South Africa’s Final Charms

It had been a few days after our roadtrip through the South African countryside, and we decided to take Aunt Helen somewhere special, somewhere we’d been before without her. We were taking her to Cape Point.


We had lunch at the cafe before, making sure to keep the birds away from our food. But one of them swooped in and stole a piece from Aunt Helen’s sandwich! She completely panicked and refused to sit back down, and mom, dad, and I found it hilarious.

Me ready and prepared to shoot some birds in the face


After lunch, we took the sky tram up the mountain and climbed to the lighthouse. The views from up there were amazing – it was like we could see the entire coastline. And that’s how South Africa stunned us for the last time, with a sight that we’d still see in our minds as we left a couple days later.

The South African Excursion, Part 3: Serious Safari

The car rolled into a gravel parking lot, and we got out. We were at our next stop on our roadtrip through the countryside: a beautiful safari resort. Waiting for the room to be available was a pain, but when we finally got in, it was beautiful. It was a dark wood building, small but spacious, and I loved it. I nearly fell asleep as we waited for the safari, but thankfully, I didn’t.

The safari was a bit cold, but it sure was nice to snuggle up in a blanket while spotting rhinos and cape buffalo and zebras. There were hippos and ostriches and baboons and eland. There were baboons at our rest stop, which the park rangers fended off. We even saw a few lions as they walked up the mountain. And on our way back, we saw an elephant and a giraffe.

We had a lot of time afterward. After some encouragement, I went to get my book from the car, and there was a huge bird in the parking lot. A secretary bird. I took picture after picture of it, trying to give it a wide birth. However, I once asked it to look at the camera, and then it bit me on the finger. I had to get a band-aid. Still, it was a beautiful bird.

The South African Excursion, Part 2: The Ostrich Farm

It was a bright and warm morning, and the car finally stopped at a wonderful place: the ostrich ranch. We walked past the restaurant and past the gift shop to reach the place where our tour would start. The tour guide started by showing us a replica of an ostrich’s skeleton, explaining how its knees were actually ankles, with what looked like its ankles actually being the knuckles of its foot. The tour guide showed us an ostrich pelt, covered in bumps from where the feathers were. They also showed us some jarred organs, displaying that an ostrich’s eye really is bigger than its brain.

They also had some ostrich food on display: maize and mystery pellets, which we’d already bought some of. We then were lead outside were we fed the ostriches. They were very greedy, and did not hold back, eating the entire handful in one go. The younger ones were smaller, gentler, and had less painful bites, but by we had so little food when we got there that they barely got any.

We learned a lot about ostriches at the farm. We got a chance to stand on the ostrich eggs, which are capable of resisting a lot of pressure. We learned the difference between male and female ostriches – females have brown feathers, males have black feathers. And we were treated to something super special.

We got to ride an ostrich.

Well, more like sit on one, in a small enclosure where it was kept standing. One by one, we climbed in its surprisingly sturdy back, petting its soft neck. The were three other ostriches in that enclosure, and they gave off a perfect display of their tiny brains, because they bit everything that was shiny – including the buttons on my shirt and the sunglasses on Aunt Helen’s head.

After the tour ended, we had lunch at the restaurant. And I decided ostrich tastes delicious. It’s like beef, but a bit more earthy. I also decided that ostriches are kinda cute. After you get past the bald-looking head that they have.

Cooking Class

It was just starting to turn dark, and we walked inside a building in an urban Cape Town neighborhood. We were greeted by a pair of locals into what seemed to be a small restaurant. We weren’t only there to eat, though.

We were taking a traditional cooking class.

Before it started, they offered us interesting snacks and wonderful drinks. We tried all 5 snacks: beef, worms, termites, dried baby fish, and peculiarly shaped peanuts. I loved the peanuts more than anything, but only the fish tasted bad.

First, mom and Aunt Helen were called up to cook the chicken. Then, it was my turn, and I cooked the beans. Fill a bowl with water and put it on the stove, then open the can and pour the beans in. I also poured in some tomato sauce, then let it cook.

Dad, cooking the pap, had the most difficulty. He had to use a lot of his strength to stir it, and it became more difficult as it cooked.

The meal turned out amazing. It was delicious and if I hadn’t eaten so many peanuts while it was cooking I would’ve eaten multiple plates of it. The cooking class was a great experience and I hope I can do something like that again.

Adventures with the Aunt

We’d been in South Africa for 11 days, and had already had a wonderful time. We’d seen penguins, we’d ridden a Ferris wheel, we’d been to a farmer’s market and a botanical gardens and a beautiful beach. Things were about to get more awesome. Because when I woke up that morning and walked out my room, there was a new face in the cabin: my dad’s cousin Helen. I saw her every Christmas and every Thanksgiving and every family holiday, and I knew having her around would make things fun and unique. My dad had a lot of cool things to show her, and she was excited for everything.

We started off my showing her the farmer’s market, with all of its different flavors and food stalls. There, we bought pasta for dinner, biltong (dried meat) for snacking, and avocado toast and a sandwich croissant for breakfast. The food from the farmer’s market was all amazing, and I loved the woodchip floor that felt soft but firm underfoot.

If you know me well, you’ll know my dad’s birthday is on July 15th, and that means a long day of cool and amazing experiences. He took off work that day and took us to see the penguins, which were much more active than the last time. We loved watching them waddle around, enter and leave the water, steal sticks from other penguins’ nests. Everyone loved watching them, my Aunt Helen especially.

We then went on a long drive to a surprise location. I know dad was probably talking about it the whole way there, but I slept the whole drive. We stopped along the way to get some lunch, I ate some unusual fish and chips, and we kept going. After a lot of driving, we finally reached the coast and dad finally revealed his big surprise.

More penguins!

The penguins were so cute as they waddled around, laid around, anything. We even saw a small group walking down the road! Sadly, it was turning late, and we had to leave pretty quickly.

I couldn’t wait to see what dad’s planning and Aunt Helen’s excitement would bring us next.

Quaint Kirstenbosch

It was the beginning of a beautiful day, and mom and I were walking into the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens near Cape Town. We were instantly hit the sight of beautiful, lush greens trees and shrubs and everything in between. We walked between a row of powerful large trees and a relaxing green field as we looked for the sign pointing us to where we were headed: The Canopy Walk.

We walked between collections of fascinating plants, across quaint stone paths, and finally found the dense collection of trees where the canopy walk was said to be. Right as we walked in, we saw a giant, gnarly walnut tree, with younger kids playing on it. And all around us were huge trees and beautiful plants. We wandered around in there, entranced, looking at the forest around us as the soft mulch crunched under us. We did find the canopy walk after a few minutes of enchanted wandering, and it was amazing. Looking down upon all those amazing plants, upon the mulch paths and the people walking on them.

But by far, the best part of that canopy walk was the view. It was high up above everything else, and the glorious mountains shone in the sunlight. It was beautiful. And soon it was over. We were back into the forest with the mulch paths, and explored around the gardens from there. One part showed plants from the time of the dinosaurs. Another part showed plants unique to the Cape of South Africa. And a different part showed plants traditionally used in cooking and medicine. The botanical gardens turned out to be wonderful. If you ever find you have time in Cape Town, that’s somewhere you need to go.

Return of Round the World Kid

It’s been 2 years since my last post and 6 years since the round-the-world trip, but I’m back! I’m currently in a quarantined South Africa, and I’ve got to say, traveling during Covid is a weird experience. Empty airports, closed restaurants, and a generally slow world. Not to mention everything we had to do to prepare! We had to update our immunizations, like typhoid, not to mention get the Pfizer Covid vaccine, which sent me into the hospital with myocarditis. We had to get tested, and show proof of a negative Covid test, as well as provide immunization records to enter the country. Also, South Africa’s lockdown completely interrupted our normal city-exploration pattern of walking around, looking at the amazing scenery, and then going to a restaurant to wind down. We instead rode the Ferris wheel we found, which, while not the same, did give us a great view of the Cape Town harbor.

Despite the quarantine, our trip to Cape Town began with a fun, active period. Two days after arrival, we went out to the coast to see penguins. And boy did we see penguins. They were everywhere in the bushes along the path toward the beach, and they were also plentiful in a cluster on the beach itself. They were even baby penguins, molting penguins, and penguins with an interesting bluish hue! It was a wonderful experience!

We also went to a mountain for a short hike. The hike itself wasn’t notable, but what happened after was. I was just leaving the bathroom when Dad, carrying the food bag, was being approached by a baboon. Even as he backed up, it kept coming closer. Dad threw the bag, and the baboon soon ripped it over and went after our snack mix. A park ranger helped us retrieve the bag, but there was no repairing it. Our day bag from six years ago was gone.

You know what’s not gone, though? Me! I’ll be keeping up with you throughout this month-long vacation in Cape Town, so stay prepared for more posts from Round the World Kid!

Tour of a Township

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Reading about other non-violent protests in history

Humanity sometimes does cruel things to itself. Apartheid is no exception. For anyone who doesn’t know what Apartheid was, it was basically an oppressive system to divide the races in South Africa. The hierarchical structure goes like this: whites at the top, then Indians, then coloreds (a mix of races), and, at the bottom, the blacks, who, ironically, happened to be the natives, the people that were there first. Yes, it was a very racist society. All races, excluding whites, had their own, separate townships outside of cities. These townships were not their homes. These were designated neighborhoods, the only places they were allowed to live. However, different races in the hierarchical structures had different townships, and the states of them were different, too. The Indian township didn’t look so bad, but the black township just across the road was looking pretty bad. Of course, this was the state of things during Apartheid, and many things have gotten better since the end of Apartheid.

quoteWe already knew that Gandhi had started his work in South Africa, after an incident on a train. He had bought a first-class ticket, and sat down in the first-class car. However, the first-class car was reserved for whites. Then again, Gandhi had bought a first-class ticket! He refused to move, so he was beaten and kicked off the train in Pietermaritzburg.

You would never expect Gandhi to be prejudiced, right? However, we learned one thing that shocked us about Gandhi: he was racist, but only in the beginning. It completely blew my mind. How could he? Well, he couldn’t for long. Being the target of racism, he lost his own racism, which was kind of necessary if he was going to unify all of India against the Empire of Great Britain!

I also read about protests around the world. The one I remember best was in the Prague Spring, when a lot of people sat on Wenceslas Square in what was then Czechoslovakia, in protest of the Soviets taking over their country. Unfortunately, this protest did not work. However, many protests did work. For example, Gandhi’s salt march in India. That, along with dozens of other protests, ended up in the British leaving India!

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Dube and family gravesite

One of the key founders of the civil rights movement was Reverend John Langalibalele Dube, the founder and first president of the ANC. Originally, it was called the SANNC, or South African Native National Congress. However, no matter the name, the ANC’s goal was always to get rights for non-whites. He also founded the Ohlange Institute, a high school that taught not only academic skills, but also vocational skills. He got the idea for it from the Union Missionary Seminary in Brooklyn.  John Dube was the first black man to ever found such an institute in South Africa

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Where Mandela ave his first vote.

At first, the institute was so popular, that there were too many students to buy beds for all of them! It would later become one of the most important places in all of South African history. The reason? Here, decades later, Nelson Mandela cast his historic vote.

Well, we learned that times can be tough, but humanity is like a phoenix, rising up… from its own ashes.

Shimmery Sharks!

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The sharks swarmed around us, circling and circling. The theme song from Jaws played in my head. We were snorkeling… South Africa style, meaning that we were swimming with sharks. With snorkeling equipment on.

DCIM100GOPROG0268992.Don’t worry, the sharks were harmless. The only things that they wanted to eat were sardines. Also, you may not expect this, but the sharks were actually rather majestic. And, oh, that shimmer! The majestic, shimmery sharks swam through the water to the sardines. However, there is a reason people could be scared. When they get close enough, the sharks gobble the sardines up whole!

The sharks were black tip reef sharks, but only the females. The males were chasing the sardine run up the coast. You know, classic male stuff. All of them go great distances to find the males and mate, and these have scratches and marks on them. The scratches are from the males biting onto them as they mate. Rough. I know. Also, why were they here while their mates where swimming up the coast? It was because this was a better place to have babies.

Anyway, what was it like swimming with sharks? I held onto a log and looked all around us. One shark, two shark. From here to there, from near to far, shimmery sharks were everywhere! Wait. Let me get this straight. It wasn’t a mad frenzy of sharks, but there were a lot. However, sometimes you have got to zoom out on life. Doing that, our day with the shimmery sharks was amazing!

African Birds of Prey: Amazing, Beautiful, and Pretty

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We got out of the car, and walked into reception. As mom was busy sorting out some stuff, I played with some stuffed monkeys that just happened to have magnets on their feet and hands. I loved how they stuck to the metal! However, this was a bird park! We had come here to look at birds, not play with stuffed animals!

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The African Birds of Prey Sanctuary, the sanctuary we were at, collected birds that needed caring for. They didn’t capture wild birds. Most of them were released, but some couldn’t be – either because they couldn’t fly due to a wing injury, or because they thought they were people. Those who stayed were bred so that their babies could be released into the wild.

nando-owlOf course we learned about different kinds of birds! We saw and learned about different kinds of the scavenging vultures. We learned about eagles, owls, and… eagle owls? Yup, apparently there’s something called an eagle owl. Eagle owls are not like you imagine. They’re not what come out when you mash together an eagle and an owl. Okay, kind of. They do look like eagles and owls at the same time. They have feathery legs right down to their feet, like eagles, and have a face in a disk shape, like owls. So, that’s why they’re called eagle owls.

kite-huntingAnyway, we watched some birds fly, and one hunt. An African Goshawk did an amazing stunt as it caught a piece of leather while the leather was moving across the ground. See, this type of bird is always on the hunt, sitting in branches, waiting for its prey to pass by, so it registers a piece of leather moving swiftly across the ground as its prey. It dives for it, and catches it with its sharp talons.  The trainer had to give it a lot of convincing for the bird to let go of its catch.

Anyway, we learned that some African birds of prey are amazing! Others are beautiful and pretty. However, at the end of the day, all of them are awesome!

Take Me to the Other Side of Durban

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One day, we finally decided to see the other side of Durban, the side that’s not as westernized as ours. I have to say, Durban’s other side was truly revealed. Of course, you can’t talk about Durban without talking about its ethnic groups, so I will. The majority ethnic group is the Zulu people, the largest ethnic group in Durban and South Africa. The guide told us lots about the Zulu. What I remember most is about how some Zulus in villages traditionally met their wives/husbands.

Everyone comes to the river, the girls and women to wash themselves and carry water in large jugs on their heads (of course) to the village, the boys and men to let their goats or cattle drink. Anyway, sometimes they are at the river at the same time, and the man falls in love. To tell her, he waits until the woman is taking the water back to the village. Then, he gets up, and knocks the jug off her head! I know, that’s really mean and rude, and of course she is angry! To make her happier, the man goes and refills the jug, then places it back on her head. This seems to flatter her. She goes back, and goes to this one young woman that’s like, the elder of the teens and young adults. The ‘elder’ will ask the woman about the man they met. The woman will tell the ‘elder’, what he’s like, where he’s from, what he looks like (if he’s handsome), and, most importantly, if she loves him back. Then the ‘elder’ will give her advice, and woman will do something the next time she sees him.

poundingNow you know what we heard. However, you don’t yet know what we saw. Most memorably, we saw a market for herbs. Interestingly, it was planned to be a highway overpass. However, the plans were cancelled, and the what was already made was given to the people who needed it. Now, it is what the people call a pharmacy. But, it isn’t the kind of pharmacy you would find in the West. It was more of a market for herbs. There were the herbs themselves, and then the plants in different stages of the process of preparation. Some herbs were to be swallowed, some to be taken with other things, and others… were supposed to go… up your butthole. Yeah, I think I would rather just stick with modern medicine, thank you very much. I’m sorry, we weren’t allowed to take photographs, which is a real bummer, because it was the most interesting part.

We also learned about an indoor shopping center. It was called ‘The Workshop’, because it had once been a workshop for tram lines and tram tracks. There, to wrap up our day seeing the other side of Durban, we had a bunny chow. So, now you’ve heard about the other side of Durban. Also, as you know, things are better when you experience them for yourself than when you see it through someone else. So, I wouldn’t be surprised if you are now singing, “Take me to the other side of Durban!”.

South Africa Life

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Braai with my new friend Kaderyn

One day, we got invited to a Braai. Braai is, pretty much, a South African barbecue. Its name comes from the word braaivleis, meaning roasted meat, in Afrikaans, and is a tradition in Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia. It was originally of the Afrikaner, or Boer culture, but has since been adopted by many cultures in Southern Africa. Well, it was delicious! The long wait was worth it! And anyway, I got to swim around and play with other kids, so the wait might have been better than the meal. Might have. You know, we all have this sort of ‘inner caveman’, as I like to call it, where you just want to act like a beast! Well, I let out my inner caveman on the braai. I grabbed it with my hands and tore it apart! No plates, no forks, no knives! That’s why you have canines and incisors. And hands! Then I had a marshmallow and a slice of cheesecake! No, I didn’t let out my ‘inner caveman’ again. This was dessert! I only let out my ‘inner caveman’ on meat! If allowed…

Well, I hope you enjoyed the story of my braai.

An ice cream after surfing!
An ice cream after surfing!

I am really lucky, luckier than a lot of people. But no life is complete without surfing! That’s right! While we were in Durban, we went surfing! Well, we learned. I had a hard time figuring out how to jump up onto the surfboard. At least, that’s what I felt. It’s just that… I didn’t really want to listen to the instructor. But even with my hard head, I managed to ride two waves all the way to the beach! This is how I did it: I laid down on the board as if I was going to do a push-up. Then, I pushed myself up a little bit, and finally I jumped and adjusted my weight. I fell off a lot of times this way, though. I feel like I fell more times than I caught a wave! Anyways, at the end of the day, I have to admit that it was a great day.

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Bring it!

As you know, no place is complete without sports. Since South Africa is biggest on rugby and cricket, and rugby was out of season, we decided to go to our first cricket match. Our first cricket match was very interesting. Cricket is a lot like baseball in many ways, but is slightly different. Their pitches are called bowls, and are bounced off the ground. There is field all around the batter, and they have to run from one set of sticks to another. Those are just a couple of the differences, but even though the sport was very different, the vibe wasn’t. It felt laid back, and generally the vibes were good. There was also some stuff for kids to do. There was a slide that I went down. Mainly, I got into a puffy suit and did sumo wrestling. It was really fun, and I won! The line was almost not worth it, though. I spent about an hour, I think, waiting in line. As I waited, I watched the other kids wrestle, and I looked to the cricket match. We were rooting for the Durban Dolphins, and were playing at home, in the Sahara Kingsmead Stadium.  Did the Dolphins crush the other team, the Cobras from Cape Town? Sadly, no. Of course, if you’re from Cape Town then you would be happy, but when we went back home, I was sad. Every time me or my team is defeated I get sadder than I should. One of my many flaws. Anyways, our first cricket match was great!

So, if you had no clue what South African life was like before, now you understand life in South Africa a little bit better. Some of the things you might do are have a braai, surf, and watch a cricket match! What interesting things to do! That’s… 🎶SAH SAH South Africa Life🎶.

Okay, I don’t think that worked. Anyway, bye!

The Wonders of the Forest

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img_4801One day, long, long ago (okay that’s not true), we went to see frogs in their natural habitats, in Springside Nature Reserve. I didn’t catch any, but some other kids did, all pretty small. One was very  small. He was a cute, black, bush squeaker. The other frog was a lot bigger, and he was light brown, with light green spots on his sides. This was a Natal Tree Frog. Like you might expect, he had the classic ‘tree frog’ eyes. Others were caught, too. There was a small, light brown one, with a yellow stripe, all the way down its back. I was able to identify this frog as a Quekket’s River Frog. As I identified every frog, I tried to find my own. I even went far from the group, and listened to their calls. For some reason, I could never quite tell where they were. Well, that’s nature. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes, you don’t.

img_1811We also went hiking into a lush, green place, called Giba Gorge. We hiked through relatively cool forests and grasslands. We were going to McIntosh Falls, a waterfall with a pool below it. The waterfall actually looked like the river creating it split into many rivers before recombining in the pond. There we saw a dragonfly laying eggs. It was strange, because the male was attached to the female, and she took so much time, but it was still wonderful. We saw other animals, like frogs and centipedes, and went through forests that almost made it feel like home. Almost. It was very hot and humid, which did not feel like home. At all. Oh, the wonders of the forest.

Wet n’ Wild at uShaka

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Once upon a time… we got Wet n’ Wild… at uShaka, in Durban. My favorite ride was one where you get in a big tube, and slide down a curvy slide. I went back by myself. At the end, I tried to impress everyone by doing a stunt off the tube. Well, I was soon to discover that the water was, like… a foot deep. I hit my head really hard, scratching it up and creating an enormous lump the size of my fist. When my parents found me again, they wondered why I hadn’t gone to first aid. I didn’t need it. We iced it, and by the next day the swelling had gone down quite a bit. Still, other than my big bump, uShaka Wet n’ Wild was wet! And wild!

Delightful Durban

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img_4614In Durban, a lot of fun. We went to a beach. I spent hours in the water and playing in the sand. I splashed around, and made up a game in the water. The point of the game was to get past each coming wave without going under or being knocked over. I, eventually, lost, and was toppled over by a wave taller than I was, but still had great fun.

He was also very curious and came right into the crowd!
He was also very curious and came right into the crowd!

We also went to a bird park. We watched a hilarious bird show. None of the birds would listen to their trainers! And the vulture tried to bite people’s feet and take their bags! The owl ran out of sight, and the kookaburra, as well as another bird, and the so-called ‘granny of the show’, refused to exit. Well, they did, eventually, but it took a lot of work. Crazy how some birds – and people – can be so obstinate!

American Holidays Not in America

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So, Halloween and Thanksgiving are predominantly American holidays, right? So how did we celebrate them in South Africa? Well, read on to find out!

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Dressed as a Berber

You wouldn’t expect us to be able to have Halloween in South Africa, right? Turns out, there was a small celebration in Durban. It was only down a tiny fraction of one street, but it was nice. Although, I didn’t exactly get the Halloween craze you get in the US, but I still got some candy! Which was very nice, although the 8 pieces that I managed to pick up didn’t last long. I ended up eating them all later in the night. And sharing them with friends! I dressed up as a Berber, the first inhabitants of Morocco. I say, my costume was the most unique. The decorations were unique, too! All of them were homemade. Cool! What a way to lift the Halloween spirit! I had a spooky time!

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Cheesecake!

Another thing you wouldn’t expect in South Africa is Thanksgiving! Well, we were able to find an American family who hosted it, and they kindly invited us. Mom brought one of her delicious cheesecakes, which I had helped in baking, and it was devoured. People loved it! I was so excited! I also really liked a chocolate cake there. Well, well, well! Isn’t that obvious! I also played with some kids there. They were really nice! Thanksgiving was great!

Lovely Lesotho 3.

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Tried to learn the Leseba, a traditional instrument, but it was impossible!

With our wonderful guide, Tsebo!
With our wonderful guide, Tsebo!

I groaned and stretched, waking up in our rondavel. We got ready for the day and I went to play. As I was playing, a young shepherd galloped past us on his horse. He looked magnificent. Supposedly he was chasing a different horse that had attempted to escape. After an hour or so, we were back on the horses, going through the magnificently beautiful countryside of Lesotho. We rode for hours upon hours, until at one point a storm threatened to move in. I copied someone we had seen in the village the previous day, and waved my stick, begging the storm to wait. Now, it was just a belief that they had, and wasn’t guaranteed to work, but it did. The day brightened up and got beautiful, all thanks to my magical stick. Immediately after we got into the car, though, it started raining hard. On the way back, we stopped at the highest pub in all of Africa, at Sani Pass.

One thing I’ve learned from traveling the world is: you only live once, so try your hardest to make your only life the best it could be! Anyhow, Lesotho was lovely!

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Our horses enjoy a break with a beautiful view

Lovely Lesotho 2.

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Many of the students at the school.
Many of the students at the school.

We arrived at the school, and got out. All of the kids looked at me, interested. Like the toddler in the healer’s village, they had never seen a white boy before. They also thought that white people were made of candy, because whenever a white person came by in a car, they would throw candy to the children. One of the kids beckoned me. So I climbed up the hill…and ever since then, I had an entourage. They grabbed my arms, and took me from place to place. They made me jump rope, something I wouldn’t normally like doing, and I tried to scare them by acting like a lion, and then by acting like a zombie. Most of them were scared, but there were a few that weren’t. Mom had a crowd too, and so did Inge, a Dutch woman on the tour with us. The kids would rub their hands against the women’s arms, supposedly because they thought that if they did it enough times, they would become white.

A very scary looking storm!
A very scary looking storm!

We also went horseback riding to another village. It came naturally to me. I galloped at one point. The only problem was that my horse tended to ignore me, even if I hit it really hard. I normally am against hitting animals, but there was no other way. Man, that was an obstinate thing!

puppiesWhen we finally got into the village, I looked around, and heard about and saw something that surprised me: a clinic. It was in the middle of nowhere in the countryside! But, it was good for the people and animals living there. The sheep in the area are kept for their wool, so nobody wants anything bad happening to them. All people and animals are supposed to be vaccinated from diseases like rabies and cured of ticks, fleas, and other parasites, so supposedly it was safe to pet them. Supposedly. Apparently, some dog owners still didn’t take care of their dogs properly, so I was only allowed to look, not touch. But what I did see! Four adorable puppies, standing on their hind legs, sucking milk from their mother, who refused to lay down. She looked very tired and hungry.  Tired… sounds very familiar. Because that’s what I was! We sheltered from the rain in our hut and…sorted and stored our memories, in a process called sleep.

Lovely Lesotho 1.

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Our vehicle rode up…to Sani Pass, the border between the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal and Lesotho. We crossed into Lesotho…country #33.  Sani Pass was amazing, the view absolutely stunning.

The Twelve Apostles on our way up to Sani Pass.
The Twelve Apostles on our way up to Sani Pass.

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After admiring the view, we went to a sheep farm. I loved on all the little lambs, and watched sheep get sheared…by hand. It didn’t look very comfortable, but they weren’t complaining, so I won’t complain. One of the sheep was pink, and had a mustache. He started singing, “Yo, what up, it’s yo boy! Guess what? Ya ain’t getting no toy! Gonna spit fire in this track! Oh yeah, fam! Ya better have my back!”* Lol! 😆😆😆! No! That didn’t happen! It would be cool, though.

Traditional Lesotho Healer
Traditional Lesotho Healer

We had lunch at another sheep farm, which had tons of tadpoles in the water. So many! Some of them were seemingly brand new, others were growing legs, and still others looked just like frogs with tails. I also saw a teeny tiny frog! He was so cute! We also saw a local healer. She had been picked in a dream by her ancestors, and went through six months of training. Whenever she needs to heal someone, she asks the ancestors what remedy to use, and often uses herbs. Her house is a rondavel, a circular building, so that her ancestors don’t get trapped in a corner. They only come to her in dreams. She somehow managed to help Dad’s shoulder pain.

Kids all over the world like to play!
Kids all over the world like to play!

I played in the village with the kids. But one kid, at around 3, was so scared of me! He was crying  and crying and crying. Why? Apparently, he had never seen a white boy before, and so, he must have been like, “OH MY GOD! WHAT DID YOU DO TO YOURSELF? DID YOU PEEL YOUR SKIN AWAY?” I’m pretty sure that’s why he reacted in the manner he did.  Our two guides, both being Basotho, shared their stories of the first time they had seen a white person. It can be scary, from what I heard, but because they work in tourism, they got used to it at some point.

Finally, we settled down around the fire and watched some dancing. We eventually joined in, and at the end I jumped into the circle. Everyone cracked up, while I wondered, “What’s so funny?” Still, I joined in in the laughter, and had a great time.

*Reference to Pink Sheep, one of my favorite YouTubers.

The Dazzling Drakensbergs

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We hiked up, up, up… into the dazzling Drakensberg Mountains. We explored all around, at one point seeing a small black bird with a 🎶 VERY long tail-thing 🎶. How could it fly like that? Dunno. Well, as you’ll soon see, our adventure in the Drakensberg Mountains was just beginning. drakensberg

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Safe in the cave!

The rain came. It got very, very wet. Isn’t that obvious? We stopped, and discussed whether to go hide in a nearby cave. All of the sudden, it started hailing! We dashed into the cave and climbed onto a pile of rocks. The whole rest of the cave got wet. LOLOLOLOLOLOL!
We are so prankster gangster! Too bad for the bugs and stuff!

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Amazing rock art of elands.

We had been on a hike to see Bushman cave paintings. The Bushmen, also called San people, are hunter-gatherers, who started out around 100,000 years ago. That’s possibly as old as humanity! Many of the Bushmen were eradicated by farmers, black and white, which is unfortunate, because their paintings are absolutely amazing! The paintings showed light and shadow, and were even carefully detailed. The ones we saw were fairly recent, dated from 300 to 500 years ago, but were painted on top of older paintings originally painted thousands of years ago. One of the paintings was of a lot of eland, but one of them showed signs of…dying. However, our guide explained that it was actually symbolizing a shaman in a trance. We also saw a painting of a hunt, and a dance the shamans did to enter their altered state of consciousness. Another painting showed a bunch of tick marks, seen when shamans start to enter their altered state of consciousness.

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This beautiful rainbow emerged after the intense rain.

The paintings were amazing, however the landscape was no less amazing. Dramatic mountains, completely green, rose up from the ground with lines of rock streaming across them, created when lava pushed up the layers of sedimentary rock. Curved mountains, pointy mountains, mountains above the clouds, you name it! All were there. 🎶  Trees and trees covered the land! They spanned from town to town! 🎶 Actually, there were only short patches of trees. We were informed of controlled burning of the grass in dry season. Why? To  prevent more dangerous fires from happening. Also, when the grass is burned, it grows back greener than before. That means that the grass is getting nutrients from its own ashes. Gross! That’s self-cannibalizing! And wrong! Self cannibalizing? Yuck!

garden-castleWe climbed up, searching for a river. We were on one of the hiking trails near Garden Castle. Then we found it. We scrambled towards the river, which was really more like a stream. We followed it to a series of three pools, where we sat down, and got comfy. After a long rest, we got up, and went back the way we came.

Wow, the Drakensbergs were dazzling!

The Midlands

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We arrived at the Nelson Mandela Capture Site, pretty much in the middle of nowhere, in the midlands of KwaZulu-Natal. They had a café there, as well as a temporary exhibit of Nelson Mandela‘s life, in six stages: character, comrade, leader, prisoner, negotiator, and statesman. He was captured at that very spot, for resisting and protesting against the Apartheid government, on August 5, 1962. Mandela was in prison for 27 years, and the Capture Site is a memorial to him. However, it was not in order, but a larger, permanent exhibit was under construction. The real thing to see, though, was the sculpture of his face. It was a huge thing, and was made of sheets of metal rising from the ground. Ingeniously, you could only see the image of his face from a certain angle. I didn’t know what that angle was, so it completely fooled me, and I only saw it later in a picture my dad had taken of it. What do you know! History in the countryside!

img_4249img_4255Also in the countryside, we stayed at a cute trading post and farm, which had been converted into a quaint guesthouse. I said hello to the horses, explored the nearby nature, and met the farm dogs. There are two Great Danes and one German Shepherd. I didn’t meet the German Shepherd for very long, so I don’t know how old he is, and I don’t remember his name. One Great Dane is a male, his name is Oscar, and he is super sweet. He followed me around everywhere I went, and I loved on him, which he didn’t seem to mind. He is eight years old. He has a mate, I think, but I forgot her name. She’s just as sweet as he is, only she’s way younger, around five. I heard a heartbreaking story about her. She was pregnant, but her owners never saw her puppies. Sad. I know. But, don’t let that cloud your vision of the farm, it was still amazing.

img_1724And lastly, here comes the most important part… reuniting with mom, after she was in a silent meditation retreat for nearly a week. Now, she wasn’t silent the whole time, there were times here and there when she was allowed to speak with the instructor on how she was doing meditating, and at the end they could speak again. Well, reuniting with mom was something special. Because at the end at the day, what’s more special than family?

Wildlife in a Wild Place

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HIPPOS!
HIPPOS!

Our boat undocked, and floated down the river. From time to time we saw pods of hippos. Our guide explained to us how they live. A pod of hippos consists of one dominant male and a lot of females, all his mate! That’s wrong! Occasionally, there are some baby hippos. Normally they know their mother better than their father. Very rarely, a pod also has an old male in it. Whenever a female has a baby male, the father will do something horrible. He will try to kill his own son! That’s nature. Brutal. Sometimes, however, the female successfully protects her son or sons. They will grow up, and chose to stay or to leave. If they stay, they must beat their father in combat. After that, either they take a few of the females, and start a new pod, or take over the pod, and send their father into exile. If they leave, the same thing happens, just with another male. If they lose, they are sent into exile, but can try again. However, they can’t come back to the same pod. The baby females get to stay in their pod, and live a normal life. Including having to mate with their fathers! That I find incredibly disturbing. Well, on the boat cruise we had a wonderful and relaxing time.

Hippo at night
Hippo at night

One night, after having a delicious dinner, we were driving onto the street from the parking lot, when, suddenly, our headlights flashed straight on… a hippo! This was before the cruise, and we found it exciting. It was just grazing right there, right before us. We could even hear it munching. Wow! What a night!

We moved out of his way!
We moved out of his way!

We didn’t just see hippos in and around St. Lucia. We went on a long game drive in Hluhluwe National Park (pronounced ShoShlewy). We saw tons of stuff, but I’ll give you just the highlights: a pride of lions, only up the hill above our van, and a bull elephant, with one tusk, that came dangerously close to us. We were worried it was gonna charge, so our truck backed away. It ended up crossing the road.

Rhino and baby through the binoculars
Rhino and baby through the binoculars

Another highlight was seeing a rhino eating grass, while her baby nursed. So cute! We saw this many times, but didn’t get a view as good. As it was raining, our guide took us to a place where lions and cheetahs had been spotted earlier. We couldn’t see any cheetahs, but we did see something amazing: a huge, male lion yawned, and woke up from his nap, while another male with a black mane approached it. These, our guide explained, were brothers. Eventually, the two lions walked off into the forest. We had an amazing game drive!

Crazy Casablanca

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img_1678We stepped through the door. We were in Casablanca, eating a nice meal at the cheesiest restaurant in town. I won’t tell you the name of the restaurant, but I will give you a hint: it’s the main scene of the old movie *Casablanca*. Yep! We went to Rick’s Café! Of course, it was a complete imposter, but still! Cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesy!
I had a delicious burger! A burger! We hadn’t had burgers for a month! Crazy, huh? However, it *is* healthy. Well, we had a tasty meal at Rick’s Café!

Inside the amazing King Hassan II Mosque
The amazing King Hassan II Mosque

Also in Casablanca, we saw the amazing King Hassan II Mosque! It is the third largest mosque in the entire world, and is made of material almost entirely from Morocco! Wow! That must be hard to do! Apparently, it holds twenty-five thousand people. Imagine twenty-five thousand people, simultaneously praying in the mosque. What a sight that must be! Twenty -five thousand people! Also, when it is hot, or the weather is nice, guess what they do. They open the roof up! It opens in three seconds, and closes in two. Amazing! Unfortunately, we did not get to see them open the roof up, but when they do, I imagine it is amazing. You must be very lucky if you see the roof. Also, we saw a room where they wash themselves before praying. There, they had special, natural de-humidifying columns. I don’t remember what they were made from, but I do remember that the recipe involved raw eggs. Yuck! From what I can tell, Casablanca was CRAZY!

High Hiking

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Standing near one of the caves the family lives in. This bunch of caves is considered a sort of base camp for the family.

Up, up, up, we went, up the rocky hill. I was hiking in the Atlas Mountains with my mom. Dad had a stomach bug, so he couldn’t come. We hiked through the barren landscape through the Todra Gorge, up into the Atlas Mountains. It was a tough and slow hike up, but we got to a small hut near some caves, where Berbers lived. Mom and the guide had tea there. A couple of young girls where there with their grandma. They curiously but shyly watched us from a distance. The guide explained that they stayed with their grandma year-round, while their parents moved around the country in search of food. They were the nomadic Berber people, the indigenous people of Morocco for over 3,000 years. Other cultures came and went, such as the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, the Arabs, the Spanish and French, but all of them found the native Berbers. And so did we! We hiked back down the rocky, barren hill, into the valley and the town by Todra Gorge!

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Me in a dragon mask with our mule

We also hiked near Imlil in a two-day trek to a Berber village and back. I know I said that the Berbers are nomadic, but some of them settled down into villages and towns. We had a long hike, during which we saw an amazing waterfall. But, man, was the waterfall cold! No, no, no, I didn’t get in it! Why would I do that? The spray went everywhere! That’s how I could tell it was cold! The village was pretty cool, though. It was around a couple centuries old. Wow, that’s really old! We stayed the night in the village. Our room was plain, but I’m not complaining. We slept in sleeping bags. Why? Because nights are cold in the Atlas Mountains! We were warm, though. And I found that I prefer sleeping in a sleeping bag to sleeping in a bed! Yes! Really! I think it is because I like my whole body surrounded by warmness and softness. With a sleeping bag, I get that! With a bed, I don’t. Well, the next day, we loaded our stuff on the mule and headed back to Imlil!

Mainly Insane Marrakech

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The main square was absolutely insane. People walking monkeys around, snakes and cobras at an unsafe distance… some people even grabbed snakes and ran towards other tourists. Others tried to prank us by running towards us with fake snakes. Not cool! One guy ran towards us with a snake. We scattered and ran, and I had to dodge another guy with a snake. Only later did I realize that the second snake was fake. I passed the food stalls and vendors, eventually finding Mom and Dad far from the main plaza. But, man, was that CRAZY!

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Had an ice cream break, too!

Also in Marrakech, we had a break from a straight month of tagine and couscous. I’m not saying that I hate Moroccan food, but it can be repetitive, and not very diverse. We had a couple of pizzas, and some paninis. We also had some good Wifi. We stayed at a hostel and I met some epic people. The young adults were too cool for my parents. I mean, my parents just didn’t feel like socializing as much as I did. I met someone from South Africa living in London, and showed her my videos. And I talked to a huge group of Norwegians. And I had an epic time. As for the plaza… that was DANG insane!

The Super Sahara

Oh yeah!

My Moroccan Grandma, Mahelo in Berber.
My Moroccan Grandma, Mahelo in Berber.

We stood outside the hotel, and waited. It was five o’ clock in the morning, I had had food poisoning on the bus since midnight, and the hotel was completely locked.  We knocked on the door. Nothing happened. We waited. A man came from next door. He tried to talk to us in French, but we didn’t understand him. Dad asked if he spoke English. The man said that he didn’t. Uh oh. Dad asked if the man spoke Spanish. He did. Whew! Dad told him of our situation, and he let us into the hotel. He was the owner, apparently, and his name was Ibrahim. We slept in the lobby. I was worried that my sickness would keep me awake, but I was able to sleep for a few hours. Ibrahim’s family was very hospitable.

Our new Berber family.
Our new Berber family.

I have to say, they are the nicest family I’ve ever met in the entire world. They did so much to make sure I got better. They gave me herbal tea, and made sure I got lots of rest. Simply put, they took care of me like family. We even had dinner at their house! A few hours after the family treated me, I was feeling much better. By the next day, I was fine.

So many fossils!
So many fossils!

We actually ended up going on a tour. We went all around the desert, avoiding the dunes. We bought a bright pink geode from a mine, took pictures of a baby desert fox, and walked on fossils. My favorite part was the fossils. The fossils were of fish, millions of years ago. At that time, the Sahara Desert was actually an ocean. After the ocean dried up, and it became desert, the fish died and fossils were formed. Throughout all history, those fossils were still there, right out in the open. The nomadic Berbers found them there, in the open… and left them alone. Today, however, they are used for countertops and similar things.  At a nomad’s tent, we had a Berber pizza, which is like tons of vegetables stuffed inside a huge, circular loaf of bread.

Camels into the desert!
Camels into the desert!

We also spent one night out in the desert, way in dunes. We rode on camels to the camp and back, which was pretty cool. In fact, it was more work for us than the camels! With each step, I leaned forward and backward. Another step, forward and backward. And on and on and on and on.  When we finally got to the campsite, we got settled and I played in the sand. It’s so fine, the whole desert is like one big beach, minus the water. And the crowdedness. I played for hours and hours, until it was time for bed. Sleeping was not great. The bed I had was as hard as a rock, and it was so cold that I had to wear thermals and have two blankets. But overall, the desert was great. Lastly, we were back on camels, and the beasts brought us all the way back. Wow! What a way to leave the desert!

A Fun Time in Fes

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Adam, Aziz, and me

We passed through the grand Blue Gate, into the medina. We were in Fes, Morocco, just starting our time and getting to our hostel. The owner, Aziz, was so nice and hospitable. He even invited us to his house to see his family. He has a toddler, whose name is Adam, and an adorable little baby. Aziz has tons of live chickens upstairs. I tried to approach them and scare them, but something went wrong. Five chickens left the room, and ran all over the house! Three of them were chased back into the room, while the I picked up and carried the other two, one at a time. It was quite an adventure for Adam! Aziz also helped us get a tour all around the medina, or old quarter.

Overlooking the Tannery. It stank!
Overlooking the Tannery. It stank!

We saw loads of things, including a tannery, and some beautiful courtyards. A tannery is a place where they make leather. And from what I’ve seen, they STINK! I’m not kidding. The tannery we visited smelled like a massacre. It was so strong, I had to go back into the shop. Ew, ew, ew, ew, EW!!! I’m normally not the one to be grossed out, but that place REEKED. There’s nothing to compare it to, the death-smell was so strong. I saw them scrape the skin from fur, and… it was just so gross. But the grossness didn’t last.

tilesWe saw one beautiful court that belonged to a madrasa, basically a high school, but in Arabic. Tiled mosaics were everywhere. We also peeked through a door on the side of the street to see… an absolutely stunning mosque. It was so big, and covered in lavish quartz. The light bounced all around and dazzled our eyes. Wow! We had a fun time in Fes!

 

Fresh Chefchaouen

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img_1488We scrambled up the muddy slope, trying to avoid spiky branches. We were in the Rif Mountains around Chefchaouen, taking a long hike to see a waterfall. As it turned out, there really wasn’t much of a waterfall, but it did lead to a pond with a lot of caves in the surrounding cliff. It was a beautiful place. In fact, it influenced my writing. I hope to make a whole story based on it. On our way back, we saw some monkeys. I didn’t even know that they had monkeys in Morocco! Did you? Well, turns out they do. Mom got some great pics! One baby monkey was on top of a tree, kinda far away. He was so cute, though! The monkeys got closer and closer, until they were right above us. We were worried they were going to attack us, so we continued back down the trail. When we got back to the village below the waterfall, it was like a party. Haha. 😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄😄. Fooled you so hard! If you read my post Terrific Tangier, you probably didn’t fall for it. As I said, I’m not that famous. People continued on with their days and lives, just as we did. We hopped on a shared taxi and away to Chefchauen!
In Chefchauen, we didn’t really do much, but we did walk around and eat new foods. Chefchauen is the bluest city I have ever seen. In some streets, even the streets themselves are blue! Wow! One night, I tried meatball tajin. Yummy! It’s very good! It’s my favorite Moroccan meal! Meatbaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaalls!   I also tried pigeon and rabbit. The pigeon tasted a bit like chicken, but not just like chicken. I don’t know how to describe the rabbit, but it sure was tasty. Savory. Yum, yum, yum!
dsc_5154One day, we went to the countryside near Bab Taza in the Rif mountains. There, the main crop is cannabis, a crop used to make marijuana. Don’t worry, we didn’t smoke any marijuana. We went hiking in the nearby mountains. It was a good, long hike. At night, we all gathered around and read some Moroccan folk tales. A lot of them have to do with death and marriage. Yuck!

Terrific Tangier

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Jammin’

We stepped into the maze of pathways, the Kasbah. Suddenly, the attitude changed. It rang out, ‘Everybody Dance Now’. Haha. No. Just kidding. The attitude didn’t change. I’m not that well-known. We eventually found our way into a courtyard. One building held a few men who make local music and mint tea together. The music was magical. They used a violin and a fat, guitar-like object with a bent neck. I got to try playing the guitar-like instrument. I made a couple of tunes up. I didn’t quite match up with the violin. Okay, in truth, I was doing something completely different from the violin. Pretty good for a first try, though. We then listened to some more music, watched the sunset, and had some more mint tea, as if my mom and dad hadn’t had enough. Then, we went back home, and later explored the town of Tangier even more.

img_2815The American Legation was an interesting place. It mainly talked about how Moroccan history and American history interconnected. As we first walked in, I saw a poster that said, “Keep mum; she’s not so dumb.” I was a little confused.  I thought that when they said ‘keep mum’, I thought they were saying ‘mom’ like the British. This made me shout out, “That’s so sexist!” My parents explained to me that the poster was really saying, “Be quiet. She might be a spy.”
dsc_4347In 1777, Morocco became the first country to recognize American independence, and establish diplomatic relations. In 1822, Morocco gave a legation to the United States. A legation is basically like an embassy. Mark Twain once wrote, There is no job worse than working for the legation in Tangier. If a man were to commit a horrible crime, then his sentence should be to be working for the legation in Tangier. Only one day would be torture enough for the average man. While in the legation, we learned about pigsticking. Pigsticking is an indigenous sport. A bunch of people ride on horses, hunting down a wild boar with spears. It can be dangerous, but it is only fatal to the boar.
dsc_4365Below the terrace, there is a small patio with a tortoise the size of my little head. The tortoise basically had the whole place to himself, but his area wasn’t blocked off, so I came to say hi. At first, he was scared of me, but seemed to forget about his fear. I was able to scratch his hard little head. He clearly didn’t want any scratches under the chin, though. Every time he was going somewhere, he would go very fast, but then stop, seem to forget what he was doing, and then head in a different direction. Finally, he ended up hiding among some plants. Tangier was terrific!

It’s a Small World

Me with Dr. Dean
Me with Dr. Dean

Three years ago, Dean Jacobs visited my school in Fayetteville, Arkansas. He is a wildlife photographer and also is the author of Wonderous Creatures and Wonderous Journey. And here I am in Uganda, staying in the same hotel as him.

“It’s a small world,” he said.

He did a video with me about it. It was short, like me. That’s funny Smiling face with open mouthSmiling face with open mouth and smiling eyesFace with tears of joySmiling face with open mouthSmiling face with open mouthFace with tears of joySmiling face with open mouth and smiling eyesSmiling face with open mouth. It is a small world, after all. Watch the YouTube video here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7IEJosRyrg

#MagicalKenya

Playing on Diani Beach
Playing on Diani Beach

It’s about time for me to wrap up Kenya. Awwwwww! Loudly crying faceFace screaming in fearLoudly crying face. My favorite hotel is Diani Reef Resort in Diani. It has a buffet and a pool. It was also right next to the beach. As well as all that, they had a kids’ club and kids’ activities. My favorite restaurant is Camp Carnelly’s in Naivasha. There I had the best burger in my life. I enjoy Hell’s Gate National Park. The break, the save (from crashing a bike), the hike, all of it. I especially like the rock-hyraxes. I also enjoy the beach. Snorkeling, playing in the sand, swimming in the pool, everything. I also like Ol Pejeta and the Kuku Joint and the wedding. I got to play with lots of kids about my age! I also liked our time in Nairobi. Man, we did so much there! The safari walk, Bomas, the giraffe center, and the animal orphanage were just some of the things in Nairobi. I remember from the animal orphanage that when they take young calves by the cages, the lions, cheetahs, leopards, and serval go crazy. It affects the lions the most. One lion had rolled on its back, symbolizing our playful puppy, but the next moment all the lions pace up and down, hunger and murder in their eyes, trying to get to that calf. The calf is put right next to the serval’s cage, so close that the only thing that prevents the serval from pouncing on the young calf is the side of the cage. Even though the serval only wants to play with the calf, the calf is scared to death.

In Nairobi, I also play with friends and go to the market. I played Minecraft with my new friend Taye that I had met on Jasmine’s birthday party. That day she had turned five, the biggest party of her life. Taye is a nine-year-old boy with an American mom and a Kenyan dad. Taye also has a little brother named Micah. Micah is four years old.

If you are wondering where we are staying in Nairobi, we are staying with my parents’ friends Alex and Tabitha. I have lots of fun playing with their daughters Jasmine and Njoki (jo-KI) . Njoki is three. Jasmine just turned five. My mom baked a delicious cheesecake for them. Jasmine savored it. Njoki tried to scoop it up, but she hadn’t learned yet. I fed it to her. I let her try to feed herself the last bite. When I checked her plate again it was gone! My mom gave Tabitha the recipe.

“It’s all about the Philadelphia Cream Cheese, ” mom said.

Overall, Kenya is beautiful. The open savannah, the white sand beaches, even the people. You never know what you’ll find in a country… until you go there.

Diani Beach

Camel ride on the beach
Camel ride on the beach

Sleeping on the train
Sleeping on the train

It was late at night. The train still had not come yet. I curled up in a ball like a kitty cat and closed my eyes. Suddenly – Tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu tu. Something had woken me up. The train had finally arrived. We ate dinner. Then I climbed back up to my bed and closed my eyes – I was asleep. Dad woke me up early the next day to have breakfast. We ate – then lazed around. The last eight hours were boring. The train had a bathroom – so we didn’t need to stop. They said it would be 14 hours. Actually it was 18 hours. The train left at midnight and they didn’t serve lunch or an extra dinner, so you can imagine how hungry we were by the time we got off the train.

My new friend Jason
My new friend Jason

We took a taxi to Diani Beach. The ferry there took forever! When we got there we stared at the hotel Diani Reef Resort. We ate dinner then went to our room. There was a leak in the ceiling, so we went to change our room. Finally we found the right room. The next day we ate breakfast then chilled for most of the day. We hung out by the beach. I had so much fun playing with my new friend Jason! Then the pool – and afterwards walked out of our resort to the Barclays . We bought a few things at the Nakumat. Next we went back to our hotel. When we came back to our room we made an amazing discovery. There was a monkey under our inside table! We had forgotten to lock our sliding glass door to our balcony! They had stolen our coffee, sugar, and cookies. They had also eaten all our bananas, leaving us just the peels.

The monkey left the peels
The monkey left the peels

“I was gonna eat one of those bananas, ” my dad said.

The room was a mess. Sugar was everywhere, muddy paw prints were on my parents’ bed, and banana peels could be found on the table. So while we ate dinner, our room was cleaned. When we got back, we showered and slept.

We woke up early the next morning to go snorkeling. We had a great time. We saw colorful fish in red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo, purple, pink, and black coral. There was one skinny yellow fish that was about a foot long! It was swimming above a green coral. We also saw a whole school of gray fish.

Jellyfish Stings
Jellyfish Stings

When we got back we went to the beach. I played in the water. Then, excruciating pain touched my knees and wrapped around my wrist. I looked at the jellyfish’s tentacle. It was gray with blue rings. It thought it was an octopus.

“Oh my god, I hope I don’t die,” I thought.

I knew that the Blue-Ringed Octopus was the size of one’s hand, but venomous enough to kill hundreds on people in one bite. I pinched the tentacle. The creature let go. If you want to know what it felt like, it felt like the pain of fire mixed with the pain of poison. That hurts! I didn’t even cry. Not one tear. The stings were healed with medicinal cream. By morning I was better. Even so, some of the stings were still visible a few days later! On the last day we just hung out at the beach. Luckily, there were no more stinging jellyfish!

 

Hiking through Hell’s Gate with a Smile

Inside Hell's Gate
Inside Hell’s Gate

A bike ride through the park
A bike ride through the park

Whoosh! The wind flew past my bike. I was going downhill – and very fast, too. Bump! Then I ran over a rock the size of a soup bowl. I went all over the place. Both me and mom thought I was going to eat it. I just barely saved myself. Then Dad came on a purple school bus. Fifteen minutes ago Dad’s bike pedal had fallen off. They could not fix Dad’s bike. He had to take the bus instead. When we saw Dad next about an hour had passed. Then we had lunch.

Lunch Thief
Lunch Thief

There was a cute Vervet monkey trying to steal our food. We had to defend our food with a stick. Next we hiked through Hell’s Gate gorge. The canyon itself is actually called Hell because once, the ground opened up and people fell in. My gosh!

There we saw some caves in the rocks. Our guide said that the biggest ones belonged to the baboons. The smallest ones belonged to cheetahs. The middle ones belonged to leopards. There were also African Hunting Dogs that lived in holes. All of their holes were high up, so that when it rained, the animals were still safe. Luckily they didn’t hang around the canyon during daytime. The animals had adapted very well to their environment. They could all swim – even the cheetahs and leopards.

Our Guide
Our Guide

Our guide was a Maasai guy. He gave me a Maasai name: Olelemaya

When we got back we had three hours to bike nine miles to our camp. We had to bike at least three miles an hour. Then, we biked 1.5 miles in thirty minutes. After that, in one hour we biked 3 miles.

Rock Hyrex
Rock Hyrex

We stopped for about fifteen minutes at a big rock formation that looked like a really steep and bare hill. There we saw some rodents, called rock-hyraxes.They looked like big brown guinea pigs. The adults were about 2-4 pounds. There was a little baby suckling from its mother. It was about 1/2 pound. There were so cute!

We had to bike very fast without stopping to get to the rock-hyraxes, because of the numerous buffalo we were biking past.  When we finally got back, we were exhausted. We slept for 11 hours. When I woke up, my butt still ached from the day before. After all, it was still worth it.

#Uganda

Swimming at Red Chilli
Swimming at Red Chilli

Hey, everyone! ! Now it’s time that I have to leave Uganda. Aww Loudly crying face. Uganda – so far – is the ultimate paradise. It is my favorite country. Of course, Ireland and Turkey were fun. Japan and Honduras are friendly. Bali and Panama were paradises, too. Rwanda was beautiful. Still, Uganda is my favorite because I got to raft the Nile.

We spent nearly two weeks there, but we stayed at only three hotels run by just two companies. In Jinja, we stayed at Explorers Backpackers, which is run by Nile River Explorers (NRE). That place is a backpacker hostel. It has a pool table and a television. It also has a bar. We stayed there six nights total. On the last day, July 15, 2015, exactly one month after my 10th birthday and on my father’s 41st birthday, we rafted the Victoria-Nile with Nile River Explorers. It was awesome. We went down some scary rapids.
Then we headed to Red Chili Hideaway in Kampala. We stayed a total of nine nights at Red Chili Hideaway. There they had a pool table, a pool, a dart board, a volleyball pitch, a television room, dorm beds, private rooms, en suites, and camping. There I made up a game called 15 ball. I played it with Dean Jacobs’ (I called him Dr. Dean) friend Max (from Nebraska) and our new friend Gustavo (from England). I also had fun in the swimming pool.

We went to the Ndere Center in Kampala. They fed us from a buffet and showed us traditional dancing from Uganda. I also toured the National Mosque in central Kampala. That was boring.

One day we went to Red Chili Camp in Murchison Falls National Park. There, I got so close to a hippo that it was about the distance between this blog and your face. We went on a couple game drives and a boat tour. We also got to see baboons, warthogs, and hippos in our camp. Both nights we were there I helped them start a fire.

In total we ate at eight restaurants in Uganda. My favorite place was All Friends Place in Jinja. Next was The Lawns in Kampala. After that was Red Chili Hideaway in Kampala. The Sailing Club in Jinja was #4. My fifth favorite was the market place in central Kampala. I like Explorers Backpackers next.

I really liked rafting the Nile and our time in Murchison. You go Uganda.

Epic Murchison Falls Park

James and Globe

One day we left Red Chilli Kampala and took a five-hour van to Murchinson Falls National Park in Uganda. By the time we got there it was around dinner time. We ordered late and our dinner came at eight, one hour after we had scheduled.

That night a hippo walked into our camp. That was so cool! She grazed and grazed, blocking tents. When my father and I were in our tent, the hippo completely circled our tent. Then she grazed in front of our next door friends’ tent.

Gloria the hippo
Gloria the hippo

In the morning we were woken up early to go on a game drive. We saw hippos, warthogs, elephants, buffalo, Uganda Kobs, Jackson’s Hartebeests, and lions. When we got back, there were giant warthogs in camp! There was also a baboon on a picnic table. A couple hours later we went on a boat safari. We saw many hippos. We saw birds, too. When we got back Mom put in our orders for dinner and our packed breakfast. We stayed up late and chatted with our friends from England, Italy, Germany, and the US. The next morning, we woke up early, drove a mini game drive, then left.

Murchinson Falls Park is awesome!

Traditional African Dancing at the Ndere Center

Dance Party!
Dance Party!

Last night we went to the Ndere Center in Kampala, Uganda. They show traditional dances while you eat dinner. Before or after every single dance, they talked about the dance. Many people would dance to a song at once. It was traditional dances danced to traditional music. They also had one dance from Rwanda and drums from Burundi.

At one point they joked about Obama. They said that Obama was not a name but an acronym. They said it stood for Original Black African Managing America.

There were a lot of kids there, too. I meant three others there, but there had to be at least twenty other kids. The kids I met were ages 2, 4, 5, and 10. The four year old was named Andrew. He was from Germany, I think. He was speaking German. The ten year old was from Uganda.  His name was Samuel and was one of the dancers in the show. I think the other two are from Uganda.  At the end we all mixed and danced and partied and it was just fun.

#Rwanda

Rwanda Flag

Hey everyone! Now it’s time for me to leave Rwanda. Loudly crying face. Rwanda is the densest country in Africa that is not an island. It is one of the smallest countries in Africa. The only country that is smaller is Burundi. It also as twelve million people. That’s amazing!

These are my favorite things about Rwanda.

The number one hotel in Rwanda that we stayed at is Hotel du Lac in Rusizi. It is the best because it has a restaurant, bar, pool, and a pool table. The food was good, too.

The top three restaurants in Rwanda that we have eaten at are Top View Hill Hotel Restaurant, Bourbon Coffee, and Shokola. Top View Hill was the best, and Shokola was number three. They have good food!

I had lots of fun. My favorite activity was touring the Islands in Lake Kivu. It was so fun! I also liked trekking Colobus Monkeys in Nyungwe forest. That was fun, too.

Something else that was fun was learning about their cultural history. I learned that the they used hunting dogs before they were colonized. They gave their dogs wild game meat to eat. I also learned that they made fabric from bark. I learned that the Belgians built a modern palace for the Rwandan King. I also learned that the traditional king had a milk hut and a beer hut. A virgin girl was to live in the milk hut. No men or boys were allowed in the milk hut. A virgin boy was to live in the beer hut. No women or girls were allowed in the beer hut.

In Rwanda, there are many kinds of primates. I learned that they have over 15 different kinds of primates in Rwanda. These include gorillas and chimps, humans and colobi, and all kinds of monkeys.

That lunch was goo-ood!
That lunch was goo-ood!

The food was good, too. I specifically liked the dairy and the break from vegetables. There aren’t many green vegetables in Rwanda. The only vegetables in Rwanda are starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes. Peas are also in the diet of the locals. They also had some goat, cow, and fish.

The people were very nice. They were very helpful by giving directions when we needed them. They beamed when I said “Muraho”, hello to them in their language. They said “Muraho” back to me. They were very friendly.

It was all like BOOM! It was awesome. Rwanda amazed me, because I knew nothing about it before I started. Before the trip, I thought it would be open savannah. No one would think that a part of Eastern Africa like Rwanda is hilly and chilly. I have never been in more of an amazing country.

Lake Kivu Islands

Napolan Island - James

The other day, we took a boat tour of a few of Lake Kivu’s many islands.

First we boated to Napoleon Island. Then we got out and hiked. As soon as we got out we saw some 🐄🐄 cows. Then we saw a snakeskin. We walked on the trail. There was a lot of 🐄 Pile of feces cow poop on the trail. We heard loud screeching noises all around us. We thought our guide said they were birds. When he showed us, they were not birds. They were bats. Huge fruit bats. They freaked out my parents.

At the top of Napolean Island
At the top of Napoleon Island

When we got to the top, our guide showed us 🐄 cow island. I called it Older man Cat faceTropical fish Grandpa Catfish Island because it looked like an old catfish. There were many 🐄🐄 cows on Older manCat faceTropical fish Grandpa Catfish Island and Napoleon Island. We got back down, saw many lizards, and then saw the 🐄🐄 cows again. Some of the 🐄🐄 cows were calves.

Monkey
Monkey

Then we headed to King Island. There we saw a Monkey monkey. We gave the Monkey monkey some BananaBanana bananas. He peeled and ate all the BananaBanana bananas.

Then we went to Peace Island. People camped on it. We swam there. We had to head back because there was a storm.

Our day was fun. We had seen a Monkey monkey, some 🐄🐄 cows, bats, and lizards. It was a very exciting day.

The Rwandan Genocide

Note: I wasn’t allowed into all parts of the museum. I wrote this post myself.  (I write all posts myself.)
– James Marshall, Round the World Kid – age 10

 

The Rwandan Genocide was one of the worst things that happened in the history of the Earth. It is so bad it is only comparable to what happened with Hitler and the Jews and the Genocide in Cambodia. In just twenty minutes 1,000 people were killed. That’s 50 people per minute. In total 1,000,000 people were killed, and 2,000,000 people were misplaced. At that time, there were only 7,000,000 people in the country.

None of this hate was present before the late 1800s. It all stirred up when Rwanda was colonized.
First the Germans came in 1895 and declared Rwanda a German colony. When the Germans lost in World War I, the Belgians came and took it over. There was some good in colonization. The colonists brought technology, education, healthcare, knowledge. But for the most part, colonization was bad.

When the Belgians introduced the Identity Card, they classified everyone as Hutu, Tutsi, and Twa. You were classified based on the number of cows you or the oldest male member of your family had. Tutsi people had at least ten cows. The Hutu majority had less than ten cows. According to the Belgians, 1% was Twa, 15% was Tutsi, and 84% was the Hutu majority. The Belgians preferred the Tutsi and used them in controlling the country. The Tutsi were getting the best jobs, educations, and the most power. This made some of the Hutu afraid that they would take their jobs and money and other things away. After time, some of the Hutu’s fear turned into hate, which eventually turned into pure evil. When the Hutus were put into power, some of them separated Tutsis from Hutus at school. Some Hutus started killing Tutsis, though it was small scale. When Rwanda gained independence from Belgium in 1962, they put the Hutu majority in power. In the early 1990s, some of the Hutu started preparing for genocide. They were taught how to use guns. Those who didn’t have guns, which was most people, used a machete.

The U.N. was tipped off. They knew that something terrible would happen. But none of the world, not Japan, not Russia, none of Europe, not even the U.S. interfered. One of the most horribly amazing parts of the story is that many countries had the ability to stop it, but they chose not to. They were not just tipped off like, “hey, we’re getting suspicious”. They knew very specific details. They knew that Rwanda was borrowing money from French banks to buy thousands of machete from China. There were two thousand troops from Western countries inside Rwanda at the time. They just came in and took the white people out.

One day, the Hutu president was in a plane with the president of Burundi when his plane was shot down. There were no survivors. The Hutu people said, “Hey look, the Tutsi have killed our president”. A few hours later, the genocide started. No one knows who shot the plane down. It could have been a Tutsi person, like the Hutu said. It also could have been the Hutu themselves.

Many Tutsi was killed during the genocide. Not all the Hutu were killing the Tutsi. Some Hutu resisted the genocide. Those who did where also killed. Innocent men, women and children were killed. Even young babies were killed. So many young adults were killed that when I go walking around with my parents 20 years later, we almost never see someone my parents’ age.

But there is also a story of hope inside. A mostly Tutsi army came back and stopped the Genocide. No other country helped them fight, not even their neighbors, Uganda, Burundi, Tazania or the D.R.C. They were all alone in fighting. Twenty years later, there are very tall skyscrapers in Kigali. It is very organized. People even stop at red lights and crosswalks! This might seem casual to you, but no one did this in Uganda or Kenya! Now they are making a huge effort to forgive and move forward. It sounds very hard to forgive, but it is even harder to forget. Imagine being a survivor of the Genocide and your family members have been killed. How hard is it to forgive and not seek revenge?

The impact of the story on me is like running into a brick wall. It just amazed me that Rwanda was like that 20 years ago. Rwanda is just so clean and organized today that it is hard to image that people were being killed in mass 20 years ago. In fact, Kigali looks like this!

Downtown Kigali today
Downtown Kigali today

Rwanda King’s Palace Museum

Royal Calf
Royal Calf

One day, we went to a The King’s Palace Museum in Nyanza, Rwanda. There were three parts. One part was the traditional palace, the next was the royal cattle, and finally was the modern palace.

Royal Cattle
Royal Cattle

My favorite part was the royal cattle. First we saw the big adult cattle, and then we saw their baby cattle. When we saw the adult cattle, the royal cattle caretaker came and let us in. He brought a pregnant cow. The royal cattle are special because they all have horns on their heads and beads on their heads. They are also very smart and sweet, like pet dogs. The royal calves were like this too. Their ages ranged from five months to one month. When they reached a year old, their horns were fully grown.

Before that, we saw the traditional hut complex. First we saw the king’s large hut. It had a bed for two. Even though the wife was not allowed to climb over the husband to get into the bed, the husband could climb over the wife. Next we saw the milk hut. At the front were many jugs. The biggest was used for shaking milk to make butter. One jug had the purpose of storing milk. A different one was used in collecting milk from the cow. Another was used in drinking for the adults. An alternative jug was used in drinking for the children. The smallest one was used for the little babies to drink from. Every family had a pot to shake milk into butter with. When their daughter got married, she took one with her. This tradition still goes on today. Next we saw the beer hut. The pots there were made to store beer and to test beer.

The next museum was the modern palace. I mainly looked at the maps of Rwanda’s kingdom. In the 19th century, their kingdom extended into the D.R.C, Uganda, Brundi, and Tanzania, but when Europe divided Africa, their kingdom shrunk.

It was all very nice.