|blessed is the ungrateful who cannot appreciate it
||[Dec. 16th, 2007|07:52 pm]
i'm back from south africa, land of intense sunlight, bountiful gamemeat and wonderful memories [: it's the first holiday in almost three years that joel went with us; and having everyone there, together with my neighbour ian and his family, made it so much more memorable.
thank you lisian for teaching me how to upload pictures(: the one above was taken when i was in the bus driving down from table mountain on the way to the airport. i randomly snapped this shot. and alicia calls it LUCK that it turned out pretty well (: you can see a bit of cape town in the background(: i'll upload pictures soon!
and heres a summary of the trip, framework nicked off alicia's blog but with my tuppence added!
was so excited the whole day i was restlest waiting to leave! haha, reached changi airport at close to midnight. the tourguide (called alicia, ooo, do i spot some confusion here?) gave us a briefing and within 5 minutes of us meeting her i knew she was going to be a TYRANNICAL DICTATOR OF A TOURGUIDE. it was pretty hilarious, me and alicia were laughing our heads off.
plane flight: ten hours. i HATE aeroplane rides in general. the air is dry, the seat is cramped, there's no leg space, the food is generally awful. but it was SIA. SO MOVIES! i slept first, actually, it was like 2am singapore time? then when i woke up i watched 'the interpreter' starring nicole kidman (it was okayyy but not fabulous) and CSI MIAMI. Listened to plain white t's new album too, the one with 'hey there delilah'. didn't really like it, to be honest. the only song i really enjoyed was HTD. and a few others that were okay.
when we reached johannesburg, or joburg (the nickname given by the locals) we visited the Gold Reef City, which is a genuine gold mine that had been converted into some entertainment centre. South Africa used to be the world's leading producer of gold until the supply was used up. kind of depressing really, we humans have bled the earth so fast its drying up, no more life running through the veins of this planet. (and really, thinking about it, with the recent influx of environment-related articles/movies/documentaries/issues, the media has become just saturated with all things environmental, and its tiring- i stopped watching or reading any of said topics long ago, i admit- this visit did serve as a reminder, albeit not then when i was actually at the mine but now after some reflection- that environmentalism should really become a lifestyle that not all of us are prepared to adopt, me included.)
then i went to the woodtrekker monument. which is a a monument that pays tribute to the europeans that took off from capetown and travelled by caravan to settle in joburg, bringing civilisation and modernity to the then rural and tribal area of south africa. alicia-the-tyrannical-dictator was actually pretty informative recounting the travels, some history, and the subsequent boer war (I and II). it was pretty fascinating- unravelling the little known history of south africa. took some wonderful photographs too!
today marked the first part of what certainly was the highlight of the whole trip. drove down to Mabulla Game Reserve, located a few hours away from joburg. in the afternoon/evening, we began our first game drive in the safari (bushy grassland) and it was just amazing. sat at the back of the jeep with joel and ian, and driving in the evening light with the wind blowing in your face, immersed in fresh air (that smelt vaguely of grass and animal) and surrounded by breathtaking scenery (cue trees, grass, flowers and mountain backdrop) it was an experience of a lifetime. spotted antelopes (kudus and a few other breeds i cant spell!) zebras (which look beautiul in the wild) and lions. we spent a really long time trying to spot the lions and when we did- it was all worth it. to see the animals so close to us, the jeep was open air and there weren't any barriers or enclosures or anything, literally face to face with the animals. (the ranger, called willie, had a loaded gun to shoot the animals should anything happen. and he was telling us that there had been incidents where the lions actually chased after the jeep) its completely different from going to the zoo, at so close proximity with the animals, without enclosures- it really allows you to see the animals in their natural habitat, in the wild, literally.
okay i admit, the lions were a little skinny. but oh gosh they so own zoo-lions. half the appeal lies in the danger they pose, seeing their teeth, and their paws and the powerful limbs and knowing that in a second, they could pounce on you and rip you apart from head to toe makes their power more real, compared to those in cages. and they didnt look as big and glossy and wellfed as those in captivity, but in the wild, they looked powerful. dangerous. feral. and there in lies the appeal.
it was all going fine and dandy, took some great shots of the setting sun. and then, it started to rain. willie whipped out a couple of army-style ponchos. green, oversized, and hopelessly useless. first came the struggle (to make sense of the poncho, which was basically, a green plasticy cloth with a hole for your head and a hood attached) then came the urgency (to find the hole to put your head through) and last came the rain (which went through the hopeless poncho) and for desert there was the wind that blew the rain straight into our face, making it impossible to see. so there were were, caught in an open top jeep with a hopeless poncho and when we finally returned back to mabulla, were were completely and utterly drenched. joel said the experience reminded him of the army. for me, it brought back memories of new zealand adventure programme and that week at OPC. soaked in the rain with droplets beating my face i felt really, indescribably happy
it was a fantastic way to end a fantastic drive, one of those things you'll remember for years to come.
part two of the drive took place at 5am in the morning. caught the briefest of glimpses of darkness, and the entire drive was shrouded in the beauty of early morning light, neither too bright nor too dark, the fine line in between that is dawn. we saw more elephants this time. elephants, massive, so close to us (just 1 or 2 metres away) that willie had to drive away a little further away from them (elephants weigh a few tonnes. we weigh a few kilograms. the elephant in question was right in the middle of his mating season, i.e. hormonal. said elephant may take our presence near him as as a sign of disrepect and a challenge to his autority. said elephant would not back down. CRUNCH. hello elephant, byebye humans.)
and then came the giraffes. just a little off the road, tall, long necked, one male, one female, having SEX. they were standing very close to one another immersed in the sacred act of bonding and we ogled at them like the rude humans we were, haha! and then, they saw us, stopped, and ran away. OOPS. but that'll teach you not to do private acts in public! hahahah!
there were other animals that we saw, hippos, rhinos, an african dog (that looked more like a cute boar) and different kind of birds. it was wonderful- and depressing at the same time. willie was painfully cynical.
"humans are bad. 99% of humans are bad."
"there are two kinds of humans- the first kind wants to save the world and every single animal and completely screws up the ecosystem and tips it out of balance. the second kind don't give a damn."
-we laugh awkwardly
"you can laugh but its true. there are very few humans who understand the fine line in between and the balance needed. humans are bad, bad creatures."
rather dreary view isn't it.
after leaving mabulla, we drove ot Lesedi Cultural Village which was actually really good. normally i don't like cultural shows. it tends to be ostentatious, pretentious- fake. but this one was different. the people performing actually lived in villages (african tribe style villages) and their enthusiasm was infectious. it helped that a large portion of the audience were africans too and when they say that westerners (do africans count as westerners?) are more open then chinese it is beyond a doubt true. the africans there (mostly blacks) were really really high making lots of comments, standing up to dance, cheering loudly... it really made a difference.
then we toured the african villages, four different types, including a zulu one which most of joburg actually descended from. (most africans in joburg speak zulu) and seeing the way the village was arranged, and given very interesting commentary by the guide, a zulu herself, called sara. sort of reminded me of king solomon's mines, except that i wasn't looking for diamonds, though our guide was zulu.
next we went to the lion farm where they reared lions to sell to zoos, reserves etc. carried the lion cups, who were REALLY violent, extremely painful and very painful. one of them bit a hole in this girl's pair of jeans, another gouged out a bit of flesh in this guys arm. tons of scratches. and the cubs kind of stank. hahah, but we took tons of pictures with them. although in captivity, lions are nowhere as bewitching as they are in the wild.
finally, made our way down to sun city, a famous resort in joburg. it's basically a city built by some sun company complete with a manmade lake, a waterworld, casinos, entertainment center, four hotels and other attractions. we watched a musical called 'let there be rock', which was nonstop music and dance, tracing the evolution of rock music from the 60s to the 90s, with greats like Queen, Beetles etc etc. it was really fun the four leads could sing pretty well, everything was loud, flashy and energetic.
after dinner, the tour company gave all above 18 years old 100rand to spend at the casino. my dad played blackjack and promptly lost 200rand in 2 straight games. (honestly, who holds if their cards amount to 14? MY DAD.) looks like the gambling genes is deficient in my parents, hahah!
day five was adrenaline day(: we had a free day at sun city, and me and alicia woke up early to go for a morning walk at the gardens outide our hotel. went with daddy and mommy and it was really fun. the four of us walked, joked, my dad kept making stupid comments and me, alicia and mom were laughing at him all the time. took lots of pictures and talked and joked and bonded. there was a massive slide (really really long, the longest i've seen) and we all climbed up (manoevering a few obstacles along the way, funny to see your parents in a playground!) and slid down. my dad was too afraid to slide down, hahaha and he clung onto the sides like mad and the rest of us were just laughing at him, my dad the wimp(: then we went to the tramboline and jumped around, all of us tried, except for my daddy who went onto it, took a few wobbly steps and hurriedly stepped down, much to our amusement.
after breakfast, me and alicia headed off to the manmade lake with joel and ian. we rented a paddling boat (30rand, the cheapest thing you could do, south africa is bloody expensive) and eh, paddled. futilely. the boat was a fourseater, two people paddling and two people sunbathing at the back. guess who did the paddling(: halfway through, after ian and joel were screwing around with the stick to control the steerer, it came clean off. stuck in the middle of a lake (albeit a fake one) stranded in a massive pile of seaweed (that clung on everywhere, including the steerer) and boiling under the sun... oh dear. it was hilarious at that point of time, we kept going in circles trying desperately to control the boat.
"everyone lean right!"
"everyone lean left!"
"why are we going in circles?"
all that while, alicia and i were pulling out seaweed entangled at the steerer thing at the bottom of the boat, and we finally ended up manually controlling the steerer with our hands-- to no avail. half an hour later we were still stuck at the same spot and finally my mom noticed something amiss and she came over, laughed at us, and went back to the watersports guy, who sent a MOTOR BOAT to rescue us. how utterly mortifying.
we ended up going on a motorboat ride (under the table, haha) around the lake, which was really fun, except that me and alicia didn't get to drive the boat (underage) but ian and joel did. just sat down on the boat, soaked in the sun.
all of us, (daddy, mommy, joel, alicia, ian, me) ended up going parasailing with the kids doing jetskiing too. it was fantastic, jetskiing was great, driving the jetski was petrifying, i kept envioning myself banging onto the shoreline or capsizing the jetski! its an experience that i can't really describe. wind. water. swerves.
we waited damn long to parasail. my mom kept complaining because we were running short of time. my dad and my mom went first, and when they finally came down, they were laughing. and wincing. (my mom somehow jumped when she first entered the water, slamming her knee very hard on the water) and my mom scared us shitless recounting the horrors of being dumped into the water and struggling to unclip the carabenas that connected them to the parachute. joel and ian went next, and finally me and alicia.
the anticipation! holding onto the metal bar, waiting for the okay, it was excitement, fear, impatience that overwhelmed us, and when we finally broke into a run, leaping into the water and lifted into the air. seeing suncity from the top was breathtaking (sun city is surrounded by mountains) and the wind was blowing (it was freaking cold) and the feeling of being suspended in midair- the freedom makes you feel on top of the world, literally. landing wasn't as bad as we expected, kind of anticlimax really. we landed in the water perfectly safely, didn't even get submerged in the water for long. (my parents put it down to age. "we're old, you're young, of course you guys can do it better!") wow wow wow.
almost late for our meeting with the entire tour group at 12pm. me and alicia and daddy, who waited for us, jogged all the way back to the hotel. we left the beach at 1148pm. somehow, we made it back to our hotel room by 1158pm and were down by 1203. when we were entering our room, we saw some people leaving theirs. oops. it was the quickest shower i ever had, including school camps and council camps. after showering alicia was like "adele you have a leaf on your hair") ehhh. haha.
we went for the heliflip! the guide was telling us how the pilot would do more flips if he saw that the passengers were young people so the ten of us, (dad, mom, joel, me, alicia, ian's parents, ian, ian's auntie and uncle) were joking about it and saying how all the young people should go together and the old people in a seperate trip. so joel ian me and alicia and... my dad (the 'YOUNG' one of the old people, like real hahah) went first. first time in a helicopter. putting on the ear thing to block out the sound of the blades and speaking into a mic was all very cool, and flying in the air, seeing the views for miles ahead, swerving low the mountain range and diving up and down as just out of the world.
after the heliflip, we went for high tea at Palace Hotel, which is this castle located in a 'lost city' that the suncity people created. (comes complete with a bridge that vibrates to recreate the supposed 'earthquake' that happened years before that made the city, eh, lost. the bridge is called, the bridge of time. whats with the cheesy names! waterfalls, huge looming statues, and literally, the hotel was a castle. complete with turrets.) toured the place, the architecture was remarkable, breathtaking but in my opinion kind of pointless (no historical significance whatsoever but it was beautiful) and had high tea.
high tea came complete with dainty teacups and saucers, cakes all sorts, pastries, tarts, quiches, eclairs etc etc, and it was all in this beautiful room. between five of us, we finished 14 tea pots (mixture of tea and coffee), everything was sinful, delicate and very glam. after tea, went to this "secret lift". its the only lift in the whole hotel that has access to the rooftop and our tourguide looked really excited when she "let us into the secret". the view was good, but nothing special. half the fun came from the fact that we were not supposed to go to the rooftop cus we weren't hotel guests. sneaking around has its kick.
played squash with alicia after that (yes folks, we were mad enough to lug around two rackets, two pairs of court shoes, two eyemasks, my ankle wrap plus four balls) and we were hopelessly rusty. played almost 9 sets with alicia, completely wrecked after that.
dinner was at fishmongers. we waited nearly 1 hour for the food, started out pretty lighthearted and fun. mom and dad went to a NEOPRINT machine (or something similar, a sketchpad thingy that prints out like a sketch in black and white) and took a couple of pictures and my mom gave me and alicia money to do one too. ("to hang on the wall in the new house") and so we went. first time, i was smiling normally [= and alicia was making a funny face. went back to the restaurant.
"what kind of face are you doing?"
"why you smile like that? how am i going to hang this on the wall!!! go take another one!"
hilarious! so we went back one more time to take, normal this time, my mom beamed, ("so much better this time") my brother gave his tuppence ("who are these two hideous girls?") and my brother went to take his pic. me and alicia went with him to make sure he smiled properly.
"kor, smile lah!"
-pulls his hair up
"yes, that, hold, don't move okay"
-joel smiles waiting for the picture to be taken, 1 second, 2 seconds... 5 seconds... he turns around to look at the screen
"it's starting already, quick look at the camera!"
-click, picture taken.
"aiyo, look at the way you smile! it was perfect before, why you move? now you look hideous!" (haha me saying this!)
and the wait got longer and longer and longer. we ended up nicknaming the manager of the restaurant "die hard" (courtesy of my dad) because the manager resembled bruce willis. uncanny resemblance. food finally came and they missed out one dish. we ended up eating at another restaurant after that (pizza). the tee family pigs.
flew to capetown from joburg. we took a budget airplane, kulula, which was an experience. to say the least. first time on a budget airline. the seats are painfully small, there isn't any food, to top it off, the aircon in the plane was SPOILT and they had to get some manual air blower thing to make the airplane cool. but. the flight attendants were hilarious. only time i've ever really paid attention to the safety briefing! i can't really remember what they said.
"ladies and gentleman, this is strictly a no smoking flight. any person caught smoking will be immediately sent off the plane."
"...put the life vest over your head. pull the strap to inflate. if it doesnt inflate, and the straw has a hole, well then... byebye."
"ever wondered why cape town is called the mother city? its because everything there takes 9 months to happen!"
something like that. there were more, he had us all cracking.
when we finally reached capetown, we went to an ostrich farm. I WILL NOT WRITE HERE WHAT HAPPENED. embarrassing! then we went to the Waterfront to go shopping. nothing really to talk about, my mom bought a tanzanite stone, this blue or violet coloured stone that can only be found in zimbabwe i think. only one mine in the whole world has tanzanite and its supposed to run out by 2020. so the ring is an investment. gorgeous. me and alicia were having a mock fight on who would get the ring next time haha. bought a pair of blue suede/leather slippers.
we toured cape town and then we went on a ferry to see seals. we were standing on the deck, wind blowing (it was bitter cold) and travelled to this huge... rock... which was flooded was seals. that stank. seals are kind of ugly. they look really slimy. but cute lah (ugly but adorable, note) alicia didnt bring a thick jacket so joel leant her hers, and promptly used it to blackmail her the rest of the trip.
"alicia, massage me."
"because i lent you my jacket. it was veryyy cold" - stresses "but i lent you my jacket!"
"show me some sisterly love!"
"what about brotherly love?"
"i've already done that. brothers show their love by lending their jackets. so gimme a back massage!"
after that, we went ot boulder's beach to see african penguins. VERY CUTE (without the ugly). they're tiny, about 12 inches, black, and they waddle around clumsily, absolutely adorable! then we went to the cape of good hope nature reserve. its very different from reading about it. all this history encapsulated in one place- its strange to know how much of our world's development was concentrated at the cape of good hope, pivotal to our world's modernisation. the view was fantastic. really breathtaking. standing at the lighthouse the pacific and indian ocean stretched in frong before us, endlessly, really wu yuan bu ji, it made me humbled by the sheer size of the world, made me aware of how small we are, and made me understand, for the first time, how come our ancestors thought the world was flat. the cape of good hope was just a rock really, but its significance makes it more than that. if i could upload pictures (WHICH I WILL LEARN HOW TO!) i'll post it- apicture paints a thousand words.
last real day in south africa. went to stellenboschfor wine tasting (more of my parents' thing rather than mine) and we went to this really cute store, that was over a hundred years old. it was really quirky, sold all sorts of weird things. the town we were in is considered a "living museum" because most of the houses in the town are over 100 years old, nearly every single one. so all the houses were protected.
then, we went to the cheetah farm. it was set up by a few animal lovers, private, set up entirely to raise awareness of the dwindling cheetah numbers and to protect them. the cheetahs there are so tame, its freaky, the cheetah was SLEEPING on the keeper's knee, literally, head on the knee. without any leash or anything. it kind of took the fun out of it, but according to alicia-the-tyrannical-dictator, its cus the owners love the animals too much. that they became so close to the cheetahs.
finally, we went to century city to shop. went bargain shopping, going to the cheapest stores, finally buying 4 shirts and 2 shorts.
(at this point in time, i'm getting quite tired of recounting everything. this is a VERY LONG blog post)
last day. we made a last ditched attempt to go to table mountain. it was. CLOSED. so we drove half way up, the scenery was still pretty beautiful though, but we didnt get to go to the peak. this trip has had its ups and downs, for one, i really enjoyed it, and i feel so blessed to have everything i do, and spending it with my family has surrounded me with this bliss and love. but even i have to admit we were pretty unlucky throughout the trip.
eleven hour plane right home. it was. quite honestly, long. watched three movies! first one, talented mr ripley, which stars matt damon, judge law, gweneth paltrow. lots of big names. it was really creepy, made me want to read the book. watched a korean movie too (cus it starts what-her-name?) sad ending. (i hate sad endings) and finally, almost famous, a movie about rock&roll, that looks old, won an oscar (for goodness knows what) and was kind of boring.
then i reached home.
how this trip has been unlucky:
when we first reached joburg, this couple in the trip had to turn back to singapore because the wife didnt have enough pages in her passport to stamp. waited really long for them, alicia-ttd was trying to negotiate and bribe the airplane officials but to no avail. first time i've ever heard of this happening.
when we were at joburg airport, taking domestic flight to capetown, our plane was delayed by an hour. and the aeroplane had no aircon. so it was sweltering hot, and they had to get some machine to blow air through the air vents in the plane and then it became freaking cold.
first day in capetown, we postponed our trip to table mountain because it was misty at the back.
second day in capetown, table mountain close due to strong mist.
third day in capetown, table mountain close due to strong wind.
last day in capetown, contrary to weather reports which predicted a sunny, fine day, table mountain close because the wind is stronger than the day before.
but if i think about it, how lucky am i?
i'm blessed beyond words. sometimes when i lie down in bed before i sleep and think about it, i am so blessed, so incredibly blessed. and i dont even know how to put it in words, but sometimes, it makes me wonder why me, why i am so lucky to be born in this family, to be given the opportunity to travel the world, to have a family who lives me so much, with alicia, my unabashedly best friend in the whole world, and joel who i'm growing closer to, i think, and who loves us in his own way, and my parents who are still in love with each other, and love us so much and i think that maybe somewhere down the years to come, i'll be facing some horrible bad luck because noone can be so blessed with good fortune all their lives. makes me think, how ungrateful i can be. how i should be doing more to help others. because i really am, the luckiest person in the world. i really love my family. this trip has just strengthened that. sometimes i dont think i deserve it.
i love the tees.
i really need to go down on my knees and thank God.
the remains of the day
this post is 4608 words, OH MAN.