Stellenbosch

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This is Stellenbosch. It’s beautiful, right?

After leaving Phinda, the four of us (me, my sister, my dad, and our friend Schalk, who lives in Stellenbosch and therefore showed us around) drove back to the Durban Airport. Our flight to Johannesburg actually got delayed for five hours because there was a crack in the plane’s windshield. It was okay, though, because we found another flight (shout-out to OneTime Air) and British Airways gave us a refund (shout-out to British Airways too, because that was really nice.) So that only left us an hour behind schedule.
And what did we do on our first night there? Oh yeah. We ate, and then we got drunk at a bar called The Mystic Boer. Well, they got drunk. I kind of took one shot of something that tasted atrocious (oh yeah, it was Patron!), looked around the room and saw lots of guys, and it made me miss mine. I am obstinately loyal, and all I really wanted to do was go back the hotel because it had heated bathroom floors and the bed… oh my god.
I slept beautifully, especially because I didn’t have to wake up at 5:00 the next day. And then I got to have coffee and French toast and fruit and yogurt (Bulgarian yogurt is the best yogurt ever, by the way) and I was so happy.

Then we went out to this place that um, has a bunch of cheetahs… I forget what it was called. All I know is that I got to pet a cheetah and his name was Joseph and I foolishly took a Doxycycline pill without a Tum so I felt really sick. Also I wasn’t allowed to take any pictures in the cage.

We thought the cheetahs there were drugged because they were so… calm. They weren’t, though. Cheetahs keep their activity to a minimum when they don’t have to do anything that involved running because running at high speeds takes up so much energy for them. Except I don’t really know how they’d get much running done in a fenced-in area.
Cheetahs also have a wonderful sense of humor, I’ve discovered.

And yes, I have to represent my country.

Stellenbosch (and greater Stellenbosch) is famous for wine and Stellenbosch University. I’ll start with the wine.
From my observations, Stellenbosch is South African wine country. And the wine is pretty good, which is saying a lot, because I can’t really drink alcohol without making a funny face and feeling shivers run down my back.
Personally, I think the cheese was better. South Africa is renowned for cheese as well. Heaven!

A giant wine bottle obviously means that my sister needs a new profile picture.

After all that, we just went back to the town and walked around a little. I think Schalk drove us around the university too. Lots of white buildings.
We made a few friends, too – part of it might have been fate, but most of it was my dad’s lack of restraint when it comes to talking about himself around people he just met. But it turned out well. We ended up going to Cape Town that night with them to see our new friend’s son’s band 3rd World Spectator play a show at a restaurant. It was pretty fun. I got to try pizza with bananas on it, which is actually really good. I knew it would be, too. And the band was great. They can do a mean cover of “Where Is My Mind?” by The Pixies, and I really like their song “Ambulance.” And then I sat by a fire and fell asleep sitting upright, which was a great new accomplishment for me. Ha!
The next day we actually went to Cape Town again (because we had actually planned it far in advance instead of mere hours before), so that means I’m out of Stellenbosch pictures and tales. Actually I have one more. We ate Indian food with all the people we met, and it was a really good time. I do have a picture of that.

 Well, that’s all I’ve got from Stellenbosch. I need to go to bed – I’m kind of in trouble because of something my puppies chewed up. And I have tons of Austria things to do tomorrow, so I need to fall asleep within the next hour. The internet just loves to distract me.
Anyway, I’m out. Thanks for reading, and I’ll be back tomorrow!

The Book

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Here’s the book I made my dad for his birthday if any of you are interested in looking through it.
And yes, that does mean I managed to work through the Blurb software. Hope you like it!

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/invited/2726282/a8e468f069b53e36cb19c6902eb2762d0ca745ea

Safari: Day 5

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My immune system has weakened over the past week. That means I have the flu, and that means I have spent the majority of my day in bed finishing up this photo book and watching Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix (but mostly watching Avatar). I have finished arranging the book, though, so that means I can return to posting, and that means I can finally sum up my days on safari – and that means you get to see lion domestic violence.

Here is the lowdown: The pride we saw the night before has two adult males in it, and they’re brothers. The older brother is in charge of the pride. Under lion hierarchy, any additional adult male is ranked under not just the leader, but also the lionesses and the cubs. You know how Scar is an outsider in The Lion King? It’s kind of like that.
On this morning, however, the younger brother decided that he wanted to be in charge. He challenged his brother and won, making him the new leader of the pride. All the lionesses and cubs were supposed so follow him now. Except that didn’t necessarily happen. One of the lionesses went back to the old leader, and they had it out.


Anyway, the photos:

The older brother

The cubs kept sneaking up and trying to watch the fight. Then the old leader would roar at them and scare them away. I thought they were adorable. They’re just like humans!

Then we drove away because we were afraid to keep following the lions. A girl in our Jeep was so afraid she was in tears. I don’t blame her, though. If that happened while I was on my very first day on safari ever, I would freak out too. The game driver got a transmission saying that two male cheetahs we saw earlier that morning had made a kill, so we headed in that direction.
On the way, I finally got to take a decent picture of a giraffe.

And we saw our new friend Hal.

I just think cheetahs are really great animals to photograph. It’s like the cheetahs at Phinda knew exactly what I wanted. The next time I saw a cheetah, it would be in captivity.


Well, that concludes all of my safari posts, and that means I am about halfway through my trip. I’m dead certain that I’ll be stuck in bed all day tomorrow too. I’m looking forward to sharing the rest of my photos and experiences from the trip.
Goodnight! I’m going to watch some more cartoons now.

Safari: Day 4

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Photos from day four:

You know, just some baby cheetahs being adorable.

And here is their mommy

The cubs kept trying to act like their mother, which was precious. Unfortunately, it meant that anything the mother tried to hunt heard or saw the cubs and ran away.

I’m sorry about the fuzz on my lens. Or whatever it was. I couldn’t get it off no matter how many times I cleaned it.

But the mom looked straight at me, which was awesome.

I can’t remember what kind of bird this was.

And then we ran into a rhino…

.. and her baby!

And after it got dark, we ran into the pride of lions. Lions hunt at night, so it was easier to find them.

The baby!

I know I’m getting kind of repetitive with my safari posts, but the good news is that I only have one left, and it’s a really exciting one that includes lion domestic violence. And I’ve got some videos of it, so you’ll get to hear what I heard and understand why I believed I was about to die.
Tomorrow will be much better. I promise!

Safari: Day 3

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On the third day, the traveler Sarra witnessed a monkey giving another monkey a hand job and two male buffalo fighting over what must have been a classy lady. And then Sarra saw a pregnant zebra, and she found it amusing. And then Sarra drank coffee, and it was good.
And then Sarra was almost attacked by a monkey, and that was not good.

I hope my impression of the Book of Genesis is okay. I’m just trying to switch things up a little because I want to have a lot of fun writing this post. Writing is always fun, but uploading pictures on here is pretty tedious… There must be an easier way to do this. But it is very important to me that you find this post enjoyable because the third day was one of my favorite days on safari minus the part about a monkey threatening to jump on me. And I have a video of my reaction, so hopefully you can sympathize with my fear a little. I tend to have strange fears. I saw some very interesting things on the third day and we finished our big five sightings. (The big five are what the five most impressive animals to see on safari are referred to. The animals on the list are the lion, the leopard, the elephant, the buffalo, and the rhino. There’s also a little five and an ugly five, which really amuses me.)

We started off the day by spending another sunrise with lions.


Then the lions started lying around, so we drove off to look for other animals. Probably buffalo, honestly. On the way, we encountered one slutty monkey. Or at least the monkey was a good friend for grooming the other monkey’s junk. But yeah, it looked hilarious.
*Note: This was the last time I ever saw monkeys without cowering in fear*

Then we stopped by a watering hole and looked at hippos for a few minutes. And I actually got a picture of a warthog, which is kind of hard to do because they’re really shy and run away from everything.


Then we ran into a herd of buffalo and watched two male buffalo battle it out.

After that, we stopped for coffee. By the way, I never mentioned that the coffee I had while I stayed at Phinda was the best coffee I’ve ever had in my life. Maybe it’s just because I’m in college so I’m mainly exposed to mediocre coffee, but I drank at least two cups every day, and I usually… never do that.

I look hot. 

Here is the pregnant zebra.

It was decided among the adults that we switch to a different area of the reservation. So we moved. And the change scared me, because it meant that we were surrounded by monkeys.

A while after I was scarred for life, we got in the Jeep again.

And we found an elephant.

Then we saw a leopard, but he was sleeping. We later found him eating a dead giraffe – he didn’t kill it; like I said yesterday, leopards will scavenge.

After that, we drove out into the darkness and looked at the stars. Being far away from a city and the light pollution that comes with it meant that I saw more stars than I have ever seen in my life during the nighttime game drives. I learned about some constellations that are only specific to the Southern Hemisphere, but that is for another post.
I really have to work on this blurb book for my dad and make actual progress before he comes home so he won’t be angry with me. I’ll be back tomorrow, but chances are I’ll actually be back later today because I hate the photo book software I’m using. I hope you liked day three as much as I did!

Safari: Day 2

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Firstly I’d like to apologize to those of you who actually read this for taking so long to get around to these posts. I’ve been exhausted, at Bonnaroo, and exhausted again. (I will save Bonnaroo for another day, and it’ll be easy because my camera died so I only have two pictures from the whole trip.) Now that my jet lag is finally over and I’m not passing out at 9:30 every night, I’m confident I’ll be able to churn the rest of my South Africa posts out, which is good, because I have a lot of ideas.
Anyway.

I like to think that shit got real during my second day on safari.
Need some proof? This is the first picture I took on the drive that day. This looks like it came straight out of The Lion King.

I felt the most incredible sense of wonder on the first morning I woke up to go on safari (I only went during the afternoon on my first day because we had to drive from Durban to Phinda). I was bundled up and looked like a ninja, and had amazingly woken up right before 5:00 A.M without feeling very tired. I don’t think this could ever be possible in or west of the time zone I reside in. Having jet lag was very good for me in the sense of waking up early.
Doesn’t this lens just make the most incredible difference?

After we set out and I got “Circle of Life” stuck in my head, our game driver took the group out to find some lions. Lions don’t really do much during after morning except sleep. That is, until it gets dark and the pride goes out to hunt. During the day prides chill out together and get into arguments sometimes (I have argument pictures, and I was convinced I was going to die).

After that, the lions started going to sleep, so we drove off and ran into a zeal of zebras (cool group name). Apparently zebras fart constantly… probably from all the grass. But I was told that when a zebra gets scared or is being chased by something, it farts and runs at the same time. Also they make zebra jerky. Those are my fun facts about zebras for you.

Our stop by the zebras was pretty short because the word on the street was that a cheetah and her cubs were eating an impala that she just caught.
Cheetahs are actually pretty low on the food chain because they’re small. Sure, they can run really quickly, but that takes a huge amount of energy and cheetahs can only run at high speeds for short distances. Cheetahs are different from other big cats (well, lions and leopards for certain) in that they refuse to scavenge. They kill everything they eat themselves.
Glory and cuteness spam coming up, guys.

LOOK HOW ADORABLE THEY ARE. I MEAN REALLY.

After sitting in the jeep and ogling over the cheetahs for about 45 minutes, there was a radio transmission saying one black rhino and one white rhino were nearby. This is the white rhino. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I did triple-check.

After that, we went back to where we were staying. The better things happen during the morning and around sunset, so that’s when the drives are. Plus it gets hot.
Anyway, here are some big lion cubs being adorable. I have to work on this photo book for my dad now, so I’ll be back once I get that finished.

Safari: Day 1

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My first day on safari was all about learning. Since I had never done anything like this before (I don’t know whether I should let the “safari” ride at Disney World count), I was obviously thrust into a realm of new experiences. I learned a little bit (not nearly as much as I did in the following days, trust me) about taking photos of animals, a lot about wind chill and how cold it gets outside after the sun starts going down (I guess this was more of a reiteration, but I really learned to appreciate the sun during my time in South Africa), how rapidly and drastically light can change, and about the practice of sundown, which is basically stopping the car for drinks (and a snack, which is much more important for me) and enjoying the sunset. Sundown is also an awesome opportunity to pee outside, and peeing outside is really fun. And I obviously learned about the animals I saw and what they liked, which led to what the game driver called “happy days.”

The most important things I learned on day one were that I should always bring my entire camera with me and it was really great that I didn’t sell my telephoto lens, because I finally had the perfect opportunity to use it. (Or at least what I felt was the perfect opportunity. In the past I’d only used it to spy on people, which probably wasn’t the best use for it even though I enjoyed it.) My photos from my next four days on safari are much better because I actually brought the telephoto lens with me. Hopefully these will still suffice for a post or impress somebody.

Scenery/making sure my camera settings were right

The gang

A nyala. I like to say “hey y’all” to them.

A cheetah and her big babies

Sundown

I took way more pictures over the next four days, so those posts will be much better. Especially since I used my telephoto lens. I promise.

By the way, does anybody know an easier way to upload photos on here? The mass uploader won’t work for me for some reason. The browser uploader is okay, but yeah, I’m uploading a lot of photos and I really don’t want to spend hours doing it. Would updating my safari browser make any differences? I feel like the way I’m going about uploading photos on here is a little archaic. Any advice would help me greatly – I’m a bit of a luddite, and computers really stump me, which is fantastic since I’m a journalism major.
Stay tuned for my later posts, because those pictures are so much better.

Summertime Clothes

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You know how clothing stores will start displaying their warm-wear apparel when the last thing you want to wear outside is a swimsuit?
I hate that. I don’t even really understand why they do it to us. Oh boy, fashion is so complicated that the clothes have to be shown off half a year in advance. All you’re doing is distracting me! I just started school again, don’t get me daydreaming about spring break or summer. I do understand why stores start showing off clothes an entire season ahead from a marketing perspective, but that doesn’t really motivate me to buy anything. Why would I want to buy something I couldn’t wear or use?
All those displays do is make me daydream about summer and going on trips. The time when I’ll actually have an opportunity to wear the vibrant yellow hat or sundress I’ll ogle over but refuse to buy, because I actually can be rational. I just remind myself that I have school the next day and won’t be going anywhere and the weather won’t be warm enough to wear whatever I’m looking at for a long time, and force myself away from the summer clothes.
Now it’s actually happening, though. The opportunity to actually wear these clothes and live out my daydreams, I mean. School is actually almost over. I will be en route to Austria in 63 days. And that’s just one of the places I’ll be going this summer. I’ve got two beach trips, a weekend in New York, Bonnaroo, and a week in South Africa to get through first.
All of those locations are going to require different types of clothing, especially because there will be some drastic temporal changes. Like the beach? I’ll probably be in my swimsuit or a dress the whole time. Plus I’ll be with a bunch of guys, so there’s no reason to dress elaborately or even bathe – okay, I’m kidding about that part. Then comes New York, which isn’t really that tricky except for at night or if I actually want to dress like a young woman. Bonnaroo will be the complete opposite. I feel like everybody there will practically be naked. I’ve got to figure out the best way to keep cool without getting a sunburn. Lollapalooza was hot enough, but this is the south. I stand a much higher chance of getting heat stroke in Tennessee than I did in Chicago. I don’t want to look like I’m trying to be a slut or anything, but I don’t want to be uncomfortably hot, especially since I get dizzy easily.
I have more anxieties about South Africa and wherever I end up going in Europe because those places can get pretty cold. South Africa is in the southern hemisphere, after all, so it’ll be winter when I go. Okay, I just looked up the weather. It’s not too bad. This website I found says the average low temperature for Cape Town is in the 40’s. I guess I will be wearing pants between now and October (and I just pledged that I wouldn’t do it yesterday in celebration that it finally warmed up again here, rats!) and will just have to get over my stigma towards them.
For some reason (and a stupid reason at that) I thought Austria would have perfect weather all summer long since it’s so damn beautiful. Apparently this is not the case. At the Innsbruck trip orientation, a few weeks ago, we were instructed to bring warm clothes because the weather there can be unpredictable. It seems I had forgotten a very important factor while I daydreamed about how beautiful Austria’s weather would be: mountains.
The town is in the mountains. It’s right in the middle of the Alps. I can’t believe I overlooked that, especially because I’ve been in mountainous areas before. It gets cold. Winter is freezing. Summer isn’t, obviously, but it gets chilly and I still classify that as freezing because I can’t really tolerate any temperature under 75 degrees.
I guess I’m worried because we were advised to pack lightly. Usually packing lightly isn’t a huge deal for me. I’m really good at it, actually, minus the toothbrush or socks I’ll forget to throw in my suitcase. I can pack a bag for a weekend in Destin or New York in five minutes. Packing for Utah takes a little longer, because I have to pack anything that can withstand snow (rain boots are actually really good for that).
I feel like packing for Austria is going to be a nightmare. I’ve got to bring my own towel, my school books, and enough clothes for six weeks (I will obviously be washing them). I also have to bring all my prescriptions and any medication I might need since I’ll be in Europe. Apparently Ibuprofen is really hard to get in Europe. I guess I’ll be popular over there because I plan on bringing my bottle with 495 Ibuprofen tablets in it to Austria. You know, for uterus issues.
I have packed for a really long trip before, but it wasn’t as far away or in Europe. Plus I actually goofed and didn’t pack enough warm clothes (apparently winter doesn’t end until July in Massachusetts – at least it felt that way, because it rained the first two weeks) so I had to get my mom to ship me pants and sweaters. I just don’t see how I’ll be packing lightly when I have to account for radical changes in weather. It could get up to the 90s and down to the 40s. I pray to God it won’t get down to the 30s, because that range starts to mess with me. Ice becomes involved in that range.
I don’t exactly plan on sticking to their suggested guidelines, because there is no way I’m bringing two pairs of pants, three pairs of shorts, and one dress to Europe if I’m going to be there for six weeks. That is just not going to fly. I hate pants, so I’m not really concerned about that part, but I’m going to be in other countries! A different continent! I’ve got this huge country and multiple cultures to represent in Europe. I want to look nice for it, you know?
What is the best way to pack for a six-week trip to Europe? Do I need more pairs of pants than I think? How should I dress if I want Europeans to respect me? And should I just not wear that fanny pack of mine anywhere outside of a music festival? It was a hit at Lolla, but will it be appreciated in Vienna or Munich?
Does anybody have good packing advice? I could give you some of my tips in return. All I do is throw some outfits, undergarments, one pair of pajamas, and my toothbrush in a suitcase. What else is good to have in Europe?

Vaccines

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I like to say I know a bit about getting vaccines. I’ve had to get shots for the nerd camp I did at Harvard and last year’s trip to Thailand, and I’m sure I’ll get a few more before I go to Africa with my dad and sister in May and ship off to Austria. Actually I don’t think I need any for Austria. I got that immunization form faxed over to the University of New Orleans within a day of finding out I needed to. Plus I’m a doctor’s kid, so I’m pretty used to having to get shots. My father is paranoid about my sisters and me contracting various diseases.
Want an example? Hepatitis. Oh, my father is obsessed with hepatitis. You’re getting a pedicure? You have to buy your own nail kit. They don’t clean their utensils at those kinds of places. You’ll get hepatitis. (Just for the record, I agree with this statement. My dad did a great job with ) Your friend has tattoos? He needs to come to my office so I can test him or you can’t see him anymore. And I guess my dad has complete faith that I’ll never do heroin, so I have been spared the lecture about getting hepatitis from drug needles. Is my father’s obsession with hepatitis annoying? Hell yes it is. But the thing is that he’s right. Hepatitis B and C aren’t fun to deal with, and they can take anywhere from months to years to treat depending on how bad the cases are. Plus there’s that risk of dying from the disease. Can’t forget about that.
I guess I’m about to make you squeamish. I wonder if I haven’t gotten an important vaccine. Well, I guess not. Actually I haven’t gotten all of my hepatitis vaccines yet – I’m due for my second one pretty soon, I’m guessing. Polio. Meningitis. Whooping cough (that one hurts like a mother.) Influenza (not necessary, but I’m in college, and I got a terrible flu bout my freshman year and did not want to repeat it last fall.) Gardasil, the HPV vaccine that’s supposed to lower one’s rate of cervical cancer. And this isn’t a vaccine, but after I got my appendix out, my IV got inflamed, and that was scarier than any shot I’ve ever had.
Here’s what I know about getting needles stuck in my arm – and hand, because that happened to me once. First of all, and most importantly, you need to find some sort of distraction if you’re afraid of needles like I am. Lots of doctor’s offices have TVs in them, so I’d start there. No TV? Look up. Count the tiles in the ceiling, look for odd shapes, whatever. Or you could close your eyes and repeat a mantra. Mine was “The Oven Bird” by Robert Frost and the first eight lines of Paradise Lost. And if you can, make sure whoever is sticking that needle in you is good at it.
What else do I know? Getting blood drawn hurts way less than getting  a vaccine. And yeah, no matter how much needles terrify you, you should probably get your shots. It’s kind of better than dying.