Monthly Archives: September 2010

boats.

One of my first visual memories of Vilankulo, was when I saw what I like to call the boat graveyard. The graveyard is found in a bay on the other side of town where many boats have beached or been abandoned though the years. With time, many tides and salty water, the metal sides have all rusted away, wood has gathered barnacles and nails barely hold together the skeletons of old fishing boats and trollers.

When I recently received digital copies of my film, more than half of my photos were shots of boats floating in front of my house, resting on the sand during low tide, or sitting over in their final resting space at the graveyard.

Boats are such a definitive part of the seascape here in Vilankulo. Not yachts, not catamarans, and not sleek modern speed boats – but old wood dhows, sometimes fixed up with an engine, rule the water way here. Their sails are made up of reused tarps from trucks or USAID packaging left over from the last cyclone. They are patched together with a sort of Gee’s Bend quilt sort of beauty; random strips of neon colors plastered across black and white plastic.

Some mornings, when the wind is missing, I wake up to the sound of chanting and sea shanties and rush to the window to see dhows being rowed across the channel with big homemade oars. When the tide is high they pass by just 20 or 30 so feet from my front door. I assume they’re on their way to sell their catch on the beach or heading out to deeper waters. The sight never ceases to impress me. 

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Riot in The Streets

We had a bit of excitement a few weeks ago when Maputo shut down because of strikes and riots.  It began in response to several factors including rising school fees, food prices, water prices, transportation costs and general poverty; All valid reasons to express anger and demonstrate frustration with a corrupt government. Sadly, things got a bit out of hand when strikes turned into marching, then looting, then police shooting into crowds. 

Luckily there was no social upheaval in sleepy Vilankulo. Our beach town seems to be too off the beaten path to get caught up in what’s happening in the capital 700 km away. However, it did get people all riled up, and VSO advised me not to go to work for several days – lest I encounter an angry mob marching the sandy streets.

Ultimately the demonstrations and riots were quelled and the transportation costs for buses and chapas were not raised. I’m sure a few more concessions were offered from the government but after more than a week of unrest it seemed to just… pass. 

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On Being An Adult

August 1st was my 25th birthday so I guess that officially puts me at the quarter life mark. Strangely, referring to myself as an adult has gotten a little bit more natural of late. I used to approach that reality with a real sense of disgust and contempt, but now it doesn’t seem quite as awful as I had once viewed it. Perhaps I realize that being an adult does not necessarily mean the denial of wanderlust, enthusiasm and maybe even freedom.

But let me just tell you, that I LOVE birthdays. Okay, I just enjoy holidays in general, but I am an unabashed birthday lover, especially my own. That being said, I don’t expect my birthday to necessarily be a big hurrah, but I do love the annual ritual of hearing my birthday story.

My mom and dad take turns telling me about how they went to the hospital and the nurse didn’t believe my mother was actually having contractions – and so my dad almost had to catch me. Thankfully the doctor casually walked into the delivery room and announced, “So I hear we’re having a baby!” And then there I was. My mom tells me how happy she was to finally have a girl, then my dad chimes in, “Oh you were an ugly baby… but look at you now, you turned out pretty well!”  

That’s my birthday story. How funny and probably grossly self-indulgent to bask in all that all that sentimentality, but it’s my little reminder of how lucky I am to have their unconditional love and support.

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Last Minute Adventure in Jo’Berg

After two weeks on the road with my parents and Ingrid, we made full circle and spent our last day together in Johannesberg. We stayed with family friends, visited, repacked and did laundry.

Of course, adventure had not given up on us quite yet. Early the next morning, we loaded the car up and started off towards the airport.  I was using dad’s iphone GPS to guide us, but  somewhere along the way perhaps I got a bit confused and the map led us to a train station in downtown Johannesburg. Ooooops.  Then of course, running an hour late, the iphone battery died, the two maps were no help and no one on the street seemed to want to offer directions. 

Full of adrenaline and pre-flight jitters, dad displayed  some heroic traffic maneuvering and got us back on the right track.

Airport goodbyes are always hard, especially when you don’t know when you’ll see your family next.  Christmas? Maybe, but probably not (good thing we celebrated in July).  There is no graceful way to express the depth of my love and appreciation for my parents,  and absolutely no possibility of maintaining any composure when faced with the acknowledgement of eminent distance.  So, with teary eyes, a few big hugs and too much to say – dad pushed me through to security and on my way back to Vilankulo. 

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The Waterberg Cottage

Reunited with Ingrid we made our way to the Waterberg, an old Boer faming region several hours north of Pretoria. There we stayed in a guest house on a fifth-generation owned cattle ranch.  We covered a whole range of accommodation during this trip: cabana, airport hotel, rock lodge, fancy-tents, tent-tents, and private family housing. 

We arrived a bit late in the evening, but just in time for the evening’s astronomy lecture. One of our hosts, Phil, is a physicist and astronomer. He had great and practical information for astronomy greenhorns. With no light pollution the stars were HUGE

The next day, which was actually my birthday (more on this later), we hung out with the Barber and Calhoun family. Mr. B,  the family patriarch, gave us a tour of the ranch and property.

We heard their history; how their relatives came to the Waterberg and how the land, country and politics have evolved. What an wonderful family. They are kind, generous, extremely open minded and articulate.

Let me say that I know many really really wonderful South Africans. But regretfully, I admit that I have sometimes found myself quick to judge or stereotype some white South Africans as close-minded or racist – but this family proved me so wrong.   How valuable it is to be reminded that it was my own insular limitations that needed to be redefined and judgements that needed reconsideration.

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2 Up & 1 Down

Two highlights and one instant-sad from Mashatu

First, I found a porcupine quill! Some people go on safari on search of leopards or big majestic game. I however, was desperately looking for a nocturnal porcupine. This quill was like finding a clue that the illusive creature really exists. 

The next highlight was our stop at the main lodge for the… The Discovery Center”. It offered a great excuse to geek out over the giant animal bones.

 I could only dream about taking them home with me.

Plus, it was winter and we didn’t get a chance to see any crocodiles or snakes in the wilderness. While I definitely think it’s cheating since they were kept in a mote, we did get to see

Then Tragedy Struck!  I was so concerned about loosing my precious quill that I tucked it away. When we finally made it back to the border post, I hopped out, grabbed my backpack and walked away. 


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Mashatu

At the south eastern corner of Botswana lies the Mashatu Game Reserve, a privately owned chunk of land. We made it safely across the river and were picked up at the border, loaded into a big jeep and brought to our next camp.

Perhaps not as fancy or plush as our last stop (which will forever be hard to beat), Mashatu offers incredible wildlife and honestly, better game drives.  The driver and tracker actually look for tracks and there is no walky-talky noise to distract or pollute the quietness.  There is a great sense of vastness and space in Mashatu. 

Even the animal behavior was different than in Timbavati, where we would see isolated animals or groups of the same animal together. However at Mashatu, the animals’ would comingle and mix.  There would be wart hogs close to the car, a stoic male Kudu a few meters away, then zebra, giraffe, impala and wildebeests all grazing in the same vista. 

Elephants roam the area too. At one point we saw two big families of almost a hundred elephants and twenty or so babies emerging from the forest. Even now writing about it makes me swell with emotion.  It is incredible to find yourself in the company of such huge creatures – each with a unique personality and aura of dignity.

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