Friday, December 12, 2008
So how does it feel to be back in Cape Town now that I’ve had about 10 days to settle in? It still feels a bit strange to be here and the reverse culture shock has been really telling at times. Things that seemed so familiar or that I didn’t even think about previously are now in my face, because in the context of my experiences over the past 3 years they seem so foreign. In addition to that there is this feeling of being detached or disconnected from everyone and everything here. People have jobs, social connections that have changed and other things here in Cape Town that I’m not quite a part of. Even with friends I have known for years there seems to be something missing and I guess that something is the past 3 years or so. Still it’s good to see everyone again and to take stock of where I’m at. As yet I have not made any decisions regarding what comes next but I’m keeping my options open. I’ve been vacillating quite a bit on that issue but I don’t feel too rushed to make a decision at this point. I’ve looked at ticket prices for Taiwan though so that is still an option I guess…
So what do I have planned for the next few weeks? I am attending a good friends wedding and a 50th wedding anniversary celebration the following week (quite a contrast I know). I’m going to be spending Christmas with my god-parents’ family who live in different parts of the world and have not been together in 10 years (they tend to regard me as one of the family). In between I’ll be catching up with more old friends, meeting a few I’ve only known online up to this point and seeing a few of Cape Town’s more famous sights. I’m taking it easy for now and just enjoying the summer weather and the laid back feeling that comes with being in what is arguably the greatest city in the world (I know I’m biased).
Anyway, that’s all from me for now.
So, thanks for reading…
Written on Wednesday, 03 December 2008
As I write this I have been back in
I remember saying on numerous occasions that I know that Cape Town will probably seem more different than it is because of the changes I have experienced over the course of this long(ish) chapter I am concluding – around 2 years 9 months actually. I had lunch with some friends just a few hours ago and it almost felt strange saying the things I was saying while sitting in
So what are my plans from here on out? I really don’t know, but the changes (a bit of a euphemism) I have become aware of in the past 2 days have caused me to reconsider staying here for a while. That said though I probably don’t have the necessary finances for the next chapter yet in any case so sticking around for a while could help out in that department too. As with any major decisions I know that I want to take my lead from Yahweh (aka “God”) with one of the current challenges being the need to be able to know when to wait and when to act – something I have gotten wrong on numerous occasions. At this point though I feel that it could be a good time to take stock of where I’m at and what I’ve experienced, with Cape Town most likely being the best yardstick to measure that changes and growth etc that have taken place. In any case, watch this space for more…
PS: Thanks for reading…
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
It’s been a couple of weeks since I last updated my blog so I thought I should let my faithful readers (however few or many there may be) know what’s going on with this nomadic maverick…
I’m still in
One of the negative sides of living in a hostel is being constantly surrounded by lots of people, while one of the benefits of living is being constantly surrounded by lots of people (from all over the world). It’s become the norm here at the hostel to sit around the table with a dozen people and for there to be people from at least 4 countries, on 2 or 3 continents, speaking at least 3 or 4 languages between them. I guess it’s really easy to take this kind of thing for granted but I think it’s one of the best aspects of spending the last (nearly) 3 years in
Anyway, I didn’t have anything planned for this blog other than to say (or write) the first thing that came to mind about the past few weeks. So there you have it – the continuing (mis)adventures of this nomadic maverick, this wandering wonderer…
Thanks for reading and, if you’re in
Sunday, November 2, 2008
There’s a group of travellers here from another part of Argentina and they got up earlier than usual to have breakfast. By the time I got down to the restaurant there were a number of table in a freaking mess. There were pieces of bread and crumbs all over the place; coffee and juice had been spilled and there was generally just a mess. I sort of wondered if anyone had even eaten anything with all the bread and ham etc lying on the tables, not to mention that with the mess I found I half expected there to be some kind of hand-paintings decorating the walls of their cave (or in this case the hostel). Anyway, that’s one of the joys of this kind of work I guess… Life goes on and I’m counting the days until I get out of here…
I guess like the penguins in the film ‘Madagascar’ I’m just going to smile and wave – or something like that…
Saturday, October 25, 2008
As I wrote that sentence there was a flurry of thoughts running through my mind. As I said in my previous post I have been thinking about a number of things regarding this trip, but I guess now that I have made the decision to go I can stop thinking about it and just wait for it to happen. Decisions are funny that way, I think. We fret about them before hand but then once they are made we shift into a different frame of mind where it’s the ‘when’ and ‘how ‘as opposed to the ‘if’ questions that come to mind. Then again, there’s also the fact that once the decision has been there is nothing else to do about it other than prepare for it to happen. I think I’m rambling but there it is – I have a ticket and I’m going.
Now that I have made that decision I can fully focus on making the most of my last few weeks in South America. It’s been a crazy adventure and I don’t regret it. Wait a minute; that almost sounds like it’s all over already – it’s not. Watch this space for more on Buenos Aires over the next few weeks…
Thursday, October 23, 2008
One of the thoughts going through my mind at the moment is whether this trip is really just going to be the short stopover I believe it’s going to be or perhaps something else altogether – recent revelations about things happening in my family has been a catalyst for this line of though. Another train of thought involves my mother who passed away in 2004. You see, while I dealt with so much of that grieving process in South Africa before I left there is also the fact that since her passing I have spent most of my time outside of South Africa, away from the places or other things that would remind me of her. Will this be much of an issue? I don’t think so, but who knows… Coming back to the (re)discovery though, this is going to be the most interesting. I know things have changed in Cape Town and the rest of South Africa – World Cup stadiums are going up, my old college has been relocated, friends have had babies I have never seen, to name just a few. Apart from these things there is the fact that I have changed over the course of the past couple of years. Undoubtedly, the experiences I have had, the challenges I have faced and the things I have seen have all left their mark on me, but without a benchmark of some kind to measure the change I have no idea to what degree this has happened. Cape Town will be that benchmark.
But, I’m not dwelling on all these issues at the moment. I’m am also excited about seeing friends, visiting familiar places, meeting new friends and catching up on things that have happened in my absence. I’m sure that I’ll be telling my story a few times too. So I guess if life were a Monopoly board game you might say I’m passing ‘begin’ again, because I don’t see this as going back. And who knows, the next chapter may just involve passing by some familiar places or landing on some new ones along the way.
Thursday, October 16, 2008
While working in London last year I met a jewellery designer (and for tattoo artist) who agreed to work on a design for me based on the idea I discussed with him – a worn and cracked wooden cross with a crown of thorns hanging around it. This was the same concept I came up with years back. On my last day at that company, back in August 2007, he gave me a drawing and when I saw it I knew that was it. But, alas I was due to leave in about a week London and did not have the time to find a tattoo artist, not to mention the fact that having a design I liked was a bit too real. So I carried this design with me in my bag for the past 14 months here in South America, talking about it at times when tattoos came up in conversation. But acting on it was too real. That too has changed.
I had my tattoo done yesterday, 16 October 2008, here in Buenos Aires. And, like other major decisions I have made at times I simply got to a point where I had thought about it so much that there was nothing left but do it. So I went to a studio I had visited a week ago and simply had it done. It was more painful than I thought it would be – then again why wouldn’t a needle been stuck in my arm who knows however many times a second hurt? I’m really happy with the result, although I’m now in the careful maintenance phase that is going to last about 2 weeks at least – so that’s only slightly uncomfortable. From what I have implied so far in this entry I have also seen this experience as a metaphor for inaction in other areas of my life. Yes, I know there are going to be times when things might go wrong but not everything can be controlled even God himself leaves things that matter to him in our occasionally out-of-control, somewhat angst-ridden and not-always-trustworthy hands. Am I advocating going tattoo-crazy? Not at all… I’m simply telling the story I’m living…
Saturday, October 11, 2008
So is there a simple answer to this conundrum? More often than not I’d say no there isn’t. There’s a saying I heard somewhere along the line that suggests that sometimes the only thing you can change in a situation is you, even it’s just your attitude to the situation. I guess that could be the kind of situation I find myself in, but sometimes I struggle to just leave things alone. If I see something I don’t agree with I want to know, understand, question and where necessary uncover. But perhaps that’s not the best approach here…
Then again, perhaps I’m just looking for a reason not to make the effort… That’s definitely another way of looking at it… Anyway, I’ll leave it at that for now… I’d like to hear your thoughts…
Friday, October 10, 2008
So what’s my point? I’ve been asked numerous times when I’m going to return to Cape Town and my usual response is that I don’t know if or when that will happen. Some friends have correctly pointed out that when I first left South Africa back in 2006 escape or running away was definitely a major factor, although I had long held desire to see the world. Because I’ve been away from those who knew me in Cape Town for such a long time they have not seen the changes that have taken place – one of them being a change from running away to decisive exploration, adventure, learning and growth. This is understandable.
Coming back to the (former) shepherd named Santiago, I realise that like him I may already have found a place to call home or where my dreams will be fulfilled. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop the journey any time soon. Even if, like Santiago, I find myself back at a place where I have been at some point in the past I know that, like him, I will not be the same person when/if that happens. That said I’m focusing on adventures and questions at the moment, rather than destinations and answers. The latter destinations and answers will come but as I have learned questions (and I’d say adventures too) are more likely to encourage and catalyse growth, learning and development.
Monday, October 6, 2008
Something changed in the past few weeks and it has had an interesting impact on the way I’m seeing the road forward from here. I’ve come to realise how much I have been looking over my shoulder over the course of this adventure I’ve been on and how that has meant that there were time that perhaps I didn’t realise how great my opportunities I was experiencing really were, as well as that there is so much more that is possible. I came to realise that at least in part my interest in New Zealand was because there I could find or make a comfortable living for myself, but also that it would be (seemingly) safer and more secure. When I realised this I also realised that I want more of the adventure and that with all I have been through and seen I don’t want this journey to end with some mono-cultural and suburban existence right now. I don’t mean to knock that kind of existence, after all that’s where I guess I could find myself at some point, but I guess I’m realising that my passion to know and see the world is not going to be satisfied by the Discovery Channel and/or a DVD Box-set from National Geographic.
So what does this mean? And where does my (essential ¢ral) faith issues fit into all this? Well I’ve come to realise how afraid I was at times of messing things up, going down the “wrong road”, of disappointing my heavenly Father. And all it took was remembering that he promised to have my back and that this journey was also about my choice along the way. So I’m planning on going to Taiwan to teach English. I don’t have a job guaranteed just yet, but I’m putting the plan into action. I’m hoping to start 2009 in Taiwan, although at this point I still need to confirm what I’m going to do with the time between now and then (watch this space for more info)…
That’s all from me for now… I’m going to log off now. I’m going to a drum show tonight and hope to find some tango lessons later this week… Life goes on and I’m going to get going with it I guess…
PS: OK, so the tango lessons are going to be a bit too ridiculously expensive but life goes on...
Monday, September 29, 2008
And you parents? South Africa.
What about your grandparents? South Africa.
This is an all-too-familiar conversation for me these days, although sometimes it happens in Spanish. Something I realised a long time ago is that something about my appearance causes confusion when people are trying to figure out where I’m from. Added to that is the fact that many people don’t realise that we have had centuries of cultural diversity in South Africa. Consequently, there are many people especially ‘coloured’ people (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coloured) in South Africa who don’t have a detailed understanding of their racial heritage.
I’ve also come to realise more and more how we tend to make guesses and/or assumptions based on what we know or have been exposed to. When I lived in England some people thought I had some Indian heritage. Here in South America though the usual guesses about my roots (after assuming that I’m from where they meet me) are usually that I’m from Colombia, Peru or Brazil – in no particular order. I’ve even been told that sometimes I sound as though I’m speaking Spanish with a bit of a Peruvian or Colombian accent – the Peruvian accent makes sense since that’s where I learned the language and where I quite a bit of time.
This conversation often results in a number of questions about how I ended up in South America, what I’m doing here, where I learned to speak Spanish and where I think I’m going next – this is one conversation where I’m really adept at getting things across in Spanish. While the confusion about my appearance is understandable I think many people mostly know about the indigenous people in South Africa and the (on average) wealthier descendants of European settlers, who are the South Africans they are most likely to meet travelling throughout the world. These conversations have been a bit of a catalyst recently as at times I have been thinking about issues relating to culture, race and identity – something that recently has been a burgeoning issue among coloured South Africans. I don’t have any answers or conclusions just yet, but the international, multi-cultural and diverse interaction I have had on this journey (in a few different languages) has definitely been an eye-opening experience and one I hope to continue beyond the shores of South America.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
In every town and city I have visited over the past year I have visited markets selling everything from miniature replicas of Inca monuments to clothing items and scores of costume jewellery items. While this in and of itself is not all that fascinating, after all one can find craft markets around the world, what I persona found interesting is the number of people who make a living this way and travel around the continent depending on where all the tourists are or where they may find new opportunities. Some of them, like some of the guys I met in Cusco, are also musicians, artists and acrobats with carrying degrees of skill. Many of them move within their own their own country, such as people from around Peru converging on Cusco where the masses of tourists are. But, there are also some of them who move from country to country; as a result I have met Brazilians artisans plying their trade in Buenos Aires and Argentineans in Copacabana (Bolivia).
Some of these artisans are even further from home. During my time in Cusco I came across a few European travellers (at least that’s what they were initially) who got into making and selling crafts because they decided not to return to their home countries – I guess there’s something about this continent that results in many not wanting to return to the lives they left behind. More often than not the nomadic artisans are in the 20s, maybe early 30s, and they live and travel light. It would be easy for many to assume that for some they don’t have any other options so they are making the most of what they have, but this is not always the case. Some of them have families living in the towns they are from and some have more mainstream employable skills, but they choose this life at least for a time and they get to see more of the world. It’s a different life to what many of us may imagine for ourselves, but one that seems to work for them…
Sunday, September 21, 2008
I had a different kind of birthday weekend here in Buenos Aires (BsAs), but I’ve enjoyed it. As usual I worked at the restaurant on Friday night, although it was a really quiet evening for some reason. On Saturday I watched a film and had some lunch on my own (just enjoying some space on my own). I worked on Saturday night too – it was Taco’s Night at the hostel – and it was a good evening hanging out with a few of the people staying here at the hostel. That evening I was invited to a house-party with some friends I met here in BsAs – in fact it was a party for someone else also celebrating their birthday on the 21st. I only ended up getting back to my friends’ apartment about 06:30 the next morning, but I had a good time meeting a few locals.
My birthday coincides with a major holiday here (‘Spring Day’ and ‘Students Day’) so the masses were out enjoying the somewhat pleasant weather – I only caught the end of it when I went out for dinner with a few friends. In the end of was a good weekend and I guess a bit better than I thought it would. I sort of can’t believe that this is my last birthday of my 20s and like with other major evenings it had me thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m heading. But, these are things that I will wrestle with when the time calls for… So watch this space…
Friday, September 19, 2008
As I’ve said previously, I’m living in a hostel at the moment in
Firstly, the people I meet here are really interesting – although at times some are bizarre to the point of concern. I have met people from all over the world while living here (and on my journey so far) – Swedish, German, Swiss, Italian, Brazilian, Uruguayan, US Americans, South Korean to mention a few. The majority of them are taking time off after graduating from university to see a bit of the world while some others are just taking a short (or occasionally slightly longer) holiday. I’ve also met a few people who have left jobs; sold apartments/cars/businesses and just left there lives (for a while) to see the world – with a few of them in search of a new place to settle (like 2 British guys I met recently). Occasionally there are some strange people I’d prefer to avoid and fortunately not too often (only twice on my trip so far) someone who freaks out the people around him with strange and almost abusive behaviour. But, what can you do?
The other thing that really stands out for me is my living in a place where most people are passing through. Most people stay for a week or less while I’ve already been here for about 8 weeks now – so it feels strange being an semi-permanent ‘fixture’ in such a rapidly and constantly changing place. On the positive side this means I meet loads of people, but on the downside there is the fact that if I meet someone interesting they’ll be gone in a few days. But this is how things are for now and when taking all the good and the not-so-good into account it’s still an interesting and (mostly) positive place to be at the moment.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
Two yachts at dusk… sailing down a wide slow-moving river… no need to be anywhere anytime soon… just going where the winds and the river takes them…
After the cold, wet and windy weather over the past week or so the sun made an appearance today. So, I decided to head out to a part of town I didn’t know that well and make the most of the good weather that according to the weather men is not going to last. So I got onto the Subte (the underground train) and headed out to Palermo an area of Buenos Aires known for its boutique shops, bars, nightclubs, coffee shops and parks.
I walked from the Subte station toward one park where I was told there would be a market and sat in the sun for a while reading one of the books I’m busy with at the moment. I then walked to another plaza where I found another market and browsed for a while before stopping off at a nearby botanical garden for a while. On the way I passed someone selling paintings and there was one that caught my attention – two sail boats sailing into the distance. The colours – deep oranges, browns and reds – caught my attention but I then found myself what it would be like to be on one of those yachts. I thought about the idea of being away from the noise of the city; living according to a rhythm of the elements like the sun, the wind and the river’s flow; the escape. It was good to stand there for a while and just imagined the possible scene… But then I snapped out of my trance and carried on with my day… I guess it would be good, but for now it’s just a daydream. Not a bad dream though...
So that was my Saturday afternoon. Not a bad way to spend the afternoon...
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
Firstly, let me say that I chose to suffer the turmoil of eating tonnes of red meat and trying out the local red wine from time to time. Seriously though, the steaks and wine are a treat wherever you go in Buenos Aires and being from South Africa I didn’t need to be asked twice to try it out. But, then there is mate, pronounced ‘maa-teh’. This bitter herb drink (see Wikipedia at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mate_(beverage) for more info) is enjoyed by many people in Argentina as well as southern Chile. It’s customary to share this with people around you so in a sense it’s not just a beverage but a social interaction too. This social aspect is something that I really like, but I have not been able to stomach the (in my opinion) horribly bitter drink. I guess I’ll stick to coffee for now…
But it’s not all meat, wine and mate in Argentina. In fact, ‘porteños’ (a name meaning ‘people of the port’ used to refer to residents of Buenos Aires) have a real sweet tooth too. Firstly, there is the ever-popular ‘dulce de leche’ (literally meaning “milk sweet/candy”) – see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dulce_de_leche. It’s something like caramel and is eaten on bread and other pastries (often for breakfast or with coffee), not to mention that it’s one of the most common fillings for the ‘alfajor’ (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alfajor). The alfajor is a treat consisting of two biscuits with something sweet in the middle and is found in a number of countries across the continent in slightly different forms in each country. In fact they are so popular that even some biscuit companies (such as the larger-triple-decker-chocolate-covered-Oreo-alfjor) have their own take on them. These are some of the gastronomical highlights I’ve experienced in Argentina over the past few months and from time to time something else comes along, so I guess there could be something more to write about at some point.
Sunday, September 7, 2008
I’m teaching a few hours of English lessons each week to some locals and some of the classes start as early as 8am – that’s really early for me considering my routine over the past year or so – but some of the classes are later in the day. This is the first time that I’m taught English and I think it’s taking me a while to get into it. I’m teaching business English to people in the workplace which I would guess is something considerably different. This will bring in a bit of cash and keep me going for now.
Some of time, about 20 hours a week, is taken up by waiting on tables and working behind the bar at a restaurant in a hostel. I don’t get paid but instead get free accommodation in one of the dorm rooms and get to eat in the restaurant on some days – and then there are the occasional tips. Friday nights are kind of crazy at times with the barbecue and the live band, not to mention the ‘happy hour’ drinks specials. I’ve always avoided anything to do with the service industries so I’ve been surprised at the fact that I’ve enjoyed this work more than the teaching so far. I guess that could be a good sign considering the fact that I still entertain the idea of some day running and owning a coffee shop of my own.
So that’s the gist of my life in Buenos Aires at the moment without any real ideas of where things are heading. Lately I’ve missed a wedding and also realised how many other things I have missed while being on this journey at times. There are also times where I think about staying in one place for a while and building something more stable – this is especially true when I think of the fact that I’ll be 29 later this month and I don’t seem to have any idea as to where my life is heading. That said though I know that at least to some degree I’m not living in such a way that I’m preparing to die comfortably, as well as that this adventure has been and still is a life-changing experience.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
More significant than the geographical journey I’ve been on – but perhaps not quite as obvious – is the metaphorical ‘journey’ I’ve been on and everything I have learned along the way. I have mentioned some of this in previous entries, but there is simply way too much to put it in this blog. I guess I’m just thinking about the fact that on 20 August 2007 I wouldn’t have predicted most of what has happened over the past year and chances are there’s quite a bit I wouldn’t have chosen in advance if I had the option. But that’s life, isn’t it? No I’m not going to get overly-philosophical, I’m just reflecting on the nation that this realisation is not limited to unplanned wonderings on a foreign continent but they are instead a part of life. I guess I have just had the opportunity to learn these lessons in a different (and perhaps more extreme) setting.
Anyway, that’s all from me for now… The journey (geographical and metaphorical) continues…
Saturday, August 9, 2008
So I’m settling into some kind of routine (albeit only for the next while) here in
So what am I doing? I’m living and working in a hostel in the San Telmo area of
Other than that I’m not doing much these days. I spend time blogging and chatting to friends online, as well as trying not to spend any money (something I don’t have much of these days). As I believe I mentioned in an earlier entry I’m still thinking of going to New Zealand although it seems it’s going to take some time to arrange a few things. In any case, that is my routine for now and although as recently as 2 weeks ago I was ready to throw in the towel I’m going to stick it out to see how things develop.
Tuesday, August 5, 2008
I’m sitting in the bar-restaurant on the ground floor of the hostel where I am staying at the moment and I just witnessed a foiled-robbery attempt and subsequent arrest. While sitting here there was a bit of a commotion and I saw one of the staff point at two people before running out the front door only to return with a police officer who was patrolling this street. A young couple were then questioned and searched (their persons as well as the bags they were carrying). I figured that someone thought they didn’t belong here and that they looked suspicious, but for some reason I thought it may have been a misunderstanding or something. In the end the story was revealed that they somehow walked into the hostel, went into a room where someone was relaxing (this person assumed that the couple were also staying in the dorm room) and walked out with 2 backpacks of clothes and other belongings.
To be honest I wasn’t paying that much attention at times (I know that I get lost in my own world at times), but soon after that a few more officers turned up handcuffed them and shuffled them into a couple of cars outside. I guess it was a bit of a surreal experience to se all this unfolding just a few meters away from me and even now I have some mixed feelings. Don’t misunderstand, I think crime sucks and I have had things stolen from me. But, while I’m not excusing crime there’s a part of me that looks at the world around me and I can’t ignore the poverty-causing (and other) factors that encourage crime. But that’s a topic for another time…
“I don't know if we each have a destiny, or if we're all just floating around accidental-like on a breeze, but I, I think maybe it's both. Maybe both is happening at the same time.”
This line from the film “Forrest Gump” combined with the image of the feather floating on a breeze at the end of the film was on my mind earlier today. I was reflecting on my current situation, as I have been doing quite a bit lately, and I came to realise how seemingly random life can be at times.
Sometimes this thought rises to the surface when I take a closer look at where I am at the moment, but in actual fact this kind of realisation has happened to me time and time again since leaving South Africa. When sitting in a coffee shop near Piccadilly Circus or just walking down the road here in Buenos Aires I would sometimes realise how far removed I am from just about everything that has been familiar to me. This can be an exciting sensation but it can also be daunting, especially when the “breeze” seems to be blowing a bit stronger than it usually does.
On a few occasions in this blog I have made mention of some the reasons for my leaving South Africa and how this journey has been directed by my relationship with Yahweh (that’s one of God’s names in the bible). So I would have to say that in a way I agree with Forrest in that life sometimes feels really random like I’m floating on the wind, yet my faith tells me that the wind is more Yahweh’s breath and he is the one blowing me along. There are days where this seems an obvious and simple idea and there are times when it’s a bit more difficult to hold onto the idea that he is the source of the breeze. I would say that this is one of those times at the moment, where seeing beyond the apparent randomness of the breeze is easier said than done. But, that’s life. Isn’t it?
Friday, August 1, 2008
A few people I have spoken to at times were unsure as to where I am, where I’ve been, what I’ve done and related issues. So I thought I’d give you a quick summary of the places I’ve been since leaving home, as well as some highlights…
England (March 2006 to August 2007):
I spent most of my time in London where I lived and worked. I visited the south coast including the Isle of Wight and spent some time with a South African friend in Liverpool. I visited a few other smaller places, but not as many as I could have.
Peru (August 2007 to April 2008):
I spent most of my time in Cusco where I learned Spanish and worked in a travellers club. I also managed to see the capital Lima, Arequipa, Puno on Lake Titicaca and the highlights of the Sacred Valley of the Incas.
Bolivia (November 2007):
While I was based in Cusco I took a short trip (partially work-related) to Bolivia. I didn’t have too much time, but I managed to see Copacabana (not the one in the Barry Manilow song), the Island of the Sun on Lake Titicaca, and (one of the capitals) La Paz.
Chile (April to June 20008):
I travelled to Santiago and stopped off in Arica, on the north coast, en route. I spent all my time in the capital, although I would have liked to have seen a bit more of the country (including the coast) but that’s how things turned out.
Argentina (June 2008 to present):
So far I have spent most of my time in the federal capital, Buenos Aires. I spent a few days in Rosario and if possible I may see a bit more of the country before I depart (whenever that may be).
Anyway, so that’s a summarised version of the trip so far. At the moment I’ve been away from South Africa for around 2 years 5 months and it seems there’s a chance I may not be back (even for a visit) any time soon. But who knows where I may end up next… Watch this space for more…
So I’ve been rethinking this whole “homesick” thing that I mentioned in my last entry and it could be that what I interpreted as feeling homesick could be something altogether. I’m sure I’m not the only one, but sometimes when thing don’t go as I had hoped or planned sometimes all I want to do is “get away”. Whether that means getting out of town for a bit or just getting away from the day-to-day routine, sometimes an escape (even if just temporary) is what we want. This isn’t always possible, but I think sometimes it’s what we crave.
So what does this have to do with the feeling of being “homesick” that I mentioned? Well, things have not turned out as I had hoped or planned here in Buenos Aires (actually in South America at times) so on and off for a while now I have felt the desire to get off this continent. Due to various factors (especially financial ones) I don’t have (m)any options in terms of where I can go from here, so the idea of returning to South Africa seemed quite appealing at times. Realistically though it’s the idea of South Africa and the idea of getting away from “here” where things haven’t turned out as I had hoped that is appealing. But I know that if I go “there” (wherever it may be), once I arrive there it becomes my “here”. I hope you followed that.
So in the end there is at least a part of me that is glad I gave Buenos Aires another shot and that my circumstances turned around a bit. I’m not doing what I thought I’d be doing or what (I thought) I wanted but I’m still standing. Virtually all the students didn’t turn up for the first English lesson I as supposed to teach (a scheduling mix-up) and my first night working at this hostel was a quite one so I’ve had a chance to ease my way into both jobs. Anyway, that’s all from me for now… I’m going to hit the sack soon…
Monday, July 28, 2008
Realistically though I know that I wouldn't know what to do with myself if I found myself in Cape Town. I think I'd enjoy the familiar surroundings - the sights, the sounds, the smells and other things - for about a weekend and then I'd probably start thinking of where else I could be. As I said on in my entry on 3 June this year Cape Town will always be my home in the sense that it's my point of origin, I just don't know my destination (geographically speaking) at this point in time...
After realising the amount of time I was going to need to get some paperwork from Home Affairs in SA, not to mention the likelihood of finding interesting and lucrative employment in a short space of time in SA I decided I’d give this city one last shot. So I’ve landed a job at the restaurant/bar in a hostel where my remuneration will be in the form of free or nearly-free accommodation. In addition to that I’m going to be teaching English to business managers/execs. I’ve never taught English before, but the co-ordinator at the company that teaches English was eager to get a native-speaker on board (it is funny how I never thought of my language as a commodity).
I don’t see either of these jobs as new careers but doing this is the means to an end for now – the end being living, surviving. In the back of my mind (not that far back though) I still have the idea to visit South Africa at some point – perhaps in December when there seems to be a number of significant events happening with my nearest and dearest – but those plans will have to be put on hold for now as I see how things develop.
Oh, for those who have not seen any of my pictures of Buenos Aires I’ve included links to two of my online photo albums:
Tuesday, July 8, 2008
I’m still in Buenos Aires at the moment, it’s been a month already, and last week I came really close to throwing in the towel on this whole quest/journey/adventure (whatever you want to call it) as well as on a few other things too. I don’t have enough time to get into all the details of last week’s events (you’ll have to wait for my book) but basically I felt at the end of my rope in a number of ways, especially financially, and so the only thing keeping me here at the moment is knowing that Yahweh (AKA: the God of the bible) keeps His word. He has used different means and/or people at times to keep His word and to come through so at the moment I’m anticipating (albeit hesitantly at times) what He has up His sleeve at the moment.
But what is this all about? What’s going on? For a number of months now New Zealand has been on my mind and I believe that Yahweh has that on his agenda for me – I believe it’ll be the next stop or at least in the near future. At this point I have no idea how I’m going to get there but I do have somewhere to stay once I get there and I’m getting some necessary paperwork sorted out in the mean time. I can’t say anything more than that at the moment since I don’t know what the conclusion or lesson from this chapter is going to be. all I can do for now is take it as it comes one day at a time.
PS: Watch this space for more developments etc…
Saturday, June 28, 2008
There are a few things that caught my attention about
Last but not least, I was told that Argentinean women are distractingly beautiful and if you ask me many of them live in
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
Something else that stands out is some of the customs I have encountered, especially when it comes to greeting. Now I’m used to shaking someone’s hand when meeting them, but in
One more thing that has been difficult at times, although t doesn’t impact my comfort zone in any way, is the way Spanish is spoken here in
Sunday, June 22, 2008
Buenos Aires has an interesting combination of old neighbourhoods, high rise office buildings, numerous parks scattered throughout the city and some of the best architecture I’ve seen in South America so far. There are also countless monuments and parks commemorating events of the past; cafés and eateries of different kinds; as well as markets on the weekends that occasionally include musicians busking and people who perform the tango in the street. The city has a rich cultural heritage and one of the places that this is evident is in the cemetery I mentioned in my last entry. Among the influential members of this society laid to rest a number of them had Dutch, German and Italian surnames as well as a few from
So those are some of my thoughts on this riverside town. I’m hoping to see another side of it at some point – I plan on going into one of the suburbs and getting out of the city centre. So maybe then I’ll have another perspective, a different one to share.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Yes, I’m in
So what have I been doing in Buenos Aires so far? Mostly I’ve been lying low in the midst of taking things as they come I’ve seen a few of the sights around town including a Japanese garden and a cemetery where great generals, former presidents and Argentina’s beloved “Evita” are buried. The visit to the cemetery was really interesting with some of the tombs being larger and definitely more extravagant than the homes of many South Africans (and poverty stricken people from other parts of the world). The Japanese garden was simply a distraction, but I really enjoyed it – I’ve also had a fascination with Asian design, landscaping and art so that was a worthwhile little trip. Something else that was really interesting was that the garden was presenting to the city of Buenos Aires and opened the very day I was born – that was just an interesting coincidence.
Later this evening I hope to head out with some people I met here at the hostel to grab a good steak, Argentinean style, and perhaps a few turns on the dance-floor (strictly tango I think). Further than that I don’t have much of a clue… But, watch this space for more developments…
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
“All of life is a coming home… All the restless hearts of the world, all trying to find a way home… Home. The dictionary defines it as both a place of origin and a goal or destination.”
The idea of home has been on my mind quite a bit lately, at least in part due to the amount of interaction I’ve had with other South Africans. I was staying with Stephen (from
In a conversation with one of the guys I met here I repeated a thought that had been on my mind over the weekend that’s related to the quote at the beginning of this entry (the quote is from the film “Patch Adams”). I was chatting to a guy named Shane, from
Unlike some who leave because they’re fed-up with things as they are in
So since I have not written anything here in a while I thought it was time for an update and what better time to do it than when I’m stuck in a city I thought I was going to be leaving earlier this morning. At the moment I’m sitting at “La Casa Roja” (The Red House), a hostel in
As I said I was mistaken in thinking that this was my next medium-term stop, but instead I have now come to refocus on getting to
In spite of my confusion and uncertainty about life and stuff at the moment I’m still (mostly) enjoying my time in South America, although sometimes I feel like I could really do with a secure home with some sense of so-called normality and/or stability. But, I’ve seen countries I’d only read about, I’m learning a new language and I’m getting a perspective of this little planet of ours that I constantly expanding and being reshaped. I also have to remember (and I’ve said this before) that I do not want to spend my whole life preparing to die comfortably…
Monday, May 5, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Something that really caught me by surprise is the “metro” underground train network here in
A few days ago (I think it was Tuesday) I went into “downtown”
Anyway, so that’s my first-ish (I know that’s not really a word) of Santiago. Stephen (the friend whose family I’m staying with) seems to think I may be here for a while and both he and his wife have told me to make myself at home with them. So who know where I’m going to be in a few weeks time – watch this space for more!
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Once again I was grateful that I managed to get some sleep, although it usually happened in short shifts during the night and early on Sunday morning. After about 28 hours Santiago came into view and we pulled into the Alameda bus terminal around 45 minutes later at 14:15. The weather was hot – real hot, not just the temporary hot that would show up for a short spell n Cusco – and Paola arrived with her eldest daughter and her mom to fetch me at the terminal. So I survived this mammoth trip in one piece and although I wouldn’t necessarily want to do it again it was definitely a memorable experience that has left me dozing off at odd times during my first few days in Santiago. I’m sure there will be some more to be said on Santiago and other things I see and do, but I’ll leave that for another time…
I think I spent about 5 minutes in Tacna before hopping in a taxi with an irish couple I met as I got off the bus. From there it was a not-so-short ride to the border with Chile which took longer than expected to cross. I wasn’t looking forward to this part of the journey after having a not-so-great time at the Peru-Bolivia border back in November. Not too long after crossing the border I found myself in Arica where I was going to spend the night at a hostel suggested by a friend. My time in Arica was sort of uneventful – I met some interesting travellers (including someone I had met in Cusco a few months ago), went to the supermarket, bought my bus ticket to Santiago and relaxed for most of the evening.
So I’ve now left Cusco and but the days leading up to my departure didn’t go quite as expected. In my last few days there I came to realise how much I as actually going to miss the place that had been “home” for nearly 8 months as well as the people I got to know while I was there. Then there was also the 47 hours of buses, transfers and a border crossing (over 3 days in total) I was thinking about and was not looking forward to. All this combined with my thoughts on where I’ll be going from Chile left me feeling like I was having a bit of an out-of-body experience – my body was in Cusco but my mind was in about 4 other places at once.
I guess at some point there could be some more reflection on my time in Cusco, but for now I just know that the time I right to move on. I don’t have any regrets about staying in Peru as long as I did and in fact I’ll always have good memories of the place, the people, its history and everything else that goes on there. One other thing I can say is that I’ve come to realise that Cusco is a place where what is usually abnormal can be regarded as normal. For one thing most people do not fly half way around the world and decide to stay in a place where they don’t speak the language. Yet in Cusco, it’s not unusual at all to find numerous people from different parts of the world making Cusco home at least for a while.
That same factor can have its downsides though, because combined with the booming tourism industry the local culture can get somewhat lost in the mix of people coming to Cusco. That said though, I still think it’s a great place to visit and not a bad place to take time out for a while.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
For one thing I know that although some see my life over the past 2 years as possibly unstable and not going anywhere I’ve learnt quite a bit about myself on a number of levels. It’s challenging my faith and what I think I’m capable of by living this way, but the more I think about it the more I realise that this is one adventure I would not want to miss…
Although I'm definitely ready to leave Peru and specifically Cusco I don't regret spending the time that I've spent here. I've learnt quite a bit at work, not to mention picking up another language. Also, Cusco definitely corrected or at least expanded my perception of South America. While I always knew that this was a diverse continent I mostly thought of the jungle and the coastal areas. Living here in the Andes has given me more of an appreciation for South America's cultural diversity and it's challenging history. Anyway, that's all from my side for now...
Monday, March 24, 2008
For me one of the most eye-opening books I have read in the past 10 years is Mind the Gap, by Graeme Codrington. He is a South African who has done considerable research into ‘generational theory’. The reason I this was such an eye-opening book is that while Codrington emphasises the fact that they he is not attempting to make generalisations, he does notice some interesting trends within groups of people of similar ages. So what has this got to do with anything? It’s just been interesting to see trends within groups of people of the same age even in different parts of the world – perhaps especially as they have spread across the world. Since I left
I guess the group that I’ve found really interesting – and I’ve met numerous people in this kind of situation in
So what’s the point of all this? Well, for me it’s been interesting considering some of the supposed prerequisites for proof of maturity (I hope that sentence makes sense). The way I see it is that these supposed prerequisites not only involve joining the so-called ‘rat race’ but for some it means ending up in a rut too. Okay, I understand that history of
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
After spending Friday morning in Pisaq I moved onto Ollantaytambo that same afternoon. Ollantaytambo is also in the
But it was the fortress over-looking this charming town that was the main reason for my visit. At this fortress Manco Inca successfully resisted the advancing the invading Spanish, although unfortunately the victory was short-lived. Although there is no way that I can downplay the historical significance of the place, the site was captivating all on its own. While
Apart from successfully appeasing my need to get out of Cusco for a couple of days I also found this trip being yet another catalyst for some of the other thoughts that have been going through my mind lately. These are not thoughts specifically about my own adventure, but rather about the world around us. Themes relating to these thoughts will be showing up at http://nomadiclessons.blogspot.com soon…
For pictures of the fortress and town at Ollantaytambo, as well as views from the summit go to:
For a while I had been feeling that I needed to get out of Cusco for a bit – not to mention that there are a number of pre-Columbian sites that I want to see before I leave
I honestly didn’t think too much of the town, but my main aim of going there was seeing the ruins above the town. The ruins are all that is left of an Incan citadel that was full of life a few centuries ago, and it has a number of small collections of dwellings as well the obligatory ceremonial centre. The ruins are also known for the agricultural terraces running down the southern and eastern slopes. One thing I remember about being there was imagining that citadel teeming with life a few centuries ago. I had an image of people working on the terraces and little kids running around, just being kids. Okay, so there is quite a bit we don’t know about civilisations like the Incas and those who came before them, but I guess I let my imagination run away from me a bit while I was up there. At one point I thought maybe my mind was playing tricks on me, because as I sat amidst some of the ruins I imagined hearing some sort of wind instrument being played (something like a wooden flute or anyone of the wind instruments still played here in the
On that morning the best part was just getting away from everything here in
For pictures of the citadel above the town of
Sunday, March 9, 2008
Most of my time since then was spent in the UK, with the last 7 months or so spent here in Peru. It's been quite a rollercoaster ride in a number of ways - different towns, countries, jobs, friends, lanuguages etc along the way. Sometimes I do wonder what on earth I'm doing here (this happened occasionally in London too), yet at the same time I wouldn't change it even if I could - well maybe a few minor details.
More and more I have come to realise the benefits of this kind of lifestyle, even if just for a short while. At college and through other avenues I came to learn quite a bit about the world around me. On the other hand being challenged by living in different places and learning about new cultures (and languages in the case of South America) has been the kind of education that cannot be gained in any classroom. A few months back I came across the term "global nomad" and while I have not seen as many countries as some people I know I have come to regard myself as someone without a home at the moment and travelling with the aim of gaining wisdom and knowledge - with wealth a bit lower down on the priority list.
Something else that has happened over the past 2 years has been my growing awareness of things happening on the global stage. While I had a minor interest in social, political and economic matters before leaving South Africa the chance I have had to live and work in diverse settings - London's South Kensington with it's Aston Martin driving millionaires versus Cusco where the locals struggle to scrape together a living - has been quite an eye-opener. I don't know what I'm going to do with what I am learning and what I have seen, but I'm hoping that I will get the opportunity to develop my thinking academically and/or put some of this knowledge/passion into practice somewhere.
So that's me at the moment... Two years after leaving "The Mother City" and not knowing exactly what's up ahead in 2008 and beyond... But for now I am going to continue to live by the phrase I coined a few months back: "Don't spend your entire life preparing to die comfortably."