Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Grown In South Africa...

My heart is so full. In the last couple weeks, I’ve been diligent to tune in to the growth I’ve experienced in South Africa. It is part of the promise to myself to not take such a wonderful experience for granted. As I sit on the balcony facing lush trees that are a shade of green which is yet to be found in Cincinnati, I reflect. I turn 27 in two days.  I slowly sip the strong and pure coffee and nuzzle myself even deeper into my knitted sweater. So, this is the adventure that I was meant to live out during my 26th year?

I recall the weeks leading to our departure from American soil at the beginning of the year, thinking about all the goals I wanted to accomplish—strengthen and tone my body, make friends, draw/paint more, journal every day, cook as much African food as possible, grow in my faith, read more, and travel… a lot.

We leave South Africa this Friday and I am constantly comparing expat-Christina to Cincinnati native-Christina. Besides the fact that I’ve adopted a few South African phrases, and can (in my opinion) imitate the British accent at the drop of a hat, I’m the same.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve grown. But it’s still me. I haven’t morphed into a person who can run a half-marathon, or name a dish from every African country. In all honesty, out of all the dishes I’ve cooked here, only three have been from Africa (Ethiopia and Kenya).  In addition, I broke my ankle halfway through our stay which reduced me to sit on my backside for a good 1.5 months. I was hiking the Drakensburg Mont Aux Sources Mountain. The worst part? I had already completed most of the hike and was just shy of 1k away from then car. Tangent—you won’t believe how many random people, after asking what happened, told me I need to make up a new story. First, that’s rude. Second, no thank you, I like my story just fine.

Corkboard map--
DIY Christmas gift for Brian
The other day, Brian asked what goals I accomplished while being here. I bashfully listed off basically everything I did during the day to keep busy. It’s only now that I realize I didn’t do his question justice. I’ve accomplished a goal that I probably would have eventually done in Cincinnati, just not as quickly. I grew more into me. In my experience, to get married young means you grow more as a couple and less as an individual. You learn and experience things as we instead of me. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I quite prefer it actually, but I’ve realized that this is the first time in our three-year marriage that I’ve had so much me time.  It has been a delightful way to really understand what my interest, passions, and goals are for life. 

So here is what I’ve learned about me. I love to read. Prior to embarking on this journey, I did not read much. Five months ago, if someone asked me what type of books I enjoy reading, I’d give a generic answer—novels. I now understand why I wasn’t enthusiastic to read, because I don’t prefer novels! My favorite types of books are memoirs and those written by foodies—jackpot if it’s a memoir written by a foodie! If you knew me growing up, you’d know that the last place you’d find me is on a couch curled up with a book. Now, I’m always looking for the next read. 

I enjoy staying fit but not in the let’s go to the gym and run on a treadmill kind of fit. I enjoy activities such as bike riding, walking, tennis, and yoga. Since I’ve been able to stand again, yoga has become a routine. I’ve decided it’s the way I will find strength in my body again.

I have made friends in far places. I realize that there are a handful of women whom I will miss dearly when I leave South Africa. Thank goodness for WhatsApp and Facebook!
Sketch with Knsna, SA on my mind.

I’ve taken up drawing again. This is the perfect activity to channel some of my creativity.  Naturally I’m not the most patient person when it comes to achieving a task. I tend to search for instant gratification and not read directions well. It’s a flaw that I’m working on. I’ve come to see drawing as a practical method to build patience. It’s a very slow task and it takes patience to get the shading and ratios just right. If I want it to look good, I need to take my time and focus on one object at a time. It is good for me to take my time every now and then.

I’ve grown in my faith. You’ll be surprised how much more you prioritize quiet time when you have, well, a lot of quiet time. It’s been a time to reflect and grow not only on my relationship with the Lord, but to also see life and the people in it differently.  I have to thank my dear friend Stephanie for doing the Brave Journey and skyping weekly with me. Every week, a part of home and familiarity is displayed on my computer screen and provides me with comfort.

As wonderful as this experience has been, I think I’m ready to return home. Cincinnati will always be home.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Western Cape

Disclaimer: unfortunately there aren’t any pictures in this post (yet). I know, I know, that’s half all the reason you read this blog. It’s proven to be quite difficult to transfer the pictures from the camera to my computer and was not possible this time. I’ll update this post when I’m able to do so. Until then, please keep reading and don’t exit too soon!
Our trip in South Africa is quickly coming to an end and I am in disbelief that in fifteen days, I will be sleeping soundly in my bed with only memories and photographs to remind me of this adventure. It’s a bit bemusing to think that another adventure in my life will soon be over—it’s bittersweet.
First, let me apologize for not posting after our trip to Namibia. It was a great reason to get out of the country.  We began our trip with a 4x4 sand dune adventure which felt like a rollercoaster in a car. It was fantastic and I (along with the particles of sand) was blown away. Unfortunately, Brian had to work remotely for most of the trip so it ended up being very quiet and peaceful. I’m sorry I don’t have more to report!
Last week, we had the pleasure of touring the Garden Route in the western cape of South Africa.  The minute you step off the plane, the salty scent of ocean along with gusty wind surrounds you. We spent three nights total (one in a different town) traveling from Port Elizabeth to Knysna and back.  We spent our first night in Knysna, a beautiful and quainter version of Cape Town.  We stayed at the Falcon View Manor which embodied both old charm and new luxuries, along with outstanding service.  We ate dinner at the Tapas and Oysters Bar where we tasted miniature dishes from South Africa, the Middle East, Spain, India, and Germany.  The dishes consisted of
  • Hummus—a pureed chickpea spread made with garlic, lemon juice, tahini (ground sesame oil), and spices. 
  • Chorizo and Caramelized Onions—This Spanish dish oddly reminded me of an Italian ratatouille with chorizo. Whole chickpeas dabbled the dish while small bits of eggplant made a sporadic appearance.  The smokiness of the chorizo paired with the onions and vegetables made this dish delectable.
  • Samoosas—an Indian specialty of crispy fried dough stuffed with minced meats, vegetables, potatoes and spices such as caraway
  • Frikkadelletjies—South African meatballs served in a simmering tomato sauce similar to ouma (a sauce served with pap.  It’s subtle with main flavors of onion and hints of garlic.
  • Mini Hot Dogs—Small frankfurters slashed diagonally before grilling.  Served on small white brioche rolls alongside tangy horseradish mustard, grilled onions, and old-fashioned chips

The rest of the trip was similar to the first day—eating, driving, touring, and having our occasional wine tastings when the weather didn’t hold up its side of the bargain.  Two activities that particularly stood out was walking the Storms River suspension bridge, and the Bloukrans Bridge. The Storms River suspension bridge is a two-part narrow bridge that stretches across a large gap of land in the Tsitsikamma National Park. We walked over the ocean and I couldn’t help but feel like I was placed in one of those worship music videos—one that comes to mind is Oceans by Hillsong United. The Bloukrans Bridge was a bit more of an adrenalin rush. Brian bungee jumped off it! It’s the highest commercial bungee jumping site in the world. How awesome is that? Sigh I have quite a brave husband.
Did I mention we walked with elephants? I must say, they are the sweetest-gentle-giants.  They are so humorous.  As you know, they use their trunks as hands so they’re always reaching out for food with them. One of them gave a guest a ride and during the ride, he kept reaching his trunk over his head with a “hello, can I have my snack now?” motion. Like all animals and humans included, they love to eat. They eat eighteen hours a day and sleep very little. Unbelievable!
This weekend we make our final trip in South Africa—Durban. It’s a bittersweet time for us. I PROMISE, I will let you know how that goes next week. Until then…