There’s a Reason They Give You 48 Days

Running to catch my flight Sunday, I choked back tears leaving my aunt and uncle. I sprinted through the Frankfurt Airport half hoping to miss my flight. I only slept two hours the night before. I got to the gate just as the plane was boarding. I settled into my seat, sighed and fell asleep. I didn’t want to leave. I didn’t want my trip to be over. It had been so long since I got to spend time with my aunt. I haven’t been able to spend that much time with her since I was very young. My aunt has always been my second mom. She reminds me of my mom so much that it was like getting to be on vacation with both of them.

Arriving in Frankfurt, my bags came off the carousel fairly quick. I walked through customs and right there in front of me was my aunt. Carrying a very heavy bag I ran towards her and let out a stifled sob. I hugged my uncle and we were off. Walking into their house was like stepping into your favorite pair of slippers. It was so comfortable and so…home. I threw my bags down and marveled at how beautiful their home was. We went to Ramstein Air Force Base and I got my first taste of home. As I entered the massive BX shopping megacenter, I was instantly in culture shock. Where was I? Was that a Macaroni Grill? Is that Cinnabon? You mean to tell me there’s Taco Bell here? As we wandered through the never-ending isles of American shopping paradise I felt strange. Everything seemed so foreign, yet so familiar. As I passed the men and women in their uniforms, I felt even more at home. I grew up an Air Force brat. I don’t think a day went by when “Tinker” wasn’t uttered in our household. Being back around an Air Force base was like receiving a giant hug from your extended family.

The first evening we made s’mores and I was astonished by how late the sun set. I forgot that happens on other sides of the earth. I eventually went to bed and snuggled under the covers of the warm bed. It had been so long since I slept on a bed that I didn’t feel. I didn’t sink into the pit my ass has been carving away at for a year. I didn’t feel my feet dangle dangerously over the edge. I didn’t feel anything but comfort. Well I was cold too, so I felt my toes freezing off.

I swear the first week was just eating. We ate Greek, German, Thai, at home, everywhere and anywhere that had food. I feel like cheese was just flying at my face, ready to be eaten with open arms. And I did. I ate cheese every chance I got.

The first weekend, we jetted off to Spain for a few days in pure bliss. The weather was heavenly, the hotel was impeccable, the food was delicious, and my tan was perfect. Every morning at breakfast, I ate like it was my last meal on Earth. The cheese, cured meats, milchreis, sausage, and everything possibly unhealthy for you was consumed with glee. By the end of the trip though my body was clearly telling me to avoid the cheese plates, but I ignored it. We took a nice detour from the beach one day and headed to Gibraltar, which I didn’t know is NOT part of Spain. In fact it is a British Overseas Territory, like Bermuda. We took a tour of the rock and I was fascinated that I knew nothing about this place. I peered over the edge and waved at Africa while also appreciating the Strait. Overall it was well worth the trip, I loved learning something new. I was the only person stopped at passport control though, probably because I was wearing kente.

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I still don’t understand how the Spanish can eat so late though. 10pm is early for dinner. I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve been up past 10pm in Ghana. I loved devouring seafood while I was there though. I have a new love for anchovies. One night we went out to dinner with one of my aunt’s friends. It was a steakhouse of sorts. I had Iberian pork. Three pork steaks which changed my life. I will never look at a pig the same way again, bacon doesn’t even hold a candle to how amazing these steaks were. I didn’t even speak until I got through the second steak. True bliss.

Upon returning to Germany, we were greeted with beautiful weather and the Fourth of July. We celebrated the Fourth with friends and the Air Force base. I had a funnel cake and a Corona. Life doesn’t get much better. As we watched the fireworks and listened to the Star Spangled Banner, I choked up. You never forget your are American, but being away for so long I’d forgotten what it means to be American. I felt a huge wave come over me and suddenly I remembered why I love my country. There is good and bad, but we are truly privileged to be Americans. I watched the fireworks explode and remembered Fourth of Julys from past years. It felt right.

A few days later we ventured into town for the Altstadt Fest in Kaiserslautern. There aren’t enough words to describe how fascinating, memorable, and remarkable that night was. I’m just lucky that the words Peace Corps don’t get thrown around too often. Chance and coincidence have a right real good time showing up unexpectedly.

My last week was fantastic. We went to the castle Berg Eltz, which brought back memories of my childhood. As we sat and ate lunch overlooking the Mosel, I couldn’t help but remember happy moments. I remember walking up and down the river, watching bikes pass by. I remember riding the boats on the river and watching big barges pass by. I remember the smell of the fresh air and the grape vines dripping over the hills. I remember being so happy. I truly had a magical childhood.

My last day in Germany was spent enjoying the beautiful weather by wandering through the farmer market in town. Olives with feta, a knackwurst, and salami were carefully eaten, savoring the taste of freshness. I breathed in the fresh German air and tried to inhale the happiness.

As I left Germany, I felt an overwhelming sense of purpose and loss. I was leaving my family again to disappear into the abyss. When would I hug them again? When would I get to laugh with my aunt again? When would I get to relive the happiness of those moments? I wanted to run back from my gate to my family. I wanted to give up and just stay. But I knew that I had a bigger purpose. I had to return to Ghana, to my Peace Corps family. I had to finish what I started. I had to be strong and continue fighting. I had to pull myself away from pure bliss, so I could remember what it means to be fulfilled.

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You win some, you lose some. But mice always die.

Wins:

The Fire Chief from my old site called me out of the blue yesterday. He wanted to just say hi. He told me that the whole community misses me, especially the fire service.

Leave request was approved – I’m going to Germany! In about 3 weeks I will get to see my aunt, half of my motherland, and a giant plate of schnitzel.

I killed two mice Sunday. One drowned in a bucket of water. One scampered under my stove; lifting the stove to check, I saw him and promptly dropped the stove. Right on his little head.

I attended a cashew festival over the weekend. It was organized by my friend and fellow PCV. It was very well attended, fun, and frankly a huge success. I was able to talk to a lot of farmers about the importance of record keeping and tracking expenses.

I’ve been studying ridiculously hard for the Foreign Service Test. I’m able to pump out a handwritten 5 paragraph argumentative essay in under 30 minutes.

I’m planning a new set of trainings with my old friend Yahya (see last post). We discussed how his agents were really bad at bookkeeping. Don’t worry I’ll come and save the day.

While in Germany, I’ll be meeting with SAP in person. After almost two years, I’ll finally get to meet the entire team. I’ve already started planning my third pilot for them.

Team Ghana won the Stomping out Malaria blog quality challenge. I got a special shout-out for my eloquent description of the symptoms of malaria. Eloquent is self-serving, ridiculous is the better word.

I’ve decided on plans for Christmas and they include a best friend, a little captain, and California!

In two days, I will have made it to the 20th month mark.

I’ve found a new travelling egg seller who passes by my house. 25p ($0.12) for gigantic eggs. Most villages you’d pay 40p for that. I can’t even remember how much eggs are in America, but I’m making out like a bandit here.

Losses:

I was excluded from an event because I wasn’t part of the “boys club.” Literally. My credentials notwithstanding, I’m a girl therefore I can’t possibly be qualified. Not the first or last time my fellow PCVs will discriminate against me based on my sex, tendency to wear makeup, or dislike of rolling in the dirt.

Another mouse made an appearance last night, alive. These guys really love my place don’t they?!

I keep getting this feeling of being tossed aside. When I bring it up to the tossers, they toss the idea away. Clearly I’m not wrong. But a recent incident has really upset me. Sometimes people do things without thinking and old scars suddenly start burning again. Funny how a good day can be ruined so quickly.

I’ve been planning a Resume Workshop for my fellow PCVs. No one has signed up, it is in 3 days. Oh well, all your jobs are belong to me!

Inflation is really kicking my ass. Prices in town just went up again, second time in a month. We are supposed to get a raise, after my service is over.

More tornadoes in Oklahoma. I’ve rarely felt homesick during my service, but this is kicking me in the ass. I want to be home. I want to know that my family and friends are safe immediately, not hours or days after the fact.

It has been a long time since I’ve received a care package from certain members of my family. COUGH DAD. I’m starting to think he’s forgotten I’m in Africa with poor access to life saving medicine – Peanut M&Ms.

Hermanus, I barely know him!

My time in Hermanus wasn’t just whales and sharks. After the shark diving, I went back to the hostel for a short break. I called for a rickshaw taxi to take me to the Wine Village. I had read about this wine store in the Rough Guide to South Africa. I heard it was one of the best wine stores in all of South Africa. So of course it was on my list.

I get to the place and happiness sinks in. Free wine tastings! So I tried 6 different wines while shopping around the place. I picked up 6 bottles of wine and was ecstatic. I didn’t have a car so I had to wait for the rickshaw to come pick me back up, it took about an hour. So the owner of the store felt bad for me and had me try some gin, a special type of South African wine with a lemon, some port, and more wine. I LOVE THIS PLACE.

I head back to the hostel a happy camper. Later that night, I went to one of the fancy hotels in town for dinner. I had a three course meal. Before hand though, I grabbed a drink in the hotel bar and it was a good choice. A mint chocolate martini complete with a nice platter of CASHEWS, olives, and other little finger foods. Delicious. At dinner I had a seafood soup, LOBSTERS (plural, there were like 3 of them), and chocolate fondant. I was so full by the end of it I thought I was going to burst.

The next day I woke up early and went for a morning walk along the coast. The whales were clearly morning animals too. I saw so many moms and babies playing together it was simply incredible. One little guy just sat there hitting his tail against the water for maybe 10 minutes. The weather was dreary was I decided to go horseback riding. It has been a long time since I’ve been on a horse and I could tell. The saddle didn’t really agree with my thighs and I was aching from the start. My horse was ornery and kept yanking on his bit. We went for a canter and my horse decided this was his time to shine. I of course almost fell off, which was embarrassing but mostly painful. The view was spectacular though. We snaked through vineyards and hobbled over streams. We made our way to a waterfall and the sun came out to greet us.

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The flowers were in bloom because spring had just arrived, so the whole area was filled with bright yellows and purples.

Oh and funny thing. While driving to the stables, I saw baboons and chickens crossing the road in the same place. I’m sure there is a joke in there somewhere.

Later that day I went to dinner at a place called Lemon Butta. It is on the second story of a little shopping area right next to the cliffs. I sat next to the window and watched the whales while eating dinner. I was hungry so I ate early and practically alone in the place. I ordered the baby kingklip, which is probably my new favorite fish. It was HUGE. No kidding it was the size of my arm (from the elbow down), width and all. Did I eat the whole thing, almost it came with calamari so I ate all of that too. While eating dinner a whale decided to put on an amazing show. Just feet from one of the cliffs, a young whale was breaching out of the water. He was so close you could see the barnacles on his face. When whales breach, they often do it multiple times. This guy was feeling showy and he breached at least five times. Oh yeah and I totally ordered dessert at this place and it was delicious.

Eating alone is actually really enjoyable for me. Yes, I love great company, but eating alone can be empowering. You have time to take in your surroundings and truly enjoy the food. You taste more when you eat alone because you aren’t distracted by conversation. Eating alone can be scary, but it just proves that you are independent and strong. You don’t need someone to fill your time, that’s what the food is for. What a better way to experience food.

I should have been a food critic.

Stellenbosch

Hungover and tired beyond belief, I stumbled into Stellenbosch. After a lovely shower and giant bottle of water, I decided to go roam around the town. I usually have a great sense of direction, but maybe being South of the Equator tripped me up. I’m also a little ornery when it comes to turning. When I’m faced with a situation of going left or right, I always choose left because it is different and the unexpected. Most people will turn right. Don’t believe me? Go to a grocery store, the entire store is built on the assumption that people take right turns. In this case though, turning left wasn’t the greatest idea. I got lost in town and ended up in a seedy section of Stellenbosch. Thank god for GPS on my phone otherwise I might have ended up in some sort of awful situation. YAY TECHNOLOGY. After getting back on the right path, I discovered that the nice part of town comprised of maybe 3 streets. Bummer. I did find a great place for lunch though. I had some tasty pizza with sour cream on it.

Do you have any idea how amazing sour cream tastes when you haven’t had anything even remotely close to it in over a year? Do you have any idea how ridiculous it looks to scrape all the sour cream off your pizza and eat it with a spoon? Do you have any idea how much I cared?

In Stellenbosch, I did find a really quaint little bookshop which oozed old world charm. Plush couch and rickety bookshelves, it almost looked Harry Potteresque. I found the perfect gift for my mom there, one of her favorite books – the Little Prince – in Afrikaans. I mailed it a few days later and it got there the day before her birthday – gotta admit, one of my greater deeds.

I kinda just hung out that day, didn’t really do much. For dinner I had a burger at a pub, the burger had bacon and cheese on it. The cheese was definitely mac and cheese sauce though. Not going to lie, I ate it thinking “why haven’t we Americans figured this out yet? This is amazing!”

The next day was my wine tour. Starting out from the hostel, there was a group of 6 of us, and we picked up two more. Two British girls, a British couple, a Dutch man, and a Swed with an American lady. The Swed looked like someone had just ripped him off a 1900s coal fired train and said “come drink wine.” The day was rainy and cold, which turns out is perfect wine weather.

The first place we went to, Tokara, was really impressive. In the front there is this beautiful metal tree with lots of branches. The branches were covered in words made to look like leaves. I have no clue what the whole meaning was, but it was really interesting. At Tokara we learned a bit about wine making. White wine takes less time to make compared to red. When you make red wine, you keep the skins of the grape after you press it – that’s what gives it the color and the health benefits. Of course the skins don’t make to the bottle. This is probably a “no shit” to everyone else on this planet, but the name of the wine comes from the variety of grapes. I have no idea why I never connected the two. Pinot noir wine comes from pinot noir grapes. It was definitely one of those “oooooooooh. Can you check my hair, did I just grow blonde?” moments. At Tokara we tried 5 wines. We got to pick from a list of about 15, including from the expensive bottles. We learned the proper way to taste a wine too, and now I can look pompous when drinking wine! You twirl the glass to aerate the wine. Tilt the glass toward your nose and take a nice big whiff of that baby. You may repeat. Then take a small sip, making a fish mouth you suck in air to further aerate the wine, basically gargling the wine. Then you swirl it around your mouth to make sure it covers your entire tongue. Then swallow. Of course you have to wait for the aftertaste. Sometimes you can taste hints of this or that, but honestly you are just deciding whether or not it tastes good. It may be the most expensive bottle of wine on the planet, but if it doesn’t taste good what’s the point of drinking it? Wine is supposed to taste delectable and when paired with food, bring out the food’s flavors.

So at Tokara, I quickly discovered that I’m not a fan of white wine. Before this wine tour, I wouldn’t even touch red wine. I hated the taste, I hated dry wine. What was the point of drinking something if it made your mouth dry? Let’s bring this back home for a minute – cashews. Cashews changed my palate. How so? Cashew apples. Cashew apples are high in tannins and very astringent. After eating an apple, you are guzzling water because your mouth feels like it is full of cotton. Over the course of the season, I developed a taste for the cashew apples, including their dry mouth inducing properties. During the hot season, it is a good way to get nutrients and remind yourself to drink copious amounts of water. So, back to Stellenbosch. I tried a few white wines and I just wasn’t loving it. So I tried some red wines and BAM. It was like the gates to heaven opened up and out poured fountains of rainbows and wine. At Tokara, I noted that their Shiraz was really good. Later on, I went to a wine store and picked up a bottle because I regretted not buying one. Another variety I tried was Pinotage – a South African hybrid grape that has been developed to grow in the sandy Southern Hemisphere soils of the Zudafrika. A combo of pinot noir and hermitage, this variety is AMAZING. Shiraz is spicy and harsher (mainly because it isn’t aged as long in barrels. Aging in barrels helps wine to have a smoother, friendlier taste. It doesn’t age as much once bottled – the real aging occurs beforehand. ALSO. Once you buy a bottle of wine, it needs to be stored properly in good conditions, otherwise it will turn to vinegar. A lot of wine really only has a shelf life of about 5-7 years anyway, so just because that bottle says 1986 doesn’t mean it is better.) I really like Pinotage because it just tastes good.

On to the next place, Boschendahl. One of the more famous wine estates in South Africa. No one from our group liked any of the wines. At all the other places, you got to pick which wines you wanted to try, at Boschendahl they picked for you. The good thing about this place though, was we all got to know each other a little better. Turns out the girl I was sitting next to, one of the Brits, used to live in Ghana for a short period of time. She volunteered near Accra. It was great to chat with someone who actually knew about Ghana. Small world.

We moved on to lunch after this place and the entire table grilled me about life in Ghana. They really wanted to know what it was like when I get sick. Why they were so fascinated, I have no idea. It took me forever to eat my burger because everyone kept asking me questions. Afterwards, I popped into a little chocolate shop to grab some truffles before heading to the next wine estate. It was an excellent idea, they were divine.

On to the next one! Dieu Dome. Little place in the hills, they were known for their red wines. Their merlot was excellent and a few people bought a bottle. At this place we got to try 6 in addition to the champagne they gave us upon arriving. You might be thinking, “wow, is she drunk by this point?” NO! They give you enough wine for about 2 or 3 sips, really really small amounts. I felt smiley and happy, but not even tipsy. At Dieu Dome, they had this really cool chandelier with grape bunches as the crystals, it was pretty cool.

The last place we went was Fairview, another famous South African winery. This place was pretty busy, we cozied up to the wine tasting area and had a pretty good looking wine pouring dude (official title). The British girls were flirting with him (thank you!) so he just sorta kept the wine coming. Pouring more than our 6 allowed tastings. I liked a lot of the wines from Fairview, they were pretty damn good. The Stellenbosch Merlot, and Sweet Red were really tasty as was the Riesling. Maybe it is a product of my upbringing, growing up as a kid in Germany spending weekends on the Rhine, but I have some sort of pull towards Riesling. It is the only white wine I like anymore. Anyway, Fairview had a huge selection of wines to taste and we tried a fair few (see what I did there?!). We also did a cheese tasting there and if you have been reading my blog for any amount of time, you will know that “cheese tasting” and “this girl” would probably be all it takes to get me on a date. One cheese we tried tasted like raspberry cheesecake and mild blue cheese all at the same time. I went back for more.

By the time Fairview’s wine was exhausted, so were we. Finally starting to feel the effects of a good imbibing day, I took a nice little nap on the ride back. For dinner, I joined some of my new friends at a local pizza haunt. It was FREEZING outside so we shared a carafe of wine. What else? The pizza was incredible and the place a a true local favorite. We were the only tourists there in a room full of 100 locals. That’s what I love about travelling, seeing what locals do. Where do the locals eat? Where do the locals hang out? You want to feel like you are a part of a town or a city, not that you are just on the outside looking in.

After dinner, I sat by the fire with some of my new friends and we chatted for a while about development, Ghana, the Netherlands, history, and wine. Great conversations with cool people. What a great day.

Cape Town

Upon arriving in Cape Town, I instantly realized that driving on the left is FREAKING SCARY. I wasn’t actually driving, but just sitting in the car. To me it looked like everyone was going to drive straight into us. I was basically bracing for impact the entire time I was in a car.

From the airport, I went straight to the Backpacker – my hostel. It was gorgeous, clear perfect views of all of Table Mountain. I put my stuff down in the room and instantly noticed something I hadn’t seen in well over a year and a half: a down comforter. A big, fluffy, down comforter. All I wanted to do was curl up in it and be fluffy and warm inside my little dorm bed, but no. I had other plans. Which most definitely included Table Mountain.

Taking a cab, I quickly made it to the cable car station for Table Mountain. It was fascinating talking to the cab driver because he was from the DRC (Congo). We talked about fufu and life in “real Africa.” He invited me to his house for fufu, which I declined.

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And away I went.

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The view was spectacular. You could see everything, all of Cape Town proper, the harbour, Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned), the beaches, all from up in the clouds. It was incredibly cold, my nose was running nonstop. And by incredibly cold I mean somewhere in the 50s. While up on top of the end of the world, I grabbed a smallsmall snack. A CHEESE PLATTER. Enough said. I drank it down with some sparkling apple juice. I was back in business.

I made my way back to my hostel and changed for dinner. AKA sexy dress time! Before dinner I was meeting my new friend that I made at the Joburg airport for a tour of his hometown. He is Xhosa and from Cape Town so he took me on a sunset drive of the area. If it had been a bona fide date, it would have been pretty damn romantic. He dropped me off at my restaurant and I invited him to join me. He had a really fascinating job – working with GPS/GIS stuff all around Africa. (We have a big GPS push in PC Ghana, so it was cool talking to him.)

Food porn time. The restaurant I went to was called Azure. It was in a 5 star hotel and the restaurant overlooked the setting sun on the Atlantic Ocean. I ordered two starters: a nice squid dish and duck bresola. The squid was so fresh, you could almost smell the salty ocean coming from the plate. It was served with some squid ink, which reminded me of a fabulous vacation I took with my aunt many moons ago. The duck bresola was to die for, so tender and flavorful, not at all gamey. After the starters (which even though my new friend was joining me for dinner, we did not share. Sorry buddy.), they brought out an interesting looking dish that I didn’t order. It was Asian styled spoons with little baby sherberts sitting on top. The waiter then poured some liquid over it and POOF. It was like a genie coming out of a lamp, the entire table was filled with smoke and fog pouring over the sides onto the floor. They win big points for theatrics. Then came my main dish. Oh lord. Oh lord. Porkbelly, with pumpkin and deliciousness. It tasted like walking into a warm, cozy living room with a roaring fire during fall. It tasted like crunchy, falling orange leaves and pumpkin pie in the oven. It was heavenly. For desert, I had the sampler. Bread pudding, fresh fruit, mocha thing, and something else delicious. It was DIVINE. After dinner my friend drove me back to the hostel and I passed out in my fluffy warm bed.

The next day I woke up and took an incredibly hot, long shower. Because I could. Around 8:30 Rob from Cape Convoy Tours picked me up for my full day tour of the area. I booked this tour ages in advance. I read all sorts of raving reviews online and was determined to do this tour. It wasn’t looking promising until a few days before we some other people booked. THANK GOD. I got to ride shotgun, which is basically like being a princess. Obviously. We drove for a while along the most scenic route I have ever witnessed. Winding roads hugging mountains, waving hello to the ocean below.

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The early morning light was hypnotic, the sun looks so different when you are at the end of the world. We came to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point, literally the tip of Africa. I walked up the mountainside and was amazed by the views. The water was clear and shades of blue I didn’t know existed. There is such history surrounding this piece of rock too. The discovery of Cape Point changed the world. Trade routes, British colonialism, the East India Trading company.

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Hard to believe finding this piece of land forever changed the world. The area of the Cape of Good Hope is completely unspoiled. It looks the same as it probably did in 1496. Complete with ostriches roaming the beach.

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For lunch, I had a seafood pizza complete with mussels and crab for less than 6 bucks. After lunch we moved on to Boulder’s Beach, home of the African penquins!! There is nothing more exciting than seeing wild animals in the wild, in their natural habitat, doing their own thing. I’ll never be able to go to a zoo again.

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We continued on to a couple different sites afterwards, but the weather had changed to rainy, cold, and windy so my mind was focused on just staying warm.

After the tour, I got all dressed up and ready for my big night out. I made restaurant reservations for The Test Kitchen back in June. I read up everything on this place. The restaurant was everything I ever wanted in a meal and more. It was by far the best meal of my life and is going to be very hard to top.

My table was at the counter basically in the kitchen. I chatted with the chefs as they prepared my delicious meals. I watched them pull out all sorts of tricks that I didn’t know you could do with food. I ordered the tasting menu with wine pairings. 11 courses. 11 glasses of wine. They brought a small plate of goodies before my meal that had me salivating. My waiter was incredibly sweet and gave me extra attention because I was eating alone. Everyone was super fascinated by my story of being a single American female living in the bush in Ghana on vacation. There were only a few tables in the place and one table came super late, so I got to hear all the gossip in the kitchen about that group. Loved it. The first dish made me a radish fan. The second dish converted me to turnips. The third dish I almost bought the place. The wine paired with the food was perfect, it complemented each meal and didn’t detract from the food. My favorite was the 3rd and the 5th dish. The 3rd was a rare slice of beef with blue cheese, pears, and all sorts of goodies. The 5th one came in a glass jar filled with smoke, which was released for me and wafted in front of my face. There was a palate cleanser that included a small vial of liquid, the maître d spritzing orange essence over me while I ate, and a frozen holed out clementine. There were two deserts and I ate everything. If it was on the plate, it was in my belly. It was everything I ever wanted. If I could I would eat there every day for the rest of my life. It was spectacular.  If you are ever in Cape Town, you need to eat at the Test Kitchen. You need to experience food that way. It wasn’t just a meal it was art. If you think I’m drinking the Koolaid, then you haven’t tried their Koolaid yet. 2012-09-20_20-39-47_491[1]

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I went home happily satiated and a little tipsy. Over the taxi radio while driving back to the hostel I heard the taxi drivers discussing where to find a classy brothel for a passenger.

The next day was rainy and cold, so I slept in and went to a museum – the Gold of Africa museum. Much smaller than I thought it would be, but interesting nonetheless. Probably because almost all the gold is from Ghana. It is all chieftancy gold regalia. It was really fascinating to see all the Ghanaian artifacts. After that, the skies cleared up and I walked over to the Victoria and Albert waterfront, where I spent the rest of the day. I just walked around the mall there and enjoyed the sunlight. It was like being back in America. Going to a real mall. I enjoyed every second of it. Before dinner, I took a harbor cruise, which gave me great views of Table Mountain. It is so fascinating to see a city from such different elevations. For dinner, I made my way to the One and Only Hotel for dinner at Nobu – a sushi restaurant. The place was pretty deserted, so I had my own private chef basically. An Italian sushi chef. I had chatted with him prior to ordering, so we were working on a good relationship by the time I ordered “chef’s choice” a 5 course meal that was a big “let’s surprise you!” I had told the chef I was a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ghana (which by the way wins you major points with anyone. I’m willingly poor and live in the bush, is a great way to get brownie points.). So what does he do? Gives me all the SUPER EXPENSIVE stuff, because he can. You pay a set price and not based on what you order, so he gave me all the cool fish I have never tried. I had a really great salad there too. Turns out you can fry spinach leaves. Do you have any idea how good raw fried spinach leaves are? No. Go google it and find out. I tried angel fish and raw sardines. The whole meal was super classy, delicious, and a true treat.

After dinner, I went back to the hostel and I was invited to dinner and out to a party with all the hostel staff. Sure why not. I went to dinner and didn’t really eat, but just joined them for the conversation. At the hostel bar beforehand, I befriended an incredibly gorgeous local guy, who I then spent the entire night flirting with. Also, suckering him out of a few drinks. Obviously, girl code. A group of the staff,  other guests, and myself made our way to Long Street. Party central. I danced like I always “I JUST WANT TO DANCE” exclaim. I danced the entire night, I didn’t make it back to the hostel until after sunrise. I was pretty damn proud of myself thank you very much.

Two and a half days in Cape Town was not enough. I’m definitely going back at some point in my life, hopefully soon. The people are beautiful, the scenery is amazing, and the food is to die for. What else could you want in Africa?

Start of an Adventure

For some people vacation starts the second they step foot in country. For me vacation started the second I left my village. The bus rides were infinitesimally better knowing I was on vacation.

I hauled my backpack outside to hail a taxi to whisk me away to the airport. It was late at night and that meant party time in the taxi. The taxi driver and I had a mini dance party while sitting in vast amounts of traffic. The traffic was so bad that the taxi driver drove in the dirt near the street and made his own lane.

I quickly checked in and made my way to immigration. I filled out my form and waited patiently in line to see an immigration officer, so I could bat my eyelashes at him, speak in Twi, and get out of the country. While waiting in line, something so Ghanaian happened, I couldn’t help but click my tongue.

A man looking surly walks briskly up to the line, cuts a bunch of people and just squeezes himself in. So the guy he cut gently taps him on the shoulder and asks him what’s up. Guy doing the tapping was an African-American. Line cutter guy (let’s call him Leeroy) FLIPS OUT. Almost punches the guy, gets in his face and waggles his finger, and starts saying the greatest thing I have ever heard: “DO NOT TOUCH ME. You do NOT know who I am. You don’t even know who I am.” Uh oh. Big man syndrome. He continues on being a total pompous ass for the entire queue. He keeps confronting the guy about tapping him on the shoulder. Leeroy was like a bunch of fireworks at Fourth of July just waiting to explode on a bridge in one big glory burn. I was making every subtle Ghanaian noise possible to show my distaste.
Eventually I make it through immigration to go sit and wait at my gate for eons.

Lucky me, the Champions League was on and everyone in the building was watching soccer. Including the security and gate guys. While sitting watching everyone else watch soccer, I people watched the hell out of that gate.

Interesting side note, while sitting down, I noticed the window next to me was open. Could you image having an open window at an airport in America? Haha. Makes me laugh just thinking about it. Anyway, I was sitting there watching Turkish Airlines taxi when suddenly I was almost knocked back by a sudden gush of wind. I was 3 football fields away from that airplane, inside, upstairs, just sitting next to a window and I felt the jet engines. No tro feels like that.

Something very interesting I observered was the lack of females on my flight. There were probably 15-20 of us on a flight of 200+ people. So strange. I slept almost the entire flight, which was fantastic, especially since it was a red eye. Woke up in time to watch the sunrise over the skies of South Africa. Simply stunning.

When we landed I noticed something in the grass near the tarmac. I’m pretty positive it was a jackalope, obviously. Either way, I knew that it was a good omen.

At the airport, I indulged in some good ole fashion BREAKFAST. Bacon, cheese, wheat bread, all the good things you never forget about and pine for all the time. The waiter asked me if I wanted honey with my tea and ice with my water. I just stared at him confused. Wait, ice? That exists? That’s a real thing people put in their water? HOLY SHIT. I walked around the airport incredulous at all the trappings of western civilization. Bakeries, oyster bars, shops, bookstores – all inside an airport? What is this place? This isn’t Africa.

On the mini bus to the actual airplane that connected me to Cape Town, a guy introduced himself to me after seeing my American passport. “Oh, so you’re an American!” No matter where you go, everyone loves Americans. Well, except some hostile states, but whatever. We start chatting and it was great. I told him about Peace Corps in Ghana and life in Ghana. (Mind you this was a long bus ride – relatively speaking). Even the captain, who wasn’t on the plane yet?!, was listening in and staring at me like “BUSHLADY.” Don’t worry I was milking it for all it was worth. I had a captive audience of rich white South Africans. I was telling them stories about real life in West Africa, from a white person. Tell me that won’t make you eavesdrop on a bus?!

Boarded the plane, BULKHEAD SEAT. Holla. And off we went to Cape Town.

I’m baaaaack…

Leaving South Africa was awfully difficult. Leaving Ghana for South Africa was surprisingly easy. I had the best vacation of my life. The past three weeks have been truly unforgettable, breathtaking, inspiring, and simply amazing. I wish I could repeat this vacation over and over again.

My South African vacation was one of those trips in which you knock everything off your bucket list and not a single place in the world tempts you anymore. I’m sure I’ll think of other places I want to go, but going on safari, swimming with sharks, and all my other adventures in between were simply spectacular. My life feels complete. I’m not even 25 and I have already seen and done so much. I’m incredibly privileged to be a Peace Corps Volunteer who had a savings account. Every single penny I saved went to filling my life with grand adventures that I’m sure will forever paint the rest of my life.

So my dear friends, readers, family, and fellow Peace Corps Volunteers, prepare yourselves. I kept a journal for every day I was in South Africa. And I’m going to share those stories with you. So if you kept up with me on Facebook while I was in the Southern Hemisphere, prepare yourself for even more jealous sighs and angry “I wish I was there” exclamations.