Truth, Consequences, and Hope for Peace

Like many of our counterparts from past and present SaS voyages, we were a little apprehensive about visiting Vietnam. We assumed that the Vietnamese people would not take too kindly to us because of the blood that was shed here during the 1960’s and 1970’s. We found the exact opposite to be true.

We visited the Củ Chi Tunnels with Wayne and Libby and learned that they were created to serve as the North Vietnamese base of operations during the Tết Offensive in 1968. The protection and strategic advantages they provided helped the North Vietnamese drive out foreign military forces from that area. The tunnels were dug by hand and were three to four levels deep in some areas. They provided a safer living space for villagers than the war-riddled battleground above, connected villages to one another, and were easy to close up when compromised or dig again when destroyed.

We also visited the War Remnants Museum in Saigon. At Củ Chi we saw what awaited South Vietnamese, American, and other foreign military forces who happened upon North Vietnamese snipers or booby traps: a bloody and painful maiming or death. At the War Remnants Museum, we saw what awaited Vietnamese villagers and soldiers who happened to be in the path of the bombs, chemical weapons, guns, and bayonets of the opposition forces. As with every conflict, there are two sides to the story. We saw both sides in exhibits and photos and read about both sides in excerpts from American and Vietnamese media from that era. We came out pacifists. We’re not kidding.

The images and stories gathered in both places convey the absolute hell of war. We are sobered and heartbroken by the history between the U.S. and Vietnam. We have connections with many Vietnam veterans–people whom we love and respect, some of whom still cannot discuss what happened in Vietnam, all of whom still suffer from what happened in Vietnam. We have connections with those who protested the war, went to Canada, and refused to fight–also people we love and respect. We have met so many wonderful Vietnamese people here–they are a smiling, welcoming, warm people. They are so much like us–they have families, they have businesses, they have hopes, they have dreams. Thankfully, they have forgiving hearts that can separate the actions of a government from the actions of a soldier. Thankfully, they can separate the actions of a government from the heritage of a people. Thankfully, so can we. And so we are friends now. We are so glad for that, and we hope that the things that passed between us decades ago never happen again, here or anywhere.

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Family Matters

If there’s one thing Karl Winslow taught the world, it’s that family matters. Never have we agreed with him more than here in Vietnam, where we are very thankful to have had a wonderful visit with Wayne and Libby. They flew to Saigon from Cambodia to see us here on the far side of the world, and what a time we had! While we are loving the SaS experience, we really miss our family. Seeing Wayne and Libby in Vietnam was just what we needed!

Soon after our ship was cleared by Vietnamese immigration, Wayne and Libby boarded the MV Explorer, met many of our new friends, and experienced the grand tour followed by lunch. We didn’t realize how good it would feel to share the ship and Semester at Sea with people from our “on shore” life. The fact that someone from home is now familiar with our life on board makes us so happy. It also makes the whole voyage experience feel more real because our two lives have finally intersected. We explored Vietnam together and talked about home–so surreal.

We went to coffee shops together–they’re all over Saigon. We tasted delicious Vietnamese iced coffee together. We became addicted to Vietnamese iced coffee together. We will probably also go through Vietnamese iced coffee withdrawal together–Wayne and Libby in Cambodia, and us on the way to China. Even so, I think we all agree that it’s worth it.

We visited the Củ Chi tunnels and the Mekong Delta together. We ate great food together, shopped together, and caught up on life together before they flew back to Cambodia a couple days ago. They’ll soon fly back to Indianapolis for a month of visiting that we would have missed had they not taken time out to see us during our short stay here. Thanks, Wayne and Libby, for making the trip. We’re so glad you joined us in this surprising and beautiful place for a few days of family time! We love you and miss you already. When you arrive in Indy, please don’t forget to give everyone the hugs we sent home with you!

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Singapore: Botanicals, Breakdancing, and Beyondness

We both came down with an acute case of culture shock when we disembarked in Singapore after visiting India. The sudden transition from chaos and contradiction to cleanliness, order, and efficiency surprised us, but was certainly not unwelcome. Two days is not enough time to really take in a country, even a country that is only 26 miles wide by 14 miles long and therefore feels more like a city than a city-state. As our friend Holly commented, “It’s a half marathon or a full one–your choice.” Trying to take it in, however, was loads of fun. Here’s what we learned during our too-short stay:

  • Life-size cardboard cutout Singaporeans welcome ship passengers and direct them out of the cruise terminal and into the first of hundreds of malls in the city.
  • The subway queue ladies teach Singaporeans and foreigners how to line up to board the trains. They also urge those in the queue to stand aside when the subway doors open in order to allow passengers to exit the train before those trying to board squeeze through the small opening. The subway queue ladies make it pretty clear that following these simple rules can turn subway passengers’ frowns upside down. The lesson: if you need to teach people manners, be cute, be funny, and wear awesome dresses.
  • Indian superstars are just as fabulous in Singapore’s Little India as they are in Bollywood.
  • Hindu and Buddhist temples are beautiful in different ways.
  • Hosting visiting students and faculty from the National University of Singapore for a fancy dinner, giving tours of the ship, and telling them all about Semester at Sea is, seriously, the best way to spend an evening in Singapore.
  • Tiger beer is delicious.
  • Coke slurpees from 7/11 are even more delicious.
  • Singaporeans like to bowl. The proper ceremony for celebrating after rolling a strike or spare is badass break-dancing.
  • Breakdance Bowling in Singapore from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

  • The cutest, friendliest, and most effective kite salesperson in the world works in Singapore’s Chinatown. We were more charmed by this young lady than anyone we’ve met to date. Here’s hoping she grows up to attend to the National University of Singapore and sail on Semester at Sea someday…when we are also working on the ship again so that we can have the pleasure of her company for a much longer period of time.
  • The Singapore Botanical Gardens are stunning, peaceful, and good for the soul. The orchid collection is mind-blowingly beautiful. Fellow shipmates, world travelers, and orchid enthusiasts Tom and Brett informed us that these gardens beat the pants off any botanical gardens they’ve ever visited.
  • While shopping you need to watch out for the Snatch Thieves, make friends with Bobby the white dog, and try to comprehend Beyondness of Singing at K Box!
  • An observant eye can spot a great set of knockers.
  • Bathroom locations are clearly marked.
  • Buddhist warrior statues are intimidating.

Singapore is a very fun city(-state). The people were warm and welcoming, and we managed to stay on the good side of the law by not spitting (FINE), selling chewing gum (FINE), performing acts of vandalism (IMPRISONMENT and/or PUBLIC CANING), or possessing any reefer (DEATH). The bottom line? If you don’t steal, spit, sell gum, steal, vandalize, possess drugs, or do anything worse than all that, having a fantastic time in the (mer)Lion City takes no effort whatsoever. We loved it and would visit again in a heartbeat if given the opportunity.

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A Poem in Marble

“India is far away, and we don’t know if we’ll ever get a chance to visit it again.” That’s the thought that fueled the travel madness of our last couple days on the subcontinent. On our way back toward Chennai from Dharamsala, we took a little detour and traveled by train from Delhi to Agra to see the Taj Mahal and Fort Agra then back again to Delhi for a brief overnight before flying to Chennai on our last day in port. It was actually probably a bit more travel in too short of a time span than we’d recommend to anyone else who might be planning a visit, but we’re glad to have seen these magnificent structures.

If you don’t already know the backstory, the Taj was commissioned by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan as a tomb and memorial for his dearly departed wife, Queen Mumtaz Mahal, in the early-fifteenth century. Construction was started in 1631 and was completed in 1653 with the help of somewhere around 20,000 gifted craftsmen from all over India and central Asia. It is a magnificent piece of architecture, described by our Incredible !ndia tourism pamphlet as a “poem in marble” and by Semester at Sea professor Manuel Alvarez as “the absolute perfection of architectural beauty in the world.” We had a lovely time strolling through the manicured grounds and trying to take it all in.

Across the river from the Taj stands Fort Agra, initially built by Shah Jahan’s grandfather, Emperor Akbar. We learned while visiting the fort that Akbar had three wives from three different religious backgrounds: Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. He respected pieces of all the major religions and thought they were all getting at roughly the same ideas, so he created a new religion that incorporated bits of Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Buddhism, and Judaism. Unfortunately, none of his progeny adopted his beliefs, so the religion died with him. The memory of it, however, lives on in the architectural styles and details of the fort. Nearly every room and wall has decorations and details built in that bring together religious symbolism from all five faiths mentioned above. See if you can spot them in the photo below.

Some of the rooms in the fort are designed so that if you whisper into the corner, the sound travels up and across the arches of the ceiling to the far side of the hall, where another person can stand and truly hear your whispers. Meanwhile, people in the middle of the room cannot hear a thing. We tried out this communication system, whispering sweet nothings in each others’ ears from 50 feet away.

We rounded out our visit to Agra with a trip to our taxi driver’s friend’s carpet factory. We’ve heard that no visit to India is complete without a side trip or two like this one, so we embraced the culture and went along. It actually was quite fascinating to see how various rugs, bedspreads, and clothing were hand-made with looms and lightning fast fingers. The polite man working the loom while we watched even took a little break to let Shannon try tying a few knots. As much fun as it was to learn and participate, she has decided to continue fielding reference questions at the ship’s library desk in lieu of a new career in rug-weaving…at least for now.

Thanks, India. You taught us, inspired us, and flat-out exhausted us. We hope we’ll be able to come back again someday. There is so much more we want to see!

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Freedom Fighters

There are a great many Tibetan refugees living in Dharamsala today, quite a few of whom are actually ex-political prisoners from China. Several nonprofits support these individuals as they acclimate to life in India, offering everything from job training to language courses. We attended an English class for ex-political prisoners with Laura, and the attendees welcomed us into their group with smiles, songs, jokes, stories of yak herding, a rousing game of Pictionary, and a seemingly endless kettle of delicious chai. Most had served between five and 15 years in Chinese prisons. They suffered torture and unthinkable abuses before being released and escaping through the Himalayas to India. Typically, the crimes that landed them in Chinese custody consisted of exercising what in the U.S. would fall under the umbrella of “freedom of speech and expression” but which in China counts as treason. We cannot post the names or pictures of the ex-political prisoners we spent time with because most still have families living back in Tibet who are in danger from the Chinese government. We can share one of their stories with you, though, and from all that we have heard, this one is quite representative among the Tibetan ex-political prisoners in Dharamsala.

We heard this account of arrest and imprisonment from the lips of an ex-political prisoner who bravely spoke about his experiences at a cafe while we were in town. Back in the mid-1990’s, this Tibetan man and two of his friends got together and decided to stand in the street in Chinese-controlled Tibet and shout “Free Tibet!” They said this a few times and then shouted “Long Live Dalai Lama!” Before these actions, they had already considered torture and death and were willing to face any consequences. The Chinese authorities arrested the three men within five minutes’ time. None of them had any sort of trial–it was guilty as charged from the moment they were in Chinese custody. Life in prison was brutal. Every week each prisoner was told to fill out a form on which there was an option to indicate that he felt regret for his actions, wished to renounce his previous actions, and would be loyal to the Chinese government from that point forward. The man sharing this story said that neither he nor any of his fellow inmates ever checked that box, even though they knew that this choice would lead to more beatings and further torture.

To illustrate life in Chinese prison, he gave an example of a typical torture method used on Tibetan prisoners. Guards stood the prisoners in a freezing cold cell, forcing them to strip down or to wear thin rags. The guards would then pour water into the cell until the entire floor was covered and the water level rose to the prisoners’ ankles. The water quickly turned to ice, and the prisoners would have to stand there, bare feet encased in ice for hours on end. Most would eventually pass out and fall over, at which point they would be severely beaten. The man who talked to us said he has watched a number of his friends and fellow prisoners be beaten so severely that they received brain trauma and died right there in the prison cell next to him. The main goal of these torture sessions was to extricate the names of other supporters of the Tibetan cause. They refused to give up any names for many reasons, not the least of which was that they were not acting as agents of anyone else during their protest on the street–they were acting for themselves–and also, the request for names could never be satisfied, anyway. The harsh censorship policies of the Chinese regime make it almost impossible for Tibetans to organize or to teach anything related to their own beliefs and culture.

This ex-political prisoner went on to share something that really surprised us: almost every act of protest or defiance launched in Tibet is an independent action, decided upon in the moment by the individuals themselves because they can’t stand the oppression any longer. When asked if, with the advantage of hindsight, he had any regrets about his protest, he replied quickly and decisively that he had none. In fact, he continues to work toward a free Tibet from Dharamsala and plans to do so until the Chinese relent.

Like the monks we met before them, this man and the other ex-political prisoners with whom we spoke are an ongoing inspiration to us. They told us, when we asked, that the best way we can help them is to never forget their struggle and to share what we’ve learned about Tibet with others. We won’t forget the kindness and laughter we shared over silly drawings of cats, dogs, and yaks during our game of Pictionary. We won’t forget seeing the pride and sorrow in their faces as they sang the Tibetan National Anthem for us. We won’t forget the stories of their bravery in standing up to oppression. We won’t forget them. We won’t forget Tibet. And we’re cooking up some ideas about how we can do more to help with their cause, so stay tuned.

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Monks, Mountains, and MacBooks

We spent the majority of our time in India on an incredible travel adventure to the northern tip of the country in the Himalayas. Our good friend Courtney introduced us to her friend and SaS alum, Laura, who lives with her husband Darren in the mountains of McCleod Ganj, Dharamsala. Dharamsala is the town where His Holiness the Dalai Lama (HHDL) has lived in exile since China invaded and claimed control of Tibet in the 1950s. Home to many Tibetan monks, ex-political prisoners, and refugees, this little Himalayan enclave has nurtured the dreams of many who still hold out hope for Tibet’s future. It is, of course, also home to a great many Indian people, so it offers an enriching blend of cultures and perspectives. Getting there was quite a trip with cab and rickshaw rides around multiple cities, a flight to Delhi from Chennai and a crazy and mostly sleepless overnight bus ride that involved joyfully screeching babies, high speed roundabouts in the mountains, gargantuan potholes, loud snoring, repetitive blasts of the bus horn that often lasted a good 10-20 seconds (no exaggeration), monster sneezes, backpacks and briefcases falling on our heads from the overhead storage areas, and Shannon falling into fits of giggles at the madness all around us. Upon arrival, however, Laura was waiting with smiles hugs, ready to introduce us to many fabulous cafes with friendly baristas. Who can remember a sleepless night with a king-sized cappuccino in hand?

On our first day in town, we had the supreme privilege of accompanying Laura to a conversational English practice session she leads with several monks. HHDL has encouraged them to make the study of science and scientific methods a high priority, and improving their understanding of English is the first step in that direction. All of the monks we met held the title “Geshe,” and most of them have spent well over 20 years studying Buddhist philosophy, which involves quite a bit of discussing and debating with each other (or anyone else who might be interested) about truth and compassion. It was a surreal experience to chit chat in English with these wise men about the weather when it was immediately obvious how much more they could teach us about kindness, wisdom, truth and compassion if only language was not a barrier. Picture the warmest, kindest, sweetest, and most humble person you know then imagine meeting them for the first time over a cup of chai tea in the Himalayan Mountains, and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what we experienced. These guys were funny, charming, and very excited that we were there and interested in learning about the Tibetan struggle for freedom.

In the morning of our second day we went on a hike that circles around a beautiful stupa built at the top of Kunzum pass. Just a short walk from Darren and Laura’s flat, this part of the mountain is home to elder monks as well as HHDL. The stupa is surrounded by prayer wheels and prayer flags that move in the breeze. Turning the wheels sends prayers and blessings of peace out to all the sentient beings of the world. Similarly, the wind blows the prayers off of the flags and out into the world. Sending out prayers to all the world from the top of a beautiful mountain was an exquisite pleasure. The sun shone down on us and filled us all with a sense of calm gratitude to be there. Back on the ship now, it gives us a warm feeling to know that people from Dharamsala and all over the world visit there everyday to send their prayers and blessings to everyone.

On the last day of our visit we got up early to watch the sun come up over the Himalayan mountains. We had mentioned to Geshe Lobsang Yonten, one of the monks we met on the first day, that it would be nice to have tea with him again on our last day. As we were walking back from our sunrise hike, he called Laura’s mobile and told her that he had prepared tea and was almost finished making breakfast for us if we wanted to stop by his house. Once there, he charmed us with stories of how he became a monk because it looked like a happier life than an arranged marriage at the age of 12; he made our heads spin with ideas about quantum physics, the big bang theory and the Buddhist concept of the impermanence of Karma; and he illustrated complicated and beautiful ideas about life and spirituality with plain and simple analogies that anyone could understand. We experienced first-hand one of his many gifts: teaching. The people of Dharamsala are extremely fortunate to have him in their midst. Incidentally, the young woman he would have married at age 12 also chose a spiritual path and became a nun. He laughed as he told us how he ran into her in Dharamshala in 2008 and how, even after all these years, he “felt very shy to meet her.”

Laura and Darren spilled the beans to us that Geshe Yonten owns a MacBook that was given to him as a gift. He’s the only monk they know in Dharamsala who has one, so we had asked him get it out and show it to us. Credit goes to Courtney for snapping the following fantastic pic, which is our last memory of what was a wonderful conversation with a great, great man.

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It’s Hot…Like a Curry

India is hot…like a curry. It’s mouth-watering and delicious, but every bite burns a little. It’s by far the most exotic and foreign-feeling port of call on our SaS itinerary to date. The subcontinent is a never-ending assault on the senses, and for six days our mouths, noses, eyes, ears, and skin gathered information that our minds still have not completely digested. It’s so intense, so uplifting, so beautiful, so heartbreaking, so…India.

So what exactly do we mean? Examples are difficult to articulate, but we’ll try. There is a cute little old man who walks up and down the third class train car aisles selling tomato soup: “Ah tomahto shoup…TOmahto shoup…ah tomahto shoup.” Five minutes later he is selling chai tea: “chaitea, chai chai, chaitea.” Then it’s “Red omelette! Ah red omelette, omelette, omelette” or “chips, agwe, snackocola, chips, agwe.” You can’t resist him. He will eventually win you over. You must buy something from him. And you do.

Chai in hand, you’re smiling at the tomato soup man’s charming and determinedly successful salesmanship as you glance out the train window. You see malnourished and maimed children sorting through garbage, playing, and peeing in the village dump. You look away and realize they are also crawling under your train seat with barely any clothes on picking up trash in order to show you that they’re helpful and deserving of a few of those rupees in your pocket. Meanwhile, you feel someone trying to squeeze through the aisle and around the little child on the floor. As you shift to make room for this person, you see that it’s only the most beautifully dressed woman on the planet — no clothing we’ve seen even holds a candle to the exquisite beauty of the sari.

Then there are the smells. Delicious tumeric and curry spices coming from every street vendor’s pot. Exotic and enticing aftershaves and perfumes. The scent of chocolate pastries coming out of the oven mingled with the aroma of a freshly brewed frothy cappuccino. But not all the scents in the air smell divine. There is also spicy body odor and diesel fumes, not to mention the stench of raw sewage, industrial manufacturing pollutants, rotting garbage, and dead things. All of these scents are drifting in and out of your nasal passages all the time. You can’t predict what you’ll be smelling at any minute, and you wouldn’t be surprised if your nose just suddenly gave up its job in a fit of exhausted confusion.

Traveling in India is opulence and squalor, joy and heartache, hope and destitution, polished marble and grimy bus stations. But underlying it all, India is transformative. It’s all everywhere, and it’s all over you. Eventually, it’s inside you, first in your head, and then in your heart. And once it’s there, you just want to go back for more. Brett wasn’t talking about India, but he said it best: hot…like a curry.

This photo by Courtney Miller

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Screwed by Screwpine

Between South Africa and India we enjoyed a stop on the lush and beautiful island of Mauritius, northeast of Madagascar in the calm and clear blue-green waters of the Indian Ocean. Only two days and one night ashore are nowhere near long enough to spend in such a tropical paradise, but we managed. We rented a car with fellow shipmates Becca, Courtney and Holly and headed for a beach villa on north side of the island. The owners of the villa complex remembered Courtney and Becca from previous Semester at Sea visits, and they hooked us up with the only grill in the place. We invited a bunch of shipmates to join us for a little grilling, swimming, and walking along the ocean. As Courtney said, we were all living inside someone’s screensaver.

Mauritius is a fantastic blend of many cultures. Its inhabitants come from Africa, India, and many parts of southeast Asia, and they bring their cultures, customs and religions with them. On a short night walk down the beach next to our villa, we passed a Hindu shrine with many devotees observing Diwali. Another 200 or 300 yards down the beach we encountered a group of muslim men performing a prayer ritual on the beach with lighted candles and little brush piles. It is inspiring to see a working example of devout people of many faiths living and working in peaceful harmony in a very small space.

In addition to culture and religion, people also brought their home menus to the island when they immigrated. It’s not called Delicious Mauritius for nothing. If you ever get a chance to visit, eat out as much as possible. We sampled fabulous Indian and Thai food. Others in our group bought beach-stand sandwiches and had this to say: “No joke, no exaggeration. This is THE SINGLE GREATEST SANDWICH in the history of my existence.”

The only real failure of our trip was an attempt at cooking breakfast at the villa. At the Super U grocery we accidentally bought a pancake mix labeled “Screwpine-flavored.” We’re not exactly sure what screwpine is, but it turns pancakes green and makes them taste like car air fresheners. The trauma of a morning wasted cooking and cleaning up after nasty cakes hit us doubly-hard when we realized that there was a crepe house just down the road. Ouch.

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Indlovu Project

Our last day in Cape Town, we joined Courtney Miller, a friend and video journalism professor, on a practicum she created for her students to visit the Indlovu Project in the township of Khayelitscha. The disparity between the luxurious A and V Waterfront area where our ship was berthed and the ramshackle tin homes of the townships is a difficult reality to observe, let alone comprehend. Though apartheid officially ended in 1994, separate-but-unequal conditions for blacks continue to exist throughout South Africa, and a drive out of downtown Cape Town into the townships makes this glaringly apparent. The problem is enormous, and it can be overwhelming to even think about what steps might be taken to eliminate unequal living conditions for such a giant mass of the population.

While we struggled to grasp the enormity of the problems and issues facing the Khayelitscha community, we found hope and inspiration in the work that Di Womersley’s Shaster Foundation is doing. Di has managed to organize the township community by raising funds to build a sustainable eco-village in the midst of all the tin shacks and shanties. Currently, there is a guest house where visitors can come to stay, a medical clinic, and a community center and Montessori kresh where children young and old are taught and nurtured.

Di’s vision is to work with Khayelitscha residents wishing to trade in their current homes for permanent housing with walls made from sandbags and plaster. The unique sandbag construction technique is perfectly suited to the area because it is extremely durable, provides excellent insulation against both heat and cold, is completely fireproof and bulletproof, and would allow locals to build their own structures. Perhaps most importantly, the sand for the bags is readily available in large quantities right in Khayelitscha. Cement used to make government-subsidized housing is diluted with water by local companies so the extra can be sold for a few dollars under the table, but a plentiful local material like sand would be immune from this temptation. The lack of sewer systems begs the question of what to do with human waste in these densely populated townships, so the Indlovu Project uses clean and sustainable earthworm toilet systems. The final vision and business plan for the village is one filled with sandbag homes and buildings, earthworm toilet systems, organic vegetable gardens, and home-based entrepreneurship. Once there is a little more infrastructure, they’ll be able to start home-based businesses with start-up financing from micro-lending organizations such as (which, incidentally, was founded by a Semester at Sea alum). You can’t talk to Di for more than five minutes and not get pumped up about what is already being done and what is ultimately possible.

Part of our group spent the day in and around the community center and township filming and interviewing various members of the project’s staff and the people living around the center–they are video journalism students, after all. Others of us cleared away a rubbish heap to get the area ready for the first of the planned vegetable gardens. It felt good to pitch in and get a little down’n’dirty. As we were leveling out the ground from where we had dug up big strips of discarded plastic and carpet, a little girl came walking through. She gave me a crooked smile and knowing look and said, “someone’s been working here” in the isiXhosa language (pronounced [click]losa, where you click your tongue against the roof of your mouth) and walked on through the clearing toward her home. It was indescribably cute, especially after Di gave me the translation.

We’ve already learned that Di loses no time in doing exactly what she says she will. Today, barely a week since we left, she sent us this photograph of the finished garden plot. It was planted by hundreds of members of the township community using recycled items like tires for potting. Fresh veggies and herbs all around! 🙂

Before we left, Shannon handed our camera to a couple of the township’s young men and told them to take pictures of whatever they wanted. Once the camera was in their hands, all walls between us melted away, and we got a real look at their humor and personality. Our day together ended with a crazy group photo shoot with our new friends, the results of which we’ve posted here. We plan to return to South Africa someday, and when we do, we’ll be staying at Makazi’s Guest House for certain. Thanks Di, for sharing your vision with us, and thanks Courtney, for bringing us there to listen.

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Tea and Crumpets in the Bushveld

We rounded out our safari at the Garden Route Game Lodge where we got a chance to see oodles of animals including all of the Big Five except the ever-elusive leopard. As it was at Addo, the staff at Garden Route blew us away with scrumptious feasts, luxurious chalet accommodations, and impeccable service. Our knowledgeable guide, Ronald, taught us so much about the flora and fauna of South Africa as he introduced us to the reserve and its inhabitants. In the evening, we stayed up swimming in the pool and then playing games with the great students who traveled with us. We had tea and biscuits in the African bush on an early morning game drive. For animal enthusiasts like us, safaris are pure all-around fun, best conveyed not by more words, but rather by another photo montage like this one:

Safari from Sam and Shannon Bloomquist on Vimeo.

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