Tag Archives: Travel

The Housing Hunt has Ended

Since moving out of my lovely little Basotho rondavel in early August, I have jumped from hostel to house to tent to house to house across 4 countries and 2 continents. My life has occasionally condensed to a single backpack’s worth of shirts and underwear and only expanded as far as a duffel bag – twice that size. And much as I love travelling, when looking for a place to settle down for a year there’s a certain desire to unpack the suitcase that’s been glaring at me for the past 7 weeks (and I swear getting heavier by the day out of spite…).

Fortunately, the second in the series of sagas – that of London accommodation – has finally come to an end! The quest has been a source of much frustration, several downer days, and way too much money stripped off my Oyster card. Sadly, finding decent housing in London at a decent price in a decent area and with decent flatmates is like mixing a cocktail with only half the ingredients and substituting along the way.

I move in 3 weeks to east-central London. Expect some geeky gushing about the neighbourhood in about that amount of time. Housewarming parties to come!

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Table Mountain

“It is not your mountain until you’ve conquered it” – Dragana

I proudly claim ownership over a small piece of the domineering Table Mountain. Mark, one of my Cape Town hosts, and I scrambled the Platteklip trail to the top on my very first morning.

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To Cape Town I Go!

IMG_0625At long last, the Visa Saga is complete!

Following my Swazi border-jump, I re-entered the Republic of South Africa with a week to kill before my London flight. Naturally, an opportunistic trip to Cape Town was in order.

And just as I feared, I fell in love with the city. Hard.

In four and a half days I saw a major slice of Western Cape highlights, but left so much of Cape Town itself grievously unexplored. Can I persuade anyone to accompany me on a future South African jaunt?

Phophonyane Falls

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The Phophonyane Legend

Swazi legend relates the romantic tale of a beautiful
maiden and her love for a handsome warrior. For her hand he had to present her with the skin of a leopard which he had to hunt for on the rugged Gobolondlo Mountain. Misfortune befell her suitor and he was seized by witches who inhabited the mountainside and transformed into a white flower, condemned for his trespassing to bloom and die among the mountain grasses. When after many days the warrior had still not returned, the lamenting maiden sat on the river’s edge where her inexhaustible tears flowed to form the Phophonyane waterfalls, which still flow today.

http://www.phophonyane.co.sz/

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Return to the Mountains

IMG_0419My return to the mountains – this time in Swaziland – began in Malalotja Nature Reserve. Hiking with Walker and talking life. What a perfect return.

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Part 5: A Second Border-Jump

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It means ‘to restart the economy’ in siSwati, the national language of Swaziland, and near the little town of Ngonini, that is precisely what comes of the trainings run by a local organisation of that name.

Nearly twenty years ago, eighteen chiefdoms (sigodzi) in northern Swaziland allied in support of a little project intending to run community support programs that would enhance the lives of local Swazis and allow them to build toward a brighter tomorrow. Sound like NGO-speak? It is. It’s also true.

IMG_2754Kathy Gau is the Peace Corps Volunteer who never left. After extending her volunteer term an additional year and then holding a few odd jobs in northern Swazi, she laid the foundations for Vusumnotfo, where she has worked ever since.

Kathy, her daughter Alison, and their friend Walker came to visit Jenn and me in December last year. Unable to repay the visit in April, I took advantage of my time-sensitive visa situation to make the trip in August.

For a full week I camped out in a Wendy house (after learning what is a Wendy house), hiked, ran, talked work, and talked life. I got to see the organisation in full workshop operation and spent some time learning about Swazi history and culture as I chatted with the Vusumnotfo staff between sessions.

Definitely glad I got the touristy stuff out of the way a few months ago to really enjoy this slice of Swaziland.

Botswana Symbolism

When visiting the Three Dikgosi Monument with Angela & co., our tour guide Samuel* explained the two major hallmarks of Botswana nationalism. I must say, I like the concreteness of the Botswana symbols – completely devoid of abstract, indefinable terms such as ‘bravery’ or ‘unity’ that often sound more like national aspirations than true reflections of a country anyway.

Flag of Botswana

Blue: representing rain and sky
White: the small population of white Botswana nationals
Black: the larger population of black Batswana
Horizontal stripes: harmonious existence between blacks and whites in the same country – in Samuel’s words: “to represent that no racism exists in Botswana” – alternatively, representative of the national animal, the zebra

Coat of Arms of Botswana

Zebra: National animal of Botswana, also the nickname of the national football team
Elephant tusk: Wildlife and Tourism
Sorghum sheaf: Crop agriculture
Bull’s head: Livestock agriculture
Blue stripes: rivers
Three cogwheels: Industry
Shield: Defense and resilience; the shape is evocative of the traditional Zulu shield, which was later adopted by the Sotho-Tswana people; the Sotho-Tswana word for shield, ‘Thebe,’ has become the name of the smaller Botswana currency division
Motto: ‘Pula’ – the Sotho-Tswana word for ‘rain’ – a valued phenomenon in such an arid environment; also translated as ‘blessing’ or ‘luck’ and taken for the name of the national currency unit

Botswana national crest

Botswana national crest

*Naturally, additional/alternative interpretations likely exist. Concerned parties should take this up with Samuel.