Posts Tagged ‘africa’

I decided to go back to Cape Town for a boy. This is something I haven’t done since… uh…. Highschool? I guess you could say that the week-long romance (and communication afterwards during my overland trip) was good enough I wanted to see where this would go. So when I arrived in Vic-Falls I booked my flight with frequent fliers using united.com’s (star alliance) website. I checked several options- and finally decided on the most complicated (and least expensive) option of going from:

Kilimanjaro – Addis Ababa – Nairobi – Johannesburg – Cape Town. 4 flights, 2 carriers, 1 alliance, 56 hours of airport time. Total cost to me: 52$. If nothing else, I would get a lot of reading/work done.

I got a ride to the airport from a great friend (Praise Nygene– who I also booked my Kili trip with) along with another American girl who was flying to Rwanda. She checked in and left with no problems.

I get to the counter, after standing in line for 55 min, to find out that my ticket has been “flagged” and I needed “to go to the office”.

I felt like a school kid who was in trouble…

I went to the office and was told that I would be rerouted straight to Nairobi. Great!

6 hours later, I get my new itinerary (I hope it works out!!!) and I’m sitting down at dinner in a really posh lodge that the airline put me up in “for my inconvenience”.

I need to explain something:

I have been camping for the past 52 days. I have been in every climate in all of the southern African horn: desert, rain forest, high altitude, volcanos, snow, sleet, rain. Having people snore next to/below you. Sharing tents with people who talk/moan in their sleep. Having to get up at crazy hours for heaps of reasons (taking care of drunk people, domestic abuse, hippos eating outside your tent, climbing a dormant volcano….)

This was the first night, in 52 days, that I got to:

1) Sleep in my OWN ROOM
2) with clean sheets!
3) NAKED! (if I wanted)
4) while drinking the free bottled-water!
5) jumping on the bed
6) with a mosquito net!
7) WITH MY OWN BATHROOM! ATTACHED! TO THE ROOM! I didn’t have to get dressed/shoed to pee in the middle of the night!

Oh… glorious!

I also got free dinner (and dessert! and breakfast!) which was a huge spread and I stuffed myself silly.

Tangent: there have been several times when re-booking was a great idea… Like the time when I was re-routed to Denver and missed my flight. That night I decided “either I’m going to get a hotel or watch the opening of Batman. Luckily, I got a hotel room- as the closest theater to the airport was in Aurora.

Moving on.

I got into Nairobi. It’s kinda like a shitty little airport- Strike that. Not kinda. It is a shitty little airport. The hallways are way too small and loud people with roller bags stand in the middle of the 2-butt isle screaming on their cell phones.

I search for a lounge. There is none.
I search for comfortable chairs. There are none.
There is nothing that isn’t metal or tile in this entire airport. (Believe me- I had 13 hours to kill… I searched!)

This all surprised me because it’s supposed to be “the airport hub of Africa”- and yet… It’s so unfriendly towards passengers. I mean, when you have a options to fly through certain cities, why would you ever choose to fly through Nairobi? I couldn’t find a single one.

I eventually settled for an over-priced cafe that has ugly orange plastic-coated booths and electric plugs and I plopped myself down for the long-haul.

The waitress startles me when I’m informed that they are closing. Good! 2 hours left in this gawd-forsaken place. I pay, get up and go towards the shitty tiled terminal to wait -in my sleeping bag, on the tile floor- for my flight to begin boarding.

I get on the plane. It’s empty. I would have gotten a row to myself except a Kenyan decided to sit in the middle seat and hovered over me while I fill out my Ebola health form.

I tell him I’m switching seats and get up and move behind him- only to be woken up by the flight attendants who wanted to give me breakfast. At 3am…..

“It’s ok,” I breathe. “I’ll be there soon.”

By this point, my cheerfulness was waning from the long hours of doing nothing. I was exhausted, circling around angry/pissed off- but I needed to look refreshed and flirty for the customs guy at Jo’berg.

You see, South Africa has this weird law about Visas. They give you a 90-day visa with an option to extend (but that takes weeks). Normally, (free) visas are “refreshed” every time you cross a boarder, but SA has had problems with “boarder-hoppers”- so they changed the law, but didn’t really post it anywhere. When I emailed the embassy and explained my whole situation, their (oh-so-not-helpful) reply was simply: “it varies from custom official to custom official. Good luck!”

….. heh.

So, basically, I had to show off my persuasion skills (which is really difficult since I’ve been traveling for 54 hours, in shitty airports, all my clothes are dirty, I don’t own any mascara, AND my next flight leaves in 20minutes). I approached the customs window and gave a huge smile. I told the guy that my future relationship depended on him. He asked me to explain and so I told him the whole story… How I met a boy, we want to continue our relationship, I left on an overland tour, I just summited Kilimanjaro, and now “I’m coming back to see him… Please! If you believe in love, you will give me a new visa.”

He told me “Sorry. You need to go back to your home country. To America.”

“But I don’t get stamps from America. How will you know if I’ve been back there or not?”

“Well, you just told me you came from Nairobi from an overland tour.”

“So, you’re penalizing me for telling you the truth?”

(back and forth for about 10 minutes… My flight is boarding now…. Finally…..)

“… I can see how that is frustrating. Ok. This once. In the name of love, I will give you your visa. But if you plan on staying, please allow 1 month to extend your visa!”

Breathless, I ran (until I was really/for realz breathless) to my gate and was the last one on board.

I arrived in Cape Town, bought airtime, called my boy, squee’d a little, rode the bus back home– where the boy and I had a week and a half of romance-followed by a week of frustration from jobs and lack of money and other things, followed by an epic breakup on Halloween.

………Oh well. It was an educational experience, at least.

———

Are you an editor? I’m trying to put together a book of short-stories. (basically, more of these blog posts.) They’re funny! They’re moving! They’re 90% true. If you’re interested in being an editor (cutting out the crap, challenging me on stuff that doesn’t make sense, etc) and have time/interest, let me know!

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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?

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

I love looking through my passport. It’s a guilty pleasure of mine- seeing the stamps and visas that I’ve collected, remembering all the boarder crossings that I’ve walked through, fruit/veg check points that I’ve lied my way past and random light-hearted (or bawling) conversations I’ve had with the customs officials.

I remember the time I was stuck at the Costa Rica boarder trying so hard to figure out what to do. The lack of signs made me think I had already gone through the line, only to be turned around at a random check point and told I had to walk back and get stamped in.

I cried a lot that day.

My Canadian work visa is a constant reminder of one of my biggest failures and hardest lessons of my life. I found a stamp for February 2008 and was transported back to leaving “short crunch” (90+hours a week) to go to NYC because my (step) grandma had died. I wasn’t so sad about her death as I was about my Grandpa. Widowed twice- both after 29 years of marriage- the first was my name-sake and I had never met her. I remember seeing him and having lunch at the deli right by his apartment. He and I didn’t have a great bond as I rarely got to spend time with just him- but sitting across from him, that day, I saw all of the familiar mannerisms that my dad uses: using humor to pass off his sadness or to try to not talk about difficult things by diverting the conversation to mundane topics like “how about dem Yankees?” . I tried so hard to have a deep and emotional with my Grandpa that day- to try to get to know him (what was he like? What did he think about? What was his favorite color? His favorite ice-cream flavor? What games did he play growing up?)

But nothing I tried worked- which just reminded me more of the big epic failure I had waiting for me back in Canada (my job).

Months of frustration and no sleep resulted in me getting fired from that job- which was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. Years later, during my Grandpa’s shiva, I had this moment of clarity where I couldn’t be in that industry anymore- Working one last contract, I managed to save enough to set off on my travels.

The Vietnamese visa reminds me of trying to check into my flight in the glorious Singapore Airport for Ho Chi Minh City, only to realize that I had to pre-apply for a visa. (My hair had become more blonde during my trek through the middle of Australian Outback and the only defense I have is that it must have been a blonde moment thinking I was exempt from getting a Vietnamese visa before boarding the plane.) Luckily! I could apply online (with the expedited 50$ fee!) and receive my visa at HCMC’s airport.

The .35$ Saigon Greens made up for it in the end.

I have 3 “fake” stamps. One for the Galapagos, one for Machu Picchu and a shark stamp. The shark stamp I received at the Houston Aquarium when a little kid asked me for my passport. I have it to him and he stamped it with a shark stamp. What I didn’t realize at the time was that there was a special “shark stamp passport” that you could get that the curio shop and the stamps were to mark all the different sharks that existed in the Gulf.

Now, having a fake stamp is kinda illegal. If you meet a hard-ass-no-fun official he could decline you entry/exit and then you’re basically hosed. This fear came when I was at the Copenhagen Airport trying to leave for my flight to Dublin. He turned to the page with the shark, pointed and grunted. I sighed and started to explain the story of the little kid and the aquarium. He rolled his eyes in this “stupid Americans!” way, stamped that page and off I went!

I’ve never had another problem with it since then.

Then there was the time when the bus was told to not make any conversation with the custom officials at the Namibia boarder because they were notoriously skeptical of American foreigners and may hold up the whole group. The day before I had gone zip-lining in Vic falls and had sharpie marker symbols on my hand. The customs official asked me about it.

“Oh, I went zip-lining. They wrote this on my hand as proof of payment or something.”

“Was it fun?”

“Hell yea it was fun!”

“Weren’t you scared?”

“You know the feeling you get when you like a boy and you think he’s going to kiss you- but you aren’t sure. And then you do? You know that feeling in your stomach- we call it butterflies. That scared feeling and then the thrill of excitement? It’s like that.”

She just smiled, stamped my passport and let me go.

The rest of the bus, behind me, just shook their heads, in complete disbelief that I:
A) disobeyed orders by having an actual conversation with the official and
B) that I just compared zip-lining to kissing a boy.

I stand by my statement and regret nothing.

So, basically, my passport is my greatest souvenir that I could have. A constant reminder of how much money I’ve invested on travel and small memories of specific times in my life.

Ah, Cape Town.

I feel like I have lived, died, got reborn, and lived again here. Between love and fear, the past 2 weeks have been a roller-coaster of emotions.

Love: 

I adore this city. It reminds me of San Francisco, Baltimore and Melbourne all mixed into 1. Sometimes I’ll turn a corner and something will be there that will remind of something else. Either which way, Cape Town reminds me of some cool places.

There is a cat in the Hostel named Kai. He’s ginger, just like the Whore. He’s stupidly needy and cuddly and I will constantly find him in my backpack, bed, etc sleeping. He makes me happy.

The community and dancing and singing that goes on in this city is just miraculous.

The interest in where I’m from, what I think of Cape Town, the city itself is astounding! Never have I been in a place and able to communicate so clearly what I think, feel and how I act and feel like I’m understood. I’m also having fun learning Afrikaans (I made sure to learn all the cuss words first).

I’ve met some friends (mostly South African), and have spent a great deal of time with them. Cooking, talking, sharing, exploring the city, sharing languages. Hearing their stories. Their fables. Their good and bad times.

I am constantly reminded that THIS is the reason why I travel. 

Of course, with it comes the flip-side of the coin. The fear. 

I was mugged a few days ago. And while this wasn’t my first rodeo- this WAS the first time I fought back/ran after the guy and got everything back. (phew). But the damage to my ego and trusting myself was done and I had to get over that.

So I forced myself to take short walks when the sun was out. During these walks, I had day-mares of what I SHOULD have done. How I should have attacked him/countered the attack. These day-mares would be so graphic, I would have to duck into a coffee-shop and take a breather. These visions have subsided, thankfully, because I learned to re-trust myself and my instincts and be more aware of how I look. (Which- is still white, curly-haired, girl…. but I can’t help those things.) I smile broadly, say “hello!” and wave and strike up more random conversations with people.

The other thing I’m scared of is Ebola- which, to be honest, is a RATIONAL fear! It’s a virus. A really bad and deadly one. Let me educate you on what I know about Ebola:

1) It’s super contagious (through blood/blood spray)…. or monkey meat, apparently.

2) Eventually, your body, essentially, dies and you just become this shell of a person. (read: Zombie). Your skin is ashen, your stupid sick and your body is oozing blood (because the virus needs to take over something else…. fast!)

3) The biggest Ebola outbreak has killed 1300+ people in 2014. It used to be 100% fatal, but in the recent weeks there are some cures that seem to (HOPEFULL!) work!

For the 10 nights straight I had dreams of Ebola. Someone in the backpackers vomiting all night and I go in to ask how they are doing and there is blood every where and they are ashen/zombie-like. I take a picture of them (with the phone that the mugger did NOT get!) and shut the door immediately and tape it with duct tape- careful to not cut myself or expose myself in the process. I text the picture to the health officials and tell the hostel owner that he needs to evacuate everyone immediately. I get all the HEFTY plastic bags out of my suitcase and wrap myself in plastic and don all 4-pairs of rubber gloves and condoms that I can find and tape everything down with plastic-tape. I go towards the door and interview the guy on tape: “How long have you been sick? Where did you come from? What made you sick? Where all are you bleeding?” etc.

I send this information to the health officials, as well and wait for the Hazmat suits to get here.

I wake up in a cold sweat. it’s 4am. I use the internet (because that’s peak times to use the internet!) I try to go back to bed, it doesn’t work. I go for a run and watch the sunrise over the cape and the tide swells and my breath gets taken away again by the beauty of this city that I forget everything all over again. My heart feels light, my head is clear. The sweat from my run gets taken away by the tornado-like-gusts of wind that Cape Town gets, I get goosebumps. Every bump is a memory of good, bad, indifferent… A story.

Ek Glimlag.

 

This is why I travel.

ep2. Baby Elephant

Posted: August 5, 2014 in Podcast
Tags: , , ,

My family and I watch a family of elephants spray dirt and water on each other. Then a lion roars and they need to leave….. but run into trouble.

 

http://www.sanparks.org/parks/kruger

LNLurie.com

 

Thanks to Leib Lurie, Barb Lurie and Josh Lurie for being the voice of this. Also, thanks to Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn for their music contribution.
Listen to my latest episode!

Amy Purdy was a teenage snowboarder. When she was a teenager, she heard about a boy who lost his legs in a freak accident and confessed (on a Ted Radio Hour) having the thought that if the same thing happened to her, she would wheel herself over a cliff to end her life. 2 years after hearing this story (about the boy) she ended up getting bacterial meningitis (suddenly) and losing both her legs below the knee, her spleen, both kidneys and her hearing in the left ear. She considered herself lucky because it could have been both hands and her nose, too.

In less than a year, she got a kidney from her dad and partnered with a prosthetic maker to create legs for her. She went back on her snowboard and ended up being a 2-world cup winner in the Paralympics. (She has also been a finalist on “Dancing With the Stars”– which I really love).

The thought process and determination to get back on the board and snow is probably one of the most attractive traits to me in human beings. Someone who is faced with an absolutely impossible situation and (somehow) manages to pull through.

I’m not talking about the “stuck on 95 during rush-hour and you have to ‘somehow’ get home in time to let the dog who has a bladder problem out before she pees all over your floor” impossible situation. (It should be noted, however, that this *IS* impossible) But more along the lines of “You’ve been diagnosed with cancer and you decide that through chemo, you’re going to have the best year of sales of your life” type.

The latter happened to a friend of mine, who I’ve met in Africa. She said that even though it was difficult, she knew that she was going to beat it. “It was harder for my family because they were scared. but I threw myself into my business- not in to the sickness- because that wasn’t worth spending time thinking about. It was just trying to hold me back- my business was exciting!”

She ended up growing her business 20-fold that year alone. She’s one of the best and most humorous people I’ve ever met.

 

On the other hand, some people just get the “deer in headlight” moment and stay there. They freeze and can’t get past the crumbling problem. They spend so much time wallowing in the problem that they forget that they, alone, have the power to FIX (or get over/around/whatever) the problem. We’ve all been there!

I once knew a guy who was a registered sex offender. Long-story short- he was getting to 2nd base, in public, with a girl who had an abusive boyfriend. (News to him). The bully’s best friend walks by- calls out to them, she then files a sex-offender case against the guy because otherwise the bully would beat her up. That was 6 years ago and the guy is still crippled by this problem. Instead of taking life by the horns and figuring it out- he’s sitting there like a deer in headlights.

 

Which gets me to my real story:

We’re in Africa. We are staying “in the bush” where we hear lions and jackals and elephants (oh my!) at night. When walking from the main lodge (food) to our tents, we need to be escorted by a staff member (local). “Why?” You ask– I’ll tell you! Because a lion could be there! And what do you do when you are face-to-face with a lion? You stare at it… straight into the eyes- and you back away slowly. Eventually someone will lose interest and you both will continue on with your lives.

Even though this safety talk has been explained numerous times, they still have the gringos walk with locals because the locals know what to do. They don’t rely on their gut. (Gringo’s guts would say do one of the following:

1) Run away (what you do with bullies)

2) get big and loud (what you do for black bears)

3) play dead (what you do for crocs, bulls, elephants, rhinos, grizzly bears, etc.)

4) punch it in the nose once it gets close enough (sharks)

All of these would get you killed by a lion, btw.

 

But my point is that even though we are told to do one thing, when faced with a huge crippling problem, we don’t know what we would do. The best (and most attractive) people, in my opinion, are the ones who get over the problem/obstacle the quickest – without getting swallowed up… By life or lions.

 

Thanks for letting me share.