Socks and Underwear

Socks and Underwear: March 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lion's Head Hike

We managed to fit quite a lot into our few days in Cape Town when my sister came for a visit. I also feel compelled to share most of the activities we did because it was so amazing. You are most likely to be sick of reading/looking at pictures of Cape Town. This is all just too bad because I cannot be dissuaded in documenting almost every part of the trip.

After our morning trip to Robben Island, my sister and I decided to climb Lion's Head on a whim. This is part of the reason I fell in love with Cape Town and could easily live there, you can just up and decide to climb a pretty big mountain and walk to it from within the city and then have choices as to which mountain to climb! Anyway it was a pretty difficult hike/climb, way more so than we had anticipated. Still a really rewarding adventure.

View of the Cape Town city bowl. Table Mountain is off on the right there and the pointy shadow is of Lion's Head itself. You would think that the Grinch lived up on top of that peak. Sadly, he does not.

This is not a great shot of Table Mountain but it is a great shot of the frequent clouds that come rolling off the mountain. The locals call it a "table cloth" which is both adorable and clever like a talking kitten.

View of Camp's Bay. This is the nice beach area of the city and the posh and glamorous area as well.

The last part of the ascent was a pretty exhausting scramble up the rocks. There was quite a bit of traffic on the trail going both up and down. Not so many people that it was bothersome but rather impressive that so many take advantage of such a cool natural feature of their city.

Besides the final climb to the summit this was the most difficult part. If you decide this path, you are actually doing some climbing. It is made significantly easier with bars and chains installed in the rock. Still for a "hike" it was somewhat challenging.

There were plenty of people at the top enjoying snacks and picnics and even beers. Climbing up that sucker certainly earns one a beer and I am certain most people would agree. If I ever hit rock bottom, I am going to move to Cape Town and climb up there daily with a few cases and sell beers to thirsty climbers.

Sunset over the Atlantic. Our timing for the hike was absolutely perfect. We also didn't have a car at this point so we hiked even more than most, almost from sea level and up a hill I don't think we were supposed to hike up. Not too shabby.



Next up: More Cape Town!

WHS Quest: Robben Island

The quest continues to see all of the World Heritage Sites in South Africa. Most recently I was able to see the two sites closest to Cape Town during my sister's visit. The first up was Robben Island.

This post does not come close to giving a full history of the island and all that it means to this country, nor is that my goal. I merely aim to give some of the larger points and relate my impression of the place. If you are interested in knowing more there are of course many resources to do this that will be more thorough.

Briefly, the island has been in use ever since the European explorers started to arrive. At first it was simple a waystation and supply depot but it didn't take long for it to become a prison. Flash forward several hundred years and it becomes notorious for holding many of the leading figures in the fight against apartheid. Among the many political prisoners who were held there was Nelson Mandela who went on to become the first truly democratically elected president of South Africa. The island has also been used at times as a leper colony and as a defensive position during WWII (in typical "African time" style, the larger guns were not completed until 2 years after the war ended). Now, it is used mainly as a memorial and a museum to educate people about South Africa's past.

The best sign I could find was not a sign at all but some decals on a bus. I didn't realize it until I looked at it just now but the symbol for the Robben Island museum is a transformation of prison bars into a freed person.

By complete luck, my sister and I were lucky enough to get this man as our tour guide for the ride to the prison. His name is Mohammad Yasen and he is perhaps the best tour guide I have ever experienced. Maybe not the finest achievement in the world but I was extremely impressed with his breadth of knowledge. His trick was to involve all of the nationalities of the visitors on the bus in the storytelling for all of the stops we made along the way which included Dutch, American, British, Irish, Scottish, Australian, New Zealandese(?), and most impressively Brazilian. If you ever get the opportunity to go, try and seek this man out for the tour.

I don't want to rip off his tour because it is his but one of the jokes he told that I don't mind repeating was during one of the stops at a church along the way: "If you set South Africans in a new area, quickly you'll have 10 different churches, 20 different political parties, and 30 different liquor stores." This man knows South Africa.

This is the limestone quarry where many of the prisoners spent their days mining and breaking apart rocks. The prolonged exposure to the dust from the limestone permanently damaged many of the prisoners' eyes. Even today, flash photography is prohibited around Nelson Mandela.

This was our tour guide through the actual prison. His name is Sepo Nkosi and he was a former prisoner. It is remarkable that he is able to revisit such a place again and again. I have nothing but respect for him being able to lead clueless people around such a painful experience.

This is the prison yard for the political prisoners. The tree in the far corner is where A Long Walk to Freedom was hidden and smuggled out of the jail.

This is the cell where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years imprisoned. As you can see, it is extremely small and the items inside are about all that was all permitted. Instead of a bed and a toilet the prisoners were given blankets and a bucket.

The feeding schemes for prisoners based on the Apartheid laws. The scheme demands different foods and portion sizes for the racial classifications. There isn't a column for "A- Whites" because white people were not imprisoned on Robben Island. The least amount of food was given to "Class C - Bundus" which were the black prisoners.

This is a view from the island to the mainland. You can faintly see the outline of Table Mountain in the distance. I was told that this sight provided hope to prisoners but it probably wasn't as simple as all of that. Perhaps it did to some people some of the time. I can see it being just as torturous. Fortunately, no one has to find out for themselves now.

100th Post Wish

Greetings, I have returned from my trip to Cape Town for which you all shall soon here all about in extensive detail. First, however, I have some other business to take care of. If I am not incorrect, this is my 100th post or somewhere around there (margin of error +/- 50). When you think about it is not that important since I am the one in control of how many posts I make and I can just as easily post 100 blank pages. With that being said, you should all be very impressed that I managed to not post 100 blank pages. Where I come from, it is a tradition that on a person's 100th blog post, everyone has to do whatever said blogger demands. It is an old and sacred tradition that in no way was made up just now. This leads me to my second order of business:

The donations have stagnated. $300 is quite a lot already, I know, and combined with what was raised last year it is more money than I have ever raised for anything ever...combined. Nonetheless, I am asking one last time for anything at all anyone can donate. The money helps send deserving kids to a school where they have the opportunity to get an excellent education. Do what you can before the deadline which is this Friday (25th).

Donation Instructions

Method 1: Online

1. Go to the KLM foundation website

2. Click on the Donate photo in the upper left corner.

3. This opens up a secure https connection for people to donate.

4. Put my name (Noah Prescott) in the Longtom Marathon field so they know the donation is in my name.

Method 2: Check

1. Make out a check to: Kgwale Le Mollo (US)

2. Add a post it declaring which PCV the donor is sponsoring (Noah Prescott)

3. Mail it to:

KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107

Thursday, March 3, 2011

2nd Annual 3/4 Commemoration Post, High-5!*

Two years ago I started the Appalachian Trail. It was certainly one of the best experiences of my life thus far, even though it was cut short for my move to South Africa. In turn this has also proven to be one of the best experiences of my life but the rest of my blog is about that part, so that should be evident. There were many parts of the trail that I loved like the physical and mental challenges, the simple way of life, the ample time for reflection, the camaraderie among hikers (hello AT family!), and the ability to be immersed in nature every day. I also liked the fact that not only are beards acceptable, they are encouraged! At last it was time for one of my only true talents to be put to good use.

Last year I had meant to post some of the pictures from my hike but my computer was zapped by the sky. So here are some of the highlights that make me look cool (if that's possible). If you pay attention closely, you can see my metamorphosis from clean-shaven citizen Noah Prescott into beardy-weirdy hiker "Presco".

Atop Springer Mountain. You have quite the trek ahead of you, young man.

Out of Georgia and into whatever state N.C. is supposed to be. That first border crossing is a special feeling. Fun fact: Georgia is where the fictional events of Deliverance took place, not West Virginia.

This sign was at a very busy tourist spot in the Smokies. I felt like a big shot hiker strolling through there. Once everyone got a sniff of my 4 day hiking musk, they knew I was backpacking for keeps.

I had tendinitis around my knee and it was excruciatingly painful to walk down this mountain. There was nothing for me to do but make unhappy faces to the camera to remind myself later on that at one point I had tendinitis around my knee and I was in pain.

Absolutely pathetic. Get yourself together VA/TN border-crossing sign. All the other states make fun of you behind your back.

It snowed about 7 inches in Southern Virginia at the start of April. Very tough hiking but very beautiful. How do you like dem apples, global warming-advocating freedom-haters!? Saying that made me sad.

Famous AT hiker photo location. I am not going to tell you where it is, you have to find it for yourself.

The mother of all blow outs. My attempts to keep the sole attached only made things worse it seems. Shenendoah's were not fun having to drag that stupid thing around.

Virginia has the longest stretch of the trail, so I was exhilarated after hiking the whole blasted thing. I also think I just had some peanut M&M's.

Halfway (Sort of) Hurray! A couple days after this, I found out that I got accepted to go into the Peace Corps and that I should start preparing to leave for South Africa.

*Note the American form "3/4". While in South Africa the law mandates that I write it 4/3, the joke nor the catchy-ness of the date for hiking (March Fortt) make sense so I had to go with what's right rather than what's legal. Don't tell the South African Date Formalism Police.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Odd Couple

I talked about this a while back in the posts I did about the sangoma celebration. That same sangoma for whom the hootenanny was thrown a few months ago is still staying with us now. I don't benefit from any of her treatments of divinations, nor do I care to but it does add some interest to my days.

This is her mortar and pestle. I have awoken to her pounding some concoction to a fine powder many times.

During one of her first few days being back home, I tried to fish for a little information on what she claims to be able to do. I did not get very far because she was bashful throughout the entire conversation. I tried not to be judgmental in any way but she could probably pick up quite easily that I was not a believer in her type of medicine. She went as far as too show me a few of the items she uses as healing tinctures, balms and salves. One that she was particularly proud of was a little jar with a yellowish globule contained within. She told me it was lion's fat used for strength or courage or confidence and I am sure 100 different uses. I don't know where she got lion's fat but I am skeptical that it was lion's fat. If it was lion's fat, I don't feel like it was obtained in a legal manner. If it was lion's fat that was obtained legally, I doubt that it could give any strength beyond what is normally gained by eating a portion of fat. Nevertheless, I asked her if I could have some for strength but she said no.

Some bark that was called muti. Muti is just a word for traditional medicine in general so I have no idea what this is in particular. The link gives some more info and tells about Muti Killings which is traditional healing at its worst.

There is no doubt that some of what she makes and prescribes actually treats the things she is trying to cure. At one time traditional healing was the most modern form of science where parts of plants and animals were isolated or treated or mixed and then taken and the affects recorded or remembered in some way. This form of medicine has been vastly upgraded beyond blind trial and error and put into the hands of doctors, pharmacists and biochemists. In some cases, the parts of plants and animals that treat certain ailments have been investigated to where the active ingredient is identified, isolated down to the molecule and prescribed in precise doses. Sure chewing on willow bark will help you get rid of a headache but so will eating aspirin. But modern science can also tell you why and how aspirin treats pain as well as its side effects. Besides, can you imagine the logistics of having to dole out huge bottles filled with tree bark? I know my preference but I suppose it's a personal choice.

A dead varmint. There was something in this vole-like creature that she wanted. Apparently the vole needed it too...for living.

She then went on to show me her method of divination. She had a bag full of an assortment of trinkets like dice of various sizes, monkey bones (small bones anyway), little toys, rocks, etc. Then she would throw it on the ground and read from it. I didn't see the whole process nor did I get a reading because she said I had to pay, which is quite fair, but I would rather spend my money on something else.

I see much less value in the divination aspect of her position. Although, it could be said that she could do much more damage giving people things for treatments to things she cannot actually treat and may even do more harm, I believe most things she gives are innocuous or slightly helpful. Her practices would not have come this far if she were killing all her customers. The divination on the other hand just seems to be a form of cold reading blended with some aspects of talk therapy. The element of the supernatural is completely superfluous and dangerous. To me it poisons a person's confidence in their abilities to plan out and reason things for themselves and others by having to rely on spiritual guidance. If you have a good idea or were given a good solution to a problem, be happy that it has human origins and that someone was helped. Likewise, if you gave awful advice take the consequences for that as well, hiding behind a veil of the unknown is disingenuous. She might as well just be a counselor but whether she counsels well is another issue.

The most recent project which happens to be a large flayed snake. She had also found an enormous lizard recently and likewise killed and dissected it but I didn't get a picture. Wish I saw these creatures while they were alive.

The household sangoma is always open and even a little proud to show me what it is she is working on and I appreciate and am interested in what she finds but that's usually as far as it goes. The whole relationship is almost like a bizarre, poorly written sitcom. It stars an American chemistry major Peace Corps volunteer and his South African traditional healer neighbor. To all T.V. executives reading this, I am more than willing to make this sitcom. I will sell out IMMEDIATELY!

I am pleased to experience the culture but I can't help but have the knee jerk reaction of being uncomfortable around bogus claims and practices. Although I don't want her to suffer financially, at the same time I would be displeased if she were getting more visitors than the clinic. Ideally, I would be happiest if neither were required but the clinic be used for the medicine and the sangoma for the tradition and maybe some life guidance if it were agreed that all advice is drawn straight from her own experience and reasoning and not from the divine.

We've Crossed the Yellow-Orange Barrier

As you can see there has been a huge jump in the donation gauge. While the arrow indicates the boundary of a "Donation Overload", the gauge is still holding up pretty well and donations are still being accepted. I am pleased and I thank those who have donated, you know who you are I should think.

I have gotten a lot of e-mails regarding the same sort of questions so I will just put up a quick F.A.Q.s to nip this in the bud.

I really like everything about KLM and your blog. I want to donate a lot of money, is this allowed?
Thanks, that is very kind of you to say. Yes, donating a lot money is acceptable and encouraged.

I want to donate more than $100 but I am afraid there is not enough room on the donation meter. Will this break the meter?
This will NOT break the meter. If things get beyond the $400 point, I will in fact make another gauge.

I want to tell everyone I know about your blog and how to donate to KLM on your behalf. How should I tell them how to donate?
Thanks again.

Donation Instructions

Method 1: Online

1. Go to the KLM foundation website

2. Click on the Donate photo in the upper left corner.

3. This opens up a secure https connection for people to donate.

4. Put my name (Noah Prescott) in the Longtom Marathon field so they know the donation is in my name.

Method 2: Check

1. Make out a check to: Kgwale Le Mollo (US)

2. Add a post it declaring which PCV the donor is sponsoring (Noah Prescott)

3. Mail it to:

KLM Foundation (US)
c/o Bowen Hsu
461 So. Bonita Avenue
Pasadena, CA 91107