Monday, March 9, 2009

South Africa II

Hey everyone. Needless to say I've been pretty negligent about the blog in SA, but we've been extremely busy since I last blogged.
I guess I'll give you a typical weekday here to give you a picture of what we are doing. I usually wake up at around 7:30ish, usually more like 7:45, grab a granola bar and hop on the van that takes us to the areas that we are working in. The guy who drives us every day, Percy, is the man, he loves to talk and is wicked nice. He drops us off at the different townships around plettenburg bay that we are working in TBB is in 5 different townships between the different pairs of students: Kwanakatula, Qolweni, Bosesgiff, New Horizons, and Kraanshoek. Katie and I and Nomunde (the care giver we are shadowing) are working in Qolweni and Bosesgiff, where Nomunde lives. We usually meet up with her at around 8:30 or so and visit patients until around 12:30 or 1 in the afternoon. I can't even begin to describe how intense and emotional it is to go into a patient's home, which is usually a small, one room shack, and have them tell you their story of how they are living with HIV and what Nomunde is doing for them. I really wish I could do justice to what we are doing each day, but it's hard to because I really don't have much to compare it to that people would understand. It is hand's down the most fulfilling and moving service work that I have ever done.
After working with the caregivers for the morning we either have a seminar in the afternoon about public health, or, on tuesdays and thursdays, we go to different projects around the townships. Lily, Noah, and I are working at a preschool in Kwanakatula, which is an absolute blast. I don't know why, but south african kids are the cutest kids in the entire world without a doubt. It almost becomes a problem, like for instance, some of the kids like to punch you or throw thing at you, but it's impossible to be mad at them because they are so damn cute.
Anyway, South Africa has been incredible so far and I'm sad that we only have 4 more days with the caregivers.
We head back to the US march 21st, so I'll be in better contact then. Also, I know I kind of skimp over things (especially in this blog because I need to go work on my media project), so if anybody has questions about stuff, just shoot me an email at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Hey everyone, once again (as always) i'll apologize for not updating my blog in about a month. My bad.
Anyways, I am currently in South Africa, in Plettenbergbaai (Plettenburg Bay).
I guess first I should talk about my homestay with the Karen people a little bit, which, first of all, was freakin awesome. I could not have asked for a better homestay family, they were kind, warm, generous, helpful, and amazing cooks (both the mother and father). Despite not being able to speak much thai (although we had language class every day, thai was wicked hard), we managed to communicate through them teaching me bits of their native dialect of Bakin-ya, which is the language of the karen people. By the end of the homestay I was able to say most of the essential things in Bakin-ya like, "This is delicious," "I haven't eaten yet," "Thank you," "Hello," "Good morning," and "this fried rice is un-friggin-believable." The homestay was great, even though we didnt really get to work much in their farms (because it was the dry season), which was a bit frustrating. I could go on for hours about my family and the town, but I don't want to bore everyone too much with my sentimentality, although, if you want to hear more about it when I get back, let me know.
After we left Ban Huay Hee with a pretty terrific sendoff which included multiple music performances both by us and our host families, and presentations of our media projects, we headed to the Fern Resort, very nearby to rest up for south africa. There were probably two real highlights of the enrichment week (not counting sleeping in every day)
On the second day at the fern resort we went white water rafting which turned out to be pretty awesome (at least for our boat). The day started out pretty uneventful, floating along the rive, paddling when our guide told us to paddle, looking at the huge boa constrictors along the river. It took a turn for the awesome when our guide was pulled out of our boat into the river by another guide. He jumped on to that boat while we floated down the river without a professional stearer of raft. This is when the amateur steering (by yours truly) took over. For about an hour we raged the rapids on our own: myself, katie R., renee, and noah. We nearly tipped a couple of times, but we managed to make it through unscathed, well, at least physically.
After our time at the fern resort (about 4 days) we went to chang mai for 2 days before heading to south africa. On our first full day there Zach, Noah, Ian, and I went out to play airsoft with our thai instructor for the past month Ajan Pipe. For those of you that don't know what airsoft is, it's like paintball but it hurts more and it doesnt leave any paint on your clothes.... just bruises and welts. For those of you who know me well, this is a game I am not suited for at all. I am a pretty big target, 6' 1'' 185 probably, I am extremely unagile, and I have a propensity to rush into things before thinking about them. For future reference, running straight at the opposing team is NOT a good strategy. When Pipe took us out to lunch beforehand (to some awesome spicy curry deliciousness) I said to him, half jokingly "When you asked us to go play airsoft with you, I thought you just wanted to shoot us for not paying attention in Thai class." I started to laugh, but then he didn't say anything and sort of smiled evilly. I should have known then what i was getting myself into. Anyway, after hours of running around getting shot with small pellets going 300 meters/second, we called it a day and headed back to the hostel with Pipe.
The next day we started an incredible journey starting in chang mai and ending 60 hours later in Plettenburg Bay. We flew from Chang Mai to Bangkok, stayed the night in the bangkok airport, sleeping on the floor, Bangkok to Mumbai, Mumbai to Delhi (where we picked up Robin, who was scouting next year's program there), Delhi to Dubai, Dubai to Johannesburg, Johannesburg to Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth to Plettenburg Bay (the last leg by bus). The one thing I took out of that journey was to fly Emirates airline. Fly Emirates whenever possible. Do it. They have USB ports and plugs in the seats in front of you, they have personal TV screen in front of every seat, good food with choices, comfortable, roomy seats, hundreds of TV shows and movies, cameras in the front of the plane to watch the take off and landing as it happens, video games, free calling from seat to seat, 6000 songs to listen to, the list goes on, and that was in economy class.
South Africa has been really great so far, and I'm really excited to start working with the caregivers. We are each paired up and assigned to a care giver for the month, who we will be observing/helping, and conducting a survey with the patients for PletAid. I'm paired up with Katie R., should be really interesting to work with these patients and see how they fit into the public health system and see if their needs are really being met. Something like 40% of the patients we are going to be seeing have HIV, which has become a pandemic in South Africa, with about 27% of the population having contracted the virus.
Alright, Zach and I are going to get some produce for the dinner we are making with Noah tonight, should be fun, the menu is mashed potatoes, Mozzarella and Tomato with balsamic vinegar and basil, corn on the cob, and chicken which we have marinated 4 different ways: sweet chili sauce, lemon BBQ with balsamic, sage and tamarin with balsamic, and olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and basil. Should be good if we can figure out how to work the crazy grill they have here.
Alright, hopefully I'll blog later, but there isnt much internet access around here, I am in one of the only internet cafes in town at the moment, but I'll try to blog again soon.

Monday, February 16, 2009

I am in Dubai right now, my plane leaves for Johannesburg in about 10 minutes, but just wanted to say sorry (once again) for not blogging regularly (mostly to my parents, who are desperate for any information regarding their wayward children). I'm just writing this so I hold myself to writing a blog once I get to south africa, because if I don't write this now, promising that I will write about the last couple weeks, chances are I wouldnt blog for another couple weeks. Anyway, I'll report back in a day or so.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

I am back in civilization for a bit and thought I would update with a quick blog. I'm in Mae Hong Son on some  independent student travel, but we are leaving for the village in about 3 hours by way of truck. The homestay has been pretty awesome so far, and the village, Ban Huay Hee, is really cool. 
My homestay family is pretty awesome, the parents are about 30 years old and they have two small kids, both between 5-10 (I'm not very good with ages...). They also have 4 cows in our yard, one momma pig, one baby pig, 2 dogs, 4 puppies, and I think I saw a cat somewhere too. They don't feed the puppies very much, so I fed one of them once and he literally follows me everywhere I go. The village is really small, I think there are something like 25 families in the whole village, and around 125 people, so TBB makes up a substantial portion of the Ban Huay Hee population.
The food has been pretty awesome, my host mom is a pretty stellar cook, and I learned how to say "I like spicy food" in thai and she makes delicious chili paste and puts hot peppers into my scrambled eggs.
The town is really community based and they seem to share almost everything, including, sometimes, us. There have been a couple times when my host mom will not make dinner and just lead me over to another house and I'll eat there. Also, when they all harvest rice 10% of what they harvest goes into a communal thing of rice that they all share if someone doesnt have enough rice. They are also really self sufficient, growing most of the food that they eat in the village.
Sorry this blog is not very interesting, I can't think of any funny anecdotes at the moment, I just needed to put something up so that my parents would know that I am alive. We get back to civilization again in about a week or so, I'll write again then I guess.
One love,

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Sorry this is going to be short but I needed to blog before I go into the boonies of Thailand for an ultra-rural homestay with no electricity and no internet. I'm going to just make a list of things that have gone on of note.
1. Arrived in Chiang Mai, had incredible Pad Thai on the street for a dollar.
2. Drove to UHDP (Upland Holistic Development.... Program?) which is like a test site for agroforestry and sustainable agriculture where they try out agriculture methods before they attempt them in nearby villages.
3. Had Thai classes and learned about the various methods of organic/sustainable farming.
4. Slaughtered a pig.... yes, slaughtered a pig. I helped to hold the legs while Zach stabbed it in the heart.... it was pretty crazy, but also pretty cool to know exactally where my food was coming from and being there for every step in the process.
5. Attended a traditional wedding, which took place in the house of the bride. Felt kind of awkward about being there, but apperently, everyone who is around is welcome to attend the weddings in the villages. The ceremony was really cool, and I'm sure people will put some pictures up somewhere..... but i forgot my camera.... per usual.
Anyway someone needs the comp, everyone is trying to get in their last internet before we leave for our homestays. Can't think of much else that I should blog about, but hopefully I'll have some awesome stories from my homestay.
keep it real,

Thursday, January 8, 2009

What’s crackin’ everyone. As I write this, I am sitting in a hammock on a beach In Koh Tao (gotta love wifi). I’m listening to some Lil’ Wayne right now (Outstanding is the song, for those interested, sick beat). We’ve been here for about…. 5 days…? And are here for another 2.

Most of the group is SCUBA diving every day but unfortunately, I am not allowed to be our SCUBA instructor because of my asthma….. which sucks, but I’m making the best of it. After being told that I wouldn’t be diving, I let loose a couple expletives and began planning out my next couple days.

Sorry this blog is a little scattered, im a little tired, probably going to listen to some Damian Marley, Pepper, and Slightly Stoopid and then go to sleep after this.

The ride over here was pretty choppy and a ton of people got really sick, but thankfully not me. I was close though, pretty hard to hold anything down while 5 people directly next to you are retching so loud it wakes you up from a peaceful nap. Anyway, I cranked the ipod to full volume and made it through, but probably half of the people on the boat were puking their guts out. Sorry for the visuals, my bad.

The food here has been pretty spectacular, Pad Thai and Thai Curry are unbelievable, and wickedly spicy. We had a group BBQ the other night (I was on pork grilling duty) and the chili sauce they gave us felt like a delicious volcano exploded in my mouth and rained tasty lava onto my tongue. I could go on forever about the food I’ve had so far here, but I don’t want to get started, because I would probably write for another hour.

So my daily routine here has been something like this: Wake up at around 9-10 (or 12), throw on the bathing suit, go to the beach, sit on the hammock, order a coffee shake and eggs, consume, swim, change, go Muay Thai boxing (I’ll explain later), eat food, come back, go back in the Ocean, snorkel a little bit, play the guitar, eat, hang out with the crew, sleep, repeat. Sometimes I will shower in there, but I mean, the ocean counts right……?

Since Emily and Beth and I haven’t been going SCUBA diving at all, we’ve found our calling in Muay Thai boxing. Our fists are now legally registered weapons, we are not going to be able to get on the airplane with them. If you don’t know what Muay Thai boxing is it’s basically kick boxing but you are allowed to elbow people in the face. Awesome, right? It’s also a pretty kick ass work out….. pun intended….get it….anyway……  check out this video if you want to see what muay thai is (and don’t mind watching violence) So we’ve been doing that quite a bit and it’s an absolute blast, and a great work out. Our first Muay Thai class was my first real work out since like…. My last wrestling practice in March, so my body was like “stop that, why are you doing that, you are going to be sore tomorrow” but by the second one I was alright.

Someone just put on some Lauryn Hill over there, so I’m going to have to go see what sort of cool people listen to Lauryn. There was something else I was going to write about, but I totally forget. Anyway, we are going to be in northern Thailand outside of Chang Mai for the next month, living with families and working on their farms, which I am f’n pumped about. Noah and I are already planning our media project as a rap video, so look out for that, it’ll hit the streets in early February. Aight, I’m off to chill with the homies, they are listening to my ipod dock over on the hammocks, then maybe go watch an episode of Psych on Alexis’ Ipod (awesome show btw)

Stay classy,


P.S. sorry for the typos

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Vietnam No. II

Hey everybody, sorry I haven’t updated recently (as predicted in my last blog). It’s pretty late here… like… 2:24 AM to be exact, and I really should be writing my college essay…. (Sorry mom and dad and Mr. Denning, don’t worry, I’ll get to them). Anyway, I’ll work backwards and see what I can pull together from the last couple weeks. I’ll try not to make it too long, but as my sister says, I don’t mind the sound of my own voice, so we’ll see how that goes.


Sooo… tonight was absolutely insane. Vietnam beat Thailand in the Asian Cup finals so basically when they won the entire city went absolutely bezerk, and we were out there going bezerk with them. Zach, Noah, Lily, Katie R., and I went out, obtained Vietnam headbands, Vietnam flags, and Vietnam jerseys, and had a blast. At one point, in the middle of one of the busiest streets in Ho Chi Minh, some dudes handed Zach and I sticks and pointed to trash cans, so Zach and I drummed crazily in the middle of the street with sweaty, drunk, Vietnamese dudes surrounding us and cheering. Apparently their soccer team doesn’t win much. We all ran around the city for about an hour screaming at the top of our lungs and hugging and high-fiving everyone around. Every street was packed with motorbikes as far as you could see with people on the backs, waving Vietnamese flags. It was freaking awesome.


I supposed the next exciting thing that happened working backwards was Christmas. Christmas for me is just the best and for me, being in the rain in Vietnam in 70˚ weather was just not feeling like Christmas to me. Let’s just say that on Christmas Eve I was referred to as “Scrooge” at least twice. But, after watching Love Actually (don’t judge me, movie is unreal) and witnessing what Sandy and Robin and Beth made happen for Christmas, it couldn’t help but feel like the holiday season, even if it wasn’t snowing and I wasn’t curled up next to a fire drinking eggnog. The food alone made Christmas unbelievable. We went to a Hotel where we had brunch and dinner and hung out and played beach volleyball and exchanged Secret Santa gifts. For bruch I ate: 1 3 egg omelet with ham and onions and tomatoes, 2 waffles with powdered sugar, 2 enormous bowls of the best Pho yet, 10 slices of bacon, 3 hash browns, 1 bowl of cocoa pops, Coffee Crème Brule, 2 lemon pastries, a plate of fresh fruit, 3 sausages, and 1 sticky bun. Good thing I wore sweatpants. And for dinner I had lamb wrapped in bacon on top of eggplant with a side of cheese covered potatoes and white chocolate mousse and coffee chocolate sorbet for dessert. I’m pretty sure Sandy had to sell a kidney to fit this into the TBB budget but I loved every second of it.


Side note, When the Levee Breaks by Led Zeppelin just came on on my Ipod random right now, such a great song. Anyway… trying to think of anything exciting that has happened recently… not much that I can think of really. I kinda gotta get back to my college essays anyway. We are working on media projects pretty hard these last couple days, I don’t want to stay up too late, we’ve got peer review tomorrow morning sometime. Sorry this wasn’t that exciting of a blog, just wanted to update again because I haven’t in a while. If you want some serious factual info about the trip though, check out liz’s blog at If anyone has any unused college essays, send them my way…. Kidding…. Kind of…..

One time 4 your mind,