Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Bean There, Drank That...

This is the second week that I’ve been on crutches.  It has been quite an adjustment and accepting the limitations was a bit difficult.  That said, I’m blown away by the helpful people in my life making this break more bearable—Namely Brian. 
I should have known that when he threw me over his shoulder and carried me almost a mile on a narrow rocky path, he would also step up to the plate at home.  The first week, he did everything that I couldn’t.  He made it easy to accept help, because he provided it with such warmth. Warning: the next phrase is going to be a large cheese wheel rolling your way—I have fallen even more in love with him this past week. He is a true care-taker and provider. There. I said it.
I’m also amazed with how eager the friends I’ve made here are to take me out of the house and make me comfortable. It’s been a real blessing.  David and Michelle, the owners of the new apartment we moved into turned out to be good friends of ours.  They’re so kind, and Brian and I get along so well with them.  Michelle was the first friend to take me out of what seems now like a burrow, a safety net, my home.  She and David are coffee connoisseurs and have a love for a small coffee roaster/cafĂ© named Bean There. Although I’m no connoisseur, I love coffee and am always eager to try new roasts, blends, and flavors. In her delicately sweet manner, she asked what I was in the mood for. Unfortunately about 95% of the time when someone asks me this question, I am useless, for I am up for anything and want to make sure they’re happy with the choice as well. I let Michelle take the reins with the menu since she clearly knew what she was talking about.   
She ordered two types of brewed coffee—aeropress, and Chemex.  They were fantastic. Watching the delicate yet ebony liquid drops fall into the pots was like watching a psychologically thrilling movie.  I couldn’t take my eyes off it and was excited to see, smell, and taste the end result.  The man performing the tasting was serious about coffee.  It was like an art.  Hypothetically speaking, if I didn’t have an appreciation for specialty brewed coffee before entering the doorway accompanied with rich Arabica aroma, and seeing this man’s gentle yet intentional movement with every step of the process, I am now.  It was beautiful.  Being a novice when it comes to coffee tasting, I did what anyone would do—faked it. First, I appreciated the rich color of the coffee with my eyes. It wasn’t the unfortunately common diluted coffee that only is dark after the whole pot has been brewed.  I brought the coffee mug up to my nose, initiating a soft whirlpool motion with my hand and inhaled for a few seconds straight. I proceeded to slowly tilt the mug so that I would get a small yet sufficient taste in my mouth.  Moving the back of my tongue in a way that made me look like a bullfrog, I was able to fully taste the body, aroma, and richness of the coffee. It was delectable. It had a hint of pine that I had never tasted in coffee before.
Along with the coffee, Michelle ordered a slice of carrot cake, and a chocolate chip cookie for us to split.  The cake was fluffy, and moist. The shavings of carrot and chopped walnuts made it more of a meal than dessert. The icing was phenomenal and contained more butter than your usual cream cheese frosting.  The cookie was ever so thin with what seemed like a complete layer of milk chocolate—as opposed to chips.  Each bite I took, the paper-thin cocoa layer was present, and it was delicious.
In the middle of Michelle and I sat her adorable 14 month-old son Timothy.  He brought the party.  He was well-behaved and simply wouldn’t allow us to eat anything he didn’t try first. I call it quality control.  He had cheeks for days and aqua blue eyes that were warm and cheerful.  His smooth blond hair turned into curly-cues at the nape of his neck. He spent the hour alternating between grabbing whatever was in sight (to my surprise not throwing it), taking bites of sweets, and giving me high-fives. I’m fond of the little guy.


Sunday, March 8, 2015

Mountains, Shepherds, and a Broken Ankle...

This weekend, we are in Clarens and the Drakensburg Mountains.  My amazement with the beauty of this country continues to grow by the weekend.  Clarens is about 3.5 hours southwest from Joburg.  Driving longer than usual distances here doesn’t seem as taxing as in the states.  I’m certain this is due to the luscious landscapes and topography.  Have you ever seen the double-rainbow video on YouTube? I’m pretty certain I sounded creepily similar to this dude (minus the crying) while snapping pictures every other second.  Clarens is a small touristy town laden with quaint artsy shops, beerhouses, coffeehouses, and restaurants. It provides a different walking atmosphere than Joburg.  Walking in Joburg brings my blood pressure up about 10 points per minute.  It’s like New York City, but worse.  The difference—people in New York have places to be and people to see, so get out of the way.  In Joburg, while that may be the case, people are also in their own world so add that to the hustle and bustle, and you have a jigsaw puzzle of walking space.  Enough about that.  Clarens is quiet, friendly, beautiful, and relaxing.  Rock formations and tall green mountains cuddle the small town which makes the scenery that much more lovely.
Yesterday, we hiked the Drakensburg Mountains.  I had no idea what to expect with this hike.  I’m used to the usual dirt trails with some sticks, and twigs scattered along the path.  This, was nothing like that.  Think of 11k’s of climbing and stepping over rocks ranging in size from as small as your foot, to larger than your entire body.  It was exhilarating and I’d be lying if I didn’t say that getting to the top was a proud moment for me.  Crazy enough, there were real shepherds dressed in long cloaks while herding cows and sheep. We were stunted with the question—how did they get there? Looking down, all I could think is that the landscaping belonged in movie--Lord of the Rings no less. Lush green mountainsides tapered alongside us as we walked, hopped, and climbed, at times only a few inches from the drop-off.  The entire time, I was enthralled with the experience.  I’m incredibly blessed to have a husband who thinks outside the box when it comes to traveling. 
Now, let’s be real for a minute. An experience like that wouldn’t be complete for me without a battle wound. That’s correct, only a bit more than 1k from the car, I broke my ankle. That’s correct people.  We climbed over rocks, climbed chain ladders up a mountainside, and balanced our way through narrow trails, but it wasn’t until the easiest part and last stretch of the hike that I injured myself.  Leave it to me.  Luckily, I have a man who immediately took charge and carried me, I repeat, CARRIED ME the entire way back. Alternating between over the shoulder, piggy-back, and me hopping while resting 90% of my weight on his shoulder, he managed to carry me through loose-rock trails some only the width of a single foot.  I’m grateful.
What was supposed to be a night filled with celebration and relaxation after the hike turned into an additional hour drive to a hospital, chilling on a hospital bed for a good 1.5 hours, only to receive news that what I thought was a simple sprain, was actually a fracture. The doctor and nurses insisted that the pants I was wearing would have to be cut in order to pull over the cast.  The doctor was just full of good news.  No thank you, I’ll risk it.  I left the hospital wobbling on the crutches that resembled walking sticks and rode home in the back seat with a large order of self-pity and disappointment.  Considering we didn’t eat since lunch that day (we left the hospital at 10pm), we asked the hospital receptionist where the nearest place would be to get food at such a late hour.  She said KFC. Those three letters never sounded so good to me. We headed there only to, get this, wait for 45 minutes in the drive thru line. We were stuck in between a truck in front vomiting black exhaust fumes, and a pee-wee car in the back blaring music that was all about the bass.  To my right, a blinking sign for Chicken Zingers and Krushers kept turning on and off. The experience was trippy, and at that moment, I couldn’t help but burst out laughing at what the last 4 hours provided.
This morning, while Brian was packing up practically everything, I was watching a rerun of the Ellen Show.  A boy named Tayt was a repeat guest who Ellen invited over the last couple years. He has half a heart. Half-A-Heart! There I was, a lingering guest at my own pity party thinking about how the rest of our stay here will consist of me being a struggle-bus, and an 11-year-old boy has half a heart. That was a huge smack in the face. Immediately, I was overcome with gratitude that my injury wasn’t worse, that I was at least able to finish the hike, oh and that I didn’t fall of the side of the mountain when I injured myself. Crutches are temporary, but there are people with health issues that are permanent.
Right now, as we enjoy an authentic German lunch while enjoying the light breeze and mountainsides before departing on our drive home, I am still amazed with the experience and fully believe that it was completely worth the injury.  Here’s to an exciting and humorous story to tell when we are older.  
Until next time, stay balanced my friends.