #4, which I nearly kicked in the face. I jumped in probably 15 meters in front of her, but by the time I finished panicking (I did this every time I jumped in; I think I drowned in a previous life) and actually figured out what I was looking at, her face was about a meter from my flipper, and she was swimming straight at me. They’d warned us not to touch them (more because it would make them dive and shorten everyone else’s experience than from the possibility of injury), but when there’s a gigantic shark just feet from your precious body, that’s easier said than done. I didn’t want to kick her in the face, so I hurriedly doggy-paddled a safe distance away, then swam along with her until I couldn’t keep up. It was probably the second coolest animal-related experience of the trip. (See, now you HAVE to keep reading!)

The culinary highlight of our trip to Tofo, as I’ve alluded to several times, was the fresh seafood we consumed for every meal. We kicked it off with fresh barracuda, followed by several meals of fresh prawns (that we bought from fishermen and cooked ourselves!), and finished with a Mozambican traditional dish called “matapa,” consisting of spinach, whole crabs and crushed peanuts cooked to a sauce and served over coconut rice. Delicious!

After a few days in Tofo, a short trip to the neighboring town of Inhambane (to buy traditional wax print cloth and mangoes), and a particularly entertaining all-night dance-fest involving a 45-minute walk without shoes and a Jack Russell Terrier, we took the long trip back to Maputo on Friday morning. Maputo has the very African feeling of a city that was once ruled by Europeans, full of white-washed building that nobody has cared about since independence, and the added charm of having been devastated by civil war until 1994. The traffic is crazy, the markets are bustling, there’s laundry hanging on the small balcony of each run-down apartment, fresh fruit and bootleg DVDs for sale at every stoplight and, for some reason, I find it absolutely beautiful. We spent the afternoon at the old Portuguese fort on the waterfront, where we entertained all the Mozambicans in the fort by mocking their statues and clogging their toilets. We made a run for it, then spent the rest of the afternoon bargaining for things we didn’t even want in the big municipal market, just for fun.

Early Saturday morning, after spending the lasts of our Mozambican Meticais on fish samoosas and bootleg Moz rap CDs (that was actually just me), we made the 6 hour mini-bus journey to Swazilandia, which is what they call it in Mozambique (I, for one, think everyone should call it that). For 3 days, we celebrated the end of a decade-long drought by hiding from the rain, bravely driving our Chevy Aveo down muddy, winding roads to get to our lodge, and practicing our shopping skills. We visited a place called Ngwenya Glass that makes glasses, ornaments, jewelry, gigantic hippos and assorted trinkets out of recycled glass. They make some really awesome things, and M-F you can watch them actually blowing the glass! (We happened to be there on a Sunday.) And they ship to the US, so Google them if you happen to be in the market for some really cool wine glasses.

Tuesday morning, we made the 2 hour drive down to my site, stopping for lunch in nearby Hluti, which was delicious and didn’t make anyone sick. Our original plan for Tuesday/Wednesday was to paint letters, numbers, shapes and colors on the walls of the preschool by my house, but on the drive down I was randomly inspired to re-paint the kitchen (slash TV room) in my family’s house, which they’ve been hinting about for a while. So, Tuesday we all worked in the preschool, illustrating each letter of the alphabet with a picture (drawn by Erin), painting a big rainbow and shapes, and a diagram of balanced nutrition. Wednesday morning, Jess and I continued in the preschool while Erin and Brittney conquered the kitchen, painting a border of colorful flowers on cream and green walls. The whole community was amazed at our work, especially because it was done for free by women, two things that would never have happened in this community before me. My family was so grateful for the painting that they washed the Aveo for free (which also may have been so they could take pictures with it), and they’ve invited half the community over for tea just to show off the room. Since I’ve returned, everyone’s talking about the crazy white girls who know how to paint. I’ve had lots of people ask me who taught us to paint, how we learned to draw, how much I charge per hour. So, if all other career prospects fall through, I can always be a house painter in Swaziland. (Unfortunately, I don’t have pictures of this part of the trip because I swapped memory cards with Erin and then loaned my camera to another volunteer, so somebody else will have to post them or you’ll have to wait a few weeks.)

(In a completely unrelated note, not once, but twice we made the drive from my bus stop on the paved road to my house while listening to Toto’s classic “Bless the Rains Down in Africa” on the radio. Twice, with the windows rolled down, cruising a 5 miles per hour, singing as small children looked at us awkwardly.)

Wednesday evening, the paint barely dry, we said sad goodbyes to my host family and raced the rain to St. Lucia, South Africa, a little beach town just 2 hours south of my site. After a few hours sleep, we sleepily climbed into a canvas-covered safari vehicle and headed to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi nature reserve for a game drive. Stopping only for lunch and a few potty breaks, we spent the day cruising through the park in search of wildlife. We managed to check off the list giraffes, rhinos, buffalo, hyenas, wildebeests, lots of DLCs (deer-like creatures), dung beetles (I got to hold a giant ball of wet rhino dung!), baboons, a monitor lizard, wild dogs (this is very rare) and lots of birds, but because of the cold, rainy weather, we didn’t see any lions or elephants.

After a lunch braai (grilled steak and boerwors) and some excellent pasta salad, we put down the canvas covers on the sides of the vehicle to protect us from the encroaching rain and started the drive home—a drive that was to become, without a doubt, the most ridiculous hour of the whole trip. To fully understand how ridiculous this was, picture the vehicle: a modified Toyota Land Cruiser with three rows of three seats in a raised pick-up bed, all covered by roll bars and a green canvas soft-top with clear vinyl windows, removable fiberglass windows in the front. Not air-tight and, unfortunately, not waterproof either. Our guide, John, puts both fiberglass windows into place, we in the back bundle up in wool blankets provided by the tour company, our rain jacket hoods fastened tightly to protect us from the leaking roof, and, using a bundle of toilet paper, I’m busy redirecting a steady drip from above John’s head. And then the real storm starts. Gale-force winds (not sure what this means, but that’s what the weather report said. What’s a gale?), huge rain drops (hail?), us flying at 60 miles an hour down the highway in a leaking vehicle. And then the driver’s side window blows in. And then the passenger side window blows OUT, so we’re traveling down the highway in the pouring, cold, blowing rain, with a leaky roof and no windows. I’d long given up on manning the drip, and instead I was concerned with keeping myself warm with a sopping wet wool blanket. By the time we got back to the backpackers, we were soaking wet, cold to the bone and laughing hysterically. Because otherwise we would have cried.

The following night, Friday, we again climbed aboard the safari vehicle to cruise down the beach in search of sea turtles. Loggerhead and leatherback turtles breed all along the coast of Africa and, driven purely by instinct, females return to the place of their birth to lay eggs only a few times in their lives. According to our guide, Jeff Asher-Wood from EuroZulu Tours, there are about 450 loggerhead and 150 leatherback turtles born on the stretch of beach protected by the Greater St. Lucia Wetlands Park, but only half of those are female, and an even smaller number return in any given year to lay eggs. After mating with a few males, the females store the sperm in their bodies and fertilize the eggs in shifts, laying one nest of up to 150 eggs every week until they’re out of sperm. At night, they make their way up the beach in the dark, using their stubby little flippers to dig a deep hole and bury their eggs. Some even dig a “decoy” hole to confuse potential egg-eaters (including humans—turtle eggs are a delicacy in Mozambique). Then they make their way back into the ocean, guided by the moonlight.

And that’s what we came to see.

We drove down the beach, popping hundreds of bluebottle jellyfish and scattering lots of “ghost crabs” along the way. An hour passed, no turtle tracks, no turtles. We reached the end of the drive and, somewhat defeated, got out of the vehicle to walk a little ways into a protected area, still hoping that we’d find a turtle. We managed to find some turtle tracks, but Ms. Turtle had apparently deemed the sand unworthy of her eggs and went back into the ocean without leaving behind a nest. We all stood around the mess of sand she’d thrown around, grateful that we’d at least seen SOMETHING, eager for dinner (more of the pasta salad from the day before!) and the drive home.

Defeated, around 10:30 we turned back to head home and, after about 5 minutes driving, came across some fresh turtle tracks. We walked up from the beach about 15 meters and, sure enough, there was a turtle! We’d found a mature (30-year-old?) leatherback turtle, a HUGE beast of a turtle, just beginning to deposit her eggs into the sand. Sneaking up behind her (she can’t hear but can see light and movement, so we had to stay behind her so we didn’t scare her away), we watched her lay about 100 shiny, white, golf ball-sized eggs and then cover them with sand, sighing with exhaustion. After they were buried, she moved forward and backward, disguising her precious hole in a mass of thrown-around sand, and we got to take up-close pictures of her. Around midnight, as we ate our delicious dinner, she finished up and made her way, slowly, back to the ocean.

Without a doubt, it was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. It was so incredible to see this enormous creature, so prehistoric-looking, so unlike anything I’d ever seen, having survived to adulthood against the odds (only about 1 of every nest survives), and driven entirely by instinct to return to the beach of her birth, to bury and protect her eggs, to make her way back to the ocean, guided only by the reflection of the moonlight off the water. Incredible. (Unfortunately, again, I don’t have pictures, but everyone else does so I’ll try to get some posted very soon!)

We made it back to the backpackers around 3am, exhausted but excited, and slept a few hours before the great trek back to Jo’burg via Swaziland. The next morning, we took an early flight to Cape Town and, after picking up our rental car (we named it “Not Aveo”), checked into our backpackers and began our conquest of the city.

Cape Town is, for lack of a better description, “fake Africa.” It feels so much like the US (that is, relative to Swaziland) that it’s a little overwhelming, but I absolutely love the city. We spent the first afternoon down at the V&A Waterfront, perusing expensive shops, judging the public displays of affection of tacky tourists and their massive cruise ship, flirting with a “pirate” from a “pirate ship” in an attempt to get a free champagne cruise (oh, that was just me). In the evening, we drove down to Camps Bay to drink expensive cocktails, eat calamari from the Pick ‘N’ Pay (we’d spent all our money on cocktails) and sit on the rocks to watch the sunset over the ocean. It would have been idyllic, had it not been for the ridiculous winds that stole our chips (fries) and added gritty sand to our calamari. But, hey, it was funny.

The second day we did a Lonely Planet-recommended walking tour of the city, visiting the Castle of Good Hope, an old military command run by the British, Dutch, British, then South African militaries; the city’s Old Town Hall, where Mandela gave his first speech after his release from prison; the KFC, where I waited 20 minutes to order a chicken sandwich that was, turns out, totally worth it; Groote Kerk, the first church of the Dutch Reformed Church; and a handful of mosques, churches, museums, market stalls and cafes. We also visited the District Six Museum, which documents the forced relocation of hundreds of families from “District Six,” first during apartheid as it became a “whites only” area, then later as everyone was cleared out to make way for industry. (I mostly saw the bathroom of the District Six Museum because I was not feeling well, but what I saw in the brief minutes between mad dashes to the bathroom was really interesting and I feel like it deserves a second visit.)

For me, the highlight of the walking tour was an art exhibit called “Not Alone” that was on display at one of the galleries at the Castle of Good Hope. An international project of “Make Art/Stop AIDS” that originated at UCLA, the exhibition showcased various artists’ responses to the AIDS pandemic, including those from Brazil, India, the US and South Africa. The exhibit included paintings, photographs, illustrated journals telling first-hand accounts of living with HIV and related stigmatizing issues (anorexia, schizophrenia, sexual abuse, etc.), public service announcements on HIV, political cartoons about AIDS, clothing made from factory-rejected condoms, short films and audio clips of people’s experiences. The most interesting piece, to me, was a mixed media sculpture made of the artist’s ARV pill bottles and syringes, suspended from the ceiling in the shape of a person. It was a really interesting exhibit, full of both sad and very inspiring stories about HIV/AIDS.

Later in the week, we drove down to the Cape Point (the most South-Western part of Africa), the Cape of Good Hope and to Boulders Penguin Colony. The photos I’ve posted don’t even begin to do justice to the beautiful scenery of the Cape Peninsula—it’s definitely something you should see for yourself! Wednesday we went to Robben Island, where Nelson Mandela was held for the majority of his imprisonment, and had an extremely charismatic tour guide (an ex-political prisoner) who explained quite extensively the history of the island—from its use as a leper colony to a strategic military post to a prison. Though the whole prison has been re-painted and re-modeled so much that it hardly resembles a prison anymore, it’s really moving to stand in a former prisoner’s cell and read the anecdote he’s written posted on the wall, and to talk to the guides, all of whom are former prisoners themselves, about their experiences in the prison. It’s truly unique to have a first-hand account of what we learn as “history” in schools. (And, if you go, try to get on the bus with the short Indian guy guide because he’s really amusing.) We also visited Table Mountain, Cape Town’s signature logo and tourist attraction. Though I’d been up Table Mountain before and, honestly, the view is similar to that at the Cape of Good Hope lighthouse, I have to say I was truly impressed at the efficiency with which the ticket-sellers moved us through the line. (This is why Cape Town is “fake Africa.” In real Africa, the ticket-sellers would have had to stop for tea and to answer their cell phones at least twice while we stood in line for an hour.)

Thursday, we did a self-drive tour of the Cape Winelands of Stellenbosch and Franschoek. We visited Blaauwklippen, Fairview and Mont Rochelle Estates, had a fabulous lunch in the quaint little French-influenced town of Franschoek (best fish and chips I’ve ever had in my life), and spent a lot of time driving in circles because we had a poor quality map (and possibly navigator…). My personal favorite place was Fairview, which is known not only for its wine, but for its goats and cheese. In addition to delicious grape juice (non-alcoholic), they had a nice assortment of cheeses—goat cheeses, cream cheeses, spiced cheeses, cow cheeses, yellow cheeses, white cheeses, blue cheeses…throw in some earrings and I’m in Heaven. I didn’t buy any wine on the trip, but I did buy 5 different kinds of cheese and a very fancy baguette, a good portion of which ended up in my lap as I tried to consume it without utensils in the back seat of the car. Delicious.

In addition to eating half my body weight in cheese in a matter of hours, I also gorged myself on Mexican food while in Cape Town. Fajitas, chimichangas, nachos, margaritas. Amazing. Had I not been outvoted (almost every night), we would have eaten Mexican every single night. And possibly for breakfast, too. For our final meal in Cape Town—Erin, Jess and Brittney’s last dinner in Africa—we ate at a “game” restaurant. Jess had ostrich steak, and the rest of us had enormous (about 18”) kebabs with eland (like a deer), zebra and kudu (also like a deer) meat, all cooked just enough that they were most likely dead. Mmmm. For the record, zebra steak was really fatty, and kudu is really dry, but eland is delicious. (I suppose it is possible that we just got a really chubby zebra.)

Saturday morning, we returned the Not Aveo and made our way back to Jo’burg. We spent half the day sitting at Mugg ‘N’ Bean, a little coffee shop/restaurant that serves delicious pies and bottomless coffee (and real food, but we weren’t interested in that). Later, after seeing everyone to their respective security checkpoints, I had one last hurrah by myself, eating enough Subway to tide me over for another year and my second enormous piece of cheesecake for the day, and then began my journey back to Swaziland.

It was an amazing vacation and an amazing month, but, as I’m beginning to get back into the swing of things here (and getting my usual 12 hours of sleep again), it’s good to be back home—or at least to the little hut I’ve called “home” for the last 18 months. (And it’s actually nice to be called “Phindile” again. I missed that.) And now, at least 3 people in the US understand where I live and what I do and some of the challenges I face and why I love it. And I’ve watched a sea turtle lay eggs, taken ridiculous photos with some people I love, and eaten enough seafood and Mexican to keep me satisfied for a while, at least. Success!

Aside from catching up on sleep this past week (a vacation from my vacation), I’ve spent most of my week doing Kiswahili lessons on the Rosetta Stone software Erin brought for me (for the record, Rosetta Stone is amazing and if you’re considering buying one but think it’s too expensive, just do it because it’s amazing) and reading “Pride and Prejudice” and “House of Sand and Fog,” which is super depressing. This week I’ll be submitting what should be my final draft of my Peace Corps Partnership Project (the community garden and water project for my clinic’s HIV+ support group), and I’ll be helping another volunteer’s health club in painting signs about HIV prevention, which should be fun. After that, who knows…school’s out until the first week of February, so I see a lot of reading, exercising, making paper beads, coloring with kids and Swahili studying in my future. Good thing I just had a vacation!

That’s all for now. Enjoy the photos! (Hopefully they load properly…)

Love from the Swaz,

The Cape Winelands. From Stellenbosch to Franschoek and back to Cape Town, the view was incredible. I'm not sure exactly where this is, though. Somewhere pretty.

The lighthouse at Robben Island. We never talked about it on the tour, but I think it's important for some reason since on all the tourist t-shirts and fridge magnets, there's this lighthouse. Maybe it's because nobody would buy a fridge magnet of a jail cell. But it's pretty, I guess.

The view from the window of the car as we drove through Cape Point Nature Reserve. Ostriches! And then, later in the week, Jess ate one of these for dinner.

Jess, Erin and Brittney sitting on a gigantic rock covered with salt residue at the Cape Point. Beautiful.

Jess, Erin and Brittney on the funicular (it's like a little train, but sounds more fun) to the lighthouse at the Cape of Good Hope.

This is a rock dassie. I named him David Hasselhof and then stalked him as he continually tried to run away and hide from me. He's cute, though.

Jess and Brittney on the path to Dias Point, a spot near the Cape of Good Hope lighthouse where somebody named Dias did something important. I think he was an explorer (Portuguese?) and claimed the land or something, but more significantly it's now the spot of the new lighthouse at the Cape of Good Hope. The old one--the big one that the spot is famous for--was apparently placed inconveniently and the light couldn't be seen through the thick fog that surrounds the coast, so it was useless and had to be replaced.

The view from oustide the gates of the Cape of Good Hope.

What not to do with baboons. This sign I found particularly hilarious, mostly because it wasn't clear whether the baboons would enter an unlocked car or opened window while the car was moving. I think no, but we closed the windows just to be safe.

Penguins! The tiny little penguins at the Boulders Penguin Colony near Simonstown. I probably could have fit one in my purse if I had tried.

Apple pie and ice cream...breakfast of champions.

A section of a painting at the "Not Alone" exhibit. It was beatiful, and secretly about proper condom use!

My favorite piece at the "Not Alone" exhibit. I wish I knew the artist information and stuff...I'm sure you could Google it if you want. And I know it all represents stuff--the number of syringes, the placement of them in an oval, etc.--but I don't remember.

The Castle of Good Hope, from the inside. It's strange to find, in the middle of a city of high-rises, a pentagonal castle. But it's there.

A man making a giraffe at the market in Swaziland. I find it encouraging to see people actually MAKING the crafts they're selling, since a lot of them are just bought and re-sold by the women who run the stalls there. Where's the art in that?

A very complicated pulley system for flushing the toilet. This is why I love Swaziland.

We had traditional food at a restaurant called eDladleni in Swaziland. It was really hard to find, but totally worth it! I made everyone try all the traditional dishes--maize meal porridge, emahewu, emasi (sour milk) and pap--and then we had some delicious food. I had rabbit.

Some of the wine glasses at Ngwenya Glass Factory. The ones I really liked are just clear glass and have a big glob of glass that connects the handle to the side of the wine glass, but the photo of them didn't turn out well because they were in front of a mirror. There's not a chance that I'd get them home in one piece, though.

The four of us having a "picnic" in the Aveo. We had meat pies and pizza slices in the parking lot of the Pick 'N' Pay grocery store not once, but twice.

Monkeys sitting on top of one of the huts at the Swazi Cultural Village. They were warming themselves up with the smoke of the fire from inside. One of them stole a loaf of bread and was distributing it to his friends/family and I tried to take a picture and he hissed and chased me away, which was really quite traumatizing.

Brittney being responsible and NOT eating fish samoosas from a little boy with a bucket full of them. Though, for the record, they were delicious, cheap and didn't make us sick. That time.

My idea of heaven: a shop full, on all four walls, of floor-to-ceiling earrings made of clay, wood and seeds. The only thing that could make this place any better is if they had an all-you-can-eat cheese buffet.

Me mocking the sculptures at the fort in Maputo. I'm not even sure who this statue was made in tribute to...some gigantic man with a horse, apparently. And a really, really big boot.

We played with our food for a long time until the water started to boil, which was kind of mean considering they were still alive. This is prawns round two, but it was just as fun as prawns round one the previous day.

Fresh coconuts! They sent me to the market one day to buy a coconut to make coconut rice and vegetables for dinner, and I returned with a head of lettuce, 2 coconuts and 18 prawns. This is why I shouldn't be put in charge of things involving seafood.

Prawns and vegetables, which we ate over "coconut rice" (really, we just put chunks of coconut into the rice, but it was still delicious!).

Jess and me chilling in the hammocks outside our dorm in Tofo. I had to put this picture up because I think it's the only one I have of me on vacation with my hair down.

The beautiful beach at Tofo.

Prawns round one. Jess thought I was a little immature, I think.

Pants, dresses and shirts for sale at the craft market in Tofo. I can't resist buying the colorful fabric these things are all made of, and I have a huge bag of it that has no real purpose at this point, other than being pretty. I think I'll make a quilt with it or something. Eventually.

Erin and me on top of Table Mountain on our last day in Cape Town. I'd also like to point out that my sunglasses are awesome, despite the fact that everyone else made fun of me for buying them. They make me feel like a rapper. (And in case you can't see, there's a red stripe across the top, which adds and extra element of R&B superstar.)