Sunday, March 22, 2009

Africa


So, I survived my rumble in the African bush and now I am here to write about it (This is Nick by the way...not like John Bytheway, more like Nick pause by the way). It was an incredible experience with lots of memorable moments. In the short time I've been back, everyone wants to know favorites of the trip, but I can't really put my finger on them. Everything was unique and awesome. I can say that the trip down to Capetown and Kruger National Park/Graskop were huge highlights.
In Capetown we surfed a couple of days...in the same ocean that a day later we tried to go do a great white shark dive. The dive never happened since we had to turn the boat back after about 5 minutes because the waves were coming over the bow of the boat. Woosies. We did get to go and play with African penguins...funny story: We were told the best way to see the penguins was to not pay at the front gate of the penguins breeding grounds and get the boardwalk tour from a distance, but to go around and climb a fence. Sounded down my alley, so we jumped a fence and probably ruined the penguins' breeding cycle for a couple of years since we were right in the midst of them. Woops. Thought it was a great idea until someone called 2 of my buddies over from the other side of the fence...and he wasn't happy. Since the man hadn't seen a few of us, we ducked under the rocks and thought it would be smart to belly our way through some bushes and climb up onto the boardwalk nonchalantly like it was no big deal. Other than seriously confusing some tourists when we emerged from below, it was dynamite. So that's my up close and personal penguin story.
We also went to Cape Point where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, really pretty stuff. It turns out that the most beautiful beach I've ever seen is right on the Atlantic side there, but the water temperature is significantly lower on the Atlantic.
Kruger National Park is Africa's Yellowstone where you can take safaris, stay in grass roofed bungalows and explore the terrain (in your car only). When we first got into the park we were giddy as could be every time we saw an elephant or cape buffalo. After a while, we saw so many elephants that we didn't even stop anymore. The wildlife was everywhere! We did a night safari drive and saw some amazing things, but no lions. We heard the lions roaring because they had just caught dinner, but we weren't going to be able to see them. We decided that we had better wake up early and go to the nearby watering hole if we wanted to see them in the wild. It made waking up at 5 worth it when 2 giant males trotted in front of our rental car the next morning.
After my first African safari, we drove into the jungle of South Africa and found a 220 foot free fall giant swing. It was an absolute rush. The setting was next to a massive waterfall with a rickety wooden platform set up next to it. You stand on the edge of it and fall backwards doing a huge free fall until the rope catches you and swings you off to the other side of the chasm eventually landing near the pool at the bottom.
The day we left, we spent the morning at a privately owned safari reserve. They had a lot of lions on their land which was pretty cool to see so close, but the highlight was playing with the lion cubs. We knew a person who knew a person, you know the story, and they let us into the cubs cage to play with them. Never thought I'd be doing that, but probably in the top 10 of coolest things I've done in my life. The cubs were like giant puppies, rolling over so I would scratch their bellies, nipping at my fingers and grabbing my arms with their big paws/claws. They definitely weren't out to harm, but we all left with a few scratches, some holes in Jed's shoe, and respect for their adult sized parents. Eat that Siegfried and Roy.
The medical part of the trip was mind-blowing. They use a socialized medicine system that made me grateful for the headache of ours. People would have to begin arriving at around 4 in the morning so they could be seen by a doctor that day, and often they would still have to come back again the next day. South Africa was a confusing mix of 1st and 3rd world. The hospital wasn't entirely horrible, but the patient care made us drop our jaws quite a bit. That made for a good time for us as the nurses frequently came up to us to take care of the patients. I did everything from resetting bones in orthopedic surgery to sewing up stab wounds to treating an insecticide poisoning. HIV was rampant there with somewhere in the 60-70 percent range of people in our province having the disease. I definitely saw things that most people have only been able to read about in textbooks. I'm pretty sure I made it home HIV free, despite having a hole in my gloves on several occasions while sewing people up. No promises that I don't have tuberculosis though, that's okay, that one is overrated. It felt good to be taking part in health care in a country where it was desperately needed.
South Africa is a definite must see for anyone. It was beautiful, fun, and super friendly. The dollar stretches a lot longer there, and now that Obama is our president, every African is stoked to talk to you. I had so much fun, but being back home with Michelle beats any day there. I sure missed her while I was gone, so I guess next time, I'm taking her with me! video

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

i heart zay

he has new videos! grab some popcorn and prepare to be inspired.

zay creative