Africa First

Blogging my journeys through this exotic continent!

Places to Visit When in Africa

vic-falls-bridge1[1]Having lived here in Africa for almost 5 years, I can safely say that I have been to some of the most beautiful places on Earth. Nothing compares to the experience of being up close with wild animals. I remember how beautiful yet frightening it was to see a gazelle being chased down by a lioness. How the poor gazelle tried to outrun its predator but failed.  I remember feeling grossed out seeing a wake of vultures feeding together at a carcass. I have learned later on that vultures are the only animals that can stomach eating rotten flesh and that they help prevent diseases spread by rotting corpses.   I have seen the smiles of locals and how accommodating they were. I have visited some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, and believe it or not, they are in Africa.

Despite the negative picture the media paints us of Africa; we cannot deny that it is a beautiful country. It has been my home for the last 5 years. In the years that I have been here, I can safely say that I know some of the best places that travelers need to visit when they find themselves itching for a little African adventure. Check out the list I made below.

TABLE MOUNTAIN

Where: Cape Town

Table Mountain is named as such due to its appearance—it is a flat topped mountain that overlooks Cape Town. Just like any hiking trip, the climb can be very hard and taxing, but the view from up the mountain is just spectacular. You can see all of Cape Town from up there. If the idea of hiking up the mountain does not appeal to you, don’t worry; there’s a cable car service to the summit.

ROBBEN ISLAND

Where: Cape Town

Robben Island is famous for many things such as being a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also home to the prison where South Africa’s prisoners hid during the Apartheid era. Nelson Mandela was once imprisoned in Robben Island too.  According to Africa’s history, that Robben Island was once a leper colony, a place where mentally ill patients were sent and a defense training base.

Usually, the people leading the tours to Robben Island are former political prisoners who have a lot to share of Africa’s political history.

KRUGER NATIONAL PARK

Where: Phalaborwa

If you think the view from the Table Mountain is spectacular, then wait till you visit Kruger National Park. This place is the very definition of breathtaking. It boasts of a diverse collection of flora and fauna—336 types of trees, 34 types of amphibians, 49 kinds of fish, 112 different kinds of reptiles, 147 kinds of mammals, and a whopping 507 different species of birds.

THE CRADLE OF HUMANKIND

Where: Krugersdorp

Situated just 50 km away from Johannesburg, The Cradle of Humankind is made up of a complex of limestone caves where scientists have discovered fossils dated back to the birth of humankind. It is said that man’s earliest known ancestors evolved from the Cradle of Humankind.

I hope this list can help you guys if you ever decide to visit Africa. It is a place that will leave you with some amazing impressions and wonderful, unforgettable memories.

Gorilla Trekking Tips

One of the most unforgettable experiences I’ve had while living in Africa would have to be the time when I saw mountain gorillas in their natural habitat. Up close.

The first time I was invited to a Gorilla Trekking party, a few years ago, I did not hesitate to say yes. I wanted to go even though I was uncertain as to what I would see or how I would feel. I said yes, in the spirit of adventure.

When I first saw the gorillas, I felt as though I were meeting some old, distant relatives—albeit more hairy than me. I took a lot of photos of the gorillas, but then I had to put my camera away so that I could just observe them. Please note that I was just a few feet away from these animals. I watched them without bars, fence, glass or rumbling safari car. Nothing stood between us and the gorillas and they calmly let us watch them. Up close, we were able to get a glimpse of what it is to be part of their world.

If anyone of you decides to go on a safari adventure in East Africa, do consider visiting the mountain gorillas in Uganda, Congo or in Rwanda. Gorilla trekking is fun, but it is unlike traditional safaris as it requires more active participation. My advice is that you plan ahead so that you won’t come unprepared in case you face challenges along the way. If you do push through with Gorilla Trekking, here are some helpful tips to make your experience a memorable one.

WEAR THE RIGHT CLOTHES

When picking out clothes for this activity, remember two things: muddy trails and changing weather. You might want to wear shirts made of synthetic materials that dry quickly. It can get quite warm and muggy in the forest, so be sure to wear comfortable clothing. If you and the group stop to rest after a few hours of hiking, it’s best to cool down with clothing made of fleece. It’s also necessary to bring a raincoat or a waterproof rain jacket as rainstorms normally happen in the forest. Always wear pants made of synthetic material. Avoid wearing shorts.

WEAR THE RIGHT FOOTWEAR

I’d suggest wearing above the ankle boots. You’ll likely walk through ankle-deep or even knee-deep mud and everyone knows this is no fun. Sometimes the mud could even suck the boots right off your feet so wear gators over your boots.

BRING ENOUGH FOOD AND WATER

There are no stores where you can buy food and water on national parks so, be sure to pack a liter of water and some snacks with you. I suggest packing energy bars as they don’t take up too much space in the bag and they can stave off hunger for a few hours.

These are just some of the things you need to know when getting ready for Gorilla Trekking. Once you’ve reached the destination, be sure to take a lot of photos to document the success of your Gorilla Trek.  Have fun!

 

Birthday Barbecue in Africa

Our son’s birthday is nearing in a few weeks and I’m getting pretty excited about throwing him a party. Planning a birthday is really exciting but it’s expensive and can be very tiring as well. Good thing I have my wife help me out with the party planning. Parties won’t be complete would good food and I ask our son what kind of food he’d like to have on his birthday and he said without any hesitation: “I want barbecue and ice cream!”

If there is one thing in the world that I would not tire of eating every day, it would be barbecue. I reckon my barbecue addiction must have rubbed off our son because he seems to love it just as much as I do. Now, I love barbecue but here in Africa, particularly Johannesburg, it seems to be a national obsession. In fact, men here seem to take pride in barbecuing. There’s even a reality show on South African TV called “The Ultimate Braai Master”. Braai is the Afrikaans equivalent for barbecue, I guess.

I’m pretty excited about barbecuing meat for my son’s birthday only I have a teeny problem with that—our barbecue grill broke a month ago. We could just buy barbecue from the nearest barbecue joints but our son wouldn’t want that—he’s always bragged about how his dad makes the best barbecued pork briskets.

Fortunately, my friend, Kade, volunteered to help us out. He owns an electric smoker, which he claims, is a lot better than traditional smokers. He said I could borrow it if I don’t have time to buy a new BBQ grill. I was a bit confused because, as far as I know, smokers are used for smoking meat. How would that help me with grilling barbecued meat?

We went over to Kade’s house and he showed me his electric smoker. Electric food smokers, he said are efficient and versatile. They can smoke, grill and barbecue meat, fish and vegetables. He showed me how the device works and I can say I’m pretty impressed. The fact that this smoker can be used indoors was impressive as well.

Learning how to operate the smoker was easy so I got the hang of it in just a few minutes. I thought the vertical electric smoker couldn’t impress me more until Kade showed me how to barbecue meat using it. He just set the timer and said we could leave it alone and the meat be done by then. He said I could just set the device and let it do its own thing. With this I could cook barbecue while watching TV, surfing the net or talking with my friends on the phone. Who invented this device? I want to give him/her a big thank you hug! Haha!

Because I got curious about electric smokers, I did some research and learnt a lot of useful things about it on the internet. It seems that Wikipedia has got everything you need from reviews to basic information about electric smokers. I’m definitely getting an electric smoker, but for the meantime I’ll be using Kade’s for my son’s birthday bbq party. I can’t wait to start using it!

Hunting in Africa

In my time in Africa, I had the pleasure of experiencing a great many number of things that were novel, interesting or breathtaking. One of the many incredible experiences that I had was hunting.
Now, first off – I know what you’re thinking right now. How inhumane – there are so many exotic and unique animals in Africa, why would you want to kill any of them?

The truth is, hunting animals in many places is one of the ways that we as humans can help preserve and sustain certain species – for example, I know that in the US, when there is one kind of animal that surges in numbers suddenly, state governments will often lengthen the hunting season on that animal and remove any limits – this helps quell the population numbers of certain species in check, which helps protect the animals that are lower down in the food chain. For example, hypothetically if there were suddenly a million extra lions in Africa, then all the animals that Lions commonly hunt would almost definitely be in jeopardy. So culling the numbers of one type of animal can often help achieve balance in the food chain.

Anyways, I’ve tried both hunting with a gun and hunting with a bow. Hunting with a gun was fun, but I’ve shot guns before both in the US and in Africa, so it was nothing special. On the other hand, learning how to shoot a bow was exhilarating to me. I’m not sure if my brain has been melted by reading/watching the Hunger Games, but learning how to shoot a bow and trying to hunt with it was one of the most downright fun things I’ve ever done in my life. I didn’t end up actually successfully hunting anything, but my experience in Africa (South Africa in this case) was awesome enough that I’ve decided buy a bow and go target shooting when I’m back home and I have time.

Does anybody have any recommendations for bows? I’m probably going to buy a recurve bow, I haven’t tried a compound bow but the stuff I saw on youtube makes it look very unnatural/unauthentic. This archery site recommends the Martin Saber as their top choice in the recurve guide here. If any readers know anything about archery, I’m very open to suggestions, as beyond my dreams of being Katniss Everdeen and my brief unsuccessful hunting experience, I really have no clue about any of this stuff. The Martin Saber on Amazon seems to be a little expensive for a complete neophyte. Some other sites suggest something called the Samick Sage for beginners. This one is a little more in my price range.

Apparently Jennifer Lawrence uses something called a Hoyt Buffalo in the Hunger Games movies – I would love to use the exact same model as her, but it seems like this bow doesn’t exist on Amazon at all. I can’t even buy in on the Hoyt website itself, which is silly. I have to ‘find a dealer’, which seems like a loads of hassle.
Anyways, readers – I’m open to suggestions for bow choices.

The Things I Loved While In Africa

Being uprooted from your home country is not an easy thing to adjust to, especially if the culture you’re being transplanted to is really very different. This was what happened to me when I moved to Africa more than five years ago. At first, I thought that the adjustment would be easy. I was after all, moving to a more civilized part of town, with all the developments and comforts that I was used to back home.

But moving wasn’t so easy after all. I miss the atmosphere, the people, the things that I was so used to doing; including watching the Epic Soccer Training Program at the nearby university (click to see the training videos) where the one of the best soccer teams in the district trained on a regular basis. I never played soccer in my entire life but I have always watched soccer games since I was young. The practice is exhilarating to watch and reminds me of my family. My Dad and my siblings had played soccer in our backyard since I could remember.

So imagine my surprise when walking from the office one afternoon, I saw a group of teenagers practicing soccer by the field. The part of Africa that I’m in is not dry and deserted. Like I mentioned earlier, it’s the area of town where the universities are and where the centers of commerce and business is located.  These were high school or maybe early college students who were playing soccer and I must have stopped to watch them for more than half an hour. A colleague of mine must have seen me and asked me what I found so interesting about those boys.

I just told him that they reminded me so much about my family back home. I also did a bit of research and checked the schedule as to when the boys would be back to practice. I figured maybe I could prepare them some refreshments afterwards. I was part of the academe anyway and introducing myself to these boys should not arouse any suspicion. Besides, as I was an expat trying to make new friends in a foreign land, it should not be too bad.

So to cut the long story short, I became the supporter and one woman cheering squad of these boys. I was also an unsolicited coach (not that their coach wasn’t giving them great advice) who stayed there with them no matter what the weather.  However, since I was Caucasian and burned easily I needed to beef up on my skin care regimen. I was careful not to buy just any product in the market. I did not believe in the Lifecell scam even for one minute, (see here), since I was able to try that product personally before I left for Africa. I was pleased that the product was shipped to my location and I ordered lots of them to make sure that I kept my skin hydrated and protected from the harsh African sun.

Of course, I also make sure that I apply sunscreen before I watch any soccer game or practice. Just making sure that I don’t age faster than necessary.

Here in Africa, We Don’t Worry About First World Problems

There was a time in my past when one of the biggest things that pissed me off was a flooded basement. I used to live in New York City and back then, being a top executive living in a nice apartment complex meant that my problems were simple and even funny. There was once a time when our building suffered from a leaking pipe and there was flooding all over the basement. I did not really keep a lot of items there, save a few old chairs and some papers that I had really been meaning to throw out but was too lazy to do so. You know, when you have the luxury space and you are a single woman living alone, having extra space in the home is not an issue.

It was my first time to experience having a flooded apartment so I had to call the best water damage experts in the city and have them clean up my basement. Since I had the resources to burn, I had them treat the apartment for mold and mildew and kill out possible spores. I also threw out the items which were submerged in the flood water and decided that I will be able to replace everything in just one day of shopping in downtown Manhattan.

Thinking about these things made me smile. Now that I live in Africa and my life here is more simple and less complicated, I sometimes miss these first world problems. I am not poor here, my life is comfortable; however I see how the locals live theirs and they seem to be content and happy with whatever they have. A flooded basement is nothing compared to the hard life of people here. Water is scarce in the poor villages and it pains me to see that what I considered as murky floodwater is actually something of an oasis for them.
Human rights is also a big problem. There are areas in the continent where women are still sold as slaves or married off against their will. They are seen by their parents as pieces of property – sometimes the cow is considered more valuable than the daughters. In New York and other parts of the US, it would have been very easy to just call a personal injury lawyer if someone has spit on you or called you names. There was a friend of mine who hired a lawyer from this Tampa law firm just because a man at a bar called her a slut.

The work I do here is aimed at improving the lives of women and children in the villages. I am not here as a missionary nor am I a teacher; I am here mostly to do research and write up policies that could make an impact on how they live many years from now. In the process of learning about them, my eyes have been opened as well. I have learned to value the freedoms I have taken for granted in the US – access to clean water, a good judicial system, the freedom to date whomever I want and wear whatever I please. In Africa, first world problems are the least of their concerns.

Star Gazing in Kruger National Park

During my time in Africa, I was able to journey to a number of different countries. No extended stay in Africa would be complete without visiting the most developed country in Africa, the Republic of South Africa. My stay there mainly consisted of travelling around and spending time at different game reserves in a few different areas. For those unfamiliar with game reserves, these are essential large areas of land comparable to national parks. Because of the nature of African Wildlife, these game reserves often have large fences surrounding the entire park.

By far my favorite of all of these parks was Kruger National Park in Northern South Africa. Our days were spent driving around in a jeep, visiting different watering holes and other interesting locations. Sometimes the animal sightings were few and far between, but when we did encounter one these majestic creatures, it was just breathtaking. It’s one thing to watch a documentary on TV about elephants or a rhinoceroses, but when you are 10 feet away from them in real-life, it’s a completely different experience. Regardless of being somewhat protected by the vehicle you are in, just knowing that if this animal decided to attack you would be in mortal danger is a strange and exhilarating feeling. There have been few occasions in my life where I’ve felt more alive.

Perhaps my favorite activity from my trip was Olifants Astronomy Activity. We first were taught about the South African night sky as well as a bit about some of the associated local folklore with the viewable constellations of stars. Then we went on another night game drive (which was a little more exhilarating because you had no idea what animals might be surrounding your outside of the floodlight beam). We stopped at a protected location which had been designed for stargazing through a few telescopes that the guides had set up. There were a few of us who had actually brought our own.

I don’t often mention it, but I have always enjoyed dabbling a bit in astronomy. Some years back one of my close friends had actually given me his old telescope as he had just purchased a newer one on TelescopeObserver.com. That’s how I came about owning my Celestron Powerseeker 127eq scope, which I happened to have with me this particular night. I must say that I’ve never had a more intimate experience viewing the night sky than I did that night. Being that far secluded from anything man made and just gazing out into the pitch-black encompassing night sky was an almost surreal spiritual experience. The fear of being among the unknown (and potential deadly), and having such an open view of the sky just made me feel so small, and insignificant, yet part of something infinitely larger than I could comprehend. It was an experience I will never forget, and something that I don’t think I could have achieved back at home.

Needless to say my time spent travelling around game reserves in Southern Africa was a highlight of my time spent on the beautiful and raw continent. If you ever are anywhere near Kruger National park, do whatever it takes to stop by and visit! You not be disappointed.

Most of our nights were spent in small hut, protected by a small fence to help protect us from any dangerous wildlife that might otherwise happen upon us in our sleep.

Completing a Paralegal Course While Living in Africa

My decision to move to Africa was one of the best decisions I have ever made in my life. My experiences there made me the strong independent woman I am today. Not only were they intellectually and spiritually enriching to the soul, I don't think I will ever have as much fun as I did in the 5 years I called Africa home.

When certain circumstances brought me to make the difficult choice of having to move back home, I was very sad. The extent of my sadness came as quite of a shock to me because I always missed my family and friends in the US and was always looking forward to the next time I could visit them. I realize now that those were merely bouts of homesickness foreigners feel when living in another country. It does not equate to the feeling of dread one feels when you're about to leave the place where you managed to become a self-made individual.

While I was feeling all of those things, I tried to decipher why I was dreading going back home. I realized that one of the main reasons I was feeling anxious was because I was a little uncertain about how I was going to start my life all over again. After all, I was already earning a steady income in Africa as a tour guide. Of course, that wasn't a profession I could pursue back in the US. That's when I decided it was time to finally pursue the career I've always wanted since I was in high school – I decided to take up a paralegal course.

However, I wanted to do this while I was still living in Africa so I would be able to start sending out my résumé to legal firms as soon as I moved back to the US. Since the local colleges that offered paralegal courses didn't exactly teach based on the American legal system, I knew that my only option was to complete the course online. I Googled ABA approved online paralegal programs and that lead me to a website called certifiedparalegal.net. Through that site, I was able to find out everything I needed to know about online paralegal courses and was able to narrow down the list of distance learning programs I was considering enrolling in.

Since I was living in Africa, I had to make sure that the online training programs on my list would use an effective LMS or learning management system so I could complete the course without any hitch. Thankfully, I made the right choice. I took a 3-month long online course and completed it just in time before I was scheduled to  fly back home.

Today, I am currently employed as a paralegal in a prestigious law firm in my hometown. I am also in the process of completing another online training program to further supplement my paralegal training and add more value to my résumé. While I have already adjusted to being back in the US, I won't deny that I still miss the life I used to live in Africa. But I've accepted that's just the way it is – when life gives you lemons, make lemonade!

A Pregnancy Scare

When I was living in Africa, I went through one of the most stressful times of my life. I had broken up with my boyfriend and my period was one month late. It was a situation any woman nursing a broken heart would consider a nightmare.

Let me just say this – I am not usually irresponsible when it comes to birth control. I was under the pill at the time but my ex and I went on a little trip to his hometown and I forgot to put my blister pack into my bag. He did use a condom during those times we were intimate but there was this one time that the rubber broke. We didn't think much of it at the time because it just seemed impossible. But a little over a month after that incident, we were broken up and my period was late.

Our breakup was pretty bad so I didn't really want to call him to tell him about my predicament. No matter how much stress I was in, I just couldn't bring myself to swallow my pride. Instead of going to my OB here in Africa or buying a pregnancy test, I chose drive myself crazy worrying about the possibility of being pregnant and becoming a single mother.

As soon as I realized that there was a big chance I might be pregnant, I did what any young woman in this day and age would do. I went on the internet to search for a website that offered some information on pregnancy tests that could detect early pregnancy. After all, I thought that if I was pregnant, I would only be about 4 weeks along. I was lead to a website called Pregnancy Test Central.

I was a little surprised by the information I found on the website. I didn't know that there were so many different kinds of tests available in the market today. After reading through the pages, I found out that what I needed was a kit that could read the levels of hCG in urine. I was pretty sure those kinds of tests would not be available in the local drugstores here in Africa. It was then that I resolved to go see my OB the following week so I could get it over with.

When I got to my OB's clinic, the first thing her secretary did was ask me a the customary question: "When was your last period?".  My OB then asked me if I had already taken a pregnancy test. Since I hadn't, she made me take one right away. I was shaking while I peed into the cup and had to take deep breaths to steady my nerves. After the most excruciating 5 minutes of my life, she told me that the test showed a false negative result which was pretty common for pregnancies that weren't too far along. The next step was to do a transvaginal ultrasound to determine whether or not I was baking a bun in the oven.

To cut the long story short, I wasn't anything in the oven so my OB ran a blood test to find out the cause of my delayed period. When we got back the results, she informed me that the cause was a hormonal imbalance that is usually caused by stress and there was nothing to be worried about just yet. Oh boy was I relieved!

Fast forward to a month after my visit to my OB, I got my period and everything seemed back to normal. Don't get me wrong, it's not that I didn't want children. I just didn't want one at the time because I still was trying to pull myself back together and I was living alone in a foreign country. Lesson learned? Make a list when you're packing for a trip so you don't forget to pack something as important as your birth control pills. 

My Emergency Visit to a Dentist in Africa

Before I start telling you about my visit to a dentist here in Africa, give me a minute for a back story. Around 2 years before I moved to Africa, I decided to get composite veneers in Atlanta at a reputable cosmetic dentistry clinic. It's not that I had bad teeth but there was a very noticeable gap between my front teeth and it wasn't something I was fond of.

A couple of weeks ago, I ran into a little accident while playing soccer with some of the kids at the orphanage I was volunteering in. I was playing the goal keeper and when Gibson, a 12 year old boy, tried to score I goal, I tried to block it with my head. Unfortunately, I miscalculated my move and the ball hit me right smack in the face. I know. Ouch! Thankfully, I didn't break my nose or anything of the sort. I thought everything was fine until I flossed my teeth before going to bed that evening.

As I was looking at my teeth in the mirror, I noticed a crack in my veneers. What's worse was that it was a bit wobbly when I touched it. I immediately panicked because I didn't know any cosmetic dentists in Africa. In fact, I've never even heard of anyone talking about it within my circle of friends. However, I was due for a visit to Atlanta in 3 months so all I needed at the time was an emergency fix. I figured even a regular dentist could do that.

The following day, I made my way to the local dentist a friend of mine recommended. When I got to the clinic, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was equipped with state of the art facilities. Apparently, the dentist got his degree from a university in London. I was very relieved to hear this because that meant he could somehow give me a short term fix for my veneers.

When he took a look at my teeth, the first thing he asked me was how long I have had the veneers so I told him that it's been almost 7 years. He proceeded to explain to me that composite veneers only had a lifespan of 7 years before their quality starts to deteriorate and that was probably why mine cracked. He also explained to me the difference between composite and porcelain veneers. As he was explaining, I made up my mind to get my current ones replaced by the porcelain kind.

Since he didn't do cosmetic surgery, all he could offer to do for me at the time was to secure it back in place and do a little work to somehow cover up the crack. He told me it should hold out until I could get porcelain veneers in Atlanta, where my cosmetic dentist is based.

Overall, I was very satisfied with my experience with the dentist here in Africa. In fact, I realized that I no longer have to travel to the US every year for dental checkups because the one here is perfectly qualified. Unless of course, it's with a cosmetic dentist.  I'm about to fly back home to Atlanta in a few days and have already made an appointment at the clinic. I hope all will go well and everything will get done on time before I fly back home to Africa. 

A Special Celebration Dinner for My Brilliant Nieces

Well, I’ve just got some really good news. Two of my nieces are finally making the trip up to see me, and I couldn’t be more delighted. My sister, Gloria, has two of the most ambitious daughters I’ve ever met, and it looks like the two of them are planning a road trip and I just happen to be on the route!

When the girls were younger I would routinely be their ‘favorite aunt’ because I’d spoil them with all manner of pastries, so I’m planning to capitalize on the genetic sweet tooth that seems to run in our family. I’ve got a tray of chocolate and coconut macaroons already cooking. But for dinner I was a bit stuck on what to make. It’s not every day I can cook for them anymore – both of them are in their early to mid-twenties. Julie’s the youngest, twenty two and just finishing off her diploma training as a dialysis technician. I had to look up what that actually meant, but dialysis is a process wherein a person’s blood is re-cycled through a machine that helps to clear out toxicities and unhealthy elements like uric acid – a lot of these people have kidney problems, and they rely on a dialysis machine to actually keep them alive. I have to say I’m surprised by Julie’s choice of profession – I remember she used to faint at the sight of blood! But I’m very happy that she’s decided to take up a job that helps so many people.

Carla on the other hand is the polar opposite of her sister. She’s twenty five and has been working toward finishing off her electrician’s diploma. In fact, she’s just been offered a job by the same company that helped to sponsor her in the first place, so that is thrilling. I know that electricians, like so many other trades, tend to be male-dominated, so I’m equally proud of her in a different way – I think it’s very brave to take up a profession that is so male-oriented, and I look forward to hearing all about it when she arrives (maybe even get her opinion about some of the wiring in my house… like why the kitchen light occasionally comes on for no reason… I’ve ruled out poltergeists!).

So, for dinner, after much deliberation, I decided on a chicken Marbella dish. The chicken is of course free-range, and it’s important to cut it up into fist sized portions. Next, a topping of sliced onions (cut side-wise, so you have long easy to eat pieces) and green and black Greek olives. This is the most important ingredient. Many people, I’ve heard, use other ingredients like eggplant or squash, but I like to keep it simple. I’ll put the whole thing in the oven for about an hour at 300 degrees, after which I’m hoping to have some mouth-watering melt on your tongue chicken. I also decided to make a grated carrot salad. Also easy and cheap to make, you can add a dollop of mayonnaise, raisins, crushed walnuts, and fried sesame seeds. It’s a delectable treat, and full of protein.

I’ve got about ten minutes until they’re supposed to show up, so I’ll have to love to stop writing and get prepping! I’m really looking forward to seeing both Julie and Carla and hearing about their new jobs though. If a tray of macaroons for the road doesn’t keep me as the favorite aunt, I don’t know what will!

My Home in Africa

About two and half years ago, I decided that it was time for me to buy a home in Africa. I came to this decision because I realized that it would be cheaper in the long term to just invest in a property here rather than renting out a small apartment. Besides, I didn't see myself going back home for good within the next 10 years or so.

I had a few requirements in the property I was looking for. One, the price should be within my budget. Two, I wanted a piece of property that would fit a modest home but had enough outdoor space for a vegetable garden and a pen for a few domestic animals. Finding one wasn't easy but eventually, I did find a property that fit all of my requirements. There were a few problems though.

The property has been abandoned for quite some time. Needless to say, the open space was overrun with weeds and the house was dilapidated. Why did I decide to buy the it in the first place? It was situated on a cliff and the view was breathtaking. I fell in love with it right away! I didn't think too much about the work involved in getting it back in shape.

While the sale was being processed, I started making plans on how to rehabilitate the property. I looked up prices for construction materials, home designs, and DIY tips and tricks so I could save money. When I inspected the house, I saw signs of termite damage so I researched on how to get rid of termite infestation. Additionally, I looked for information on how to get rid of the weeds in the garden.

Thankfully, I had local friends who not only knew contractors in the area but were also willing to help me with my project so I could save on costs. As soon as all the paperwork was done, we started working right away.

The main priority was of course, the house because I wanted to move in right away. When we took down all the rotten wood, we realized that the termite infestation wasn't as bad as I thought. That was a very welcome surprise because that also meant I wouldn't be spending as much as I initially projected.

While the house was being fixed, the ladies took care of the outdoors. We pulled out large weeds, tilled the soil, and prepped it for a garden. We were also able to build a fence for the area where I intended to keep some animals.

After a month of continuous work, everything was done. I was very excited to finally move into my new home. I threw a little party for everyone who lent a hand in completing my project as a way of thanks.

Today, my house still looks as good as the day it was completed. Don't get me wrong, maintaining it does take a bit of work. Somehow, it is still a work in progress as I keep coming across ideas on how to improve it. But I am very happy and proud to call it my sanctuary here in Africa. 

MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Centers to Visit while Traveling around Africa

Brazilian, and MMA Jiu-Jiitsu is likened to playing a game of human chess. The disciplines are a perfect way to get fit because they require a high-level of concentration, and learning skills, that enable a person to defend themselves.

There are many MMA, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools in Africa, so traveling practitioners can train, and discover new gyms. You will find great instructors and adequate facilities across the continent.

The African Brazilian jiu-jitsu, and MMA communities follow universal principles of hard work and unrivaled effort. This makes for a rewarding, and engaging experience. Classes are designed for advanced, and new students to excel, and work toward belt promotion.

MMA, and Brazilian jiu-jitsu schools structure their classes in such a way, that students know exactly how many classes they must attend to advance.

If you have been training for a while in martial arts, then you know that consistency is paramount. Training that has long gaps in-between can negatively affect advancement within the discipline.

Attending Brazilian, and Jiu-Jitsu schools abroad is a culturally rich, and empowering experience. It will challenge the practitioner, and benefit their physical activity, and overall health.” – Alan Belcher Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Instructor.

Let’s explore some of the MMA, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu schools located throughout Africa, that are easy to visit:

South Africa. Gracie Cape Town – is the only certified Gracie Jiu-Jitsu training location in South Africa. Located at, Shop 16, Piazza Shopping Centre, Cnr Link Rd & Parklands Main Rd, Parklands, Cape Town, South Africa.

South Africa: Dragon Power Muay Thai – MMA and Fitness Centre offers an impressive facility, state-of-the-art equipment and world-class instructors\trainers. Located at 51a Auckland Street, Paarden Eiland, Cape Town, South africa.

South Africa: Impakt MMA – their classes are tough, and they offer high-impact training sessions. They are located on 91 Main rd, 2nd floor, Claremont, CapeTown, South Africa.

Ghana: JUDO & JUJISTU IN GHANA – spreads awareness of martial arts, judo and jiu-jistu in West Africa. Located in, Tema Oil Refinery Club House (TOR Club House) Community 8, Tema, Greater Accra, Ghana.

Ghana: Newbreed Ghana – is a flourishing Brazilian Jiujitsu Academy in the region. Located at, Newbreed Jiujitsu Ghana, Ghana Multimedia Center, first Floor, Accra, Central Ghana.

Kenya: The south Fitness centre, Days:-Tues, Thurs & sat, Time: 9 AM-11AM, south-B estate, shopping centre. Vumira hse near mater hospital. Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya: University of Nairobi main campus “Box” hall 20 at games room, DAYS:-Wed, Fri & Sat, Time: 6-00 PM, near YMCA town. Nairobi, Kenya.

Kenya: Stima Plaza RBA apartments gym, Nairobi, Kenya. Mon, Wed & Fri, 7-PM along parklands near Kenyatta University school of Law. Nairobi, Kenya.

Senegal: Budo Club Cite Khadim, specializes in a range of styles; Club d’Arts Martiaux: Judo, Ju Jitsu, Karaté, Tae Kwondo, Aïkido, Nanbudo, Viet Vo Dao, Kung Fu, Dakaïto Ryu et le Jet-Ki-Do 149 Cité Keur Khadim Scat Urbam, Dakar, Senegal.

Nigeria: UCK Gym – offers many class hours, and private lesson sessions. Located at, 3-6, Alhaji Adejumo Avenue, Illupeju Industrial Estate, Lagos, Nigeria.

South Africa: Novagen’s Durban Academy boasts South Africa’s oldest certified Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu club, with world-class instructors and accomplished practitioners. Located at, Shop 10, Broadway Centre – Next to Jimmy’s Killer Prawns, Corner of Adelaide Tambo Drive (formerly Kensington Road) and Swapo Road (formerly Broadway), Durban North, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa.

South Africa: Fight Fit Militia, offers intense workout and skilled forms of MMA. Located at, 97 Maxwell Dr, Sandton, South Africa.

Taking Up Archery as a Hobby

When I first came to Africa over 5 years ago, I realized I pretty much needed a lifestyle change if I really wanted to live here. Back in the States, I could pretty much keep myself occupied and entertained without so much as stepping outside my bedroom. Here however, it's an entirely different story.

For one thing, the luxury of streaming movies and such isn't available because we don't exactly get high internet speeds. My internet speed is decent enough for me to be able to research, check my emails, Skype with family and friends back home, and blog. But that's about it. Next, the outdoors are so beautiful that it would be a pity to just stay in bed all day.

I don't really play a lot of sports but I do play football and a little bit of basketball. I'm not very good at it and being a girl, I don't get a lot of invitations to play with the neighborhood "kids". This is why last year, I finally decided to follow my childhood dream of taking up archery as a hobby.

First however, I needed to find someone in Africa who could teach me. Thankfully, a friend of mine knew someone named John who was also into the sport and introduced us a week later. John talked to me a little about archery and told me about an archery club that accepts beginners like me. The best part was that classes were held in a facility only half an hour away from my home. I went to the place the following day and signed myself up for the beginners' class.

Being the type of person who gets very excited about the littlest things, I couldn't stop myself from hopping on the internet to learn more about archery. After getting the gist of the fundamentals, I started looking at bows. One site I landed on offered reviews on the best compound bow brands in the market. I immediately wanted to get one for myself but decided against it. After all, I've only just signed up for a class and have never held a bow in my life. I told myself that it would be wiser to wait after a few classes so I would know if archery was really something I would love before I invested in a bow. Besides, I wasn't even sure if a compound bow would be right for me.

The first day of archery class was uneventful. It was pretty much a lecture on the history of the sport and about bows. My instructor talked about the different types of bows and what would be the best one for each body type. He told me that since I wanted to learn archery as a hobby, the best type of bow for me was a recurve bow. I remembered from my research that recurve bows were the very famous because they are used in the Olympics.

After a couple of weeks in taking archery classes, I decided it was time to invest in a recurve bow of my own. I went back on the internet to search for recommendations on the best recurve bow that I could afford and decided to order the Martin Archery  Saber Take Down. I got it for under $300 and only paid a little for the shipping fee to Africa.

A year after my first archery lesson, I have already advanced to the intermediate level. My bow is still in perfect condition and has become one of my most valuable possessions. John has invited me to join him and a couple of his archery friends on a short trip next week where we could practice our skills out in the "wild". Don't worry, we won't be hunting animals but we will be shooting our arrows at paper targets spread out in the forest. Should be fun!

Living Abroad is a Matter of Adaptation

I have lived a normal life, and enjoy it very much thank you. Most people would not even notice or know that for a while I lived outside of the country. Although it is gratifying, there are times when acquaintances ask me about my travels, and about living abroad. I want to tell them a lot about my experiences. Unfortunately, few can appreciate what I have seen, and how I lived in other countries. For instance, when living abroad, no matter if it’s just across the border in Canada, or in a different country where they don’t speak English, there is always the cultural barrier. There are some countries where the food is much like anywhere else, but in cases of sports, or inter-relationships, these things are always different.

In sports for instance, the game called soccer in the States is called football everywhere else. The popularity of this game is phenomenal. Compared to the rest of the world, the NFL is an island of isolated fanaticism. As for baseball, there are some countries which share the same passion, but not enough. There are the Central American countries, as well as the Caribbean countries, Japan and Taiwan, where baseball is played with more fun and passion than in the United States. Outside of those countries and it is barely mentioned. Basketball is more widely played and has a wide audience when compared to baseball and football.

For Americans who have not experienced going abroad before staying in a foreign country, this is where culture shock begins. It does not begin with the dwellings, not even with the language. The dwellings, you can live with. You can adjust to the language, and learn on your own. After a while, you would find out that those who work around you would much better learn English, than teach you their language. They know that they can use what they learn of English, even after you have left, whereas you would not have to use their language when you go back to your country.

In the same manner, the house or dwelling that you have to live in while abroad, will always be better than the rest of the population. In the States, you can login to http://www.albllc.biz and they would be able to help you in getting an apartment. In Africa, you start by asking around, and at some point, you would find that a relative of a friend would have a house or a room for rent. This is essentially true for most of the world.

If you have problems with your plumbing, you can go online to http://www.cmacplumbing.net and they would be able to help you. In most of the world, especially in Third World countries in Africa, Asia and South America, you are on your own, and would have to find out how to fix your own pipes. Considering everything, you’re one of the lucky few because you have indoor plumbing.
You learn to adapt, and this becomes transparent after a while. For an American living abroad, the first thing that he should understand is that he is not in Kansas anymore, and the rest of his stay in a foreign country is an adventure.

My African Sanctuary

I have been living in Africa for 5 years now but it wasn't until last month that I finally decided it was time to buy a house here so I have a place to call my own in this beautiful country. I was really lucky that I found the right property so fast. How fast you ask? Well, we're closing the deal next week! Yes, I am very excited to tell you all about my African sanctuary.

The property I bought is not new. The owners are selling it because they will be migrating to another country. They wanted to get the house sold right away so they were selling it really cheap. It was a good thing my friend Berko heard about it from his neighbors and told me right away.

It's a quaint little country house situated on a cliff side just a little south of the city. It has an amazing view of the mountains and plenty of fresh air. The house itself is unfortunately, a little dilapidated. It will take a bit of effort and money to fix up the place but I love it already! In fact, I have already started making plans on how to restore the house to its original glory.

Aside from changing the shingles and gutters on the roof, a lot of the wooden components of the house need to be removed because termites have pretty much taken over the place. What I plan to do is to make the walls concrete just in case the termites decide to take revenge sometime in the future. I don't really want to change the overall design of the house because I fell in love with it as it is. But I do want to be able to live in it without being afraid that the floorboards might give out any moment. There's a lot of work that needs to get done and I'm pretty sure I would end up spending more than I initially planned. However, my friends here are already working with me to ensure that everything will fit into my budget.

Painting the house is something I want to do all on my own because I really want to do some murals. I've been reading airless paint sprayer reviews and decided on the Graco Truecoat. Since I plan on using the sprayer around Africa, I've decided that a hand-held model would be my best option. I see this as an investment because I can use it when I volunteer in  building schools and homes in Africa.

As for the furniture, I plan on getting everything locally. I may also have some custom pieces made by woodworkers I met during my travels around Africa. I want my sanctuary to be full of everything I love about Africa – the culture, the local art, and little trinkets that will remind me of the amazing people I've met during my journey here.

If you're wondering if I plan to stay in Africa forever because I bought a home here, I don't really have an answer for you. I will tell you this though. Right now, I don't see myself living anywhere else but here. Somewhere along my 5 year journey, Africa has become my home and sanctuary is just another step in my amazing African adventure. 

« Older posts

© 2015 Africa First