Marcus

Posted: November 16, 2014 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, Hope, TRAVEL
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As I said before, I work in a backpackers in Cape Town. One morning I got a weird call from a woman named Shamise. She said “I’m looking for Marcus. Do you have a guest by that name?”

I told her that I couldn’t reveal that information, but if she wanted to leave a telephone number and message I would pass it on *IF* he was staying here.

She left her name, number and a message of “I have your wallet and shoes.” She explained that she was the girl that he was with last night.

Alright. No worries. This stuff happens all the time in hostels. A crazy night of fun followed by a quick get-away while the girl is in the bathroom or whatever. “screw and run” as we call them. I was a little tickled that this girl was honorable enough to try to get his ID/shoes back to him.

*NOTE: I always think people are doing the honorable/right thing. This is my default. I’ve been told that this is what separates me from my fellow South African counterparts. They think everyone is dodgy/out to scam them and we think everyone is good by nature. They blame it on being closer to Nigeria. #whatever #movingon

—-
Fast-forward. My shift ends and a girl gets buzzed in. Janette (my co-worker) takes over and talks to the girl.

Apparently, this was Shamise! She says that she has his ID and he’s missing and she’s worried about him. Janette asks for the ID. The girl didn’t want to give it up, but eventually did. She still has his shoes, though.

She leaves.

Enter stage left: Marcus!
He looks AWFUL.

Apparently, the night before, he went out to the club, had a kickin’ time, and then walked home. While walking home (around 2am) 2 guys walked along-side him, pushed him, and demanded that he gives them money, wallet, keys, phone, etc.
Marcus gave them everything.

Then they demanded his shoes and shoved him into a car, “like in one of those movies”.

In the car, was an older woman, this Shamise character, and the 2 guys got in. They explained that they had to drop the woman off somewhere and they will “totally give you (marcus) a ride back to your place”.

So they drop the woman off. Everyone gets out of the car, but they lock Marcus in the car with the child-proof locks (or something…. This is where the story gets strange).

Marcus, shirtless, shoe-less, no wallet or phone, signals to someone that he has been kidnapped and they break the window and he climbs out and runs home. (about 10K… at 3am.)

*Side note: I find it hilarious that 2 guys would kidnap/rob someone while HAVING YOUR MOTHER IN THE CAR! I mean, what an awkward conversation that would be, eh? “Hey mum. We’re going to rob this guy, then we’ll drop you off, ok?” I wish I got more details on this.

—-
So now we are back in the present. That girl, Shamise, is still looking for him. Marcus is still staying here. He filed a police report, but that’s kinda useless in Cape Town as everything is pretty corrupt and since there was no murder/real violence, even less action will be taken.

Marcus is scared to walk around- since Shamise and the boys know what he looks like and know where he lives. Also, Marcus knows what they look like and could identify them if/when the police do anything.

Marcus, bless his heart, is a local South African who just re-moved here from Pretoria. He’s lived in Cape Town before, but wasn’t expecting this kind of welcome when he came back. What does he do when he’s telling me this story? He laughs.

“Because that’s all you can do right now. You can worry all night, but what does that get you? Ulcers. If you laugh, you live longer- and get less wrinkles.”

Spot on, Marcus… Spot on.

I’ve been working in a hostel for 3 weeks. Most backpackers/travelers go to hostels, stay a night, party, sometimes sleep, and leave the next day… Then there are others who stay and begin to embrace the hostel (hostile?) life.

The Big Blue Backpackers building is old and beautiful building with huge archways that greet you at every turn, a big wooden, winding staircase goes up to the rooms upstairs and there is a landing staircase that leads out to private ensuite rooms. There are side stair-cases that you get all turned around in and the walls are all very colorful and bright and plastered with flyers and printouts for the various organizations around Cape Town. Every hostel has it’s charms and uniqueness, but this one is the first that feels like a home.

This isn’t really unusual, but it’s special and certainly celebrated in the backpacker circles.

For example: one night, while at work, a man from the UK called and asked about our rates. This is fairly normal, so I walked him through the whole spiel. He asked how close we were to the convention center, how clean the rooms were, if they had their own bathrooms or if he had to share. I explained the dorms (he asked for lower prices) and he was shocked and confused that adults would share rooms, let alone bunk beds, with other people.

“WHAT ABOUT SECURITY?”

“eh… There are lockers for your valuables, but, really, everyone leaves your stuff alone. I mean, they have their clothes, you have your clothes.”

I wasn’t sure if this was a prank call or not- because what professionals have conventions (or recording sessions) to attend and choose to stay at a backpackers?  (ahem…… besides me, of course).

The dorms give you opportunity to get closer to your fellow dorm-mates! Take Rolando, the Rastafarian from Kenya, who is rockin’ the beer gut and really enjoys sleeping naked…. in a mixed dorm. Others, like Adrian, go out all night and party and wake us (the entire room) up at 4am with stories of the hookers (note plural) that he “gehoereer met tot volgende Dinsdag”. (translate.google.com is your friend).

Some would find this behavior disgusting. Some would be annoyed. I just can’t help but laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. I mean- who else in the world can say “I woke up to hooker stories and when I rolled my eyes, I saw Rolando’s bare ass hanging off the bed.”

Since it’s halloween as I write this, I’m going to share some of the “Harry Potter” aspects of Big Blue:

1) There are Harry Potter Closets under the stairs

These have been converted to 2 toilets and 2 showers.This is my favorite part of the house, to be honest.

2) We have ghosts (or shoddy electricians).

The electricity has been in a constant state of flux since I got here back in August. Apparently, when I mentioned this, it has been in a state of flux for over 2 years. (“T.I.A, man… This is Africa”). It just means that I need to continue my tradition of always wearing my head-lamp after dark so I can brush my teeth and not stub my toe on something.

Tangent: One day, we were without power for over 25 hours. Partly due to “load shedding*”. It was infuriating telling the guests: “Normally, when we have electricity, we have wifi and here’s the password. And there is the bar, but unless we have electricity, I can’t get you drinks. Here’s the TV room… but it’s pretty empty and boring without electricity.”

Normally I would be all about the adventure of sitting around a candle telling ghost stories and other local urban legends- but it was hard to convince the other guests to do the same thing when we were all frustrated beyond all hell and worried that all our frozen food was going to go bad. (Which it didn’t- but we did end up making a huge smorgasbord/fajitas once electricity came back on).

*According to the paper:

“Consumers have been urged to conserve electricity and also brace themselves for rolling power outages for the rest of the week- this comes after Eskom announced it faced severe constraints to power supply after a silo containing 10,000 stons of coal collapsed on Saturday.” – the kicker is if you ask the locals why the power is going out- and they say that Eskom wants to raise prices, but the government has a cap on it and doesn’t want to raise it, so Eskom, since they have a monopoly, is flexing their muscles trying to squeeze the government to raise the cap. #ConspiracyTheoriesRock

3) We have a Moaning Mrytle

One day, a water main bust down the street- leaving all of Green Point without water. This wasn’t a huge deal (except for staff who was rushing around trying to get enough bottled water for everyone). One guest, however, turned the tap on, nothing came out, gave up and left…. Without turning the tap off. So when the water came back on (at 11am), their room slowly filled up with water, flooding the whole room and ruining the flooring. This wouldn’t be so terrible, except we still had guests that were booked for that room and we could never seem to get a day to fix it.

4) We have Potions class.

The most fun that we have (as long-term guests) is labeling our food. Constantly, guests will help themselves to your food- thinking you won’t notice that “spoonful of honey” (that is really half the jar). So you need to label your food creatively to turn people off from eating it. Before, I simply would write “LN spit in this” on all my packages. But ever since the Ebola outbreak, I’ve been adding “LN spit in this, and I have ebola”. Other things I’ve seen are “Stool Sample”, “Drug Test Urine Sample” and “Durian. DO NOT OPEN!”.

5) We had Kreecher the House Elf!

There was also an old woman who stayed here for a few weeks. She had a laugh like a hyena and didn’t understand sarcasm or empathy. She actually wasn’t mean- but she was crazy and had the delightful habit of talking out loud- which I do as well- except she would do “deliberate action” talking- where every action she took, she announced what she was doing. This is great practice (as David Marquet taught me) on a submarine- where your actions could be disastrous if done improperly. But saying “I’m getting a spoon. I’m dipping my spoon into yogurt and getting some out for my muesli. I think Yogurt and muesli go well together- especially if you mixed it with arsenic. Oh! but this is MY breakfast. I’m very much looking forward to eating this. If I had a bit of raisins, I would put those in, as well. It wonder if it would cover up the taste of rat poison. hmm. Oh! this looks good!”

6) speaking of house elves.. we have Dobby!

Dave, a man who sleeps in a free-standing hut in the back, has 2 little dogs named Booka and Summa. They both look almost identical, but once you get to know them, you can tell the differences. Summa, if you’re holding chicken, will look at you with this dobby-house-elf look. But, if you give it to her, then that’s it… it’s all over. You will be showered in love just like Harry was with Dobby. Except Summa slobbers and her breath smells like dog food.

7) We have ButterBeer!

There was the night when Josh, a bible-thumper who was raised in a very sheltered home, had a bad day and decided to drink whatever was in front of him- which started as a bottle of vodka and ended with a bottle of sambucca. Around 8pm, he couldn’t stand. At 8:15 we hoisted him to the grassy area so he could pee. He failed to do this and instead pissed then vomited on himself, and passed out- head down, butt up, in the grass. We left him like that until 10:30 when we tried to get him to drink some water and sober up enough to drunkenly crawl to the bathroom where we showered him and put him in clean boxers. (Have I mentioned that he has only kissed one girl and he spent the next 3 weeks repenting about it? Now here is a girl- day 2 back in Cape Town- and she’s undressing him and showering him? Yep. I’m a nice person.) We got Josh into bed and went to the bathroom to clean up/collect his crap when all of a sudden the electricity shuts off again. Jay walks out of the dorm and says “Josh just vomited on a power-outlet and it tripped the building.” That was a long night.

8) We have Fred (or George).

Ginger cats (who have owners) will randomly come into the hostel. One, named King Kai, used to have a collar but it keeps… uh… “going missing”. Kai has slept in my bed often and gives me gifts of love (rats… dead ones!). My dorm is on the ground floor and the windows are permanently open. On a daily basis, Kai will make his appearance and be sleeping on my bed, which I love. One day (Oct 19th, to be exact, 90 days after I left home) I was feeling particularly homesick and decided that a nap was in order. I curled up to take a nap and someone placed Kai next to me. We cuddled and slept away my sadness.

Overall, I have enjoyed my time at Big Blue. Highly recommend it for anyone traveling to Cape Town who is up for adventure and good people. But mostly, it was a great educational experience and heaps of good stories.

iMiss

Posted: November 2, 2014 in Hope, TRAVEL
Tags: , , , , ,

Every 90 days or so I get homesick. Today marks the 90th day I’ve been away from home- so I wasn’t really THAT surprised when I woke up in a pissy mood and wanted to just crawl up in a ball and cry all day while looking at pictures of my cat. It doesn’t help that the laundry lady lost my TWO (2!!!) hankies. Who loses hankies?! Especially hand-made ones! 😦

I only have 98 items now. 

Don’t get me wrong, I love traveling. I love experiencing all flavors of new things! But I miss certain things that make home “home”. Which is hilarious, because I consider the entire country of USofA to be “home”… Not just a city or state.

 

With that said, here are my steps to curbing homesickness:

1) Write a list of things that you miss.

2) Go out that week and find those things.

 

That’s it.

 

So- with that said, this is my list. It’s huge.

  1. Golden Grahams (Thanks Amy…..)
  2. Swing dancing (Jive)
  3. Fast internet. (anything faster than a 1mb connection is considered fast)
  4. Sonic limeades (with the crushed pebble ice!)
  5. Nachos
  6. Chuy’s Chuychunga (with a real margarita)
  7. Driving towards Rainier, in the spitting rain, with my windows slightly rolled down, listening to shitty music.
  8. My Cat, La Puta. ❤ ❤ ❤
  9. Texting
  10. Durian Bubble Tea
  11. Dirty Chai’s (done properly…. not tasting like milk and not made with powder).
  12. Blue Moon beer, Dominos pizza, and America’s Next Top Hooker on a Friday night.
  13. PUMPKIN…. EVERYTHING…. (It’s flippin’ October and I haven’t had a pumpkin anything yet! Can you believe it?!)
  14. Hearing the wind blow through the leaves, hearing them crackle and fall off a tree. (also, jumping in piles of leaves with my fathead brother).
  15. Downloading and listening to podcasts all day.
  16. My aerial silk/dance classes
  17. Hanging out with my friends and laughing so hard my sides hurt. ❤

 

When I first started traveling, I would make lists like this every week (I called them my ‘iMiss lists’). At first they were filled with random petty things like: Hot showers, texting, claritin, English speakers, brussels sprouts, gelato, electric, etc.

 

My list is getting more specific. It’s funny how your perception/priorities change.

 

What do you miss when you travel?

I love you, man!

Posted: October 26, 2014 in ADVENTURE STORIES!, Hope, TRAVEL
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I’m recently met a German girl named Chris who overheard me praising our cook:

“I loooooove collard-greens, Peter! Thank you!”

She called me out:

“You’re one of those typical Americans who loves everything, aren’t you?”

I was taken aback.

“Hell no!” I exclaimed and recounted my life in relation to that dreaded 4-letter word.

While I loved inanimate/non human objects and verbs (working out, my car, steak-cooked blue, my cat) I very rarely tell another human being that I loved them.

I told her the story of my current boss/business partner, Misti, who spent MONTHS showing her appreciation of me and  breathing life into my mentally crippled post-travel brain. Hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours of phone calls and emails of asking me questions, sharing web links and YouTube videos, asking for my opinions on things. It took even longer for me to realize that she genuinely cared about me. I wasn’t just a grunt doing work for her.

Confession: It took me even MORE time to admit to myself that she actually cared about my happiness and success.

(I’m slow sometimes.)

I’ve had good bosses in the past- but no one who has taken this type of time to dig past all the bitter-jadedness and hate that walking-into-a-Walmart-after-traveling will do to you.

She opened me up. She has taught me more (by sharing her own thoughts, books, ted talks, introductions, etc) about myself and how to perceive the world in a shiny and positive new way. She engaged me, empowered me to do what *I LOVE* doing- and we found out how to work (well) together.

Now- she had been telling me that she loved me since we started working together, but I never took the leap. She would constantly call me out on it and say something like “you’re not afraid of jumping off a bridge with a rubber band attached to you, but you’re afraid of talking about your feelings?”

Yes.

“You’re not afraid of traveling to weird foreign countries by yourself, getting (poorly) kidnapped, admitting failed business ideas…. But you can’t talk about your emotions?”

Correct.

Then I realized how silly that was.

So- After 8 months of working together, I told her the 3 silly words that terrified me more than Ebola-ridden snakes painted to look like clowns:

“I love you”.

Instantly my chest froze. How vulnerable! How naked! How raw! I loved a person for taking an interest in me. But she was my business partner! She had all the power! She could cripple me at any minute!

I spent the rest of the day doing the normal thing: hiding under my covers with my cat (who has never said she loves me!) and watched The Departed. (The most anti-love story I could think of…)

I flashed back to the present where Chris was listening in disbelief. “You love your boss?!?”

I was ready for her to say something like “crazy Yankee”- but she didn’t.

Instead she said, “I love it.”

“Huh?”

“My family loves me, sure, but we never say it. I know it- by their actions, but we never say it. This is common in Germany. But when I lived in America as an au pair, I stayed with a family who took me in and instantly loved me. They told me everyday that they loved me. It was an exceptional feeling! It was freeing! And made me instantly close to them. I love them, too- and I tell them that. They are my second family.

“That whole experience made me understand how to express my feelings and it’s impact on others.”

Spoiler: Misti didn’t abuse the “new power” I gave her that I was so worried about. Nothing bad happened- only good. More trust, more responsibility, more understanding, more smiles, more feedback that makes me a gooder person, and (my favorite part): more laughter!

So what am I so afraid of?

I should take the leap more often.

Man! What an adventure!

This episode is : LN’s adventure of climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro. Part 1- “Before the Climb”.

All sorts of anxiety, how I picked the tour company, what questions I asked, packing list, itinerary, my inner thoughts, etc.

 

Stay tuned for part 2 (the climb!).

 

Thanks to:

Nyangeadventures.com (Praise Nyange- owner)

Emma’s Revolution’s song “Kilimanjaro”

 

Listen to my latest episode

Epiphany

Posted: October 19, 2014 in Hope, TRAVEL
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When I first started traveling, I set out seeking for something. Hoping that some country, some person, some place would give me this epiphany and the whole world would make sense.

Of course, CDO (that’s OCD in alphabetical order) LN planned everything down to the day and wanted to control everything. Because when you have that much control and something goes wrong- you can “wing it” a lot easier, right?

(Kinda.)

I quickly learned that this is not the way to get stories, experiences or the coveted epiphany.

So I deviated a lot. I started “winging it” as much as my comfort zone would allow. I searched for a long time and in all sorts of places- constantly being reminded that “stuff like that happens when you least expect it!”. I tried to stay busy. I occupied myself with stints of wwoofing work, “voluntourism” (aka: slavery), long hikes, dancing, CrossFit, drinking and adventure days.

I even went to an ashram in India to learn how to meditate- thinking that this would give me some clarity. It gave me a clear definition of how much I loathe mosquitos, baboons and how sitting cross-legged makes my legs hurt something fierce, but, sadly, not much else.

(OK…ok…I lie. I learned a lot about asana, my body, my emotions, listening to myself, and all sorts of ways to meditate- but no epiphany came.)

When I was in the Philippines, I discovered that I loved disaster relief work. I learned more about my skills, abilities, putting everything that I had learned (exercise/CrossFit skills, communication, politics, persuasion, the power of laughter, the importance of good morale, patience, patience and more patience) to good use. But, again, I was keeping my physical self busy- while I was clear on “my stand” (a phrase from the book “The Way Of the Seal” by Mark Divine) I didn’t have this “epiphany” that I was searching for.

Now- I don’t mean to sound fluffy, spiritual or “out there” like the dirty hippy/backpacker I am… But this “epiphany”, the thing I was looking for, was more than just a “hey! I like doing this AND I’m pretty good at it” type of moment. I wanted this crystal ball moment I read about where everything becomes super clear.

It didn’t matter how many books on vision and visualization I read. It didn’t matter how much I wanted it and sought after it. It didn’t matter how many questions I asked people (I’ve been dubbed “question-girl” more times in my life than I care to count). It didn’t matter how much I meditated, either. It seemed that I wasn’t getting much closer to this “epiphany”; this thing I couldn’t explain or even guess at what it was. It was the stereotypical crap of “I’ll know it when it happens”. The answer I always hated from producers and bosses who critiqued my work.

On August 31st, we went to Splitzkoppe, Namibia. Famous for it’s ancient volcanic rock formations that, in reality, are just really fun to climb. Which we did. A team-building exercise with my group of climbing up/over these Uluru-sized boulders. We got all the way to the top of a massive peak to gape at a gorgeous sunset (note: all African sunsets are spectacular!). We ate dinner around the campfire, had stimulating conversations and laughed a lot- then we set up our sleeping bags in a semi-enclosed cave/canyon and I slept peacefully under the stars. The first night I was warm and at peace.

I woke up at 4:30- an hour before everyone else would be stirring. I couldn’t really get back to bed, so I flopped on my back and stared at the black-indigo sky get darker right before the sun started making an appearance. I sat up, sat cross-legged with my hands on my knees, palms up, thumbs touching my first fingers, and began to focus on my breathing.

All of a sudden, images came flashing into my head. A calm like I’ve never experienced flooded over my whole body. I relaxed and kept on breathing.

Now, when I was at the ashram, my “good meditation” days would go something like Scrooge’s Christmas dreams where he was with the Ghost of Christmas present. I would sit with an old friend and we would talk about stuff over a pot of fresh brewed sun-tea. They would show me something and tell me how LN, “the real LN” would think/feel/react about this. I would get comfort in these experiences, but they were usually about superficial things. Boys, my cat, flight itineraries, dinner, that sort of thing. Things I had very little control over.

This time, in the desert, was different. There was no one guiding me. It was like I was floating in the marauders’ pool from Harry potter- except it was the future.

It didn’t give me any clues as to where I was. Just WHO I was. This sounds silly. Of course I know who I am- I’m LN the Great! Curly-haired traveler from Troy/Baltimore/Seattle/Houston/wherever who plays the bassoon, enjoys to eat durian, burnt toast and bubble tea and likes puns and feeling productive. What I lacked was the whole “your reaction to ____ defines you” thing.

But this particular morning I got some clarity- and then some. It grounded me in a place where I didn’t realize I was floating/flailing. It gave me clarity on my spirituality, emotional connection to the earth and the universe and- most importantly, I saw events happen. Events that would touch me and (the best part!) how I was going to react to them. Like Neo in the Matrix- I could see the punches of life happen and I knew I was just going to dodge or block them- (emotionally/mentally speaking, of course.)

I couldn’t tell you what these obstacles are. But I felt a shift- a vision of “this is Old LN dealing with this. And this is LN2.0. See how it’s gooder?”

(Yes. The crystal ball people say “gooder”. You should, too!)

I did see vividly the friends I would lose. The ones I would gain. The personalities/energies I would interact with. The energies/cultures I would struggle to find common ground with- and the ones I would instantly meld into.

I feel like I figured out a new definition of acceptance, peace, understanding…. Love, even?

(Blah blah blah.)

I know, I know. It sounds fruity to me, too. And I don’t even live in California, believe in God, or practice veganism! I wasn’t even on any sort of drug! What kind of sorcery is this?!

I don’t know how long I was in this “trance” for. I know it was more than 30 minutes because the sun rose at 5:45, and that’s when the birds decided that my hair looked enough like medusa/worms that they wanted to try to eat me-literally- and I “woke up”.

I can’t say that my life has changed drastically from this. I’m still a freelancer-traveler/backpacker. I still don’t know a lot of things. I’m still scared of snakes, clowns and Ebola.

Except, now, I just feel that it doesn’t matter what you throw at me- I won’t freak out.

It’s gonna be ok.

Hakuna Matata!

If anything, my CDO (OCD in alphabetical order) is more curbed and I have a story that is really difficult to explain.

This is a question that I ask on first dates. It’s probably the most important question- because it will shape the rest of the relationship as far as duration.

If they answer incorrectly, I know that there is no future of us living together- which usually takes off the pressure- because then I know.

“How is this the most important question?”

I’m glad you asked!

It’s a matter of real estate.

Imagine:

We’re living together. Late at night I get up with the munchies and want to make burnt toast with nut-butter. We like different kinds- so there are both kinds in the house. (Crunchy and smooth). Because it’s dark, I unknowingly pull the wrong one from the shelf and make my snack. I take my first bite and realize what I’ve done: I’ve unleashed the flood of disgust.

I let out a yell. You come running in to see what’s wrong, even though (bless) you have a big important interview the next morning.

But I don’t care. Your choice of nut-butter has tainted my mouth and ruined perfectly good burnt toast. I yell at you for your poor choices in nut-butter (as I’m totally irrational- and don’t realize that *I* am also a choice of yours) and then we argue. I’ll skip the drama, because in the end: you lose sleep, have a terrible interview the next morning, you resent me for resenting you and we break up.

(This may be hyperbolizing…. slightly. But only just.)

So- see? This question is WAY more important than the usual ones of “what religion are you?” And “have you ever killed a person?”. Who cares about those questions? This one saves a lot of time, future heart-break and deposit money.

Trust me. The nut-butter question is the most important.

(Followed by pulpy/pulp-free orange juice).

For the record:

Creamy is the correct answer. I prefer cashew, hazelnut or macadamia nut butter. Almond butter is a staple when I’m back home. Peanut butter is only consumed when I’m traveling internationally via long bus rides.