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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Creative Traveling

Day 62 - 69 

Windhoek, a very small town, had very little to offer. They had a city bus tour that was extremely overpriced ($30) Antonia and I ended up just going around by foot. Gogz also took me to see the new State House which was very beautiful and grandiose, its perimeters lined with black and gold fencing going up along the hillside, stretching for at least 1km (would be my guess)…or at least that's how impressive it appeared to be. Gogz also treated me to some local specialties including, but not limited to, Steph and Dan's favorite champagnes: Pongratz and Simonsig. I am not sure but immediately after having the Pongratz, I started to have a very adverse reaction and ended up getting really sick but Gogz, Aiesha and Elike took very good care of me and even cancelled their dinner plans to see to it that I was okay. Talk about incredibly genuine people! Anyway, there's more to this story if you're interested…I can go into detail on other reasons that Gogz and I boiled it down to but it's just too much to write here, too many factors…

That night, was Antonia's last night and we were supposed to have dinner together but because I fell ill, I ended up getting back to the backpackers a little late (10PM). I think a lot of it was fatigue and I just went to sleep. Antonia was departing early the next morning. I woke up with her at 3:30AM to see her off at 4:00AM. She had an early morning flight to Johannesburg in time to catch her flight out to Paris. Too bad she couldn't have stayed longer as it's always fun (and cheaper) to have a travel buddy!

Iroquois Point Elementary t-shirt!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

And then there were two…

Day 53 - Day 62

The following morning, Antonia and I were off. Jolanda was sweet enough to wake up early and have breakfast with us at 7:00AM even though it was one of the few days that she'd be able to sleep in. We had a nice breakfast at the place we were staying at and Spencer even woke up to say good-bye; by 7:20AM we were on our way.

Two nights earlier, Antonia and I went around town trying to get rental car prices. Apparently because it was peak season (or maybe it had to do with the World Cup just ending) there were no cars available! We decided to stop in the visitor's center and the lady suggested a local company stating that she always preferred to help the local companies. Later, I would find out that these local companies paid them a commission.

Anyway, we got in touch with Silvester who was willing to rent us a car for N$380/day, $50 a day. I didn't really want to pay $25 a day but what were my options? I had come all the way to Namibia and I wasn't going to see the sights? My option was that I could join a tour but that would be significantly more. So Antonia and I agreed we would rent the car for a minimum of three days (this was the minimum amount of days to qualify for unlimited km otherwise, they only allow you 200km per day at ND0.20 for any additional km driven). Antonia was planning to book a flight out from Windhoek back to Johannesburg in time to catch her flight back to Paris so we would need to drop the car back in Windhoek. This would cost us an additional N$600. It was adding up but again, this was still going to be the cheapest alternative for me. So we agreed, and Silvester said he would come by at 2:00PM the following day to drop the car.

Instead of Silvester, someone else came and dropped the paperwork off and had us sign some papers. Being a small company, it was a bit nerve-racking signing these papers. Instead of the standard insurance, we were asked to give our credit card number and in case of any damage, we would be charged a maximum of N$9,800 ($1350) which wasn't too bad but it still didn't rest well with us that they had our credit card number. Then after discussing with Sizzy, our tour guide, and the guy who brought the car, they discouraged us from going that night and that our plan to go to Cape Cross was a bit unrealistic since the seal colony at Cape Cross was part of a National Park so opening and closing times were directly related to the sun. So since it was almost 3:00PM, and over 150km away, we would probably not make it by sunset and after we got there, we would have nowhere to stay. So we were able to ask the guy if we could start our rental from the following morning. He agreed and also left the car for us so we could have an early start. So we scored with an extra day although we didn't take advantage!
Our rental for $50/day!

KC Waffle Dog and Sandboarding

I would like to take the time to recognize my second sponsored activity and thank Dayton Asato and his family and KC Waffle Dog for providing this opportunity to me! I would have much rather been given a free year's supply of KC Waffle Dog but instead I was just as lucky to get a nice farewell card, a KC Waffle Dog tshirt (which has made it on this trip with me), and sponsorship money that I would later choose to use toward sandboarding for the first time! It's such a new sport and only available in some limited locales (places with sand dunes) that as I write this the red squiggly line to tell you that you have misspelled a word comes up under 'sandboarding'…there it goes again. As you may have guessed, sandboarding is going down sand dunes instead of snowy slopes with all the usual snowboard gear. There is also lie-down sandboarding which is like bodyboaring in the water but instead you're on cardboard/wood (I don't know what you call this material) rectangular boards and you go down the sand dunes lying down.

Classic KC Waffle Dogs
Firstly before I begin my story of sandboarding, let me tell you the story of how I know Dayton. Naturally, you'd assume that we knew each other because we were maybe related; he's Okinawan. Dayton's last name is Asato which is the same surname as my paternal grandmother's; you know how they say that all the Okinawans are related (which is about 80% true). But that is not how I know Dayton. Dayton's family owned the very famous, KC Drive-In which was bought by the Asato family (Dayton's grandparents) in the 1930s. They are most famous for their waffle hot dogs with crisp edges. Although the waffle dogs can be eaten 'as is', the secret being in the batter mix, I usually like the added toppings that they have available: chili, cheese, homemade relish, etc. together with their equally famous 'Ono 'Ono shake which is exactly what it is, **'ono! The 'Ono 'Ono shake is a thick chocolate peanut butter shake; if you ask me, the best two flavors that you could possibly combine together. So, being that we are an Okinawan family with a family restaurant business, we would know the Asato family through the business…Or maybe because I'm a regular customer and because I like to eat that I'll go back to the same restaurant over and over again if I like it. But no, that's not how I know Dayton either. I actually met Dayton (I don't even know if he remembers this) because in 2005, I was looking at upgrading our one cash register to several digital cash registers that would sit on a network and allow me to accommodate more customers than what we were doing with our one cash register, eliminate any mathematical errors (our bills were tabulated by our waitresses and their hardy calculators), have better knowledge of my sales, etc. But the problem was that I was going to spend tens of thousands of dollars but didn't know which company to go with. And so the company that I found told me that I could go and see the system that KC Drive-In had in place at their restaurant located on Kapahulu Avenue. This was how I met Dayton. I called him and he was really nice and willing to show me how his system worked and what you could do with all the information from such a software system. Having only been running our family business for a little over a year, this was the first time that I was actually going to see the operations of another restaurant business. Dayton probably doesn't realize this or know how helpful he was to me and how grateful I was for all the information that I gathered that day.

Sadly, it would be later that year that the family would make a difficult decision to close their restaurant, a landmark of a place that had greeted so many local and visiting customers for close to 70 years, due to dwindling customers and the rising cost of running a restaurant business. I read about this news in the newspaper along with the rest of the Hawaii population and like everyone else, I was standing in line on their last day of business. Standing in line for over an hour, I saw Dayton running around trying to get orders out. The power of the media. Had they been able to make any mention of this business even 6 months prior, maybe sales wouldn't have been so bad to force the family to close down? But that's always how it is; it only becomes newsworthy when something negative happens (fire, robbery, etc.) rather than 'just because.' Just because this family has survived 3 generations (70% of family businesses, restaurants with even smaller numbers, don't succeed from second to third generation), because it had survived for close to three quarters of a century, because it was a local staple, any of these reasons could have been fodder for a nice 'just because' article but media doesn't believe this makes for public interest for some reason.

I stood in line, shouting (in a nice way of course) out to Dayton, asking him if I could help him. Yes, I am not an employee there but, hey, I run a restaurant, I am sure I can find a way to help. 'No, no,' Dayton said as sweat dripped down the sides of his face. Finally after waiting another 20 minutes and me seeing that they were struggling to keep up and I was not moving any bit, I said, 'the heck with it' and I went back there behind the KC Drive-In counter and tried to see what I could do to help serve all these hungry customers who had been lining up for hours (the dream of any restaurateur). It was actually so much fun to be able to just plop yourself into a new restaurant, having no background on how they do things, but able to just pick up and be part of the team within minutes. One of my best restaurant stories to date, which is another reason why I think I could easily consult restaurant businesses! It's more or less the same. Serve quality food in a timely manner, accurately and with a courteous attitude and service.

Shortly thereafter, Dayton would kindly remember me and Highway Inn when he was asked to help out with a new restaurant delivery service business. It was an equally exciting opportunity for us to be able to bring our food to the doors of our customers who may have otherwise not had our food that day because it was out of their way. It was through this business arrangement that Dayton and I would again have the opportunity to work with each other. His delivery service brought us a few new customers, additional sales and even an opportunity to get on to Oceanic Cable and have our own channel allowing customers to order food right from their living room through their remote controls! Since then Dayton and I have now become great friends!

So before I left, as busy as he is, he made a stop at my friend's bar, 8 Fat Fat 8, and dropped off my going away gift. So this blog is dedicated to KC Waffle Dogs, Dayton and his wife Jean and their two beautiful children, Angela and Andrew and he also wanted me to mention their furry family member, Eddie. Although the restaurant is no longer on Kapahulu, Dayton still does events, especially fundraisers! Please get in touch with him if you are interested in finding a quick and easy way to raise money for your organization and treat people to a nostalgic taste from the past! Children these days shouldn't have to be deprived!

Day 7

We would have wanted to leave Swakopmund sooner but there were activities that were available to us and many from the group were planning to sign up to do something so I thought I should see what was offered. There was sky diving, dolphin cruises, Quad-biking and sandboarding to name a few…Everything seemed rather boring and/or something I could do back home. Earlier in January while I was in the Philippines, you may also remember that I got to ride an ATV for 20 minutes…after the first 5 minutes, it gets boring…or maybe that was because I was riding in circles alone? Whatever the case, I thought sandboarding was an opportunity that I may not have again for a while…and it was the only activity that included lunch and a video! So, for about N$350 ($50), I was able to go sliding down the sand dunes near Swakopmund!

I had tried to teach myself to snowboard when I lived in Japan and managed to ride the slopes but here I told them that I was a beginner thinking that I would receive proper and formal instruction and maybe an extra eye would be on me. It was a bit of a waste of time though because they didn't really teach me anything that I didn't know. The instruction took about 15 minutes while the others already started riding down. It was a lot of fun but I was so afraid! I am not sure what I was really afraid of as I knew it wouldn't kill me…the sand was incredibly soft but I was afraid. The hardest part about it too was that each time we went down, we had to trek back up in our gear and boy was it hard! I wanted to keep going down but I just couldn't get up fast enough! In the end, I got to go down about 4 times, I think? Which isn't that many times for $50?!

After about an hour and a half or so, we were told that we were now going downhill lying down. Somehow I got called up to go first in a group of 30+! This time I was really, really afraid but I had to do it and the guy pushed me down. That was a lot of fun as well but I must have been so tense because my neck was sore after I got done! They had a speed gun and clocked me in at 70kmh! I decided to do this a second time to see if I could beat my time but I came in with the exact same speed. At least I'm consistent!

After that, we had one final ride down with our snowboards.  On my last ride down, I challenged myself to go off the ramp! At first I said 'no', then changed my mind and decided to go for it! The first time I totally bombed and thought I hurt myself and that sand got into me from my behind! I hit the ground so hard and in a weird way that it took me a while to stand up. Call me crazy but I got up and wanted to try again. The second run down the ramp was just as bad but at least the second time, I didn't hurt myself!


I am not sure when I'll have the opportunity to do it again but I'm confident that next time, I'll go down without so much fear! I want to thank my sponsors again, KC Waffle Dog and the Asato Family for letting me have the best ride on sand you could ever have!

** 'ono means delicious in Hawaiian