Tuesday, December 22, 2009


“It's summertime in Cape Town!,” the cheesy radio announcer's faux-sultry voice crackles out of the speaker adjacent to my ear as the minibus taxi hurls down the familiar simmering tarmac towards the city center. The smooth beats of Akon, a popular Senegalese rapper, ease onto the station and the driver cranks up the volume to levels that would make even the most self-proclaimed “ghetto” of American college freshman boys cry. I glance up at the “Maximum Capacity: 12 Passengers” sign and smile to myself as I sit sandwiched between two well-endowed mamas in the back seat. I count 19 passengers excluding the driver and his gap-toothed guard. Grimacing as I draw my giraffe-sized legs closer to my chest, I struggle to liberate my hand from the clutches of my fellow passenger as I seize a few greasy coins from the depths of my jean's pocket to cover my fare. The passenger on my right, a beautiful Xhosa woman whose tribe forms the black majority in the Western Cape Province, chides the driver for missing her stop and issues a toothy grin as she tells me in the silky rhythmic tones of the Xhosa people to “Have a blessed day.”

The minibus rattles onward down the center line, swerving past a collection of victims—Volkswagon, Chico, city bus, all no match for its holy trinity of size, speed and insanity. I disentangle my legs and move towards the now vacant seat next to the window. Plunging my head out into the roaring Cape Town wind, I gasp for air and sight of my final destination: the top of the Cape Town MetroRail Station. As I sit there, head lolling about like a bobble-head doll whose awkward jolt failed to make the cut for final sale, my eyes catch a glimpse of Table Mountain looming protectively over the city's main streets. A sense of awe washes over me and I bury my head in my hands, "I'm going to miss this place so much," I think to myself. And soon I forget about the harrowing minibus experience as my thoughts wander across the path that lay before me.

Home. College. America. My own bedroom. Graduation. Matt Lauer. Shitty Health Care Legislation. Myley Cyrus. Snow. Pizza House. Neoclassical Economics. My stuffed Walley. Conventional Paths in Life. Starbucks. Rush Limbaugh. Reeses Pieces. Sorority Girls. Rent. Ashley's beer. Communism. The Jonas Brothers.

But as mixed and bent and twisted as my feelings are about leaving, I've learned to make the most of the time life gives you for where you are. I relish Cape Town for being such a fucking crazy city that I had no choice but to step into myself. I savor its streets, its history, its people. But I love my home...home meaning the people with whom my life has become so deeply intertwined that no person stands alone but is wrapped up in the delicate web of humanity. Ubuntu: "I am because you are."

Mallorie, Phil, Johnny, Hannah, Emma, Philip, Mom, Dad, Keri, Sheena, Angie, Andrea, Sarah, Molly, Shannon, Meg, Hannah, Stina, The Benj

My journal entry from the Johannesburg airport reads: "Friday, December 12th, 2009: And now, as I leave, my heart aches and I sob like my thirteen year old self watching A Walk To Remember. But while these are tears of mourning for saying farewell to what was the best time of my life thus far, these are more tears of GRATITUDE for how this experience has carved me out of the clay...has given me the confidence to continue the adventure. I guess that's the beauty of Cape Town. I'll see it, breathe it, feel it, LIVE IT, even when I'm away.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Dirty Bird in Southern Africa

Oooooo man it has been too long since my last blog....or too long that I allowed my last one (which may or may not have been written under the influence of alcohol, my last week of work, farewell to my best friend here, and the general emotional volatility that is a single female introvert in urban South Africa haha) to remain on the page. Granted writing is my Dr. Phil...my yoga...my cozy chair in a hippie psychologist's office decked out with chia pet plants, technologically ridiculous fountains and soothing grocery store jazz music. But some of you must identify with my experiencing this overwhelming surge of expression, be it writing or art or whatever, to create this work that you think is awesome at the moment but then return to some time later with an OBJECTIVE lens and think “damnnnnn...that shit is messed up.”

Dr. Phil would tell me to honor my feelings at the time and respect my last blog as a reflection of my experience.

I agree, but will seriously reconsider writing under the influence of depressants in the future.

Kentucky Fried Chicken. Also known as the “Dirty Bird”, actually has quite an impressive menu of sandwiches, wraps, salads and.......chicken. You all may be wondering where I am going with this, or in a socially conscious rebellion against KFC, may have decided to stop reading here. To the former group, I respect you. As for the latter...I question your morals...or maybe your health.

My love affair with KFC began a little over 3 weeks ago when I flew to Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe for a 3 week camping trip through Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and Northern South Africa. I went with Africa Travel Co., an overland travel company that takes 28 trucks of about 27 young people each all over the African continent. Two days prior to my departure, amidst saying farewell to my amazing friend Cate and a boy that I as an indecisive female may or may not have had a crush on, I was robbed after visiting the bureau de change to obtain US dollars for my trip.

Go team.

That, in combination with the poor financial management of a typical American led to what was not to be the first financial crisis in Julia's history. So broke in Zimbabwe (never a good idea given the government's affinity for bribes), needing to buy a few meals before my trip actually commenced, and contemplating slaying one of the 15 baboons that enjoyed roaming outside my hut, I turned to the only company that I knew I could trust (and the only fast food chain in town): Kentucky Fried Chicken. Little did I know that this wouldn't be a one or even two night stand. After avoiding the raging hormones of Zimbabwean men and departing Victoria Falls for Chobe National Park (where we took a cruise down the Chobe River to see Elephants, Hippos, Crocodiles, and Baboons just meters from our boat) and the Okavango Delta (the word's largest inland delta) in Botswana, I acquiesced once again to the wooing of KFC in Namibia.

Namibia, population 1.8 million (one of the least densely population countries in the world), is my new favorite place on Earth. Beyond its easy access to myriad KFC, Namibia possesses a landscape unlike any other on the globe:

The hot and dry Namib Desert, the oldest desert on Earth.
The rolling red sand dunes (including Dune 45, the highest on earth) into which the setting sun melts like lava oozing over its conquered terrain.
The magnificent red rock faces piercing the sky and providing shelter for the San people, the earliest inhabitants of Southern Africa.
And mmmmm....the deliciously purple mountains silhouetted against a horizon over which the full moon rises and calls across the desert “THIS PLACE IS NO ACCIDENT”

From Rundu in Northern Namibia to the fabulous game drives of Etosha National Park, all of my meals were included. It wasn't until we arrived for 4 meal-less days and 3 nights in the lovely German coastal city of Swakopmund that I realized I was the proud bearer of $15 (USD) and fucked. Putting on my khaki shorts and sash of patches all too reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Afrikaaner attire, I decided to draw upon my girl scout skills. Exploiting my own labor to wash my fellow travelers dirt and poop stained camping clothes at a ridiculously low wage, I turned once again to the Dirty Bird for food and comfort. One night found me walking to the beach for a fabulous Namibian sunset, double fisting a grilled chicken burger in one hand and a twister in the other. Meanwhile, pieces and flakes of chips sprayed like debris from the party in my grease stained mouth to the ground.

I was in top form.

But despite the monetary crisis and selling my soul to KFC, I had the most amazing experience in Southern Africa. Back in Cape Town for 1 week before flying home on December 11th/12th, I know that I am not saying goodbye but “see you later.” For if there is one thing I know beyond the fact the eating too much KFC will contribute substantially to your waistline, it is that life in America is not for me. The culture of fear of stress of materialism...I despise it. I am addicted to travel, to experiencing other cultures and to being challenged by their fresh insights and understandings of this crazy thing we call LIFE. So to the beautiful people of Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa, the country in which I finally moved beyond discovering into becoming myself, I say “I will be back.” Back to learn, to be humbled, to understand, to know, and to find out how to live life together rather than at the expense of one another.