Monday, January 31, 2011

Compost and bottle caps, when recycling doesn’t exist- make art:

Trash exists everywhere. One of my first memories is of the smell…burning rubbish smogging the sky and my nasal passages. A week’s worth of burning plastic bags, organic material, paper, food, and all manner of other things was enough to convince me to reduce my waste. However, you find that as you live here longer, the smell is customary, and the sight of trash in astonishing places no longer surprises (as shameful as that is to admit). We are however fortunate. There is a private (that is right, any removal of trash is privatized…a lucrative business I would think but no one has jumped on just yet) rubbish collection service that passes by our wall on Tuesday mornings to remove the trash that we produce.

Recently through a deep-cleaning effort we disposed of years of paperwork, trash, and miscellaneous items with the hopes of starting off the new year in a spirit of tidiness, efficiency, and above all else clarity.

On the other half of the compound…our home, there is trash produced at a rapid rapid rate. Between the 5 of us (lena, mike spiak, marissa, max, and myself) we produce a lot of trash. We all love to cook, be creative with our meals, and often find that our over ambitious spirits lead us to over purchase on vegetables, leaving us with a vast supply of peels, rinds, egg shells, rotten tomatoes, and potatoes sprouting foreign objects. All these factors contributed to the birth of recyclable art and recyclable earth.

Project ideas sprung up. The first to be put into action was the digging of a hole. A hole that is now home to a hot bed (literally all the organic material produces heat as it rots) of compost, insects, and the occasional plastic bag. Turned over once or twice a week the rains and the numerous leaves that fall from the trees overhead consolidate into fertile earth that is making out mango, papaya, and avocado tree smile. Next step is to interwork that compost into a tomato, cabbage, and flower garden.

Project number two began a while ago with a collection of bottle caps. This is an ongoing affair with collection. Bottle caps drunk are cared for and will serve as a memento of the 2010-2011 intern class in Zambia. The idea is to hammer out the bottle caps and screw them into a wood table. They will assemble to form Africa. Mosi caps (the local Zambian brew) will facilitate the construction of ZAMBIA!!!

Project three was a spontaneous exercise in nostalgia. Growing up fall was always the time to seek out the most colorful leaves, place them between 2 pieces of wax paper, and iron them together…natural stained glass. I did much of the same process only I attempted to make shapes, in the form of animals, out of vegetation. A giraffe and an elephant were what transpired, and for a first attempt I am pleased.

Constantly finding amusements to work both sides of the brain and in some respects, the earth.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Food! Obrigada.

Until now I have neglected to entertain one of my favorite topics…food, a subject of which at the very least 45% of my brain power goes towards daily. A main activity and source of energy exertion during my holiday, and life in general, was deciding where to eat, when to eat, and finally, what to eat.

Since the coast was calling my name in every way shape and form it seemed only appropriate to immerse myself in all things seafood, with the daily exception of a cup of coffee. In Durban it was chicken wings the first night…I know this isn’t seafood, but chicken wings are one of my favorite foods and having not had them (being too lazy to make them) it was a welcomed appetizer to the 2 weeks of fish oil overdosing.

Next came the salmon pasta in Durban, kudu bunny chow, prawns on pizza in Coffee Bay, more GIANT prawns in Port St. John’s, smoked salmon pizza, chicken bunny chow, fish market fillet…now this I must explain.

Maputo, Mozambique is known for their fish market; a smelly venue that is lines with crabs, fish in shades of pink and red that range from ruby to translucent, and of course, prawns! We ventured out with our friend, Joel, to the fish market…making our way through the fading stalls we selected our fish and our prawns and set out to find the stand that would fry us up some peri-peri (their version of spicy-spicy) prawns and fish for us. We selected a small venue, coined with its plastic lawn furniture and a powder green paint job we took our seats and passed over our purchase of 3 and a half minutes prior. The dueƱa of the shop and her helpers struggled to figure out the English instructions we relayed to them. Submitting we figured that they know best. And they did! A feast, fit for more than the 3 of us was brought to our table and aptly devoured.

Mozambique continued to be a quest of eating. Prawns, fish, peri-peri chicken, cashews, mangos…delicious vacation. And finally we revisited our trusty Mugg & Bean (Lusaka is getting one soon, look out!) for some coffee and quiche.

Kilograms gained: who cares?!

Monday, January 17, 2011

I can transdanzzzz better than you (with a little help from Tipo Tinto)

Upon exit from the three-storied Johannesburg airport we ventured to find a bus to Maputo, Mozambique with fortunate success. Arriving in Maputo we ate well (fish markets are a new guilty pleasure), slept, and headed to Tofo. Turn-around time 22 hours. Neglecting sleep, odd hours, and lacking in hygiene we arrived in Tofo, Mozambique-paradise.

After sprinting into the Indian Ocean, soaking up the salt and sand and clear blue water, I took in my surroundings. The curved beach transcended into the saline sea of pure blue and in shoulder deep water I could still make out the details of my feet. As you walk along the sand it squeaks and shade is a coveted luxury. The 10 yard dash from my towel to the ocean was the extent of my exercise for the week and a pure act of survival. By 8:00am the sand was ablaze, radiating heat (now I know how the gentlemen who walk on coals feel).

Tofo is known for its diving, snorkeling, and its adolescent male whale sharks (say that 10 times fast). Before the mad rush of New Years traffic, we booked our spot on the ocean safari. Cruising out to sea on an orange boat we soared and sank with the swells. Safari spotting: dolphins, manta ray, the reef, and one 5 meter whale shark! Snorkeling for the first time in my life, let alone alongside a whale shark with spots like a leopard, the swagger of a gangster, and the personality of chilled out surf bum I was able to coast parallel to his pathway exploring his fins, tale, spots, and overall rhythm of life. Still a skeptic of their docile nature the experience was nothing short of surreal and mesmerizing.

The rest of the days were spent sleeping in, walking to get coffee, reading and writing, sitting in the sun, sipping cocktails, dancing, swimming, starring, and meeting the most eclectic and joyous people alive.

New Year’s Eve is a spectacle in Tofo. The crowds pour in from the surrounding areas and mayhem ensues. I almost got squashed by an ATV about 20 times. Running around the beach, toasting with Tipo Tinto (the mozambiquen rum that runs $1.50), dancing, and admiring and dogging the many fireworks that were lit…all in all a lovely night filled with good friends, stars, and a fresh new year.

Leaving Tofo was a somber moment. Excitement for getting back home mixed with a sadness of leaving the relaxing feeling of vacation colored the exit from Mozambique then to Johannesburg (yes, again) and finally to the Lusaka International Airport. Home.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Is it? Adventures along the Wild Coast of South Africa

This will be the first post in a series of three that attempts to encapsulate my 2 ½ week bonanza around Southern Africa for the 2010 holiday season. Armed with a backpack, bathing suit, map, my travel partner, Maxime, and boundless energy we hit the road, or rather the sky on December 19th, 2010. Rather than bore you all with a play-by-play itinerary here are a few snapshots of the beauty that is the wild coast of South Africa and the blessing that was my vacation:

Coffee bay, South Africa. Coffee Bay is a backpacker’s haven and with a name like that it definitely put a spring in my step…I was ready to rock n’ roll, naturally this meant hiking. There is a trail that follows the jagged coast from the town of Coffee Bay to a “hole in the wall,” a rock formation that happens upon you as you emerge from an overgrowth of trees. Cliffs and rough seas characterize the landscape of the hike, with the trail appearing and disappearing every so often allowing you to feel as though you are exploring the rolling hills that morph into cliffs and fall into the ocean. In front and behind no one is in sight, until you happen upon a beach. A small stretch of pristine sand with donkeys or cows who have staked their claim to the prime tanning spots long before you even had a moment to think about laying out for the day. Two or three of these beaches intermittently emerge as you come to The Hole. The “hole in the wall” is stunning. The water crashes against the rock and bellows within the open-ended cave (the hole) that it has eroded (did I mention that erosion is the best natural force there is!!!) within a wall of rock that exists about 15 meters out to sea. Appreciating the power that is the sea and the majesty of the natural purity we relaxed in the sun, snapped some photos, and rejoiced in our freedom.

Port St. Johns, South Africa. Where the river meets the sea there is a doodle. As if someone, God presumably, took his brush and decided ok here is where the river running brown ends and the deep ocean blue begins. An aerial view provides a fine brushstroke squiggle of brown and blue that inclines you to imagine what is going on beneath the surface. Port St. Johns is an eclectic mix of brown and blue, resort and rustic, obvious and hidden, prawns and smoothies. A spot filled with health and hours lounging at the beach.

Durban, South Africa. Bunny Chow. Three guesses to tell me what it is…Strike 1, Strike 2, Strike 3- your out, but only because you didn’t get to eat Bunny Chow in the Bunny Chow capital of the world. Durban has the highest population of Indians in the world, therefore they obviously have some of the best Indian Curry in the world. This is exactly what Bunny Chow is, except that it is curry stuffed into half a loaf of bread. Delicious! This was our Christmas Day meal and it was the perfect partner to the rainy day. Post Bunny Chow, the Botanical Gardens seasoned our palates. Colors bursted forth from pots, ponds, and perches…and the orchids, SO many orchids living a happy life. The culture of a garden is always elegant and dainty. You are weary of where you step, careful to appreciate each any every plant. I welcome the active consciousness of the world around you- the tiny oasis amidst concrete and pavement.

For now I will leave you in the Johannesburg airport at the Mugg & Bean on the 2nd floor. This international airport has weaseled its way into my memory box and will eternally be the place that I spent the night on Christmas Day.