Wednesday, July 20, 2011

'Sala Kahle' South Africa!

Sala Kahla means 'Stay Well' in Zulu. I don't want to say Hamba Kahle or 'Goodbye' because I hope to see you again very soon and get to know you much better, South Africa... December perhaps?

So, I'm in Benoni near Johannesburg Airport 'relaxing' before Part II of my journey through Africa. I'm essentially the only guest at this hostel with a beautiful room, king size bed, flat screen TV, and outdoor pool that is calling my name at the moment...

However, I am literally in the middle of nowhere surrounded by farmland with two rottweilers who patrol the hostel (not gonna lie, they're frightening, but I'm safe?)

I leave tomorrow for Jinja, Uganda to visit Mallori, one of my best friends from high school :).  We will also be taking a 5 day trip to Ethiopia together and I just can't wait to see her and her life in Africa!

Paired with my excitement, I'm feeling a bit sad after saying farewell to my team from the US yesterday. They are currently finishing up their layover in Paris en route to Boston... my thoughts and prayers are with them as they head home. I wouldn't know where to begin on re-capping my time in Pretoria, South Africa, so today I just want to share some memories with you:

Game Park Round 1: Gorgeous day but animals were far away!

Some of US Team in SA at Game Park 1:
Back: Amanda, Hillary, Tati, Sarah, Michelle, Kaylee, Me, Ron, & Ben Bell
Front: Ari, Valarie, Kelly, Maddie & Jess
Game Park Round 2: Krugersdorp...
Animals up close and personal... AMAZING!!!

Baby Simba and me!

Still sleepy, but he sat up for me!

Tati, Tara, Me, Ben Bell, & Hillary at Krugersdorp Game Park :D
Post-Sunset drive back from wild animal fun...

Kia's last day of teaching math to the Roosters!

3rd Place went to the Roosters at Mamelodi's Got Talent:
La Cucaracha (I taught my class some Spanish ;), free-style dance, & a bit of singing!

Making great friends in South Africa: Where's SS, Ari?

'Eish' ... found him but not sure where Kia & SS are looking...

Rehab (Refelwe) & Grace Swing Dancing:
'Outstanding Attendance' & simply two beautiful girls
Roosters gettin' crazy on the last day of school!

Lily Pads & Red Rocks at Klein Kariba

Sunset over Klein Kariba from 'Baboon Nation'...
(about 20 baboons hiding behind me on the rocks- a bit scary)

Happy-sad tears shed saying good-bye to a new best friend, Ari <3!
Thank you Todd & Tara Humphreys for encouraging me to take this journey!
I love you guys and wish you the best in Boston- hope to see you soon :)

To my folks and friends who haven't heard this yet (love you!), I hope to return next year to help facilitate the Mamelodi Initiative and Community Development here in Pretoria, while I wait for law school decisions, but there are many plans and prayers needed until then, so for now... Hamba Kahle South Africa!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

More on Mamelodi

I realize that on my last post, I shared a lot of what we were doing as "tourists" here in South Africa, however the most important part of our trip is our mission at the Mamelodi Winter Program at the University of Pretoria. I have 11-13 students in my class now and we are having so much fun learning together. Even though we have class outside with limited supplies, it's wonderful to see how much my kids enjoy learning. I certainly wasn't that engaged at 14 years old!

Vukosi, Basetang, Me, & Audrey
Goofy Bunch: Grace, Beauty K, Beauty Z, Kagiso, Karabo, & Refelwe
That's all for now! Hope to update more soon. Missing my family, friends, and pup!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"Sawubona" South Africa!

"Sawubona" in Zulu means Hello!

I'm sorry that I haven't been able to post until now, however the internet access is costly and our team is extremely busy. There are SO many things I would like to share with you, but for today I'll just post a few pictures. I'm sitting at the Menalyn Mall Center in Pretoria after our second day of classes. It's just like our malls in the US, but with almost all your purchasing needs in one place and an internet cafe!

Our first flight left from Boston at 5:30 PM on Monday, June 20 and we arrived to a dreary (14 hour layover) in Paris on the 21st. We were able to leave the airport for day sight-seeing, but due to a sleepless flight, we decided to spend a couple hours walking around and then decided to take it easy. Tara, Todd, and I got separated from the group on the way to the Eiffel Towel and decided to justify a few few hours sitting at a street side cafe with this view:

We boarded late in the evening and tried to sleep as much as possible on the almost 11 hour flight to Johannesburg. Such a relief to arrive safely baggage and all!

Driving to Pretoria...
We're staying a lovely center in Silverton (Pretoria). The people here are incredibly friendly and welcoming; they are filled with warmth and have genuinely joyful spirits. We've done so much in our short time here including visiting the Public Gardens (gorgeous!), Apartheid Museum, and Johannesburg. Last Friday night we played in a drum circle in the middle of an African field somewhere!

On Sunday we took a day of rest. It was a beautifully sunny-cool day, so after attending Willows Church, a few of us walked for a few hours through the Botanical Gardens near our site:

"Happily Lost" in the woods of the Botanical Gardens
Waterfall.. we found it!
After the gardens I made my way up to our Chapel on the Hill ;) and watched the most beautiful sunset I've ever seen:

We started classes yesterday for the Mamelodi (township) Winter Program. I have 7 students so far and they are absolutely incredible. I'm sorry I can't share more now, but I hope to update at least once every 2 weeks. Please keep me, our team, and our students in your thoughts and prayers.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Beantown to SOUTH AFRICA!

It's so nice to be back in Boston! Two beautifully sunny days, morning walks to the beach,and a fun stay with Tara and Todd Humphreys at their beautiful home was a wonderful way to start the journey to Africa. Sitting at Boston Logan airport waiting to board my second flight of TEN this summer, I wanted to quickly share my itinerary: 1. All day layover in Paris tomorrow and arrival in Johannesburg on Wednesday, June 22. 2. Drive to Pretoria, South Africa and stay until July 19th for one month mission trip with Campus Crusade (Boston)- we'll be tutoring and reaching out to the township of Mamelodi. 3. July 21: Johannesburg to Entebbe, Uganda for a 2.5 week stay with one of my best high school friends, Mallori Morris, who is a project manager for the United American Partnership Organization (UAPO)in Jinja, Uganda :) - can't wait to catch up! 4. August 6: Entebbe to Cape Town for 10 days of solo travel, sightseeing, winelands, and many photos! 5. August 16: Cape Town to Johannesburg for final four days until returning to Boston and home to Miami... I hope to share travel stories and photos along the way :D ... (Apologies for the format- sent without proofreading from a shattered screen iPhone) PS- the new background photo is overlooking Champagne (Reims) October 2008.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Buen trabajo Rep├║blica Dominicana

Back in rainy (chilly) April in New York, I really needed a lie on the beach, read a book, watch a sunset, sun-cation. Without dramatizing the details, my life has changed significantly over the past few months and although some call it "funemployment," I don't quite get it. Granted, studying for the LSAT isn't exactly a walk in the park, but even with a little free time, I'm not accustomed to relaxing

I searched Caribbean deals and saw hundreds of budget friendly all-inclusive trips. After weighing the pros and cons of what seemed like endless options:, I decided one week in the DR would suffice. The website is like vacation deals on speed, but they had some good options (believe me I searched tons of sites!).  The only kicker is the advertised price says it includes the flight, but final cost may vary from your airport, so some destinations are better than others depending on where you live. 

Q: Punta Cana vs. Puerto Plata?

After reading the reviews, I gathered that Punta Cana has nicer beaches, but during peak "I need a warm weather vacation now!" season, I decided that saving $300+ was worth it and chose beautiful Puerto Plata:

Afternoon beach spot in Puerto Plata
My wonderful friend Whitney and I packed our bags, boarded a 3.5 hr flight, & took a 40 min cab ride to the bungalow style RIU Bachata All-inclusive Resort:

RIU Bachata is exactly as pictured.

Note: The resort is connected to RIU Mambo & RIU Merengue. RIU Bachata is the newest and nicest, but you have access to all 3 - we made use of all the beaches!   

Our first room left much to be desired (1st floor/partial view/broken AC), so I put my Spanish to work and asked ever-so-nicely if they had anything a little higher up with an ocean view. After working in the hospitality industry, I've learned it's not what you ask for, it's how you ask, and a genuine thank you goes a long way. After all, the resort wasn't full and well-run hotels want you to be happy :D 

Sunset from our 3rd floor balcony.. (Ignore pink bungalow, we did.)
WB & BB: very happy with our balcony!
Our Bungalow... (well, the green one behind it)... didn't get quite that lucky.

Gotta love attempting photos when it's just two of you. I'm not a huge fan of "solo" shots, however the "long arm" in every picture trying to squeeze us in isn't perfect either. We did have a few fun photo shoots at the Gazebo though: 

"Floppy Hat"
Whitney rockin' the "solo" shot!
"Beautifully Breezy"
(just about lost the hat...)
"Happy Feet"
(not sure why my feet get so tan...)
No need to wander far from our resort, but our vacation wouldn't have been complete without...

1) Early morning walks:

"Captivatingly Calm"
2) Mid-morning baking and swimming at the beach:

"Hi Whitney!" 
3) Afternoons reading (or naps) on the beach:

"Balmy Breeze"
4) Cocktails from our bartender Edison and Cava on our balcony: 

"Bubbly on the Balcony"

5) Clean rooms complete with folded animal towels:

6) Sunsets, sunsets, sunsets

"Sunset under a green spotlight"
Puerto Plata Airport
Overall, a week in Puerto Plata was just what we needed. I wouldn't say the resort was "wedding, honeymoon, or extra-special occasion friendly," but for a great price we had everything we needed for a week long beach vacation. Thoughts on RIU Bachata All-Inclusive

The Good: 

* All meals, beverages, alcohol, and activities included aside from spa
* Extraordinarily friendly staff: welcoming, attentive, & helpful
* Warm & sunny days despite the rainy weather forecast
* Offered sit-down restaurant options and buffets
* Daily room & resort cleaning (very well-maintained)  
* Beautiful beach, nice pool area with swim-up bar, and small gym
* Easy transportation to/from airport arranged at the front desk

The Bad:

* The food and alcohol were plentiful, but nothing to write home about... though I like fruit, hard-boiled eggs, and salad greens anything beyond those options were iffy for my "non-buffet friendly" lifestyle
* Towel card system was annoying with only one area to get towels
* Activities, rendition of the Lion King, & "nightlife" were odd
* Some interesting clientele... (won't elaborate)  

The Ugly:

* Topless women who well, just shouldn't have been topless
* One really annoying "excursion promoter" who just wouldn't let it go 
* Musty smell from closets on our clothes when we got home  

Nos vemos Rep├║blica Dominicana!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

moot points by a 20-something travel enthusiast

Recently, I've found myself wondering about blogs. Where do 'blogs' come from? Why do people create blogs? Can someone steal my identity if I blog? Do I have time to blog? Will anyone actually read my blog? The more I thought about blogs, the more I wanted to try create one...

I love to travel and hope to see as much of the world as possible. I love taking pictures and getting lost in the culture of new cities. Aside from baggage charges, awkward security scans, and miniature toiletry bottles, there is nothing quite like packing a <carry-on> suitcase and boarding an airplane. I am so blessed to have had opportunities to venture out of my hometown of Miami, Florida, and feel it's time to document some of my journeys, stories, and photos. Even if this catches the attention of just one travel buff, parent, or friend, here goes nothing...

I'm officially a blogger, enjoy!

PS- 'Blog' was coined from the word web-log in 1999. There are over 150 million public blogs in existence today...