Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Duties done and dusted

When you're sleeping at night, when everything is really quiet, and you hear *bump* *bump* thudding around somewhere outside, don't fret; that would probably be me sleepwalking into things with my newly acquired, rotund, Friar Tuck-like Christmas belly. I think it may have stretch marks and if I had a hand-mirror to be able to see under the bulge I might be able to tell for sure!

I've been having an awesome time since being back - hence the lack of posts. First Natalie came to visit and we did everything we wanted, just chilling on the couch, shopping, going out for sushi, going to my sister's holiday house in Pearly Beach and I even managed some diving in between. My grand tally of crayfish caught stands at five which includes two oupa rooi gerte (grandfather crayfish) as long as my forearm. Nat went home on Saturday, which sucked big time not being able to spend more time with her, and then I went back to Pearly Beach with the parentals to do the family thing, which was very cool.

Christmas represented old-skool, going back to the tradition of spending Eve at my aunt's house in Franskraal with the whole famdam. I think this tradition stretches back to way before I was born so it's quite a solid one which I understand is good to maintain, like a Unesco World Heritage Site or something and not in the Calvinistic sense of tradition. Bleh. I had fun. Got some cool prezzies too.

I'm currently in Hermanus, where the next few days will be spent consuming a mishmash of alcoholic beverages, of dubious quality but impressive quantity, and surfing, or lying on the beach giving off the "surfer karma" making sure everyone knows I surf and trying to fool everyone into thinking I can do 360 airs, reverse rolls, drop-knee 720s and pull into two minute barrels just by the way I lie on the beach gazing across the blue expanse that is my playground. If I pull it off Uri Geller better step back cause his spoon-bending antics will be so-last-century...oh wait, they already are.

Will post again before New Year's Even hopefully. If I don't: You know what to do, don't disappoint yourself or me.

Some pics follow here or on FlickR shortly!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Journey: complete

Forty hours, five airports, six airplane meals, 24 Bellingham tiny wines, three hours of sleep, three in-flight movies, one suicidal piece of machinery and one sick passenger later: I am home.

These last few days would have been hell on earth if I wasn't so excited about coming home. After Bangkok we arrived in Nairobi at four am, departing at Jomo Kenyatta Airport. It felt like when you come out of a late-night movie in a mall and all the shops are closed, lights dimmed, and your footsteps echo in the empty corridors. We had to wait until 7:30 for our next flight, but that turned out to be 13:00, as some mechanical thingy-majig on the plane decided to commit suicide (selfish bugger) as we were taxiing, so we had to turn around on the runway and wait in the departure lounge until 12, by which time they'd figured out what was wrong, but then the pilot and his crew had completed their 12-hour shift and the airline was compelled by law to find another pilot. Luckily, there was a captain and crew sitting in the government/first-class lounge playing strip-poker and drinking games with the air hostesses, chuggin' on fat Havanas, downing tequila shots and chasing them with Jack and coke mixers. They would have to do.

Tiny wine was ordered and we headed off to Joburg aka Egoli, place of gold. It was a bumpy ride but the views while flying over the Serengeti and lakes Tanganyika and Victoria were worth it, as well of course, the copious i-tiny winies in constant supply and disappearing in a perennial stream. By the time we departed at Johannesburg, Christoff couldn't focus or handle heavy machinery (afterwards he said he couldn't remember ever climbing off the airplane at JHB International - damn lightweight) so yours truly had to do the PA work, booking us in and getting us on the Mango Airlines plane, who, by the way were pretty crap, and made us about three hours late but it wasn't their fault and if you pay minimal fees that's what you can expect so we couldn't complain. Other passengers did, however and kudos to Ghia the uber-cool air hostess who handled the grumpy, "this is not acceptable service", "I have hemorrhoids so I want a softer seat" whiny-ass passengers with grace and icy-cool finesse. Nice one! If they want silver service, maybe they should have coughed up a bit more money instead of buying the cheapest plane ticket on the market.

Again, while we were taxiing on the runway, some dude got a panic attack and freaked out. Five brandy shots and seven bitch-slaps didn't rectify the situation so we had to turn around again and drop him off. Back into the queue waiting to depart. I'm not sure, but I think we arrived in Cape Town at about 22:20 last night. It was good to see the folks and fam who had been waiting since seven I think, but luckily they used the Kotzé family common-sense and headed to the nearest airport restaurant to polish several bottles of wine whilst waiting.

I'm as happy as an ant in a cookie jar, bee in a honey pot, or caterpillar on head of lettuce. Will update again soon!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

The first leg is complete

Well, aren't I a dedicated blogger? I'm sitting in an internet cafe, overlooking a big green garden in a damn big airport. Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok to be exact. This place is ginormous. It looks like a giant, U-shaped warehouse - the kind of warehouse that stocks people and airplanes. Steel and glass everywhere. It's times like these I wish I had rollerblades so I could just skate from one side to the other.

Airports are awesome, you see so many interesting people from around the world. I've only been here for about two hours, but it would take about another hour to describe some of the people I've seen, from a young Muslim boy wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt to an old man straight out of the 60s with grey, downy chest hair as long as my forearm peeling out from the button-holes of his shirt...The only gross thing about this airport is that there are a lot of very white, balding,, dirty, ugly and old Western men traveling with beautiful young Asian girls, which is a bit unnerving - I'm sure they love each other to death but I can't help wondering about the nature of their relationship and whether it really is that tingly, butterflies-in-the-stomach, head-over-heels, flushed, can't-sleep-at-night-so-I-stay-up-writing-poetry-to-you kind of love...

Well, I've got another eight hours to go and then it's off to Nairobi (where I doubt they have an internet cafe!) and another few hours delay...eight more hours of observing people...should be fun.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Last day of work

I’m sitting here at school, about to go teach my last class for a little over a month. It’s an ambivalent feeling. No, that’s crap. It feels awesome going home. I’m gonna miss this place, but I’d miss it more if I weren’t coming back in four weeks. I could go off on some long-winded, adjective- and emotion-filled doughnut of a rant of what a great experience these last 9 months have been etc, but I’ll spare us all some tears and yawns. It was good. Punt (punt in Afrikaans means “Full stop – as in the punctuation mark – but carries more weight, probably because it’s shorter).

I thought I’d share this: As I’m writing this post, my mom just text messaged me. I thought, great, she gonna tell me how she can’t wait for me to come home; “Nog net twee slapies my diertjie” or something in that line. No, instead: “Are you allowed to wear pink shirts to work?” A bit arb, but funny.

Anyways, tomorrow evening this time I’ll be somewhere over the Indian Ocean, scratching my uncomfortable ass in my severely limited leg-room, wondering why the hell I decided to fly with Kenya Airways via godforsaken Nairobi..Oh yes, because it was damn cheap!

I’ll post again as soon as I’ve figured out what this “reverse-culture shock” phenomenon is all about…

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Fast-food framing

Originally uploaded by HennoK.

(To the tune of Abba's "Mama Mia")

Lotteria! Here we go again!
My, my, how can I resist you?
Lotteria! Does it show again?
My, my, just how much I've missed you.
Since the day I started,
Can't believe that with your chicken burger I've parted...

That's my 70s post for the day duty done...I feel used.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Visual visit tree

This is pretty neat. James Spahr, a designer on Information Aesthetics, created this diagram, visually depicting "how online users travel through a specific website. All traffic moves clockwise around the map, enters at the bottom of the page & exits at the top of the page. Thicker lines mean more traffic, while the color of traffic leaving a page matches the color of the section it is going to & vice versa."

[link: Eyebeam Reblog via designweenie.comvia knowingart.com]

I guess it's a bit more difficult for blogs, being single page entries (mostly), but wouldn't it be interesting to have a visual description of your site? You would probably also need a fair amount of traffic to generate a reasonable image. So, on the contrary, my blog's "visual tree" would probably look like so:


What's that? The number of people who have succumb to Typhoon Durian? The temperature in Saigon today? The number of Honda Dreams that I had to dodge on my way to District 4? The number of pimples on my ass? Nope, it's how well I know world countries. My score is 55, which is three better than noodlepie's, but couldn've been nearer to 100 (!) if I had better "mouse-control" and hand-eye coordination. Give it a try and post your score!

Hump Day

Today is “Hump Day” as Susan so kindly informed me (I think maybe I’ve finally met someone with a dirtier mind than me!). No, not like that, but I thought it was like that until I discovered it wasn’t but I still wish it was like that. It’s actually a vernacular term for Wednesday.

I never knew Wednesday was ubiquitously defined as Hump Day. I know about TGI Friday and the Sabbath, but Hump Day is new to me. Here’s a formal definition, here’s a more obscure one and here’s a plain fiendish one (which is actually like that which I first thought it was like and am quite glad it is that).

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

The perfect storm (my ass)

Patrick Swayze was out in the back-break of Nha Trang’s main beach, golden locks flowing in the wind and dripping with saltwater, mixing with the sweat beading on his forehead. Sitting across his nine-foot “rhino-chaser”, his heart was pounding in his throat as his muscles tensed at the sight of the oncoming perfect storm. The ocean bunched on the horizon as the swell picked up and he started to paddle...It was Typhoon Durian. The typhoon that hit Philippines a few days ago, where it killed hundreds, was on its way to Vietnam, and it stank. Like the fruit. Durian stinks. More then you can possibly imagine. The large, spiky green skin encases a yellowy, ripe, seething mass of meat-like, gooey pods that smell like a 10-day old rotting carcass of an alcoholic fisherman festering in a dank, dark alleyway near the harbour, amalgamating with the fishy-blood-and-guts odours of the wharf. And people eat it. And now it is was a typhoon.

Typhoon Durian hit Vietnam’s east coast last night, first making land off Quy Island, about 120 km off the mainland, then sweeping over the coastal resort city of Nha Trang and further inland, wreaking havoc and destruction, sinking more than a 1000 ships, leaving death and disaster in its wake. The government took drastic action, evacuating as many as 50 000 inhabitants from the predicted hotspots, but at least 15 people have died so far and 1000s are homless.

I took precautionary measures too, not leaving anything to fate or sloppy housekeeping, as I thought it would hit HCM City. I tied down the pot plants in the garden, nailed shut the windows and filled up the gap under the doors with polyfilla putty. I sticky-taped the paintings to the walls, glued down the furniture and bubble-wrapped all the glasses and kitchenware in the cabinets. I switched off the electricity, bought a week’s supply of canned food and dog food (for Christoff – I didn’t have much money left after I bought the space blanket and thermal underwear) and rearranged my cupboards survival-style so the most important garments necessary for evacuation were within reach. I crawled under my two duvets and waited. The wind picked up slightly around 11 ‘o clock and a slight buzzing in the air was making the hair on the nape of my neck rise. ‘Must be the static electricity that precedes a deep tropical depression,” I thought. The wind started to howl, the pitter-patter of the rain started slowly, gaining momentum until the individual drops were indiscernible from each other and the drumming increased in velocity. The shutters rattled and the howl of my neighbours dog cut through the noise. I thought, ‘This is it. Durian is here.”

The rain continued for a while, and then abruptly slowed down to an anti-climatic pitter-patter again. I was disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad no-one got hurt and we didn’t have to evacuate the city and seek shelter in the Mekong Delta, or worse, flee to Cambodia – but still disappointed. I was expecting more from Durian. Even the canal near my house, which usually fills up when a half-decent thunderstorm makes an appearance, was still empty. Maybe Typhoon Chom-Chom will bring the expected pain, anguish and excitement I was expecting. Probably not.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Miss-ed Saigon

I know a lot of people have ranted about expats behaving badly in Vietnam, not taking local customs and cultures into consideration, but it’s good to have finally had a lighthearted spin put on the matter. Last night I watched a local amateur acting troupe, the Saigon Players, perform a charity show called “Miss-ed Saigon”. The comedy show highlighted (sometimes painfully when you realise, “Hey, wait, I’ve done that!”), the inapt musings and behaviour of the expatriate community in Vietnam. Although it focused mainly on the “real expats”, those with real “hardship posts” at established multinational companies, villas in An Phu (District 2), drivers, and spouses who spend their time getting massages and manicures (basically, the type of expat life I can’t afford or wouldn’t indulge in even if I could), it still hit the spot quite accurately and had even the most jaded and cynical of audience members cracking up in recognition of some antics they too have dabbled in.

For example, they spoofed how difficult it was for some expats to pronounce Vietnamese names: Here’s a watered down version of the dialogue.

“Nguyen’s coming to the meeting.”
“No, Nguyen.”
“The meeting’s at two.”
“Yes, the meeting with Thu is at one”
“No, the meeting with Oanh is only at three, what about Nguyen?”
“Huh? What about when? I told you, two!”
“But the meeting with Thu is only at one!”
“Oanh? At three, not two!”

Shamed by “our” behaviour, a few of us decided to go have drinks at a bia hoi – local style (Actually Chi is Vietnamese, but she spent five years in London so she semi-qualifies with her posh Brit accent).

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Hit of the week

Today's hit of the week, proudly brought to you by IP2map.com, is from: Kathmandu, Bagmati, Nepal (12/1/2006 4:12:36 AM). I didn't know they had open internet in Nepal - I thought it was all banned and censored like the other medias, but there you go. Thank you.