Socks and Underwear

Socks and Underwear: September 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Extreme Tubing is Extreme

I didn't finish everything about Peace Corps, I didn't even come close. Luckily, Peace Corps taught me how to cope with failure and broken promises so I will be able to move on. Next time I am in the same location for a long period of time and with internet I will try again.

Tom is here now and we have started our trip. We stopped over in Sabie first and did a trio of activities. Our first one was tubing down the Sabie river. Unfortunately I have no pictures of the actual event because the guides warned that the camera would get destroyed and they were correct in saying so. We went down the largest rapids I have been in and it was a great deal of fun. I am in a bit of a rush because we have a long trip ahead of us now, hopefully I can get to the rest of it later!

Post tubing. The adrenaline and endorphins are allowing us to smile for the photo.

I found this watch near the beginning of Peace Corps in the ocean. The tubing killed it. Poseidon giveth and he taketh away.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


This country has been good to me as far as vacations go. Being low on funds and a dirty backpacker didn't prevent me from seeing much of South Africa and many parts of the rest of Southern Africa too. I cannot say whether other Peace Corps volunteers in other countries have such rich opportunities to explore on a volunteer stipend but I am thankful that I was able to travel as much as I did. Having seen and done so much here has made me ashamed of how little I have traveled in my own country which I will have to start remedying when I get back. Highlights and ahem official trips:

Wild Coast (Coffee Bay)

Cape Town and more and more and more and more/ WHS: Robben Island / WHS: Cape Floral Kingdom

Blyde River Canyon / Fanie Botha Hike

World Cup

I never posted anything decent during World Cup. Here is a short one to make up for it.

That's my hooligan face. The face painting on the left cheek is of an American Bald Eagle flying with an English Palace Guard in its talons. If I were British I would describe it as cheeky. Incidentally, I got a chance to be an actual soccer hooligan, not my finest moment but I stand by my actions.

Top Five World Cup Moments

1. Winning in the final moments to beat Algeria. It was my Vuvuzela-ing that inspired Landon Donovan to score that goal. He told me so. Afterwards there were Americans and Algerians celebrating in the same areas without a skuffle. The Algerians I talked to were in good humor about everything and nice guys.

2. Traveling on a packed Khumbi to a watch a game in a fan park. Fervent nationalism is ok when it is put towards something innocuous like world sporting events. It was a lot of fun trying to sing songs we all knew (Most everyone was 3 sheets to the wind) which eventually got around to Bingo was his Name-o and other classics. I think all of the other soccer fans thought we had lost our minds.

3. Being in a taxi in downtown Pretoria during their win against France. Every radio and t.v. was tuned to the game and after each goal everything pretty much shut down for a 3 minute period to dance/blow vuvuzela/cheer. It was amazing.

4. Wallet returned to volunteer with everything from Taxi Rank. You could tell that most people were going out of their way to make sure everyone had a good time without problems. One of the more impressive stories was of a volunteer who left behind his wallet on a taxi which is usually a situation where you can kiss that wallet goodbye. But in this instance it was returned to the volunteer intact. The driver took the wallet out in an empty taxi to meet him 15 minutes away. Maybe that last part doesn't sound like much but it is quite remarkable based on normal taxi behavior.

5. Returning to my site and talking with people in the neighboring village. With wide grins, they welcomed me and asked if I was visiting for World Cup. For context it is important to remember that I lived in a village hundreds of kilometers form the nearest stadium and this was after I had already been at site for a year. These guys were a few beers deep but it was a nice change for people's default reaction to strangers to be hospitable and welcoming. World Cup often brought out the best in people.

This is a pretty accurate picture of what it was like being there: blurry!

Parent's Trip

This is another one that I failed to document at all. Here are some highlights featuring moments from: Kimberely / Mountain Zebra and Addo Elephant Parks / The Garden Route / West Coast

The Kimberly mine is the largest hand dug hole in the world. It is a bittersweet accomplishment because of course it was all for shiny gems and was essentially done with slave labor but it is still an amazing feat.

This was at at the Mountain Zebra National Park. I want to say this a Hartebeast so I will. It didn't have much of the Big 5 but the scenery was amazing and we saw many ungulates.

This is an impala which is a common sighting in game parks. Tour guides often say they are the McDonald's of the wild because they are "fast food". They also happen to have a white "M" on their butts. This is undeniable proof of Intelligent Design.

Addo Elephant Park. There was a hide you could sit in and watch elephant at this watering hole. It has be reaffirmed that they don't snort the water up their trunks for a drink. Well, they do but then they squirt it in to their mouths. This is directed at anybody learned in the ways of elephant ear, nose and throat passages, can they just snort it all they way through the trunk if they had to? This is important.

We spotted this elephant walking in the trees and followed it as it came out to the street. It then proceeded to walk right down the car path and walk straight at the tiny car behind us and just about crushed it. The lesson to be learned there is that elephants always have the right of way.

My parents and I went to the most Southern Point of Africa in Cape Agulhas. At that point is the official line separating the Indian and Pacific oceans. I bet it was really hard finding that line.

PENGUINS! They smell terrible but watching them waddle around is amusing.

This is actually from when my sister came to visit and we saw penguins but now is the time to talk about penguins so you must excuse the trip mixing. I have never been closer to stealing a penguin egg than at this moment. College did not prepare me for the decision. Ultimately I decided I wouldn't be able to properly raise a penguin in the desert so I left it be. I know, I made the wrong decision.

The greatest man I know. I will give you one guess what his name is and what his relation to me is.

Southern Right Wales playing. I was able to see a whale breech only once but it was incredible.

Post Office Tree in Mossel Bay. The Portuguese used it to post messages back and forth to each other on voyages. Who says post office history can't be fascinating?

The hike out to see these cave paintings (Pictographs) in Clanwilliam just about killed my parents. For our effort, I discovered that I draw slightly worse than these early human ancestors or relatives. Who says prehistoric human art can't be fascinating?

Augrabies Waterfall during the low season. There were pictures of the falls during floods and it is much more intense. They don't let people in during those times because they would probably die. Who says waterfalls in the Northwest Province of South Africa can't be fascinating? I'll stop that now.

There were hundreds of these brightly colored lizards at the falls. This one would have made a great companion for my pet penguin.

Namibia : Fish River Canyon (WHS: Richterveld- Ais Ai Transfronteir Park- I am just slipping this in here because technically I only went to Namibia side but I am counting that as my visit to the park because it was hard to get out there.) / Sossusvlei

And the Rest of Nambia in:
Lost Blogs Post Volume III: Nambia Part II - Episode 2 Dune King

That big white part in the middle of the picture puts the vlei in Sossusvlei. I am sure its creation is complicated but it was explained to me that the geography and wind make it so the it is a hot windless dead zone. In my experience this was true.

We raced out of the camp as early as we could to sit on the dunes and watch the sunrise. It was a moment to realize how lucky I was to be able to do what I was doing.

My name is Noah. I climbed a dune and I own a puffy blue coat.

We sort of leached onto another tour group and the guide was telling us that the trees in the vlie (salt flat) are 900 years old. Apparently there was also a Playboy photo shoot next to these trees. Yes I also posed next to the trees. I am saving that picture for my collection of pictures where I am standing like a oddball next to trees, I already have quite a few.

WHS: St. Lucia / ImFolozi-Hluluwe

When I was in St. Lucia I met a couple of French people who were going to the nearby game parks and they let me come along. It was especially fun because all their exclamations were as French as T.V. and movies have led me to believe. "Oooh lalalala, Magnifique!"

Road snake. The rarest of all pathway snakes.

Just once I'd like to see a rhino do something violent with that horn. Is that too much to ask?

Cape Buffulo from a distance. Still, it can still be seen that they are massive. Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo.

If you think this is a giraffe then you are correct.

Would a cowboy look silly or even cooler riding on a zebra? I bet Marlboro has already done extensive research on this very question.

This warthog was right at the gate with many humans milling about (including me) and no one was particularly worried. I feel he is just acclimatizing us all until he springs his trap.

The only lion, or large cat, I have seen in a game park. I slightly got out of the car to take a better picture and the lion stood up and looked straight at me with those yellow eyes (my god he had yellow eyes). I don't know if I have ever been that immediately terrified before.

Baboons are pretty much everyone in South Africa and this was on the way back to St. Lucia. This one makes the cut because it is carrying a bouncing baboon baby boy (I don't know if it is a boy but "girl" ruins the alliteration, it's not bouncing either).

WHS: Drakensurg / Lesotho

I did in fact complete my WHS Quest and the rest of the sites are coming soon: WHS: Cradle of Humankind / WHS: Vredefort Dome/ WHS: Mapungubwe

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Blogothon Continues

I am off to a pretty bad start with the Blogothon. I have earned being called a "liar" and a"lazy goon" but please don't hurl these insults at me but once a day. I had a series of important Skype calls that enervated my blog focus. Today is it though, you wait and see. If there are any burning questions about Peace Corps, I think now is a pretty good time to ask but other times are good too.


The final line of Candide advises that "we must cultivate our garden." Your brain is probably telling you this is a metaphor and the true meaning requires effort on your part. Furthermore, the deep analytical skills required to properly decipher it would require an English degree or Philosophy degree or both. To the contrary, the message is simple- we should all start and maintain gardens (I did not do well in English classes). This was one of the things I was eager to do in South Africa. I had only intended to have a very small plot with a few vegetables and herbs to see if I could successfully keep plants. My last attempt was with a very nice bonsai tree I received for a present and then promptly neglected until it whithered away. It was shameful. With my project here, any fruit and vegetable would be incidental to the practice of tending to a garden. It turned out to be a much larger undertaking than I had planned and will probably be the only sustainable, or at least continued project, from my stay in my village. I am a little troubled to be leaving it behind because a lot of work went into it and I want to continue to see how it grows. I know it is in good hands though and will fair just fine without me.

I asked my host family if I could use a small patch of land. Our notions on what a small patch of land differed. The area that we ended up staking out was about 200 m^2. This was all for the best anyway because the smallest fencing I could buy was 50 m (I was not keen on using barbed wire or acacia branches ).

This was the most labor intensive part of the garden setup. Duties included measuring out the plots, tilling the soil and getting rid of the incredibly embedded grass and weeds and planting the first seeds. Clearing out the grass was the worst because ripping out the leaves and most of the roots is not good enough, you have to really get down there and get the whole root system and then don't make the mistake of leaving it out because it will just start growing again. You must dry it out in a big pile and then burn it for certainty sake. Calling the stuff zombie grass is appropriate. Also, all the work was done with shoddy tools. None of them were large enough for an adult human being and they have all broken and been repaired a couple times. The ensuing blisters made it so that I could have shaken hands with an actual farmer and he/she wouldn't have thought I wear cotton gloves all day and lotion them twice daily. Fooled them because I do!

These are little cucumber and pumpkin plants. That hole on the right belongs to the ant colony living nearby, we drowned them and the hole sunk in. I eventually had to resort to a borax ant trap that worked incredible well. I saw my dark side run amok when the ant massacre began.

Pretty little mealie (corn) plants all in a row. There is something incredible satisfying about plants growing in ordered lines. We have corn pretty well under our (green)thumbs. Just don't tell the rest of the grasses that we need them more than they need us, they might stop being so cooperative and delicious.

I have previously posted many of the other vegetables/fruits that was grown like melons and pumpkin, so I won't waste your time. Here is the remainder of the best looking produce from the first crop of the garden (green beans, cucumbers and watermelons). It is an incredible feeling of accomplishment to nurture something and see it grow successfully. I imagine it is similar to the feeling parents have for their children when they can walk around and have their own thoughts. I suppose the biggest difference is that parents don't eat the children in the end.

I never knew I wanted to eat a sweet potato the size of my own head but now I know that this is what I was put on the Earth to do. Now that my life's mission is complete though I am aimless. Maybe I should just keep eating larger and larger sweet potatoes?

At the end of winter things are looking pretty good. The weeds and ants have been vanquished and the JoJo (green cylinder) at the far end ensures that water will be around for a few days when the water tap gets shut off. Looking onwards, seeds are easy to come by and if there is one thing my village has copious amounts of it is fertilizer (animal poop). The only problem lately has been that the cows try their best to get the water out of the tank and recently broke the tap and water gushed out everywhere. The tank is going to have to be better guarded or at least ask the cows nicely to cut it out.

The neighbors and my host family have taken over every aspect of the upkeep of the garden now. I asked the next volunteer at my site to take some photos occasionally to see how it grows. It seems to me it will be more of an orchard in time (mostly peach trees) but that's fine because it is now theirs and they can do whatever they want with it but I hope that they keep it going.

Peace Corps Blogothon

I have finished Peace Corps. I am now in Johannesburg waiting for my friend to arrive so we can go adventuring around South Africa. In the meantime I am trying to blog all the blogs I said I would bloggity blog. This is because I want to collect all my thoughts and write them down and be done with it for a while, Peace Corps thoughts that is. Leaving myself only two days won't get me too in depth about the things I want to say but then again I never got too deep anyway. Besides it will be just as in depth or more so than the one to two minute conversation I have with people about it now. Once I start traveling and time starts growing between being a volunteer I know the memories will change. So, it's best to get it out now in some form.

So here goes. I am in a nice environment with thinking and writing music. I have access to water and peanuts which won't make me go into a food nap. It is laundry day so I am wearing my bathing suit which will prevent me from taking extended trips out into public. Finally, I wrote this blog which forces me to write more blogs or else be a liar and look like a lazy goon. Let the blogs flow.

Friday, September 2, 2011


I tried my best never to sweat or get crud on myself or clothing for 2 years but it was impossible. Therefore, this green tub saw a lot of action.

Like most people, I used to take baths when I was young. Then it was determined that taking baths was exacerbating my skin problems (eczema (gross)). That's when I learned how to stop worrying and love the shower. Peace Corps gave me a chance to relive those old bathing days except this time around there was less water and I barely fit into the tub. Here are a few tips for those who would like to start taking bucket baths.
  • Wash your head first. This is pretty self explanatory. You know once you get in there the water loses some of it's cleaning power. Instead it starts to redistributes the dirt evenly across your body. Do what you will but I would prefer that the muck from the rest of my body doesn't settle on my face.
  • Buy soap meant for washing people. I know some of you are thinking "there is a super cheap soap that claims it can wash dishes, laundry and people", don't fall for it. Hiker and hippies are familiar with Dr. Bronner's which has a myriad of washing purposes and I feel it lives up to it's claims (except for brushing teeth, the stuff took off a layer of my mouth skin) and if you can get that stuff I think that this is acceptable. Furthermore, I agree that really all soap is based on the same mechanism but there are subtle differences that go along way to making a soap more suitable for bathing (or whatever the specific function). So I say splurge and buy separate soaps, variety is the spice of life.
  • Stop trying to not get water everywhere. I am not saying you should just splash willy-nilly but water is going to get all over your floor. You don't want your bath to be a stressful occasion so accept the spillage and consider it a bonus floor washing with each bath.
  • Get a brush with an extended handle. Because washing the back is still important. When you think about it your back is like your second front.

Washing myself was not fun or effective but washing my clothes was far worse. This has made me come to a frightening realization, one that won't go away if we ignore it. Consider this: it is accepted among the world's leading scholars that we only have a few years left before the robot uprising. What will we do then? Well as I see it, the human race will be left with only 5 options concerning our garments because surely our washers and dryers will turn on us:

1) Go naked.
Pro: The fashion world loses its voice in political matters.
Con: It will get cold.

2) Put up with unwashed clothing.
Pro: There is a chance that a naturally sweet smelling human will evolve.
Con: We might all die from disease and lack of sexual attraction. Also robots will be able to detect our stink.

3) Get disposable clothing. Think of a giant pack of different colored jumpsuits.
Pro: Jumpsuits were originally created for fighting against robots.
Con: With the machines controlling all recycling plants, we will quickly run out of material to clothe billions of people with comfortable material. Soon we will be using leaves or animal hides (see number 2) and those things are course. The itchiness will be maddening!

4) Engineer a species of extromophile fish that can withstand soapy, hot/cold water environments so we just need to throw our clothes into the fish pond and take out after the allotted time.
Pro: The fish can handle delicates.
Con: The fish eat people.

5) Trade our freedom for the use of washing machines.
Pro: Robots are pretty cool.
Con: There are no cons.

I think we should submit to the robot overlords as long as they let us use their washer/dryer brothers and sisters because hand-washing our clothes is not one of the options. If you have seen the Matrix, you might have noticed how ragged their clothing was. That's from hand-washing. I can confirm this from my own experiences. Besides squeezing through fences, this is the cause of all the holes in my clothing. I have actually had to mend things here so I would not look quite so shabby. During a particularly difficult repair, I was frustrated that I couldn't push a needle through the fabric without painfully jabbing my thumb. I thought to myself "some sort of metal thumb cap would really make this easier" and that's how I re-invented the thimble. That's a good side story. Needless to say, I am looking forward to tomorrow when I will be hand-washing my clothes for the last time.