Sunday, June 20, 2010

In the beginning… of vacation….

When I only have 15 hours in a new city I’ll do what I can to make the most of it and live in the moment. While taxi-ing to our gate in Madrid, I was able to strike up a nice conversation with the girl sitting next to me (who had the same layover as I did) and by the time the seat belt light turned off, she had invited me to hang out with her and her friends for the day. I had noticed her praying the rosary on the way over and heard her speaking Spanish to the flight attendants, so I considered her my trusted translator for the rest of the day. We started the day in Sol for lunch and (AWESOME) coffee then made our way to a local bar to watch a World Cup game over a beer (or 2). We did some touristy sight-seeing and then enjoyed a bottle of champagne and strawberries at a local indoor market. That evening we found (after about 10 detours) the only Mexican bar in all of Madrid to watch Mexico v. France. The game ended just in time for us to make our way to the airport to catch the 9 hour flight to Johannesburg. I slept the whole way.
The energy of the World Cup hit me as soon as I landed in Africa. Fans have taken over the airports, dressed in their team colors, wrapped in flags, blowing vuvuzelas…. Everyone is happy to be here. I love Africa.
I met up with Kyra and Sam in Durban on Friday afternoon. We drove about 2 hours south to KwaZulu Natal where Sam’s aunt and uncle own a 500 hectare dairy farm. This farm is an amazing place and the force of the African winter made itself known with temps below freezing at night (the extra weight of the heavy sweatshirt in my luggage was well worth it)! Despite the cold, we spent hours hiking around, meeting the cows, watching bush buck run up the hills, and even found otters swimming in the trout pond. We were spoiled with bright sun, a HUGE blue sky, and hot curry next to the fire at night….enough to heat your heart and mind and remind me, again, why I love this place. It was a beautiful weekend spent with some beautiful friends, old and new.
This morning we caught a plane to George and drove about 1.5 hours to Sam’s other aunts house in Plettenberg Bay. It’s almost paradise here. They have a beautiful house on a hill overlooking the bay with a lush garden off the back patio. We enjoyed a few glasses of wine in the sun, ate a delicious lunch, and then we took a walk down along the edge of the bay.
Although I have always been intrigued by South Africa, it is not the Africa I know. Spending time here these last few days has given me a completely new appreciation for the country and has added to the respect I have for it. From the rolling hills of the dairy farms in KwaZulu Natal, to the mountains rising up on the edge of the ocean in George and Plettenberg Bay , I’ve been in awe since I arrived…and I haven’t even been here a week! I can’t wait until tomorrow and I don’t even know what we’re doing yet

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