Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Last Entry (probs)

Hey people, sorry I haven't updated in a bit but it's crunch time here on IHP, ya know..papers due, presentations, whatnot. Basically last weekend was a holiday/3 day weekend so me and some friends went to a remote island and had some good times and some less than good times. This weekend we go on a retreat for some finish up and bonding and then I come back home. I don't feel like posting pictures cuz it's such a process and I don't feel like paying for more internet so...this is it! Thanks to everyone who read and commented, see you back in the states!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Hello, so I have finally got some pictures up! but first, an update.

So last weekend my darling roommate was gone and I pretty much just hung around town and did nothing. Saturday I went to Lenin monument to observe skateboarders and then bought a Marukami book from this chill bookstore. This week we're doing case studies and my group is doing it on the Long Bien market which is this wholesale fruit and vegetable market that is from midnight to 6 in the morning. SO, wednesday morning I woke my butt up at 3:30 in the morning to get a cab at 4 and meet people at 4:30. This girl came to be our interpreter at 5 and for the next hour we walked through the craziest most chaotic place ever. And it was dirty to boot because if you think this market is inside, think again. It is outside on top of MUD. Then we had to wait around until 10 for an interview with the manager so we walked across the bridge to this island that has a farm on it and wandered through it talking to workers, petting puppies and geese at someone's house and taking pictures. Fun! But we were tired for sure. We had our interview and then me and Elana had good veggie lunch and I came home and passed out. Oh yeah, when I woke up at 3:30 in the morning I went to pee and found a MOUSE in the toilet. Alive. I didn't know what to do and I didn't want to flush him so I just left him there and figured someone would deal with him but I got home and no one had so I fished him out and let him go in the alley but he was so sad and soaked and he could barely walk from being so traumatized. )-: This is my roommate Kimberlynn, wearing the masks everyone here wears cuz of pollution. And that's Kiko.
This is the dining room on our boat at Halong Bay. That's Coral and Yeseul.

Suntanning on the deck of our boat

Sorry this picture is sideways, but that's a boat and the communist flag!

The crappy, Disney cave at Halong Bay

Our boat, the Dream Voyage

This is a floating fishing village, yup

Some of the girls doing Capoeria outside Lenin Monument

Drinking beers at a Bia Hoi-13 cents each!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Halong Bay

So this computer seems to be sucking and my pictures won't load. But I'll post anyway. Last weekend i went to Halong Bay, a requisite trip for anyone coming to Hanoi. Me, Elana, amanda, katie, coral, jack and yeseul got in a bus with some others to drive 4 hours to halong bay saturday morning (though they almost wouldn't let us go cuz noone told us we needed our passports!) We got there and of course, ran into other IHPers. We got on our boat and had lunch and then sailed around the bay to some caves which were...kinda corny. They had all these different colored lights lighting it up to give it like, this disney effect. Honestly, I've seen better caves. My guide told me to go throw some money into this pool because I don't have a boyfriend and I guess it'll give me one....I threw in a 5 centavo coin which in brazilian terms is the equivalent of .025 cents. Hope my boyfriend doesn't end up being cheap.
Then we sailed some more and went to this floating fishing village. These people live on houses that float on the water and row out to each others houses and go fishing for a living. We got off the boat and looked at all the sea life and if peope wantedj they could pick something for their dinner. pass.
Then we sailed until the spot we would be anchoring for the night. All the other boats were there too and we all just sat on the deck looking at the beautiful bay (Halong Bay is currently applying to be one of the wonders of hte world). We came down to dinner early to celebrate Coral's birthday 4-year old style with confetti, hats, party favors and games. Then we went to hit the sack. BUT when me and Elana came in our room we heard this weird noise which we found was a busted pipe in our bathroom and was leaking through the wall on the other side. Distressing. So we calljed in some boat guys to fix it who pretty much just shoved some towels in the wall. Then the water started leaking on the floor throuh the wall that we share with the engine room and the engine started making all these weird noises and their solution was to ...unplug it. Reassuring. The rest of the night wasn't too great either since our bed was on a slope and thus elana rolled onto me all night.
We woke up and had breakfast pretty early and then hit the awter in some kayaks. We had an odd number so I went alone but it was still pretty (aside from the trash in some parst of the water, like a dirty diaper!) WE also ran into other IHPers there. Then we hopped back on and booked it back to shore for lunch. AFter lunch we had a miserable ride back to town with no air conditioning and while we were pulled over the driver started hosing down the engine because it was smoking. hmm.
Yesterday we took a tour of the Ho Chi Minh mauseleum which has his preserved body inside. Yikes.

Vietnam is going okay. Things are a little stressful with cabs always trying to cheat you (even the metered cabs have this secret button they push to jump the meter up), motorbikes are always trying to hit you (everyone uses motorbikes here and there are no traffic laws), everyone is always laughing at your or taking your picture, etc. My family is cool although I'm not really diggin all the crazy varieties of fake meat they have here. I've eatin veggie shrimp (which I swear I thought was real it was so convincing) and veggie chicken stomach. no lie.

That's all for now. Sorry about the pictures, they're really beautiful. I'll try to post again soon!

p.s. anton and tara-i never got that long ago did you send it and through what carrier? Things don't get to vietnam in a very timely manner and if you sent me anything anti-communist, no chance!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


hello out there! So I'm in Vietnam now and have finally found a computer (my homestay doesn't have one. And I've finally posted some pictures! So we arrived in Vietnam after flying an hour 1/2 to Jo-burg, waiting there an hour 1/2, flying 13 hours to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, waiting there 4 hours and then flying 3 hours to Hanoi, about 24 hours total of travelling! Yikes. We got there and drove about an hour into town past all these rice fields and people working in them. We stopped the bus a few blocks from our hotel/backpacker place and then had to walk the rest of the way cuz the streets are so crazy. There's motorbikes, bicycles, women with baskets on their shoulders, people selling street food, people walking, animals, etc. so there realjly is no room for a bus. We got our rooms and unfortunately as it turned out me and 3 other girls were accidently assigned a 3 person room (but we didn't know til we left) so 3 of us ended up in one bed and one girl in the other really small mattress on the floor. The first night we had a buffet arranged for us and then afterwards a few of us went and enjoyed drinks on the roof of a building.
The next day a few of us set out for the Perfume Pagoda, one of the oldest pagodas in Vietnam. WE took a bus 2 hours and then got out at a river that was full of long, wooden boats being rowed by women who rowed us for an hour to get to the pagoda. We banked and walked alongside a bunch of make-shift restaurants and continued walking up the cobblestone path that leads to the base of the mountain. The path up to the pagoda is about a 45 minute hike but it's all along a cobblestone path so it's not that rough, although it's humid as hell here and ergo, i was sweatin like a beast. All along the path are people selling you things all the way up and there's resting stops with fans if you're willing to pay for them. At the top you descend down some stairs into a cave which houses the pagoda and once inside the cave you can pick various relics to offer money to so that you can always have love or money or food or something. I didn't offer any money cuz frankly I didn't really understand waht I was supposed to do...we left the pagoda and some of us took the cable car down which was really beautiful. Then we left, went back down the river, got back to Hanoi, went to a killer veggie restaurant and hit the sack.
The next day me and Elana wandered around Hanoi, walking through the food market that has all kinds of crazy foods like pots of eels, fish, crabs, squid and then caged dogs, cats, mice (yeah, they eat em) and then wandered around looking at stores. We came back to the backpacker to get picked up by our families. Me and my girl Kimberlynn (vegetarian from San Fran who goes to Barnard, just like my last roommate) got picked up by our host mom whose name we can't pronounce so we call her Miss Moon. She's cute and she lives with her really old mother, her 15 year old niece Miz and her sister. There's a few other various people who come in and out of the house but we're not too sure who they are. The house is 4 stories like a lot in Hanoi because they're only about 8 ft wide and the plots of land are so small you have no choice but to build up. We have to take off our shoes before coming in and then one wears slippers around the house. Me and Kim are living on the 3rd floor with Kim taking Miz's room and me sleeping in the library/tv room. The whole family is really nice and they make me tofu, veggies and rice with soy sauce so that's working out pretty well. Gotta watch out for food and water here cuz that stuff can make you siiick. Especially the kids trying the street food (which is pretty much all there is here) cuz that can really make you sick when you're not used to it.

So people in Vietnam stare at us constantly cuz we are just a crazy alien species. They take pictures of us too. There ARE other tourists in Vietnam though, so don't be thinkin things are like when we were in Brazil. And the majority of the population speaks English (it's required to be taught in schools now) so the language barrier isn't too rough. We are learning vietnamese though, 30 minutes every day and I've been making flash cards cuz I really want to try! It's a hard language though, it's tonal and there are 6 different tones and if you don't pronounce something with the right tone people have NO idea what you're saying.

On the subject of weird things people eat here, nearby is a village known for its uses of snakes including cutting open a snake and placing its still beating heart into a glass of rice wine and drinking it whole so that the snake heart is still beating in your stomach. Apparently it makes the boys more potent and gets you drunker than shizzle. I for one will not be participating.

Oh yeah, another weird thing here: the showers. The showers stick out of the side of the wall by the toilet and you just like, shower in there and the water gets everywehre and the floor is always wet. Who designed this system? And there's really nowhere to stand and you're holding th shower thing with one hand and trying to do everything else with the other and it's...hard.

So on to the pictures!
This is my family from the Bo-Kaap, Moena and Achmat. I can't remember if I posted this already.
This is Siziwe, my host mom from Langa

From the first day of Spring break. There's a lot of babboons in south africa and sometimes they're in the road. Sometimes there's 24 of them in the road.

Spring break, me feeding elephants!

Spring break at Monkeyland, lemurs!

At bird land, the bird that was trying to eat my dad's glasses and wouldn't get off him.

The street my hotel in Vietnam was on
These ladies are everywhere, carrying pineapple and who knows what. If you stop to look at them long enough they'll try to put this on your shoulder to show you how heavy it is.
The river we went on to the perfume pagoda
River again

More river

Descending the stairs to teh cave of the perfume pagoda. those are prayer flags coming out from it
Inside the cave, various things like this

The cable car ride down from the pagoda

A temple at the bottom

Remember those restaurants by the shore of the river we walked by? They all have dead dogs, cats, deer, whatever hanging outside. Some are whole like the dog on the left but some are chopped off bits at a time to cook like the dog in the middle. It was so sad and disturbing, but I had to take a picture so people would BELIEVE that this is real

And sadly, a lot of restaurants near where we're studying (inside the Ho Chi Minh museum) tie up live deer, chop off their antlers, and either wait a bit to kill them like this poor deer that's been tied to this lamp post for 2 days or wound them and wait while they slowly die on the sidewalk and then they cook them. Yup, Vietnam.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

More Spring Break

So I just finished a week of spring break with my lovely parents. Unfortunately I'm not posting pictures cuz it takes way too long here but apparently in Vietnam our homestays have way fast internet so maybe I'll post some then.

Our first stop was Swellendam. We drove there through some beautiful country side and stopped for lunch at a vineyard that looked like it coulda been straight out of Napa Valley. Swellendam was a really cute little town and we stayed at the cutest little bed and breakfast. The room was really as cutesy as it gets. We went to dinner at a place that was empty except for us but had good food and ambiance so we stumbled home with full bellies and went to sleep.

The next day we drove to Knysna which should have been a cute town but was just...not. although our B and B was very cute. We went and checked out the waterfront which ended up being too touristy for us to eat at and settled instead for a cheap ass indian restaurant. We filled ourselves with ciders and lentils and then went home and watched a Chuck Norris movie, Lone Wolf McQuade.

The next day we drove a little outside Knysna to an elephant santuary where we got to pet and feed previously abused elephants. It was fun and...kinda dirty. We drove on to Plettenberg Bay, a town by the sea and bought books and ate fusion food at a place called Fu.shi. We continued on to Monkeyland, a monkey sanctuary for abused monkeys. It's a forested, gated area you walk through and see all kinds of crazy monkeys, apes and lemurs. Cute! Across from that was Birds of Eden, a santuary for abused birds (who are these people abusing all these animals? we even drove by a PORCUPINE sanctuary) and saw all these beautiful birds like parrots, flamingos, bats?, etc. As we were leaving this beautiful little bird came flyin straight at us and I yelled "duck!" but it flew right to dad and landed on his shoulder and wouldn't get off cuz it was determined to eat his sunglasses. We sat there for a while waiting for it to leave so that we could leave and eventually we had to just make him get off. Sad. We drove back to Knysna and went to dinner at this place, 34 South and had lovely mediterranean tapas and I bought some hummus for the road. Protein!

The next day we left Knysna for Oudtshoorn, the ostrich capital of South Africa. Oudtshoorn also happened to be having the biggest Afrikaans music and arts festival in south africa while we were there which turned out to be pretty much a hick kinda festival. White chicks walkin around in cowboy hats and jean mini skirts, country music, bad art, hot dog vendors and lots of people selling crap. It wasn't exactly what we were expecting. We bought nothing and watched no music was internesting to walk around in. Our bed and breakfast was the only place in town we could get on such short notice since the whole town was booked for this festival so the B and B ended up being the most expensive place in town. It was nice and I had my own room. It had a pool and we played some dominoes and swum and just hung out. Our dinner the first night was recommended by our host (who we think perhaps was paid to recommend it) and was pretty lackluster. The next day we did a long drive over this pretty pass and then went to the Cango Caves which you can tour through. When touring the caves one can do the standard tour or the adventure tour in which you go through all these small little tunnels crawling on yoru stomach and stuff. For reasons beyond me, mom adn dad opted for the adventure tour. It was pretty rough I would say! They lead you to these realllly tight little tunnesl that you are crawling on your belly through and then there's this part called Devil's Chimney where you enter a hole in a wall and then you have to climb up through a tunnel and it's sweaty and damp and..ugg. But we all made it (although someone on the tour in front of us apparently got stuck). We got out of there and went to a safari place to get a little safari tour but we missed it so we had to settle for getting a drink on the water front and watching hippos. That night we went to the best restaurant in town and had a grand ol time.

The next day we had to leave Oudtshoorn for a long drive through wine country to Franshoek. We stopped at the side of the road at a nice little lunch place on a vineyard and enjoyed food and wine while we played with the owners dog. We arrived in Franshoek about 4:30 which gave us little time to hang out and enjoy the really cute little cottage we were staying at. We went into town, walked around, and had drinks while we waited for dinner (Singapore Slings and Caipirinhas anyone?). We went to dinner at this asian place that was so good. I got some pad thai and soup and whatnot and tried to enjoy the last night of break with my parents. Overall, it was a pretty good break.

This morning we woke up at 5:30 in the morning, yikes! to head back to Cape Town/the airport for my parents. They dropped me off at the backpacker I'm staying at and peaced out. Now I'm just biding my time today until everyone else gets here and we go to Vietnam tomarrow!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Spring Break

So you may have noticed I changed the name of my blog...this seems to be how I am most of the time and this is also what people think I should name my vegan bakery some day so...yeah.

My parents are here! Yay! They got here a few days ago and I showed em around the town. They came out to Langa for this thank you party we did with our Langa homestays and our Bo Kaap homestays. That was chaos.

We left Langa yesterday for the first day of spring break. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be but some stuff definitely went down. This kid Frank got jumped by a guy who was trying to steal his money and stuff and the two of them ended up wrestling in the street and almost getting hit by a car and the guy eventually made off with Frank's phone.

Another incident happened as well to my best friend on this trip Joanna. She was walking across the street to school a few days ago when a combi (a van taxi that can hold 16 people) came sailin down the road at a good 40 mi/hr and struck her left side. She broke her femur and her nose and some teeth and bruised her lungs. She's in the hospital now but I went to go visit her and she's in high spirits. Unfortunately there is no way that she will be able to continue this trip with us and now I am sad. )-:

On a happier note, last Sunday I went with 2 other IHPers and this group called Abseil Africa to do some crazy adventures. We drove about an hour away to this national park place and then hiked for an hour and a half to the top of this cliff. At the top of the cliff one of the guys rigged up all these ropes and knots and caribiners for us to go belay down the cliff/waterfall running under it. Oh jeez. The cliff/waterfall was 64 meters (..uh..about 200 feet?) and I was almost in tears at the top looking down at what I was about to abseil/belay down. So the guy rigged me up and then is like, alright, start walking down backwards. WHAT. So I did even though I was pretty srue I was gonna die and I'm holding the control rope with my arm so hard. But I made it and it was fun and I went through the waterfall and it was awesome. After that we hiked a little more to some pools that people cliff jump off of. The cliffs are of various heights, 4 m, 7 m, 12 m, 17 m and 23 m. Jumping off them into the water is called Kloofing and was indeed part of our excursion but the highest I went was 4 m cuz it was scary. the end.

So last night me and my parents went to this awesome pan-asian tapas restaurant, Haiku. We drank wine and made merry and ate tofu. Today we're leaving to start our spring break adventure. We rented a car and are driving to various places around outside cape town which have ostriches, wine country, arts and crafts fairs, babboons, craziness. Yay!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


So I don't have any computer access in Langa, but I happen to be in town doing my case study so I'm bloggin. What's up people of the world? So Langa is good, way better than I thought though it is kind of a dangerous place still. I don't feel that unsafe though and there's a bunch of other american kids here cuz SIT (IHP's home institute) is in Cape Town too. My homestay is great. The house is better than my one in the Bo Kaap. My roommate is Logan, a lovely little vegetarian girl straight out of the yay area who goes to Barnard. Things are a little hard cooking wise since she's veggie but eats fish, but she also is allergic to gluten. So the first night I got there I couldn't eat a single thing that our host mom had made. But luckily I brought lots of snacks with me! My home stay mother is named Siziwe, I think she's in her early thirties. Her sister lives there too and is sharing a room with her since they wanted to give me and Logan our own rooms. We each have queen size beds and there's a tv in Logan's room-no complaints! Siziwe's cute 15 year old niece Nono comes by often and she's so fun.

So on Monday we had our first class at this place called LoveLife. A guy came and talked to us about the Green Point Stadium (which was helpful since that's what my case study group is studying). We had class in which Meika yelled at us for throwing away readings from the other countries. At lunch time it became known that there is ABSOLUTELY nothing for a vegetarian, let alone a vegan, to eat in the area so I'll be brown baggin it. I skipped lunch and the rest of the day though to go to the doctor since I've been coughing so much that if I didn't know better I'd say I have T.B. (I don't.) I got a bunch of meds from the doctor and then me and Nikhit went across the street to my favorite vegan place, Portobello and got lunch from my favorite ladies who work there (they love me). Came back and had a walkaround Langa and learned about the area. Over 50% of the residents of Langa have HIV, sad. We visited an orphanage too and looked at all the little kids while they were napping. Me and Logan came home and luckily Siziwe had made some veggies and lentils. Yay! Siziwe has decided after our coming that she wants to diet for the next 6 months and is starting by only eating what we eat this week and only drinking water like we do. Okay Siziwe....

Today was the first day of our case study. We were all put into 4 different groups to do a case study which is where the send us of with no information, contacts, transport, nada for 3 days to put together a 40 minute presentation on our topic. Ours is the Green Point Statdium which they are building for the World Cup (which is happening here in 2010 and is the biggest thing since sliced bread in case you didn't know). Other groups are doing education, gentrification and the CBD (central business district). We ended the day at this internet cafe (well, first I went to Zucchini, my other favorite vegan place and grabbed these lovely chocolate oat bars I'm addicted do and then I grabbed an iced soy latte from Portobello-gotta see my girls). I'm gonna go home and write a paper that's due in 2 days-yikes! I hope yall are having a lovely time in the U.S. and that spring is fast approaching.

My parents are visiting in 1 week!

Oh yeah, about the haircut. I would post pictures but it doesn't really look that different unless it's straightened....basically it's a little choppier and they took about 4 inches off.

Love you all and I've been sending some postcards and such, so hope yall are gettin em!