Life of Bear


Category Archive

The following is a list of all entries from the Bears Travels category.

Things that I love – Part 300

big wide open peaceful spaces

I love this picture. Look how thin I look (ha ha). You can click on it to look at it better.

This picture was taken off Mboye Island, off Dar. It is part of a marine reserve and the island was completely deserted except for the 6 of us! wow. such an awesome experience.

Look at the beautiful clean blue water.  Stunning. We actually saw dolphins jump right out of it! wow. This photo just captures the meaning of the word, Dar es Salaam – “haven of peace.”

Purty. I feel relaxed just looking at it and remembering the warm water and colourful fish.

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Final Days of Dar

Final Days
Outwit, outplay, outlast

Well, even though it seems like it, the whole experience to Dar es Salaam was not ALL bad.

I have started receiving emails from delegates who complimented me on the “serene” atmosphere of the conference (clearly having all the conference organisers sweating buckets and breathing red in the face is classified as serene in Dar..) and the general overall consensus is the conference was a success, despite our shipment being pilfered, the rats stealing delegate’s food off their plates  (ok, I made that one up….) and the general unavoidable mishaps. I think my mind may have blocked it all out and now I only remember the good things, kind of like PTSD…

Good times included the discovery that I actually like beer. I never have before. But when in Dar, there was not much else to drink… and man, did I need an alcoholic beverage! So I have sampled my fair share of Tusker and Kilimanjaro beer (available in 500ml; no ice). Pretty good. Nice to have a whole new range of beverages to sample..

I also got to spend time with my assistant Charlotte, who has been interning here in SA for 8 months. She leaves next week and I am really going to miss her. She had such a positive impact on our office and was lots of fun – in Dar, the night the conference ended, we raced into the hotel pool in the middle of the night and jumped in with all our clothes! Just because 😉

We also spent a long, lazy afternoon in the warm Indian Ocean looking for shells. The tide goes out so far that you can walk out for a kilometre and still not get deeper than your knees. But it was a great experience – sitting in the warm (like bathwater) blue, tropical water for over 2 hours, looking for shells on the seabed and allowing our minds to decompress the experience of the past stressful week. We all ended up finding sand-dollars and cowries, which should I have the energy one day, I will make into a bracelet.

Saturday night saw the whole conference team getting completely plastered on local beer at the hotel beach party, subsequently hijacking the DJ box with our own conference AV equipment and showing Charlotte how to lang-arm-sokkie-sokkie to classic SA hits like my-rooi-rok-bokkie! All the South African’s in the hotel came out of the hotel for a bit of a local jol! It was a pretty surreal experience to be rocking out to Bryan Adam’s “Summer of 69” right on the beach, the sand between my toes and looking up unfamiliar stars (skyline is very different from here at night).

Sunday saw our departure from Dar, but not before a quick trip to the marine park by boat for a few hours of snorkelling. Again, warm, clear blue water, palm trees, hammocks – two dolphins even made an appear to round off the truly stereotypical  island paradise!  We spent the morning on a deserted , protected island and snorkelled amongst some of the most beautiful and colourful fish I have ever seen in my life. It was a lovely ending to a very stressful experience!

And most importantly, I also got to see a place that was different to my home and appreciate how lekker South Africa and our people really are! After being bombarded by rude African delegates, harassed at the Dar airport by officials that clearly just wanted to upset the blonde bird, offering my passport at SA border control was the best experience of my life. Guys, SA has its moments for sure, but wow I live in a great country – with people who are friendly (most of them); with a strong cultural heritage that is unmatched and who just emit such a positive feeling it’s hard to contain!

Pretty much my feelings for SA are summed up in this moment I experienced at the OR Thambo Vida E…

After 9 days of putting up with (what I felt) was solid, rude, aggressive and unfriendly African behaviour, I wearily trudged to Vida E while waiting for my flight to board. I was standing at the counter, about to place my order when the barista shot me the most amazing smile and asked me where I was coming/going. Lord, the first friendly stranger in days! He listened to my whole palaver with hysterics, got the whole Vida Team to sing a special African song to me and then made my latte with a little cinnamon heart in the foam and gave me an extra Lindt chocolate.  I was actually so emotional I burst into tears.

That is why I love South Africa. The people. Ya, some of the suck and spoil it for the rest of us, but I can safely say that after spending 9 days, away from home, with 738 people from different African countries – there is no place like my home 😉 and no, wearing a cowboy hat does NOT make you feel like Jeff Probst and it will NOT make the African survivor experience any better.

Glad to be back (and also to have hot water)

Love bear

xxx


Survivor Dar es Salaam – Part 2

Part 2
Just because you wear a cowboy hat does not mean you will feel like Jeff Probst

Part 2 of my Dar trip saw the lack of arrival of our conference shipment from Cape Town. And by “lack of arrival” I actually mean “dirty pack of lies.” We had couriered over 800 kg’s via Air Freight from Cape Town over a month in advance. It was supposed to have arrived on the Wednesday. It went mysteriously “missing”  – missing being code word for the package being left in customs for an extra week so it could be pilfered by thieves.  Which it was. Ransacked.  Sigh.  Over the course of the week in which it was late, it was told various things – it had arrived at the hotel, but the hotel told them to take it away (hotel knows nothing about this); it is still stuck in customs; oh! The truck is on the way now (5hrs later); oh! the truck has broken down!; oh! The truck has been hijacked (serious). Sigh. We eventually got it back, after having 2 work two full conference days without all our stuff (read: Bear frantically printing out 5 months worth of conference preparation the night before..). Finally it all arrived, minus some hats and shirts (that are now proudly being sold on the side streets of Dar – because those cancer conference branded shirts are REALLY valuable and fashionable)

The same thing happened with our AV equipment – stuck in customs, never actually ever arrived! Luckily our AV crew had brought some excess baggage (R12,000 worth of excess baggage fees!) and we were able to make do with what few cables we had. It really was like, conference MacGyver.  How to pull off a conference with a pack of paper, a pen and a network cable – GO! Sigh

 

Other notable moments include:

  • Being viciously attacked giant sea crabs that rise out of sea, ly in wait for you to innocently walk past and then ambush you from behind a bush when you are walking alone at night. You could not even crush them with your foot because they were bigger than your feet (plural)
  • Hotel screwing up our accommodation booking so I had to share a double bed with my colleague. Not the end of the world, luckily my colleague is a heavy sleeper and my chronic sinusitis did not seem to bother her much. Although in all fairness, we were so tired, we could have fallen asleep on the beach and it would have yielded the same effect.
  • Having the Tanzanian President grace us with his presence, causing our programme to be delayed by 4 hours (the amount of time he was late). This means a programme that me and my boss had been working on for 18 months went completely out the window in the space of 4 hours. Sigh.
  • Having lunchboxes made for me to eat EVERYDAY for NINE DAYS. This is not so bad – what was bad was the hotel’s need to put EVERYTHING (savoury and sweet) in one box.. think fried fish, lying cosily next to a stale croissant, which is snuggled up to a piece of unpeeled banana. Everything I ate tasted like banana for 9 days. I never want to see that yellow skinned bastard again.
  • Coming home to our presidential suite to discover the air con making the most horrific noise ever. Too tired to call hotel to fix it, so turn it off. Lie down to discover it is dripping on our heads. Still too tired to call hotel. Turn heads and feet around so water drips on feet. Wake up in middle of night to discover drip has now turned into flood proportions. Colleague sleeps on couch in lounge. I turn my body vertically to avoid flood and go back to sleep. Fun times.
  • My uniform of my red t-shirt made me look like a petrol attendant. Someone actually said that.

    More to come later!


Survivor: Dar es Salaam – DAY 1

Hello all my wonderful minions,
Lord it is good to be home.

I have realised that if I want to give up my day job and become a full-time writer, I guess I need to spend some more time honing this blog thing……

Please find herein, Day One of my encounter in the African bush of Dar es Salaam. I was sent there for work on a cancer conference. The experience was.. very African. Please find details below.

NOTE: Excessive white female bitching below:

The past 9 days in Africa have honestly been pretty much the worst of my life. Not even the usually positive bear-attitude could even make things bright. For those of you who care; here is my summary of my experience – which I have fondly called “Survivor: Dar es Salaam.”

Day 1

The Tribe has spoken.

Started with a 4am airport pick up. To the airport. Where the new international departures terminal was opening. Fun times. Took 2 hours to check in. Everyone was grumpy and stressed. Again, it was also now 5am. Got stopped at xray machine and had a quick feel up. They also made me unpack my bag because they thought my pen was a screwdriver. Naturally.

6 hour trip to Dar. They forgot my veg meal. Nearly got arrested because refused to put my cowboy hat in stowage. Actually swore at air steward. Very grumpy at this stage. Watched in-flight movie. In-flight movie was stopped halfway because we landed. Couldn’t you have planned that better? Now I will never know the end to Night at the Museum Part 2. My life will remain eternally scarred.

Arrive in Dar. 40 degrees. Smelt like Africa. Badly.

Took 90min trip to 4 star hotel. 90mins turned out to be 2 hours. 4 star hotel turned out to be minus 4 stars.

Driving in Dar is quite an experience. There are no road markings. Cars feel the need to violently turn right whenever they feel like it. Goats roam the streets amongst the 5 (unmarked) lanes. Pretty much everyone just drives wherever the fuck they feel like it. (as do the goats). I had no safety belt. I was very afraid. My camera also did not feel like working, so I was forced to soak up the view.

Dar city is pretty much exactly like you would imagine it. People selling cigarettes, bananas and what I assume are drugs, litter the street. They have these rickshaw things (like in Durban) that weave out of the traffic. Deadly. Most of the places on the side of road in the city are mosques and shops made out of containers. They sell a lot of bottled water, goats, bicycles and lawn mowers. See picture attached. There are also a shed-load of palm trees. Unexpectedly.

We arrive at the 4 star hotel. Which, during the course of these emails as you will soon discover, was anything but 4 stars – but maybe back in the days before electricity was invented. This is said with a heavy irony. It was soon discovered that whenever I took a shower, it would trip the geyser, which would trip the generator, which would violently cut off the power between our 2 “presidential” (yes) suites. I actually ended up keeping a candle permanently in the bathroom. It also was discovered that the hot water was turned off after 6am and 10pm. Fab for the environment. Not fab for conference organisers who wake up at 5am and return at midnight (20hr day are the norm) and you can’t have a warm shower. I cried once and then became exceptionally grumpy and used the f*word A LOT for the duration of the trip.

Must go now, will continue tomorrow

Fun times.


Leaving… on a jet plane (in that case, please pass the gin)

Flying Lesson 101 - rather walk.

Flying Lesson 101 - rather walk.

aaaaaaah, nothing quite sabotages a wonderful holiday like the air-trip home.

I mean, honestly what could beat 600 people crammed into a travelling tincan with little air circulation, no access to food until the mean air-stewards decide to give it you and the possibility of oh, i dunno, dying in a fiery death or even worse – surviving the fiery death and

a) having to eat your fat friend until rescue comes

b) you are the fat friend and you get eaten

c)  washing up onto a island where strange things “happen” but nothing really actually happens & then your experiences get made into a 5 series TV show that no one longer watches because they actually don’t care whether or not you and Jack make it off the island with the “Others”.  [sorry, used to be a avid Lost fan and then got really bored with the lame story plot]

But I digress……..

Today I made the return route from Joburg to Cape Town. Let me acknowledge that the trip there was FABULOUS! There was no queue at the BA terminal, while some SAA passengers actually missed their flight because they were still standing in the queue! I had the whole row of the plane to myself, with the emergency exit in front of me (read: extra leg room! YAY!) and they served a vegetarian wrap worthy of Kauai status.  I was happy. I was singing BA’s praises to everyone the whole week. Until today.

It first started off with us boarding at gate C9. Gate C9 turned out to be the farthest gate in the entire f*ing airport. Think Nelson’s long walk to freedom and you ain’t even half hiked that far. We board and I find myself sitting behind a baby who screams like he’s at his own Bris, while still being able to multi-task and kick the back of my seat to Barney’s theme tune. To my left is a woman who just WON’T blow her nose *sniff sniff sniff sniff SNIFF!!!* I fought the violent urge reach between the seats and crush the child’s foot between my fists and (politely) passed the woman a tissue.

So we settle in… the plane starts moving towards to the runaway.. and we chill out on the runway for about an hour – OH NO, sorry ladies and gents, we have a engine failure.. we need you all to get off the plane. Fun times. The air steward even laughed and said to me “at least they figured it out before we were in the air.” F*ing hilarious, wow. I told her she should go into comedy. So we all have to disembark and return to C9. Turns out C9 has no benches for the 600 of us to sit on while we wait. And we were warned not to wander off in case the plane left without us. Fantastic.

I had to pee  and asked the helpful & friendly looking assistant where the ladies were.

HELPFUL LOOKING ASSISTANT: “next to the Wimpy.

ME: “I am sorry, I don’t know where the Wimpy is” (it is at this point I realise that the helpful looking assistant is neither helpful nor friendly).

NOW PISSY LOOKING MEAN ASSISTANT [in pissy unhelpful voice]: “Carry on walking; it’s there“.

Right……………………… turns out the loos were:

a) no where NEAR a Wimpy but rather a Exclusive Books (easy to confuse between the two I guess) and

b) yes, they were about 2KM away – that is NOT a exaggeration. I was so worried that by the time I took the long walk back to C9 I would have been declared missing (possibly dead)  and the plane would have left without me.

I won’t bore you with the rest, but the rest of the trip included me buying an alleged vegetarian sand which from Vida E that had ham on it (bang goes my no-meat-eating NY resolution already) ; there was no alcohol served on the flight and the woman that I had kindly given a tissue had lost it and sniffed the whole way home. Good times.

The cherry on the top of this delightful trip (that BA will most certainly will be hearing about) was that, after delaying our flight for 2hours, they proceeded to LOSE, yes LOSE all our luggage at Cape Town.  I remained strong (although I broke my other NY’s resolution and was swearing like Kelly Osborne at church) – but British Airways succeeded in breaking the girl next to me, who broke down and wept on the baggage carousel (true story).  This whole process took over an hour to rectify.

BA had to call in the troops to contain the irate passengers of flight BA 6409

BA had to call in the troops to contain the irate passengers of flight BA 6409

Never been so glad to have my feet on the ground! Although after that experience, I need another holiday to recover. Think this time I’ll go by boat …….