Although not nearly as glorious as Lion’s Head, Table Mountain is a must see while in Cape Town. Naturally, my left eye became swollen the night before our intense 2 hour hike up the switchback mountain, exactly like when we hiked Brandberg. Something about these intense hikes.. Table Mountain is home to more than 2,000 different species of plants, and the paths were littered with different beautiful fauna that could only be rivaled by the Kirsenbosch Gardens.
The hike up was intense, but worth the view from the cable car that we took on the way back down. What took us 2 hours and lots of sweat culminated into a 2 minute ride back down on a rotating space craft.
After the hike, we headed to Camps Bay for a day of lounging in the sun, taking naps on the beach and enjoying the mountains that encompassed the edge of the white sand beach.
We happened to stumble upon a Gin Distillery on our way to one of the breweries (which served a beer called Strawberry Fields that tasted like REAL strawberries instead of strawberry syrup) and knew we had to go in for a tasting. Yes, I walked out with a bottle of Rooibos Gin and wanted to spend all of my Peace Corps stipend on the rest of them.
Museums and gardens are not the top on my priorities list when I visit a new place, but Kirstenbosch Gardens is not a usual monument. While the boys went to a bar in the city, the ladies (in a storybook display of stereotypical gender roles) decided to pay a visit to the garden one evening before they closed. We spent two hours wandering the gardens and could easily have spent an entire day there – if I ever make it to this side of the world again, I would bring a picnic lunch and hang out there for hours. They even had a movie playing in the garden that evening, just like the movies in the park back home.
We each took our separate paths until Stephanie and I ran back into one another on the Treetop Bridge, which looked just like a scene from Jurassic Park. Both of our cameras died at this point, making our surprise encounter with two owls even more magical than it initially was. We must have been 8 meters away from two of the most splendid owls I have ever seen, resting on the trail that we decided to walk down. They let us get extremely close to them, but told us to back away when it was necessary. It was quite a way to end our visit to Kirstenbosch.
I was invited to spend Christmas at my good friend’s farm nearby my site with a family that has become one of my most treasured experiences during my service. They have taken me in on many occasions and reminded me what it feels like to be shown complete kindness and openness. I owe them much of the happiness that I have experienced in Khorixas and will be eternally grateful to them.
Along with my site mate and I, there were two girls from Germany who were staying at the farm as well. We spent time talking with them about politics, their schooling and plans for the future in between cooking and swimming. As always, it brought me so much enthusiasm and energy to hear about all of the different ways that people decide to live their lives – there truly is no script, despite what society deems the appropriate way to go about it.
We had a great time comparing our differing Christmas traditions and setting up the tree, which is very similar to what my Dad and Dana do – a Christmas branch that was brought into the lappa and decorated. I brought along my favorite Christmas decoration that we had as children, a styrofoam cone that we pinned Hershey’s kisses to throughout the month of December. Obviously no Hershey’s kisses were available, so I found a local candy that worked decently and we pinned them to the styrofoam tree. When my Mom sent the materials to me last year for my first Christmas at site, I decided to add my own addition to the tree by putting out slips of paper next to it. Whenever someone takes a chocolate, they write down something that they are thankful for and put it into a glass. After Christmas, we read all of the things that everyone is thankful for and appreciate the reminder of gratitude.
The gift opening and big Christmas dinner happened on Christmas Eve instead of Christmas Day like I am used to, which left Christmas day open to my site mate Bastian and I to make a traditional Ukrainian meal for everyone. We were each given scrolls with inspiring quotes on them and got to read them out loud to the group, giving us a chance for reflection and encouragement for the new year.
We brought all of the ingredients with us to make Pierogis on Christmas Day, which I have only made one other time last year for Easter. It was great to be able to teach Bastian how to make them, as he is learning to cook well for himself during his stay in Khorixas.
The farm is used by many people as a hunting lodge, so there is a plethora of different types of animals – every time I have been there, I have seen wildebeast, springbok and kudu roaming freely. It is amazing how close they come to the main house when they know that they will not be hurt. My favorite animal on the farm, aside from the five dogs and three cats, is their pet cheetah. His name is Chucky and he is the sweetest cat that I have ever met – so much more tame than my house cat, Clementine. He is missing his left front leg from an accident he had when he was a baby cheetah, but that doesn’t stop him from getting around his large pen just fine. We always go out and sit with him, listening to him purr while everyone loves on him. This was Bastian’s first time meeting him and it was definitely love at first sight.
I always learn some new survival technique while I am there and am even more set in my ideologies of their importance as opposed to traditional schooling. Obviously book smarts are essential in our modern society, but I believe there should be more of a focus brought back to the essential ability to live off of the land and take care of yourself – without supermarkets, internet reliability and modern conveniences. This time around, I learned how to clean freshly-shot pigeons, spice and braai them. These were not your dirty city pigeons, these were delicious little cornish hens that made me miss having an oven.
Christmas 2016 was by far one of my favorite unique holidays I have experienced. At times it was discomforting to think that this was my last December, Christmas and major holiday in Namibia – the concept of time has begun to muddle itself in my mind. I am looking forward to all that is to come while reflecting on all that has happened thus far. Thank you to my family in Namibia for making this last Christmas here so incredibly special.
I spent the weekend of New Year’s Eve with a group of awesome ladies who I haven’t gotten to know very well until now. A good friend organized camping at the lodge in the Herero town of Opuwo, where we had incredible views of the mountains and lots of space to relax at the lodge’s infinity pool (I know). We got completely rained out on NYE and had to move our sleeping bags up to the chalet with a roof over it that is normally used for cooking so that we didn’t get flooded at our camp site. Many people would have found his to be a disaster and packed up their bags to leave, but we made the most of it and ended up having such a fun time that evening. We met a large group of Italian tourists who were seeking shelter under the same roof who offered us wine, champagne and sparklers to ring in the new year with them, as it was one of their group member’s birthdays. Singing old 70’s and 80’s songs into the night will be a hilarious and fond memory of that weekend, as well as dragging our tents to the chalet the next night when it rained again.