cookin and eatin

My friends made the most AMAZING veggie and red bean curry. You know what made it so amazing? They accidentally doubled the coconut milk the recipe called for😍

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We were having a collaborative sort of meal. They had the curry, and I brought wee cornmeal pancakes (which were quite tasty and I have no memory whatsoever of where I got the recipe HAHA OH WELL!) I also brought this tasty creation:

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For New Years I made a hippiefied version of the traditional Southern combo of beans+greens+pig which involved

  • Dried mung beans (what I had!)
  • Trader Joe’s vegan chorizo
  • a bunch of collard greens
  • a can of fire roasted tomatoes

And I think very little else. It was REALLY good.

My friends sent me home with leftover curry (yessss!) as well as some homemade bread. You can’t really tell by the picture but Kyle, a man, was in charge of slicing the bread which meant the slices were comically large. I cut them in half and still had a hard time finishing the meal below… one slice with hot curry, one slice with cool avocado. Swoon.

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When the curry was gone (boooo) I made another round of avocado toast and then made one with cheddar and a fried egg. Plus a homemade latte on the side. Mm.

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I got some gorgeous butter lettuce at the farmer’s market and used it to make these lettuce wraps with a few modifications (used frozen veggie crumbles instead of turkey because the ground turkey was shockingly expensive, used bell pepper instead of cucumber because that’s what I had). They were REALLY good!

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Oh yeah that first picture was taken before I remembered to put the nuts on top. I didn’t have peanuts so I used cashews. V good.

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Another Thai-ish recipe involved this:

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A Christmas gift from my dad. The ingredient list was pretty wholesome but the sodium! Yikes!

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Fortunately I bulked it up to quite a few servings so the salt was diluted. Added:

  • Cod
  • bell peppers
  • mushrooms

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Overhyped recipes that I found a bit boring:

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Ottolenghi’s whole roasted cauliflower was a whole ordeal of time and energy and blanching and butter basting for something that tasted like… roasted cauliflower I could have made in 20 minutes. The tahini herb sauce on the side was legit though. I’d make that again.

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And I made The Stew. And thought it was…. too thin and pretty boring! Maybe exciting for someone who’s literally never made anything with curry flavors before?

Anyway, the sweet potatoes below came from a recipe I immediately dog-eared in the latest issue of Eating Well and they were SOOOOOOOO good. Make you some miso maple sweet potatoes. You’ll be happy you did.

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Don’t worry I ate more avocado.

A random meal consisting of trader joe’s pumpkin pancakes, two fried eggs, avocado and salsa.

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Lunch from monuts… salad, soup (I think it was a chicken lemon orzo kale combo), and their EXCELLENT avocado toast which involves deeply buttery bread, pepitas, and spice.

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Baked sweet potato+ seasoned black beans+ avocado+ BIG drenching of Trader Joe’s pepita salsa. Mmm.

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Behind the scenes of the blog:

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Kitty also was interested in the dinner below which is quite funny since she’s a carnivore and the meal was vegan. Quorn burger+ toast with hummus and zhoug+ kale chips.

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Amazing flavors…

whole milk greek yogurt with lemon curd and coconut granola

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Buffalo hummus with celery (SO tangy! And it tastes like buffalo wings with bleu cheese dressing even though it is dairy free!)

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Cooking for others…

The dietitians in my network who I meet with every few months had a potluck. I made melting potatoes (fine but not extraordinary) and threw together a mung bean dal with fire roasted tomatoes, coconut milk, and spices that ended up being quite tasty!

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There were also various Whole Foods salads, and some homemade green bean casserole with a biscuit topping that I COULD NOT STOP EATING. Mmm. And an unpictured dessert section (because really, honest, dietitians like dessert too)

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Another night I cooked for a dude. I made my aunt’s uh-mazing salmon.

Briefly…. You pat off a salmon filet with paper towels, then rub absurd amounts of grated ginger into it to make a thick coating over the flesh of the salmon. Then put on an absurd amount of curry powder in a thick coating on top of the ginger. Then heat up a pan til it’s screaming hot, put in some olive oil, and put the salmon in, skin side up (ginger and curry side down). Cook until it releases from the pan, and cook just a few minutes on the skin side. THEN, take the salmon out of the pan, add a bit more olive oil, and dump in some sliced leeks. Cook them til golden and put them on top of the salmon. UGH SO GOOD.

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I paired the very excellent salmon with polenta and an arugula salad with Craisins and goat cheese and nuts. QUITE the classy homemade meal.

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welcoming spring

Squeezed in a bunch of fun things as winter turned to spring.

We had a lovely baby sprinkle for my cousin who had her second baby (and first baby girl!) in February.

A family friend made THE CUTEST little crudites I have ever beheld. I don’t know what made the ranch-y dip pink but it was so cute!

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The rest of the spread was also great. I love deviled eggs! And cheese.

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Super fun evening out on the town… The Pinhook, a bar in downtown Durham, had a DOLLY PARTON BIRTHDAY PARTY! There were karaoke performances. There were drag queens (“” It’s a good thing I was born a girl, otherwise I’d be a drag queen.”- Dolly Parton). There was a costume contest. It was such good clean fun!

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Then my friend Colton had a Star Wars brunch. Star Wars? YES. Brunch? YES.

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Colton made a German pancake/Dutch baby and it was soooooo delish.

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The rest of the spread was quite tasty too (I made Smitten Kitchen’s breakfast apple crisp).

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Colton’s coworkers who joined us were totally adorable… one of them is the daughter of two people who were in an 80s era Star Wars fan club (!) and got collectibles by mail order (!) which we enjoyed flipping through

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AND THEN Colton chose to diminish all that awesomeness by deciding we should watch the horrible, terrible, no good, very bad Star Wars PREQUELS. Idiot.

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How Colton and I interact:

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More time with my cousin and the fam. Doggos:

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Toddler:

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C has a great play kitchen and enjoys taking your pizza order. However, his great love is tools and taking things apart so he spent a great deal of time poking his toy screwdriver into the oven to “repair” it.

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More fun: hosted a clothing swap! As usual went a bit loco on the snacks (it included: homemade chocolate chip cookies, sangria, ants on a log, red pepper dip, a billion kinds of cheese and crackers from Trader Joe’s)

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This was the stash AFTER EVERYONE HAD LEFT. Made a lotttt of donations to the local thrift shop.

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Went on a really fun girls’ night with the work crew. It’s funny, we look blitzed in this picture and we were not at all hahaha. We were just excited it was warm enough to sit outside I think.

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I continue to have fun by spending too much money on food, oy. This is a night I hit up the taco truck… brisket taco and cheese pupusa with delicious cabbage slaw on top. I was taking a picture of it because my coworker was talking about tacos and I couldn’t stop thinking about them for three days til I finally bought them and I had to text her a pic of my loot. Lola is VERY interested in tacos haha.

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Bento box from my favorite sushi guys… sashimi, crunch roll, and spicy tuna. Plus free miso soup mm.

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I still often do my coffee and crossword weekend ritual at my favorite coffee spot.

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And pop into Guglhupf for the occasional coffee beverage and beautiful, complimentary, teeny tiny perfect cookie.

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At the beginning of 2019 my resolution was to say yes to more things. That included the activities above and also… getting on dating apps again LOL. I went on an ABSURD amount of dates from January to February 2019. Like, one time I accidentally ended up with two in one day.

As a result I:

  1. Had a lot of fun.
  2. Met someone I am exclusively dating now (!) which I think I will jinx if I talk about it yet (plus I have a weird tradition of getting dumped/ghosted in April?! So I will wait until May hahahaha)
  3. Met a dude who kind of blew it with me on the romantic front but who I think I will be good friends with! So I will chronicle my adventures with him.

Hurray for people who will split THREE ENTREES with you at brunch hahahahahaha. (I promise we took home leftovers of the blueberry pancakes).

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He lives in Greensboro so I got to check out some of the scene there including this coffee shop with amazingly named and amazing tasting beverages… I had the Bill Murray and it was soooooooo good.

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My Greensboro pal has a dog who is just as cute and zoomy as they come. (Lots of dudes include cute dogs in their pics on dating apps and then it turns out IT’S NOT THEIR DOG and it is total false advertising, but this doggo is the real deal). We took him to a lake for adventures one day.

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And whilst there I took a fun self portrait in this cool piece of art.

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Speaking of cute animals I went to my fave coffee shop one day and there were cute reptiles there! They had a rep from the NC zoo doing a creature day for little kiddos! It was so cute.

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And the cats of my neighborhood also continue to be amusing.

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I participated in basketballs season to a reasonable degree. I made these beauuuuuuutiful cupcakes and I’m not saying they are voodoo magic and injured Zion Williamson 30 seconds into our game with Duke but… I’m not saying they didnt!

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Another weekend and I weirdly voluntarily spent time with Colton again.

It was his birthday and I’m “glad” he was born so I “celebrated” with him. I bought him brunch! At the always wonderful Monuts.

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And then we went adventuring at Duke Gardens. Behold how BEAUTIFUL we both look lolololol.

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The following weekend was a real treat.

First I met my lovely friends Bethany and Dan at the DELIGHTFUL Small B+B Cafe in Pittsboro. I was delighted to see their system for food scraps:

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I giggled at this sign:

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And I sighed with delight to see the outdoor area where we ended up eating. Those shipping container looking areas in the distance are actually tiny houses which you can stay in for the night!

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After brunch I went up and scooped up my cousin’s kiddo after his nap to join my friends’ little girls on an adventure! My cousin’s baby had been born by then (!) so I figured Big Brother would enjoy a fun outing and mom and dad could benefit from some solo time as well. Off we went to Celebrity Dairy, a working farm.

Bethany and Dan’s oldest, T, is an experienced big sister and is SO good with little ones! She enjoyed showing C the best tree climbing spot…

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And then they bonded “driving” this golf cart together.

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She gave him a dandelion and taught him to blow on it to make a wish ❤

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And then they performed impressive feats of strength to push T’s little sister in the wheelbarrow. SO MUCH CUTENESS.

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I will add that we were actually at Celebrity Dairy which is a goat farm, and there were baby goats and chickens and kitties and musicians… and my cousin’s future engineer largely ignored all those things and instead spent a solid hour just examining the brake and accelerator pedals on the golf cart 😂

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Yay for spring!

cape point and farewell

On my last day in South Africa (sob), we’d planned to go to Table Mountain, which is in Capetown and has a gondola and spectacular views and all the things. Table Mountain was shut down for the day due to wind, so instead we took off with Nicholas for Cape Point. Rather than taking the highway by the airport and to Capetown, we took kind of a side route that was along the water for most of the way.

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The beachside towns looked like typical American beach towns with various touristy shops. Some were fancy shmancy and some were more chill. I tried speculating which were the white beaches and which were the colored beaches during apartheid, though I wasn’t always right. Regardless, seeing such normalcy in the beach towns and going by the huge townships of shacks continued to be shocking to me.

We got to a little park area and went into Cape Point. After waiting a bit to get through the toll booth, we went on some winding roads and eventually arrived at the very lively parking area. Nicholas told us a very amusing story about a baboon hopping in his car the last time he was there, but we didn’t see any this time.

We took a very booty-burning walk up to the top, where there’s a lighthouse (there was a funicular but what’s the fun in that?) and took in a pretty incredible view.

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In one direction was the peninsula, with more dramatic beaches with waves crashing into rocks. More gorgeous multicolored water, more mountains. The usual staggering beauty. Then out ahead of us was ocean… if we’d gone South for long enough we would’ve gotten to Antarctica. Cape Point is almost but not quite the bottom of South Africa, where the Indian Ocean meets the Atlantic. Apparently on calmer days, there you can see the tides of different temperatures coming together, and they really do look different, which is cool.

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Then we took the lighthouse keeper trail, which took us out to the tippy tip. We looked back and couldn’t quite believe how precarious the lighthouse looked, seemingly balanced atop a sheer, dramatic cliff face that was staggeringly high up from the waves crashing into the rocks below.

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The walk to the tip had lots more interesting succulents (including some that looked like Tim Burton roses). Nicholas pointed out how lucky we were that it wasn’t very windy, as it could be intense there. I said I felt like I had had way too much good luck on this trip and it seemed inevitable that upon returning home things would have to go badly for awhile to even things out, and this British lady yelled at me and said that kind of thinking would invite bad things and I should think positively. She was a hoot (pretty new age). We walked back to the lighthouse and then I observed that our trail to the point now looked extremely precarious from this vantage point haha.

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On our way out of Cape Point we saw baboon friends!

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We walked back to the car and realized we were pretty hungry. We stopped in one of the beachside towns and got some fish and chips at a restaurant that was cute on the inside and for some reason had VH1 classic playing 90s music?! So silly!

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Ocean view on the drive back:

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We drove back to Stellenbosch just in the nick of time to head out to Malindi’s second bridal shower, at a sweet little shop in downtown. Since apparently I had disappointed Malindi previously with the quantity of desserts, I basically just bought one of every kind of cake they had (and two of the millionaire shortbreads) along with some scones and croissants. We enjoyed our beverages and talked about weddings and things and got on a real sugar high.

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Fam!

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We went back to the house and I enjoyed the last of my time with Oliver and Lucy. The cousins hung out in Marie’s room and watched Son of Patricia, Trevor Noah’s new comedy special on Netflix (though they got it bootleg!) and I continued to despair at my inability to pronounce “Xhosa” with the proper click.

And just like that, it was time to go to the airport. Nicholas wordlessly came along as my luggage assistant, as he was for our entire trip. We got a last look at the shack camp by the airport, as Nick told us that the government put in big overhead lights as a way to deter crime, but that they were still a dangerous place to be, and you’d be in a bad way if you ever had to pull over to the side of the road in that area. He had a colleague who was carjacked and taken there and he said “I won’t tell you what happened to him.”

The trip back was predictably disorienting. My flight took off from Capetown at 12:30pm and it was about 11 hours and 45 minutes to Amsterdam. In the first bit of the flight I did a bit of a twilight sleep doze thing (I had a window seat so I wasn’t really able to get up). Throughout the course of the flight I saw the sun rise over the Sahara desert and then saw the Alps later in the same flight. Gorgeous.

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The people sitting next to me were from the Hague and we spoke a bit- the wife talked about growing up and going to a beautiful lake in the Alps that we flew over. They had been on a road trip in South Africa for three or four weeks and were appalled at how short my vacation was.

At the Amsterdam airport there was a confusing interchange where I had to go to Delta’s security point in one section of the airport and answer questions about whether I’d let any terrorists put anything in my bag—“… No”—and then went back to my gate in a different section of the airport. The good news was, I got a hot chocolate that was delicious and absurdly large (I didn’t finish it).

My next flight was to Atlanta- scheduled for 10 hours but done in a brief 8 hours 45 min. The lady sitting next to me was a real adventurer- she’d just finished a cruise around northern Norway looking at the northern lights and hearing from various scientists. She was probably in her 60s but was very active and spry (she was from Asheville and did a lot of hot yoga, natch) and was feeling like the other tourists were struggling to keep up with her. Later in the year she was planning a trip to Rwanda for a “primate tour” (gorillas, monkeys, etc.) She’d recently lost a partner of many years (she’d been widowed before that) and was just living her best life! I didn’t really sleep on this flight but tried to relax with movies and TV. (The Meg was just as terrible as one would expect).

My layover in Atlanta was lengthened due to us arriving early. First I had to go through customs, then I had to retrieve and recheck my bag (for some reason), and then I had a coupel of hours in which I just wandered in laps around my terminal to avoid falling asleep and missing my flight. Of all the travel I had done, this was by far the most tiring leg, though the final flight was like 40 minutes. And by this point the plane terror was at an all time low due to me being freaking exhausted and totally used to being in a bus in the sky.

I arrived home, took a Lyft to my place, and crashed shortly thereafter.

And thus ends my South African adventure. SOMEDAY I WILL GO BACK.

capetown and robben island

After leaving the beach, we drove to downtown Capetown. Our destination was Robben Island, site of the infamous prison that held political prisoners during the apartheid era.

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We climbed aboard the ferry to Robben Island with a big variety of tourists- I heard Spanish, German, British-accented English, etc. The ferry ride was fairly calm and we saw dolphins in the distance which was a thrill. There were also some nice views of Table Mountain, etc. from the water. There was a video playing about the island etc. which most people ignored and we all just gabbed. The safety announcements were on an extremely garbled loudspeaker- it was fortunate there was no emergency (apparently in the past the ferries were prone to sinking hahaha).

We got off the ferry and the setup was a big disorganized. Eventually it was determined there were not enough buses for all the people (possibly one broke down?) so we were told we’d start the tour at the prison and then take the bus around the island. We walked en masse (I felt sorry for a man with a cane) and stopped in front of the prison for a few more minutes to wait for our guide. Eventually we met him- an older man, also with a cane though very agile with it- and learned he was a former prisoner.

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He’d been sentenced to 30 years for “treasonous activities” (or something like that?) but fortunately served (only?!) 5 ½ years before the release of the political prisoners in 1990. He was still passionate as he discussed the fight for freedom and seemed to feel a lot of gratitude for the changes that have taken place since the end of apartheid. He also said that initially he did not want to be a tour guide but was convinced over time, and now he loves the job. We were curiously speculating as to whether he lived on the island, since a commute by ferry would be a drag (as we saw later on the tour there was housing- originally built for prison guards- and a church. There used to be a school, but it closed in the past few years and now kids living on the island have to take a boat to mainland schools).

Unsurprisingly the prison was intense. The prisoners did not even have beds until a visit from the Red Cross, initiated by Helen Suzman (my new personal hero?! She was the sole representative of the Progressive Party in Congress for many years during apartheid). Prior to that prisoners got a few blankets, some of which they had to use as mattresses and pillows.

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Prisoners who were given the “privilege” of learning had to do their schoolwork in the bathrooms at nighttime.

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People who were “colored” got larger rations than people who were black.

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We also got to see the courtyard where Nelson Mandela kept his garden (his grapevines are still growing). We learned that there he had hidden the first pages of his autobiography before they were confiscated by a guard and never seen again. He was successful with the second draft, which another prisoner who was released earlier managed to smuggle out behind the pictures in a photo album and then smuggle out of the country.

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We also saw Mandela’s cell, and it was hard to wrap my head around the idea he spent 18 years there.

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Proving people can be depressing even in places like this, there was a lost Eastern European woman who semi-rudely but mostly cluelessly interrupted our guide like “WHERE MANDELA CELL?!” and he was like “… go see the manager over there. He will help you.” And then everyone in our group was loudly kvetching about her and a loud (of course) American white man went “Lock her up!” Particularly tasteless in front of the former prisoner, who took it in stride. Ugh.

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The second part of the Robben Island tour was taking the bus. We went past the limestone quarry where Mandela and the other prisoners spent whole days chipping rocks (Nicholas told us that Mandela ended up going nearly blind later in life because of the damage the bright limestone reflection did to his eyes there). There was a cave in the limestone that served as the bathrooms but also the library, where prisoners would teach other prisoners to read. In the center of the quarry was a pile of stones that was created by former political prisoners who reunited on the island during Mandela’s presidency. The pile of stones is on the new special edition 100 rand bill (issued for the 100th anniversary of Mandela’s birth). Nick happened to have one of them so our guide borrowed it and showed it to everyone.

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We wrapped up our bus tour and got back on the boat, this time getting to be above deck, standing by a rail. I turned into a real wuss as the ride back was considerably bumpier than the ride to the island, and I kept having to essentially hit the deck and sprawl out my limbs in order to feel like I was not going to imminently fall overboard. Oh lord. We did get to see more dolphins SUPER close to the ship thanks to Malindi’s eagle eyes, and I initially kept thinking I was seeing ducks in odd positions before finally, near the end, I realized they were actually seals and what I thought were duck necks were flippers.

We got off the ferry and spent a bit of time wandering by the water front, getting hot dogs to fortify ourselves. It was pretty touristy- Nick said in the past there were some unique shops where one could get, for example, antique maps, but there was no sign of anything not mass produced any longer, at least in that area. We walked for a bit and our next stop was Two Oceans Aquarium, which I’d desperately wanted to see. It was a bit of a bummer that their star attraction, the kelp forest, was closed for repairs, but it was still a great aquarium.

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Malindi under the ocean tunnel:

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Ray cheesin’ it up:

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The aquarium also had a really well designed exhibit about plastics in the oceans and how to stop it. Costa Rica gets a reputation for eco tourism but South Africa is also doing some cool, interesting things.

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After the aquarium we went to a market with all kinds of different stalls from local artists. Malindi and Nicholas were wiped out so I felt guilty staying long but I got some really nice stuff for gifts.

The drive out of Capetown in traffic was lame but not unbearable, and we got back, did a bit of unloading at the Air BnB, and then joined the gang for dinner.

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Marietje made a lamb stew with waterblommetjies which are hard to even describe but they’re a deep green vegetable with kiiiind of the texture of… softer cooked bell peppers? But a flavor more like… artichokes? Spinach? They’re hard to describe but the stew was one of the most delicious things I’ve tasted in my life (it also had lamb).

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Chocolate ice cream and gooseberries (!) for dessert.

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pringle bay

Okay so. The beach of Pringle Bay, which is a little nook of False Bay, near Capetown.

It’s difficult for me to really put into words how beautiful Pringle Bay is. There’s that same ring of mountains (the beach is sort of a dimple scooped out of False Bay so all the other beaches face South but Pringle Bay faces north) and a beach of beautiful rough water crashing into rocks and then onto perfect sand. The water is sort of a greenish/teal color and it’s full of absolutely enormous pieces of kelp (some of them look like hoses in length and thickness). The water is also astonishingly cold- we were told that the way to swim is to go in a first time, then retreat, then go back again- the key is to make oneself numb. The beach is not at all crowded, and the people who are there are often accompanied by extremely happy dogs. We soaked up the sunshine on our skin. There was wind but apparently it was a lot less strong for us than it was typically, and it is fairly easy to get used to.

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We had a nice evening with the rest of the family, who eventually drove in from their days at work.

This is quite a delicious way to be welcomed to a new place:

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Oliver the dog, who is clearly Nick’s favorite, snuggled up next to him on the couch and Nick wrapped him up in a blanket where only his nose stuck out.

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Marie, our cousin, cooked us the YUMMIEST lasagna for dinner. It involved a garnish of shaved biltong!

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We also tried koeksisters, a South African dessert not dissimilar to loukomades (the honey-y Greek donuts! Though a different shape- a long twist).

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We woke up in Pringle Bay and enjoyed more blissful beach time. Malindi and I kept trying to take pictures that captured the beauty around us. Marie and Marietje spent the morning grading their students’ exams but then got to relax a bit with us.

Lunch was an enormous spread

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With one wild component (!)

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My plate:

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More dessert. Our family in Joburg eat rather low carb so I went a little nuts with the more carb-friendly side of the family hahaha. The nougat is a South African specialty.

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Marie, Nicholas, Malindi and I all piled into Marie’s car (Nick joined us for the first part of this but drove separately to then go off to do his own thing) to see PENGUINS! At a nearby beach called Betty’s Bay. The official name of them is African penguins but their previous, and colloquial, name is “jackass penguins” because of the braying sounds they make. We had so much fun watching the younger ones practice their swimming in the rough surf (they weren’t always great at it). Many of the penguins were molting and looked a bit uncomfortable and awkward. The smell of guano was everywhere and quite intense.

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Cousin Marie with penguins:

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We also saw really fabulous chameleons and other lizards that looked like mini dinosaurs, all sunbathing happily. We also saw dassies (pronounced like “dussy”) which are apparently actually rock hydraxes. We were informed they are the closest living relatives to elephants, though they look nothing like them. Their babies were the most sweet, goofy looking little wombat-y things, while the older bigger ones were still cute but had a look like “come too close to me and I’ll cut you.”

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Next we went to a little strip of shops in the next town over. We didn’t buy much (a few dried fruit snacks and other food souvenirs) but did enjoy sitting at a waterside restaurant and getting drinks, followed by having ice cream cones. While getting drinks I saw a pod of dolphins in the distance and became ludicrously happy. Nicholas and Marie told us a bit more about South African life, including that marijuana is legal for individual growing/using in South Africa lol.

Marie is happy working as a teacher and pretty introverted the rest of the time. Nicholas has been spending time in Sweden helping Peter (Nick and Mike’s older brother) with his business which is creating fancy gardens for Swedish millionaires, basically.

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When we ate ice cream cones we went out on a jetty. This public beach was much more diverse than Pringle Bay and we saw some families happily splashing around.

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Then we went back to the house and Nick cooked us yet another braii. We all sat around outside around the grill (called the braii as well) and gabbed while the meat cooked. The side of cheese and jam sandwiches, also grilled, is traditional and real tasty.

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After we ate dinner we took another beach walk and looked at the dazzling display of stars (trying and failing to find the Southern Cross). There is sometimes really excellent water phosphorescence there apparently… we might have seen a little bit of it? Or maybe I just wanted to believe haha. Then we enjoyed a hilariously huge dessert selection and went to bed.

Malindi and Nick picked up these guys:

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I picked up these guys at the ice cream shop pretty much purely for their name (coconut meringue-y cookies)

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And ice cream too hahaha. Yay carbs!

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The next morning I woke up early enough that I got to join Nick and the adorable dogs for their morning walk on the beach and captured some excellent photos.

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On our way back to the house we took a shortcut through a vacant lot (the walk is a bit meandering due to lots of cul de sacs) and Oliver was absolutely ecstatic to bound through the underbrush. Then I joined Marie and Marietje for a trip to Lemon and Lime, the local deli that would not have been out of place as a hipster brunch spot in Durham but also had some fun souvenirs, edible and otherwise, that I pocketed. I was bummed to be full from breakfast since they had a gorgeous selection of pastries. Later in the morning I took a second walk with Malindi and we took more photos trying to look like mermaids amid the lovely scenery. I fell in love with these transluscent snails that had the most gorgeous green shells. You’d see them as the waves washed out and then they’d burrow their way back under the sand.

In the afternoon we joined Marie and Nicholas and visited the Harold Porter botanical garden. There was a beautiful formal garden full of lovely native plants (including a medicinal area with, for example, aloes, like the ones I’d used to treat the previous day’s mild sunburn). The real treat, though, was doing a short walk up to the waterfall. The walk through the woods was lovely and we went along a stream that was an interesting tea color- Nicholas informed us that came from the tannins in the native plants, which Marie told us actually made the water more nutritious.

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There were also some beautiful irises which grow naturally in the area- it was cool seeing them in their native habitat.

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There was an obnoxious group of 15 or so people just brazenly violating two posted signs and a locked gate (!) down swimming in the pool at the base of the waterfall. A park guide made them stop and when one lady was kind of rude and passive aggressive about it being unclear I loudly went “Yeah the two signs were super unclear.” I hate rule breakers. I am a pathological follower of rules.

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The famous plant is the protea, which we saw some of (the national flower- very big and dramatic) and there’s also something they pronounced like geser but is apparently also called disa that we didn’t get to see but blooms near the waterfall in mid December.

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The walk down from the waterfall involved more amazing mountain vistas and we saw the national flower some more, along with the pretty puffy guys.

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We drove back to the house and took in more gorgeous views of the water, and then the rest of the afternoon was pretty lazy. Marie and Marietje had to pack up but the rest of us hung out and read and listened to the wind. Nick again fired up the grill and made lamb, and I kept having to go outside and smell the amazing aroma wafting off the grill.

The day began early-ish since we wanted to leave by 8 to make the ferry to Robben Island from Capetown. I got up early for one last moment of gawking at the beautiful beach.

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I needn’t have worried about running out of beauty because the drive to Capetown along the water was absolutely spectacular- it 100% would have been appropriate for a James Bond scene. Cliffs and hills and mist and more of the fabulous green water crashing into rocks. And the occasional baboon.

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Next stop, Capetown!

stellenbosch

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We flew from Johannesburg to Capetown in about two hours. The Joburg airport had an amusing level of chaos as they moved our flight without telling anyone. They also didn’t have any overhead announcements so when our flight was delayed the airline staff conveyed this by sort of yelling out to the crowd. When we got on the plane we discovered we had (for no additional cost) exit row seats and the space was gigantic, especially given we were following an economy airline. The flight was a bit bumpy and the gentleman nice to me was so sweet and gave me reassurances about the weather conditions in Joburg that meant a bumpy takeoff was common. He also pointed out the geographic features of Capetown to me as we were landing. He worked in the oil business doing engineer-y type stuff- interesting guy.

Our dad’s cousin Nick (twin brother of Mike, our host in Johannesburg) picked us up at the airport and immediately launched into a more or less continuous monologue. He is a professor, hahaha.

I will fail to remember probably 10% of what he had to say about South Africa, its history, its economy, etc. but it was all fascinating. On this particular drive, one topic that he hit on was about the shacks (there’s no other word for them) that proliferated in the area by the airport that we drove past. In the Eastern cape most people work as subsistence farmers and are absolutely destitute, so it’s common for them to come to Capetown for work. The local municipalities don’t have housing for them but they will wire out electricity and pipes into these areas and provide them with building materials to make these little shacks. There’s a complicated situation economically involving local criminal gangs and so on (I don’t remember the details) but the long and short of it is that usually some but not all of the family comes out and works perhaps 10 months of the year and other family members may be left behind temporarily as the family works to raise funds to pay for the housing (a relatively small amount- like 600 rand I think?- but a lot for these families).

Also, Nick had a student who essentially walked to university from Somalia. He started there, walked to Uganda, and then did a combination of hitchhiking with long haul truckers and possibly also riding a bike for part of that? Actually I think the biker was a different guy.

Nick also told us about his first job as a professor at a “bush college”, aka where black students were taught during apartheid. He said weirdly the funding was the same as the white universities (definitely not the case for primary school). He remembers an economics professor teaching outdated topics like the gold standard and when he brought it up, saying that if the students ended up working at a reserve bank or in a finance ministry the knowledge would be obsolete, and the professor very straightforwardly that they never would (now of course a former student is literally the finance minister). He also said that at graduation without any formal planning the entire crowd burst into “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika, the then banned black national anthem of South Africa, and it gave everyone chills. And various parents hired praise singers for their students who sang for a long time after their names were read, so graduation took a very very long time.

He also told us about a black economic enterprise (BEE- apparently a big national program) that was unusually successful that involved South Africans bottling locally produced wine themselves (rather than the wine being shipped to Europe for bottling).

And he also told us about the South African film industry! Apparently most car commercials with people driving around pretty bends are filmed in South Africa.

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We were sort of continuously awestruck at the beauty of Stellenbosch. There are always mountains all around you and the wine country is beautiful. We went to a wine estate and did a bit of strolling and picture taking there. Nick said the wine farmers have actually felt the effects of climate change with a 2 degrees C rise in temperature that has made it harder to grow good wine in Stellenbosch. Some farmers have had to use new agricultural techniques and other places have just not been able to produce as good wine.

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We got a tour of the University of Stellenbosch and heard some about its history and about the agricultural economics scene (Nick’s field). The town of Stellenbosch has some beautiful old Dutch colonial (I think that’s what it’s called?!) architecture and the buildings with historical status have a lot of rules about how to keep the outside looking pretty. Lots of beautiful old white buildings with interesting gables and things.

It sounds like the University of Stellenbosch is still pretty conservative and pretty white. Nick said most of the students come from the surrounding area, particularly undergrad (grad students are more likely to be international, though most of those still come from within Africa). About 20% of the university is black or “colored.” Hearing “colored” over and over made me wince but it doesn’t mean the same it does in the US and it’s still used commonly there. The “colored” community is mostly descended from freed slaves who had been brought over by the British before they banned slavery (in the 1830s I believe). They were mostly of Indonesian and Malaysian descent, though there are also some sort of mixed race people mixed in. As the Apartheid Museum pointed out, plenty of people during apartheid were “chameleons” and had their official government stated race changed in any given year.

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We took a few minutes to get ready for dinner at our guest house, which was delightful. The owners were huge hippies (the wifi password was “Shalom1”) and it was full of sparkly drapey things. There was a lovely floor to ceiling window on one side with a neat barn door that opened and shut around it, and on the other side a balcony overlooking a series of fountains, koi pond, plants, etc.

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We stopped at Nick and Maritje’s for a drink before dinner and reunited with Marie and met Nicholas, Emma, and Maritjie. We also met their adorable dogs, Oliver (brown spaniel) and Lucy (yellow lab) who made us feel right at home. We also saw the cool makeover Nicholas had done on their pool when the local water restrictions got really intense (the drought is better than it was last year but there are still restrictions). The pool is now bright green and filled with native plants, and we saw a lot of happy pollinators flying around it.

We went to dinner at an Italian restaurant and had a deeply handsome waiter. Nick spoke to him, and most people in the town, in Afrikaans. I don’t think we really hard any Afrikaans in Johannesburg but it was used all the time in Stellenbosch and quite a bit in the surrounding areas. I asked if it was inherently political to speak Afrikaans and Nick said not anymore, though perhaps a bit in the years immediately following the end of apartheid. Nick and Marietje usually speak Afrikaans to one another. Stellenbosch is definitely not particularly diverse- I saw white people and “colored” people but not a lot of black people at all.

I also learned that standard tipping in South Africa is 12-15%, which I completely ignored in an effort to at least make Americans look good for something.

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We had a nice dinner with really delicious wine.

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Tiramisuuuuuuu!

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They usually give you a little something at the end of a meal. This was a hard candy. Granadilla is their name for passion fruit.

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Malindi and I went to sleep in the guest house, which had the first air conditioner we’d seen since our arrival. We ended up getting to sleep a bit lateish the next morning, which was clutch particularly for Malindi, who’d been having a miserable time of it since our arrival between jet lag and the heat.

I got up and had my great loves of coffee, full cream yogurt, and rusks (this was a hippiefied whole grain one with seeds and things).

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We met up with the fam again at their house. Nicholas, Nick’s son who’s around our age, did the coolest project in their yard. When Capetown was having its horrific drought there were water restrictions and no one could have a pool. So they turned their pool into a native plant habitat! Lots of happy pollinators buzz through! And you can still swim in it, though you come out a bit green.

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View of the mountains from their house:

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Nick loves walking in those mountains with the dogs (though that’s a bit on hold since he has been recovering from cellulitis in his leg from a spider bite). The mountain is gorgeous and still a bit wild- you can see wild bucks of various kinds and every once in awhile someone with a security camera spots a leopard on their night vision camera.

We left with Nick and Nicholas for a tour of the gorgeous mountain passes surrounding Stellenbosch. We stopped periodically to take pictures of the spectacular views, and the baboons (!) who lived in the surrounding area.

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We also learned about a little community of freed slaves that had operated totally independently for many years even before apartheid, where everyone had bought in to a trust that was sort of an informal health insurance system, and they paid for everyone to be able to see a Capetown doctor if they were ill.

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We also saw Victor Verser prison, the site of Mandela’s release at the end of his 27 years of imprisonment. There’s a fabulous statue there of him holding up his fist. Nick told us that as the IMF/World Bank was forming in the early 90s, they planned for both South Africa and China to be excluded because they relied so heavily on prison labor. We were remarking that Victor Verser was in such a beautiful site and Nick said that was because the prisons couldn’t be too far away from the farms because they relied on them so heavily for workers, to the point that farmers would actually band together and fund the building of a prison. Nick also said the state would basically invent crimes (thus the pass laws) to ensure there was a big enough convict supply.

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We learned about the fynbos, the vegetation that’s native to the area and which the government is working to restore on some of the mountains that ended up covered with pine trees and other things planted by settlers that mess up the natural system (ex. When the typical forest fires roll through they burn too hot for seeds to sprout).

Behold the most beautiful views I’ve ever seen:

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We stopped for fast food at a weirdly lovely service station (gorgeous courtyard, food brought to your seat by a server) and then continued our drive to Pringle Bay, where Nick has a beach house.

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Baboons!

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Next post… the beach 😍

johannesburg

Leaving Kruger Park (see previous posts!) was of course sad as it’s arguably the most incredible place I’ve been in my entire life. However it is hard to feel too sad whilst driving through the gorgeous South African countryside:

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Lots more pretty citrus farms:

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I think I managed to actually nap in the car a bit and we were back in Joburg and installed ourselves in Mike and Linda’s gorgeous guest room, which among other things had the most glorious long, narrow, deep soaking tub in the bathroom. We also asked about laundry because our clothes from the park were soaked in sweat and about a gallon of bug spray… and Linda went, “Oh we don’t have a washer and dryer here so we’ll just have the staff do it.” Gosh, owning guesthouses is NOT a bad gig. (Well, although it’s a ton of work. They were hosting a Dotors Without Borders group and Mike was making gorgeous tiramisu and a giant meringue with berries and whipped cream for their lunch… someone got a mouse in their room… some South African soap opera star had gotten chicken pie for lunch so had to have a different dinner… and just gazillions of calls related to bookings and confirmation and payment.)

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We settled in and then spent the evening with our cousin John and his (37 weeks pregnant) wife Greta. We went to dinner at a trendy Asian fusion place and talked about cats for a long time (of course). But we also heard about the interesting Johannesburg neighborhoods and the weird ways people lived during segregation. Greta is getting a creative writing PhD from Vitsrasserzurfenlordknowswhat University (I just looked it up, it’s actually called University of the Witwatersrand). She also gets some support from their migrant studies program and works with a lot of sex workers, many from Zimbabwe (from where immigration to South Africa continues to be vast). Greta was spending the week leading a training with the end goal of passing on this sex worker organization’s newsletter to be managed independently by its members.

Sashimi taco mm:

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The next morning involved more fabulous breakfast made by Mike.

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I tried this tasty friend for the first time!

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It’s cool that it’s B12 enriched. And it was not dissimilar to miso when smeared atop a generous layer of butter.

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The day began with yoga on the deck, next to the pool. Rough life! We had a later start to the day since the plan was for Lee to take us to the apartheid museum in downtown Joburg. Lee took us through the winding back roads in little ethnic enclaves (the Ethiopian area, the Indian area) and pointed out people illegally mining in the abandoned mines for smaller gold bits they carried out in buckets (apparently the gangs controlled all that stuff and you had to be on our gang’s turf to do this safely).

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We had about an hour and a half at the apartheid museum. It was dense, with lots of written sections highlighting people and events, photos, objects, mini films… It was hard to tell exactly what order to go in at various times (though I think being accustomed to keeping to the right versus the left may have been part of the confusion).

Hearing about the nationalism that led to apartheid felt far too familiar in this era of Trump. I also was just struck at the greed of the Afrikaaners- they hated the black people and wanted them gone yet ultimately wanted and needed to keep them close to the city to exploit them for cheap labor in Johannesburg. I also hadn’t realized that part of the reason the US and Britain didn’t do more to push against apartheid was because of their fears of Soviet power- yet another part o the world where they tolerated a regime that violently suppressed all dissent. Another surprise- that more people were killed in the clashes between 1990 and the first elections in 1994 than had been killed in the previous 40 years. Also didn’t realize that leaders like Steve Biko, part of the Black Consciousness movement, got inspiration from America’s black power movement. Oh also, toward the end they listed the Bill of Rights from the South African Constitution and it’s beautiful and made me want to sob.

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Peek at the World Cup stadium on the way home!

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Lee gave us a ride back to Mike and Linda’s and then we went grocery shopping with Mike to make dinner for the night. I impulse purchased a variety of exciting cheese and a smoked trout dip and Malindi and I made a nice collaborative meal.

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Malindi made gumbo… she brought a seasoning mix from her home in Louisiana, yum!

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I made Thanksgiving-ish green beans since we were missing Thanksgiving.

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And we also made real guacamole since they hadn’t had it, and again, SOUTH AFRICA HAD ALL THE HUGE AMAZING AVOCADOS. It was a tasty meal.

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We wanted to eat outside since it was probably 65ish degrees? But poor sweet Linda had to wear three sweaters and a vest to sit outside comfortably in that weather haha.

Again, Lee took us out in the first part of the day to the place I requested- Soweto. The first place we went was the Hector Pieterson Museum. In 1976 the schoolkids in Soweto were very brave and took to the streets to protest the new bizarre demand that they do the work for 1/2 their school subjects in Afrikaans. The schools already had pathetic funding for balck students compared to white, not enough teaches (and poorly trained ones), students having to go in classrooms in shifts. But now this dumb ***ing law that after all this work of learning English and submitting exams etc in that language they now had to newly learn Afrikaans just to placate the nationalist Afrikaans nut jobs. Anyway, the kids walked out of class. The result was tear gas, rubber bullets, and eventually real bullets, and these kids had only rocks and shields made from trash can lids to defend themselves (pictured below)

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(Of course, all the official police statements said the same crap they say today about the kids being violent and provoking them). There was national and international outrage and the government was not keen to allow any public mourning or funerals since these kids were rebelling against state authority or some dictatorial ***, but eventually one symbolic funeral was held for this one poor 12 year old child, Hector Pieterson. The museum was mostly photos/videos/eyewitness accounts of that day. Then outside its doors was a path to the spot where he was actually killed.

Our next stop was Nelson Mandela’s old house:

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And it was just interesting driving around and people watching in Soweto. The sort of dome shaped roofs you see on some of the houses below are old and made of concrete. They are pretty crappy insulators. Nonetheless they’ve now been there so long they are kind of symbolic of Soweto.

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We stopped for lunch at a wee little spot where the sweetest lady had her restaurant. It was just us and one other guy in a little courtyard on a back street in Soweto. Our mission was to try pap!

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Pap is that big white lump of cornmeal. It’s a staple food for a lot of the people in South Africa. As you see below it serves as both starch and utensil in the meal. Your goal is to make a ball of it using only one hand and then use that ball to scoop up the other things on the plate (in this case, spinach and the most wonderfully seasoned beef). Lee of course made it look effortless. I, after I managed to stop burning my hands, was less than adept and ended up with sauce all over everything hahaha.

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Another landmark of Soweto is these two towers. People bungee jump off of them. Dumb crazy people lololol.

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Then as we were driving back to Mike and Linda’s we went by Johannesburg’s largest hospital, Baragwanath, which is also the third largest hospital in the world. It’s where a lot of doctors from all over Africa do their training, because they can see so much trauma and other exciting things. Apparently the care for patients isn’t especially good :/ Once we got on the subject of medical things, Lee shared that his wife died of tuberculosis two years ago. He said the disease had hidden in her bones and she was initially given the wrong diagnosis and treatment. We also talked some about the AIDS epidemic, about PREP, and about condom use. I never turn off my public health brain hahaha.

I really have a hard time articulating Mike and Linda’s relationship with Lee. On the one hand he has worked with them for about 12 years and Linda says he’s invaluable like in circumstances where you need some complicated permit and there’s a long wait list and then Lee goes behind the scenes and fixes things. On the other hand, they still refer to him as the “driver”. I have no idea how much money he makes. We enjoyed talking to him about his beloved pet corn snakes and grey African parrots.

Lee dropped us off with Mike and Linda and then we went from seeing the big poor black area from Johannesburg to the ultra rich white fancy area of Johannesburg, all in the same day. They wanted us to see a store by one of their favorite South African artists, Carrol Boyes. We browsed that shop and Linda sweetly bought Malindi a wedding gift there. Then we split up for a bit and strolled around the mall. I fell in love with Poetry, a store that’s a bit like a South African Anthropologie except the quality and prices are both slightly better. I got a fabulous flowery green dress. I also ducked into Exclusive Books, an interesting bookstore. I wish I knew which authors were good to get South African stories.

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We met up for what I’d requested- a little mini bridal shower tea for Malindi. We went to a cute shop in the mall called Tasha’s and sat out in the courtyard. We all got fancy coffees and I got some sweet treats for the table. Linda likes talking about weddings a lot.

I got a cappuccino with whipped cream on top, *sigh*.

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That night Mike cooked us yet another fabulous dinner.

Salad…

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Chicken with prunes and capers and onions and delicious seasoning; mashed sweet potatoes and squash

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This meal was the day before Thanksgiving and I’d call it a tiny bit Thanksgiving-y!

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The next morning it was Thanksgiving! We arranged to meet John and Greta for an early breakfast (before they left for work and we left for our flight) at the most dreamy open air café/coffee shop near their neighborhood. The shop had this neat little tiny windmill fans to keep bugs away from the baked goods and had delicious samples of items like Cronuts. There were cute little shops nearby but unfortunately we were zooming along to get ready to go to the airport so didn’t get to browse as much as I would have liked.

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I deeply approve of bakeries with samples.

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Corn cakes+sauteed mushrooms+pesto+poached eggs

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Fam! Malindi, cousin John, me, cousin MIke.

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Next stop, Capetown!