Thursday, May 30, 2013

In the eyes of the beholder

"It is so beautiful here," Natalie and Travis would both comment, quite frequently, as we traveled from one city to another in Croatia.

I wanted to chime in my agreement. I really did. But having just arrived from South Africa, it was proving difficult for me to give an unbiased opinion of what true beauty is. Not that Croatia is sub-par. It is charming in its own right... and, by George, it is photogenic!


Thursday, May 23, 2013


Churches and cemeteries. They've become a pattern in my travels. The latter never being intentional... but definitely worth visiting. First came the garden tomb in Jerusalem, then the sepulchers in Bonifacio, and the happy cemetery in Romania. But Zagreb... Zagreb knows how to lay their people to rest in style.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

an extended layover way of life

Never had I imagined not being able to answer the question, "Where do you live?"

I don't have a home. 

No home. A phrase that is strange to wrap my head around.  I had always joked about being a gypsy, but the only thing that separates me from being a real one now (aside from the bloodline) is that I haven't begged for money. At least... not yet.  

I'm American, yes. In general it is home. Picking a state, on the other hand, is impossible. Especially since I haven't lived in the country for 5 years. Amsterdam is home, yes. At least a part of it always will be. Although it's not somewhere I'll be returning to any time soon.

I don't have a home.

Instead I have places to rest my head. And a base in Germany (aka. my mother's home) that I use as an extended layover rest stop.

Case in point:

Fight out of Johannesburg: April 25th, 22:30hrs. 
Flight arrival in Frankfurt: April 26th, 16:30hrs. 
-- layover --
Night train to Zagreb: April 28th, 20:00hrs. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

A history lesson, in brief.

The Cliff's Notes version of the history of white men in South Africa goes a little something like this:

In the 1600's the Dutch East India Company (VOC) took residence in Cape Town, which was used as a temporary resting place during their long boat rides around Africa to India - with no intention to colonize. There was a caveat, though. The sailor boys needed to trade with the locals in order to make the base fruitful. The locals, on the other hand, wanted nothing to do with the VOC. So a few Dutch farmers, Boers, were deposited on the land to harvest fruits, vegetables and grains. And that is how Afrikaners brought up residence on South African soil.

They lived around the Cape and along the Garden Route for a good century or two. Then the British, who already used Durban as a port, came along and seized control of the Cape in the early 1800's. The Afrikaners were pushed north towards the middle of the country, where 70 years later they found diamonds. The British, being the mercenaries that they were (are?), seized control of the land, pushing the Afrikaners further north to the greater Johannesburg area. Which, consequently, was were those industrial Afrikaners struck gold a short time later.

Unsurprisingly, once the British heard of the discovery, they pushed the Afrikaners farther north - to Pretoria. Finally fed up, the Afrikaners took their stand and the Boer Wars broke out, declaring to the British that they weren't going to be bullied anymore. In 1902 the British won the war for the second time, but allowed the Afrikaners extra rights, such as voting, a few short years later.

Then WWI broke out. As the world around them was in full commotion, South Africans tried to regain some semblance of peace. The cabinet was primarily controlled by Afrikaners, with a British Prime Minister, Jan Smuts, at the helm. Smuts was pro-Commonwealth and sought for South Africa to be a solely English speaking country. But the cabinet members wouldn't hear of it ("Afrikaans for the win!" they cried, in Africaans. ... Or at least that's how I like to imagine it). In 1924 Afrikaner, J.B.M Hertzog, won the majority vote, becoming the new Prime Minister. He sought for white equality, as the Afrikaners had been treated as second class citizens up to that point. Hertzog succeeded and Afrikaners cheered.  Then Smuts regained control of the land in 1939.

(Not to worry, Hertzog's work wasn't in vain. Afrikaners kept their standing).

The thing about Hertzog and Smuts, though, was that they were both supporters of racial segregation. Plans were drawn up, such as land divisions: 8% of South Africa's land for Coloureds (a non-derogatory word in SA) and 92% of the land for Whites, although Whites only comprised 20% of the population.

But it wasn't until 1948, when Afrikaners gained full control of the government with the National Party, that the drawn up plans were enforced.

That, in summation, is how Afrikaners gained, lost and regained control of the land... and then went on to create the greatest racial discrimination the country had ever experienced: the Apartheid. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

There are no strangers here, only friends you haven't met

Never have I visited a location, none-the-less lived in one, where I was immediately enveloped into the community by everyone I met as I was in South Africa. Complete strangers felt like old friends - we'd jump into a conversation, laughing and joking as though it was a continuation of a discussion we had the day prior, all before introductions were even made.

Adding the beauty of Cape Town to the friendliness of the locals, the city is nothing but golden. (Free roaming penguins don't hurt either).

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

"Great" Expectations

Throughout my entire South African journey, I was told by multiple people how much I was going to love Cape Town. The amount of times I was relayed that information was so extreme I was worried my expectations were too high and I'd arrive being nothing but disappointed. Little did I know, the greatness of Cape Town was even greater than the greatness I had portrayed it to be in my head.

In order to describe how great "great" actually is, I will describe it this way: Cape Town has three types of gangs; the ones that stab, the ones that shoot and the ones that rape. And I would willingly risk an encounter with all three if it meant I could live there.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

A small town at its finest

The Stars Hallow, Mayberry or Everwood of South Africa carries the name of Swellendam. The location was one I thought I would spend an hour or so touring before spending the rest of my time working online.

Instead, I spent an hour or so working online after spending all my time envisioning my retirement there. The charm of Swellendam doesn't only come in its scenery, or Dutch-style architecture, but in the people. It took me hours to walk a 10 minute distance, as I would engage in one conversation or another with locals who made me feel like we've been friends forever.

Plus, the food was divine.