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Monday, July 26, 2010

Want a Postcard?

During my 9 weeks home, I dabbed in all types of work to add a little more gas to my traveling machine. The day after I got back, I decided to serve my country (the $17/hour was very appealing) and sign up to work as a U.S. Census Worker.  That actually took much longer than I anticipated and I didn't start training until almost a month and a half after I applied. My first week back I also got a job teaching English at a private English college. First private lessons with an 8 year old girl and then a week teaching an academic class to a group of students with advanced English skills hailing from Japan and Korea.  I also convinced my friend to allow me to serve alcohol at her bar (I even met a guy there which was fun!), waitressed at the restaurant and helped a friend out by selling flower leis at the neighboring Costco. I've never had so many jobs! 

My other full time job (while I'm traveling) is helping people save on their medical expenses by telling them about AFLAC supplemental health insurance.  I got involved representing AFLAC because I really feel that every business should offer this benefit to their employees; learning this first-hand after running our family business for 7 years, I saw the advantages of having such a program implemented from both the business owner's perspective and the employees.  Not only was it employee funded (= free for employers), but it also helped employers and employees pay less taxes.  More importantly, it helps to pay for those medical expenses at a pre-taxed rate.  If you know of any businesses or individuals in Hawaii that wants to keep more money in their pockets while helping to pay for medical expenses that you would otherwise pay for out of pocket, please get in touch with me! By the way, I also passed my life insurance license just days before leaving so I am also licensed to sell life insurance as well as Long Term Care.  If you know anyone who can benefit from having something like this, please don't hesitate to refer them to me!

Why the sudden undertaking of all these new jobs? I came to the shocking realization after traveling for almost 3 months that I no longer have a steady income.  SURPRISE?! That's usually what happens when you're unemployed but I've worked ever since I was 14! So long are the days that my account would bounce back every two weeks, teetering around the same comfortable figure.  So long are the days that if I wanted something, I'd buy it. Many times I'd have to ask myself 'is it worth it?' when I would go into McDonald's for our daily Census meetings and pass the order board.  I'd always have to say 'no, not worth the calories and not the worth the $5 for the french fries and chicken Mcnuggets!'  Of course I'd slip a few times but for the most part, I was motivated to save up for the bigger reward: more travel money!

So I was thinking of other ways to generate income, as small as it may be, and in an attempt to not sound too cheeky, I thought I would let people know that I am willing to send postcards from all of the places that I am traveling to. Of course, I would love to send them out to all of my loyal readers but as you know, there is no such thing as a free lunch...therefore, I am requesting a suggested donation of $5 for every postcard that you would like sent. This will cover the cost of sending the postcard (postcard + stamp) and a little extra money ($1) to go toward my next meal. Half jokingly, half serious, I put up a ‘donate’ link that dead center of my blog! (Don't tell me you didn't see it because I strategically placed it for all to see!)  I thought putting this up there would help facilitate the process though I hadn't explicitly commented on my secret move as I had so may other things to write about then to beg for money.  Anyway, no pressure but the button is there if you wanted a postcard...Please keep in mind though that paypal does take a cut, so if you prefer to send me your donation directly, please let me know and I will happily give you my details!

So despite not soliciting my new add-on feature, the other day, my good friend Courtney, being as smart as she is put 2 + 2 together and figured it out. Her wish? She wanted me to do something fun and think of her on behalf of her and her family. How incredible is that? When I first found out, I actually couldn’t believe it?! Court had actually put in her donation several days before but I only found out the day AFTER I was walking across the world’s highest bungee jump bridge, rising at 216 m in the air. THANK GOD I didn’t get her donation notification sooner or else I would have had to jump!

Yes, I am not a charity case, I am able-bodied yet I have chosen to take time off and see the world and learn to live again so I am really not in a position to solicit donations from hard working people who have better ways to spend their money but it is truly a blessing to have generous supporters like Courtney. Believe it or not, writing takes me about 2-4 hours per entry! Yes, my own fault because I write about everything but connecting to the Internet also costs money. Doing activities to write about costs money, so does sleeping, eating, getting from point A to point B. For now, if there are any interested sponsors out there that want to sponsor my next activity, feel free to see how that ‘donate’ button works. I will dedicate the blog to you and profusely thank you for your kind donation in allowing me to experience something in a foreign land. Or, feel free to pass my blog out to your rich friends! Or even better, if you need life or supplemental Health Insurance, you know who to call!

Coming to the Cape

Day 32-43

So I am FINALLY here in Cape Town! The following morning, Zel dropped me at the Waterfront (if you're from Hawaii, then it's like our Aloha Tower but much bigger but yes, just as touristy, if not more). I had so much luggage! I had the option of leaving behind my things at Zel's house but that would mean I would need to come back to get it later but Zel lived on the opposite side of town from Peter and I didn't want to inconvenience someone or have to pay to go back and get it. So, I brought my big red backpack, my daypack and my box! Luckily when I got dropped off, there in front of me was a shopping cart! So I put all my things onto it and started pushing. Imagine the sight…yes, I looked homeless. This actually also happened to me in Kynsna…stopped at the car rental to see if I could get a car for a good price and unfortunately it was out of my budget ($150 for the weekend and only 400km) so I had to walk with my things (aforementioned items) to the taxi rank and right in Avis' parking lot was a shopping cart! I felt bad taking it but I just had too many things and then I realized…I was doing them a favor by bringing it back! I wish I could have taken a photo of me pushing my cart…

Friday, July 16, 2010

The things you learn…

Day 30-32

Traveling to Mossel Bay was easy; found Delfino's quickly and sat down to wait for my new host family. I wasn't sure if my stay with my newfound family was 'foreal' or not so I waited in anticipation for their call; they said they would call me when they got in around 4-5PM. I hadn't had lunch that day because we were trying to get to all the tourist sites before my 3PM bus so I ended up getting the 'chicken tenders' at Delfino's, comes to no surprise for those who know my fondness for anything fried. By the way, the South Africans love their fried chicken too! Seems like KFC or 'Kentucky' enjoys more popularity than the fast food giant, McDonald's!

Anyway, as I was munching on my grilled chicken with some sort of barbeque sauce (yes, I did order the chicken tenders but this is how it came!), Zelda had called out to me. I didn't recognize her at first because she wasn't in her biker jacket anymore (and because we were only together for about 10 minutes in Oudtshoorn) but then again, who else would know my name in this small town? She noticed that I was eating so she said she would come back in about 10 minutes. I quickly had my things packed because I didn't know when she would come back and still wondering if she would come back. Before getting ready to go, I snapped some shots of the ocean and the sunset. The kids next to me were so excited to hear that I was from Hawaii, especially because they were surfers and I suppose it's every South African surfer's dream to surf the Hawaiian waters. In little ways, it's gratifying to see how a part of 'Hawaii' has traveled to these far corners of the world…we invented surfing right? Well, that's my story and I'm sticking with it…

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Out to Oudtshoorn

Day 29 - 32

I lingered around the backpackers a bit the following morning and finally made my way to the taxi rank at 11:00AM or so; I wanted to leave much earlier but the conversations at the backpackers were interesting and admittedly, there is comfort in the familiar (after three days) to the unknown, a new town that I would be traveling to. Typically I travel with every traveler's bible: either the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide (insert country name here) but I had come ill-prepared and couldn't possibly carry an entire library of all the countries that I would be traveling to. So, with only the local maps and Coast to Coast (a small pocketbook with a wealth of information covering mostly place to stay and some things to do type tidbits) on hand, I would be making my way to Oudtshoorn which was only about 80km or 50 miles northwest of Knysna, via George.

Before getting into a car (a car this time rather than a minivan that has been my main mode of transport from the taxi rank), I bid my new friends, Clifton and Sharon, good-bye; took some photos with them at their produce stand and thanked them for their time. I also passed on some money (SAR40, $5.25) that I asked them to hand to Davie and Winston since I had expected to see them again after I left Judas Square but never did. Around the corner at the taxi rank, I quickly found my car. Inside sat a scruffy old man passed out by the effects of alcohol who looked a little scary, and then three younger men, in their late teens, jumped in. I pronounced shotgun and got it as if it were my Godforsaken right because I was a foreigner and female. Our driver was quiet and I later realized that it was because he hardly spoke any English.

We started to make our way out of Knysna but traffic was slow moving since it was the Annual Oyster Festival and the yearly cycling race had already begun and vehicular traffic had been reduced to one lane in order for the bicycles to ride on the road. We also had to stop at the gas station, or garage, as they refer to it locally before heading out of town. I find it funny that all these taxis that transport people, know they are transporting people, only seem to fill up just enough gas for the drive. I suppose it's also psychological; that passengers know that they won't go anywhere unless their fee is paid. At least the garage had free wi-fi and I had just enough time to check my main essentials: email, facebook, weather, exchange rate.

After we finally got out of Knysna (took us about 25 minutes when it should only have taken a few minutes) and the drive was smooth sailing. I politely chatted with the other passengers from the front seat and the drunk had woken up and not only had a sense of humor but was not as scary as I had initially thought. The other guys, all traveling separately were squeezed between each other, going out to George the next town over, to meet with friends. Since there were no direct routes to Oudtshoorn, I would get to George first then switch to another taxi at the taxi rank to get to my final destination. The drive was uneventful until about 40 minutes in, we hear a loud thud and the drunk who had slipped back into a quite doze was woken up and asking if we had hit someone. No, I knew it wasn't a person because I didn't see anyone but the noise was uncomfortably loud. The driver soon said it was the "bonnet", hood (I actually had to think for a second what a bonnet was!), that had flown off; you can imagine the kind of car that I was riding in! So, having pulled over, he reversed on the shoulder lane about 50m to retrieve a piece of his car. We were pulled over for about 15 minutes as the driver, with the drunk coming out to help, tried to reattach the hood. Finally, we were off but we had to drive slowly otherwise it could have easily come off again.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Knysna and Judas Square

After separating from the guys, I found myself at Highfield's Backpackers. A dorm bed here would cost me SAR100 per night which is ideally what I would like to pay so I was happy. The first day I walked around the town and checked out one of the museum's in town. It was a small museum that reminded me a lot like the Plantation Museum in Waipahu (; a collection of old houses that had been transported there showcasing life in the old day of Knysna (pronounced nai-s-na). There wasn't a lot of reading but it was nice to just have a walk through and a look back in time.

Before heading back to my backpackers, it was still light enough (about 4:30PM) so I decided to walk around town a bit. I found a coffee shop that had free wi-fi but they were closing for the day already. I met one of the workers outside and was able to get her to give me the security key so that I could connect! So, I stood alongside the main road for about half an hour briefly catching up on email and facebook. After reconnecting with the world after a long period (4 day absence), I decided to check out the taxi rank. During my time here and after a positive experience traveling to Lesotho, I have found it is a relatively safe and cheap way to travel; it's also a great way to interact with the locals. As I was trying to find the taxi rank, I decided to ask for directions which is actually something that the police and locals frown upon (I'm assuming that it's because this never ends on a good note). For some reason, I like to think that I have good karma and always fortunate enough to meet great people. So this time was no different and I had stopped Tosca and she was kind enough to show me the way. After showing me where the taxi rank was, she inquired the price and the location of where exactly the minibus that I needed would depart from. She also had time so she asked if I wanted to walk around the town while there was still daylight. She took me out to the waterfront and we chatted a little about our lives; there's some comfort and peace of mind in being able to share things with complete strangers.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Moving on from Bloemfontein…

Our bus to Port Elizabeth was three hours late and at one point thought I would never leave Bloemfontein! Our 9:30PM bus finally pulled out of town at 12:30AM! I arrived safely in Port Elizabeth at 11:00AM. The bus lady was nice enough to give me directions and instructions to navigate to my place. The lady from the boarding school where I would be staying had offered to pick me up for SAR70 ($9.10) but having been here for three weeks, I know that there are cheaper ways of getting around. I opted for the local mode of transportation and got a porter to push my luggage in a shopping cart for R10 ($1.35) and then caught a bus out to my boarding school for R6 ($0.80) that was way better than the $9 I was charged!
The boarding school was a bit of a dump but with the Round of 16 game (Uruguay vs. South Korea) that day, I didn't really have much options since everything was booked out. I was the only girl there and there must have only been about half a dozen of us. Since it was a boarding school there was a communal shower…you know the ones that you dread in junior high? I managed to take a shower at night and hoped that no one would come in while I was there. I was safe and didn't need to give a free peep show.
The biggest problem that had here was that when I was getting my stuff out of the closet, I saw THREE big (well small ones compared to Hawaii standards) cockroaches! Ewwww! I let out a yelp but no one came to my rescue. I later told the girl there but she said she would get a spray can later which never appeared…she also said that all the rooms are probably the same so I couldn't move. I hoped that I would be able to sleep well that night because once I know critters are lurking, I can't sleep! I remember once in Nepal, I had to call someone up to my room twice because I saw some B-52s climbing up the wall behind me; needless to say, it was probably the worst sleeps (or attempt) in my life.