Archive by Author

Malls. $50 WiFi. Concrete. Bellydancing. Dubai.

17 Jan

What do you get when you’re jet lagged and put your evening plans into the arms of a teen from India, managing the concierge desk at the Hilton in Dubai? You get a Russian dinner cruise.

Have you ever been in a situation where you knew it will be a funny story, once the story has ended? That was my last night. Arrived from Cape Town into Dubai. Had no sleep. Knew if I took a nap once I arrived at the hotel, my body clock would be whacked. So, I pushed myself through the day.

I was welcomed to the Hilton in Dubai with added costs and fees. They told me WiFi access would cost about $27 per day. Twenty-four hours of WiFi is more than my monthly internet bill at home. Were these people mad? If I wanted breakfast, it would be another $27. OK. Dubai is expensive. I get how they can price gouge you for eggs, bread, a toaster and canned jam, but for WiFi? This city was built yesterday. The airports have automatic scanners for luggage, bypassing a person to put a sticker on your bag. This place is the definition of wired.

Besides that, all the major hardware, software, IT, internet, and media conglomerates of the world have an office here. I bet there is not one land line in the country, and they are charging me $27 for 12 hours?

Fast forward, now they tell me they’re offering me a “deal.” For $50, I will have internet access only at the Executive Lounge, which includes food. Later to find out, the fruit was unripe and pastries were probably bought at the 24-hour convenience store down the street. I hate being ripped off. And, I already had a bad taste in my mouth. I should of seen this as major foreshadowing…

I asked the Hilton Indian concierge teen for tour help. I told him I wanted to see the sun set on the river. I wanted a boat cruise. And, I pointed to which tour I wanted.

Hilton teen: “Mam, I know better cruise for you. Perfect…This cruise no good for you. I know…” I smiled.

Me: “OK…what time will they pick me up?

Hilton teen: “Seven o-clock.”

Me: “But, the sun will have set by then?”

Hilton teen: “This better cruise. You will like. Trust me. Very good. Very fun…”

Fine. Too tired to argue. And, this is the Hilton. I still trust the Hilton brand at this point. I went upstairs to disinfect the bod before I was to jump on the open-air tour bus of Dubai to orient myself. I hear a knock. I ignore it. My phone rings. It’s Hilton teen. He is at my door. I get dressed. PJ bottoms and a tank top. Only thing freed from my zip lock bag.

I pick up the phone.

Hilton teen: “Mam, I stand at your door. I have voucher for cruise…”

Me: “You are where????”

Hilton teen: “Outside your door….”

This is a no-skin showing, cover-up country. I don’t feel comfortable going to the door showing this much skin. Plus, I’m alone. I crack the door. Put my hand out.

Hilton teen: “You need to pay..”

Me: “NOW? Can’t I pay later? ?”

Hilton teen: “I’m sorry mam. But, they ask for payment.”

I closed the door. And, think to myself… Hilton is beyond annoyance. I’m down right mad. I mean, they sent their concierge up to a female’s room and asked for money? I am shocked. Has the Hilton forgotten about guest service training?

Me: “Here is the money. And, they’re are picking me up at 7 pm.”

Hilton teen: “Yes, mam. Is there anything else… like another tour? I know another good tour…”

I smiled. Said no and shut the door. Miffed.

Went downstairs and asked the teen concierge for walking directions to the bus tour stop. He opened a very large map. Why do they make maps so large… It’s hard to open and close when walking down the street. Anyway, I asked for “orientation” buildings and road signs, for this is not an easy walk.

Well, 5 minutes into the walk to find City Center mall, I was lost. Hilton has neglected to train its staff on how to give directions. I knew the mall was East. So, I just meandered through skyscrapers, over highway medians and across asphalt parking lots.

A travel angel appeared, for I was caring the bus brochure. She saw me walk by and called after me. “Are you looking for the Dubai bus tour?” I replied, “Yes.” She said, “You are going the wrong way. You need to go left there and follow the street to the end. You will see it.” I smiled. Did a herkie. And, thanked her.

Did the bus tour of Dubai. Took about 2 hours. Funniest thing I heard in some time. Thanked the travel angels for reminding me to bring a pad of paper to this gig. I usually forget.

So, on these bus tours, they normally give you headphones whereby the recorded voice gives you a brief history of the surroundings. Dubai is new to the scene so her history is more like 1980 than 1480. Also, the government wants to position Dubai as the most progressive, cosmopolitan, sophisticated city of all the Emirates. So, it is safe to assume, all war, sex, ethnic violence, extremist talk is a “a no comment.”

We head down the road. All I see is concrete….. Great transport. Great roads. And, great concrete. The place is dripping in the big C. The bus’s first stop was a mall, as was the second, third, fourth…

I quickly found out that Dubai’s scenic bus tour sites are all malls and skyscrapers. I laughed openly. Joke is on me for I loath shopping. Nothing ever fits, for pants, shirts or fabric in general is made for little people, not 6-foot girls.

And, the recorded description of the malls, was better than a Seinfeld episode. At every mall we passed or stopped, the voice told me how many seats were in the Food Court, whether or not they have KFC or sell scarfs. Loved this!

Below are some of the highlights…

First stop: Mall……  Built in 1995. 500 seated Food Court. All ethnic cuisine, like KFC, Pie Face, Sushi….. There’s a kids area in the mall.

Second stop: Mall…… Modern mall with food court. Couture lines and upscale retail. Sell items like sunglasses, shoes, scarfs, stuffed toy camels.

Third stop: Market……Reasonable priced restaurants like Little Ceasers Pizza, Burger King, Baskin Robbins. There’s a super market in walking distance.

Fourth stop: Metro

Metro opened on September 9, 2009 at 9:09 am. First mass transit in Dubai. Two lines, red & green. Train has air condition.

Fifth stop: World Trade Towers…… Opened in 1979 by Queen Elizabeth. Restaurants on the ground floor. Go to 51st floor for cocktail bar.

Sixth stop: Mall…..   Designers at a discount prices. Food court. 200 retail outlets. 25 restaurants. Walking tour of the mall offered to bus riders.

Oh, there were so many mall stops. It was frightening. Did stop at the Gold market. The recording said you can bargain and purchase gold at reasonable prices. Define reasonable in today’s’ market.

When the recording was not talking about Food Courts and the KFC menu, they were giving the soundbite of Dubai culture. When they describe Islam religion, this is how they positioned it:

Islam is the second largest religion, next to Christianity. Islam believes in one God and share the same principals of honesty, justice, truth and tolerance with Christianity. In Dubai, there are catholic and protestant churches. The world Islam, means submission. It’s the duty of a Muslim to believe God’s word and obey Him. The holy day in Dubai is Friday.

Here are some more fast facts learned on the bus tour:

United Arab Emirates (UAE) comprises of 7 states. There are 1.2 million living in Dubai. UAE was founded in 1971, whereby they gained independence from Britain.

Dubai consumes 205 million gallons of water per day. It is the highest consumption rate in the world. It is important for tourists to wear sunscreen.

The UAE legal system is divided into three parts – traffic, criminal and family. Traffic and criminal follow Egyptian law. Family follows Islamic law.

The Dolphin Aquarium is air conditioned…

Life before oil, consists of date farming and pearl cultivation.


I’m in the lobby at 7 pm waiting for cruise dude. He arrives about 7:30 pm. I’m about to fall asleep. I’m the first on the bus, assuming it is just me. Don’t assume.

We had ten other people to pick up and we didn’t get to the bus until 8:30 pm. By this time, I had fallen asleep in the bus in route to the cruise. The car was full of Russians and one couple on their honeymoon, from Ireland. We arrived to the dock – walking distance from my hotel. And, boarded the boat.

The boat was decked in tables, chairs, white table clothes, wine glasses and candles. OMG. It truly was a sit-down dinner cruise, as in SIT DOWN. I shook my head. I know what’s coming.

The porter was surprised when I told him “only one.” He did not know what to do with me. He first sat me right next to the buffet, trying to hide me. Then, decided too many people may push their way to the food and knock me over. Really? Was the food that bad? OR, were they embarrassed solo traveler could eat enough for a family of four?

He moved me to the CENTER of the boat to a table by myself. Smacked dab in the middle. It screamed, ALONE. I’m laughing. This was a riot. People around me looked nervous. I could see them whispering.

I sat. Starred. And, thought… It is 9:15 pm. We’re just pulling out. I’m about to fall asleep. I will not be back until 11:30 pm. Can I make it? You know the feeling when you are sooo tired, you just don’t think it’s in you to make it a minute, let alone an hour. And, what was I going to do with myself for 2 hours. I’m really not THAT fun.

To my right was a Russian family. The father seemed distressed I was alone. He said, “You. You. Russian?” I said, “No. American.” He said, “American????” He was shocked. I would love to know why. I could hear him report back to everyone in the boat that there’s “An American on Board.”

He pointed to his son, who “speaks” English. Found out that was not true, but did not want to tell the Father. The father handed me his oversized camera. I lifted it to take a picture. He said, “No. Look…” He was trying to give me something to do, since I was alone and we can’t talk. He wanted me to look at his pictures. From what I gather, they family has some coin and rented a plane or helicopter for his pictures of Dubai were breathtaking.

The man pointed to his family and said, “Moscow..” I motioned to the son, “Me. In Moscow. In September.” The boy smiled and reported something back to his family. The family smiled. They looked like a nice family. No Russian sigh here.

The couple to my right did not talk the entire cruise. All about the Russian sigh. They must have been in their 20’s. She’s tall, blond and Russian. He’s tall, blond and Russian. Wedding rings adorned their fingers. Yet, they never talked. They both had cell phones and, I assumed, texted each other the entire time for they would giggle now and then.

When they started taking pictures of each other eating, is when the entertainment value ratcheted up a notch.

She would pose with a pouty look with her fork full of pasta. Her husband would snap a photo and email it to her. Then it was his turn. This went on the entire meal. Am I missing something in the way the younger generation communicates? Cut out sound. Stick with acronyms. Snap photos. And, transmit via a mobile device.

The food was edible. The cruise was lovely. Seeing Dubai – concrete producer’s paradise – lite up at night was spectacular. Brilliant architecture. Urban planning at its finest. We docked around 11:15 pm and loaded back onto the van. I fell asleep in route to the hotel. And, zonked.

Next day, I finished the bus tour and headed to Jumeriah Beach area, where I gave my regards to the Bur Al Arab, the world’s only seven star hotel. And, I broke down and went to a mall with a ski-slope. Had to take a picture of people actually snow skiing in a mall.

What made me most happy was the Forever 21 store next to the slopes. Bought 2 new long sleeve t-shirts to replace my No-longer Perfect Fit J-Crew T-shirts. Those two shirts were sooo severely stained and scared, a washer machine and bottle of Shout had no chance in killing the dirt disease. I had a ceremony saying “thank you and good bye” to my t-shirts. They did their job in protecting me against skin cancer, sun spots, insect bites and snake venom. Time to say goodbye.

Later that afternoon, I did the obligatory desert, camel and belly dancing tour. You have to do this when in Dubai. That is jump in a four-wheel drive truck and roll over sandy hills. In route to the desert – all of 20 minutes away – the tour driver picked up the most fun, vivacious, Pakistani family. Husband and wife were doctors – gynecologist and laparoscopist – and eldest daughter was attending medical school while the middle daughter was in college and youngest boy in high school.

You could tell they really enjoyed each others company. I mean, they actually liked each other. When the wife told me her husband performed LapBAND (laparoscopy) surgery, I asked if there is a large problem with obesity in Pakistan.

She said, “yes…obesity is becoming a big problem. What’s happening in Pakistan is both husband and wife work and don’t have time to cook. They pick up fast food on the way home from work. People drive everywhere, and not longer exercise. Schools are cutting physical exercise programs because of funding. Kids are staying inside and playing video games, no longer playing outside and being active. And, we’re eating way too much sugar and fat…Diabetes is also a big problem” This is Pakistan? It sounds more like the US… It just reminds me how small this world is and how similar we are.

They invited me to their home in Pakistan. I implied, it was not safe for an American. They laughed. And, said that is not true. But, their tourism industry has not recovered since 9-11. The people of Pakistan are much different than their government. And, remember, Pakistan has some of the best adventure travel and hiking in the world, with K2. They said, if I do come and visit, they will host me and put me in touch with their travel agent who can arrange the best possible tour of Pakistan.

I told them K2 was out of my league, and reminded them I live at seal level in Florida. Our idea of a mountain, is a garbage dump. And asked if K2 has a cable car?

They live in Southern Pakistan. It’s a fertile area near the ocean. I apologized, for I just assumed Pakistan was dusty, dirty and backwards. They laughed, for people of Pakistan assume Americans all carry guns and shoot school kids, politicians and neighbors for sport. How stereotypes both define and frame our realities of each other.

After our desert dune riding, we all were shuttled to a belly dancing and camel riding “luau” in the dessert. It was good fun. Super touristy. While in line for our meat dish, I asked Avril how she met her husband. They’re around 50 and could tell how much they loved and respected each other. It was evident in their laughter, their language, and the way they carelessly touched each other. Both were doctors, so I assumed they met in medical school in Pakistan or England.

Avril: “It was an arranged marriage. My parents knew his parents.”

Me: “What? But, you seem so genuinely happy. I mean, you like each other… How did your parents know?”

Avril: “Know what?

Me: “Know the marriage would work?”

Avril: “Of course it would work. You have to remember, arranged marriages have been in our culture for a very long time. And, both my husband and I were raised with the same ideals, values, rules, morals and respect for education, work, family and God. Our parents knew what was best for us…”

Me: “When did you meet your husband? Were you nervous? And, were you attracted to him?”

Avril: “I met him the night of our engagement. I don’t remember being nervous, for it was long ago. But, I do remember thinking he was very handsome….”

Me: “Will you arrange the marriage for your son and daughters?”

Avril: “Yes. Now, what has changed is if they are interested in a certain boy, then we will go and meet with his family. We’re open. But, it is up to the mother and father – us – to decided who they will marry. Now, how did your parents meet?”

Me: “They met after college. They are divorced now… Both remarried, and very, very happy. Though, I do wonder who they would have considered a suitor, given the talent pool in our home town. I will have to ask them…I can’t imagine who…I bet they would have to go out of state, put an ad in a paper or outsource the whole gig to a pro…”

Avril: “ A western woman would not do well in a Pakistani culture of arranged marriages. Just like it’s hard for a Pakistani woman to marry into a western culture.

It’s too different. You were raised much differently. All you can do is accept and respect each others culture, and not try to change it… Your way. Our way. It’s not right or wrong. It works. Works for us…”

Gosh, I loved them. Great people. Now, I’m adding Pakistan to my travel list. Who wants to go to Indian by way of Pakistan in the next year or two or three? And, if you go into labor, in need of a lap band or a husband for that matter, I know just the family to help us…

Any takers? I’m not kidding. Stephanie? Suzie? Jamie?

Random Talk. Dubai.

17 Jan


Two emails from two boys. When it rains, it’s pours…. I make myself laugh…

One from an Arab resembling Michael Jackson. And, the other from a hottie back home.

Though, to be fair, one was drunk and the other troubled. The later, needs a lot of fixing. The former, just needs sobering up. He’s going to wake in a few hours, horrified. It’s great. Been there SOOOO many times. That feeling of, “What did I say last night? What did I do last night? And, who did I do it with?” You can read it into that comment all you want. But, if you know me, it’s usually regretting some form of verbal vomit while being over-served. Not cooool…

A friend of mine asked me why I deleted the headline “Sexy. Sassy. And, Single” from my blog and changed it to Tall. And, Traveling.

First of all the blog program for Dummies made me insert a tag line when launching my blog back in August. First words to enter the brain, were the three S’s. Then, I forgot about it until a few months later.

I changed it because I never thought of myself as any of the words. Sexy is not in my DNA. I interpret Sassy as cocky. And single implies, to me, lonely. And, I certainly do not feel lonely when traveling. People are everywhere. I mean, like cockroaches everywhere.

And, I’ve met so many new friends and teachers of life that the idea of being alone, rarely crosses my mind. More importantly, God is more real to me on this journey than the people sitting next to me in this outdoor cafe. So, the word ‘single’ does not work.

Now, going back to the word sexy. For me, sexy and traveling suggests a lot of work…. like matching, applying wrinkle repair cream and bathing, shaving and fixing a body part every other day. None of that is me. Maybe it’s Elizabeth Gilbert in Eat, Pray, Love, but not me.

So, segway… I just saw Eat, Pray, Love on Emirates Air from Cape Town to Dubai. People have asked, “Wow! You’re single. Traveling. You must be doing E, P, L???” Short answer is, “no…”

First, don’t have a book deal advance prior to my departure. Second, don’t have a new, cute outfit for every day, or themed for every country. Third, haven’t endured a divorce or recently had my heart broken into bits …. promoting me to find myself by learning how to be alone, while in the end, falling in love with some Brazilian hottie.

That is not my story, it’s Elizabeth Gilbert’s. And, how she described her journey in her book was real. Honest. And, it took courage. How Hollywood portrayed her story, was VERY unrealistic. Details are everything.

Now, the things I did relate to in the movie… the chaos of a developing country. Her comment about everyone you met on your journey is your teacher. And, meditating. Praying. And, no longer being in control for God is inside of us all.

Things I had issue with. Julia Robert’s hair. I studied her hair. I mean, paused the movie to get a better look. And, after a full year of traveling, the woman did not have any split ends or dark roots. In each scene, she wore a cute bun or braid. I stopped the movie many times trying to figure out how they made her bun look so damn cute. I know she had a million dollar stylist, but come on, it’s a bun. In one scene, she had four different bun renditions. Her bun people must not have paid attention to detail. I did. I wanted the bun.

Next, who has time for make-up at 4:30 am in India to meditate. And, who wears white shirts in countries where bleach is a rarity and hand washing is the norm. And, who brings accessories, hats, glasses and earnings for every occasion. Packing must have caused physical suffering.

Finally, and most importantly, where are these single….. AND  straight AND super-fine AND fit AND emotionally available AND successful AND tall AND funny AND English speaking …. men? I haven’t seen any, yet…

But, if you look at the premise of her story, where she left her comfort zone to slow down. To go to a place that allows her soul the freedom to explore, to question her contributions, to shed light on the dark bits and to answer her God.  Well, that is a different story.

What’s been interesting has been the majority of solo travelers who are taking one-month up to one-year to have a look at the world are female.  And, range in age from 25 to 65.  And, all have the same story of being overworked, overburdened,  and just over IT. This state of mind knows no border. No color. No class….

We’re from all over – Amsterdam, London, Singapore, Germany, South Africa, Scotland, Italy, England, Sweden, Norway, Argentina, Finland, Poland, Egypt, Mozambique, Ireland…. And, we all yearn to fill our cups with joy to be better lovers, friends, wives, girlfriends, daughters, mothers, pet owners and worker-bees.

But, its this curiosity about how others – not ourselves – think, eat, sleep, love, pray, mother, lead, govern, nurture that drives us to travel, and not go to a spa.  Our soul asks the “why” and “how,” knowing full well we’re here to understand. To listen. To be aware. To learn. And, to carry small pieces in our soul to replenish our joy cups when we return.

So, back to where this RANDOM blog started. My tag line. Tall & Traveling. To me, it is funny. It’s exacting. Literal. Smart. With a dose of ODD.

I mean, is there really something to be learned or said about being tall and traveling the world? Besides complaining about clothing sizes in China, train compartments in Vietnam or leg room in Thailand, not really. And, that’s why I titled it Tall. And, Traveling. It’s aimless with a focused fortuitousness. It’s anything we want it to be…

And, today, this blog is much about nothing… True definition of verbal vomit of the Tall & Traveling.

In Route to City in the Sand. Dubai.

17 Jan

Jan. 6, 2010

The flight from Cape Town to Dubai.

On Emirates Air. One of the premier airlines of the world, and now I get why. These people pay attention to detail. Like Disney detail… Even the flight attendants’ lips are all painted the same shade of red. Perfectly coiffed. Serving FREE booze with a smile.

What else? Movies are recent. Chairs recline. Bin space big enough for a small animals. Food is digestible. Bread served warm. Full can of coke. And, I was sitting in toilet class. Literally, two rows away from the flusher.

The downside to the flight was sitting a stones throw from a two year old who cried, talked, moaned and cried 10+ hours. I felt like the Twilight Zone, where I was on a flight from Orlando toooooo Hell, where all the kids are either revved up to see Mickey or screaming to leave the little rat. Either way, its surround-sound loudness.

On this flight, the father was in charge. Mom looked like she could not be bothered. I wondered about their relationship. Based on dress alone, they were a conservative, Muslim family. The mother was covered. The father was not. Yet, the father was responsible for tending to his child, not the mother. She watched movies and slept. Maybe they had some arrangement of “she’s yours to Dubai and she’s mine to Damascus.”

Couldn’t figure it out… Made up a lot of stories to by the end of it, I was super-mom and knew I could settle down the little girl. Please remember, this nonsense comes from the girl who opted to mow lawns instead of babysit.

First movie on the docket was Eat, Pray, Love. You can read about my review in the next blog. Imagine that I have an opinion about the movie??!! After EPL, I moved onto a Woody Allen movie called Meet a Tall Dark Handsome Man. Never been into Woody Allen, but liked the title. It was OK. Never figured out who the TDHM is for Anthony Hopkins and Antonio Bandares both come in around 5’7 on a good day. And, I think Antonio Banderas has a rolling eye… So, I’m still waiting. Maybe TDHM is in his traditional costume, waiting for me at airport border security.

Oh, funniest thing happened to me. Apparently, when I say the word “water” it sounds to the South African ear, I’m saying the word “wine.” No joke. First time it happened was at an outdoor restaurant in Kei Mouth.

We’re riding horses. Stopped for lunch. Asked for “water.” The woman did not understand me. I repeated it three times. She said, “wine?” Second time this occurred was at lunch in Cape Town. I asked for “water” and the waiter asked if I liked the “house or wine list?” Well, maybe I looked liked I needed wine, so I ordered the house white. Third time, was on the flight from Cape Town to Dubai. Instead of water, lip-stick lady gave me a small bottle of FREE wine. Since, she handed over the whole mini-bottle, I ordered another once the kid started cranking it up into high gear.

Americans, in general, don’t use a hard “T” when saying “water.” And, we jumbled it together in one syllable. Whereas, British English pronounces the word “wa-ter” in two syllables, with a harsh “T.” So, warning to future travelers, you may be getting a fair share of wine when visiting South Africa. It worked for me…


Just landed at Dubai airport. The immaculate, pressed, gleaming men flanked in their white robes and red-checkered hats greeted me at border patrol. No more green uniforms, these Emirates border patrol dudes can turn out. This meant, there’s bleach in the city built in the sand. So, far, so good.. I’m liking Dubai.

In line next to me, were eight Chinese men wearing germ masks. All of them couldn’t be carriers of swine, dog, avian or rodent flu. I just stared at them and wondered what message they’re sending. Was the message, “your city is as polluted as mine? Or, you don’t want what I have?” The masks made me nervous. And, I just don’t get it…

I’m next in line. And, I’m the one singled out, not the mask fearing men. Can’t figure out why it’s always the tall blond in Arab countries. Do I look like I’m going to hurt someone? Or, is it my adorable allure after sitting near a toilet for 10 hours.

If it’s this hard to get into Dubai, I can only imagine what it is going to be like leaving this place… Israel comes to mind. I exhale. Look around. Roll my eyes. And, try not to look annoyed. I wanted to say, just take me. And, make sure the holding cell has a goose-down pillow and tempurpedic mattress. I’m tired.

So, Dubai border patrol agent called over his twin in a white robe. They pointed at my passport and laughed. I could hear them saying my name. They continued to laugh. Looked around the room. Never looking at me. I followed their gaze. Are they calling in the reserves. I just stand. Shift my weight back and forth. Why smile. No use.

The twin wrote something down in Arabic. Fab. They kept on talking. I stood. Looked around. After much conversation, the young lad in white stamped my passport, smiled real big and said “Welcome to Dubai.” Now, I’m spooked. Wonder if they are selling me into Royal sex slavery? Back to reality. They brought in reinforcements for my passport looks like it was stapled together at the Dollar Store. I get it.

Right now, I’m at the Hilton in Dubai. Waiting for my room. Got here at 7 am and it’s around 9 am. A cute Italian family is skyping next to me. Gosh, I love their accent. I just want to scream out PREGO and Gellato and Cioa Bella! Sounded as if he’s saying Bellini, as in the drink. Start early in Italy.

Irritated with the Hilton for they want to charge me an additional $50 for internet and fruit/pastries per day. I can’t believe the Hilton can get by with this…

And, tell me again WHY am I in Dubai? Oh, to see concrete, kitty litter, steel, asphalt, white robes, and seven-star hotels in their glory…

Wine Country. Cape Town, South Africa.

12 Jan

January 4, 2010

Made it to wine country. Let me tell you, it was short of amazing for I had to drive on the wrong side of the road, in a stick-shift car for lefties, without a GPS system, via the interstate highway system, all in the name of consuming large quantities of happy juice. I’m still amazed I made it. I was thinking I need a glass of wine to celebrate. And what do you know, the wine-lodge celebrates my arrival with a FREE bottle of wine. Welcome to South African wine country. And, Happy New Year to me!

Step back for a mili-second. I would have never made it here, if it weren’t for Jessy Lipperts with Extraordinary Travel. Let me tell you she is a top travel angel. She’s up there with Ha from Vietnam.

Bill Jones, National Geographic tour guide who led me through Bhutan and has traveled 140+ of the 190+ countries in the world, recommended to reach out to Jessy to help me plan my Cape Town travels. Thank you BILL! Another travel angel…

I emailed Jessy a few weeks ago, telling her I’m coming to Cape Town. I have little dinero. And, this is my story. “I want to learn to surf. Learn about South African history/politics.  Get my hair highlighted and cut. See the beauty of Cape Town. And, drink wine.” Other than that, I’m good. She hooked me up not only with a biking tour and a licensed hair stylist but also with NGOs working in South Africa.

I knew she rocked in her first email for it had a cute masthead and signature block. Got to love marketing! Then, she wanted to Skype to fully understand my needs.

I saw that she was blond, so I knew I was in good hands in the hair department. Plus, she wanted to meet me for wine. She was going to be in Zimbabwe over Christmas meeting her boyfriend’s family, but she would make a trip to wine country just for ME. Love that! My trip was in her hands. And, if you haven’t figured it out, she exceeded all expectations.

Kline Zalze

So, Jessy hooked me up in Stellenbosh, wine village outside of Cape Town, at a winery called Kleine Zalze. They are the ones that greeted me with a bottle of wine.

My room was called Pinot Noir #5. Like Chanel #5, right? Outside my door they’re growing the Chardonnay grape, one of my favorite wines. My room overlooked the mountains and more grapes. It truly does not get better than this. The fact I did NOT total my car, makes life even better.

Not much to report, except did the wine tasting gig. They have a wine called Pinotge. It’s a light red wine. I liked it. I’m not a wine person, so I call tell you is, it was yummy. Nice review, huh?

After Stellenbosh, I drove to the another wine village called Franschhoek. By far, my favorite. I could live there. Not kidding. And, not sure what I would do for a living, except walk the streets, hike the mountains, ride the horses and sip vino. The fact I found the place, was a major miracle. Signage on back wine roads, not the best. Let’s just say, I had to go to the bathroom when I started, and after 2 hours of driving 30 miles, I no longer had to go. It’s called the sweat option…

Got a ‘little’ lost. Stopped at a grocery store to ask directions, and got the “left, right, left, left” response. I repeated I was a clueless American tourist driving on the wrong side of the road, and needed much more than that. The manager of SPAR grocery store came out, and drew me a picture. Thank you travel angel!

His picture included four round-abouts, hills and stop lights. Again, sweat…

When I pulled up to Akademie Guesthouses in Franschhoek, I knew I arrived. Cutest B&B. Old Dutch house. Hard wood floors. And, all the rooms have art work either drawn by the family or purchased locally. My room was the size of my kitchen, TV room and bedroom back home. Yes, moving in was an option.

After arrival, I walked three streets to the main street, with all the cafes, restaurants, wine bars, shops and police station. It was here, where I started to feel melancholy. I’m surprised it was the first time I had the feeling of wanting a “fun, male travel dude” with me. Drinking wine alone is only so much f-u-n.

I looked around, and all I saw was couples or families. Old, young, ugly, hot, fat, skinny, drunk, sober – all kinds from all over the world were meandering down the street holding hands, pushing strollers….You get the picture. In my mind, they all looked like they were “in love” and having the time of their life. They all could be on the “most wanted” list for domestic offenders for all I knew.

It boiled down I was feeling lonely. I looked for other single travelers or randoms at cafes, for I would have joined them. Yes, becoming that person who talks to strangers in cafes. Frightening…

I could not spy any solo sitters. “They” say retail therapy and wine helps in these matters of the heart. So, I tried retail therapy and bought some key chains and baseball cap. Yea…didn’t work. I sat down at an outdoor cafe, ordered a glass of wine, and watched people walk by. My heart felt heavy. This is the perfect place to have a part-time-lover (PTL), boyfriend, husband or, even, friend. It reeks with romance, laughter, and togetherness.

I took my wine and walked across the street to a Dutch church to pray. Sat there for a real long time talking to God. Or, what the Buddhist call meditating.

Yes, I did take my glass of wine into the church. Protestants do support wine consumption. Mediating, praying, talking, drinking wine all seem to gel nicely. I walked out feeling 1000% better.

Needed that time of reflection, thankfulness… humbleness.

But, I did asked myself. Why am I feeling this way? Why now? I’m a girl. Very good at over analyzing the situation. Now, this blog is NOT the place to share my personal boy travel stories. That is personal. Plus, my father’s clients, mother’s friends and sister’s parole officer are reading this. Boy talk is sacred, while bowel moments are not…Have to dry the line somewhere.

The cliff notes version is I’ve hit the 6 month mark of traveling. I’m not tired, to say the least. If anything, taming my curiosity energizes me. I just wanted to share wine tasting with someone I care about.

And, there seemed to be little prospects in Franschhoek, South Africa. Plus, my B&B was filled with couples, and here I am some single traveler. When I checked it, they assumed I’m traveling with a man. I had to correct them. Nope, I’m traveling alone. I guess, I feel like an outcast. Like a reject. Rationally, I know none of this is true. But, emotionally, it was a different story.

Instead of pushing these emotions or thoughts down, I sat in them all day. Hence, I went to the church to talk. Later, I wrote. And, told myself to feel the rejection today for tomorrow, we’re moving on… Tomorrow, I’m horseback riding to wineries. Drinking and riding… Now, that is a new one. Today, I feel sorry for myself. And, trust me, I milked that emotion…For I found a kitchen shop and bought some wooden salad spoons, and I don’t even eat salad.

I did have a great laugh in the kitchen shop. Next to the knives, was a burlesque section of garter belts, bustiers, thigh-high stockings and sparkling underwear….

I just stared at it, trying to understand their market mindset. Is it common to purchase a carving knife and a leopard bra together? Does the mind make that link? “Oh, need to pick up something sexy and a garlic press, know the perfect place…”

I asked the clerk if lingerie was a “hot” item. She did not understand the question. I changed it to, “big seller…” She smiled and said, “yes.” I still don’t think she understood. I needed more than a yes. I wanted to know why. I don’t think she knew the “why.” I took a picture, and left with my salad spoons, and declined the crotchless underwear.

Next day was 100% better. I was in my element once again, on top of a mighty, powerful horse named Cindy in search of wine. Bad name for an incredible horse.

We cantered through vineyards in search of a winery. Found one, two..or three. I was riding with a cute couple from London. He’s from New Zealand, and she is from England. He’s a reporter. And, she’s in communications. Sounds familiar…

They just got back from Namibia and wanted to end their month long vacation with wine too. The day is what you imagined. Drinking. Riding. Smelling. Drinking. Riding. Smelling. Perfect-o.

As we untacked our horses, I bonded with our trail rider. She told me the tragic story of her horse being killed by a car. Her horse was tied up. The wind came. The rope came loose. She trotted off towards the road. She went running after her horse. Her horse looked back one last time before the car smashed her. Her horse died before her eyes. She was 17. And, her horse was her soul mate. I get it. There is something powerful and knowing about horses. I get it.

I let her talk. And, told her how much I understood. She talked about her horse being her only friend and it has taken years to get over the pain. Again, I get it. I listened. We talked. She cried. I cried. I told her how blessed she was to have known her soul mate, even if it was short lived. Many walk this earth and will never meet, or let alone be open to, that kind of bonding, connection and trust.

She cried more. I cried more. I believe in my heart that God wanted me there. To listen. To share. And, listen some more. It made all my “don’t have a man” talk the day before seem trite.

I felt privilege to be in this girl’s presence. Privileged she is sharing. And, privileged I could be a blessing, even if it meant just listening. When I left her, I saw a different light in her eyes. A light of gratitude. And a light of relief.

I climbed back into my car made for lefties, and forgot where I was. Almost took out the gate while making a left hand turn. Having a problem judging distance, you think?

Headed back to B&B to pack and pack and pack for my flight to Dubai. Oh, sooo don’t want to leave Cape Town. Or, South Africa. My heart tells me, I will back.

US Consulate, Again? Cape Town, South Africa.

12 Jan

Yep. I’m back at the US Consulates office. By the time this rendezvous around the world gig is up, I will be well versed in Passport/Visa hell.

Step back. In Hanoi, Vietnam had my identity stolen. Passport, Visa, credit cards, dinero, license… You name it, gone. US Consulate office in Hanoi issued me an emergency passport with 4 pages. Why do pages matter? Good question. Who knew that to enter South Africa you need 2 pages. Australia and New Zealand asks for 2 as well. Rumor has it, US asks for 3 pages. Now, what the border patrol babes do with these pages is another matter. But, a rule is a rule. The other rumor is they won’t allow you into their country if you don’t have enough pages for their measly stamp.

For those who have trouble adding, I now have 4 pages. But, I need 6 pages and a possible extra for Dubai. So, I’m in a crumple. Tall US lady in Hanoi told me that Cape Town US Consulate office could issue me a “real” passport, but they need 2 weeks for turn around. Oh, the real passport is“free.” I laughed when she said that because Hanoi US Consulate office charged the girl with no cash, me, $135 US dollars for an emergency passport. Don’t get me started.

So, I emailed Cape Town US Consulate’s office to make arrangements about my “free” and “real” passport. Paula in Cape Town responded and said the US Consulate’s office is closed on December 27th for a national holiday. What national holiday? Found out later in South Africa, if Christmas falls on a Friday or Saturday, you get the Monday off as well as December 26th, Boxing Day. And, Boxing Day is a holiday to box up your gifts, not to smack people.

Anyway, Paula said, I need to come to the US Consulate’s office on the 28th. But, I would not be able to get a “real” passport in time because offices are closed New Years Eve. Little did I know at the time, I would have had time for a “real” passport for the US Consulate’s office express mails your “new” passport to any location in South Africa. Paula was a sharp one.

Paula recommended to issue another emergency passport, so I can use both. That’s cool. They know what they are doing, right? Right…

I hire a taxi on the 28th. It costs me $40 US dollars to drive 24 minutes. People in Cape Town believe anything more than 8 minutes is FAR. By the time we get there, it’s noon. Unlike Hanoi, the Cape Town US Consulate was on lock-down alert. Three security guards escorted me inside. They called the back office. It rang and rang and rang and rang. They called everyone on the list. NO one was there. All at lunch?

They pass me a laminated piece of paper that says, “Starting January, all US citizens and inquiries will need an appointment. Times: 8:30 am – 11:30 am.” I smiled and said, “It’s not January yet…and I pay taxes.” The two security girls laughed. I just smiled, getting annoyed.

It’s approaching 12:30. No one is picking up. One of the security gals meanders ever-so-slowly to the back office to take a look. She saunters back 15 minutes later and says someone will call me. The front desk phone rings. I pick up. A woman tells me, I need to come back tomorrow and schedule an appointment.

Anger. I mean, I could feel tears welding up for I was about to loose it.

Me: “I’m a US citizen. All I’m doing is dropping off my passport so you can make another emergency passport….I’ve been emailing Paula about this…”

US govt worker: “Paula is out of the country. On vacation. You need to make an appointment. Paula was to tell you about the appointments.”

Me: “She didn’t, or else I would have scheduled an appointment. I paid $40 to come out here…”

Govt worker: “We don’t take walk-ins. And, you’re not eligible for an emergency passport.”

Me: “I’m sorry. Can you repeat that? And, tell me what does Paula do here?”

Govt worker: “I need to put you on hold…”

By this time, I’m thinking I’ve been emailing with the janitor, instead of an authorized, trained consulate worker. I was at my breaking point. Could feel it. But told myself, who has the power here. They do. Calm down. Relax. It’s not the end of the world. Plus, her putting me on hold may mean she’s sending security to toss me to the curb.

Govt. worker: “We can provide you extra pages. But, you need to make an appointment. We changed the policy a few weeks ago. Paula should have told you this. There is no one here…”

Me: “I’ve been emailing Paula since December 13. I have records of our emails. She said I’m eligible for an emergency passport, and mentioned nothing about appointments. It says you take an appointments until 11:30 am. I was here a few minutes after, yet no one was here. Can I please just drop off my passport?”

Govt. worker: “No. You need a stamp from the cashier to process your passport. And, the cashier has left for the day. It costs $80 for extra pages…”

Me: “Well, why didn’t you say so. Of course, the cashier left. And, Of course I need a stamp…”

The govt. worker appeared behind the wall. She handed me a card with an internet address and email and told me I needed to go ONLINE to make an appointment. They do not schedule appointments over the phone or in person. My response, “Of course you don’t…”

I got back in the taxi and was miffed. At the Hotel Lady Hamilton, I told my story to my new BFFer, front desk worker from Zimbabwe. Guess what the first thing uttered out of his mouth. “That’s discrimination…What about the US citizens who don’t have a computer or access to a computer or internet? What about the US citizens who can’t read? Or, can’t type? What about the poor, who don’t have $80 US dollars for pages? Your country is telling you only those people with money, computer, internet and can type can make an appointment to their country’s consulate’s office?”

I thanked him profusely for making me angrier. I didn’t even think about it in those terms. Now, I was super-fired up. How dare they!

Yes, I’m blessed for I have a netbook and money to PAY for hotel internet connection. I logged on to the US Consulate’s website. No mention NO where on how to make an appointment for Cape Town’s consulate’s office. Johannesburg, Yes. Cape Town, no. So, I fired off an email requesting a time for tomorrow. The same govt. worker emailed me back saying “I gave you a card with the website address. You must do it online, not by email.” You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

Now, I more than fired up. I took screen shots of their homepage and client services pages and indicated their webmaster/marketing department has NOT updated their website since they’ve made this policy change only minutes ago, hence my email. The only way to access the appointment page, is through Johannesburg. Last I checked, this was Cape Town. I recommended she forward this email to the webmaster so they can create links appropriately.

Then, I secured my 9:30 am appointment. Another forty dollars down the drain, I arrive at 9:20 am. And, they see me around 10:30 am. All I had to do was sign a form and pay. I waited for the cashier for a good 30 minutes. She decided to take a cig break. I mean, she is leaving at 11:30 am and must have a break. I paid. Smiled. There was no use of even complaining. They are not going to change. Government workers are the same, regardless of country. And, many exude the same dispassionate energy. Though, Hanoi was different. Thank you travel angels for Hanoi!

After paying $80 for additional pages, I walked over to the DHL desk (express mail). US Consulate makes it clear they do NOT want you back. So, you have to pay more money to express mail your passport to your location. Well, I’m moving every other day, so how does this work? The woman was very nice and we came up with some contingency plans. Passport to wine country was an option…

I walked out praying. Praying, once again, for passports safe arrival. Man, this passport should be considered holy paper, considering all the praying I’ve done about this little blue bound book. Oh, did I tell you, it looks fake? Even Cape Town US Consulate’s office looked at it strangely. I bet it’s my photshoped picture. No wrinkles. No bags under the eyes. No spinach in the teeth. They just don’t recognize me in person. That MUST be it. That, and the purple lines and smoggy marks running through the picture.

Got the passport in wine land. Came with extra pages, that looked more stapled than glued. It looks even worse. Need to continue praying for the passport.  I hope they let me in Dubai…

Happy New Year! Cape Town, South Africa.

12 Jan

New Year’s Eve

What did I do on New Year’s Eve? Well, I blew dried my hair. Applied make-up. Put on a NEW pair of leggings – recently purchased at Woolworths – and went to dinner with ten interesting people at a fancy-smacy restaurant where they only have one seating.

Ate seven courses in 4 hours. And, rang in the New Year on the rooftop terrace of a friend’s apartment, watching the fireworks light up the Cape Town harbor.

Woke up at 4 AM to a big fight outside my hotel window. Put the pillow over my head. Popped Advil for “just in case.” And willed myself back to sleep.

Happy to be here. Happy to be alive. And, Happy New Year!

Biking. Beauty. Kabul? Cape Town, South Africa.

8 Jan

“OMG. You live in Kabul? Tell me, why are we in Afghanistan? I’m American. We talk in sound bites.. Help me here…”

So, that was the first thing that spewed from my mouth after meeting Suzanne and Gustav. Poor people. Suzanne is German and is married to Gustav, a South African who owns Bike & Saddle, a leading eco-active travel company based in Cape Town. They married ten years ago, and she works for the World Bank. They’ve lived in DC and Madagascar. She now lives in Cape Town and commutes to Kabul – eight weeks on and two weeks off.

Earlier that day, I did ANOTHER bike tour with Gustav’s company. This one was around the Cape. More strenuous stretches up mountains, down hills, through canyons to explore the beauty of South Africa.

The challenge was the gale force winds. Can’t ride a bike up a mountain when you see birds flapping their wings, going backwards. They call the winds the “South-Easterlies.” I call it bad for biking.

I can not put into words the beauty of Cape Town. It’s California and France’s

Stadium built for World Cup

coasts on crack. Plus, it has a cosmopolitan flare with its robots, organic supermarkets, and Woolworths.

That’s right. Woolworths still exits! I was shocked. I thought it went bankrupt. I have fond memories of going to the Winter Park Mall and eating grill cheeses with my grandmother at Woolworth’s cafe. It’s not the same in South Africa. No selling of plastic flowers and toy guns. Woolies, as the local’s refer to it, is equivalent to our Whole Foods and any upscale department store.

Back to biking. Gustav’s travel company had a bus follow us as we attempted to peddle. Short story, longer. We opted to put the bikes in the van and see the sights from the confines of a sheet metal to better protect us from sand, wind or fire.

That’s right. Fire. The mountain next to my hotel was burning. The firefighters managed to get it under control with the help of four helicopters and a reservoir.

That evening, Gustav asked if he and his wife could join me for dinner. I have no friends here…. So, guess what was the answer? They picked me up from the Lady Hamilton Hotel and off we went to the waterfront to dine. It was there, when I asked Suzanne what she did for a living. She said, “I work for the World Bank in Afghanistan. I’m based in Kabul…” That was when, I hurled a zillion questions at her. Poor lady. She thought she was going to have a very nice evening. Nope. Not with the inquisitive Tallgirl…

All I wanted was a soundbite. I mean, I’m American. And, we Americans, don’t have patience for details.

You have our attention for 45 seconds on a good day. So, what is the value proposition here? Below is an edited recap of our conversation – for the wine flowed and consumption was the name of the game.

Suzanne: “There are 26 or 27 countries in Afghanistan, some with only a few thousand troops.”

Me: “Whose running the show? Americans?”

Suzanne: “No one, really. That is part of the problem. The countries who are there have their own territories they are monitoring. So, their focus is just on that area. For example, Italians are in one providence and when they invest $$ or more troops, it can only go to that area so they can get credit for it back home. It makes it difficult to make decisions from a global sense.

The Afghans are tired. Back in 2001, they welcomed Americans and the international communities’ help. They wanted to kick out Al-Queda. They were tired of being under their control. Kabul used to be a cultured, polished, worldly city. The Afghans wanted it back. The international community promised a lot.

Afghans waited and waited and waited. Then, Iraq happened and all attention, resources and promises went to Iraq. Once again, Afghans were left holding the bag, with nothing. History repeats itself. Their trust evaporated, and they went back to trusting Al-Queda.

Now, we’re at 2010 and, promising a lot, yet at the same time, telling them we’re leaving in a year or two. Why trust and work with the international community when they are going to leave again – leave them with nothing. It will take more than a year, two or even ten to bring any sense of stability to the region. This is a long term investment….

In the meantime, you have complications with Pakistan. Then, there is India. And, you have a country – Afghanistan – that is mineral rich and, possibly, oil/gas rich. The Chinese are buying up mineral rights now. They see Afghanistan as a long term investment. Chinese have a different sense of time. They can wait 50 to 70 years, without a problem. China is in Afghanistan. So, is the US Geological Service too. All trying to understand what lays underneath the country’s surface.

What is hard to understand is there are sooo many brilliant American minds? So, many who have studied at the War Colleges. Tremendous experience. Yes, they forget Afghan history. Or, neglect to examine past mistakes.

And, then there is this void. No one wants to make decisions. And, it seems, some are more concerned about their careers with the Obama administration than the long term health of the country. This makes it hard to move anything forward. There is no clear direction, from nobody.

Afghan people are beautiful. The country is breathtaking. One day, it will be a tourists paradise with its mountains and vastness. The people find it hard to trust….


Suzanne continued to share much more details about how complicated it is. But, our conversation left me sad. Sad there is a void in leadership. And, it’s unfair. Unfair to the people of Afghanistan and to those countries investing in a better Afghan future. Unfair because innocent people are dying for no one knows who is on First, Second or Third.

And, what are they risking their lives for? Can you imagine being in the US military. On the front lines, and every week or day you hear a different reason why you are sacrificing your life? Irritated, to say the least. Can you imagine being an Afghan and every week or day, you hear a different reason why you’re being occupied. Irritated, to say the least.

Boils down to communications. Can’t trust, if you don’t understand. Can’t understand, if you don’t communicate.  And, can’t communicate, what you don’t know… Why do we make things so hard…. Why?

The Over-Served Cure. Cape Town, South Africa

8 Jan

Had only two glasses of wine last night. Woke today with make up still on the face and brain cells swimming in a purple haze. Looked for IB Profin, and saw they’re all crushed.  Crushed? Smart me carried the pills in my pockets while horse riding. Day after day of bouncing pulverized the pills.   Yea, I’m prepared to surf today…

Avis man dropped off the rent-a-car at 10 am.

Me: “Thanks…Where is the GPS mechanical-thingy?”

Avis: “Oh, we ran out. No more. GPS.”

Me: “Are you kidding me? You expect me, an American, to navigate this country not only while driving on the wrong side of the road, but without a GPS? Are you mad?”

Avis guy laughed. I’m not finding it funny at all. I’m feeling hazy. Feeling confused. And, feeling tears weld up in the back of my head out of frustration. I mean, really?

Me: “You must have a GPS. I mean, World Cup was here a few months ago. Thousands needed GPS maps, right?”

Avis: “For World Cup we outsourced our GPS map service. Last month, Avis decided to move it all in house.”

Me: “Well, how’s that working out for you?”

Avis guy laughed again. Again, where is the humor?  I calmed myself down. I mean, prior to GPS in cars, people used maps. I will be fine. Fine. Fine. Fine. It is out of my hands. Need to give up control. And, asked the travel angels to get me to Muzeinburg in time for my surf lesson. I have 45 minutes and have no idea where I’m going or what I’m driving.

Avis guy walked me to the car. Very cute, small Hyundai. I peered in the window. It’s stick shift. My heart stopped. Not only am I clueless about where I’m going, but now, I need to be ambidextrous to drive. OMG.

He handed me the keys. And, a map of all of South Africa and walked off. The map was a marketing brochure with pictures and captions…. This was NOT a road map.  Where’s AAA when you need them?

I walked back to the Lady Hamilton Hotel and called Gary’s Surf Shop for directions. Gary got on the phone– loud South African man.

He said, “Don’t you have a GPS, Dammit?”

Yea, surf lessons with him will be pure joy.

I replied, “No. Avis ran out… And, you are talking to a clueless American who has never driven on the wrong side of the road. So, please make your directions very, very, very clear.”

He said, “I drove in New York City without a problem. So, that should inspire you.”

Gary gave me directions.  I started the car.  Prayed like a mad woman.  And put little red car into first gear.  Booom… I was off. Pulled onto the highway and almost took off my rear-view mirror on a road sign.

OK.  No distractions.  I turned off the radio. Even turned off the air condition.  I talked to myself the entire time. I mean, I talked outloud…”Great job Amanda!  Now, a stop light is coming.  This means to downshift. Use your left hand…”    So, I made it to Muzienburg. Even parked the car with the help of a homeless man. Gave him a $1.  Should have given him a $100!

Next was surf lessons. Gary did not have my name on the list. They did have the name “Amand-o” but not Amanda. Who is Amand-o? Never figured that one out.

Some little surfer girl gave me a wetsuit. I pulled the thing on and felt like a super-cool chick for all of 10 minutes, until I tried to carry the long surf board to the ocean in gale force winds. I almost took out a car and a bench when trying to cross the street. Yea, coolness and coordination are officially gone.

There were 10 of us in the “surfing for dummies” group. Our instructors were teens, and clearly had better things to do. They quickly walked through the safety rules. They included:

  • Paddle when we say paddle.
  • Stand when we say stand.
  • Don’t run people over.
  • If you hit your head or bleed, go tot the store. But, wait outside. No blood allowed inside.

A boy named Carl showed us how to stand up. He’s all of 5’7 and can jump up fairly fast. What about a 6-foot girl with little balance and coordination. We all practiced on the sand. The other tall girl from Belgium and I got special directions for we could not pop up so fast.

Carl told us to use our knees first. Then stand up. Right.

And, what about the gale force winds? These mamas are clocking around 30 to 40 mph. I mean people can’t walk on the sidewalk without going backwards. Birds are flapping and not moving… And, your’e telling me all I need to do is pop up from my knees?

In case you’re wondering, gale force winds, coupled with high tide and 50 to 60 degree water, cured being over-served the night before.  No IB-profin was needed after all… The purple haze lifted. And, cold salt water entered. I was alive.

The first couple of rides, I was able to get up on my knees. Quite frankly, I was fine with just that. But, Carl was adamant that tallgirl stood up. We went out farther and farther so I would have more time to stand up. Right now, the waves were breaking so fast, you were riding on sand in a matter of seconds.

After ten or more tries, I stood up for a second or maybe two. Or, maybe it was a nano-second. Whatever it was, my body went slightly erect and then I wiped out. So, now I was hooked. I was going to stand longer. I mean, I can do this!

Not really. By that point, my bod was exhausted from being bashed by the waves and my toes were going numb. My feet were red and bruised. I think the nano-second stand was it for me.

Carl was ticked off at the office for booking a surfing lesson surfing high-tide and in gale force winds. He said, “no one surfs in the conditions like this… And, did you know 5 people drowned yesterday?” All reassuring. I guess since I did not drown, it was a feather in my cap.

So, I can all check the box that I learned to surf in Cape Town. In gale force winds. During high tide. And, wearing a wetsuit two sizes too large. If I had any sense, I would have learned how to surf 45 minutes from home in Florida. But, what fun is that?

The Island. Cape Town, South Africa.

8 Jan

Went to Robben Island to check out the prison, where they kept Nelson Mendela.

Going to be kicked for saying this, but the place is not all that bad. Nice boat ride over.  Picturesque island. Great views of the cape. Large cells, with windows. Paintings on the walls. Inmates worked from 8 am to 5 pm. Had nights off to read, write, draw, sing or do drama….

Not that bad, considering what I’ve seen. Yea, Yea….Why they imprisoned Nelson Mendela was terrible. I will give you the why. How some where treated. I give you the how. But, the where, not that bad when comparing it to Cambodia, Vietnam, Israel and the concentration camps. Just an observation….

The former political prisoners gave us the tour. When they were released, many could not find jobs. So, the state – I assume – wanted them as paid tour guides. I mean, they need someone to tell us “what really happened” so we’ll be shocked and vow never to let this happen again.

And, the former prisoners, now tour guides, are great story tellers. As I looked around, I could see their story really resonated with the tour-ons, as it should. It’s powerful.

That being said, I say next to Scotland transplants. They’ve lived in South Africa for 30 years. They are white. They leaned over about half-way-through the tour and said, “There’s another side to this too…” I smiled.  And, agreed. There’s always another side. Another story. Another slant. My response was, “Are we open to listen. Understand. And, accept the truth from both sides?”

They just nodded. Their looks was, “You’re white… Whose side are you on…” I just smiled back but wanted to scream out, “Our souls – this moral, moving force living inside each of us – knows NO color, dude..”

South Africa is shredded into bits for its arrogance that color predetermines a person’s worth, education and value in society. I did not know what to expect in South Africa. Many told me the country is racist. It’s dangerous… Hello, tell me a place on this earth where racism and danger does not exist…

I will give South Africa credit. Since 1990’s, this country has tried to bring forth every misdeed, transgression brought on by Apartheid. As someone said to me, “Apartheid is an open wound, and for years we’ve pick and pick and pick at the open sore. South Africans are entering a healing stage, but we have along way to go.”

From an outsider very far removed, I see talking and communicating about the recent history is healing. It’s when you push things under the table, is when they reappear in unwelcome places down the road.

In Cambodia, they don’t even mention Pol Pot and the Khomer Rouge’s extermination of ¼th of the population in school. In Thailand, if you talk about the Royal Family and the military, you are placed into prison. In South Africa, if you’re not talking about the country’s history, then you are the one with the problem.

Talking about the past is one thing. It’s leading into the future is a whole other can of worms. Nelson Mandela’s party, the ANC, is still learning how to lead and manage a country littered with division – try 11 languages and just as many tribes – and littered with natural resources like gold, diamonds, coal…

The ANC came to power under the umbrella of unity and justice. They over-promised and can’t deliver. They promised every black person a house. This has not happened as fast as first envisioned. People are upset. And, for the ones who do have houses, many don’t want to pay taxes, utilities or for the upkeep. Instead, they are renting out their free houses and moving back into shacks where the govt pays for all utilities, cable, etc.

As we know in the states, when people are angry, they go to talk radio. Here, they complain about govt. corruption. And, govt. perks.

Govt politicians want to shut it down by reigning in the media and stopping social networking sites. Here we go again…Same story, different country.

I believe it will have to get worse before it will get better in South Africa. A person’s ability to lead should not be based on color, religion, politics or economics. It’s based on listening, understanding, envisioning, planning, implementing and changing. Oh, flexibility, patience, thick-skin and a triple dose of passion is must as well… If they elect leaders based on party affiliation or color alone, then the future is a toss up. As my father has said many, many times… “The people get what the people deserve.” And, South Africa deserves an honest, transparent and fiscally answerable government, supporting the education of its people to become productive, responsible citizens.  But, don’t we all?

If things go well. South Africa.

4 Jan

December 26, 2010….. I’m airborne. Again.

Leaving Eastern Cape. South Africa’s Wild Coast. I don’t want to leave. Not yet. Two weeks was not enough. I already miss the horses. Miss the people. Miss the comradery.  I don’t know how it happened. Or, how I even planned this. But, how blessed am I to have spent my Christmas with such a diverse, loving, open and active group of people from all over the world. I mean truly.

Commercial break. What is up with these pilots. They have verbal vomit and need to shut it. The pilot just announced that this plane had technical difficulties. They had to do an emergency landing in Durban to fix the plane. He’s trying to make up for lost time and said we should be arriving 40 minutes late, “If things go well.” What do you mean, “IF things go well???” Is he expecting something NOT to go well at 20,000 feet?

Now, I’m watching an airline attendant play with oxygen masks. Is anyone watching this? No. The masks are all tangle. She looks annoyed. Very annoyed. She’s untangling it and staring at a woman. Wait. The oxygen is for the woman. And, why is my heart racing? I’m feeling nervous. OK. She’s put the oxygen mask on all the lady. Is this what the pilot mean when he said, “if things go well?”

Point is, I’m sad to leave the horses. Kei Mouth. But, I can’t write anymore. This flight is one big, fat buzz kill…. I’m out.

Happy Birthday Baby Jesus. Kei Mouth, South Africa.

4 Jan

Band Aid. Farm Aid. First Aid.,,,, Whatever the 80’s band is called. Those big-hair, shoulder-pad wearing rock-stars missed the boat on “Do they know it’s Christmas time in Africa.”

Yea, they know it’s Christmas. They got Christmas. But, it’s not the credit-card charging, decadent Christmas we all love to hate in the states.   No gift-a-mania here…

For an American, it’s shocking actually.  Walk down the streets, no Santa sweater-sets. Drive though a neighborhood, no reindeer on rooftops. Go to a mall, no deck-the-hall. In fact, there’s not even a Santa’s station. Listen to the radio, no Christmas discounts. Watch TV, no Rudolf or Frosty specials. Unbelievable.

Friends and family have emailed me asking, “Are you homesick? Miss your family this holiday season?” I reply, “What holiday? The only tinsel I see is tinfoil.”

In South Africa, it’s summer. School is out and families are on vac-cay. The way I see it, Christmas in the Eastern Cape is a Fourth of July and Thanksgiving combo, but without the gunpowder and Puritans.

And, while presents are exchanged, it’s more of a small token of appreciation. Spending $ on food and spending time with the ones you heart – or have to heart – are the priorities… Oh, and getting your fill of beer, wine and whiskey. That’s one thing both countries have in common. The drunken gluttony of Christmas.

So, how did I celebrate Christmas at Sunray Farms in Kei Mouth, South Africa? Brilliantly. On Christmas Eve, I galloped along the white sandy beaches, on top of cliff tops and through green rolling hills. Yes, I wore my SPF and my pleasure, bug spray. No ticks on Christmas Eve please.

After six hours of riding and my legs feeling like jello, it was time to put on my gift-a-mania gear and head to the local food and liquor. What to buy the family for Christmas? The choices came to chocolate, beer, wine, pocket knives, fishing hooks, detergent, meat pies or pears. I opted for all things gorging.

Fifteen minutes later, finished with my Christmas shopping, we headed back to the farm to disinfect and primp for a night out at the Bush Pig. BP was not packed. But, certainly had its fair share of locals on this Christmas Eve.

Ian, the bar owner, who sports a shark tooth necklace and gray flowy mane down his back, was talking about how he lived at his bar. I did not believe him. So, he showed us his living quarters… the bar.

Never doubt a man wearing shark teeth. The grand tour took 6 minutes and ended in his bedroom. Two things I noticed was the plethora of hair products and the multiple shot guns next to his bed. Alex, from Italy, stumbled upon an old revolver. Don’t ask me how.

Ian’s reply was, “You never can be too safe around here… I run a bar, you know…” Yea, and does Hooters and I bet they don’t sleep with revolvers.

He said, “People think running a bar is glamorous. But it’s hard work. I close down every night between 2 am and 7 am, depending on the season. Last night, we had a fight. I called the cops. The cops were busy dealing with a rape. That took priority. So, I just pepper sprayed the guy. Tied him up and waited.” Yeaaaaa….

After a couple of beers, Rox, Alex and I were feeling good. I asked for a shot. It’s a Happy Birthday to Jesus shot, right? The teenage bartender said he was going to make us a flaming Bush Pig. I asked, “What’s in it? And, by the way, I don’t do Jaeger..” He said, “I don’t know what’s in it…I’m making it up…” I responded, “I want to see fire. I mean, we’re talking about toasting to Baby Jesus…”

So the kid starts pouring in colors –yellow, blue, pink… I have no idea. And, then he lights the thing on fire. I think to myself, “I don’t do shots. Let alone on Christmas Eve. I’m supposed to be at church. Where am I??”

Shot went down fast. We headed to the pool table. Was loosened up. Ready to kick some butt. Arrogance got in way and I won only because Alex shot the eight ball in the hole. I think we stumbled home after 1 am. Santa was not too happy about that.

Next morning we slept in until 8 am. Julie-Ann’s boys made us a hearty breakfast of eggs, bacon, random meets, beans, toast and other goodies. We inhaled for we’re not eating again until Christmas dinner at 7 pm. It rained all day. Again, the gale force winds…What is up with these winds.

I tried to Skype the family on – more or less – a dial up connection. So, that took a good two hours of screaming at my computer. Julie-Ann told us to dress nicely for dinner. So, out came the black yoga pants and non-stained t-shirt. Perfect-o.

Some friends came from the farm next door around 7 pm. They’ve been drinking since noon. Primed and ready to go. Nikki told us the same story – over and over again – about how her pig had piglets, how her dog escaped and found her at the store and how George the giraffe walked a little to close to the horses. I love drunk people. They are so fanatical about their stories each time they tell them. Same story. Same detail. Same enthusiasm. And, everyone around the room just nods, smiles and asks the same questions. By the way, how many of you talked about piglets and giraffes at your Christmas dinner?

We opened presents. I received a lot of chocolate, no booze, and a bar of soap. Very telling.

PS.  Woolworth’s is still alive.

Welcome Home Honey. Kei Mouth, South Africa.

4 Jan

Try this one for size.

How about coming home after a long day of trail riding, spraying ticks, washing horses and guzzling beers to find left over horse shit in your house.  You heard me.  Horse shit.

You ask, how?  Try leaving the door open.  A random horse strolling by saunters in.   Becomes a little nervous.  Knocks over some chairs.  Gets more nervous, and takes a dump not only once but twice… Welcome home honey!

That was tonight. All I can do is laugh. I mean what can you do?  Ask a bunch of questions as to the “how and why and how and why and how and who left the door open..” But, it happened.

The best was the clean up job.  Looks like someone shoveled it out, thinking we wouldn’t notice.  So, the remains are there, just adding another flavor fragrance to the volunteer house.

Happy that I’m catching a cold, numbing my senses… Even happier for those beers at the Bush Pig.  But, I’m happiest about my Pleasure bug spray  for I have a strong feeling crispy-critters will be doing the happy dance on some future fertilizer…

Need to spray me down and say my prayers… Sweet dreams…

What are you doing down there? Eastern Cape, South Africa.

2 Jan

December 13 – 18

My body is too old for this. I have to laugh because I keep thinking, “Man, I was in good shape when I was 12, 13, 14 and 15….” My inner thighs are looking at a lifetime of bruising.

Dad asked, what am I doing down here? Well, down here is only a few kilometers from the Indian Ocean. It is stunning. I’m sitting atop mountains. Mountains that are millions and millions of years old that have been carved into hills. All you do is gone green rolling hills. Indescribable.

I’m glad I’m here, even though the place needs to be pressure washed and disinfected. The first few days were abnormal. We had a hurricane like storm pass through here for 2 days — gale force winds and tremendous rain. It was cooooold and there’s no heat in the volunteer house. This meant, no showers for me.

Dad wanted to know what I’ve been doing? So, here’s a recap.

Day 1: Arrived. Greeted by the rich fumes of dog, horse, mold and manure. Welcome to a horse farm!

Day 2: Drove to East London – 45 mins from Kei Mouth – with the volunteers to Christmas shop. Saw a movie. Bought name brand toothpaste, Pantene shampoo and vitamins.  No shower b/c too cold.

Bed at 9:34 pm.

Day 3: Horse rolled on leg. Hurricane, gale force winds. Rain. Cold. No shower, too cold.

Bed at 8:12 pm.

Day 4: Rain gone. Sun out. SPF and bug lotion on.

Groomed 30 horses, checked for ticks, fed the horses, cleaned saddles.. Speaking of ticks, was in the tack room with Julie-Ann and Roz. Felt something crawling up my leg. Julie-Ann told me to pull down my pants. Right there. I did.

Damn, there was a crispy-critter, little black Tick crawling up my leg in route to the privates. I almost hyperventilated and fainted on sight. Not about the bug but about where the little thing was going.

Now, I feel like I have ticks all over me. Crawling in my hair. In my underwear. Down my back. I’m constantly heading to the bathroom, tearing off my clothes and applying more Pleasure Spray. That is what I call the flea, tick and mites spray. Pleasure Spray… It provides me much pleasure.

This afternoon, we galloped along the Indian Ocean (beach). Amazing! So much fun. I rode a Thoroughbred. He hauled ass. I just grabbed the mane and let him go. Loved it!

After riding, we headed to a local watering hole, called the Bush Pig. Very interesting characters. We played pool. And, some married men bought us shots. I dry heaved and threw it up on the floor for it had Jagger. I was wearing and smelling of horses, so being lady like never crossed my mind. Just a FYI, can’t do jagger. After beer and pool playing, we came back to the farm and unloaded the car. Trying carrying saddles and shit after drinking five or six beers…

Bed at 8:34 pm.

Day 5:  Today was charity ride.

Try 20 horses/people on a ride along the Indian ocean, across ravines, over hill tops, and around cliffs. We are raising $$ for a charity that works with the local tribe people to teach them how to take care of their horses.

The local people use barb wire as bits. And, punish horses by hammering their ears to the wall. The charity needs money to buy more saddles, bits and other materials for the local people.

The volunteers – Roz, Amanda, Alex and Tiny Tito (other Amanda) – were responsible for grooming, tacking all 20 horses. So, we’re up early and at the beach padlock even earlier.

First job was to catch the horses in the field. We’re talking about acres and acres and acres. Before catching them, we need to find them. Tiny Tito (other Amanda) and I set out to herd the horses.

We found them. Then, had to scream “yeeehawww!” to get them to move to the padlock. Try encouraging 20 horses to move in the direction you want. After a lot of “yeehaawws!” and a lot of cussing, we got them to the paddock.

I road another Thoroughbred who likes to run. Today I wore gloves because reigning in a horse of this caliber means extra, puffy blister on these porcelain hands. Can’t have that. Plus, I need extra help in the gripping game.

So, how’s my leg? About to give out. It’s my knee that kills. From the horse rolling, some random muscle from my ankle to my knee was whacked. So, I just turned my Advil into Tick Tacks for the day. No pain for me.

Many highlights of the day. One in particular, was hustling 20 horses onto a ferry boat/barge to motor across the mini-inter-coastal water way. Yep, we’re talking 20 animals weighing in at 600 kilos a piece and 20 large men & woman weighing in a little less. The ferry looked like it would sink. The ferry operator looked like he was going to shit. The horses looked the same. They were jammed like sardines. Some of us, Roz in particular, were waiting for one of the horses to kick, bite or shake. Inevitable, it would displease another horse, and mayhem would ensue. Guess what? Not one horse acted improper. A few took major dumps, but everyone, even us humans, were cordial. This called for major drinks!

Another highlight was prego girl and broken back girl. Prego girl has had complications and, yet believed it was wise to ride a horse for six to seven hours. Broken back girl recently fell off a horse, had back surgery, been in physical therapy and yet, felt it was wise to ride six to seven hours. I guess there are always two winners in a group of 20. After lunch, we placed their butts in the back of a pick-up truck. And, their two horses rode solo. I had forgotten horses are pack animals and hate being alone. So, these two horses just ran, walked and pooped along side of the herd. Cool to watch..

We ate lunch at a place called Seagulls, where Hillary Swank stayed when filming Amelia Earhart. Yep, they filmed part of the movie in Kei Mouth, South Africa. The place truly looks like Northern California in some parts. Pristine. Natural. Bankrupt. And, dangerous. The motel and restaurant has gone to pot since then…Just in case you’re thinking of booking a room there.

After the ride. And, after the Advil wore off, my body screamed “no more.” I screamed back, “too bad.” And, decided it was time to take a shower, check for ticks and shave my legs with my Gillette razor.

Bed at 9:01 pm.

Look at my Jeans. Eastern Cape, South Africa.

2 Jan

December 15, 2010

It’s 6:30 am. I’m riding Starlight, a chestnut horse, through a game reserve only a few miles from the Indian Ocean. I’m working on a horse ranch as a volunteer. Meaning, I take tourists on beach and non-dangerous, animal game rides via horseback.

This morning we have a honeymoon couple, approaching the age of 20.  One still has a year left of University.  The other, just graduated. They are blissfully unaware that it is raining, foggy and frigging freezing.

We are sauntering down a hill. At the bottom, my horse picks up the pace into a trot to gain momentum to go up the hill. It’s muddy. Slick. Like clay mud. There’s a hole. I think you know the rest.  My horse trips and falls over. Yep, rolls on me.  We’re only day 2 of my 2 week working horse riding holiday.

Starlight rolls on the bottom part of my leg. My foot is still in the stirrup. My mind is not racing. It’s just there. Watching the horse roll on my leg like an outside observer. The horse pops up. My foot slides out of the stirrup. And, I’m laying there in mud.  I look down.  All I can think about is my jeans. I have one pair. They are wrecked. I now have nothing to wear.

My next thought, thankfully, leads to my physical and mental, not fashion, condition… “did I break something…sprain something…and pain is not part of the Christmas plan…”

I look down again.  My leg and ankle are turned sideways, set in 4 inches of clay mud.  I  start to talk to my ankle.. “OK, what are we doing…We’re good, right?”

Meanwhile, Alex, the Venice Gondola driver and other volunteer, had jumped off her horse.  She’s now leaning over me, shouting at me in a thick Italian accent, “Roll on back…breath.” I think, “Roll on my back? Are you out of your mind? Have you seen my jeans?  No more mud, thank you!!”

I ignored her demands and opted to pry my ankle from the grime.  My ankle responded.  Then, I flexed my knee muscles.  Looked like no permanent damage. Just major soreness. I mean a 600 kilo horse just rested it’s torso on my leg.

I stood up.  My hip felt out of joint. Or, something was pulled there. Hell, every muscle on my right side just got a good stretch.  I walked.  Limped. And, looked around. Yep, no helicopter or car rescue here. Time to get back on the horse.

Meanwhile, the honeymoon couple just ogled at each other. I could be decapitated and they would not have noticed. Man, romantic lust has its advantages.

Starlight and I slowly meandered forward. It felt much better to be on the horse, than to walk. Not a good sign. We continue through the game reserve, walking past giraffes, zebras, and all types of antelope I can’t pronounce.  And, all I can think about are my jeans. Whose going to wash my jeans…

Welcome to day 2 of my horse riding holiday.

Pretend I’m 15. Eastern Cape, South Africa.

2 Jan

Morgan Bay, South Africa.

December 13, 2010

I love horses. Used to ride, and even, show horses as a child. When I planned this around-the-world gig, I had certain “must dos.” And, working with horses made the top ten list.

  1. Rekindle and forge friendships
  2. Meddle in the Middle East
  3. Build something lasting
  4. Transport tall-body across Russia
  5. Soak up confused communism
  6. Do the Buddhism gig in Bhutan
  7. Pretend I’m 15 and ride horses
  8. Drink in South African people and wine
  9. Smooch boys in Australia and New Zealand
  10. And, expand, extend and enlarge my soul

Found the perfect place to channel my inner horse child, Sunray Farms in Kei Mouth, South Africa. It’s the place for all things horses – Horse riding. Horse training. Horse trailing. Horse cleaning. Horse kicking. And, Horse smelling.

After the Safari, I had a few days down time in Jo’berg (Johannesburg) before jetting off to Sunray Farms. Everyone and their raccoons told me to NOT to leave myhotel without armed guards, a set of exacto knives or a titanium vest while in Jo’berg, so I spent a few days not moving and opted to hand wash clothes, watch D+ movies and fall in love with a STRIP mall.

Don’t tell, but I actually walked down the street by myself in broad daylight. The supermarket, ENGLISH book store and outdoor coffee cafe were all too tempting. I mean, I have not seen proper turn lanes, parking spots or visa machines since Poland. And, the grocery store had check out lines, a nut and candy dispenser, produce wrapped in plastic and meat behind glass. I spent an hour in the g-store taking pictures and touching aluminum cans. Did I tell you they have brand name toothpaste too? We’re talking a world class city people!

Two days of fondling canned vegetables was enough. On day three, I boarded a puddle jumper, prop-plane from Jo’berb to a town called East London, located on the Indian Ocean.

Brandon, son of Julie-Ann and owner of Sunray Horse Farms, was waiting for me at the airport with flowers and champagne. JOKE! He had just got off work. He markets/sells meat to small grocery stores and restaurants around the area. He was over served the night before and did not fall asleep until 3 or 4 am, to wake around 7 am for work. He announced within three minutes of my arrival that he must stop by a gas station for a pie. I thought it was strange he was craving a dessert when hungover, but I just nodded my head.

We found a gas station. Brandon came out, not with a dessert pie, but what looked like a hot dog wrapped in pastry bread. That was my introduction to meat pies in South Africa. Yep, could tell right away that this stay was going to be different…

Brandon was telling me on the way to the airport to pick me up there was a police road block. He believed the cops were tipped off about possible drug smuggling. In this part of South Africa, the farmers are paid by drug “lords” to grow pot in the corn fields or the jungle. The farmers get a cut. I guess now, the police want a cut too.

Brandon said the South African police conduct road blocks all the time. It’s the norm. They want to see if you’re legal – have your license, car registration, insurance, seat belts, and tires filled with air. Oh, they’re checking for booze breath too.

He said the police do it for many reason, one of which is to make sure the cars are safe to drive, the people driving them are legal, and drug smuggling is curbed. Wonder if this is what Arizona had in mind?

I arrived to the farm late and met my two new roommates for the next two weeks. Another Amanda. She is a full time worker at the horse farm, from South Africa and around twenty years of age. Roz is a 3 to 6 month volunteer from the UK. I later found out they are both “super cool.”

But, first impressions of the place where I’ll be resting my head this holiday were dismal at best. The first thing I noticed was the smell. Dog, mold combined with a manure fragrance filled the house. The common area was coated with white, Russel terrier hair and a farm of flies. And, my bed made for little people, inherited the wet, mold smell along with more flies. When I closed my eyes the first night, I just giggled. It all felt right. I mean, this is a horse farm, not the Four Seasons or Holiday Inn Express. What did I expect?

When I woke my first morning, the feeling of euphoria overcame me. I could not wait to meet the horses. I bound out of bed. Walked to the community bathroom and was welcomed by a millipede, spider and more flies. I ignored them. Went for the DEET bug spray, coated the body and headed to breakfast.

Over breakfast, Roz gave me the 411 on what I’ll be doing. Looks like we work from 7am or 8 am until 5 or 6 or 7 pm. We have an hour for lunch, or sometimes 10 minutes.

There are around 60 horses and three main pastures. One at the game reserve. One at the ocean. And, one here. I believe we check on the horses in the morning. Groom them. Feed them. Wash them. Ride them. Train them. Or, we lead tourists on beach or game horse rides along the Indian ocean and thru game reserves. It depends on the tourist bookings. I can expect to ride between one to six hours a day… Mouth did drop on that one.

I rode horses as a child. Rode until I was 15 or 16 at Barrett Farms for those who live in Orlando. My version of my horse riding story goes like this. Mom and Dad gave me a choice when I was 16 – a horse or a car. In my warped mind, I believed them. I choose a car for I assumed it would be a convertible, red, VW Rabbit. I mean, why wouldn’t an irrational 16 year old girl think this?

Come birthday, Dad gives me a small box. The keys are inside. I just knew it. Opened it. A gold key chain engraved with the words, “Big Blue” rested on top of the fake cotton. I wondered, “Big Blue???” Yep, Big Blue was the name of the 1960+ Chevrolet Pick-Up Truck he inherited from some random cousin in Mississippi. It was our Orange Grove Truck. Only one wind-shield whipper. No seat belts. Rusted flat bed. Holes in the floor board. And, no radio. I remember thinking, “This is NOT what I had in mind….and wanted to change to the horse option..”

My horse career was over, for pursued rowing for the hot high school boys. But, in the back of my mind, I longed to work and ride horses again. So, here I am.. In a town called Kei Mouth. With a bar called the Bush Pig.  Two food stores called Top store and Bottom store. And, two main roads…

It’s where South Africans travel for their summer holiday.  It’s where one is mesmerized by the intoxicating views of rolling hills, green pastures, game parks and the Indian Ocean.

Yes, can’t wait for this amazing ride….flies, ticks, dog hair, horse breath and all…