c a p e t o w n, s o u t h a f r i c a

In March, I took a wonderful vacation to Cape Town, South Africa. Cape Town is located on the southwest coast of South Africa. It is a city of wonders, beautiful people, breathtaking landscapes and of course delicious food. Many Peace Corps Volunteers living in southern African countries take a trip to Cape Town once or even twice during or after their service because it’s like a small taste of America located on the continent (they have a McDonald’s and Burger King, y’all). Although this was my first time to Cape Town, it definitely will not be my last.

my top [f i v e] favorite attractions in cape town, south africa:

[o n e] Lion’s Head

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This was the first place I visited the evening after I landed in Cape Town. Told to be the “easier” hike of the two mountains in Cape Town (the other being Table Mountain), Lion’s Head offered a fun, yet challenging climb, and the reward of the beautiful Atlantic Ocean view. Even if you don’t make it to the top, the views and the people you meet along the way make it all worth it. For a moderately “in-shape” person, allow for about an hour and 15 minutes to climb (take pictures, chat with friends, take more pictures). If you plan on venturing to the top for a sundowner, make sure to bring a flashlight for the trip down.

[t w o] Greenmarket Square

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Nestled between St. George’s Mall and Long Street, Greenmarket Square is a place where artisans from all over the continent bring goods to sell. Anything from handmade dolls and paintings to kitchenware and radios made of bottle caps, are some of the goods you can find here. The artisans are friendly and make it worth the trip. For a Peace Corps Volunteer, the market provides a place to work on your negotiation skills as well, even if you end up spending R700.

[t h r e e] The Neighbourgoods Market at The Old Biscuit Mill

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If you happen to be in Cape Town on a Saturday (which you should be), head on down to The Old Biscuit Mill where each and every Saturday the Neighbourhoods Market is open with food, food, and did I say food? The Old Biscuit Mill is located in the hip and trendy Woodstock Neighborhood, and is open Monday through Saturday.

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On Saturday, venture on down and buy yourself a mushroom kebab, freshly squeezed lemonade, tuna noodle stir fry, handcrafted chocolate, a Belgium pretzel, and whatever else you can carry, then walk outside to purchase souvenirs to take home. But, do this all before 2pm, that’s when they close.

[f o u r] VA Waterfront

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There is something about a fresh ocean breeze which that makes anyone feel alive. VA Waterfront is a popular Cape Town destination place for food, fun, and shopping. The VA Waterfront offers a spectacular view of the Atlantic shore, Table Bay Harbor, the City of Cape Town and Table Mountain. Go for the fun, go for the food, go for H&M!

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[f i v e] Robben Island

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Robben Island is located about 7k from the coast of Cape Town. Built between 1962 and 1969, Robben Island was a political prison during South African apartheid rule. All prisoners, including South African’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, were members of political parties who opposed apartheid. In 1997, only one year after releasing the last prisoner, Robben Island re-opened as a museum and offers tours throughout the day. The tour includes a ferry ride to and from Cape Town (from VA Waterfront). Many of the tour guides are former prisoners of Robben Island. The tour cost is about R230 (you must purchase tickets in advance).

Visiting Robben Island offers one a lot of perspective on a history that is not too distant. Walking through the prison blocks, prison yard, and prison cells reminded me of freedoms which are not free.

In some ways, I feel the tour was rushed, but even still, I think Robben Island should be on your to-do list.

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. ❤ Krystal

cues on queues.

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If I’ve learned one thing while living abroad, it’s patience. Extremely patience. At the grocery store, doctor’s office, bank. For meetings, events, and taxis. Patience is key.

In Namibia, when you’re waiting in line, it’s called waiting in queue. And when I venture to any of the places named above, I expect to wait in a queue. Sometimes for a few minutes many times for a few hours.

In most cultures, there are unwritten rules or norms related to queuing up. In Hawaii, customers leave their sandals in queue as a placeholder, then take a seat until their sandals are in front. Other cultures may have a system of complete disorder or disarray, but somehow people always seem to know their place in queue.

In Namibia, there are also some unwritten rules of queuing up. Here’s some tips to help you keep your sanity if you ever come visit me:

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Read all signs. Well, technically, these are written. But, read signs, for real. There may be many. Sometimes, they even contradict each others, but they tell you what services can be offered in certain queues. Those are important. Many times, failure to read these signs on your part will make for a long, stressful day.

Elderly get served first. Yes, even though you’ve waited hours, when meekulu walks in, she is now priority. Pro Tip: If you even think about walking passed meekulu(s)* for any service, you better greet each and every one of them as you walk by.

*the plural for meekulu is omeekulu, but for English context, I just added a ‘s.’

Place holding is acceptable. You start to notice this more when you’re nearing the front of the queue. All of a sudden, two or three people are now making their way to the front, out of no where. It’s completely acceptable to leave the queue to run other errands and to return back in front of the man with the white shirt and blue jeans. That man will also vouch for you, that you indeed had that place in queue.

For all the times I have waited in queues, it’s so easy to resort back to how things are done in America and complain while swearing silently in my head. But, for every queue wait in, I’m thankful for the A/C I get to enjoy and sometimes a comfy seat. I truly see what it’s like to be a local while learning to art of waiting.

❤ Krystal

things no one tells you about being a pcv.

If you Google “Peace Corps Blogs,” you will stumble upon a whole network of blogs from current and returned volunteers. Blogs that will make you laugh  (and laugh some more) some that will make you cry. Ones that will inspire you and empower you. Some that will make you think, “I can do that,” or “I want to do that.” While others will make you think, “why would anyone want to do that?”*

In my preparation for Namibia, I too found myself referring to many PCV blogs, vlogs, and any PC media on the daily. Of course, many of these blogs provided me with lists of what to pack and what not to pack, or what to expect (which, any PCV can tell you the answer is: kapenasha.) Most of these blogs I found to be very helpful. Even if my bags still ended up being overweight. I’m working on the meaning of “packing light.”

I have compiled a list of Things No One Tells You About Being a PCV. Enjoy!

  1. You’ll be tempted to use a dirty plate, fork or spoon, once or twice. And once or twice, you’ll actually do it. If you are one of the lucky PCVs, you will have no kitchen sink, which means handwashing everything. It’s fine. It’s soothing. But, some days I just want a heaping scooping of peanut butter, just one scoop.
  2. Sand. You will eat sand, you will be covered in sand. All the time. Aww, you’re cute, you must have read all the PC blogs from Micronesia with volunteers in their hammocks overlooking the ocean? (I’m guilty, too.) Well, in Sub-Saharan Africa there is sand. Lots and lots of sand, and most times no water. No, no water.wp-1466343276370.jpg
  3. You will wake up next to an insect (dead or alive) more times than you like. You get used to it. One morning, I woke up and was sharing a pillow with a praying mantis. I was awake, he was still praying. Then, there’s the morning I woke up cuddling a with a moth. He didn’t make it. Just expect to find bugs. The more you prepare for this, the less traumatic your service will be.20160715_064822.jpg
  4. You’ll have a pet spider (maybe even two or three) in your hut. Luckily, in Namibia, most of these are non-venomous, so I let them live to eat other pests such as mosquitoes. Refer to your Spiders, Snakes and Scorpions handbooks from PST and you’ll be fine.20160906_094551.jpg
  5. You will also lose track of how many times you pee outside, in a bag, or in a container, because, you have no choice. I think my bladder has shrunken. I will walk 1 km home from the clinic, and the second I see the pit latrine, which is about 100 m from the gate of my homestead, I sweat bullets while scurrying across the yard before it turns into “Bridesmaids in Namibia.” It’s like an awful Pavlov’s dog experiment. TMI. But, do what the locals do, sometimes you just can’t hold it.
  6. Your ADLs will be a community attraction. I mean, host family still watches me wash my laundry (and sometimes they take pictures of me while doing it). The spotlight is ALWAYS on. As long as no one is hurting you or over-violating your privacy, roll with it, and then blog about it in good fun.20160812_193121
  7. You will find a new hobby or revisit old ones. Meditation, photography, blogging, baking, reading, exercising. You will have plenty of free time between the 24/7 in which you’re Peace Corpsin’.
  8. You will learn new meanings for words you’ve known all your life, ready?
  9. Yes = Maybe or No.
  10. Maybe = Maybe but most likely No.
  11. No = Yes, No, or Maybe.
  12. Although being a PCV 24/7 is many times exhausting, you appreciate the world and your community on an entirely different level.

*Links in the post are current and returned PCVs in Namibia who post regularly. Add them to your list of blog reads.

❤ Krystal

why i am trying not to try.

You read that right. I’m not trying anymore. See, the problem with trying is, most of the time, I don’t care what the outcome is, because, at least I “tried.” Have you ever tried to lose weight? How about tried to meet a friend for lunch? Did you try to wake up early this morning? So, how did that work for you?

I’ve noticed with myself saying I am going to “try” and do this, that, or the other often. You know what else I noticed when I say this? I don’t do it. I’m going to try and go to the gym 3x per week turns into, “It’s day 2 which is close enough to day 3, so… I tried.”  Sometimes only trying means only setting yourself up for mediocrity or even failure.

So, my challenge (here I go again, with the challenges), don’t try to do anything this year. Go do it. Start today. Start this week. Start now.

I changed my thinking from, “I’m going to try and workout at least 3x per week” to “I’m going to try and workout at least 3x per week.” And guess what? I did it.

“I’m going to try and meet a friend for lunch” becomes “I’m going to try and meet a friend for lunch.” Check.

I’m going to try and wake up early.” You’re crazy, check back later.

But, fo’ realz. Stop trying. Just do. You’ll thank me later.

 

do then feel.

I’ll just be upfront and admit it now. Some days I really don’t feel like doing anything. The last few days I’ve had so much on my mind concerning school, personal goals, and all that jazz. I haven’t slept well. I have a crick in my neck and my back hurts. My last few lifting days have SUCKED. It’s now past noon, and I haven’t even attempted to make it to the gym.

I’ve come to realize sometimes you just need to get up, get dressed, and go- “Do then Feel.” I’ve encountered many days when I just don’t feel like working out at all. And you know what? That’s alright. Giving your body a little break is alright. But, I need to remember feelings are fleeting. In the course of an hour (and sometimes less than that) I can feel like running, then feel like eating healthy, then feel like reading a good book, and then feel like doing nothing at all. Geez, feelings are exhausting. Since, feelings are ever-changing when you “feel then do,” you usually end up not far from the starting line.

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So, by creating a paradigm shift in my mind I’m more likely to get moving. So, when I just go for a run, or eat healthy, or dive into a good book, I don’t give myself time to respond to feelings. By doing first, I always end up feeling accomplished in the end. I learn more about myself and the world around me. Be forgiving, take it one step at a time. So, with that being said, I’m outta here.

how i am overcoming my sugar cravings.

Libby's Birthday- Senior year of High School

Libby’s Birthday- Senior year of High School

Over the past few weeks, I’ve struck up several conversations with friends about how I decided to start working out, eat healthy, change my diet, find motivation, etc. I guess, I can only really say it wasn’t an easy task. I shared a little bit about my Aha-Moment, a few weeks ago, but that only scrapes the surface.  I guess with any addiction, the first step is to come out of denial, right?

I’ve always seen myself as an athletic “in-shape” person. I mean, I played a sport. I’m tall and slender. (Ok, I’m tall and could hide my weight really well, in most cases.) But, after a health check at work concluded I weight 181 pounds, I knew I couldn’t be hiding that much weight.

I had a major problem! Food! Not just any food. Foods covered in chocolate, caramel, or cheese, preferably. I’m almost embarrassed to admit. I would sometimes find myself indulging on a few Little Debbie’s only to realize the only thing left was me and an empty box. It is not the prettiest thing to imagine, but a guilty, very guilty pleasure. Some people find their “high” in drugs. I would find mine by eating as many Milk Duds as fast as I could before showing up to a dinner date with friends. It was sad. 

Christmas Party- Freshmen year of College.

Christmas Party- Freshmen year of College.


Awards Banquet- Junior Year of College

Awards Banquet- Junior Year of College

When I first began running in late 2010/early 2011, I still battled with sugar even though I had adopted a few better habits, such as running and working out more consistently. Due to this, I thought I had no reason to give up the goods. After losing quite a bit of weight, and transforming over the last 2 years, I realized one thing. Nothing more was going to change if I didn’t change. Yes, I was staying fit, but still eating a double chocolate brownie at lunch everyday didn’t balance things out. 

So, in late 2012 I began experimenting with several diets. Vegan, Vegetarian, Gluten-Free, Weight Watchers, etc. Then, in October of 2012, I found something that worked for me. After discovering Vinnie Tortorich’s podcast through a friend from work, I was very curious about the No Sugar, No Grain lifestyle. This is not Akin’s! When I first mentioned this to friends and family, they originally wrote it off as the Akin’s diet. Which it is not. No Sugars, No Grains is just that. Eliminating refined sugars and grains from your diet, which tend to rank higher on the Glycemic Index. These are also foods that are really “just silly.” 

Sugar was really the toughest thing for me, and to be honest, it’s still a daily struggle. I am in the process of moving, so it’s definitely been even harder for me to sit down and make a wholesome meal when beef jerky and trail mix with M&Ms taste so much better. 

Here are some tips I am incorporating to help really kick the sugar monster:

-Drink more water

-Don’t even buy sugar/sugar products (THIS ISN’T BRAIN SURGERY)

-Plan meals and don’t steer from them

-Get out and ride my bike or go to the gym

This is not a post to bash all things sugar, grains, or everything that melts in your mouth and dances on your taste buds. Like anything, in moderation is okay for you. Okay, most things, not anything. Use your best discretion.