Saturday, June 30, 2012

Diego Suarez


We've reached Diego Suarez. After waking up at 6:30, taking a boat for forty five minutes to the dock, and then driving for five hours, we were exhausted.

And… strangest of all, there's no electricity at the hotel today, so I'm taking advantage of that fact and trying to recalibrate my laptop battery.

Hopefully tomorrow we'll have electricity, because even though I now have two paperbacks (pretty thick ones, too!) I'm not really in the mood for reading anything complicated, which is what they both feel like.

We went to the restaurant across the street— first for juices (banana juice is delicious— I'll have to learn to make it later), then for dinner. We stayed there about two hours— an hour to wait for the food, 45 minutes to eat it… it was interesting.

But I definitely don't understand the French. After 6 hours of traveling, during which I couldn't do much of anything in the car (the paperbacks are supposed to be started in July, and I couldn't read using my iPod), I wasn't in the mood to wait an hour for my poulet sauce vanille. But we did wait, and while waiting Dad and Mom and I started talking about college again…

See, the thing is, I can go to college in America or in Romania. There's upsides and downsides to each, but in Romania it's cheaper, I have an entire network of doctors in my family, and med school is 6 years instead of 8. On the other hand, I sort of want to stay in America, doing whatever it is that college kids here do, and going through the crazy applications process and everything.

But then, I think… it's so easy to get into med school in Romania, comparatively, and in the end, if I'm two years ahead of everyone I get a huge leap ahead. Not only that, but in Romania I'll be exploring all the various disciplines of medicine that exist, which I wouldn't be doing in America.

I'm a bit sad that this has come up again— I was certain I was going to go to college in America, but then I started getting this sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I thought of it all.

I don't know. I'm confused. It's not so easy to say to myself, "I'll think about it when we get back home," because in February applications already start being due.  Sometimes I why I can't just skip a couple of years and already be at the point where I know what it is I'm going to do and whether or not I actually want to do it, because I don't like taking so long with these decisions, and I definitely don't like being so uncertain about everything. It's like, every two months I change my mind, or I get right back to where I started.

I'm wondering if everyone goes through this, but it doesn't seem like it. Everyone has already decided and gone ahead with their plans, while I'm still clueless.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Lemuria


"What did we do today?" I asked Ioan.

I was just finishing the last bits of my getting ready to go to bed routine (right up to 'get into bed and write world') when I realized I couldn't remember what we'd done!

Which is only because it was such a long day.

We set off to Lemuria Land today, stopping first at the ilang-ilang distillery (translated as flower of the flower, ilang-ilang form a perfume base), We saw how it was made— 500 kilos of ilang-ilang cooked with 300 liters of water to make 12 liters of oil. The picking takes 4-7 hours (80 women working), the cooking another 12 (20 men working— they put the flowers and water in, take the oil out).

Next, we met Napoleon, a 200 year old tortoise from Seychelles, whose 200th birthday was… today! He's blind, but he loves being petted. Just think! We, who went to the Galápagos Islands to see lots of tortoises, finches, sea lions, and other animals, petted a 200 year old tortoise today, in Madagascar. And he liked it! He raised himself up and pressed his thin, strong neck into our hands as if we were the ones doing him a favor!

I can describe tortoise skin as something like rougher elephant skin— they're both hard and leathery, but the tortoise is a bit dirtier.

Next, we went around to the reptiles to see the snakes, frogs, lizards, etc, and to wait for our guide, Emanuel, to find the lemurs. Some lemur species are brought from the south of Madagascar to the 'zoo,' where they stay in one of the cages for 3 months before being set free. The Sifaca lemurs Emanuel found are just one sort of set-free lemur— we fed them banana pieces from our hands, holding them up to the lemurs.

They'd either take it directly from our hands with their mouths (always gentle— though sometimes their small canine teeth scraped, they never bit), or other times reach a hand out to hold our hand in place and then take the food. We even got one hanging upside down with its feet to reach a banana with its hands, but that was the exception rather than the rule.

It was amazing to see how quiet they were about it, too. No hooting, no crazy jumping (Sifaca lemurs 'dance' across treetops, zigzagging as they jump from branch to branch instead of going straight)— just an extended hand, as if they were preparing to kiss the inside of it, and then gently taking the bananas from our finger tips.

It was a superb, fantastic experience.

Ileana and I came back from the restaurant at 3:30pm and began putting together the beginning of the camp presentation. We have the introduction almost finished— one paragraph out of three, and the footage all thought out. After three hours of work, we have exactly one minute of video.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Beach Gallops


We hung around the bungalow this morning, not doing much of anything except making bags and trying to figure out what sort of animal could have attacked our food two nights running. Today there was actually some damage— the cocoa tin was punctured and was halfway across the room, in a corner when we woke up. The interesting thing is that though everyone else heard it, I didn't, and everything went on at my head and underneath me.

So that was an interesting thing.

The taxi driver came about an hour early, which meant that we arrived at the horsback riding location an hour and a half early, which meant that I hung around reading and playing with the puppy. When the guide came, I, in my sandals no less, tried on the chaps (they cover your lower leg to prevent too much rubbing against the saddle), found a helmet, and curried and brushed Eclipse, a mare of what I think may be 30 years of age (like, 80 in horse years). One of the stable boys (bare feet) helped me pick her feet and put on the saddle (some things I don't mess with), I bridled her, and we set off. 

It was slow going at first over the lava on the beach, then we got on the road, walked a bit to a field, trotted, cantered, walked some more through the forest, got to another field, cantered a bit more (Eclipse liked going fast whenever Black started trotting. She'd canter to catch up and get ahead, and I'd be stuck trying to hold on), worked on not panicking…

But let me pause and explain. I always liked going faster than usual— but this was an English saddle— nothing to hold on to in the front. I tend to slip to the right for some reason— probably from lack of practice— and so every time we trotted, cantered, or did anything slightly bouncy, I'd start slipping to the right, having to grab on to the front of the saddle so I wouldn't fall off or bounce right off the horse. (I didn't dare grab the back, which might have been more correct— that would have meant loosening the reins or holding them with just one hand, which while possible, didn't seem advisable).

Still, it was fantastic, and then we got to the beach. It's a long strip, right next to the barn, basically, and the guide turned to me, and we started galloping. It's only 10-15 seconds at a time, but a horse's maximum speed is 30-40mph. When we reached the end, we'd turn around and go again. About the fourth time through, at the end, Eclipse kept going, and everyone was shouting "Whoa whoa whoa!" while I'm trying to hang on, stop the horse, and make sure I don't run over any of the spectators. 

Um… nothing bad happened… just that I realized afterwards I was taking a bit of a risk— the helmet was held on by a string with a quick-release knot.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

An Adventure


 Today was an adventure and I didn't even leave Andilana Beach! The first thing was to make a reservation for the horses. Armed with only my glasses and a pair of books for the book exchange, I marched right up the wrong path to get to the other hotel— thankfully I figured out it was the automobile route, so I didn't make much more of a fool of myself than I was supposed to.

I reached the book exchange place with the small sign about the horses, asked about the books, quickly exchanged, and then started desperately asking about the horses— where are they, where do I make the reservation, etc?

I understood that it was down at the beach ('en bas'), asked for a stylo to write down the telephone number, wrote it down and the pertinent money/time details, and turned to find a young woman asking me if I needed help. I asked again where the horses were, (same answer), asked how to make the reservation (poor women probably thought I was a bit sun-touched, because it was written on the sign in bold black lettering, "Reservation avec le téléfon" or something of the sort. Anyway, I made a quick escape by double-checking the number (and a good thing, because the last digit was an 8 instead of a 6!), went down to ask Dad about the telephoning… hoping against hope that he'd do all the hard work from now on.

No such luck. I asked the cleaning lady for her cellphone, called the horse reservation, garbled the French language dreadfully as I made a reservation for 4pm this afternoon… and asked where I should be for the horses. (Horses, not ride, because I still wasn't certain of the terminology for that, despite the fact that I looked it up no less than three times.) "Uh… parlais-vous anglais?"
A very long pause. "A little."

I asked where the horses would be. "Chanty Beach." By now everyone on the island must be asking themselves who the crazy girl is. Chanty Beach was on the sign.

I didn't dare ask where exactly Chanty Beach was… figuring it out over the phone would be excruciatingly painful. Instead, at 2:45pm we finally asked the waitress with the taxidriver friend where Chanty Beach was. Halfway between here and Hellville.

It was out of the question to go today— perhaps tomorrow, on the way, and Dad and I or someone else would go— I can't exactly be unescorted, since I'm a minor and don't know the language.

I tried to find the cleaning lady, but she wasn't there. I found someone else, gave her 2000 AR for phone credit, called the horseback riding lady back, told her it wasn't possible today, but tomorrow? At 2 o'clock?

Yes? Perfect.

I had to talk to six people. In French. And it was actually pretty easy, and I didn't even have to make weird noises like Mom did this morning to explain the minor flooding upstairs in the bathroom!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Andilana


We're at a beach whose name I can't write down because Dad won't respond to the question and Mom has a cold, thus making her answer mostly unintelligible. I think it's Andilana or something of the sort, but you can never be sure.

It's a beautiful beach, with white sand and a huge book exchange that boasts about four large shelves of books. Three of them are in French, 3/5s of a shelf in German, and the rest in English. Tomorrow I'll be heading up to exchange a few of them, as well as figuring out the horseback riding… I have no idea how I'm going to manage it, half-blind and with a language barrier, but I've got to do something!

The drive here was in a newer car— new enough to have seatbelts in the back, but not mechanized windows. Most of the cars in Madagascar are old— for the past two days we've been in Renault 4s, which are lovely-looking but won't accomodate six people and their luggage. But while it was nice to have room in the back, our driver brought along a CD full of Malagasi music, and played it. I have no idea how to decribe it, but it didn't have a melody, there were lots of drums, and a bit of chanting of some sort that would break off with no warning for the drums… let's just say that for the half hour we were in the car we were waiting for it to be over.

Before we headed off in the car though, I spent a lot of time browsing the internet trying to find some book about geography for Ileana. Where are the writer's resources for these things? I can't find anything that would explain what we want to know— random facts, etc. Not on Kindle, at least. But I did find some interesting evolution books, a bit about education, and I replied to emails and checked Facebook… forgetting once again to reply to a comment someone made. But we get back to La Plantation on Thursday… which will be interesting, as tomorrow the schedule is very open.

I have no idea what to say otherwise, I've got no crazy plans, the only thing I can really talk about is whining about this camp presentation— I have to set a timer at some point and just beat out all the kinks of the idea. And also the blog posts, the editing I want to do on Perfume, the writing of book reviews (I've got at least 7).

I guess the only great thing is that I'm still quite ahead for my reading goal of 366 books! I'm not certain how long I'll be able to keep up this pace, but it seems to me like it should be pretty sustainable. 

I've found it interesting that I'm getting slightly homesick. I want to be able to use internet properly, take notes with unlimited paper at my disposal, walk to a library… there's 6.5 months left!

Monday, June 25, 2012

Finished!


I finished Perfume. I'm exhausted, since I didn't get much sleep yesterday, since we walked through a very hot jungle in practically absolute silence, since I just looked at which blog posts I need to do and found out that the list starts in Sydney, Australia.

Lovely.

Er, at the moment, I'm going to skip over the lovely jungle walk. I'm really not in the mood to explain about such things— maybe later, when I can think straight.

On second thought, the best part of the jungle walk were the lemurs we saw at the very end. And the owl. That was about it. I was hot, sweaty, sticky, tired, annoyed because talking, even in breathless whispers, wasn't allowed. I'm not that talkative, especially not on these trips, but if I ask what type of flower a flower is… I'd like an answer! (It turned out that the explanation was way too long and detailed to have been told in the jungle where we were walking quietly to find lemurs).

The walk wasn't hard— actually rather easy— but it's complicated for me, because I can't see the ground clearly without glasses, and with glasses everything seems to be ballooning, which doesn't exactly make me feel safe. At the same time, though, I don't mind that I'm blind as a bat. I'm much more comfortable now not being able to see anything. That changes the moment an animal appears, of course, but for most activities I actually think, "Wait, I need to take off my glasses." (Not that I can see much more clearly than usual or anything, just that it's routine to take off my glasses before bed).

So the jungle walk wasn't responsible for my exhaustion. But to get to the place where the jungle walk is, it's a 45 minute canoe ride, and Ileana and I were paddling for both trips at the same rhythm as everyone else in our canoe. We're both sore, but I'm glad to have gotten an upper body workout, for once.

So that's the reason for the physical exhaustion— canoe paddling. The reason for the mental exhaustion is that a) I finished my book, so now I have to figure out… editing, and b) I received an email from Gabriela, who's helping me out with French. The actual email was quite simple, a few rules I already learned but needed refreshing on, a simple conjugation exercise that was probably finished pretty quickly.

But it felt like it took me hours to conjugate 7 verbs (despite the fact that they were mostly 1st and 2nd group), to put together sentences, to get to the end. I must be exhausted. It's the only explanation.

So I apologize for the meandering in this particular world— tomorrow I should be quite my own self.

Oh! Forgot the most important bit. Tomorrow is the Madagascarian day of independence! So everything is closed, everyone sings, it's an all-day public holiday.

And of course, tomorrow we leave Hellville, where we're staying. (Name has no reflection on the place)

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Baguettes


Today was a rest day, but we're already enjoying the location!

Baguettes for breakfast, trying to speak French, moving rooms (it's strange asking for directions in a foreign language when you're blind and carrying sixteen different things at the same time), almost-nearly finishing Perfume (it's that pesky ending— the worst part of a book), reading a novel, and starting to plan out the camp presentation.

But I'll get to that when I get to that.

This morning we all sort of lounged around. Mom has a bit of a cold, which is unfortunate, as tomorrow we set off on a whole-day trip to one of the national parks. … I can hardly wait. On the one hand, stagnating in the room. On the other hand… trying to see lemurs. I'm very torn. But of course the lemurs must be seen, so I'm not going to say one word about it. Despite the fact that there are twenty-some national parks in Madagascar and we'll probably be visiting every. Single. One.

Anyway. The baguettes were delicious, and while I couldn't understand almost a single word the maids were asking me, I'm at least able to spout off a few words and smile widely to cover up any terrible mistakes. When we went to the Manava Restaurant for lunch (15 minutes before closing time!), I was able to figure out every single food on the menu (at least, every single one that looked interesting). Dad ordered zebu tongue. A zebu is like a small, sprightly cow with a camel hump on its back. It's quite cute, and everything on a menu is chicken, fish, or zebu, if it's meat at all.

The tongue was actually quite good, though I had half a margherita pizza (the best one in quite some time) and was much too full to appreciate anything but the pizza sauce.

We rested a bit longer, and I almost finished Perfume— though I have hit 60,000 words, so I suppose that's something. It's just that endings are always the worst part. Oh well. I'll figure that out too. It's hard to wrap something up, as anyone who's read these worlds can probably tell. The endings are mostly an awkward conclusion sentence. 

Ileana and I sat down and decided to actually write out the script tonight— we have the first… three paragraphs. They're the beginning, the introduction, and right after that we'll go into a music-video montage sort of thing, then into the body of the actual video.

… I have no idea how this is going to work. I'm just hoping we survive through the script, and I have no idea how we're going to be able to put it into an interesting, attention-capturing video.

Then again, I have to consider the fact that instead of, "Oh, that's cool," the general reaction to our trip is, "OH MY. Fifteen MONTHS? Around the WORLD?" So most likely, we won't have any trouble 'selling' it.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

The Trip to Madagascar


We're in Madagascar!

But I can't really say much about it because actually, it's 12am here (11pm for our bodies). I had the terrible misfortune of having fallen asleep on the three hour something plane ride… and sleeping practically the entire time. Hence, I could quite conceivably survive till 3am without feeling any effects beyond certain beheadment— the siblings seem to think that it's bedtime, which means that anything I say, or do, is liable to give me the capital punishment.

We drove all day, picked up Ileana's waterbottle, and reached the airport at about 11am. Dad gave the car back, and thankfully he didn't have to pay anything extra for the tire damage (yay for insurance!). We spent the next 5 hours in the airport. Ioan seemed to make friends with every single male semi-teenager in the airport, either by playing ball of some sort or smiling… which was pretty interesting. They sat just behind us in tha plane— a first, since usually the people we meet in the airport tend to be at the other end of the plane, despite the fact that we sit in the middle. They didn't talk much (I don't think), and it was a pretty quiet plane ride except for take-off and landing… I've never had so much turbulence in 8 months of flying, nor has there ever, in my experience, been such an explosive landing— before we even slowed down, everyone in the plane was clapping and giving out advice to the pilot, "THE BRAKES!"

I'm not sure if it's a Madagascarian or South African thing, but it was nice.

People in Madagascar speak a sort of French, but I'm certain it's Madagascar French rather than… French French. 

We arrived in the airport, shook hands with the two drivers, and got into 50 year old cars that we couldn't see the inside of very well. They were very comfortable, despite the fact that you could tell they were quite old. 

The air was perfumed as we drove on unlit streets to get to the hotel.

It's a cute little guesthouse sort of set-up, with doors that stick, huge bathrooms (ours is sans toilet seat, and though we haven't tried it yet, I think it flushes by bucket), and an ancient air con that, surprisingly enough, works well. So well that I'm cold.

I didn't leave freezing Johannesburg just to reach a country where everyone 'needs' freezing cold air con! But there's no discussing anything with anyone tonight, so I'll freeze for at least one night.

In other news, I'm almost finished with Perfume! There's at least 4000 words before I declare the book "ready for editing," but it might possibly last a bit longer, to 65,000 words. Which would be quite interesting.

I'm hoping that with this book I'll be able to get past the big, huge wall that is the Editing phase. My inner editor, when it rears its head, tends to be so bad that it not only says, "This sucks," but also, "You can't fix it in a timely manner," and "Why not just write more? On a new story?"

Friday, June 22, 2012

Blyde River and Other Locations


Instead of sitting in the car today, looking outside at savannah and animals, we drove from canyon to canyon (well, lookout point to lookout point at one of the deepest canyons in the world), getting out frequently to look around, take pictures, and shiver a little.

It's getting colder as we go down south… I'm starting to wonder why winter was ever invented. I'm most certainly a person who likes heat when it all comes down to it, and if there's not something more than a canyon with so much fog you can't see the canyon properly, then I'm really not interested in cold. Unless a) I'm doing physical activity or b) it's such an important landmark (something equivalent to Mt. Everest is the minimum) that it's a must-see or c) there's someone there whom I like and who can make me laugh. As it is, I'd still be complaining quite a lot, kind of just for the fun of it.

Anyway. We saw the Blyde River (happiness river in Afrikaans), (think blithe). It's amazing, but it's got heights, which means that I'm mostly watching everyone in the family like a hawk to make sure they don't venture too close to the edge. When I have enough of the heart-stopping fear that they're going to go too far out, (which means, when I think I've seen enough of the scenery), I simply turn my back and look in a completely different direction. It's much easier not to be scared when you can't see them.

We also planned out a bit more of the camp presentation Ileana and I are going to make. It's going to be about 30 minutes (hopefully), explaining why this trip isn't the longest vacation ever, and that with the disappearance of homework comes a wealth of problems. I am not going to go into them at the moment, since it would take a large amount of words.

But the point I'm trying to make is… we came up with the ending: "Sometimes all of the jet lag and change gets to us…"

Whereupon will follow a great deal of our silliness, because, to be honest, we got quite silly today. 'Attacks' between the redcoats and blackcoats, (Ioan was a quadruple agent), jumping off rocks… ninja skills… etc.

The day wasn't over yet, though. On the way to Middleburgh, a guy in front of us was passing, with us passing right behind him. He decided to turn to the left, being on the righthand side of the road (here you drive on the left). Dad had to go straight into a pothole to avoid crashing into his back. We lost one hubcap then, one hubcap later, on the shoulder, and drove slowly to a Bottlecap Shop (or something), where a nice group of guys helped us change the tire, in exchange for about $4 for two beers.

We're all safe, and maybe in about ten years it will be a hilarious story.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Even More Animals


Today was the last day we spent in Kruger National Park. We'll come back after Madagascar, but for now, I think we've had enough, despite the fact that all the animals are fascinating to watch.

I'm not going to go into details… this will be the third day I describe our encounters with impalas and zebras and wildebeast (funny thing is, after a few days… "Yeah, it's another zebra herd. Interesting… more giraffes… we don't have to stop, do we?")

Even African Elephants, which are, to be honest, huge, have become slightly boring.

We were on a time limit, trying to get out of the park by 3pm. Dad turned to Mom, "Should we stop at the bridge up ahead?" he asked.

"If there's anything to see," Mom said, "we'll stop."

As we pulled onto the bridge, a few other cars were stopped, and people were looking over the brideg down to the valley below. Mom looked over and started getting really excited.

"Shoes on! We definitely want to get out! Shoes on, everybody!"

Looking out the window… a herd of elephants, complete with youngsters (one must have been either just born or less than a year old). They were at the edge of the river, walked to get a drink, then waded (or swam) to a small 'island' in the middle. It's a very slow-moving river, more like a long, thin lake with lots of land between. We watched them with binoculars, took all sorts of pictures and videos, gave a cursory glance to the sleeping hippos on the far side of the river… looked around a bit more, watched the elephants as they made a completely useless turn in the middle of the landmass, and decided to keep going.

While driving, the parents spied something, the size of a cat and spotted a bit like a leopard, crossing the road. We almost screeched to a stop. It was a civet, looking around for millipedes and what-not. We filmed it walking through the grass, then took pictures of it crossing the road.

We were all a bit crazy afterwards as we scanned the trees for leopards, our hopes starting to fall with each new section of savannah.

"I'm glad we saw the civet." I said, "Because they offer tours for lions and leopards and cheetahs, but not civets."

But the craziness of the day wasn't over yet. Dad, driving, patted Mom's hand rapidly, pointed ahead (I put my glasses on in record time), and STOPPED the car. A leopard, having assured itself that to cross was safe, looked at our stopped car from about ten feet away, incredibly self-confident, and kept crossing. Ioan filmed him slipping into the tall grass, before disappearing altogether.

We were over the moon.
And laughing fit to burst when Ioan looked at the footage of the day and discovered that the elephants had walked around a crocodile, sunning itself with mouth open, very obviously and right in the middle of the action.

None of us noticed at the time, of course.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

More Animals


We woke up at a more normal our and got into the car to drive 178km to another camp.

According to the road regulations, this should have taken us about three and a half to four hours. Instead…

We stopped for impalas, zebras, and giraffes crossing the road.

We took detours to look at hippos (we saw six today, all from far, far away).

We stopped to photograph giraffes (grand total of fifteen).

We cooed over baby zebras (one itsy bitsy one, a few slightly older… at least a hundred zebras today!), watched a few play-fighting, 

We saw two ostriches, one male strutting around like nobody's business, absolutely unphased by the fact that two zebras were biting each others' ears off right behind him, the other a female that was lookking a bit lost.

Most of the day was spent in driving, everyone looking out the window to spot some wild animal. At one point, someone will shout out something and Dad will suddenly break, bringing us to a halt.

"DIK DIK!" I shouted. It's a small deer-like creature, incredibly shy, that's generally solitary. It stands… 38cm at the shoulder? Small. I'm amazed I spotted it with my glasses off— most animals tend to look like rocks.

Dad reversed and we went back, back, back, back, back until we finally saw the dik dik. It has huge ears, wide eyes, and it was staring at us. We took as many pictures as we could before it finally decided to bound away.

A little while later, an African Buffalo carcass, being fed on by scavenging birds. Others were circling around, so we got some good photos of them. Their wings are a beautiful cookie-brown sort of color… but their heads! Ugly!

When we reached the camp, we went to the elephant museum, where there's a life-sized mural of an African elephant's life cycle— from conception to adulthood, almost. If I curled up, I could fit inside its skull. An adult's heart is the size of Dad's rib cage, perhaps bigger. It's astounding how big they are!

There was also a nice, long time line full of elephants in history— whether in war, circuses, work, books, or on coins. There are actually quite a few instances— in 1991 Asian elephants carried officials, papers, and ballot boxes for the elections in India.

In the middle of looking through the exhibit, the termite movie started. Termites are closely related to cockroaches rather than ants. They live most of their lives in complete darkness.

Now, termites look pretty interesting. Normal, etc. They have no eyes, but that's fine too. 

The king termite, who lives in the heart of the mound, is a bit bigger than the others, but otherwise normal. The queen, on the other hand… 4 inches long. From the waist up she's normal. Below that however… she looks like a big, gelatinous, pulsing bag. 

Fascinating, of course, but disgusting.

Afterward we played MultiPong. 

… I'm starting to believe I can't win anything.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A List


We got up at 5:30am to go see animals. And I'll just write a quick list here…

- Buffalo
- Zebras
- Impalas
- Nyalas
- Dik-dik
- Kudus
- Elephants
- An old male giraffe
- A rock hyrax
- Wart hogs.
- Baboons
- Vervets

Not to mention vultures, puzzards, yellow hornbills, etc etc etc. The bird species tend to make no sense to me. Rest assured, there were quite a lot.

And they're everywhere! Birds and animals. It was a bit of a surprise to see the giraffe— his spots were almost black, but more like a very dark chocolate than anything.

We also the sunrise as well— it looked like a fire in the distance, which was amazing. We took so many pictures…

And filmed, and looked with the binoculars…

Let me explain, actually.

No, it's too much. Let me sum up.

Basically we met Frank (the bird guide), Thomas (the animal guide), and Eric (who I think was the history guide). Three friends, from cape Town and Johannesburg, also joined in— they come about every year for five days.

We drove about 50km in an open-sided jeep to Thulamela, an 'ancient' cizilization that fell apart in the 17th century due to sickness.

At least, that's what scientists think.

After finding out a bit about why a chief is also referred to as a crocodile (both are scary), a bit about the passing on of dignity from generation to generation (they cut up a crocodile and the chief has to swallow one of the stones from the croc's stomach. Before he dies, the chief has to vomit up the stone, which his heir will then swallow), a bit about 'seh-koo-ree-TEE,' and a bit about leopard scat.

We also saw baobabs— they grow about one meter in circumfrence every hundred years, and they're possibly the only tree you can't kill by cutting the bark off all around the trunk. Ioan climbed one with everyone watching on worriedly— apparently leopards like to hide in the holes. (They were huge. We didn't measure the circumfrence, but they must have been at least 500 years old).

Later in the afternoon, after coming back from the group thing,we set off in the rental car. With Elvis Presley playing in the car, everyone looked out the window, trying to spot something.

It's interesting that at times I feel I can see quite clearly, especially when we're moving at fast speed. 

And then, we came home and ate dinner.

Dad came in to play chess with Ioan, but he still needed five minutes, so I suggested MultiPong. 

First Dad and I played, then Ioan joined in— for a while one of us would play with two fingers (up to four players can play the game at a time), listening to music all the while (and I never knew we had such awesome music still!). Then Ileana joined in…

For the farce of the century. Ioan won 9 games, Ileana won 7, Dad 5, and me… 2. TWO.

Monday, June 18, 2012

An Elephant


We're in Kruger National Park!

We started off this morning to a 'basic' breakfast, 'nothing fancy.' We had Rice Krispies, YOGURT, all sorts of other cereals, orange juice, bread, margarine… sure, nothing basic! For us it looked like a feast. It actually was. Everything was delicious, though we were freezing, and we got into the car and started off.

About fifteen minutes away…

"Did anyone get my waterbottle?" Ileana asked in a very small voice.

We all turned to look at her.

"Where was it?"

"Under the bed…"

We decided to get it when we came back from the National Park. It's a bit mind-boggling, though, that after all this time we've managed to misplace a waterbottle.

We drove all day, basically looking out the window.

It's a really terrible thing, this not-wearing glasses, because I can't see without them, and up close I can't see with them without getting a headache. So whenever I put them on, it's generally to look further away than six feet. Any closer is only for a moment, and then I'm focusing on a point in the distance. This is one of the most ridiculous experiments/challenges I've ever undertaken. It's also quite annoying. Most of the rest of the world is related in some way or another. What you see in Malaysia is a lot like in Indonesia, which has relations to India (they all have some relation to India, actually), or China (or any other such group).

But Africa is pretty much all its own, though the scenery reminds me of a greener Australia with mountains in the distance. 

We reached Kruger National Park, signed the papers, and drove in.

Finst thing we see is a hornbill (or something, it looks like Zazoo from The Lion King, except… garyer). It's pecking on the side of the road, only a few feet away from the entrance.

I spotted it without my glasses.

Next: deer or impalas, we're not sure which, in a huge group of about thirty. A little while later, a smaller group of the same species.

And then…

"An elephant!" Mom exclaims. Dad stops the car. Mom rolls down her window. Everyone in the back seat is trying to get a good look, because the elephant is just now walking behind some trees.

Lovely. All we can see are its ears, probably its backside… and it's walking away, or seems to be.

What it's actually doing is walking towards the road, preparing to cross it. We wait for it to cross the road, taking dozens of pictures. When it gets to the other side Dad abruptly remembers that he can roll down his window as well, so he does, as fast as he can (this is an older sort of car— to roll the window down you have to rotate a small lever a couple of times. It's slower than the automated versions).

It's a bit later that we actually realize…

"WE SAW AN ELEPHANT!"