Sarah Rose Graber’s 2004 Circumnavigator’s Blog

September 13, 2004: Miami, Florida, USA
I DID IT!!!!!!!!! I have travelled completely around the world! AND I CAN’T WAIT TO DO IT AGAIN! I learned more on this trip than I ever could have learned in years and years of school. The theatre organizations, educational programs, companies, schools, universities, museums, outreach programs and performances I experienced have provided me with so much valuable information to bring back and share with people here in America! I also learned that there are so many good-hearted, kind people out there always ready to lend a helping hand, the world is a big place that is very different from one part to the next, many people stereotype Americans as being loud and full of themselves, many countries know more about American government and politics than a lot of Americans, I’ve got a great sense of direction, I know how to have fun, I make friends easily, and that you really can get away with having a nail clipper in your carry on (I’m not an advocate of this but I did carry one through every airport just to see if I could do it… I never once got stopped). The list could just go on and on of all the things I’ve learned!

My flight back to Miami from Buenos Aires was an adventure in itself. I decided to stay up all night with the rest of the hostel since I had to leave for the airport at 4am. I was worried that if I went to bed I would sleep through my alarm since my body has become nocturnal. A taxi took me to the airport and I got all checked in. I realized that I left these crappy $6 sunglasses I got in Sydney on the couch back at the hostel which just made me crack up. I realized that I was finally on my way home after traveling to a ton of different places and the only thing I lost on my whole trip was stupid, crappy sunglasses! Nothing got stolen, I didn’t misplace anything, nothing broke! I made out like a bandit with only having the sunglasses left behind at the end of my trip when I don’t even need them anymore!

We stopped off in Lima, Peru (they had us get off the plane, bus us back to the main building, bus us back out to the plane, and then re-board… it was a strange sense of deja vu!) and then we stopped in San Jose, Costa Rica where there were torrential downpours. But when we landed in Miami and I made my way through customs and baggage claim, a woman holding back the tears in her eyes (aka my Mommy!) came running to greet me! “My crazy daughter is back! It’s so good to see you!” My dad and my brother were also there with hugs and smiles! As we we were heading out of the airport, my mom said she had to tie her shoe first. I looked down at her shoe which was already neatly tied up and then looked in the direction in which she was walking, AND there was Nathan who came all the way from Chicago to welcome me back at the airport! I felt like I was in a movie! I was expecting to go outside and see a huge parade coming down the street! (Hey, it could happen?!?) But after traveling around the world and having the time of my life, it is amazing to come back home to the people you know and love… but I can’t wait to do it again! Happy travels and as the circumnavigators say, “LUCK TO YOU!”

September 8, 2004: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Well, I really can’t believe that my trip is almost over! It’s my last night in Buenos Aires, the last stop on my trip and then it’s home for a week before school starts! Whoa nelly!

I’ve been seeing the sites like Casa Rosada where Eva Peron would greet her adoring citizens from the balcony and the Recoleta Cemetery which is unbelievably creepy! You can see all the actual coffins that have the dead bodies inside which is already enough to give you goosebumps, let alone walking down the narrow rows of tombs inches away from touching dust on the wooden coffins. I was really surprised by how scary it can be there! Definitely a good place for telling some scary stories. I also checked out the big market in Plaza Dorrego in San Telmo and there were a ton of street performers doing some really creative piece from puppetry, to tango, to mime, to being statues!

The hostel I’m staying at gives free Tango dancing classes so I’ve been learning the “art form” if you will! I saw a tango show and it is just amazing to watch. They are so talented and strong and have so much style! It’s definitely exciting and something that Buenos Aires is very proud of!

I went to Teatro Colon and got a tour of the incredible theatre! It is just magnificent and they actually opened on my birthday, May 25, but in 1809! It’s extremely old but has such a rich history here in Buenos Aires and is just remarkable.

I’ve also gotten some extra treats that were a bit unexpected! There have been strikes taking place everyday (don’t worry, they are peaceful demonstrations) with regard to the unemployment that is running rampant here. The people who are marching take over the streets and march all the way to Plaza de congreso or right outside the Casa Rosada and they perform! They take on roles of political figures to make a statement about some of the poor political decisions that have been made. It was just fascinating and everyone would just cheer!  The people aren’t afraid to show how they feel by any means!

September 4, 2004: Buenos Aires, Argentina
This is a place for the seriously energetic, the nocturnal, and the outgoing! I love it! I went out with a bunch of people to an all you can eat restaurant last night. It was really cheap and we all got as much food, drinks, and dessert as we wanted! I made friends with a bunch of the servers which was fun and I tried intestine and kidney for the first time…. not a big fan of either, but hey, you can’t dislike what you don’t know. The wait staff was really nice and they invited me to go play pool with them but I had already made plans to go to the dance club for the night.

We left the hostel for the popular dance club “Mint” at 2am!!!! That’s two o’clock in the morning! We got into this big bus thing and got dropped off right outside. We got to walk right in past the line since we already had tickets. The club was so much fun! People can really dance here and they aren’t shy in showing off their moves! Plus everyone is just ready to have a good time so everyone is dancing with each other and laughing and smiling and just living up the night! We got back to the hostel at 6:45am and I was tiiiiiiiiiiiiiiired! I didn’t stop dancing the whole night and I had so much fun meeting all these different people and boogying on down to the music.

I didn’t wake up until 1pm and had to be at the theatre acting class at the Cultural Centre at 2pm. I got myself all together and went to the class. I went into the room with the rest of the class and grabbed a chair at the front to sit and observe like the administrators had agreed to let me do. But the teacher immediately told me to get off the chair, put away my notes and run around the space with the rest of the class. We worked on this first technique called “Que ahora” which is basically all about “being in the moment and present.” We would have to narrate every single thing that we were doing at that exact moment. Then we worked on finding “truthful emotions” where we had to express anger and then heighten it and then express love and heighten it. This was really hilarious because we were put into partners and we had to stand 2 meters away from each other, we could touch, and each one of us took a side; either expressing love or expressing ang! er. Our situation was that I was in a relationship with my partner and he cheated on me. We got really into it and I started to get so frustrated because my brain couldn’t come up with the spanish words as fast as my mind was going but I didn’t want to break so we were just screaming at each other and I would start blurting out this amazing array of  what I’ll refer to as “spanglish” words! Talk about creativity, I think I created my own language! hahaha It was hilarious and I had my partner just rolling over by the end. Everyone in the class took a real liking to me right away because I think they enjoyed the entertainment I was providing. I mean, I was hilarious! I know I was enjoying my entertainment! I just jumped right in on all of the exercises with the rest of the group and just had a blast! I was really taken back by how passionate people are here. They are so in touch with their emotions and their emotional expressions are HUGE! These two guys had to “act” out an argument, but it turned into them really getting pissed off with each other and they had to leave the class to work out their problem… yeah, they get really into their work.

After the class I was really ready for some grub so I stopped by this great little restaurant for some empanadas! Que rico! The food was amazing and the waiter sat with me during my meal! Plus half the restaurant was taken over by this 37 person family gathering for a casual lunch. Family values are really held in high regard here. The men are also really respectful of women. I don’t think I’ve opened my own door once since I’ve been here!

Tonight has some more partying in store and a steak restaurant outing before with some friends! Adios!

September 3, 2004: Buenos Aires, Argentina
I had this crappy flight that was so far the strangest I’ve had on my way to Argentina. First I was put on stand by becuase I didn’t call to reconfirm my flight. Then I finally got put on the plane which wasn’t even full after a crap load of paper work and being moved around. I was sitting by these Australian guys who got so drunk! They were pretty hilarious and they started moving around the plane talking to everyone. Each person on the plane was having alcohol which is provided for free by the airline and they actually ran out! The stewardess said she’s never seen that happen before! And everyone was standing up in the aisles for part of the flight as though they were at a cocktail party or something! I couldn’t sleep on the plane this time around because the seats were really uncomfortable and the food was poor. I even woke up several times when I actually did zonk out because there was a baby that kept escaping from its mother and grasping o! nto my leg or one of the drunk Aussies would be hanging over me trying to look out the window! BUT, we landed and that was a really nice thing…

I met this guy who’s cousins were picking him up at the airport and he offered to see if they could give me a ride. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough room in the car so I went to go get my ticket for the shuttle when this hilarious Australian hippy man who was on my flight named Fred started asking me about how I was getting into the city and if I knew where I was staying since he just sort randomly decided to come to Buenos Aires on a whim. This other Argentinian guy who was on our flight had already gotten a cab that was going in our direction so he offered to let us bum a ride with him since it was already on the way to his destination. The cab ride was fantastic! We got to see Buenos Aires and arrived in a short amount of time. It was crazy how it all just worked out so easily! Talk about luck!

I got set up at Milhouse Hostel and Fred checked in as well. This hostel is so cool!!! I’m paying about the equivalent of $6 USD a night and I get free breakfast, free internet, great location, a shower with hot water, and cleanliness! This place is freakin’ cheap! A backpackers paradise!

Fred and I grabbed some coffee once we got situated and he had me in stitches! He doesn’t know any Spanish and he always seems kind of lost. Not knowing Spanish here can be a big problem becuase no one speaks English. BUT I AM BECOMING SUCH A MASTER! I think I could be completely fluent if I stayed here for between 3-6 months because being surrounded by it I feel like I’m becoming more comfortable by the second! And I really like being able to use another language. Another funny thing is that many people think I’m from here! Both locals and tourists keep assuming I’m Argentinian!

But man do these kids know how to party here! Come 2am people in the hostel came downstairs so that they could grab a drink and then head out to the clubs. The night life doesn’t stop until 8am in the morning! As for me, I just went to bed because my body couldn’t even function by 2am with the time difference and the wonderful flight experience.

However, this morning I was one of 10 people awake for breakfast and then I went into the city to go visit some theatres. Teatro de San Martin was a blast! The people here are so friendly and their accents are beautiful and clear which makes it really easy to understand them. I’m going to go see Tony Kushner’s “Homebody Kabul” in Spanish before I leave. They told me aton about the work they do and gave me a free ticket to see a movie called “Primavera Tardia” which was just insanity for me! It’s a japanese film with Spanish captions and my brain was so confused as to what to focus on when it started, but by the end I was holding back tears as Yuriko had to tell her father that she was sorry that her second marriage was a disgrace to her family! hahaha

I just love the people here too! They are so friendly and they all give “Miami kisses” (kisses on the cheek) whenever they meet someone, so it feels a lot like home in some ways. But it also feels a ton like Europe here as well with the old buildings, monuments, and streets. Plus they have the most amazing empanadas here and I haven’t had their steaks yet, but they are supposed to be incredible and only cost about $5 USD!

I’m going to see a theatre class tomorrow at the Centro Cultural which should be a cool experience! AND tonight I’m going to go out and experience some of the club culture… we’re leaving at 1:30am… I think I’m going to need a nap.

September 1 , 2004: Auckland, New Zealand
I am back in Auckland now and the rest of my speed through adventure was exhilirating and fun! I left Taupo after a fun night of running down to the lake, playing on jungle gyms, and then celebrating this Irish guy’s birthday on our bus at one of the local pubs. We had a great drive back up North and made a quick stop in Rotorua on our way to Mt. Maunganui. The short stop was long enough for one last adrenaline fillled adventure at this place called Skyline skyrides. I decided to try my hand at the Luge course! I went with this cool Australian I met on the bus and we first had to take a gondola ride up to the top of the mountain. Once at the top, we had the most amazing view of Lake Rotorua. We took off for the luge course and man was that crazy fun! We each sat down in these little plastic sleds of death, put on a helmet, and began our super speedy descent down the mountain around turns that were way too sharp for the speeds the luge was traveling. Inside the luge, you are so close to the ground and you could feel yourself tilting to the side about to meet the asphalt! We went back up after the first course we tried out so that we could luge down a different path. The second one was sooooooo fun as well! The turns were even sharper and the hills were even steeper. Especially the one at the end which just sent you flying! And after all that excitment we grabbed some food and I had my first Meat Pie which is a traditional dish in both Oz and NZ.

Back on the bus, we had even more spectacular views all the way to Mt. Maunganui! I got dropped off at this hostel called Pacific Resort something or other. It’s owned by this husband and wife and they were so sweet! They had pizza and cookies and kiwi fruit ready upon my arrival and anyone else showing up for the night. Then Murray (the husband) showed me around and talked with me about the Mt. Maunganui area. He was hilarious, cracking jokes left and right, and telling me all about his background and life story!

The next morning, Murray gave a bunch of us a ride to the base of Mt. Maunganui. We began our climb and this mountain was steep!!! It wasn’t incredibly high but the gradient was challenging. But once at the top, the views were great even though it was a cloudy day. I was surprised far I could see.

Hopped back on the bus again and drove through Katikati and Waihi. Tarangapake Gorge was the next stop and it was so beautiful seeing the little waterfalls, streams, and plantlife. Then we had an hour long stop in Thames where there really wasn’t much going on. It’s an old gold mining town (like many of the small towns in NZ) so I just kind of wandered around for a bit and found some cool mud flats and birds.

Jumped back on the bus again and finally arrived in Auckland to some gross rain clouds. I’ll be heading off to Buenos Aires, Argentina tomorrow and I’ve met a bunch of travelers here who had just visited Argentina and said the most amazing things. I’m hoping it will be as great as it sounds! Ahhhhhhh, I can’t believe it’s almost over! Sadness! I’m having a hard time even remembering what it was like to be so stable in a place. It’s actually scary to think about! I feel like I could just keep on doing this forever but I guess the wallet eventually runs dry and the comfort of being “home” is hard to match.

August 30, 2004: Taupo, New Zealand
Kia ora! Kia Ora! I am now officially part of the insanity that takes place in New Zealand! I found possibly the most strange and terrifying adventure opportunity in Waitomo and I DID IT!!!! They offer something called Black Water Rafting or Cave Tubing! Now this is crazy for many reasons: 1) Cave water is cold 2) It’s winter in New Zealand 3) Caves are dark 4) There are waterfalls in the cave 5) The guide is a fat, scary Maori man who smokes a lot of pot named Winnie and is missing most of his teeth.

What this entails is putting on a wetsuit, with rubber boots, and a hard hat with a light; grabbing a rubber tube and going into the depths of the glowworm caves. But that’s not the half of it! The first part we had to walk across this cow field in our gear which was hilarious since all the cows watched us walk by to the cave entrance, “mooing” at us. Then once we got into the entrance we had to climb through all of these muddy and rocky areas, then we turned out our lights and you could see hundreds of glowworms all over the top of the cave. They sort of look like the glow in the dark stars that you put up in your room as a kid! It was so magical! Then we moved further into the cave until we reached water and had to begin swimming once it got deeper. We eventually got into our tubes and began to move our way along the water. Our guide had us turn out the lights on our helmet so we could enjoy more glowworms but soon we started hearing this loud noise like a t! rain. I asked what it was and my guide just laughed and told me to turn on my light. It was a HUGE waterfall! “Now it’s time for some fun. We’re going to jump!” he said smiling with his missing teeth. I went first (there was only me and one other person stupid enough, or daring enough to go on this adventure) and stood on the edge of the waterfall backwards (you can’t jump forwards because of the shape of the cave), in the dark, feeling the FREEZING cold water pass over my legs, and hearing the crashing water below me. I stood there thinking how stupid and insane this was as my guide gave me the proper precautions for jumping off of a cave waterfall, but then with a big heave ho, I jumped off backwards and began falling! It was so scary!!! I actually had enough time in the air to wonder why I hadn’t reached the water yet!!! But when I landed the ice cold water washed over my body, into my wetsuit and I felt like a fre! akin’ super hero! You feel like you can jump the moon after something like that! Then we reached a second waterfall later on in our journey but this one is too high to jump off since the water is not deep enough for the amount of impact in which you would hit and the wall of the cave is very narrow. Soooooooo, instead they have this ridiculously steep waterslide the whole way down. Dropping down on the slide and shooting off the end with so much momentum was the most exhilirating thing ever! Again I got covered in water and by this point couldn’t feel my hands or feet! But, after 2 hours in the cave and all the adventure, I was ready to take on the world! We got to take a hot shower when we got back and even got some hot soup to get ourselves back to a normal color.

We drove to Rotorua, where we spent the night, and got to see a bunch of hot springs. The whole city is a thermal wonderland!

Rotorua has the largest demographic of Maori people which I was excited to learn more about. I got to hang out at a Maori Village, meet the people, eat their hangi (food cooked under the ground), learn about their performances, tatooing, music, and cultural history. I had to learn all of these rules first before entering the village, like the proper greetings and behavior. The Maori people are warriors so to enter the village you needed to give full eye contact to the chief and keep a straight face as he does all of these wild intimidating gestures with his spears. He then puts done a branch as a peace offering to allow you to enter since you have respected his performance. Once having the branch in hand you can not drop it or else that means that they will attack because it is a sign of disrespect and aggression. I had such a great time and learned a ton! I wish I could stay longer and learn even more which is a little frustrating to be on such a time schedule.

But this morning I went swimming in the naturally heated mineral pool. It was incredible! It was so cold outside but the water was so warm and it was the most relaxing thing I’ve done my whole trip! Just glorious!

Then we went to the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Reserve and got to see a geyser errupt and to see all of the sulfuric craters, boiling mud, and hot water pools. It was an incredible sight… and a stinky one!

Then we got to go to Huka Falls where we checked out the waterfall and now I’m in Taupo which is the situated on Lake Taupo, the largest lake in all of New Zealand. The view is really impressive and COLD but I’m having a great time and am enjoying constantly being on the go! Mt. Maunganui will be my next stop tomorrow!

August 28, 2004: Auckland, New Zealand
I’ve decided to leave Auckland and go explore other parts of the country. I got most of my work done here earlier than I expected and I’m really interested in learning more about the Maori culture. Sooooooooo, tomorrow I will head off to Waitomo, then Rotorua, then Taupo, Mt. Maunganui, and Thames. I’ll get back to Auckland on Wednesday night which means I’m going to be doing some serious speed travel but I know it’s going to be worth it!

I went to the Victoria Park Market today which was cool and saw a bunch of different street performers at Aotea Square. I even stopped by Sky City casino and played my $1 on the 2 cent machines for a whole minute before I lost it! hahaha I’m not one for gambling but apparently Sky City is one of the big stops to make in Auckland.

Then I went to this skate park that I was passing and made friends with a bunch of the skateboarders and BMX people. They showed me a bunch of cool tricks and again, reaffirmed my statement of kiwis being crazy. One kid evne broke his leg! And he wasn’t upset about the pain but about not being able to skateboard again until it’s healed!

August 27, 2004: Auckland, New Zealand
Before I left Sydney, the two Chris boys invited me to come have dinner with them and their host family in Strathfield. They picked me up at the train station and brought me to the home where they are staying. It was hilarious because the whole family that they love with was a stereotypical boisterous group of happy-go-lucky Aussies. They would tell raunchy jokes at the table, laugh loud enough to shake the house, slap you on the back after cracking some funny line, and just darn glad to meet ya mate! There were people coming in and out of the house all through dinner and apparently people stop by at this family’s house all the time. And with how friendly they are, it makes complete sense that someone would always feel welcome there.

After dinner, Chris, Chris, Andy, another Chris, Kieran (host family’s son), and I all went to this gentleman’s club to go play some snooker. I’d never played before and really wasn’t all that talented in the game. But we had a great time cracking up at our poor skill when we would miss shots or get excited whenever we actually sunk one of the balls.

The next day I woke up early for the Sydney Bridgeclimb. Each group spends almost 2 hours just in preparation for the climb putting all of your gear on and learning the rules of the climb. There were a couple people in my group who were freaking out a bit about the height aspect. When we started to climb the bridge the nervous people were in the front so we would have to wait while they made their way up and I got scooted toward the back of the line because the height didn’t bother me. I think it would have been more fun in the front but once on top the view was fantastic and you could really see all over Sydney! I guess it’s one of those things that you just do to have done it. But it sucks not being able to take your own pictures while you’re up there so instead they give you a free pass to Pylon Lookout where you climb a million more steps (after you’re already tired from the climb) to get to the top of the Pylon Tower with your own camera.

That night I went out for dinner and part of pub crawl with some other travelers that I’d become friends with. We had a bunch of fun and I got to meet even more locals which was cool.

AND NOW, I’m in New Zealand! New Zealand looks just like the place you would create in your mind for the setting of a fairytale that you were told as a child. There is something that seems so magically as you fly over the insanely green volcano covered land. It wouldn’t surprise you if you saw a unicorn or some strange little hobbit pop out behind some rock!

After being greeted by the friendliest customs workers I’ve ever met, I took a bus into Auckland City Center. At my hostel I put down my bag and all of a sudden heard screaming outside. So I quickly looked out my window to see what was going on and I saw this person bungy jumping off of Skytower of which I have a perfect view! It’s the highest landlock jump in the Southern Hemisphere and it is freakin’ HIGH! I’ve always heard about the many adventure sports there are to do in New Zealand but this place really is an adrenaline junkie’s paradise! Everywhere you look there are skydiving oportunities, bungy jumping, and tons of strange contraptions that are hard to deduce quite what they do except that you can rest assure that they evoke the most extreme levels of fear! Some of my favorites I’ve seen have been something called the Zorb which is basically this big plastic bubble that you roll down these huge hills, in zig zags, over drops, and fling yours! elf all over the place with this hot water that is inside splashing on you. There are also some cool caving adventures and this thing called the canopy swing where you sort of bungy jump into a sort of Tarzan like finish. But everyone here is CRAZY! They all want to do these death defying adventures and why not, right?!?! I don’t think I can pass up some of this insanity, so I think I’ll try and find something weird to do… but I might be too chicken because these adventures definitely challenge your ability to let go of any common sense or human logic.

I went to the University of Auckland to see a performance they had informed me about called “Director’s Cuts.” It was a series of two one acts that were developed by graduate level students as director and actors and technicians. The people were so nice and the professor I had been in contact with, had made sure that I got to meet a bunch of the students.

Today I toured all over the Auckland area with this crazy dude named “Dribbles” who lead our small group. He’s done almost every adventure sport here so you can imagine how outgoing he was! We got to see the Skytower jump up close and personal from the landing dock…eek! And then we got to go over the New Zealand Bridge, Ponsonby, check out Mt. Eden (a huge dormant volcano) with a great view of the city, and learn a ton about the Maori tribe which is what I was actually most excited about. Dribbles is actually part of the Maori tribe and he told me a ton about their rituals and performance. He told me about a way I could go visit one of the villages and learn about their performances, so I think that I’m going to try and do that. Then, Dribbles took us out for some beer and chips which is the “kiwi way” apparently! haha

I went to visit the Silo Theatre after my tour and the Artistic Director, Shane was fantastic! Turns out he actually used to work at the Belvoir Street Theatre and he was able to give me some great information on the theatre scene in New Zealand at large. Their company tries to do edgy pieces of theatre and often showcases the new work of many kiwi writers. Plus, New Zealand has this awesome requirement in their education system where every student has to spend a certain amount of time learning about theatre, movement, music, and visual art which they can do through classes offered in school and trips like seeing shows and participating in workshops relating to the performance. They require this of students as a means of encouraging them to develope communication skills and to help them become more confident.

I’m going to attend their production of “Under Milk Wood” tonight which I am looking forward to seeing.

August 24, 2004: Sydney and Canberra, Australia
went down to the Circular Quay to catch a ferry to Manly for the day and just as I went running to the ferry, they closed the gates to board. I missed it by a second and so did these two other guys. Soooooo, we had to wait another half an hour for the next one. We started chatting and it turns out they are both named Chris, they both are studying abroad here, and one of them is from West Palm Beach and the other is from Northern California. They’d been to Manly Beach quite a few times so they invited me to come along with them.

Once at Manly we walked down to the beach and played frisbee for a bit. Then we walked along the water and they showed me the “wormhole” which is this cave that was drilled into the side of a cliff along the water so that you could walk thorugh to get to the second farther North beach. We also climbed along these rocks that were all around there and it was amazing! Standing on the rocks you could get a great view of the beaches and the ocean. Plus it was really fun to climb all over the clusters of rocks and actually have to jump from one rock to the next at times!

Then they told me that they were going to church and wanted to know if I wanted to join them. Now, I’ve never been to a church service before, let alone an Australian church service, so I figured I was game! It was so different than what I thought it would be like! There was no stained glass or crucifix mounted on the wall. I felt like I was at a rock concert as we entered the converted gym space with multi colored lights to the sounds of a rock band jamming away and took our seats in some folding chairs! Everyone was dancing and singing along with the words that were being projected on this screen right above the band. It was like karaoke for a 100 people! And I couldn’t believe how casual it was. People were in flip flops and board shorts. The service started at 6:30pm and apparently in Australia, that’s when most of the young people go to church. I met some of the locals and a few other people who are in the Austalia program that Chris and Chris are doing which was fun.

The next day I went to Canberra which is the capital city. I originally wanted to take a tour since I could only go for the day but the spaces were already filled up. I was warned that it is very spread out and hard to get around, but I decided to get myself a bus ticket and go anyway.

Canberra is such an interesting place because it’s a large major, city with a small town feel. The locals call it a country city! haha Everyone is so nice and everyone seems to know everyone else or at least have a friend in common. I got onto a bus so easily to head over to the Australian War Memorial Museum and arrived just in time for the tour. The Museum was so moving and was an excellent display of Australia’s historical involvement in war. Plus, there was a guy on the tour who was in the air force fighting during WWII which made the experience so much more meaningful to me since he would add little anecdotes here and there to what the guide would mention. Plus, when we walked down the Roll of Honor he saw his best mates name on the wall who was killed when they were bombed by the Japanese. It made everything so much more real instead of just passively observing. But it’s all just so overwhelming and it makes you realize just how foolish mankind can be when it comes to war. But I won’t go there. Ugh, I just wanted to cry at parts.

Then I caught a cab (very easily) to the New Parliament house. Again I made it just in time for their tour and got to see the meeting rooms for the House of Representatives and for the Senate. I also went up to the roof of the building and got a great view all around the city. The city feels fake in a lot of ways because it’s so perfectly planned out. The War Memorial, The old Parliament House and the New Parliament house all follow a straight line down a hill from each other and all the roads go in circular patterns instead of a linear grid. Everything has a purpose here and everything is man made… all the lakes and landscape have been specially designed.

I caught a bus back to the city center (easily yet again despite what everyone had told me!) and met up with a sweet woman named Liz to get some coffee. I love this because Liz is a friend of a woman named Deirdre who I met on my safari in Kenya! Meeting random people through other random people that I’ve met is always great fun!

But there is a ton to see here and a day doesn’t quite do it even though I got to see the things I was most interested in. Everything worked out so smoothly on my day adventure!… that is until we reached the halfway point and we got stuck in the bus for 3 hours because of a car accident that blocked off the road. Then the bus driver actually got lost for an hour! hahaha  Eventually we got back on track and I was back in Sydney by 1am instead of the original 9:15pm.

Today I saw show at the Sydney Opera House called Babies Prom which is very popular here. It was kid chaos! All of these little kids 3-5 came with their parents to see this storyteller perform with the Babies Prom Symphony. The music was beautiful and the storyteller was top notch. Then I went to the University of Sydney and chatted with their performance studies department. They don’t do much in the way of actually performing but their studies are all focused around observation and analysis of performance. That being said, they had a ton of interesting information to pass along to me and were so welcoming.

August 22, 2004: Sydney, Australia
Down on Hay Street they have something called Haymarket which is this HUGE market that sells anything you could possibly ever imagine wanting for dirt cheap! Walking around there is such a mix of locals and tourists checking out the clothing, cookingware, souvenirs, watches and more! And it would be easy to walk away with bags full of items for $20 USD.

I walked down to the Royal Botanical Gardens to catch a bus to go to Bondi Beach for the day. The bus system is also fantastic here, much like Perth. Once at Bondi I found this cool little burger joint and grabbed some lunch and got to chat with a bunch of locals who educated me on the “ways of the waves” at Bondi Beach. Everywhere you look you can find a person in a wetsuit, holding a surfboard, walking down the street. It’s as common as holding a purse! The locals told me about how there is a lot of surfer ettiquette that is followed. You never take someone elses wave, you give every surfer enough space, boogie boarders will normally catch the smaller waves and leave the larger waves for the surfers, etc. It was amazing to hear all of these rules! But in the end it’s all just fun and is more so for keeping people safe so that they can enjoy themselves.

Bondi beach is gorgeous and the waves are pretty impressive… even on a calm day like when I was there. HOWEVER, the biggest shocker was seeing the most beautiful people in the world all located in one spot! I have never seen that many incredibly gorgeous people! Young, tan, great smiles, active and it made me stop and think that it might as well be a model shoot that was going on! I mean, growing up in Miami, FL the beach is normally covered in beautiful people, but here, I think being good looking must be a requirement to enter onto the beach!

At night I went to an Aussie Rules Football game with some people from the hostel. I was told that it is quite the Australian experience and I must agree! This game is a mix between rugby, american football, and soccer. It would take me a while to explain the rules but luckily I had someone who could explain everything to me. The game began and the crowd went wild screaming and cheering for their team! And it didn’t take long before I too got the bug and started screaming and jumping out of my seat as we all totally became immersed in the game! It moves so fast, none of this commercial break stuff and there is constant action! We were sitting right in back of the goal and every time a goal would be made someone in the crowd would get to catch the ball and throw it back into the game! It was so exciting having to either dodge the ball, duck for cover, or jump up to try and catch it, just because the ball would constantly be coming out into the crowd! But on of the cooles! t things was at the end of the game, (Sydney won!) there is a tradition where the gates of the field are opened up and everyone and their grandma coming running down onto the field with their own Aussie rules Footballs and complete chaos ensues! Balls are flying everywhere and people of all ages are running around pretending to be the atheletes we just saw play. It was complete insanity and pure fun taking part in this wild Aussie tradition!

August 20, 2004: Sydney, Australia
I’ve done a bunch in two days and all of it walking! I went to St. Andrews Church and to the Town Hall to see what they were all about. Both have the most beautiful architecture and were phenomenal to walk around! Then I went down to the Rocks and explored that whole area, reading all the historical signs and looking at the different kinds of buildings. I ate luch under the Sydney Harbour bridge and watched the boats go by which was just beautiful.

Next I walked over to the Sydney Opera House and met up with their Education Production Manager, Noel. He was a really nice guy and it was cool to hear about the new program he’s instituted. They have a full season of shows geared toward education purposes and they are extremely well funded. It’s nice to see arts education not having any money/budget issues! They even did this whole program devoted to disabilities in the arts that sounded really special.

Today the weather was AMAZING! I went to the Royal Botanical Gardens and took one of their tours. It was beautiful and I enjoyed learning about all of their native plant life. I even met some Americans! Then I went to the New South Wales Art Gallery and saw their exhibits.

I headed out to Surry Hills after that and met up with Lyn from Belvoir Street Theatre. This is such a great company in the sense that they were started by a group of performers who just liked performing and wanted to create a company and theatre venue for that purpose. The theatre is an old tomato factory and runs off of so much love, hard work, and talent. They work as a family and are so friendly and warm. People like Cate Blanchett and Geoffrey Rush come back and perform there because it helped them to get their start. And with the warmth you can see in the community created at the theatre it’s no surprise that the big names want to come back.

August 19, 2004: Sydney, Australia
I LOVE SYDNEY! The weather has been awful and I haven’t been here that long, BUT IT”S GREAT! hahahah Isn’t that funny!?!?!

I took the airport link train from the airport to my hostel and it was so easy. The left over residue from Sydney playing host to the Olympics is definitely apparent in it’s massvie amount of signage! For a big city, I think you have to work pretty hard to get lost. As soon as I got into my hostel I met a whole bunch of people and spent the night having fun in a nearby bar, meeting many locals, eating kabobs, and watching the Olympics with people from all around the world! The atmosphere around here is so much fun!

Yesterday was awful weather yet again. It was pouring rain the whole day and I don’t think the sun even came out once! But I just threw on my rain jacket and ventured out.

I went to Chinatown and meandered down the streets stopping off at different stores. It’s a nice size Chinatown and seeing as how there is a pretty large Asian population here, it makes sense.

Then I went to Darling Harbour. I went to the Aquarium because I thought it would be a smart indoor thing to do on a gross, rainy day. Apparently everyone had the same idea as me! It was packed in there and I waited on line for 25 minutes just to get inside. But once I moved on through the aquarium the crowds seemed to disperse a bit, I finally got to really enjoy everything I was seeing. The aquarium here is pretty impressive, not to mention TOTALLY decked out in “Finding Nemo” gear! They are making quite a profit off of that movie. AND in the whole exhibit on the Great Barrier Reef, everytime a clownfish appears millions of people gather in front of the glass and start shooting off rolls of film! It becomes a light show of camera flashes as young children scream, “Nemo! Nemo! I found him!” But my all time favorite part is the shark tank. There is a glass tunnel that passes through and you are completely surrounded by sharks, sea turtles, stingrays, fish, and more swimming all around you. It feels like you are inside the tank with them and it’s just great!

Then I went through the famous Queen Victoria Building and up George Street. It’s such a great city and I’m having such a blast here. The weather doesn’t even seem to put a damper on the great vibe found here. The people are so friendly and it really does seem like a great city to be a young person in.

August 16, 2004: Perth, Australia
G’day mates! Tonight we went out for a traditional Italian meal for my last night at this fantastic restaurant owned by these guys that Paolo is friendly with. The food was put of this world and we had wonderful time closing out the restarant.

Earlier in the day I went to Rottnest Island with Jennifer. This island was phenomenal and has been one of the highlights on my trip. Out of all the places I’ve visited, this island seems to be the place I’m most anxious to come back and explore! I wasn’t expecting to be so taken back by everything there. It is just magnificent and for a small island there is quite a bit to do. I took a tour of the whole island and every view was more amazing than the last! Turns out the tour guide, named Bert, was an exchange student in America during his Senior year of high school… and guess where he lived while in the US???? EVANSTON, ILLINOIS! The same city as me at Northwestern University! He went to Evanston Township High School. We got along great a shared a bunch of stories with each other. We saw the famous quokkas, dolphins, seals, and a huge array of birds. It’s a bit cold now but during it’s high season, Rottnest Island has some of the best snorkeling, surfing, fishing, scuba diving, cycling, and trekking. There are between 250-400 people living on the island at any one time and the only way yo u can live there is if yo u work on the island or are a family member of a worker according to government regulation. We took a ferry boat to get there and the waters were nice and calm. The weather remained sunny and clear for the day which also made the trip enjoyable. I would like to stay for a longer time and explore the island by bike and check out the many reefs and coasta l b eaches of the small island.

Perth has been really wonderful. I’ve done a lot in a short amount of time and I still haven’t seen everything there is in Western Australia. It is extremely beautiful here and seems to be growing at such a fast rate. It doesn’t surprise me that people want to build there lives here because it seems like such a great place to settle down no matter how old you are.

Tomorrow I leave for Sydney! Everyone in Perth has told me that it is a much bigger city and fast paced life compared to here in Perth. It sounds like a great place for a young person! And heavens knows I’m always ready for some busy fun!

August 15, 2004: Perth, Australia

My adventure in the city center of Perth was a great full day of fun! I took a bus into the city and meandered my way down the popular Hay Street. This street has some of the coolest restaurants and shops in the area. It is also the street that His Majesty’s Theatre can be found! I stopped by the theatre and got a tour and ton of information. They also showed me around the Performance Museum for Western Australia. I was surprised and took great enjoyment in the discovery that women who were men impersonators were the most popular form of theatrical entertainment in the early development of Western Australia! hahaha People like Heddy King made a huge success of herself by dressing up as a man and making the crowd crack up with her slapstick comedy! I also got a chance to visit the Art Gallery of Western Australia and observe the fantastic exhibits on art created by local talent throughout the years. Plus another smart and fantastic thing about Perth is that they have free transportation in the city on a bus system called the CAT (Central Auto Transit, I think?) which can take you to anywhere you need to go in the city. It is incredibly easy to navigate and very well set up.

I also went into Freemantle another day to visit the brand new maritime Museum with Paolo (an ex-submarine dude, so he knew a lot about all the ships and things!), Jennifer, and Rose. I got to see some of the boats used in the America’s cup and a bunch about water sports in Australia.

I spent the next afternoon at the University of Western Australia with a Dr. Chinna. He showed me all the different theatre spaces on the campus as well as a bunch of information on the course offering and teaching methods. The campus is beautiful and seconds away from the Swan River! And that night I went to see a show called “Still Angela” at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Arts. The play was fantastic and showed the growth and development of a woman throughout her life as she discovered what was important to her. There were 3 different women all playing the character of Angela at the same time! Very cool and well acted!

Today I went to a Chinese Buddhist temple for Vegetarian cuisine and to see their prayer space. The food was fantastic and the many statues of the Happy Buddha and other buddhas were so bright and colorful! Several of the people there showed us around an explained a bunch of the buddhist ideologies to me. Then we went to another huge buddhist temple. This one was gigantic! I got to see them praying which sounded so beautiful as they all chanted their prayers. I’ve never seen that done before so it was so interesting to watch.

It’s so culturally diverse however I haven’t seen much of a black demographic. I was cracking up the other day as I sat down at a table with Jennifer (Chinese), Paolo (Italian), Rose (Filipino), Eula (Australian), Samira (Lebanese), and me (American)! You’ve got most of the globe right here! haha But the thing that stands out most to me about my time so far in Perth is that people seem happy to be here! There isn’t anything really bad happening here. Economically, everyone is getting along just fine, even the aboriginals. Many of the locals talk about how you don’t have to be a millionaire to live like one and from what I’ve seen, it’s true. Anyone can live comfortably here.

August 9, 2004: Perth, Australia
Jennifer and Paolo (the family I’m staying with) are treating me like a princess! I’m getting so spoiled! Jennifer is the most amazing cook and has been showing me all around the city. As for Paolo, he is basically the funny version of “the Godfather.” He is the most hilarious Italian man and has been sharing many of his travels with me. I feel very lucky to have been matched up with them through the Circumnavigator Foundation.

Today I got to visit Black Swan Theatre Company and had the nicest time chatting with a lovely woman named Fleur. She is in charge of their education department and she gave me the whole rundown on the kinds of programs going on at the BSTC. They have a great deal of programs for schools and have this really interesting ideology on having artists as role models for younger people so that they become engaged in the arts. And they have workshops which encourage young people to expand commitment in their artistic interests, allowing them to have more respect for what they are doing.

Then I went to the Cultural Center in the city center. I spent a chunk of time at the Western Australia Museum learning all about the history and culture within Western Australia. It was some of the best Taxadermy I’ve seen so far! Plus the exhibition was just really well designed and so informative. There was also this kick ass section on dinosaurs and evolution which just rocked my world. I’m going to try and explore more of the city tomorrow since I only got a taste of it today.

August 8, 2004: Perth, Australia
My last day in Mauritius was full of surprises! I went to Grand Baie just to check some email but on my way back it was so beautiful outside that I decided I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere so I might as well walk back instead of taking the bus. About half way through my walk I was stopped by this eccentric gay guy on a bike who wanted to invite me to come on his canoe trip tour. I told him I was leaving tomorrow morning but somehow we started talking and he was hilarious. Apparently he has apartments on the island that he has for rent so he invited me to go to his place for some traditional Mauritian Rum that he makes. (He’s a bartender too) So we walked to his place which was in a small village on the north part of the island. I got to see the locals playing soccer and riding bikes around as Damen said hi to friends in the area. Apparently he’s a bit wild for the more conservative thinking Mauritians since he likes to party, has dyed hair, and has a distinctive car with neon lighting on the bottom and always has loud music blasting. The rum was great and he told me about his travels and his work on the island which consists of leading every kind of touristy thing available there from deep sea diving to dance lessons. He had his friend, Gan, give me a ride back to my apartment since he had to starting cooking a special dinner for some Italian tourists. Turns out that Gan was a cab driver and he gave me a great deal on dropping me off at the airport the next morning!

The next morning Gan’s cousin, Sylven, picked me up instead. He pulled up in this flashy red VW Jetta with these crazy plush red seats and a huge sound system. It was hilarious being picked up in an untraditional taxi which was blasting Britney Spears! I got in the car and off we zoomed to the airport. Sylven and I danced and sang in the car to different songs with the windows down. Low and behold some cops caught him speeding (and we were quite a target I’m sure). We got pulled over and Sylven just got out of the car and told the policeman about his friends who were Mauritian policemen. The cop knew them, they started talking, and the officer just threw away the ticket! What a system! All about who you know and in Mauritius everyone seems to know everyone.

My flight to Perth was nice except for the fact that I was sitting next to this fart bomb of a woman! I think she was a nervous flyer as I watched her through back one wine glass after the next. But the most amazing part of the trip was getting to see the stars from the plane! I’ve never been able to see the stars so clearly from a plane before and since we were in complete darkness over the Indian Ocean, I felt like I was in a spaceship! It was so incredible! I just sat there with my face plastered against the window, I didn’t care how stupid I looked!

I was picked up at the airport by a wonderful woman named Jennifer who is a Circumnavigator and is being my host during my stay. Her and her husband, Paolo, are gypsies! They have travelled all over the world by just picking up and going whenever they feel like it! They live in a flat that looks out over the Swan River on one side and King’s Park on the other side! IT IS UNBELIEVABLE! AND I’M STAYING WITH THEM! Wowwy!

They have been showing me the most lovely time! We went to a Turkish restaurant, went down by the yacht clubs, stopped off at the University of Western Australia to check out the theatre, drove to Freemantle, went to a brewery for some local beer, visited the small Maritime Museum, stopped by a pool and snooker hall, went to see Connie and Carla, and made a delicious dinner. Today we went to see a classical jazz performance in Subiaco that was great fun and then out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant calles Tsunami that is owned by the son of one of the women who lives in the building. The food was excellent and the restaurant was very hip and trendy. Brett, the owner, introduced me to one of his friends, Danny, who is a photographer. He does a bunch of fashion photography but also takes pictures of street life and travel. He just finished up having an exhibit in Germany. You can check out his work at: http://www.dannykhoo.com. We had such a blast! When we got back, Paolo taught me all about Treiste, Italy where he is from.

All the people I have met here have been so outgoing and friendly. I feel very comfortable here. Perth is pretty laid back comparitively to other big cities, but there is always something to do and somewhere to go. It is just beautiful here and the people are very culturally diverse, incredibly charming, and always seem happy to see ya mate! I’m excited to learn more about this place.

August 5, 2004: Mauritius, Africa
PICTURES ARE POSTED THANKS TO JADA! Check them out!

The day spent in Port Louis was rockin’! I got to send out some postcards at the famous Mauritian post office. I had a grand time slapping stamps onto each card knowing that this was the country that started us licking sticky paper. After that we stopped by the natural history museum where they have the stuffed, fake replica of the Dodo bird for which they are known. The museum was really outdated and needed some serious renovation, PLUS you weren’t allowed to take a picture with the Dodo. I asked some security people why this was so and they had some lame excuse about the cultural council not wanting people to have pictures of it.Weird, no? So I told them that I came all the way from half way around the world in America and that I was hopping to get my picture with the Dodo. After a little bit of discussion, I was allowed one picture with the fake, crappy looking bird. “But make it fast,” he said. It was pretty funny. (We’ll get that picture up soon)

Then we stopped by the Municipal Theatre to learn more about what they do. This theatre is an Italian style theatre that is absolutley gorgeous! It was the first one built on the island in 1820 and has 40 different shows each year. The theatre is an international hub where groups from all over the world will come and share their art with the country as well as housing traditional Mauritian plays, written by Mauritian playwrights. They also have a festival each year (that I am just missing by a day!) where they showcase different plays. Many of the plays are in French, English, or Creole and they use the space to facilitate performances done by students. We got to watch part of a rehearsal for Antigone in Creole which was cool. Proof that theatre is universal and that the Greeks are for everyone! hahaha We also got a private tour of the theatre.

The next day, I went to Tarisa resorts where I interviewed a Mr. Veera on their performances. They have Sega and Indian dancing. He was so sweet and actually taught me a great deal about Mauritian culture. Since there is virtually no nightlife here, he pointed out that it’s a result of tradition in the Mauritian culture. Many Mauritians wake up early and go to work or school. But come night time, they relax with their families and remain at home. They will go out for dinner or a night activity maybe once in a month. Even young people will never go out during a week night. Only during weekends and holidays is it considered. Spending time with one’s family at night is a very important observance.

I went out to the beach for a bit and it was really windy but still as beautiful and warm as usual! I just had this really strange, very definitive decision to go parasailing. I’ve never done it before and I’ve always wanted to. So I went to this hut where they book water activities. I told them that I wanted to go parasailing. They asked me if I was a guest at the hotel because it’s a “private booking.” Naturally I said “Of course.” So they called up and the guy on the phone said it was too windy for parasailing. But I really wanted to go. Soooooooo I asked for the phone and had the guy explain to me why I couldn’t go. He said that the ride gets really bumpy and you get blown around and the balloon will ocassionally drop a bit. I was ready for a bit more of an adventure than just sitting under a balloon so I explained that I didn’t mind. I really wanted to go.

I went out to the dock and waited for the boat. They picked me up and we drove out past the reefs. They strapped me up and away I floated into the sky! IT WAS AWESOME! And the wind wasn’t that bad at all. I got blown around a bit and had only a couple little drop things but it was amazing up there. It was the best way I could imagine appreciating the beauty and diversity of the island. I could see the mountains, the different reefs I was floating over, surrounding islands, residential areas, Grand Baie, Port Louis, etc. I felt so free and everything was so peaceful… even with some bumps. The guys running the operation let me stay up for a really long time because I was having fun and they didn’t have anyone else waiting. They even slowed down so that the balloon would come down and I could walk along the water. Then they would speed up again and I would float back up.

Last night I watched the sunset. It was magnificent. The sky turns the most amazing orange as the sun melted into the water. This island is nothing short of incredible.

Next stop- jumping around with Kangaroos in Perth, Australia!

August 2, 2004: Mauritius, Africa
The Sega dancing at the Casuarina Hotel was quite the experience! Having never seen Sega dancing before, I went in not knowing much more than what I read in books and what Desire (the guy I interviewed at the hotel) had told me about. When the slaves were brought over to Mauritius they would perform Sega dancing around bonfires on the beach. All native Mauritians are taught about the Sega from a young age as it is performed now at many holiday gatherings. The dancing is done with two drums that look like large tambourines with goat skin stretched across it and a shaker. The men play the instruments and sing as the women dance. During the performance in the hotel, they explained the history behind the dancing, described each instrument, and at the end invited all the guest up to actually learn the Sega! Now, this was a pretty funny thing as the wild hip movements were attempted by the “non-natives,” from children to their grandparents. It’s so cool to watch but! trying to do it was way more difficult than one would think! It takes some serious stomach muscles and the ability to detach the top part of your body from the bottom! haha

Port Louis, the capital, is the adventure for the day! We’re going to visit the famous stuffed replica of the Dodo bird, the municipal theatre, and their famous post office (Mauritius was the first country ot actually use adhesive stamps on their mail!)!

July 30, 2004: Mauritius, Africa
Alexis and I actually ended up killing a kuku!!!!!!!!! The Kariuki’s were going to have chicken for dinner and in Kenya you don’t just buy a package of cut up and cleaned meat at the store… you buy an actual chicken. We learned how to actually kill it, pluck the feathers, gut it, clean it, cut it up, cook it, and eat it! I learned so much about a chickens anatomy and the process of preparing meat. The experience was one that gave me a great respect for how the meat actually arrived on my plate. The chicken ended up being fantastic! It wasn’t a glamorous process but as far as a enriching cultural experience it was about as real as it gets!

I’ve seen some really beautiful places around the world… and then there’s Mauritius. I’m here now and loving it! This place is unbelievable and it is unknown to so many Americans. There are gorgeous beaches with crystal clear water, mountain ranges that look like the pointy kind I’d draw on sketch pads as a kid, forests, its the home to the extinct Dodo bird, snorkeling to die for, markets, and an explosion of different languages being spoken at any one time. Just walking down the street you can hear anything from French, Creole, Chinese, Spanish, Italian, Arabic, and English.

Nathan came to visit me for part of my stay and went horseback riding! We thought we were just going to go for a little fun trail ride but instead we got this adventure from a crazy french Olympic horseback riding instructor for the Argentinian team named Guy! I haven’t gone riding in a couple years but I rode hard core as a kid so it was amazing to get back in the saddle and ride around. The whole time, Guy would yell things at us in French about our riding. He took us through a foresty area and then to a cleared area. We got to ride around there and he was hilarious talking about my “good balance and form” and then he would scream about something else in French. On our way back he told us about his Fresian horse and how he was going to ride it for us and that he wanted me to ride it! “No one rides my horse! But you… you will ride my horse!”, he said. Back at the stable he brought out the most gorgeous black Fresian horse and it was an amazing mover and SOOOOO powerful! We went back out the field and rode around. It felt amazing to canter around on this huge horse that had so much strength! It was such a nice ride and I was glad to be able to make Guy happy with my “good skill.”

We toured the south part of the island as well which is so different from the North part. We went to a model ship making factory (it’s a very popular thing here), a diamond manufacturing facility, a volcano crater, the black river gorge, the seven sands, we saw one of the largest waterfalls on the island, and we even played with monkeys at the largest hindu temple where we washed our hands in the holy water.

I stopped by some of the hotels to learn about their use of cultural performances for tourists that are staying with them. Tonight we are going to see one of the Sega shows to learn more about how they teach tourists about Mauritian culture. It should be some great fun!

July 24, 2004: Nairobi, Africa
I’m back from the country! I didn’t kill a kuku but I did stay in a house without running water or electricity. (That means no toilet, shower, or computer access!) I’m becoming one tough chick! Watch out everybody!

Eldoret was so beautiful and the fields of corn and wheat were just amazing. They go on for miles and they look incredible as they sparkle under the African sun. I was staying in the town of Soy and everyone knows everyone there. It’s a very small place. Soooooooo, the arrival of two white American girls caused quite a rucous! One woman came running down the street just to come and shake our hands. Little kids also came out of there houses to see us. A mzungu, let alone wazungu (that means more than one white person! Check out my swahili!), is a pretty rare occurence in a place like Soy. But everyone was so nice and shared their culture and traditions with us.

We came back to Nairobi after Eldoret and stayed with the most amazing family, the Kariuki’s. This family has been so nice to both me and my sister! They have taughts us a great deal about Kenyan life, the kikuyu tribe, traditional foods, and generosity. They had heard us talking about the Masai market which is famous for its African crafts and fabrics. We were going to miss by going to Eldoret. Soooooooo, when we got back they had surprised us by giving both my sister and I the most beautiful fabric for us to make some of our own traditional african clothing! We were so excited as we pulled out the layers of fabric and Nguhi, Wambui, and Nymbura halped us wrap ourselves up. These girls are about the same ages as me and my sister so we have been having the most wonderful time sharing stories with them and getting to compare our lifestyles. We also spread out all over their living room, spending the night doing pilates and giggling at the pictures we’ve been taking while in Kenya.

Their mother Rebecca started her own school, the Aloe Vera School, where she is the principal. We visited the school as special guests and had such a great time learning about the inner workings of a primary school that is growing so quickly year by year! They started with 7 kids and now have close to 400. The kids were fantastic and I was charmed by the amount of storytelling they use in their teaching methods!

I also got a chance to visit Sanaa Art Promotions. This company is one of the most unbelievable programs to hit Nairobi since independence! They are educational company that travels to 4 different provinces in Kenya performing for youth in schools and high risk communities. They perform pieces based on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, drug abuse, and gender violence. They use forum theatre (Augusto Boal) to act out scenes that deal with specific problems and then the audience as a group problem solves and finds alternative answers to the dilemmas they are presented with. The youth also gets to act out different parts which becomes a ver powerful tool in education because it empowers youth. It gives them a chance to speak out and be heard. During the workshop process they have an artists who draws  sketches of images that are brought up during discussion and the performances. These sketches then become the basis for a large mural that is painted on a building! wall in the community or on the wall of the school as a reminder of everything that they learned.

The youth is invited to be part of the wall painting process and as a result they youth who experience the program take a great deal of ownership over everything that they’ve learned. I’m really enjoying myself here and was even offered the opportunity to stay for 20 cows by the Masai! Apparently 20 cows is 3 times the going rate for wives currently according to the Masai Warriors.

July 14, 2004: Johannesburg, Africa
My ride to Jo’burg was a piece of cake compared to my Intercape experience to Grahamstown. Not one breakdown! Woo hoo! I also got to chat with some friends that I made at the festival who were on the same bus as me, Dominic (from the play Alice) and Jonathan (the Tulane dance professor). It was greatly having some friendly faces to keep me company!

Once in Jo’burg, Kerry (a friend of former Circumnavigator Scholar Alex) and her mom came to pick me up at the station. They were so sweet and greeted me with warm smiles and a fantastic car ride through Jo’burg toward their home. They have opened their home to me during my stay and it is beautiful! I even get my own bed and they offered to let me do some laundry! Oh, the little joys that get magnified during travel! They have been so welcoming to me and Kerry has been such an amazing host, showing me around the area for my short visit. Not to mention she is totally adorable and funny and has this great spunky energy.

Kerry and I grabbed some luch in Melville. Then we went to Museum Africa for their exhibit on Images of Defiance which was so interesting. It consisted of all sorts of posters dealing with political issues in South Africa surrounding Apartheid. There were even a ton of posters for plays that were going on to help educate the masses and inform people of the current situations. At night we picked up two of Kerry’s friends, Olivia and Philippa and we went to this restaraunt called Moyo which is right next to the Market Theatre. It was fun place! It is decorated down to every last little detail in “African decor.” The servers wear traditional African clothing and face paint. And there is a person who comes around and washes your hands before you eat! Can you believe it! They clean you and they feed you!!! I got a pretty big kick out of that.

It was interesting to see how dead Jo’burg gets at night. During the day it was so lively but when the four of us went to dinner there were only a few random people walking around on the streets. I didn’t feel unsafe by any means as we literally walked 20 steps from the car in the parking lot with security to the restaurant, but apparently you just need to follow the rules of not being by yourself at night and in certain areas and you’ll be fine. My experience in Jo’burg has been much more fun I feel because being with Kerry (who also has a car which seems to be a necessity here) has allowed me to do so much more than I would have been able to do by myself.

Today, Kerry dropped me off at Wits University to meet up with another one of Alex’s friends, George. This guy is awesome! We grabbed some coffee at the Wits Theatre and chatted about Kenya (where he’s from) and life in South Africa. He was so sweet and a blast to get to know. Then he gave me a tour of the campus which is really pretty.

Kerry picked us up and the 3 of us went to the Apartheid Museum. It was so amazing to experience this museum and get such a concentrated dose of history. What I really appreciated about the museum was the perspective it was able to give on South Africa before, during, and now after Apartheid. South Africa has really gone through a lot and it was chilling to see pictures of people right before being killed, video of police brutality, newspaper articles on the malnutrition and the spreading of disease throughout townships and clinics, and knowing that it wasn’t that long ago is unbelievable. It really made me think about how easily power can be abused and how change is so hard to achieve sometimes. But it was also extremely inspirational because it made me think about the power of community, determination, and hope. Words can’t even describe all my feelings because it is just so overwhelming and difficult to fathom, but I feel it was an important and informative visit.

I leave tomorrow for Kenya and I’m extremely excited even though I am a bit sad to leave South Africa feeling as though 10 years worth of time here would still not be enough to learn about everything that this place has to offer. My sister is going to be meeting up with me in Nairobi and I am SOOOOOOO excited to see her! Traveling by myself has been teaching me a ton but I can’t wait to be able to catch up with a familiar face in a country that I’m sure will prove to be full of adventure, fun, and great theatre!

July 10, 2004: Grahamstown, Africa
I saw a one man show called “Spilling Beans” the other day which was fantastic! So far it’s been my favorite performance by far! It was a storytelling piece and it was just phenomenal as he told his experiences of growing up and becoming a man. This kind of performance is the stuff that is amazing to me and really exciting!

Then I saw “Uhambo” which was more of an experience then a show. They took us for a ride in a taxi as the actors sat in the van with us doing the show! The play was about women taxi drivers during apartheid! It was really interesting and since you were sharing the space with them it was very effective. We were then ushered into a building to wait online to “put our names on a housing waiting list”. The whole “audience” got to actually build a house together out of milk cartons for the actors to use as a home. It was very different from any theatre piece I’ve ever seen! I’m dying to have something like that at Northwestern! It was not one of those things where one person in the audience is put on the spot but instead there is all audience involvement and it’s inviting instead of just being in your face.

Then I met up with these cool south African college kids, Annalinde, Althea, and Wendy who are good friends with this guy, Dominic, I interviewed in the play ” Alice .” We are went to a popular bar here called Champs and we played pool and had fun. It was also really nice to do something at night time because I can’t really walk around at night by myself so being in a group was a blast.

I climbed to the highest part of Grahamstown the other day which was pretty amazing! I ate my lunch as I looked out over the city for miles. It was so cool to see the life and chaos of the festival from a birds eye view.

Then I chatted with two kids. I was eating my sandwich and this kid asked me if he could have some. Soooooooo, we split my sandwich and he told me about life in the townships. He was a cool kid named Anelle which I found out mean “sufficient” and he had a  friend name Mongogolea. He was 11 years old and his friend was 13.

Yesterday, I saw a great one man show called Back Bytes by this physical theatre performer Andrew Buckland. He’s a pretty big guy in the world of theater here in South Africa and his work is very interesting. He does a lot of mime pieces and then he creates his own sound effects as he performs.

Then I met up with the Annalinde, Althea, and Wendy and we saw Bloodstream, a play that this Andrew Buckland guy directed. It was entertaining and the physical presentations of all the characters were different and interesting.

However, last night I was invited by my friend Tsietsi who goes to Vaal University of Technology and lives in the same dorm as me, to go with him and his fellow performers to visit one of the nearby townships to perform their show. It was such an amazing experience. I piled into the van with the other 15 people like sardines as we made our way to the place where they would perform. The whole way they were all singing and talking in Afrikaans and just bouncing all over the place. They were so welcoming to me and taught me a bunch of Afrikaans and Zulu which was awesome! There are 11 official languages in South Africa so it’s amazing to listen to all the different ways people speak!

Mbali means “rose” in Zulu so they all started calling me Sarah Mbali! hahaha I’m becoming a real African! hahaha Oh yes! And “booya!” means “come here” in Afrikaans and is spelled “buye.” I say that all the time but in a different context and I never knew its meaning! Wowwy hahaha!

We made our way into the theatre while the cast made their way to the backstage area as young children from the township began to fill the multi-colored plastic seats. It was so interesting being the only white person for miles but not feeling any different than anyone else that was there. The show was fantastic and the kids in the audience would go through phases of laughing during inappropriate parts or watching in a fully engaged manner. Many of these kids never go to the theatre so this performance was new for most of them and they had to be told how to behave. I took pictures during the show and when it was over I got share them with the whole cast! I got to know each one of them as we hung out waiting in the bus and back at the dorms. They taught me so much about township life and it was a phenomenal experience to visit a township in a group of people who are very familiar with township life. It’s was a fascinating visit but I got the sense of feeling just like part of the group and learning just from hanging out instead of actually going with the intention of learning about township life.

I was surprised to see that life seems even rougher for the people in Grahamstown because it’s a small town. There aren’t any factories so employment is ridiculous to come by no matter if you have a degree or not. When people here are poor, they are REALLY poor. Many do not have money for food and clothing and just get by. So the festival is like Christmas for them! They spend much of the year making crafts and preparing for the festival so that they can make money for the year. It’s hard to just accept what you see, but the people remain in high spirits even though life is tough. They say that life is getting better but it’s just taking along time and still has quite a ways to go.

July 6, 2004: Grahamstown, Africa
I love the way this place is constantly looking for another thing to celebrate at any one moment. For example, every company, organization, group, etc. is doing stuff to promote their products or services and they are all over the festival! I needed to buy a phone card to get in touch with the company I was going to be meeting up with so I went to the village green. Now, this was a ridiculous process. This woman showed me a million bajillion different kinds of phone cards that could fly you to the moon if you really wanted! I just needed to make a phone call I explained and so I asked her for something more basic. I finally just picked one that I felt would work, gave her my money and began to walk away with my card. In my escape to find a phone the woman stopped me and said that I needed to pop a balloon. In my head I was thinking that popping one balloon on a line of balloons was a strange way to keep track of how many people bought phone cards. Sooooooo, I popped the balloon and everyone in the large tent turned and looked at me! Apparently a piece of paper fell out of the balloon and I was the winner of my very own Telkom back pack!!!!!!!! The woman blew on a really loud whistle and made everyone cheer for me. I took a bow not wanting to be rude, grabbed my back pack as everyone stared and grabbed the closest phone. I got in touch with First Physical Theatre Company and was on my way to meet up with them at a cafe when the woman stopped me again! Since I used one of their phones I got to use their internet station for free! hahaha! She blew that stupid whistle again as I sat down to check my emails! hahaha I couldn’t believe it! All I wanted was a phone card and I got an adventure!

Anyways, I met up with the Calum, the managing director, Gary, the artistic director, Anna, a dancer, and Jon, a dance professor at Tulane University and does pilates in the studio my sister works at (small world yet again!) all with the First Physical Theatre Company. They were the most charming and lovely people. They were so courteous and excited about sharing their art with me! We drank wine at this cafe and they told me about their company and the kind of performances they create which utilize many different forms of art to embrace the messages within their shows.

So far I’ve seen:

The Boy with a Clowns Heart- This was AMAZING! Physical theatre at its best. We watched this man build a wall out of boxes for 10 minutes and I laughed so hard the whole time that I has bawling tears! There were two performers, one musician and one clown/actor. The story was about an old man who was a box stacker, but all of his boxes were empty and all the same. He meets a magical little boy who teaches him to dream and imagine without confining himself the way he always has in the past. Just beautiful!They spoke with me after the show and shared with me their process.

Alice: A take on Alice in Wonderland with a little bit of Apartheid flava’.

Domestic Violence and AIDS: This sucked. I was so bummed about this one because there was no clear story, it was more about doing traditional dances to weird MIDI tracks of African music; and just poorly constructed, directed and performed. Nothing to do with AIDS and violence… weird and disappointing.

Unspeakable Story- This was a dance theatre production performed by the FIrst Physical Theatre Company that I’ve been learning a bunch about. This production restored me again after the supposed “AIDS” play. It was a beautiful story, exploring the the truth about the death of Rene Magritte’s mother. The themes were much broader looking at the role of a mother, lover, friend, etc and growth through experience.

July 5, 2004: Grahamstown, Africa
My bus ride to Grahamstown was insane! It died 5 times! We would be driving up a hill and it would just stop working completely! It was so funny! It kept making all of these really awful noises and you could hear it not changing gears. There were a bunch of kids on the bus too so they were bouncing all over the place and keeping me laughing with their quirky jokes about the bus continuously dying. Finally, after the bus would just not start at all they phoned in for another bus to come and pick us up. We waited on the side of the road for an hour but I actually really enjoyed it! We’d been driving along the garden route so we had the most beautiful view of mountains on one side and coastal water on the other. Plus I wasn’t in any hurry to get anywhere so I was able to just enjoy the surroundings. The Garden Route is truly magnificent with
it’s beautiful wine vineyards, mountains, flora, fauna, and water. Most of
the time you are driving along the side of mountains and you can see for miles! I saw a bunch of monkeys, deer like things (I’m not sure of their actual name), strange birds, cows, sheep, and horses.

The other bus was a much smoother ride and we only arrived one hour late to Grahamstown. The moment I got off the bus the funniest thing happened! I met this girl named Angie who is from Cape Town but came to Grahamstown for a squash tournament. She was so sweet and offered to give me a ride to my dorm since it was a little ways off. I met her aunt Kary who was such a lovely woman as she drove up in her car. Kary and Angie ended up inviting me to have breakfast with them. They invited me into their home where there was a feast of a breakfast and we had wonderful converstations about my travels, Kary’s work as a teacher with special needs children, and Angie’s studies in criminal justice and squash playing. Kary answered a ton of my questions about the festival and
when we were done eating they drove me to my residence and gave me a tour along the way. Once I got checked in, the three of us went down to an outdoor show which was done by these two guys who are popular performers at the festival and have been doing shows there for years! It was a very funny show and really high energy! After the show was over Kary dropped me off where I could go buy my tickets and the three of us exchanged our contact info. These people were so nice to me and they didn’t even know me! They treated me like family! It was really amazing to arrive in a place and to have someone who saves you the trouble of any hassles that accompany arriving in a new place.

Grahamstown is so quaint and small compared to Cape Town. The festival is obviously the biggest thing that happens here all year and the town prepares for a long time to make it a wonderful experience. There is such a fantastic mix of people here and because there are millions of shows going on each day, the place is teeming with culture and fun! They have huge markets with people selling crafts, street performers, musicians, art exhibits, workshops, dances, plays, and more! It’s a very exciting place to be!

I saw a one woman show last night called En Route to Bury Sarah. The
performance was not all that phenomenal but the story about growing up in Port Elizabeth and learning to be a strong woman was interesting and compassionate. I’ve made a schedule and bought a bunch of tickets so I have plenty more lined up!

July 3, 2004: Cape Town, Africa
Soooooooooooo the townships are UNBELIEVABLE! What an experience! Cape Town is truly an amazing city and I know so much more about it now then I did before. My trip into the cape Flats was just phenomenal and I went with a man named Brian who was one of the many blacks who got removed from District 6 and put into the Cape flats. The area called District 6 was where many of the blacks were moved from. It was a beautiful, lively place until their homes were bulldozed and they were moved for no reason at all other than the color of their skin. But now all that stands is a church and 2 mosques because the goverment wasn’t allowed by law to tamper with religious structures. Everything else is flat and there are pieces of trash floating around and rocks and debris. We saw the remnants of a street built by the slaves and we got to stop off in the District 6 museum where I saw a picture of the street when the area was alive and lined with victorian buildings and music and color and people! I can’t even believe that it used to be that way from what I saw yesterday.

We went into the Cape Flats which is the poorest area of Cape Town and where all the blacks were moved to during apartheid. I couldn’t believe the living conditions! There were 8 people sometimes living in a shack made of cardboard, shipping crates, and aluminum pieces as well as whatever else they could find. Shacks like this covered the area and were smushed right next to each other. Their are 2.7 million people living in Cape Town and 2 million of them live in the Cape Flats. It’s just awful! People had no shoes and yesterday it was raining so all of their shacks were leaking. We went to Langa (which means sun) and there were cows and sheep randomly walking around with kids running through the streets. (All the kids are on their winter break now so that explains why there are so many kids everywhere trying to pick pockets and begging for money. They have nothing else to do) We also went into Khayelitsha which is the largest township. Here we got to see some of th! ! e other sides of township life. Beyond many of the shacks there are actual houses that have been built and mandela houses (these are houses that Nelson Mandela had the government build. He set a goal of 1 million and now there are even more then that). The houses aren’t mansions but they are really decent small houses with leveled floors, tile, windows, and non-leaking roof. We visited a woman named Vivky who turned her shack into a Bed and Breakfast so that people could have a chance to experience township living. She was so sweet and I had a blast playing with her kids. We played with toy trucks and I taught her little son how to thumb war! Then we went down the street to a shack where a woman named Beauty had a sewing operation going on. She makes clothing for many people in the townships and sells them for really cheap. She also teaches other women how to sew so that they can make money. We walked along, passing people burning the hair off of sheep heads to sell for cooking purposes and people who created their own businesses b/c they can’t find work. These businesses were everything from barber shops to selling chips and candy.

Then we went to a soup kitchen and we got to talk to this amazing woman who started it. Her name was Ashana and she explained how her business worked. For 60cents (which is 10 cents american) someone can have a full plate of food. Many kids don’t have enough to even by the food and then others will pay the 60cents and get 6 other spoons so that they can share with their friends who can’t eat. I took some pictures and the kids LOVED gettting to see the picture right away on my digital camera! They were so amazed by it and really enjoyed seeing how they looked!

Then we went to a market where people in the townships made crafts. Thewy would sell them to make money for them and their families. I bought a bracelet for 20 Rand from this woman and she was SOOOOO proud. I loved watching her delicately take the bracelet and find a nice small green bag that she had to put my bracelet into. Then she rolled up the top and handed it to me in exchange for my money and I couldn’t believe how happy she was. SHe just seemed so satisfied in having sold one of her crafts.

This trip was just amazing because I learned so much about why Cape Town is the way it is. Many of the people on the streets are only there because they have no where else to be. 69% of the poeple in the townships are also unemployed which constitutes for so much of the crime. And there really aren’t too many race issues with the exception of some of the older black members of the community who are still dealing with the open wounds of apartheid. The only reason people will harrass you or beg is because they don’t have anything and you do! It’s a matter of who has something and who doesn’t. These people were so inspiring and seeing how resilient they have been after all they have been through was just incredible! I kept getting teary eyed throughout the trip because it’s just so distant from what we know. It’s unbelievable to see this third world living in a place that also has so many incredibly wealthy people! I’ve been making many friends with the people around me and learning a ton from each of their stories.

I’ll be taking off for Grahamstown tonight. It’s festival time!

July 1, 2004: Cape Town, Africa
So my trip to Heathrow was insane! The underground employees were on strike so I decided to take a bus instead. However, they were so backed up! Sooooooo, I went to the coach station but the only coach seats they had available were for a coach that left too late for my flight. I ended up grabbing a cab (with the nicest cab driver who has a daughter my age who is also doing a bunch of travel) to paddington station where I caught the Heathrow Express to the airport. Traffic was terrible and London just went mad without a tube service! The hilarious part of all of this was that after I finally I arrived a tthe airport I was four hours early for my flight!

My flight was nice… and long. I sat next to a cool pastor dude. He told me all about his church and South Africa in general. In Cape Town, I waited for a bus to take me to my hostel. Table Mountain is stunning from every angle in the city so I had a nice view while I was waiting.  I’m staying at the Ashanti Hall which is pretty fantastic. It’s in a great area and the staff is very friendly. I was able to book my bus ticket to Grahamstown from Cape Town at teh hostel travel service but there wasn’t a bus on this same service that could be booked from Grahamstown to Jo’burg. The lady showed me where the train station was so I figured I would walk down there and find another bus company (Greyhound) which could give me the ticket I needed. Cape Town is beautiful and “safe” in the daytime but it is a sketchy place to be walking around by yourself as a white female in plenty of areas. I learned really fast that this was not ! such a good idea. Workers on the street give cat calls and almost everyone else is black that is walking on the street with you so you stand out quite a bit. They stop and watch you walk by. Plus people are so poor, it’s unbelievable! Sooooo, it’s beautiful and sketchy all at the same time which is a strange mix. But, I guess everywhere can be that way…

This is not to say that the people are evil here. I’ve already met a bunch of really fantastic South Africans who are fantastic! THe city itself is amazing and I’m having great fun! I’m more referring to the people on the streets in the city center who have no money and nothing else to do but pick pockets and harass people. I want to understand this better.

I don’t understand how much of there poverty works here so I’ve scheduled a trip into their townships which are basically their ghettos. It’s the poorest areas in Cape Town and the residue of apartheid in South Africa. They’ve only had democracy for about 10 years here and the race issues are still going strong today. It’s kind of sad to see the way people are still suffering from so many years of being repressed. If I was doing this the tourist way I would only see the beautiful things that this city has to offer but the side I’m seeing is really opening my eyes to great deal more than I was even expecting.

I went to the History of Cape Town Museum and learned a bunch. It’s was pretty interesting but very small for all the history behind this place.

So, I went back to the hostel while the sun was still up because I realized that I needed to plan out my travels a bunch more in this place. It’s a great place for backpackers but not for wanderers. I met some great people at the hostel. That has been a nice comfort after some of my frustrations during the day of trying to understand the city and the people. I went to a restaurant where I had crocodile and warthog!!! Crazy stuff! AND IT WAS GOOD! Go figure! It is really nice to have such a great place to stay because it gives you a strong base when you are floating around from place to place.

I’m realizing that it always takes a day or two to figure out a new city so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow! I think it will be nice to do something with a group that is organized just so that I can get a better understanding of the lay of the land and make more out of my time here.

June 30, 2004: London, England
I had a pretty wild day yesterday! I woke up and went to the theatre museum in Covent Garden. I saw a costume workshop and even got to participate. The woman needed people to “model” the costumes so I got put in this gorgeous dress for Cordelia from King Lear. It was pretty rockin’! There were also a bunch of mentally disabled kids that were there as part of one of their programs and they were having such a great time dressing up and pretending to be all the different characters in the plays. It was so fun! We all ran around in these great costumes and got to pretend to battle with another character or hide from an evil character or fall in love, etc. I also saw part of a make-up workshop which was pretty cool but then I need to take off and go to the National Theatre for my interview.

I went to the stage door and waited for Sherry who is from the Education department at the National Theatre. I was really amused by the enormity of the theatre as I waited for her. There were 2 security guards and 2 reception people on duty and there were special electronic keys needed to get passed different sets of doors. This is by far the largest regional theatre I’ve visited! We went to the canteen for lunch (which she bought for me! It was so sweet of her!) and we chatted. Turns out she is from Evanston! She went to Evanston Township high school and was involved in a great deal of theatre for youth in the Chicago area. We got along really well and I had a great time learning about her department and the programs they have to offer.

Then I took off for RADA to meet up with Lloyd, my wonderful acting teacher from last summer! While I was waiting for him, I saw the bartender who was there last summer and he totally remembered me and went on about how my performance in this play thing I did was so wonderful and he thought I was fantastic! Hahahaha I got such a kick out of all of his compliments. My RADA fame lives on!!!!!! Lloyd arrived and it was great to see him! He had so many wonderful and insightful comments about my research. He is such a fantastic man and it was so wonderful to catch up. He took me to a rehearsal for a show that RADA students were working on to be taken to a bunch of schools. The play was all about communication and the cast had been working together to create this original piece. I’m not sure I understood all of it but nonetheless it was good fun to watch.

On my way back home, turns out the the Underground workers are on strike! No one told me about this! I haven’t been getting a newspaper either so I had no idea this was going to happen. This presented me with the problem of figuring out how I am supposed to get to the airport tomorrow! Soooooooooo, I started my long journey home… walking. A little while into my walk I came around a corner and apparently some woman had collapsed in the street literally 2 seconds earlier. It was such a strange feeling because I couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have a cell phone to call an ambulance nor did I have any medical knowledge. Other people began to use their phones so the woman was going to be taken care of, but it was strange having to just walk away because there was nothing I could do. I continued walking and by the time I had gotten to the flat, 7 people had asked me for directions! I love it! I’m just visiting but I already know my way around so well that I was able to point e! veryone of the 7 people in the right direction! Cool stuff! I’ve decided that London is a city where everyone is always looking for something and needs directions. This might have something to do with the huge number of tourists but there are areas where all you can see are a sea of maps!

I’ve really enjoyed my time in London and can’t wait to come back again one day! It’s a really phenomenal city! But, today I leave for Cape Town (if I can figure out how to get to airport without spending a million pounds) and I am so excited!!!! AFRICA, HERE I COME!!!!!!! woo hoo!

June 29, 2004: London, England
Yesterday was great fun! I went to the Unicorn theatre which is located outside of central London on Holloway. It’s by a university and the area is kind of funky. I found the theatre easily. It was in this old building that had columns in the front with the paint chipping off. I went into the building and took the stairs to the next floor where the theatre office was located because the elevator wasn’t working. I reached their office, opened the door, and stood awkwardly as three people looked up at me from the open room with mini offices crammed together. I gave my introduction and this really sweet lady named Jess, who is their education programmer, answered a bunch of my questions. She gave me some materials about there theatre and told me a bunch about what they do! It’s an incredible little theatre. They have a new venue that is being built for them which has been in the works for a while and is supposed to be finished in 2005. (I could tell that they were anxious to! finally get a new and improved space!) They were one of the oldest theatres of their kind in the UK, having started in the 1940’s! What also cracked me up, was that one of the reports on the company that she gave me was written by Cecily O’neill! I have several of her books and Rives teaches all about her in his classes! Turns out that she is majorly involved in this company and does a ton of work with them! They do a great deal of residencies in schools to work with kids in really poor areas or kids with disabilities. They do a lot of process dramas and drama structures to teach kids about really cotroversial issues! Very cool!

And I saw the London premiere of Shrek going on! All the actors were there and it was very exciting! I got a really great view of Julie Andrews as she walked down the green carpet (instead of red) which made my night! Everyone in the crowd was wearing these ridiculous headbands with Shrek ears! It was pretty funny!

June 27, 2004: London, England
Yesterday, when I woke up, I headed back to Shani’s flat but I stopped by RADA on the way to say hello to a few people from last summer. On my way I ran into Ali Fisher and Tom from my high school. They are studying abroad in London with FSU and they were taking a tour. I’ve really been having fun running into people randomly all over London. I haven’t even had a chance to feel lonely! I’ve just been making a ton of friends and running into people I know each day!

I met up with my friend Andrew later that day at the Eros Fountain in Picadilly circus to go get some fish and chips for dinner. But when I came out of the tube station it was jam packed with people! Everywhere you looked there was a sea of people. I was so confused as to what was going on until I was approached by a girl with a big blue wig asking me, “Would you like a flag to wave as the torch goes by?” The Olympic torch was going to be coming through any minute! I couldn’t find Andrew anywhere so I grab my flag and climbed onto the fountain so that I could see down the street. And sure enough the traffic had been stopped and a row of open-topped buses with people waving began to parade down the street as music was being played. At the end of the procession was the torch. I couldn’t see all that well as far as who was holding it or what they were doing with it, but I did see the burning torch itself and it was pretty exciting to see something that has been carried throughout so many different countries and to have it only a few meters away. As it passed, a ton of red balloons were released into the sky covering Picadilly Circus!

People eventually began to move along after the torch had gone by and I was able to find Andrew. On the way to get our fish and chips we saw the Red Arrows jet across the sky leaving colored smoke in tracks behind them across the sky. The Red Arrows are the best pilots in the UK who do crazy stunts and tricks with planes. They fly only a couple feet apart at extremely fast speeds! They can do everything from circling each other, to flying upside down, to flying straight up, to coming seconds away from colliding into another plane, to anything else you can imagine! It was very cool and most likely part of the olympic torch celebrations.

We arrived at fish and chips outside of Covent Gardens and it was great! I had never had it before but it was good stuff. The mushy peas I wasn’t a big fan of, but everything else was really good. We were sitting outside at this table across from another table that had this model and her boyfriend. I know I’ve seen her in a bunch of print ads but I don’t know her name. Andrew started talking to me about how I needed to have a fried Mars bar so he was going to get one and ask the cook to stick in the fryer. I started chatting with the model because she overheard our conversation. She was really sweet and proceeded to tell me that it was probably the most unhealthy thing that I could possibly put in my body! (Of course a model would say something like that!) hahaha But we talked about London and she told me that I needed to check out Sloane Square for some serious shopping. (Not that I have the money or the baggage space for the kind of shopping that she was thinking about! haha)

The cook agreed to fry the Mars bar that Andrew got and it was AMAZING! It was so digusting and terribly unhealthy and one of those kinds of food where you can feel your arteries clog as your swallowing it! But, I definitely feel as though it is one of those things that you need to try before you die because it’s just that awful and wonderful all at the same time! Definitely an experience!

I took the tube back to Shani’s flat and had wine with her roommates. Most of them are from Spain so I’ve been getting quite a lot of Spanish. It’s been good for me to keep hearing it outside of the classroom and in a more conversational setting. I understand everything they say, but I get lost as soon as the words start to slur together and they get faster. Very fun!

This morning I went to brunch with Shani and her friend from Pakistan in Sloane Square. It was really nice to sit outside and the food was good. There were also these huge two person controlled puppets of these flamingo-like birds. The little kids were having such a blast playing with the puppets and it was so interesting to watch them interact with the puppet as its own being instead of with the puppet handlers.

The weather is getting better too. Hopefully it will stay like this for the rest of my stay!

June 25, 2004: London, England
The play I saw, Shining City by Conor McPherson was fantastic! It was so funny, and sad, and creepy all at the same time. Product of good theatre!

I spent the day hanging out with Raffaele. We went to the Buckingham Palace and went to eat Indian food. We saw Rod Stewart doing a tech run for his performance coming up with the Olympic torch coming through London. They are having a big concert to celebrate it and Rod Stewart is singing at it.The street (called the Mall) was closed off that leads up to Buckingham Palace for this concert thing.

Then we met up with Claudio and hung out in Soho Square which is a very hip, cool place where a lot of young and trendy Londoners chill out with friends and a beer.

After that I met up with my friend Andrew and his friend Sophie to try and get into the sold out Red Hot Chilli Peppers concert. There was this sketchy (or dodgy as the brits would say) ticket scalper who had tickets that he was trying to sell for crazy cheap. SO we gave him the money, took the tickets, and crossed our fingers as we got in line to enter. AND WE GOT IN! It was open seating and there were sooooooooooo many people! The band put on a really great high energy show. It was so much fun!

Then we ran back toward Andrew’s flat and stopped off at 2 pubs. I crashed in his flat, along with Sophie, b/c it was too late for me to go back to the flat I was staying at b/c they would have already been sleeping. I didn’t want to wake them up since I don’t have a key and they have to buzz me up. We had a great time!

June 24, 2004: London, England
London has just been more and more fun! I went to the Royal Court Theatre where I got a private tour of their AMAZING Theatre. Then I had a super interview with the sweetest woman ever and she gave me lots of materials on their education programs and a free ticket for their world premiere of Connor McPherson’s new play, Shining City. Then I ran into my friend Dan Rigby randomly on the street who did my final scene with me at RADA last summer. It was lovely catching up with him and hearing about how his year at RADA finished up. He’s incredibly talented and such a nice guy. Turns out that he is doing a play reading for the Royal Court Theatre and he’s playing Alan Rickman’s son! Pretty cool!

Then I saw Westminster Abbey, Big Ben, and then on to the National theatre to set up an interview with them. On my way there I ran into a bunch of skateboarders who were zipping around this crazy area with ramps and poles. It’s not officially a skate park or anything but a lot of people skate around there. So I was talking to this kid named Snowy (apparently that’s what everyone calls him because he has really white blonde hair) and he was talking to me about skateboarding and let me ride around a bit on his board! I didn’t fall!

Walking back along the South Bank, I ran into Raffaele, a performance studies Phd student at Northwestern from Italy. How fun is that! He’s in town for 3 days so we are hanging out tomorrow! It was so funny! He was there with his friend Claudio who is originally from Argentina si we talked a bit about Buenos Aires. We all got coffee and we talked and just had a great time.

June 23, 2004: London, England
LET THE GAMES BEGIN!! I’m in London! The first stop on my trip. At the airport, the girl taking tickets was a friend of mine from high school who I hadn’t seen in 7 years! She works with Virgin Atlantic, so we exchanged contact info and will hopefully meet up in London before I leave. My seat was next to the kitchen area so it was a major traffic area. I realized I wasn’t going to be able to sleep as I heard the flight attendants chatting, dropping food, turning the light on and off, and continually smacking into me accidentally. Sooooooo, I grabbed my pillow and blanket and found a kick ass pair of seats that were open in the very front of the plane with massive amounts of leg room, quiet, and darkness! Now I’m sitting in the Easy Internet Cafe on Tottenham Court Road at that same computer where I would check my email when I lived in London last summer attending RADA! Talk about instant comfort zone! It feels really nice to be back here and to listen to the beautiful British dialects and to drink lots of tea and to say things like “bloke” or “cheers!” I love London!! The weather is grey and rainy but the atmosphere is very comfortable. It’s really nice to start this trip off in a place where I already know how to find my way around. Alrighty, I’m off to find Shani Ospina, a lovely circumnavigator and former grant winner who has been kind enough to open her home to me during my stay!
June 21, 2004: Miami, FL
I’m sitting in my room trying to remember how this all happened? I remember running into Dan Hoyle at the copy machine in TI two years ago and he told me about this crazy trip he went on where he circumnavigated the globe. A year later, my roommate Deirdre cut out an ad in the Daily Northwestern for the Circumnavigator Travel Around the World study grant. Each morning I looked at the ad on my fridge as I ate my cereal thinking about all the places I’d want to explore. So, I applied. And guess what… I’m taking my wacky 21 year old self around the world! Move over Jackie Chan! This girl is traveling around the world in 3 months! I’ve been preparing for this trip for a long time which makes it seem somewhat surreal as I get ready to actually leave. When I tell people what I’m doing, they respond with a wide array of comments. Everything from their own travel stories, travel tips, supportive comments or strange bewildered looks. “Wear Billy Bob Buck Teeth. It will keep you safe from dangerous and forward men” was one of the more wacky comments I received along with the many supportive fellow circumnavigators, “Luck to you!” And now it’s going to be my turn to figure out what this is all about and what the experience will be like for me! Get ready for some good stories! Woo hoo!!!!!!! Onward ho!