Wednesday, September 30, 2009

25 - 26 Sept: Stone Town, Zanzibar

For our night in Stone Town, we stayed at 236 Hurumzi. Stone Town is an interesting sort of place and quite run down. I was amazed at how much it reminded me of Essaouira - I guess the Muslim influence in a sea-side African city, perhaps?

Our room was quite nice (Varen was thrilled to have air conditioning at the touch of a button!) the only downside was we were in the Tippu Tip room, which is all the way up 4 storeys, in a secondary building ... and dinner and breakfast were in 236 Hurumzi's Tower Top restaurant ... up 5-storeys in another building! Let me just say, that it was quite exhausting getting there and back to the room!

After a bit of wandering around town on our own ... and lunch at the famous Mercury's Restaurant (so named since Freddy Mercury was born on the island). The restaurant is fine and on the harbour front. We were accosted by the little kids playing on the beach as soon as our food arrived "Gimme some, gimme some". We had pizza's which hit the spot and then headed back to the hotel for some air-conditioning before our Stone Town Tour in the afternoon.

The tour was lengthy and our feet were quite sore by the time we finished it. But it was good and we saw many things from a visit to The House of Wonders Museum (where I later returned to buy a book called Memoirs of an Arabian Princess from Zanzibar, which is a true story written by Emily Ruete who was born Princess Salme of Zanzibar), a look over the Old Fort from the top balcony of the House of Wonders, a wander past the house where Freddy Mercury's parents lived when he was born (it's now, sadly, a curio shop!), via the Anglican Church (consider that there are apparently 45 mosques, 3 churches and 1 Hindu temple in Stone Town!) which is famous as the old site of the slave market and whipping post and even into the old cells where salves were held (the were treated horrendously!) (see the memorial built to remember the slaves in the picture).

We also walked past the only 3 traffic lights in Zanzibar (none of which are actually functional!) and thru a market where they sold fish, meat, fruit, vegetables and spices. Just before finishing the tour we also stopped at the Hindu Temple, which was right near our hotel and the most colourful building in all of Zanzibar, I'm sure!

It really is a quirky little place to walk thru, with all it's winding streets you wouldn't believe a car would even attempt to fit down (but sometimes the surprise you and do!). After that Varen collapsed and I went off shopping ... for the book I mentioned before (needed to hit the room for some more dollars before I could go spending!) and a bag I'd seen in a boutique window (the only boutique I'd seen too!).

I splashed out on a Doreen bag by Doreen Mashika that I fell in love with and just couldn't resist. Sadly although the exact bag I purchased is now featuring in her ad campaign in a Tanzanian magazine we saw, it isn't on her website yet :( so instead you get this crappy picture taken in bad light by me. But trust me, it really is a lovely bag!

We ended our trip with dinner at the Tower Top restaurant and although the view before dark was quite lovely, you're still just looking out over rusted tin roofs and the food was not that great, really. (Spot the colourful Hindu temple in the bottom right of the photo!)

I was amazed at how often on this trip we were served the small sweet Vetkoek that I'm familiar with (which is why I was so confused the first time someone told me they ate them filled with mince!). This is also the first holiday where I haven't spent or handled even a cent of local currency (Tanzanian Shilling), we used purely US Dollars.

I thoroughly enjoyed Zanzibar, although I would really not bother with Stone Town if I went again. But if you're looking to visit, I highly recommend both Matemwe Beach Village and Chumbe Island Coral Park ... and of course I also recommend booking your trip with Barefoot Breaks, they were fabulous, and aside from the screw-up on 1Time's part with my luggage, the trip went smoothly and was completely relaxing, everything we were hoping for :)

Yummy Sushi

Meh, I'm so not quite in the mood for today. I just woke up feeling funny. You know the one, the "what's the point of it all" one ... usually the things coming up in the future that I'm looking forward to make everything alright, but even those seem just like things happening. Every day things happen ... you wake up, you go to work, life happens. I just sorta feel like it's all passing me by a bit right now. In all likelyhood it's brought on by the spate of births and engagements surrounding me ... sigh. I have serious "will I ever get there" ... and even "do I wanna get there" issues.

But I'm ignoring all that for now and just going with the day-to-day flow. Last night Varen & i went out for some very late sushi, because he *forgot* we were going out for dinner and got home from gym at 8pm! Luckily J9-double0blonde who was supposed to be joining us cancelled too otherwise I would've been wa-ay more annoyed. But I was still annoyed. close to 20h30 is not when I wanna be starting to eat dinner! But I perked up once I had some food in me :) And I do so love Yamada sushi. It is definitely my favourite sushi spot at the moment!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

23 - 25 Sept: Chumbe Island Coral Park, Zanzibar

We were dropped off at Mbweni Ruins Hotel to meet the boat taking us to Chumbe Island Coral Park. This was the part of the trip I was *really* looking forward to. And honestly, Chumbe was completely amazing. Although I doubt I would stay there for more than 3 nights (we did 2 nights and I didn't feel like I'd missed out on anything). Chumbe Island is a Conservation island to the South West of Stone Town and has a Marine Reserve running down the Western side, which is where we went snorkelling on Wednesday afternoon and again on Thursday morning.

The corals are unbelievable! And we had an amazing turtle experience (not sure if we saw Hawksbill or Green turtles tho?) where it was probably only about a metre below us and let us float above it for a good 10 minutes before slowly swimming off letting us follow it further along the reef for a while. I also had an amazing Bluespotted Ribbontail Stingray experience, watching two swimming along and then burying themselves. We also saw quite a few large Blackspotted Pufferfish.

And the most incredible thing about the diving there ... the jellyfish. It's so surreal. And luckily they don't sting at all :)

Aside from the awesome snorkelling, I absolutely loved Chumbe for it's bunglows! We were in bungalow 6, named Kasa (which means Turtle in Swahili) and the bungalow is decorated accordingly with a large mosaic turtle on the floor. The bungalows are completely eco-conscious and amazing! I didn't mind the compost toilet in the least! And the upstairs beds had a lovely view :) You definitely have a very Robinson Crusoe feeling living in these for a few nights. It's my idea of perfect (can you tell I'm so not a big beach resort sort of girl?)

The other thing I couldn't believe at Chumbe were the crabs! I've never in my life seen so many, and most especially they had heaps of hermit crabs which are my absolute favourite! I saw quite a variety of crabs after we first arrived on Wednesday morning and I took a low-tide stroll to the two small islands off the south-western most tip of Chumbe. I also sat watching the hermit crabs scurrying about outside our bungalow on Thursday morning, I counted 32 at one time! We were also lucky enough to see the absolutely huge Coconut crabs on Thursday evening ... but I'm glad I didn't bump into one alone in the dark (they're nocturnal)!

I know the bottom two pictures are of a Juvenile Coconut crab (where they still live like Hermit crabs) and an Adult Coconut crab, but I have no idea what the others are ... any ideas would be appreciated!

We also climbed the 132 steps to the top of the lighthouse on Chumbe Island (still functional!) and enjoyed the view :) In the photo on the right, you can see how the water comes in at high tide, at low tide you can walk all the way to the two islands. I also swam out to that sand bank at high tide. Swimming at low tide was pretty much impossible, but at high tide it was divine! We even saw a baby Blacktip Reef Shark chasing fish in the breakers! We also did one of their Nature Walks and saw the Mangrove Pool full at high tide (quite amazing!).

We finished our stay off with a private candlelit dinner on the beach on Thursday evening.

Back to Real Life

Yawn. Sheesh, the days are a lot longer when you spend them working instead of lazing at the sea-side with a good book ;)

But I haven't completely forgotten my trip and I get to relive it all week with my holiday posts ... I tell you, I think that is one of my favourite things about my blog, being able to go back and read up, see the photos, remember and relive all my big overseas trips since 2004 :)

So yesterday we pretty much got back into the swing of real life. Except that I skipped gym due to flooding, there wasn't anyway I was braving the storm last night or the traffic it caused to start gym ... gym can wait till today. But I loved the storm, the thunder & lightning were right above us at some point. Although the boons weren't too impressed. I was busy being all "wow, animals are amazing, the storm is rumbling and there the 3 are just chilling on the grass, relaxed like nothing is happening". Turns out that was just the start of the giant storm to hit us and it was still far from on top of us, no wonder they were still chilled out. Shortly thereafter with the first loud crack of lightning and deafening thunder Lily scooted inside and hid in a corner. And then I herded in the other two and kept them inside while the storm raged. Much better, than in their hutch! They, of course, loved it ... they haven't been inside for a while so it was exploration at top speed for the first while and then it settled down into their general my-lounge-is-is-their-jungle-gym antics jumping up on all the chairs and the couch. I missed them, cuties!

For dinner, since I'd been craving Nacho's since our visit to Cantina Tequila before we went away, I made a form of Nacho's. I guess it could only be referred to as "Nacho Pie", which is what I've now dubbed it since it will *definitely* be made again ... although obviously not while trying to be healthy or anything (which I've given up all pretense of this week since we're off to Taste of Joburg on Saturday :) ). Unfortunately I have no photos, and there's no recipe to speak of, but it goes pretty much like this:

Cover the base of a oven-proof dish (I used the one I usually use to make my crustless quiche in) with Woolies Nacho Chips. Line Nacho Chips around the sides on the dish as well. In another bowl mix up 2 tubs of Chunky Cottage Cheese, 1 tin of Mexican Tomato mix and 1 tin of drained Kidney Beans. Spoon mixture on top of Nacho Chips (this is the pie filling basically). I also added chopped up Chicken Fillets on top. Then I topped the filling with another layer of Nacho Chips and covered this with grated cheddar cheese and a few Jalapeños. Then it goes in the oven to bake for a while. I can't say how long, we didn't quite get the time right - the cheese was melted but the inside was still not warm enough, so we nuked it in the microwave for a bit :) I think next time I might bake it in the oven for a bit before adding the top layer of Nacho's and cheese and baking it again just to melt the cheese. It's all made up in my head, so I can change the recipe like that ;)

Serve with a generous helping of Guacamole or sliced Avocado. Yum yum. It was delish and I have some of the leftovers for lunch today :)

While we ate we watched The Last King of Scotland (I saw someone in Zanzibar was reading it and remembered it was on my list).

Sheesh. I didn't think it was a great movie, filmically or story-line-wise, really. But it's one of those you kinda *have* to watch. Even if all it does is inspire you to investigate further (which it has for me). I mean I knew Idi Amin was a bad guy, but it's one of those things from the past that I think we need to know more about. I think there are too many examples in history of dictators killing masses of people in their own country while the rest of the world sits clueless. I can't help but wonder how on earth it ends up happening. But it does.

I have more I want to say, but I don't really know quite how to word it and I try and stay out of politics ... mostly because I don't know if any country has got it all figured out. I definitely lean more to the opinion that a country should be run more like a corporation where you hire teams of the best people from your Country in certain knowledge areas to make decisions regarding those areas, instead of say, a School teacher to be the Minister of Communication, for example. I also don't think people in government should be highly paid, they should be averagely paid like the rest of us, and given performance based bonuses (this would be key, I think!). In my opinion then hopefully the people with a passion to do good will end up in those positions.

All of this is just my opinion, so please don't shoot it down in the comments section. It's one of those things that I have vague ideas about but have never really bothered to think about in depth because really, what difference is it going to make? I don't have a yearning to make great strides in politics and am really not very educated on the whole thing (I doubt I could even name more than 5 people who've worked in South Africa's government! I know, shocking :P). But even with my limited knowledge, I can still tell right from wrong ... which sometimes I'm not sure the folks in power remember how to do.

Monday, September 28, 2009

19 - 23 Sept: Matemwe Beach Village, Zanzibar

We started our trip with a very very early morning, to be at the airport 2 hours before our 07h35 flight to Zanzibar. We were checked-in and thru customs in a blink of an eye, and sitting around duty-free before any of the shops opened. No, that's not quite true. Oddly a Specsavers was open before the Newscafe was open. You'd think at 6am people have a greater need for coffee and breakfast than new glasses? Our flight was uneventful. It takes a mere 3.5 hours to get to Zanzibar, direct on 1Time.

Arriving in Zanzibar is quite an experience. I don't think they can handle more than one plane arriving or leaving at a time. Literally, their International airport is that tiny! We waited at a hole in the wall while bags were manually brought thru and placed along a knee-high counter one-by-one. My bag never came thru that hole in the wall. It is not a great feeling in the most efficient of airports, here it is quite terrifying. So, after they checked the plane again and assured me my bag really had not arrived on the flight with me, we wandered off to their lost luggage room. I can't fault the Zanzibari's, they were very helpful. The only real concern I had was that they wouldn't deliver the bag to me, when it arrived I'd have to come all the way back to the airport to fetch it "Once the bag gets here, our job is done" I was told. Well it wasn't an ideal start to my holiday, but soon we were driving out of Stone Town and off to Matemwe in the North-East of the island, about an hour's drive away.

Matemwe Beach Village is lovely and on arrival we set about relaxing ... Varen even let me borrow his swimming shorts and a TShirt so that I could go for a swim (boys costumes are horribly uncomfortable, but it may be because it was also a few sizes too large for me!). After that we had some lunch (we were so spoilt with food this holiday!!), and I investigated the meagre pickings at Matemwe's "Boutique". I manage to get myself a toothbrush and one of those UV protection swim-shirts for swimming in. I was not especially happy, and pretty much lived in Varen's kikoy for the first 2 days of my trip (which wasn't *too* bad ;) ) Luckily Matemwe provides 2 kikoys and 2 straw sun-hats in each bungalow for use while you're there. My wardrobe was growing ;)

I will say that we did pretty much nothing on our first day & a half ... we lazed around on the gorgeous area outside our room reading our books. I didn't really want to go and hang out by the pool since my swimming gear was now a pair of Varen's shorty-shorts underwear and the swim-shirt ... I was feeling a little self-conscious. But as I said, they bungalows are built with lovely relaxing outside areas.

On Sunday we heard (after getting my Mom in Cape Town to chase down Joburg airport! Hamls Mom, I couldn't have survived the first few days without you!) that they'd finally found my bag ... still in Joburg. Apparently the tag they attach to the bag at check-in had come off and they had no idea where the bag was supposed to be headed. On top of that because I'd decided just to use my little gym bag (don't really need too much clothing for a beach holiday, it was mostly swimming costumes & kikoys anyway!), it didn't have my name & contact details on it either (I won't be making that mistake ever again!). Anyhoo, so apparently they'd get it onto a flight via Nairobi and it should arrive in Zanzibar on Sunday evening. Yay, I could go and fetch it on Monday and be ready for our day of diving on Tuesday (we'd originally planned to do 2 days of diving, but a) they were fully booked till Tuesday, our last full day there, and b) my diving card was in my luggage!!).

All was still well in the land of the holiday. Monday, however was filled with highs and lows. I heard the bag had arrived in Nairobi at 8am and should be in Zanzibar by 10am. So Varen and I took the opportunity to wander out to the reef since it was low-tide and I was in dire need of some distraction.

What fun! I can't tell you how far from the beach the "second beach" at the reef is, but it's quite a way. During low tide you can wear sandals (thanks again to Varen for letting me borrow his over-sized ones and using his takkies instead), because there are a multitude of sea-urchins, and pretty much wade out thru knee-to-thigh-high water, all the way to the reef surrounding the coast.

Obviously I didn't take the camera along (it wouldn't have survived!) but I'm super glad we took Varen's mask & snorkel (mine were in my bag :( ). We saw some lion fish and even saw an eel and loads of general reef fish. It made my morning :)

The other super interesting thing about the coast at Matemwe is that they farm seaweed along it. It took us a while to figure out what the hell they were doing, ut once you walk out and see the strings growing seaweed between two poles, it makes some more sense (here's one Farmville should add - hee hee!). You'd also be amazed at what the seaweed is used for, apparently it's a thickening agent and is used in medicines and cosmetics as well as in the preservation of food and beer!

When we got back, we were sure I'd have a message from the Zanzibar airport saying my bag was ready for collection, but sadly I hadn't heard a word! When we went to have some lunch, the hotel kindly contacted the airport for me, only to tell me that my bag was still in Joburg. I was devastated. I was about sick of not having a swimming costume and no snorkelling gear let alone the possibility of not being able to dive at all while in Zanzibar! I quickly contacted Mom who eventually let me know that my bag was in fact sitting at Zanzibar airport. We phoned again. Oh yes, it's there. Great, now to organise a taxi to drive us all the way there and then back again (am hoping my travel insurance will cover the 70USD that little trip cost me!!). And then when I got there we had to wait because they were all at prayer. Eventually I got my bag. The relief was incredible, it was still in one piece and the cable ties still intact. And then the idiot who'd told us earlier that day that the bag was still in Joburg proceeds to say "Why did you come all the way here to fetch it yourself?" Erm, because that's what the other guy said I'd have to do!?! You moron. When I'm phoning almost twice a day to see if my bag has arrived, surely the polite thing to do when you tell me that it has is offer me options of delivery that might be available to me so that I don't have to take 2 hours out of my week-long holiday to drive to the airport & back. Grrr. But how angry could I be really, I just wanted to be done dealing with this hassle and get back to my holiday, which was infinitely improved by the arrival of my stuffs! Thanks again to Mr Jobs from Zanzibar Unique, you were a fabulous driver :)

After that, we headed down to the pool area and enjoyed a swim! And the next day we took their boat out to Mnemba Atoll for a day of diving with One Ocean. It was freaking awesome because Varen and I were the only divers on the boat, the rest were snorkelling.

Initially it looked like it could've been the best dive of our lives because they spotted a humpback whale spraying and we took the little speedboat and tried our damndest to reach it. Unfortunately the whale was not hanging around and the further away from Mnemba we headed to try and reach it, the further it swam. And those things can move! So sadly we did not get to dive with a whale :( But we did see a turtle and dolphins amongst many many other things! It was a great day of diving and we spent time at Wattabomi and the Small Wall. It was a lovely day of diving and the perfect way to end our stay at Matemwe.

On Wednesday morning, we left Matemwe after breakfast and headed back to Stone Town.

Hello, I'm Back

Sigh. I'm back. I'm back and I'm feeling very refreshed and happy with life ... a far cry from just before I left and I think the week away did me the world of good. It was certainly also good for Varen & my relationship since we finally got to reconnect and spend some quality time together again. It's good to be reminded of why you're with someone and put up with all the day-to-day nonsense. Here's hoping the day-to-day nonsense doesn't rear it's ugly head too soon tho! Haha.

So we arrived back on Saturday afternoon. I must tell you again how much I am loving the new and improved International arrivals area, passport control is such a breeze these days, something we can really be proud of I think, definitely up to world class standards in my opinion!

We didn't do much but unpack, play with the bunnies (Coal was very protective over me and wouldn't leave me alone and kept nipping the other two when they tried to come near me!! Funny thing) and catch up with our lives online.

Sunday was equally relaxed and we did the usual grocery shopping (since the fridge was practically bare when we got home!) and went to watch The Taking of Pelham 123.

I thoroughly enjoyed this movie, it was just what we needed :) I think it was filmed superbly and John Travolta is awesome in this role! Denzel, however, looks like he's packing on the pounds. Still, I'd definitely recommend seeing it, even if the ending falls a little short.

> Follow Denzel Washington on Twitter:

Other than that I got my holiday pics downloaded and my holiday blog-posts written (a relief to have them out of the way and they'll be published one a day as usual ... sadly Blogger seems to have farked up the scheduled posts feature :P It is *very* annoying). I must say it's awesome to have a day at home just getting back into the swing of real life after a holiday before going back to work ... I think I will have to plan it like this always in future!

Friday, September 18, 2009

And Away We Go!

Okay, in spite of yesterday's post, I must admit that I am full of anticipation for my holiday this morning. Although the horror at realising as I hit snooze on my alarm button before 6am this morning that that time tomorrow I'd already be at the airport was not a comforting thought ...

Yesterday was a dreadful work day and I truly wish I could've had today off just to relax and get into the holiday spirit, but it's not to be so here I am at work ... planning to take it easy and not get ruffled. As much as I generally love this place, boy do I need a break!

Yesterday Roby Dog was asking what happens to our darling Boons while we're away so I thought I'd appease all your minds and let you know that BrotherZion will be house sitting for us and ensuring my plants get watered, the bunnies get fed and allowed to run around the garden and that the fish get fed too. I will say that we are very lucky to have him around to do this for us ... I'm already worrying about the Christmas holidays and need to find some kind of bunny-sitter for when we head down to Cape Town then!

And I *definitely* miss my bunnies while I'm away. But this will only be a week, not like the 3 weeks I was gone from Bell & Henna ... so I think I'll manage ;)

So with all that I bid you adieu and I'll see you again on the 28th :) Here are some photo's of the places we'll be staying ... just to make you all horribly jealous!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

On Winners and Swirling Thoughts

So first thing this morning I did the draw for those Taste of Joburg tickets :) I wrote down everyone's name, in the order the commented and assigned them a number (in the order they commented). And picked these numbers:

5. Tamara
4. Clea
8. thenocturnalwench
2. Svetlana

Congrats to the 4 of you :) And thank you to everyone else for entering ... and to Tribeca PR for providing the tickets. Could each of you please send me an email (mail gladtobeagirl [at] gmail) and Tribeca PR will be in touch with how to claim your prizes :)

Other things that are not nearly as uplifting but have been swirling around my head are:

  • Why does our maid think Varen is the only person in the house who owns or wears socks? Even my pink & white gym socks end up in his cupboard :P
  • My world has gone very quiet, as much by choice as by circumstance. There have been days in the last 2 weeks where I haven't had a verbal conversation with a single soul outside of work.
  • I wish I was looking forward to Zanzibar. It sounds ridiculous, I have a week long gorgeous sandy beach, blue sea holiday coming up (in the next 2 days !!) and I just can't get excited about it. I know I should be, but I think it's because of the next point ...
  • I feel empty and hollow and alone. I'm struggling to get excited by anything (see point 3) and I can't seem to pull myself out of this.
  • To highlight just how sad and mundane my life has become let me explain that my bunnies, Farmville and a bath with my book are all that get me thru the evenings currently.
Those are the things in my head at the moment ... it's not a fun place to be :(

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Carnival Master by Craig Russell

The Cologne police know a woman is going to die. They know the day it will happen. And they're powerless to stop it. They call on an outside expert: Jan Fabel, head of Hamburg's Murder Squad and Germany's leading authority on serial killers. Fabel is on the point of leaving the police for good, but Carnival in Cologne is a time when the world goes crazy, and he is drawn into the hunt for the Carnival Cannibal. What he doesn't know is that he is on a collision course with a crack special forces unit from Ukraine and a disturbed colleague with a score to settle. Fabel finds himself on a trail of betrayal and vengeance, violence and death. And once more he faces his greatest enemy. The true Master of the Carnival.

I can't quite decide if I like Craig Russell's books or not ... I've read quite a few of them now. Honestly I think the only thing I don't like (and really really can't explain because it seems completely unreasonable of my brain!) is the fact that they are set in Europe. I had a similar experience with another book that had been translated, The Beast.

Aside from that weird factor that I'm sure is just in my head, I quite enjoyed the story generally. I liked that thruout the story they throw in snippets of people's lives and you end up completely unsure of whodunnit. Unusual, really.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Surprise Outing

What a surprising evening. We ended up going out on a Monday night ... seriously, this is quite unusual ... actually I think it's unusual for most people! It was a spur of the moment sort of thing, I got a call from Bokkie saying EvilBob was in town and they and a bunch of other people (who I know thru Bokkie) were going out for drinks.

We ended up at Cantina Tequila in 4ways. Luckily we had already eaten and were very good sticking to our pre-Zanzibar detox (I think I've lost 2kgs in the last week!) because the food looked delish. I can barely remember the last time I went to Cantina Tequila, I think it was in the first 6 months I lived in Joburg! This Cantina Tequila is tiny and hidden away, look at the map on the Dining Out site and you'll see, it doesn't even show the road that it's on :P

I wonder if the Cantina Tequila at Banbury Crossing still exists? Either way, me thinks Varen & I will be making a stop at one after our Zanzibar trip for some yummy nachos!

And here's a quick reminder to enter my giveaway before Thursday!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Giveaway: 4 Double Tickets to Taste of Joburg!

And now for something a little different ... not only is this my second post for the day (unusual at best!) but it is a giveaway. And I think it is an *awesome* giveaway!

So, as I mentioned last week, the kind folks over at Tribeca PR have given me a press pass to Taste of Joburg this year (which I am completely thrilled about!!). But, it get's even better than that, they have also given me 4 double tickets to Taste of Joburg to give away on my blog to 4 of my lucky readers :) Please note: These tickets are only valid for Thursday 1st October (18h30 - 22h30).

Check out their website for more information on the event and to see all the awesome restaurants who'll be letting you enjoy a "Taste" (two of the ones I'm most looking forward to are The Attic & Roots). I have been to Taste of Joburg for the last 2 years and can definitely recommend it as a good way to spend a few hours and experience some new flavours!

So, what do you have to do to win? Just leave a comment on this post or tweet me telling me why you want a Taste of Joburg!

Winners will be chosen by The winners will be drawn on the morning of Thursday 17th September. Obviously you should only bother entering if you will be in Joburg on the 1st October.

> Follow Taste of Joburg on Twitter:

Weekend 37 of 52

Sho, I feel like I have so much to say this morning that I really better get cracking. Plus I have a new computer set-up to figure out, which hopefully will not impinge too much on my work day ... but more on that a little later.

Friday night was an absolute blast :) After our last visit to Arkwife's, we started planning dinner at Die Boomhuisie in Krugersdorp (sadly cannot find their website :( ). And although, sadly, Blompot Lettuce couldn't join us, we had a fantastic group of myself & Varen, Arkwife, Arkhubby & Arkbaby (the cutest most well-behaved little thing!!), Doodles & TSC and Louisa (& squishy). Boomhuisie was so awesome, I absolutely loved the place and their funky decor. (Side note: Boomhuisie is apparently also owned by the folks who own Gastehuisie, which we stayed at in January). We has a lovely evening and laughed till we cried and eventually left because we were the only ones still there! Luckily we had a whole room to ourselves because I think we probably would've disturbed other diners with our hysterics ;) I had such a lovely time.

> Follow Varen on Twitter:

> Follow Arkwife on Twitter:

> Follow Louisa on Twitter:

Saturday was pretty uneventful until the afternoon when Varen & I decided to head into my office and sort out my work machine. To put this crazy weekend-activity into perspective, let me just say that I had 3 Operating Systems installed previously :P I know! And I had a new screen that I couldn't use until I upgraded my version of Ubuntu (I was still on Hardy Heron to those that means anything to). And formatting a hard drive has always filled me with dread ... I'm convinced I'll forget to backup something I need. Which Varen & I did anyway ... I last my entire mail folder and a few other bits & bobs I can replace. I can tell you that this morning I am pleased as punch use both my screens and enjoying a clean machine with only what I actually require installed (all the latest version too!). Okay so that took a *large* portion of Saturday ...

In the evening we got a dvd and I made us some delish stuffed butternut. This detox thing is going pretty well ... well aside from Friday night when I did actually have meat (again!) but only had one vodka, lime & water and no dessert! Well, one little spoon of Varen's giant fudge cake (he completely misbehaved food-wise on Friday ;) ). We watched Underworld: Rise of the Lychees.

Okay, so it's *actually* Rise of the Lycans, but I got the Lychee bit from Mark Kermode (naturally), and I giggle every time because it makes me think of some 70s B-grade movie like Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. I enjoyed the movie. It's nothing spectacular, but it's mindless fun. It was just what we needed after an afternoon spent installing software ;)

On Sunday we had our dive refresher at Scuba Centre in Brightwater Commons. I was quite nervous since I haven't worn my wetsuit since February 2007. Yes, that's right, it's the outfit that was worrying me, not the underwater bit ;) It was super duper tight, and I won't be wearing it again on purpose (or till I lose a few kilos), but it served it's purpose and aside from a few hiccups (they lost our booking but we very accomodating!). The refresher was good, and I'm especially glad we did it because I sure as hell don't want any problems in Zanzibar where we'll be paying in USD. Yes folks, it's under a week till we'll be enjoying the white beaches and blue seas ;) Can't wait!

Later in the afternoon we popped round the @jarredcinman & YogaCherryl's new house. Wow. Can I just say, wow. It's really really lovely, they've done very nicely for themselves and I am completely jealous, I long to get to that "house" stage of my life ... yes, yes, Varen owns the place we live in now, but me, I want a house. I want a house I can make my own, I want a house that doesn't share a wall with it's neighbours. Sigh. This is a big craving of mine.

> Follow @jarredcinman on Twitter:

And that was the weekend.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Merely Snippets

Don't have much to say but wanted to write none the less. Last night was book club which was great. I am so proud of myself tho, I stuck to water the whole night and didn't even have a single "chuckle" cause of my detox. I was a little bad and had some chicken (this is supposed to be a vegetarian week).

In other news, I will be having a fabulous giveaway on my blog on Monday and I am quite excited about it :) I hope you all will be too!

And it's weekend, which is fabulous. And that means it's practically only 1 week left till we head off to Zanzibar! I so need to get out of here.

It feels like a good day. It hasn't felt that way in a long time so I am cherishing that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff

Set in a secretive offshoot of the Mormons that still practices plural marriage, Jordan, a young man expelled as a teenager from his community (he calls it 'Saudi America') for innocently holding hands with a half-sister, returns to Utah to defend his mother. His polygamous father has been found dead in front of his computer, and one of his wives - Jordan's mother - is in jail accused of the crime. In a parallel narrative, Ann Eliza Young, the 19th and final wife of Brigham Young, leader of the Mormon Church in the latter half of the nineteenth century, tells the sensational story of how her parents were drawn into plural marriage and how she herself escaped her powerful husband to lead a crusade to end polygamy in the United States. Bold, shocking and enthralling, The 19th Wife expertly draws together these two narratives to explore how religion can distort love and family, in a page-turning literary mystery.

I don't honestly know why I read these Mormon Polygamy books, a morbid fascination I guess. Because honestly I can not understand why any wife would put up with such nonsense. Okay and honestly I also can't believe the cult-ism that convinces people that they should! And reading about the mind-control by bad-education is just frightening. I think it's all such a lesson in the Power of People and how they can use it for evil to control other people ... although the world really doesn't need more examples of that :P How is there not some shred of logic in these women's minds when their sons are being excommunicated at the age of 15 or so ... hello, it's obviously so your husband can shack up with all the young girls himself and not have any youthful competition. Sigh. People are weird.

> Follow David Ebershoff on Twitter:

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Netcare Travel Clinic's Incompetancy

Not in a very good place right now. Am trying to do a bit of a detox before Zanzibar and have a fridge full of veggies and fruit ... and I have been oh so prepared, even getting my breakfast & lunches ready the night before. Only this morning to leave it behind :P Annoying. Oh well, will have to figure out a way to survive.

Also, what's adding to my annoyance was an experience yesterday with a Netcare Travel Clinic. So I made my appointment and went off to collect my Malaria meds for Zanzibar. I went in to see the Nurse and she asked where I was going. Zanzibar, I replied. Ah, I see you've taken Malanil before (on my Southern African 2004 and East Africa 2007 trips), do you want to use it again? Sure, I said, I haven't had any side-effects with it. (It's expensive, but I'd rather not take the chance of side-effects while enjoying my holidays!). So she gives me what I need and off I go.

Once in my car I read my statement (which they only give you after you've paid, might I add!). They charged me R115 for their "consultation". I was pretty livid since I'd spent more time in their waiting room than with the actual nurse! I can understand you charging me a consultation fee if I'd needed an injection or the nurse had actually had to do more than just count out a few pills and put them into a box. Sigh. Oh well, I figured I'd let it go.

That was until Varen called me to say (he had a later appointment than I did) that they wouldn't give him Malanil because he was diving. WHAT? (Obviously I'll be diving too) Now I'm annoyed. So I call the Travel Clinic back and I say WTF? Whoever answered the phone says she'll call me back. When she does she starts trying to explain away the fact that the nurse I saw only works mornings and isn't there and that the nurse Varen saw just recommended he doesn't take Malanil because they don't know what effect it can have at depth. And (here's the cherry!) why didn't I mention I was going diving?

Excuse me? This is your freaking job, people. You are the ones who know that Malaria medication can be affected by diving, not me. I said I was going to Zanzibar ... surely they should have a list of countries where if the patient answers with one of them, your follow up question should be "Will you be diving?". Don't be trying to make it my fault for not informing her of my entire trip itinerary. Besides, I haven't dived on any of the previous trips where I've needed Malaria meds so how on earth would I know this?

I am so angry. I have to phone them again today now. I don't know if they'll swap my meds and refund me (at this point I'd honestly like a refund for my "consultation" as well since it was clearly a waste of time!) since they have signs up all over the place saying they don't take back medication. But as far as I'm concerned, this is their screw up and I am supremely unimpressed with them currently.

Update 10h12: Spoke to the nurse who saw me yesterday and she told me she'd been diving and using Malanil since 1999 with no trouble. So, I'm sticking with the Malanil, but still ... who do you believe in a time like this?

Monday, September 07, 2009

Not the Best Restaurants

Not in the best Monday morning mood, but we did have a fairly interesting weekend.

It started *really* well on Friday when I received an invite from the folks doing the PR for Taste of Joburg this year (which is 30 Sept - 04 Oct, in case you were wondering) asking if they could send me a ticket. How awesome is that? When I checked out the site, I read that this will be their 3rd year ... which means I've been every year and blogged about it. Sometimes blogging definitely has it's perks and to me, this is a fabulous one! So thanks again to Nicola at Tribeca PR!

> Follow Taste of Joburg on Twitter:

On Friday night Varen & I met his mom and her new man for dinner at Monte Casino. We somehow ended up eating at The Metropolis (and that was after I'd said I didn't mind where we ate as long as there wasn't only steak on the menu). I naively thought leaving the restaurant choice up to Varen and him knowing my eating-requirements and him picking a restaurant he'd been to before would be a safe bet. Apparently not (in his defence I don't think he ate there the last time he went). I will say the decor in the place is very cool, and I love the pictures of Joburg around the place. But it has a pretty minimal menu. Seriously, how often do you find a smaller food than drinks menu (not including a completely separate wine list)? And most of it was red meat. I ended up having a very nice Roasted Aubergine filled with ratatouille and a cheese crumble. I did enjoy it, but prefer having more to choose from than this menu had to offer me.

Saturday was a bit of an admin day. I went to gym and then Varen & I headed off to Sandton to purchase our forex for Zanzibar! Yippee. 1 step closer to our much needed beach break! The evening however turned out a little disastrous.

We met J9 and Squeak for dinner at the Marrakesh Lounge. I picked the restaurant, I'd been wanting to try it out since it was recommended on one of my Moroccan trip posts. Okay, let me say right here, it's not a bad place, I imagine if you're just going to hang out with some friends for some drinks and to enjoy smoking a sheesha, it's a great venue. Sitting inside reminded us of the tents we slept in, in the Sahara. And Varen and I did have some time to enjoy remembering our trip while we waited for the girls to arrive. And the food really is exactly like we remembered from Morocco! But again the menu is very small. And although I already knew they didn't serve pastilla, I was hoping there might be a nice apricot tagine for me. There wasn't so I had Kefta. Which was very similar to the Kefta I'd had in Morocco and tasted really nice. It was definitely worth trying, but I doubt I'd go back for dinner again. Definitely good to trigger our Moroccan memories tho :)

We decided not to do dessert there since all they had was Ice-cream and Hot Chocolate sauce. So we headed off to Baglio's in Sandton for ice-cream and that was where our evening started to sour. We ordered from a completely un-interested looking waitress. Only to have her eventually come back and tell us they didn't have ingredients for 3 of our 4 orders. So we ordered again. and then eventually had another waitress come over and tell us again that one of our order's couldn't be filled. We were quite disillusioned already. And then it took an absolute age for the 3 ice-creams and my lemon meringue pie to arrive. We had to order glasses of water twice, although there were about 7 waitresses standing 2 tables over desperately trying to ignore us. The service was *shocking* ! My lemon meringue pie was probably the worst I've eaten. The meringue was way too sugary and the lemon part also had sugary-crunchy bits :P Eurgh. I didn't come close to finishing it. I will not be going back there to sit down again ... if ever.

And then we said our goodbyes and headed off home. Just as we got home J9 called to say they'd been stopped by cops in Illovo and were being told to follow them to the police station in Loveday Street for a breathalyser test. Varen and I sat home in a panic waiting for each message to come thru to hear that all was going okay. For 2 girls driving alone at close to midnight, I've be terrified to make a detour into Joburg's city centre. But then again I have a complete distrust of cops, as I've mentioned before. Luckily (and completely unsurprisingly), Squeak (who was driving) was under the limit and they left to head home again safely. What a relief. But still. What kind of idiots are cops? If you want to breathalyse people, set up a road-block so people don't have to head miles out of their way "to the only police station with a working breathalyser" (how can that even be true?!?! That is absolute madness!). Let me just say, it is not an ideal way to end your Saturday.

On Sunday Varen went into work again (did I mention we popped in there twice on Saturday so he could do stuff?!). And then in the afternoon we headed off to Emmerentia for a picnic to celebrate @jameshappe's birthday. Which was lovely, just to sit out on the grass in the beautiful weather we've been having :)

> Follow @jameshappe on Twitter:

And in the evening we *finally* saw District 9. I really enjoyed it. Which I wasn't surprised by ... what did surprise me was that I didn't find the accents as grating as I usually do in South African movies. I managed to immerse myself enough, I guess. I'm also not one for looking into the deeper meanings and the under-lying parallels so for me, as a sci-fi, alien film, filmed in Jobhannesburg, I thought it was great :) And wa-ay better than any of that typical-Leon Schuster "South African Movie" crap.

Friday, September 04, 2009

Pluses and Minuses

Sigh. On the plus side of things it's Friday. Yippee. Also we had yummy Luca's Famous House Salad for dinner last night. And did I tell you that our lovely vet phoned earlier in the week to find out how Rex's eye was and if we managed to get an appointment at the Animal Eye Hospital. We have the best vet!

On the minus side of things ... I can't seem to shake this weird mood of mine :( It's is seriously affecting my outlook on life and making for a not very happy and direction-fueled person. At the moment I feel like I am joining the plodding along masses just watching each day fly by with no achievement or direction other than completing life. Things are feeling hopeless. I also have to start waking up earlier in the mornings. The sun's not yet up at 6am, but from the traffic you can tell, people are getting into summer because there are quite a lot more of them out on the roads in the early morning. Also have to go and spend a fortune on foreign exchange tomorrow which I'm not looking forward to ... it's always such a hassle trying to prove I live where I do. Can you tell I hate FICA, regardless of how law-abiding I am I have to take along 50-million documents trying to prove I live in a rented house where I have no lease and receive no bills ... it's an absolute nightmare! Annoyingly by following their rules, I could easily prove I still live at my folks house in Cape Town (it's the only physical address I receive post to), and somehow they still think FICA is a good idea. Pfft I say to that. (And I have no doubt there'll be more of a rant on Monday after the actual experience :P)

Oh, and on the neither here nor there side of things, I've installed a new blog gadget that I heard about on Twitter via @Jenty called LinkedWithin. See below every post there's now a few other recommended posts. Don't ask me how it decides what else you might like ... but it does and for now I am enjoying it. Seems to slow the site down a bit tho so we'll see how long I keep it for. It's especially useful I find on book review posts. I sorta wish I could only switch it on for certain posts, instead of these mundane day-to-day ones.

> Follow @Jenty on Twitter:

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Bunnies and Snow and Happiness

Last night there was so much I wanted to say. I found myself in another manic mood (like the night before ... hence no blog post yesterday). I am not a happy bunny lately. I had lots to say on the subject, generally question life and the point of it all. But I fear that that will tip me over the knife edge back into the same mood this morning. So I'll skip that and write about flowers and sunshine and happiness. Or rather, how about bunnies and snow and happiness?

So first things first. Snow & happiness! It seems the planet has aligned just right ensuring that @clairam is almost definitely joining me on my October trip to Canada to see the Polar Bears. So it's awesome, but I'm sure some of you would think it's mighty peculiar actually. You see, other than chatting on Twitter and Google Talk, I've only met @clairam once. And now we'll be jetting off half way around the world for a week together. But the way I see it is this: I have traveled on my own with a tour group plenty of times before. Very rarely have they included any other South African's (and when they have, they've mostly been of the moved-to-london-how-do-you-live-with-the-crime-in-Joburg variety). Mostly I get stuck with a bunch of Aussies & Kiwi's and folk from the UK. Which is fine and for the most part they're generally fine people. But there's no connection, you know? Like the sort of connection you'd find with someone familiar with the same things you are. Plus we've all generally had different expectations of the trips we've been on. So I've never really kept in touch with any of the people I've met on these trips. But now, now I'm going with someone who knows a handful of people that I know, who lives about 10 minutes from me and that I could be friends with for real, afterwards, if we don't drive each other completely nuts :) See, this actually makes a lot more sense to me.

And then there is the super-duper bonus that I'll getm y single-supplement for my trip back ... which is about 800 CAD. I'm thrilled :)

> Follow @clairam on Twitter:

And now for some Bunnies & happiness. I love that the sun is staying out just a little bit longer and the evenings are warmer. It means more time outside for the boons, running around on the grass and making me warm and fuzzy inside just by watching them. They are truly adorable. And yesterday I took some photos. Lily and Rex were lying stretched out so nicely on the grass. There's nothing better than watching them zoom top-speed around the garden or lying completely relaxed which means you know they're happy and feel safe :)

Darling Coal just wouldn't stop digging. But then even she too gave into relaxation and lay across the little pit she'd dug, making her barely visible above the grass.

And my garden is growing, all my little seeds are sprouting nicely. I am loving spending time outside ... if only we had a hose that didn't flood part of the garden while trying to water another. And if only we had nice fluffy green grass ... If only!

Other than that, I made one of my favourite things for dinner last night, I call it my Mexican Chicken. I even brought some of it for lunch today. It's just basically chicken schnitzel (which I haven't had in the longest time!) with a delish tomato-pepperdew-kidney bean sauce on top. Topped with some cheese (last night I used parmesan slices) and avo. Yum yum!

Ph, and one other thing I thought I should mention. I barely go on fakebook but to check out everyone else's stuffs. But I am now addicted to a little game called Farmville, I know, right? Madness. But I'm loving it!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Counting Down!

Yeah yeah, Spring day. I dunno, I've never been much of a "This day" or "That day" person. In my family we don't really do anything more than acknowledge Mother's day or Father's day (that is, if we remember they're happening even!). I think Valentine's day is the only "Hallmark holiday" I remain aware of. But again, it's just an excuse for a nice dinner out, it's not an excessive gift-giving day for me.

I guess it is nice to have stuff to celebrate. But then again I believe all of this stuff (moms, dads and loved ones) can be celebrated any day. Most importantly, for me, when they're around. What use is Father's or Mother's day when you live a province away. Not a single bit. But those few days a year you do get to spend with them, those are the important ones :)

Anyhoo, I didn't really have much to say today. But I did just look at my Calendar and realise *there are only 2 Saturdays left* until we'll be off to Zanzibar. Suddenly it's getting really close. And there is still loads to do. Buy a new bikini, buy our Dollars, do our dive-refresher (at least t hat is booked!), buy Malaria medication ... that's all I can think of for now. Me thinks it'll be quite the admn-filled weekend preparing. At least it's all for a *very* good cause. I can't wait to be sunning myself on white sands and swimming in a turquoise (warm!) sea :)

Yawn, there were other things I wanted to write about ... but I forget. Varen did make us a delish dinner of Chicken & Broccoli pancakes last night. And what's the best part about pancakes for dinner? The dessert ones after! We tried banana & condensed milk which was quite yummy, but I think I prefer a thinner pancake with nutella or cinnamon sugar and lemon juice. Yummm!

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