"I believe in manicures. I believe in overdressing. I believe in primping at leisure and wearing lipstick. I believe that laughing is the best calorie burner. I believe in kissing; kissing a lot. I believe in being strong when everything seems to be going wrong. I believe that happy girls are the prettiest girls. I believe that tomorrow is another day, and I believe in miracles."- Audrey Hepburn

Sep 30, 2011

Flirting with life

Traveling is like flirting with life. You are at one place. You fall in love, have fun, enjoy the time you have while you can. Then you leave it behind and find another one. You may look back on the memories and miss it, but you move on.

For the most part, I think I failed miserably as a tourist. I have been here for 3 months and my list of things to do and places to visit in Cape Town is non-existent. True that I have visited many places and gone on a handful of adventure, but most of them are either planned by IES program or un-planned and I happened to be spontaneously dragged around by people. I'm ashamed of myself =.=

I kept having this dream of me being chased around on the map of South Africa from places to places, I think it is a sign that I need to start getting my ass to do things that I haven't got around to do yet. I only have 6 weeks left. This is actually a horrifying thought, and it makes me depressed. On a positive thought though, I still have 6 weeks left and 2 of those are after school is over. 

My sketchbook/journal is still way too blank. Gotta fill it up ~~~

[There is no priority in this list. I just list things as they occurred to me and hope that my memory does not fail me]

  1. An "explorium" day:   visit the two oceans aquarium at the V&A waterfront and the planetariums at the South Africa National museum.
Reasoning: I must see the fishies and stargaze under the African sky.

  1. Watch the city come to life:      either take a morning cruise at the Waterfront or pull an all-nighter on campus to see the sunrise
Reasoning: got to see the sun rise on the horizon of the bluest sky in the world

  1. Horse back riding along the Noordhoek beach.
Reasoning:   cuz it sounds like a movie scene and the beaches here are gorgeous

  1. Go club-hopping and check out live music
Status:      fail miserably. I have been to Zulu Bar, Marvels and Champs, but other than that, I suck at this.
Reasoning:      to pick up European guys. J/k. To experience the night life of Cape Town, of course

  1. Boulders Beach
Reasoning:      the water is warm (the only spot of the Indian Ocean) and penguins are beach mates

  1. Go nude sun-bathing at Sandy Bay 
Reasoning:      It’s Cape Town’s nudist beach and not as busy as the other beaches,  rank #4 as the world best beaches and it is supposed to be a celebrity hot spot.

  1. Kirstenbosch Botanical Garden
Reasoning:     picnic, and  open-air concerts on Sundays. It's a UNESCO site, and spring is the perfect time to see the world-renowned flower gardens. Plus, what can be more epic that having high tea in a glass house surrounding by fields of flowers?

  1. Bo-Kaap Area
Reasoning:     they have colorful houses and delicious food

  1. Willoughby & Co at Waterfront
Reasoning:     best sushi in town, I have a huge craving for sushi too.

  1. Robben Island trip
Reasoning:    another UNESCO site.

  1. Arpartheid Museum
Reasoning:   good historical source. Can't forget that I need to learn about the country too

  1. Champagne sunset from Clifton Beach
Reasoning:    If I have watched the sunrise, gotta watch the sunset too.  And champagne is a must, if only for the romantic feeling

  1. Green Point Flea Market
Reasoning:     is one of the largest markets in Cape Town and well worth a visit plus music and crafts and loads of traditional African art pieces and curios are for sale

  1. Breakfast at Cape Town International Airport
Reasoning:    cuz it sounds like an awesome thing to do.

  1. Beading at Long Street Bead Shop
Reasoning:     maybe I'll save some money on shopping

  1. Take a leisurely stroll up Government Avenue
Reasoning:     A road with beautiful trees and historical buildings, lined with majestic oak trees on either side and squirrels .  It is also surrounded by many of the city’s most famous attractions including the Company Gardens (founded by Jan Van Riebeeck in 1652), Houses of Parliament and De Tuynhuys. The South African National Art Gallery, The South African Museum and Planetarium. A picnic sounds like a good idea.

  1.  Spend an afternoon at Muizenberg Beach
Reasoning:     where colourful beach huts that make their way onto picture postcards of Cape Town are and is one of the warm beaches in Cape Town

  1. Hike Table Mountain
Reasoning:    there are tons of gorgeous pictures taken from Table Mountain and the Twelve Apostles supposed to be the most beautiful view in Cape Town. Also to see how good in shape I am.

  1. Camps Bay
Reasoning:    just cuz it's a beach.

  1. Skydiving/Bungee jumping
Reasoning:    I want to jump into one of the bluest skies in the world

  1. Old Biscuit Mill
Reasoning:    One of the top gourmet markets in Cape Town, known for its food and variety of merchandise.

  1. Green Market Square and Pan African Market
Reasoning:    Where most the art and crafts are and many more goodies to purchase.

  1. Milnerton Flea Market
Reasoning:    Famous spot with all the local businesses gathered to sell 2nd hand stuff. Would be a good experience and maybe I will be able to find something for a good price. It also lies next to the ocean so if shopping doesn't turn out too well, there's always the beach.

  1. Little Ethiopian
Reasoning:   The restaurant looks adorable and Ethiopian food is delicious.

  1. Double date dinner on Beach Road
Reasoning:    Cuz Spencer and I just want to go on a date.

  1. Hout Bay, the gourmet market and French nougat
Reasoning:    Hout Bay has gorgeous beaches, and the French nougat is supposed to be adorable. Plus, there are really great delicious bakeries and restaurants with best pizzas and pancakes in town.

  1. Lion King 3D
Reasoning:     cuz it feels that much better to watch Lion King in South Africa

  1. Canal Walk
Reasoning:     one of the biggest malls in South Africa and I love shopping. Plus, it's next to the water and there are lots of things that people can do there besides shopping.

  1. V&A Waterfront (already been there several times, need to be back though)
Reasoning:     shopping center, cute restaurants and if I'm lucky enough, maybe I'll get to see some whales.

[subjected to changes in the future as I'll find more things to do]

Sep 29, 2011

"That one's just about someone I've known for years who I've always loved and I think he's always loved me but we're too scared to be with each other in case that's it. When I wrote the middle eight—it's really cheesy. The night before I wrote the middle eight I watched Never Been Kissed, with Drew Barrymore in it… You know at the end when she describes being kissed as the whole world slows down and goes in slow motion, everything else goes blurry? I kind of see it like that. Whenever I hear the bridge it really is sort of like that, and it's quite epic. I mean, I don't think Never Been Kissed is a particularly epic movie." - on One and Only

Sep 25, 2011

The windows would swing open, all the sky would come in ...

Spring is in the air ...  

After a series of cold and rainy days, the weather has picked up its pace. While I was walking home from campus one day, it suddenly dawned on me that spring was coming. The flowers are blooming and the green leaves have returned to the trees. The day is definitely getting longer, as Spencer has excitedly pointed out to me. More sunshine puts us in more vacation mode. I legitimately have to restrain myself for the entire week staying in the library to study for my Immunology exam. The moment the exam was over, true to my spontaneous self that loves the sun, I set out on adventures. 

I thought that after almost three months of being here, I would get used to the scenery and not be as excited anymore. However, this place seems to get more beautiful every day. Thursday afternoon, after my 2pm class, I stopped by the Alma house to get Susan and waited for Spencer, ready to start our afternoon exploring this gorgeous city. We hopped on the minibus, now has become such a frequent mean of transportation for us, and got to the center of the city. My accomplishment of the day - successfully oriented the three of us to Eastern Bazaar. Ok, it was like a five minute walk, but for a person with no sense of direction like me, that was something. If I haven’t talked about this before, Eastern Bazaar is like a hidden alley that houses food stands from various places, mostly Thai and Indian. The food is considered quite authentic and the best part is the price is extremely reasonable. Most of the dishes are about R20-30 which is equivalent to around $3 - $5, but the plate is always piled up with food that enough for us to fill ourselves up and bring back the left over for later. Apparently my ice cream addiction that I picked up from the Kruger trip hasn’t ceased yet, so I treated myself to a serving of Toffee Walnut ice cream while Spencer indulged in a mango lassi – perfect choices for a hot day. I strolled down the street with ice cream in one hand, camera in the other, feeling better than ever. We decided to stop by Green Square Market and the Pan African market for a quick window shopping. Note to myself: I am going to have to come back here to pick up souvenirs for friends and family. There an entire list that I have to go through, it is going to take some time, and some bargaining work. We have never noticed before but at the end of the street was a little gourmet market, similar to Old Biscuit Mill, but was much smaller and gave off a different atmosphere. Spencer and I, with our sugar addiction, got distracted by “the fudge guy”, and after a very interesting conversation, we gave in and brought home no less than 100g of fudge of different flavors: Amarula, Irish Coffee, double chocolate, strawberry and cream, cappuccino, etc. 

We walked around downtown for a little bit, stopped at various boutique shops and made mental notes of restaurants that we would be interested to check out later (the list is pretty long, hopefully we will get our mission accomplished). We decided the weather was too nice not to be at the beach, so we hopped on another minibus and proceeded to Camps Bay. One thing about Cape Town is that differently areas have very different feeling to them. UCT and Ronderbosch areas are definitely college town environment. Long Street gives off the feeling of exotic South American vibe with all its boutiques, bars and clubs. Old Biscuit Mill is every Egypt or European style. The center of the city reminds me of Boston and New England regions. Camps Bay, on the other hand, with long stretches of white sand, blue sea, palm trees, tourist shops, hotels, villas, café and restaurant, reminds me of Hawaii or even Miami, Florida. We walked along the street, admiring all the incredibly nice café and hotels, embellished even more with fancy convertible Porches and BMW in front of them. Girls in bikini tops and guys in their summer outfits were enjoying their refreshing cocktails. I just wish that one day I would make enough money to have a vacation like these people. At the same time though, being young and travelling in a college-student style has its own fun. Susan, Spencer and I decided to make a “quick stop” at a store with 50% discount swimsuits. We ended up spending quite some time there trying on various swimsuits, matching them with straw hats and sunglasses, laughing at ourselves and amazing didn’t really annoy the owner. By the time we left the shop, Spencer was happy with her purchase of an interesting cut out one piece swimsuit while I was content with my South Africa flag bandana. 

We headed to the beach area, took pictures and being silly. As we have been warned about before, the water was incredibly cold so we couldn’t really play with the waves. The feeling of cold sand between my toes, though, was indescribable. With such beautiful scenery and fabulous, it seems like everyone was having a time of their lives. Tourists were happy to take pictures for us, and even to take pictures with us. There was this incredibly cute couple who ask me to take pictures for them. I would have guessed they were on the honeymoon or something the way they were posing for pictures. Both of them asked us to take pictures with them, so we did. Hopefully they will tell good stories about us and smile when they looked at the pictures, just as how I’m smiling at the moment writing about them. We also had another great conversation with these two random guys we met on the train – we decided to take the train home instead of a minibus. Casual questions, random chats about things in towns, or sharing random things. Sometimes, complete strangers are those that bring you this warm feeling that it is, indeed, possible to be friends with everyone around the world. I am becoming addicted to that feeling. Hopefully I won’t pick up on the habit of starting conversations with strangers all the time. It can become creepy, lol. 

Friday night, I was in the mood for baking, so I made Swiss roll. Going grocery shopping with my music playing and picking out ingredients, thinking about how these simple ingredients will turn into beautiful and delicious dessert is like my therapy. It eases my mind and relaxes my body. Baking does the same thing. I was just purely absorbed in the moment, mixing the ingredients, whipping the cream, and smelling the alluring smell of a fresh oven –baked cake makes me happy. It does the same thing as drawing, designing, putting on make up, or painting nails do to me. Carefully rolling the cake, putting on whipped cream and decorating it to make it looks pleasant to whoever going to eat it is a rewarding process. I have never seen anyone that is not happy when they see a beautifully made dessert and when they actually have it. It is the simplest joy in the world.

Enough with my obsession with baking, let’s move on to our Saturday adventure. It hit 90 degree so the weather was even nicer. 9am - Carimah, Susan, Spencer and I caught the bus to a gourmet market downtown. Similar to Old Biscuit Mill but in a much smaller scale and less crowded. Spencer and I sat in the sun with our breakfast and smoothie, relaxed and chatted about things. My favorite part of the morning probably was the vintage fashion market. Small business and local stores all gathered together upstair to sell hand-made products or little things that they have collected over the years. I found a prettiest black sheer silk sundress that was calling my name. There were hand-crafted jewelry, vintage clothes, leather bags made of camel skins, accessories, and many other interesting things. Every piece of clothing and accessories here seems to have a story to go with them, which made me really tempted to start collecting not only the item, but also those stories. Apparently there is going to be another fashion night market on Friday night. Guess where Thanh is going to be doing Friday night? 

We got home around 1pm and Susan and I headed to campus to get some work done, while we could still be outside and enjoyed the sun at the same time. I was content to be productive and get all my work finished, while at the same time, got the tan going quite well. Yay for efficient use of time. We headed back around 6pm to get ready for the braai. Braai is African name for barbeque and Saturday was, indeed, the National Braai day in South Africa. Obviously, we got to live the culture, and held our own braai at the Alma house. It has been a while since I hang out with the rest of the IES people (oops, guilty of charge) so it was quite nice. The weather was too cold to be outside and was cool enough to make it comfortable standing by the fire. The most exciting part of the night? The neighbor called the cops on us twice for noise complains, from 7 – 11pm. Lol. 

I decided to do something crazy so I went with Susan to campus at midnight and tried to finish work. My first all nighter in South Africa, yay! We walked home at 5am and got to enjoy this breath-taking view of the city at moment of early morning when the sky started to brighten up, with all the city lights twinkling and the new moon shining on the purple sky.

The moment I felt that I have eased into the life in Cape Town and that I have known somewhat about this city, I soon learn there is so much more of it, and of this country that I am completely unaware of and have not had the opportunity to experience yet. Spontaneous adventures are the best. When you don’t have a certain place to go to, a list of things to do, or specific people to meet, spontaneity will take you to the least expected places, bring you the taste of brand new experience and lovely encounters with strangers.

 “Sometimes we need to stop analyzing the past, stop planning the future, stop figuring out precisely how we feel, stop deciding exactly what we want, and just see what happens.”

The weather is gorgeous out today too. I may take a nap in the sun and after that school mode most definitely needs to be on again. Another brand new week is coming, promising more adventures to come. 


Sep 23, 2011

Things I love Thursday - Spring time

Gorgeous sunny days
Exploring downtown Cape Town, checking out farmer markets and hanging out at the beach
Listen to Autumn mix when it's spring out
Irish Coffee and Cappuccino Fudge
Exams that went well
Great conversations with strangers
Design something with Photoshop after 3 months not using it, and it turned out well
Experimenting new dessert - Swiss Roll
Fun and actually accurate personality quiz
Uploading new pictures
Ice cream!
Tan lines!
Rose granola breakfast
Shopping for gifts for friends and family
Successfully put together [cute] outfit
Get compliments from people
Christina Perri on a rainy day
A friend set her fb profile picture of her and I together, cuz she misses me
An attempt to go watch a required movie for class turned out to be a great adventure and the movie was mind-blowing
Sitting under the blue sky and enjoying the warm sun and a brand new music playlist
Sleeeeeeep sleep, glorious sleep~


Sep 16, 2011

sometime, somewhere, someone is looking at their love and saying thank you.

they're looking at them, their face. that familiar face that their lips know as well as their eyes know. every highlight and shadow that make up that gorgeous structure.

the scruff and the little nook where their nose turns into their cheek, the lips that they kiss once before they kiss again over and over.

they're looking at them and saying it with each kiss. they're saying it with each glance into those kind, mischievous, understanding eyes.

they say thank you when their fingers touch and their palms interconnect with each other like pieces of a puzzle.

they say it when they wake up to an arm and a body wrapping its warmth around their arm and their body.

they say it through a shrug of the shoulders. a raised eyebrow. a laugh. a scrunched nose.

they say it through conversations late at night and early morning, when the eyes are closing but the lips open to form a smile

they say it through chat messages and emails, separated by hours of time difference and thousands of miles.

thank you. they say.
thank you for being mine. for not being an asshole. for letting me in. for wanting me as much as i want you. for needing me as i need you.
thank you for you. and for me. and for you and me, together.

for us. thank you for us. 

Sep 15, 2011

Where the wild things are [part 2]

Continue with the journey ...

We actually got to sleep in until ... 7am on Tuesday. Oh trust me, after 3 nights of getting up at 4am, even for a morning person like me, it was amazing to get those 3 extra hours of sleep, to have enough time to sit down and have a hot breakfast with eggs and toasts instead of cereal and bananas. We spent the entire morning on the bus (more sleep, amen) as we moved to our next destination – Soweto, moving from the wilderness to an urban atmosphere, and from an exciting nature experience to a historical and cultural one. To give some background, Soweto is a large, highly populated township in the city of Johannesburg (I will get back to Johannesburg later). Soweto stands for South West Township and is actually developed enough to be a city of its own.

On the way to Lebo’s, the backpacker place that we spent the next two nights at, we made a quick stop at Soccer City.  I was ecstatic to see the stadium that housed the World Cup with my own eyes. If only I was here last summer to experience all that hype and excitement and to be able to watch a real World Cup game in the midst of all the noise of the vuvuzela. That would be one hell of an experience.

We arrived at Lebo’s backpacker just in time for lunch. Similar to Old Vic, Lebo gaves out a friendly and homey atmosphere, with its set up no different than a typical house: kitchen, dining rooms, office, living room and backyard. The only differences would be there were way more rooms and bathrooms (which is kind of a necessity) and a backyard decorated in tribal style with the bar, a fireplace surrounded with cushions and hammocks, fooseball table, pool, darts, picnic tables and a bamboo house. I was in love with the decoration of the yard, especially the upstair section that gave off a Mediterranean and African fused feeling with decorative beaded throw pillows on the floor, for us to lie down comfortably while hanging out. The workers here were exceptionally nice and they gave me the feeling of family members. I became friends with them immediately, considering how often I snuck into the kitchen to make coffee and tea during the 2 nights we stayed there.
The painted wall outside of the house

After a light lunch with tomato grilled cheese sandwiches, fish and chips, we set out to pick our bicycles for the bike tour. It was a struggle for me to find a bike my height. Don’t laugh. I wouldn’t exactly be happy if I couldn’t find a bike. Thankfully, there was one. We were given a brief history of Soweto as well as various interesting facts about it at the beginning of the tour. Not only it is big enough to be a city on its own, with developed economics and industrial centres. Soweto also had a surprisingly rich cultural background. It houses some of the most famous landmark of South Africa, including the Nelson Mandela House and the Hector Pieterson museum and monument. Without said, it has an extremely eventful history, involving various significant events and political figures. Cultural wise, there is one interesting fact that I actually remember. The popular soundtrack “The lion sleeps tonight” from The Lion King is actually an English version of the original song “Mbube”, recorded by Solomon Linda who lives in Soweto.

As we biked along town, we got to experience various local traditions and learnt more about the township. We tried the local beer that the women made for their men during the time they had to work in the mines, learned the dance that went with it, and showed the local people an “American” dance. We stopped by a local “restaurant’, street style, for people to try cow tongue. For a Vietnamese, I guess that is not something new but it was interesting to see how they used different spices and other dishes accompanied the meat. The way they served the food was also different. We visited the monument of Hector Pieterson and made a quick stop at the Nelson Mandela house. I actually realized I knew very little about the history and politics of South Africa and Africa in general, since I couldn’t even think of one fact about Nelson Mandela (except that he was black man, j/k). I have never been really interested in history and politics but for some reason, I felt like I should know the most basic things about the place I visit. Time to do some research *sigh*

After around two hour biking around town, we headed home. It was such a great exercise after all that time sitting in planes, jeeps and buses. I felt like my muscle finally got to move again and surprisingly, was still in good shape. After all the cakes and dessert that I have consumed for the past few weeks, I did not expect myself to breeze through all the hills without much problem. Pretty proud of myself, not gonna lie.

One thing I loved about the trip was that we had plenty of time at night during dinner and after to hang out and really bond with each other. There are only around 20 of us in the program, and normally, we have always been pretty close to each other, going to class, field trips and travelling together. However, this was an excellent chance for me, at least, to break out of the normal circle of people I usually hang out with and got to know the others more. Spencer, Ben, Wes and I started an “intense” game of foose ball and obviously, Wes and I lost, thanks to my amazing eye-hand coordination skill. Don’t really understand how people manage to play that game =.= I actually got to know Ben much better during the time at Lebo’s. It was great to be able to know more than just he’s from Switzerland, goes to U of R and he plays squash. Also, during this time I have managed to convince Monica, Spencer and Portia to come visit Vietnam, even if it was only for the spa, manicures, and coffee shops. It actually occurs to me that knowing people from U of R is actually quite a nice thing, especially when thinking that I can still see Monica, Spencer, Ben, Toni, etc., next semester and maybe have lunch or dinner with them and talk about the awesome time we had in Cape Town.

The guys at Lebo had amazing taste in music. Everyone had the time of their life dancing in the yard, or gathered around the fire place and had a little fun with good alcohol and fruity hookah. I actually was being lame and fell asleep pretty early while reading my novel, lol. Oh, one more thing I absolutely love about Lebo - the zebra skin on the couch – I want one so badly.

Various locations in Maropeng
Another morning, another delicious breakfast being served by the amazing ladies and gentlemen at Lebo’s with almost all the breakfast essential: cereals, toasts, cheese, scramble eggs, bacons, sausage, mushroom, tomatoes, yogurt, fruits, juices, coffee, tea, etc. We were so into breakfast that we were literally 15 minutes behind on our schedule, lol. Besides the safari trip, I think the next destination was my second highlight of the trip – Maropeng aka the Cradle of Humankind.

Years of drilling in my head about various species of Homo erectus, Australopithecus africanus, Homo neaderthalensis, Homo sapiens, etc., and Africa, as well as having to write numerous reports and taking exams on Darwin and his theory of Origin of Species, I thought I hated Evolutionary Biology with a passion. Apparently, I’m more of a biology nerd than I thought I was. I literally had butterflies and this feeling of immense happiness to take the first step on the ground of the “cradle of humankind”. The extravagant stone columns at the entrance only elevated my feeling. It was pretty epic, no exaggeration.

This is one of the sites that I actually know lots of related background information about. The Cradle of Humankind was named by the UNESCO as a World Heritage Site in 1999 (it was the 9-year-old’s girl dream to be able to visit this one day, and it came true!). Maropeng is a Setswana word that stands for ‘returning to the place of our origins’. The site is actually quite large with around 40 to 50 caves in which fossils were found. Too bad we only got to visit the museum part *sad*. I wish I could have seen the Sterkfontein caves, the site where they found the skull of “Mrs. Ples”, a 2.3 million year old Australopithecus africanus. Statistics: almost 1/3 of all hominid fossils ever found are all excavated in Sterkfontein.

The four elements
The exhibition and display of this museum is really well done, aesthetically and professionally. Most exhibits are interactive, eye-catching and contain basic yet interesting information. The walkway to the boat ride was painted with the time line of origin of species, starting from the modern day as we walked into history, and ended at the very beginning of time when the Earth only consisted of the four elements. The boat ride showed us how the elements acted together in other to bring living beings into life. It was a pretty fun ride, scary at some points when it comes to certain elements, especially for people who are scared of water like Qamar (lol, we made fun of him the entire ride). The main part of the museum contains various information about the path of humankind development, its origins and other related topic, up to those of the modern day. Along the side wall presented various global and economic tissues that humankind are facing with, with the intriguing opening line “Are we destroying ourselves?” The graphic design of these posters and signs is impressive. They attracted attention with bright colors and presentation, and they got the information across with amazing typography. I was in love with them, and took way too many pictures. The museum ends with a glass wall and the question “What is our future?” (glass wall = reflection, clever, eh?), before it leads out to the open space with a gorgeous view of the infinite scenery. We hung around in the yard, taking in as much sunshine as possible. Spencer, Luke and I went explore and found this adorable kid’s cave as well as a playground, where we spent a decent amount of time playing a huge version of “snake and vines” on the ground, and played with the swings of course.

The day became hotter and the sun rose higher, telling our stomachs that it was high time for lunch. Thus, we headed out to our bus and another hour drive to our next destination – the Sparkling Waters Hotel and Spa – to get lunch and ready for our epic canopy trip. A simple lunch was served in a sun-filled room as we split among us into three different groups of 7 each. The groups went into a half hour interval after each other while the rest waited at the hotel to enjoy all the facility, including a swimming pool, tennis court, and other things. Monica and I decided to go for a spa session as we both agreed that we were desperately in need of a back massage. A sundeck back massage was the best thing I could ask for at that moment, after many hours of travelling. Warm sun, soothing music, aromatic smell of herbal oil, and a relaxing massage did the trick – my body was revitalized and I felt alive again, ready for the adrenaline rush of the zip line tour. 

We had a brief session of tutoring how to slide, fitted with our harness, helmet, sliding gloves, packed on a truck and drove to the mountain for our adventure. I have always been a fan of extreme sports and I actually love heights and the feeling of being on top of the world. As a result, I breezed through the adventure with much excitement, yet a little part of me wished it could have been a little bit scarier. I know, lol, I am kind of crazy. It actually made me want to go bungee jumping and skydiving really bad. I need more of an adrenaline rush. 

Our group was perfect: Carimah, Monica, Megan, Maxine and Wes. Monica, Carimah and I were singing random lines from our “terrible song” as we slid down the line. Megan just made our adventure so much better as she was literally scared and made all the best impression ever. Wes, well, was just being silly was always with his “African swag”. We actually ordered the DVD that recorded our tour and pictures. Although I actually regretted not bring my camera with me, a self-taken picture in the middle of zip-lining would have been pretty sick. Oh well. Everyone seemed to have enjoyed the experience and all talked about it excitedly during the two hour bus ride back to Lebo’s.

It was our last night before we did some more touring tomorrow around Johannesburg and caught our flight back to Cape Town in the afternoon. While everyone was outside drinking and dancing by the fire place, I was too afraid of the cold and decided to make myself comfortable on the couch with a cup of hot coffee. It turned out was not a bad decision at all. I started talking to the other guests aka backpackers that stayed here and got quite interesting stories from them. 2 of them are also study abroad students from the US, go to UCT and are majored in architecture. I have to say I’m mildly jealous, I can’t imagine get to study architecture in such a wonderful country of diversity. Architecture here is just amazing. The other girl is from England, and she has done a ridiculous amount of travelling, including Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, China, Japan, Korea, Australia, around Europe, now she is in Africa and plans on going to South America next. She actually takes 2 years of just to travel and learn more about tourism. We technically talked for almost 4 hours, sharing with each other different stories of our travelling experience (more of me listening and her telling). She was doing some volunteering work in Soweta and has been there for 5 months. I’ve always read on travelling blogs about how backpackers are such nice place for travellers because they are extremely homey and people become attached to them easily, now I know that these bloggers do not exaggerate at all. I wish one day I could travel like that, from cities to cities, countries to countries, getting to know the local people and learn the lifestyle. It is such an enticing and alluring aspect of travelling. People came out and in of the living room, wondering how the hell I was talking to a random people for hours and with the vibe that I have known them for a long time. I didn’t even know their names. Actually, none of us asked because we didn’t feel like we have to. I spent the rest of the night watching a movie with Spencer and Ben, and didn’t really go to bed until 1am, the latest I had been the entire trip.

Thursday morning, at this point, despite all the excitement, I felt like I was ready to go home. Five days full of activities and lots of bonding time with people were just right. I needed some alone time to do my own things, or nothing at all. I missed my comfortable bed, warm room, hot showers, and talking to my friends online. I know travelling is all about meeting new people and making friends, but what’s the point of having all the fun if you have no one to tell? I could NOT wait to get home, edit my pictures, write my blog and share the experience (and make people jealous, haha). Packing that morning brought a mixed feeling of both sad and happy at the same time. We had two more stops to make before we hit the airport: the Apartheid Museum and the SA Breweries for a World of Beer tour.

The Apartheid was quite a turning point and significant event for South Africa. I could never know how it felt to be treated with racism. Being an Asian, racism has never been a big issue for me, at least. Obviously, stereotypes come up often, especially when it comes to inter-racial differences. However, I don’t think it has never been that terrible an issue. On entering the museum, we were randomly assigned the classification of “white” or “non-white” and entered via two separate gates. There was information about this system of legal racial segregation into four groups: native, white, coloured and Asian. They were classified according to skin color, hair texture and other characteristics. White people became colour, colour people became black, asian became white all using these rules. How could you classify people like that, I have no idea and could not see the reasoning behinds it. They were all treated differently, to the point of different gates, bathrooms and other privileges. Again, the layout and design of the exhibition was incredible. I learned a tremendous amount of information about Nelson Mandela. My most favourite fact? The one that talks about how Nelson is an extremely stylish person. He cares about how his style is presented to the people and is always very concerned about his suit. His favourite suit was tailored by the most talented designer in Africa and was among one of the most expensive suits ever made. He is definite a great man, not that I didn’t think he was before I learned about his fashion style. Overall, the museum did a astounding job at illustrating the rise and fall of apartheid and the struggles that people went through. It was a great learning experience.

I risked my life for this picture, lol.
Putting all the serious things behind, we moved on to a more light-hearted experience: the World of Beer tour at the SA Breweries. Actually, I had no idea how the tour was. I am not a big fan of beer so I joined Carimah, Qamar, Megan and Monica for a short tour around the city of Johannesburg instead. Johannesburg, also called Jozi, Jo’burg or Egoli (city of Gold), is the largest city in South Africa and is also one of the most industrial and political city of SA. Joburg is famous for its large-scale gold and diamond industry. It has some of the tallest buildings in the entire Africa’s continent. I heard clubs and bars here were pretty sick too. Due to time limit, we could only walk around for a few blocks, passing the market and several interesting buildings on our way. Joburg has a completely atmosphere compared to Cape Town. I felt like I was back in Ho Chi Minh City: lots of traffic, local stores along the streets, vendor stands along the pavement, people rushing everywhere and yelled at us for stopping and taking pictures. It wasn’t, from the impression we had of our short walk, a very tourist-friendly city. That or we just got into the wrong part at the wrong time. Our love for taking pictures almost got us in big trouble with national security *cough* and almost got arrested at the African National Congress headquarter building. Even the FNC bank headquarter were not picture-friendly. It was interesting having a taste of Joburg. We walked back to the Breweries to join the other for another delicious lunch. I was glad to get my salad, needed the vegetables. French fries here is delicious, by the way. We ordered like three extra servings of fries, lol.

That was the last stop of our spring break. As as the plane took off, I looked out the window and took in the scenery of the place that had given me such incredible experience and made part of my dreams come true. Without fail, Cape Town greeted us gloomy and rainy weather, which was kind of depressing after five days of sunshine. There was this paralyzing feeling lingered in me, the feeling of knowing that I was going to leave a place for good, and that the chance of me being back was close to 0. It felt like a dream, and the paralyzing feeling reminded me that I would need to wake up to reality soon.

What I got from this incredible-fantastic-mind-blowing spring break?
1.      Tons of pictures that captured priceless moments
2.      Amazing souvenirs and postcards
3.      A nice tan and several bruises of unknown sources
4.      An ice-cream addiction
5.      The astonishing diversity of this country and how lucky I am to be here. I should appreciate history and cultures more.
6.      “All good things are wild and free” 
7.       The feeling of getting to what you learned from textbooks with your own eyes is indescribable.
8.      Great friends can be made everywhere and anywhere, if you are willing to open up.
9.      The fact that people come together from various places and belong to different races can eat, tak and laugh together is something should not be taken for granted.
10.  Cape Town has become another “home” away from home for me (now I my own home in 3 different continents, and 3 different states of the US, lol)

Nadia, our RA greeted us with her usual cheerfulness and an endearing phrase: ‘Welcome home, girls.”
And the truth was, 

I am happy to be home.

I'm home - where humanity begins and where the wild things are.