Monday, June 23, 2008

Look Right First

* I guess the simplest, yet also the hardest, thing to get used to here in South Africa is you have to look right first when you cross the road. They drive on the left side of the road here, so look right or get run over. The other ‘odd’ thing is it s winter here. So I have pictures of late fall trees; yellow leaves and such.

* The other title of this post I had would have been ‘Orange Diplomacy’. I went climbing with a transplanted Oregonian (more later on that..) up north where it’s warmer (yea...). On the way back we dropped by a fruit stand and I bought a bag of oranges, about at least 30 of them, all softball size or larger. I got the bag for 10 rand, which is $1.25USD. Yes, that is one George bill and a George coin. So I’ve been walking around and giving them away to anyone who wanted one. One week later, I finally got rid of the last one. And yes, I did eat at least 1-2 oranges a day to help this process along. Great way to make friends and meet people.

* Climbing in South Africa is awesome. Most of the approaches are short and there are no lines for 5-star classic climbs. Even when it’s sunny at the crag and raining in Cape Town. Chris, the Oregonian, is here with his wife and kids. His wife is here on a Fullbright teaching exchange, he’s just chilling around and climbing. So we got a car for a few days and went up north and did some climbing in Montagu and Cederburg.

* Russian football was awesome! Go Russia! We went out to The Dubliner, a local Irish Pub, to watch the game between Russia and Netherlands. After we settled down, all these Dutch showed up in their Orange. So my buddy, Hanif, an Iranian from Sweden, decides we are cheering for Russia. We had some fun there until halftime, when we headed back to the hostel. We later regretted this decision as we weren’t there to rub the loss into the face of the Dutch. To my Dutch friends: I’m sorry.. I had to cheer for Russia... However... you HAVE to admit Russia played an AWESOME game, absolutely outstanding!!

* Robben Island is the place where the Apartheid government imprisoned their black political prisoners, most famous one being Nelson Mandela for 18 years. The tour was eye opening. I’ve never been to any European concentration camps so I don’t know what that would be like. At Robben Island, one thing you can get is a tour from a former inmate, and the stories.. wow! They showed how the dog kennels were larger then the prisoner cells. How the prisoners weren’t given a bed, just slept on a concrete floor. How even in prison they segregated the Asians, Colored (which in South Africa means mixed raced) and Blacks.

* The weather here has just been awful, rain every day. I've been up Table Mountain twice now and both times I've started out in clear blue sky and summited in the pouring rain. Most mornings I wake up late knowing that there will be rain in the morning and sunny in the afternoon. So it's been late mornings and late nights out. Cape Town has a blast none the less, and yes it's safe here. Very Safe.
Those are just some thoughts for now. May post more later.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Time Zone Dissonance

48 hours after taking off in LA I've landed in Cape Town. The city is charming, I'm sure, but I have no idea right now. The people at the hostel forgot about my meet and greet at the airport, however I'm not upset at all, in fact I'm suffering from so much sleep deprivation that I'm detached...

* If any of you plan to fly through LAX, please note that there is not a single mailbox in the airport. You have to leave the airport to get to one. This I found out as I was on my way out of the country and I needed to mail off some last minute stuff to my parents... I'm still holding onto this stuff, I'm thinking of hiring a carrier pigeon...

* I found out 1 hour before my flight to Cape Town from Frankfurt that I need a return or onward ticket to get into South Africa. Needless to say this caused me some worry... However the ticket agent at the gate was very nice and helpful, only charged me 1,800€ for my return ticket... he says it's fully refundable.. I haven't checked yet... cross your fingers...

Just some initial thoughts from Cape Town.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

I Dream of Jeannie...

Nothing too much to report the last few days. Been at Cocoa Beach and doing the standard beach stuff: wake up late, go to beach, walk, eat, drink, sleep, rinse and repeat....

* One of the more exciting stuff to report was the Shuttle Launch, we weren’t close enough to get our bones rattled by the take-off but we could still hear the rumble about 1 minute after take-off. I’ve posted pictures of the launch and our day at the beach.

* The other good story was how I got here. I was scheduled to fly from Anchorage to LA, with a 10 hour lay-over and then from LA to Frankfurt to Cape Town. However Thursday morning, 16 hours before my flight Navid messages me that he would be in Florida for his launch (GLAST). Somewhere in the conversation it gets mentioned that I could be there; you know flying over the US, I just grab a parachute and jump... Figuring nothing ventured nothing gained, I called my travel agent to see what could be done. After some calls it turns out it’ll cost me $1600+ to rebook my Cape Town flight, I’d get $650 back for my current flight and I’d still have to buy a ticket from LA to Florida, about $200. After a day of hiking I realize I don’t need to cancel my flight, just reschedule it. So I call that afternoon about 7 hours before my flight to see what it would cost to reschedule my flight. My agent tells me that she’s leaving for the day but it would be $225 (what the airline charges) and $50 what they charge plus the cost difference. She tells me to call her in LA the next morning. This I do, landing in LA 7 am PDT I call her. She searches and finds out that it would cost me $304 total to reschedule my flight, I find a $400 round-trip ticket form LA to Jacksonville...
So Rescheduled flight: $304,
Roundtrip tickets: $400,
Spending a week with friends in Florida for a once in a lifetime satellite launch: Priceless.

* In the end, Navid’s launch has been delayed at least a week, no point in rescheduling my flight, and they aren’t staying either...

Heading to Cape Town June 8th.

PS: Navid's servers are down because of the storm, should be back up in a few days.