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!

How A Yeast Infection Almost Drove Me Away from Africa

Africa is one of the most beautiful places in the world and I love living here. I’ve been living here for almost five years, and I don’t think I’d ever want to go back. I mean who wouldn’t love it, great weather, great food, incredibly friendly and fun people and animals roaming freely (animals that people in other parts of the world need to go to a zoo for). It truly is amazing here but there are two things that make me miss home. These are the high crime rates in Africa and the terrible health care system.

The crime rate isn’t that bad seeing that I always stay in safe areas when travelling. When I’m at home, we always make sure to lock the gates, doors and windows (as you’d do anywhere else I guess). As long as you’re sensible about your personal safety, then this is not really a big issue. I do get scared when reading the newspapers sometimes though but we do live in a safe neighbourhood with many other expats!

However, the health care system in Africa is a bigger issue. Finding a good doctor in the public healthcare system can be quite a mission. There’s been a few times where I needed medical attention and finding an affordable doctor was nearly impossible. It’s fine if you have the money to pay for the best doctors, but if not, you’re pretty much at the mercy of a highly underdeveloped public system to take care of you. For example, a few weeks ago I suspected I had a yeast infection, and tried getting an appointment with a doctor. The waiting list was 2 months. I’m not sure where you are in the world, but I suspect it’s not as bad where you live as it is here in Africa. Anyway, I couldn’t see a doctor within a few days as I would have done back home – which just wasn’t acceptable. I was in major discomfort and really needed some medical help.

I finally was able to see a nurse at a local hospital, who diagnosed me and suggested some treatments – but could not prescribe me anything as in Africa, only a qualified medical examiner can prescribe drugs. So I did what anyone in the 21st century would do, I typed in my symptoms on the Internet and found some yeast infection treatments I could buy without a prescription. I ended up reading a Yeastrol review online which I ended up buying. Luckily this eventually cured the infection and I didn’t need any more help.

Now this was something I could use a home remedy for, but if it would have been anything more serious, I would have been in trouble. You really don’t realise the practicalities like this when moving abroad to a less developed country. I know a few people that live in other parts of Africa that don’t have this problem, so I guess it depends on the part you live in but it does scare me somewhat. But despite all of this, I don’t think I really want to move back home!

Africa and Conflict Diamonds

As you all probably know, conflict diamonds are an enduring problem in Africa. I guess a lot of Americans first heard about this particular issue through the movie Blood Diamond – but it’s actually been an ongoing problem in the region for a number of years, and it persists to this day.

For those of you who don’t know much about the issue, let me just give a brief explanation. Conflict diamonds are diamonds that are mined by warlords in various regions in Africa. These diamonds are generally end up being sold to consumers in the western world. The problem is, the profits from these diamonds are often used to fund military conflicts. The funds garnered through the sale of conflict diamonds allow warlords and despots to prop up their violent and oppressive regimes.

This is not an issue that is specific to a particular country – through the years, conflict diamonds have been the source of funds for brutal dictators and warlords in a variety of African countries, including (but not limited to) Angola, the Ivory Coast, Both Congos (RoC AND DRoC) and Liberia. While the UN and other international organizations have taken steps to try and curb the sale of these diamonds, their efforts have been baby steps at best. According to my friends and contacts on the ground in various countries in Africa, efforts by international organizations have proven woefully inadequate. If you don’t believe me, read this scathing criticism of the UN’s Kimberly Process – written by the Guardian newspaper in the UK.

So, what can we do to combat this problem? In my opinion, it has to start with consumers. If demand for diamonds dropped significantly, then the prices of diamonds would also plummet. The lower the prices of diamonds, the less money there is flowing into the hands of the suppliers. Did you know that the world diamond supply is actually restricted by all the large suppliers in order to artificially inflate the value of diamonds? It’s basically a cartel – which is not surprising, given the unsavory characters that supply the raw materials.

The way that consumers can help push back against the sale of conflict diamonds is simple – don’t buy diamonds. There are a whole bunch of e equally beautiful alternative gemstones that are excellent replacements for diamonds. In fact, many of these alternative choices are actually both rare and less expensive than diamonds are (because diamond prices are artificially inflated). I linked an infographic in this post (image credit to The Semi Precious Stones Guide) – you can use this infographic to check out a wide variety of great looking diamond substitutes.

While there’s no guarantee that the specific gemstones you end up buying aren’t also ‘conflict gems’, it is much less likely that this will be the case. This is because a lot of these other gems are rarer and thus more expensive to mine; they’re also often cheaper than diamonds. This basically means that the profit margins on these other types of gems is significantly lower than that of diamonds, which in turn means that the profit hungry despots who’re running the conflict diamond trade have little reason to focus on these other kinds of gemstones.

So, when you next find yourself shopping for an anniversary gift or an engagement ring, I strongly urge you to avoid buying anything with diamonds in it. Little by little, we can all work together to cut off funds to the despots and thugs that are profiting from the conflict diamond trade.

Riding Freedom Trail for the First Time

When I was living in Africa, biking was one of my most favorite past times as well as my primary form of transportation. My friends and I would ride our VeloMoFo fixed gear bikes when going to nearby towns. When we had time off from work, we'd take out our mountain bikes on biking trips in provinces.   

In my second year in Africa, one of my friends asked me if I wanted to go with them on a biking trip to Freedom Trail. I wasn't too familiar with it back then but because I'm always up for an adventure, I immediately said yes. I was curious as to why he said I'd have to join him in the "conditioning rides" he would be taking in the succeeding days. I wondered why we had to practice for the biking trip in Freedom Trail since we rode our mountain bikes all the time.

My question was answered when I got home and researched on Freedom Trail. Apparently, Freedom Trail is meant only for experienced mountain bike riders because it is comprised of 37,000 meters of uphill and downhill trails and 2,350 kilometers of dirt road. It spans across South Africa and offers fantastic mountain views and vistas.

I was both excited and terrified at the same time. I wasn't an experienced mountain biker and I wasn't sure if I had the endurance to complete such a challenging biking trip. Nevertheless, I decided that I had to at least try before I accept that it was beyond my amateur biking skills. Besides, my friend was going to work with me in building up my strength and endurance before we head on to Freedom Trail.

Over the next two weeks, my friend and I rode our bikes on nearby dirt roads and hills for a couple of hours a day. At first I couldn't even last 30 minutes riding up the hill but after a week of non-stop practice, I had enough endurance to ride my bike up the steepest mountain in our area for 1 whole hour.

On the day of our Freedom Trail biking trip, I knew I was ready. We drove to Pietermaritzburg a day ahead of schedule to meet up with the other bikers who were going to join us as well as rest up for the long day ahead.  We were up before sunrise the following day, had a hearty but light breakfast, and then we were on our way.

I won't go into every detail of the ride because this post will become too long. But one thing I will tell you though is Freedom Trail is not for the faint hearted. The uphill and downhill trails are treacherous and it takes a lot of endurance to be able to complete the entire trail without stopping. However, it was absolutely worth it because of the magnificent scenes that surrounded us throughout the ride.

In the 5 years I lived in Africa, I had the privilege to ride my bike on Freedom Trail for a total of 8 times. It never failed to amaze me each time I was able to complete the trail. If you're a biking enthusiast, I highly recommend that you try Freedom Trail if ever you find yourself in Africa. I guarantee it will be an experience you will never forget.  

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.

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