Life of Bear

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.


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


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!