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Quick stop in Jo’burg

29 Nov

We stayed at Life Hotel right near the airport last night, it’s a great place to stay.  We were on our way to Nairobi from Mozambique, so it was a really quick stop, otherwise, I wouldn’t really suggest it, the area isn’t the greatest.

Life is a great transit hotel, though!  Staff was cool, there’s a free shuttle to and from the airport and to destinations nearby, plus, free breakfast.

Intro to Mozambique

6 Nov

I woke up feeling ROUGH this morning!  Last night I did a bit of writing then went to a last-minute dinner with an old UVA classmate, Addison!  I hadn’t seen him in years, so it was nice to catch up.

I went home later and canceled plans to see Desiree because I was exhausted, but then around midnight another friend said “hey I’ll stop by to say bye!” Then it was “I could go for a milkshake” and before I knew it I was out at a nearby bar shooting the breeze until 2:30am!  We had such a good time just hanging out and talking.  I love conversations like that, you don’t want them to end.  But end they must, and those marathon chats are not so smart when you need to be up around 7am.

My morning consisted of finishing packing, breakfast and then trying to drop hints tomy host that we must GO.  I was worried I didn’t have enough time, but he ensured me it was fine, so I chilled out a bit and in the end he was waiting for me!  I was nervous the whole car ride and if I had to do it again probably would have insisted he take me to the airport when I asked, not when he thought we should go.  If I want to be early, it’s my right.  A right I almost never exercise, but still my right.

I checked in and we stopped in Inhambane, then onwards to Vilanculos.  I was NOT AWARE we were making two stops, so I got off the plane when it landed and was in line for a visa, and then went “excuse me, I see all the bags you’ve taken off and mine still isn’t there.

Official: where are you supposed to get off?

Me: Vilanculos.

Official: That’s the next stop.

Well now it makes sense why this airport said INHAMBANE, but I am happy I asked, can you imagine???

In Vilanculos I had the most bizarre pick-up I’ve had all year.  When I came out of the terminal, I see this white woman I am pretty sure is from African Impact but she has no AI t-shirt on or sign with my name on it.  I make eye contact and she just looks at me blankly (or if I had to name it I’d call it a “why are you staring at me, I don’t know you, fool!”look) as though she is 100% sure I am not who she’s looking for.  So I walked a bit further down and waited, and nobody came to meet her.  I was only one of 5 people off the plane, so I kept looking at her and she saw me looking, but didn’t say anything, finally I walked over to her and said “are you with African Impact?” She goes “oh yes!”

UM.

I went “uh…normally they have a sign, I’m glad I came up and asked you!” *hint hint*.  She explained the driver had flaked and this was her first pickup, but wouldn’t you err on the side of going “Carielle?” or “are you with African Impact?” if the person you were waiting for hadn’t shown up and the only young woman that came out kept looking at you?? LOL.  She probably thought I was a local, most vols are white.  Anyway she was lovely after that, and we had a nice chat on the way to the accommodation, mostly about these nasty bugs that supposedly burrow into your feet when you walk on sand.  She has had 4 at one time!

The volunteer house is large with a thatched roof, there’s a downstairs area where we eat meals together.  Across the road is a resort with two pools (whoohoo) and the beach is a short walk from there!

The volunteers live in a thatched roof bungalow that has electricity and running water, but it is tight!  Definitely feels like we’re all squeezed in there, but thank goodness for me I’m in a bedroom in the back with a closed door.  Another volunteer comes on Tuesday, but at least I’ll have 2 days of some privacy, which is nice after all this sharing.

I took a long nap and then had a delicious dinner at the restaurant next door with my new roommates, who are from England, Japan, Australia, and the Netherlands.  We had a nice chat, but I was bummed to hear they’ve been kind of warned about going out at night as a group of girls to local places.  A woman was raped recently and as bad as I feel for her, I think that it is often the case that foreigners hear something, start telling easch other a place is “dangerous,” then suddenly nobody wants to leave the flipping house.  It’s not that deep, folks.  Be smart, be careful, but live your life.

So far so good, orientation tomorrow.  Pics coming soon, net access here is a bit iffy.  We’re supposed to pay 50 met here per 30 MINUTES and not supposed to download or upload anything.  Considering how much it is to go on these projects (and count me out of the mix because obv I’m sponsored), that seems a bit unreasonable.  Better to just add $30 or so each and give people unlimited access to the net.

India!

25 Jul

Hi friends,

India has been great so far, I got here on Saturday and crashed!  I was in my hotel until Monday (no, really, I didn’t leave the room) and it was a good stay.  The hotel was nice and the staff was super attentive. Bonus: the exchange rate is about 43 rupees to a dollar, so I could get a whole meal for about $5!
On Monday I headed to the other hotel where I was to meet the IDEX folks and that was definitely complicated.
My roommate’s name is Kylie, she’s Australian and my age -insert I should be so lucky, lucky lucky, lucky– which seems like it is not a big deal, but after being called “abuela” all the time on the Peru project, I appreciate having another person around who wasn’t born in a decade in which I was old enough to stay home alone!  We learned we are the lone wolves representing our countries, that the other volunteers are largely from Germany and France.
Kylie and I both didn’t have raincoats, and I wasn’t terribly worried until she reminded me about our trek tomorrow.  We went into town to get some and that was quite the adventure! We rode a tuktuk and though hotel staff had told us it was going to be about 50 rupees, the guy had 63 on his meter and charged us 100, he said it was extra for something and we figured we shouldn’t even argue, so we just forked it over.
We had a fun time looking around, and after a ton of deliberation (Kylie’s a girl after my own heart) we got our raincoats and had dinner.  The restaurant seemed a bit questionable, so I thought I’d play it safe and get a fried vegetarian spring roll, all that boiling oil should kill any germs, right?  Unfortunately they brought me a chicken sandwich!  Obv we were not somewhere I could send it back, so I made do, but I am keeping an eye on my acidophilus pills.  In the meantime, let’s hope my ordering skills improve.  After dinner we headed back…well tried to,  but we had a heck of a time finding another tuktuk to take us home.  A nice policeman helped with that and off we were.
The driver had no clue where he was going and after driving all over the place and stopping a bunch of times to ask for directions (all with the meter running, thank you), we finally got home.  Not wanting a repeat of getting ripped off from the first ride, our meter was 60, he charged us 100, the security guard got him down to 85 and I told him we were giving him 80 for all that driving around.  He didn’t complain though.
Tip: Get someone at your hotel to write down the directions to your hotel IN THE LOCAL LANGUAGE. If you have a piece of paper that has directions in English, that doesn’t help much.

General Traveler Words to the Wise

23 Jul

I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know Mumbai and Bombay were the same! Anyway I came here alone and was a bit intimidated, but all was fine.  Here are a few precautions to take and all were necessary today:

  • Have some kind of manila envelope or packet in which you keep your passport, plane ticket, and BAGGAGE TAGS (yes, you need to keep them cuz the one time you don’t will be the time they check).  If you’re occasionally scatterbrained like me, this is a good way to always have your important things in one place, that way you aren’t rifling through your bag every time you need something.
  • If you book online, have the name, street address, and phone number of your hotel written down, I did and needed that info for my immigration card upon arrival in India.
  • If you booked your hotel online, have the confirmation number written down, don’t only rely on them having your name in the system because sometimes they won’t.  I had the number and they asked for it!
  • Change money at the airport.  They do rip you off sometimes and it may be cheaper to do it in town, but changing at least $50 is a good idea because you’ll most likely have to tip your driver and the hotel folks!
  • Piggybacking off the above, ask for a few small notes (10’s or 20’s), because if you only have 50’s and it’s time to tip, it’s a bit awkward to have to ask for change or give them more than you’d want to!
  • Take an official taxi.  Now is not the time to try to cut costs on an unidentified cab offering you a “deal” cuz that deal may just be you hanging out on the side of the road with just the clothes on your back…if you’re lucky.  Call the hotel to let them know you are on your way before you get in the cab.
  • If the shuttle to a hotel is complimentary, make sure to contact the hotel personally before you fly and give them your arrival time at the airport or you’ll be waiting for them to come pick someone else up before you get a ride.
Happy trails!