Thursday, April 30, 2009

A non-humorous home-rant. What!?!?

Unfortunately the shower I just took (the highlight of my busy morning if coffee doesn't count) did not inspire me the way that I was hoping it would (or tweeting about), or at least I didn't come up with anything shower related, which is probably for the best (I was contemplating a whole thing on weird mineral shampoo, but that will have to wait). Feeling lucky, eh?

I did come up with total theft though. Yesterday I was reading up on some new (for me) blog finds and noticed that B of Cuttings on a Blog was writing about something very familiar to me, but not yet made fun of, or ranted about, in this here blog - namely the concept of home. B divides her time between England and Spain (her native land, also check out her Spanish blog Blanca en la Luna if you hablas español), but has a hard time at the moment really calling either place home. My Issue, though still about belonging in a place and such, is a little different.

(Oh, and in case you haven't already noticed: Warning! Deep and meaningful crap, and possibly some passive aggressive mentions related to grudges from my earlier years.) 

As you know (because you religiously follow my every move in the blogosphere [wow, it is a fokken word] and Twitter, correct?), I haven't lived in Finland for many years, but haven't really adopted any other country either. Still, that doesn't mean I haven't tried. 

In fact, in my roughly five years in Denmark I really, really tried (Oh no, will this be a rant about the in-laws? I hope not!). I learnt Danish, and still probably use it most of all the languages I speak in my daily life, and even passed a regular translation from English to Danish exam at the university (Okay, so they gave me an extra hour to complete, since I'm such a foreigner, but I did not score the 'barely-passed' grade. Patting myself on the back here, since it is too early in the morning to make a toast for and about myself.). It was clear to me that home was on the second floor of that leaky, yet protected building, 50 meters outside of the city border of Copenhagen. No question about it. To me that is.

Many others, the Danes I would meet in my daily life and the ones whose family I had married into ('cepting the hubby of course) would never let me be at home in Denmark, or let me think that I was at least in some way approaching the potential to being one of THEM - a kind of a Dane. Now, I like being a Finn, will always be one, am proud of my nation (apart from the not so mentioned collaboration with the Nazis, or the suicide statistics, or...), but always being thought of as the foreigner (yup, extranjera) was sometimes just too much. Every single summer for five years, when me and the hubby were getting ready to invade my parent's house for a couple of weeks (this is why we now own the 'summer cottage'), people would ask me whether I had been missing home. Note, had been, as if I still lived in Finland. They would ask me whether I was excited about going back home, what I would do at home, when I returned would I be bringing back with me all the stuff I missed from home, yada yada (a fancy etc)... This used to seriously piss me off. Still does.

Nooo. Really. Would never have guessed.

My home is where my books are (Thanks B). My home is where the Hubby is (he comes only slightly second to the books). My home is where I am comfortable enough to take a shit. My home is where my computer is. My home is where my cellphone works. My home is where I myself have to change the sheets (or tell someone exactly how to do this, folding corners is a science after all). My home is where I can hang out in my green bathrobe until noon and then walk around naked while I'm waiting for the hot water to kick in (and freak out guys mowing my lawn in the process. Bonus!). My home is where my green bathrobe is (didn't see that one coming, did you?). My home is where my weirdly-out-of-place collection of religious paraphernalia is. My home is where I feel comfortable enough to leave dirty tissues lying around (apparently my handbag is my home then). My home is where I can make my own coffee, just the way I like it (a sub-branch of the greater science of controlling pointless things) and drink ten cups of it, without getting a lecture on blood pressure and insomnia. Home is where I can drink as much wine as I want to without receiving eye rolls for unbecoming behavior. 

I don't have to speak the language to be at home somewhere, or have spent all of my life there. I don't have to own my home, or even most of the stuff in it. I don't have to know the place like the back of my hand (Has that cupboard always been there? or What brothel across the road?). I don't even have to have a support network of friends - that will come, and hubby is kind of a superDane. 

I just want other people to let me choose where my home is, not for them to assign me one.

(Passive) aggressive enough for you? I feel better at least.    

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Death and taxes

The house is starting to warm up again, enabling me to just kind of hang out in my green bathrobe until noon, at which point the guilt that my mother efficiently instilled in me starts to rear its head and then I'll have to hit the shower. I'm also sort of on the guilt wagon from hitting the snooze button on the phone all the times it would let me, and after it stopped still snoozing for a good 20 minutes. It was intending to rouse me at 7:30, so I can't really  be held responsible though.

Anyhow, what am I really going to write about? Lets see. Someone tagged me with a fun thing yesterday, but then I guess while I was dreaming away (or passed out from the wine keeping me warm if you will) they untagged me, so there goes that idea. So, the only thing there really is left in this universe is taxes. 

Not Texas, but taxes, or the Finnish government wanting my money, but not really being interested in telling me just how to give it to them.

After getting back home on Monday I found some papers in the communal mailbox (don't get me started on that rant) from the Finnish tax authorities. Well, actually what there was in the envelope was one huge-ass folded mess and an instruction booklet on what to do. I haven't looked at the booklet yet. I don't usually. Instructions often confuse me, and I'm not one for being patronized - What do you mean "do not apply too much force or the surface might shatter" IKEA? If I want to bang it with a hammer I will. I bought it ('It' to this day remains shattered, but that side is facing the wall). 

Right. Taxes. In our household I don't normally engage in paperwork. I don't like filling out papers (and like the 6 year old that I am, I don't do what I don't want to do if I can get someone else to do it) unless I am allowed to doodle or write limericks or experimental poetry concerning fruit. I have in no way participated in the paperwork behind any of our moves, unless you're counting drinking too much while the hubby quizzes me on what I think the Finnish china is worth, or my 'art' (a lot!).

Right. Taxes. So the folded mess says on the top that it has been 'pre-completed', which must mean that they wrote my name and address on it, because apart from that I only see empty boxes with headers that I don't really understand, only to find out that there isn't a single box that applies to my situation. My only income is the little amount of money my mother's best friend's daughter pays us to live in our 'summer cottage' apartment in Finland. This isn't much, but I'm still Finnish enough to know that not paying your taxes is not an option. I kind of like the whole social welfare thing they've got going on, and besides, if I don't pay they might just send the polar bears after me. The government has always been able to track me down, no matter where I have been... (tracking polar bears...?)

As I'm looking at the mess of paper another thought occurs to me. Hubby owns half of the apartment. This must mean that he should pay taxes too. Dammit. This is getting too complicated, and there is no 'pre-completed' mess for the hubby, and besides, he is in Zambia and it says on the papers that I have to have them back within the next two weeks. Ugh.

What would a normal person do in this situation? I don't know. 

But I skype my dad. And like a superhero he comes through. The only things for me to do are find the thingamajiggy for my printer to hook it onto my laptop as well as a whatchamacallit that makes it usable with the electrical current here,  print out some more forms, forge a few signatures, and I should be able to give the government some money. 

Whew! Aren't I lucky.  

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Extremely random things.


Getting back to South Africa sans the hubby just to find out that yes, the house still stands, yes, the nice neighbor hauled my trash can to the curb even though I only slipped a note under her door right before leaving, and no, the tree I got for my birthday and that the hubby 'planted' wearing his gardening clothes - his good Vans (Is it against the rules to own 'good' Vans?) and his bestest Diesel (my brother's discards, so we think they're really from Bangkok) - hasn't died and has not even seemingly dried up, was rather anticlimactic. Now, what remains are fingers frozen to the keyboard (glad the laptop tends to overheat so I can warm my hands), and a maid who seems to think I'm evil for having floors, and bathrooms, and having cooked last night.

So not much going on, hey? I've had plenty of time today (hiding from the maid) to wonder very random things. 

Like, why does my new toothbrush immediately look like I repeatedly used it to clean the kitchen tiles, when the hubby's corresponding object is spick for a month? And how does it fit into this equation that the Hubby has far nicer teeth than me? 

Like, why if you want to sell me something from hair wax to auto accessories all you have to do is call it some food name, such as 'fudge', 'banana' or 'vanilla'? Am I a complete sucker for this? Yes, dammit. 

Like, what is it with South Africa's fascination with Italian mockitecture? I mean, painted-on cracks on your house. As if you were smack in Tuscany. Really.

Like, what are the odds of me not drinking a bottle of wine by myself today to 'keep warm'?

Like, if I was given the choice between either posing very tastefully but still nude for Playboy or not so tastefully for some obscure Asian porn-mag no one will ever see, which one would I do?  

Like, why Slumdog Millionaire trumps Q & A? Is it supposed to be oxymoronic fun? If so, it's just sad.

Like, why do the gas station guys always point out that my tires need more air? Are they saying I'm fat, since the car seems fine when I'm not in it?

Like, why is it that my roses apparently died purely from my touch?

Like, why is Madonna so intent on adopting from Malawi again? Is it because Oprah has dibs on South Africa and Angelina on Ethiopia? 

Like, can you rip your tongue off if it freezes onto a metal pole, and you are not able to pee yourself free, like they did on Bucket List? 

Like, every time I google myself do my ears burn, or am I speaking of the devil?    

I think my brain's a little frozen, or melting. You take your pick. 

At least I got invited to participate in a cool project called Balderdash.  

Monday, April 27, 2009

Party like it's 1986

As I mentioned before, shortly after landing in Lusaka Jo and Kieron at Zambia Express were cool enough to provide me with an itinerary of the wonders of Zambia's capital. Granted Lusaka is a little thin on the must-dos unless you're into some serious watching corn grow or cars drive by, but Jo and Kieron were able to come up with some interesting stuff nonetheless. What really tickled my fancy was their mention of a club called Chrismar, since according to them it had been recommended by none other than Patrick Neate. I think I actually let out a scream when I read this. I sometimes scream at inappropriate times or possibly fondle a pack of cookies if it either takes me back to my childhood (I'm very Proustian) or reminds me of Finland, Denmark, that time I got my first CD, ice skating on the lake, the smell of Hastings in 1993, you know the usual... 

What do you mean not relevant?  

Back to Neate. He is the brilliant man behind one of my favorite books ever, Twelve Bar Blues, and one from my top 100, Musungu Jim and the Great Chief Tuloko. He is not quite up there with Tolstoy on my list, but surprisingly close. 

When I was still at university I had the chance to meet Neate a couple of times and once to sit down for a beer with him (and 10 other students from my class). While sweating profusely and the color of my face altering between a green I'll-vomit-on-your-shoes-if-you-let-me-oh-grand-author and a lovely will-her-head-now-explode red, I did not dazzle him with my intellect. I was barely able to speak English, or Finnish, or Danish, or actually utter anything more than the oh so witty giggle followed by a snort. I have never been as star-struck in my life.
In short, I idolize the guy (note: not stalk, would never stalk, unlike I do some singers and Mandela), and if he recommends Chrismar for live music, I'm there.

Have you ever walked into a club with a live band playing a medley of Careless Whisper, La Bamba and Aicha, and you were in fact not dreaming. I have now. 

This club is more of a pool bar, as it is outside, situated under a high thatched roof ceiling and filled with the kind of tables and chairs that you imagine the Little House on the Prairie - the Africa edition - characters making to furnish the homestead. When you order wine your glass is filled to the brim and the only options are white or red. The singer of the 'dreamy' band is a 50 year old Indian from Mauritius, who keeps asking me, the only white chick in the place, if I'm okay, to which I repeatedly give the African thumbs up (not referring to the middle finger) from the back of the room. There is a low wall, so I cannot go all the way onto the other side of the pool and pretend to not be able to hear him.

The hubby and I, as well as our friends, a British guy, his Zambian wife, and the wife's sister, remain seated and watch Chrismar come to life. More and more people keep arriving even though the gig has been going on for some time. Two women in the kind of suits my grandma wears to the doctor's, to a wedding, a funeral, a christening, or to the town supermarket, arrive with a middle aged guy who keeps gyrating as he walks. The ladies sit down and the man proceeds onto the dance floor, which is pretty much where half of the band is also situated, and dances the night away with most of the ladies in the club. He looks at me once, but thinks better of it and does not make his move. Lucky for him, since my dancing would be quite different from the elegant movements of the locals. All of them, even the quite hefty ladies - and they are hefty - move gracefully and to the actual beat. Also, they are not red in the face and they don't develop pit stains in the first 30 seconds. I am quickly in awe of the people of Zambia.

After my second 'to the brim white', which I suspect to be something not necessarily made of grapes, I start looking around, and nodding my head to the lovely rhythm of a 50 Cent cover that has followed Celebration. There are quite a few white men, most of them old and decrepit like the guy who has asked for an extra cushion for his bottom, together with young, some of them very much so, Zambian women, and then there are other women who wear belts for skirts and seem to be gyrating away for the benefit of the few remaining old guys without company. And what better words to gyrate to than "see the nozzle on my tre pound is three inches long/ and the trigger in the fo fo's extremely strong/ with a little tre douche is like pop, pop/ chase his ass up the block til his bitch ass drop" don't you think? Hmm. 

I give one more thumbs up to the curious Indian and we leave. He begins Jambo, Jambo Bwana, and we pick up our pace.

I still love Patrick Neate though.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Karma is no B*tch.

My angels are big bearded guys who pray to Allah, and one of them wears really cool Vans.

What were we doing on a Zambian country road filled with huge potholes, in the pitch black, 80 kilometers from Lusaka? 

Amazingly bad planning took place, I tell you. And then for some weird reason we decided to combine said planning with neither of us, me and the hubby that is, never having changed a tire in our lives, and having very little clue as to how such a thing happens. So, of course, as the sun was setting we hit a monster of a hole on the road, which enabled us to leave behind a sizable part of the mysterious underbelly of the chevrolet we were driving, and witness up and close to what happens to a tire when it completely splits. SPLITS.

One thing no tourist is ever to do in Zambia is to drive on the highways after dark. "What if you break down?" they say. Well, normally you get robbed by Zambian dacoits of some sorts, or in the worst case you get killed. 

Hmm. In our case you meet the coolest guys who stop to pray anyways because the sun is setting and they decide to give you light until they find out you were, in your infinite wisdom, going to put the jack neatly through the bottom of the car, and then they just change the tire. 

Praised be... hrm... hrm... Guys who wear cool Vans and pray at the side of the road?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Universe talks to me personally and acknowledges the hubby as an appendage.

Warning: this here post will be more somber than usual, since I am sober and right at this minute feel like never drinking again. Except for coffee, lots and lots of coffee. 

So, I've been missing Mexico a lot lately. And, this is only partly tequila and tacos al pastor related. However, I have now started to think that perhaps the universe (Odin? Zeus?) is trying to tell me something. Yup. I do think I am that important.

About six months ago a plane crashed down, about 100 meters from where we lived in Mexico City, right outside of Finland's embassy actually, right where I used to walk, a lot. The plane crashed about the time I would have normally been getting home. Horribly, one of my pals got caught in the fire and is still not okay. Well, she is updating her Facebook, but not her blog, which says oodles to all of you people of the blog-o-sphere. Again, I will wish her a speedy recovery and count my blessings (Do Odin or Zeus do those? Or are they more in the I-will- curse-your-descendants-to-the-tenth-generation business? Or maybe that's just voodoo? But I digress). 

There is an outbreak of swine flu in Mexico City. 60 people are dead and more than 900 affected. Schools are closed. People are recommended to stay out of grocery stores, restaurants, and movie theaters (How my amigos at Starbucks must be hurting!). I am glad my BFF is out of Mexico City, but I'm really afraid for all of my other friends still in the city as well as their families and the family of my BFF's husband. Everyone seems to be freaking out on Facebook, but that could also just be cabin fever from the lockdown. On the plus side I've never gotten as many comments even on the very feeble status updates as in the past couple of days. And I do love it when people acknowledge, or like the fact that I am '@ hotel'.

This past Easter was the first time ever that Mexico City officials decided to cut off the water supply for a couple of days. Now, I have been hearing (too hangover-y to google it) for years that it is estimated that in 2012 there will be no more water in Mexico City, but this year was apparently an all time low. Perhaps now, all the people who happily water their lawns and wash their cars (read: have their maid/ driver/ gardener/ house boy/ guard / other person scared of them water the lawn and wash the car) every single day, will think twice if going smelly and greasy-haired for a long weekend, and not being able to flush away neither #1 nor #2 is on the other end of the scale. After experiencing me in the last two days without deodorant and perhaps rather unwisely appropriating perfume for the purpose, the hubby is definitely counting his blessings for not needing to face the unshowered me for days on end. Sauvignon Blanc does NOT smell good when it is exiting through your armpits. Just so you know, and since I know you were wondering. Who wouldn't be? Such important issues. 

So now I am left wondering whether Mexico is starting to look just a tad unattractive, or my subconscious (who is much smarter than the real me) is simply reminding me that you can never go home again? 

Now. Coffee.       

Edit: Apparently forgot all about the escalated drug wars earlier, and now they've just had an earthquake. 

Universe, I get it.  

Friday, April 24, 2009

Honest? Me?

I Don't quite know what to say, but I'll for sure say something.

Thank you to Marathoner81 who by some odd twist of credibility seems to think that I am honest. Wow. Such pressure.

This is an award and a comes with these rules:

1. List 10 honest things about yourself, and
2. Pass it on to 7 cool people who embody the spirit of the Honest Scrap

Here are my amazingly honest 10 things about myself. And you all know how I hate to write about myself, hey?

1. I don't actually have a crazy eye. I have two, and they are eerily closely placed. I also have an evil eye I give to people who either don't flush, or who don't wash their hands after going to the toilet. Soap is preferable. Sometimes I also give the evil eye to people kicking the back of my seat on an airplane, or people leaning their seats back on an airplane for the entire duration of the flight. In fact I just give the evil eye to having to travel by plane in coach, while teleportation would be far nicer, or first class.

2. High fives make me rather uncomfortable. Especially if I am the one expected to high five. 

3. I don't enjoy the sauna. There. I said it. It's off my shoulders. How glorious it is to finally be out of the closet (or the sauna?). Once a year I try it out in the vain hope of understanding what sweating (not a big fan of this either) in a dark room is all about, and never do. I hope my citizenship is not revoked for this. I only have the one.

4. I'm a complete literature snob and judge people by what they read, and then try to not let it show. I often get to drinking and fail miserably. But hey, I'm still friends with people who I have drunkenly accused of reading 'beach', 'airplane' and 'white trash'. It's my diplomatic ways that have made me popular.

5. I'm a complete tequila snob and judge people by how and what they drink in the way of tequila. In Mexico this was okay, since everyone else was just as diplomatic about this, but this has won me no friends is South Africa. Again 'white trash' might have come up.

6. If it wasn't for the internet there would be many, many people who I love and who supposedly at least like me, who would never hear from me again. It's not the lack of love, it's pure laziness. 

7. I will gladly go live anywhere in the world, except for one of those dry countries. I recently heard a story from an acquaintance of ours about him having resorted to making his own wine in Saudi Arabia, and that nearly brought tears to my eyes. Is there possibly a legalization-movement that I can join, or is that just for marijuana?  

8. I have seen so many giraffes in the past eight months, that I'm kind of over them now. Elephants still rock though. 

9. I can forgo candy for years, but I get Big Mac-withdrawal symptoms within a week. The same goes for a Starbucks latte. I heard there is a Starbucks at Copenhagen airport, and it is just a tad obscene how much I'm looking forward to that meeting. Starbucks also figures under my 'alternate accommodation' when I'm going to visit my friend in Albuquerque in August. 

10. The only exam that I ever tried to cheat on was in religion class. It was on the Ten Commandments. I just couldn't remember them by heart. What does that say about me as a person?

Whew. Done. Being honest is tough. Especially since I know my mom will read this, and I already have quite a few 'where did I go wrong with raising you'-talks coming, just from this blog. To her I will always be 16, and out to get her.

I would like to give this award on to:

Dawn at From Congo 
Betty at Betty Noire

And that's it. Today 5 is my interpretation of 7. 

I need coffee.   

Adventures galore

As y'all know by now (because you have all read everything that I have ever written on this here blog, eh?) I lead an extremely busy and action filled life, and have so many interesting adventures to write about. Yup.

The interesting things that happened to me yesterday (and this was a particularly happening Thursday):

1. I was propositioned by an old and short Deputy General Manager (you voted that I wasn't insane, just a hot Amazon Warrior Goddess of East German athlete like build. Myself, I think I lack the shoulders for this, but my crazy eye possibly makes up for them). Me and the hubby have been invited to a wine tasting and lecture of some sorts tonight here at the hotel, and expect to see the Deputy GM there. I'm having an awesome good-size-ego day and expect a showdown of epic proportions.   

2. I had three spit-free lattes, one rather more suspect cappucino, and so much bonus cake that I didn't feel like having the chocolate on the pillow. This might also have been, because I fear I now associate Jacob Zuma, South Africa's (possibly not spit-free and kind of suspect) new president with chocolate, thanks to Molly. Great. This could get kind of ugly. Must think of vomit and Zuma, rhino droppings and Zuma, nosepickings and Zuma... Chocolate and nose droppings...  Dammit!

3. I was given much needed cyber love, the platonic kind (I do the other stuff even more anonymously and not on here), by an awesome American Dane of a Russian persuasion, who is fast becoming a Capetonian by way of replacing her blood with South African Chenin Blanc (that kind of makes us blood [wine?] sisters, huh?). If you are the one in a million who did not find me because she told you to, most definitely check julochka out. She is crazy funny, and super thoughtful. She is also making my retirement (what am I going to retire from I wonder?) plans just a little more palatable for me, as I'm pretty sure that the hubby, who is a proud, and very bearded and otherwise hairy, descendent of vikings will want to return to his beloved homelands at some point. When he gets really old and forgets how to speak anything but his garbled Copenhagen Danish, that is. 

4. I got stuck in an elevator. On the ground floor, and for a whole whopping 3 minutes. Lucky for the hotel I had already had my fair share of celebratory wine. Had I not reeeaaaallllly needed to pee I don't think I would have even yelled and pounded on the door quite with the fortitude that I did. There was a mirror in the elevator after all. Incidentally, the button that you always feel like hitting in an elevator (or at least I do), the yellow one with the bell on it - no effect, no sound, no nothing, kind of a bummer. 

5. I had heart palpitations from too much bonus cake (I could never blame my trusted friend, caffeine), and much too much wine. A trip to a Zambian emergency room would have wrapped the day up nicely, but, alas, 'twas not to be - I fell asleep instead.

Welcome to my weird brand of Africa all you new readers. The fact that I now have 60 followers (Oh no, someone quit. Down to 59. Sad day.) might just get that heart going again, and you wont have to wait for the post about stethoscope-toting Africans for that much longer.   

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Advances (on me?)

I must still look extremely bored and as if I have absolutely nothing to do in the world. Or I have just been propositioned in a very roundabout, yet disturbing, way by a very much older, and shorter guy in a slick suit.

As I was making my way to the hotel bar this morning (Don't gasp. We've been over this before: they have the best internet, rocking lattes [spit-girl is not at work], and bonus cake. And I only start drinking in the afternoon... well after noon anyway), a man in a suit stopped me in the corridor: 

(I swore to myself I wasn't going to do another dialogue, but I can't help it, I'm on a diaroll. And apparently superbly funny. Ha.)

Suit guy: Are you on your way to the bar? I always see you writing away on that computer of yours (he proceeds to air-type - always suspicious). Listen... (he takes something out of his jacket pocket) I want to give you my card. If there is anything you need, don't hesitate to call me. Anytime (looks me in the eyes).

Me: Huh, Oh?!?! (cue eyebrows - this is my new, more polite, WTF?!?!). Well, thank you (I start moving away, quickly), I... will.

According to the card he is the Deputy General Manager of this here accommodation. But, boys and girls, the fun doesn't end there. A couple of hours on I have taken over one of the sofa groups (my bracelet demands its own chair) and there he is again, walking by:

Suit guy: There you are, typing again (air-typing - even more suspicious done a second time). I wish you would tell me what you are writing. A book?

Me: Hrhm? Ah? Huh? (Yup, I am just that quick) I'm supposed to... but I'm not (I was afraid he was going to ask to see it and I'm currently having too much fun with very crap sex-scenes).

Suit guy: Reports or something?

Me: Hrhm? Ah? Huh? (quick indeed) No, nothing like that, I'm just, you know.... (How do you tell people you can easily surf a whole day?)

Suit guy: (looking into my eyes) Well, maybe you'll tell me sometime.

I suddenly feel the need to pretend like something weird is happening on my screen and I have to peer into it and frown.

What's your take on this folks? Am I bored, making the whole thing up, completely insane, or in line to be the next missus Deputy general Manager? The hubby need not comment.    

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Origins and the land of Santa

Why does this keep happening?

A shop assistant/ waiter/ neighbor/ random sweaty guy at the gym: So where in the States are you from?

Me: Well... I'm actually from Finland.

A light goes out of the eyes of whoever it is that is posing this question, since they are asking it because they either a) have been to the States b) have family in the States c) would like to visit or have family (me as a wife possibly, who wouldn't) in the States d) they madly love Obama e) all of the above and want to hang out with someone who comes from the promised land of Coca Cola, McDonalds, Oprah and 90210. Sadly, I am not, and will never be, that person.  

This usually follows the dimming of the eyes.

A shop assistant/ waiter/ neighbor/ random sweaty guy at the gym: Oh... well... that's nice. Lots of snow, right? Cold, eh?

Me: Yup, in the winter can be -70 degrees celsius (I have slowly moved up [down?] from -20 celsius over the years). It can be so cold that your car won't start and your dog's paws freeze onto the ground. But that's when the polar bears don't hunt, so it's still safer than normal. Otherwise they might eat Santa when he crawls home from the bar.

A shop assistant/ waiter/ neighbor/ random sweaty guy at the gym: HAHAHA, that's funny! Yea, because Finns all drink like fish, right?

Exactly, you got it, that was my point.  

New jewelry and free booze - chronicles of my hardships in Africa

Yup. Ended up being snatched up by a pretty sizable secretary - a proper matron of the tribe of secretaries - and being whisked off to buy jewelry. Awesome, beautiful and expensive jewelry made of Zambian semi-precious stones and silver or gold. A shopping trip, the result of which is a proper 'all's well that ends well' moment. 

There really was no way I could have said no to this shopping outing. I have to admit I was afraid that had I not showed up in the hotel lobby at the precise time I was expected my chauffeur, the secretary, would have taken the stairs, two at a time no doubt, up to the third floor, not bothered with knocking, but pounded down my room door with ease, and ended up hoisting me over her shoulder, and running me to the shop herself. For those of you who are aware of my my corpulence I can only say that this woman could so have taken me. For those of you who have never met me, think of a female East German shot put champion, double that, add braids that probably weigh several kilos and voilá you got Mrs J. - a personal secretary extraordinaire and a woman who will probably inhabit my nightmares for a while (I only equal one East German shot put champion, and that's on a good hair day). 

Mrs. J. waited in the car while I made my way hastily into the shop, probably ready to intercept any possible attempts at escape. She need not have been on her guard, you are locked into the shop after you enter. I think they might not let you out until you buy something. Anyway, I decided to play it safe and started to browse. 

For some time I have been searching for a present for my friend in Denmark. I have long since given up trying to decipher her exquisite sense of style and just get her something expensive instead. Then at least I have a fighting chance of getting it right. At a glance, the products at this boutique seemed to fit the bill. Ended up picking a cute pair of earrings. Fighting chance...

And that is when I spotted it:  Sell-your-soul-to-the-devil-and-throw-in-a-firstborn-or-two beautiful bracelet made of two kinds of Zambian stones and pearls, and set in silver. I had to have it. My credit card practically jumped out of my wallet. All of my fears seemed to melt away, and a sense of immense (rather orgasmic, but lets not go there this time) gratitude came over me. I, in my younger years somewhat prudent Finn, did not think twice, and I thoroughly believe what the hotel manager told me upon my return to the hotel: "In the future you will only regret that you didn't buy more." I might go back there on Saturday  - with a different credit card, and yes please, when I die bury me with the bracelet, clothes and coffin optional. Thanks.

As I raced to my room to securely place my new investment into the safe. (Yes, otherwise it would have most likely spent the next couple of weeks in my Harry Potter-ish purse that could hold a cow should the need arise, to be taken out and fondled until some of the stones fell off) I found an invitation on the bed accompanied by two of the most awesome chocolates since Finland. Me and the hubby are invited for a networking cocktail party at the hotel pool tonight - an invitation which I decode to mean free booze for at least an hour. Oh, the hardship that is my existence! 

New jewelry and free booze - what more could a girl ask for?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

i rely love yuor bloog;

Today at the scrumptious hotel breakfast the manager of the hotel came and sat down with us for a while. The following took place:

Hotel Manager: (in a machine gun fashion while holding his breath) So have you been able to get around Lusaka at all? Well, there really isn't that much to see, is there? Are you getting bored already?

Me: Oh no, not at all. I'm just doing here exactly what I would be doing at home any...

Hotel Manager: (cutting me off) I can organize for my secretary to take you to this wonderful place where they sell gemstones. Garnets, amethysts. My wife loves the place.

Hubby lets out a very audible shriek and his eyes roll back into his head (No, this behavior does not embarrass me at all). 

Hotel Manager: (to hubby) No no, they are not expensive. I would in no way want to bankrupt you. (to me) I think you would enjoy it. I bought my daughter's birthday, christmas and graduation gifts from there. You see, they all match. Isn't it wonderful? For a hundred dollars you can get an amazing ring, or a pair of earrings?

Me: Thank you. Uhm... perhaps... yes... hmm...well. (finally resorting to flagging down a waiter and asking for more coffee).

I am now left wondering whether I really look that bored or that jewelry happy. I am majorly JH, but it's not supposed to show, and I feel I have been having a great time in Zambia. 

I have been busy drinking cheap wine, reading, getting quite a bit of writing done, not to mention hanging out in the blog-o-sphere, making new acquaintances, and reading up on the old ones, when the internet has been working that is. On a side note, if my novel is ever published I will have to thank this hotel for their crap internet connection, and for thus curbing my Facebook addiction, enabling me to write instead. Sad but true...

However, this hanging out on the internet combined with cheap wine has brought on a new issue. The real point of this post:

Commenting while intoxicated. 

I believe that the sad trend of either calling or texting your ex after having had much too much to drink has been well documented, but what about the newer trends of drunken (and stupid) facebook statuses, Twittering under the influence, wine-fueled hotmailing, googling old crushes after some beers and WikiWorldbook informing them of this, post bar-crawl blogging, and my personal downfall, the above mentioned commenting while intoxicated.

I have been told that there is some sort of site somewhere on the internet where you can go and answer some questions and after answering you will either be allowed access to your e-mail, facebook, blogger, etc accounts, or you will be classified as too drunk and told to try again the next day. If anyone knows the whereabouts of this miraculous invention, the information would be much appreciated.

As you can probably gather from this lament, no such site is in use when I'm out there cruising the highways of the world wide web. Nope. No sirree.

Yesterday, for some reason I quoted the bible in one of my comments. Me, the atheist. If you are the owner of that specific blog - sorry. You might be religious and not appreciate my grand idea of comparing the 'meek of the earth' to people who have no problem queuing for unspecified amounts of time. The thought seemed very logical at the time. 

A couple of days ago I also recommended 'cimifuga' to someone, only I couldn't remember how to spell it so it came out more like 'fumigator', which taken for PMS might be a bad idea. Again, my apologies.

Lastly, I greatly regret all of my spit-related (in or out of beverages) comments. I have been preoccupied with the thought for some days now and it might have spilled over to some of the comments. Mea culpa. I will lay off of the spit now.

I also apologize for the spelling, or the lack thereof, and any other weird things I might have written, such as things in languages you have no knowledge of, or referring to a post you certainly did not write (problem with multiple windows).

Thank Zeus most of you have no idea who I am, and those of you who do, probably see this as an improvement. 

At least I'm keeping in touch for once.  

Sunday, April 19, 2009

What did you do that for?

After yet another perfect bacon and banana on whole wheat and a spit-free latte at Kilimanjaro cafe at Manda Hill one sort of feels like having something sweet (even though one knows one is not supposed to have ANY sugar) and then one reads a blog post. 

Seems safe, hey? 

Not safe enough. 

One now craves, craves, and CRAVES Betty's way retro chocolate fridge cake (not a euphemism, an actual cake) and is probably insanely lucky, blood sugar and insulin level-wise that is, that the hotel room does not come with a kitchen. 

One has however yet again eaten the best chocolate since Finland - Cilla, Bateleur Investments Ltd. of Chisamba Zambia - but luckily only the one piece left on the pillow as a result of gross overtipping of the maid.

One is now almost forced to drink lots of wine to curb the sugar rush. Poor one.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Did someone spit in my latte?

I really hope I'm just developing a case of paranoia. I really do.

You be the judge.

The waitress I reprimanded earlier for not providing me with timely service at the hotel bar, today met me at the door with a sunny smile and took my order before I'd had time to properly sit down. I smiled and thought "good for her". This was to be a gooood Saturday. 

After having my necessary bottle of water and copious amounts of rooibos-tea (I'm pretending to be healthy, let's hope the lingering flu is fooled), I felt like having a latte. 

In case you have missed it before (not very likely, but anyhow), lattes in this country rock, really rock, and so does the bonus cake that comes with the latte. This coffee is awesome. I. Can. Not. Stay. Away. 

The waitress took my order, and went away. I was happily looking forward to my latte (which was gonna rock, seriously). And oh how I long for that unblemished frame of mind, as my mental state was soon to take an unfortunate spirally dip (this is not an uncommon occurrence). 

When the waitress arrived with my latte she set it down in front of me, fixed me with a meaningful stare and said: "I hope you enjoy your latte, I made it specially for you."  

Perhaps having read this about a maid using her menstrual blood as a voodoo-y spice in her employers' food (via Stepford Dreams), I was already in pretty someone's-out-to-get-me state of mind. Now... is it just me or is this the worst thing for a waitress to say to a coffee-crazed Finn who is not unwilling to entertain elaborate conspiracy theories? 

Well, maybe it is just me. Yup, pretty sure it's just me. Shouldn't probably have had all that sugary cake at breakfast... hmph... 

Well, it has been at least weeks since my last proper bout of self-inflicted housewife drama. This was long overdue. 

Thanks universe.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Did someone spit in my sandwich?

I'm still in Zambia. 

The whine, whine & moan section:

I am in a hotel (or possibly in a country) with a very fickle internet connection. Sometimes, like right now at 8AM, the connection is perfect, and other times getting beyond the Facebook sign in page seems to be too big of a task. Combine this with a hotel room television set the size of my fist and you'll have an inkling of the pain this brings. Argh! Am I supposed to, like, not have any, like, distractions, or what? Like. 

My South African cell phone sim-card doesn't work here. I recently found out that this is because I don't have 'international roaming' in my contract. Hmph - this is just another way for the South African government/MTN to not see me as an adult, not have trust in me, and to supposedly make sure that I am unable to rack up a bill too big to pay. There is a limitation of R600 or something of sort in my contract already, so I fail to see the problem, but whatever. 

I seem to have caught the flu the hubby had. I'm pretty sure I would have kicked it already if I wasn't drinking the house red wine all the time. Sporting a sore throat and a runny nose that miraculously go away at night leaving me free to enjoy the wine, but return with a vengeance in the morning. Well, I guess this one I'll have to pin on my own stupid, borderline alcoholic self. Also, I am aware of the bad decision that having four cups of coffee in the morning instead of herbal tea is, if one is out to beat the flu. Again, all me.

The room service has gotten our order wrong four nights in a row, and we have complained thus possibly angering some of the poor staff (it's not all their fault, the hubby can't pronounce 'vegetable'). Every night then we wait for something while the rest of the food gets cold on the table. And it is not that great to begin with, even when it's hot. 

Yesterday, as I was hanging out at the hotel bar, where the internet seems a little better, and really felt the urgent need for some rooibos-tea, I did not get service for a whole whopping 35 minutes. I ill-advisedly complained, prompting the entire staff to now harangue me with constant good service. However, I'm also plagued by suspicions of them either spitting or possibly wanking off in my sandwich, or my latte. But that stuff only happens in the States, hey?

Everyone keeps calling me ma'am, which is depressing, since I'm only thirty.

I'm too sick and it might be just a tiny bit too cold to hang out by the pool.

There is a through and through Texan at the hotel who considers me one of his compatriots. Ya'll.
End of whine, whine & moan. Beginning of the section titled: 

This is a Flippin Awesome Country

Zambia is safe and sunny (I'm told SA has gotten cold since I've been gone). 

The internet at the hotel is included in the room price, and so is breakfast. 

I love, and I mean LOVE, bacon and banana on whole wheat, which they serve at this cool cafe in one of the malls. 

Lattes in this country rock.

I have been able to go everywhere without my cell phone, which for me, coming from the land of Nokia and not really being able to remember a time before cell phones (when I was a kid my dad had a phone the battery of which took up the whole trunk of the car), is a very liberating experience.  

Being sick here with the hubby now taking care of me beats being sick by myself at home. One might argue that had I not come I would not have gotten sick in the first place, but I refuse to go there.

People here call me ma'am instead of sir, which often happens in South Africa. I know I have a haircut, that even my hairdresser calls a 'boy cut' (boycott, ha ha. Too sick to make a proper joke), but I'm still fairly feminine, especially since I got my eyebrows and eyelashes dyed. 

There is a through and through Texan at the hotel who considers me one of his compatriots. His jeans are far too tight and his shirt far too Dallas. Love it! He also has very interesting facial hair.

Sometime last month I found a blog called Zambia Express, written by two Brits living in Lusaka. I wrote to them asking what they thought I should see and do in Lusaka, since Lonely Planet wasn't too big of a help, and the cool expats that they are Jo and Kieron actually went above and beyond and came up with a whole itinerary for a week in Lusaka. How cool! As soon as I feel up to it, I'll be off sightseeing, eating, drinking and partying per instructions. I can be such a charter tourist sometimes. Snicker!

Also, I have actually been writing something besides e-mails (which I don't really do unless we are talking a letter of complaint) and this blog. It's a bit off the wall, and I'm missing an ending, but it's also pretty good. I think. Hurrah!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Cause and effect

Today has been the first day off for the hubby since he arrived in Zambia, and this only because some of the stuff he needs to make heads and tails of his work here is still in customs, and today being a holiday, it is not coming out of there before tomorrow, if then. Bad for him, nice for me.

Why then are we not on our way back from Victoria Falls? Our ambitious plan was to start off 5AM from Lusaka, be in the historical town of Livingstone in southern Zambia at 10AM, take in the town, check out the Zambian side of the falls, and be back in Lusaka around 8PM, before the roads get too dangerous. But, alas, this was not to be. 

The hubby is sick. S -I - C - K as only a man is. He has the sniffles, and oh my is he miserable. The most he could muster, since we felt the need to give the nice cleaning people at the hotel some space to work their magic (and who really wants to look behind that scene anyway), was to drive me around Lusaka with the camera stuck to my face for a change, and treat me to lunch at a pretty cool local place. However, before we stopped for lunch a thought occurred, and after making the hubby flush all of his dirty tissues and really scrub his hands with soap, it still hasn't gone anywhere. I realized that the hubby could inadvertently kill someone.

Let me explain this horrifying conclusion. 

A while back I read somewhere that Zambia has one of the highest concentrations of people with HIV and AIDS. Unfortunately, I now know, this information is correct. According to Avert, 15% of the adult population in Zambia lives with this disease. I realize that the number is 3% lower than the number for South Africa, but we haven't been sick in South Africa, and at home the hubby would be just there - in isolation at home - if he was sick. Now, at lunch, by just breathing the same air with the other people in the restaurant he could pass on his sniffles to someone whose immune system would not be able to cope, and who would then become the main participant in one of the far too commonplace funeral processions that, even just in the past couple of days, I have already seen too many of. And, chances are, before attending the procession the person would in turn pass on what begun as the simple sniffles. There would be no testing and no medication.  

At the local marketplace there were far too many people selling headstones.     

When the reality finally hits home, it really floors you.  

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A snapshot of life from Lusaka, Zambia

I'm at the hotel gym. I have it all to myself and I'm enjoying a brisk walk on the treadmill. On the big, fancy television there is Gladiator, the soundless version, as I am unable to reach the remote. I turn my eyes towards the smaller screen in the corner. It is emitting slightly more sound. A Zambian morning program seems to be on.

Picture this:

There are two massive, sky-blue, fake-suede armchairs with a couple of throw rugs that appear to have a Zebra-motif, symmetrically positioned over the seats and the backs. Behind the chairs, on the back wall of the 'set', is a grainy blow up of a 20 000 kwacha bill, an amount of money equal to $4 USD. On the chairs sit a man and a woman. There are newspapers and a glass bowl of what appear to be avocados on a wooden coffee table placed directly in front of the chairs. 

It appears that the woman is the host of the program. She keeps nodding her head as the man talks. She is wearing something that to me seems a prom dress, the short kind. The garment is pink, has immense puffy sleeves and a little pink lace on the collar. The picture is cut so that you cannot see her shoes, but you are painfully aware of the fact that she has not shaved her legs in a while. She has, however, obviously gotten her hair/wig done in the recent past and it sits atop her pretty nodding head like a helmet, not a hair out of place.      

The man keeps talking to the camera and to the woman. He is very serious, bald, and middle aged. He is wearing a brown plaid jacket, the like of which I have never before laid eyes on, a white shirt,light brown pants, and a tie that matches the jacket in the browns, but not in the pattern, as it has diamond shapes on it. He is in all possible shades of chocolate, and somewhat clashes with the zebra-motif and the chairs.

And, as if this scene is not enough to knock me off the treadmill, the camera cuts to the bowl of avocados. There are three of them, two on the bottom, and one positioned on top of the two. I stare at the screen in disbelief - directly behind the bowl in the picture is the man's crotch. He is sitting with his legs parted and appears to have grown a pair of green testicles and an odd shaped penis with a little black dot right on the tip.

I practically wet myself.    

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Can you have feelings for a whole nation?

I'm a jump in head first kind of a gal. 

When I met the hubby, who wasn't a hubby of course at the time, but a dapper, worldly foreigner, I moved into his hotel suite within 24 hours of meeting him. And after only knowing him for 3 months, most of it only by phone and email, I negotiated a loan of 10 000 FIM, left Finland for good on a one way ticket and really moved in with him. A hippy university had accepted my hurried application to be a guest student for a year. I figured a year would be enough time to make him fall head over heels and never want to let me go. My gamble paid off, and I've never been happier than with him. He is my best friend, my support network in its entirety, and simply the coolest, sweetest person I have ever met. And he loves me unconditionally when I am sometimes very difficult to even like. 

Why this information that has nothing to do with South Africa, and only explains why we keep moving from country to country (true story: on a rainy night in Copenhagen the living room window starts to leak and yours truly makes the hubby call his boss and tell him we are moving to Mexico)?

Well, something that happened in a friend's life lately (added to the fact that I've been hanging out in my bathrobe surfing the net for days now, steadily working up to a decent size spell of cabin fever) got me to pondering what makes other people change their lives completely, to jump in head first, to do something without which I cannot exist. Shuffling the deck is something that I must, and I mean MUST, do every once in a while, but what if that wasn't in my genetic make up? What if having to run my life in a different culture, in a different language, surrounded by very different people wasn't my fix? What if familiarity and routine didn't give me hives but were my safe haven instead?

A friend who previously felt that even coming here on vacation on her own was an accomplishment is now so smitten, mostly with the country, but also with a brown-eyed boy, that she has applied for a job away from Finland, to be where she feels she wants to be - in South Africa. Now, there are no guarantees with the boy, but I know he is not the main reason. There is just something about South Africa, hidden underneath the crime statistics and behind the electric fences, that she was able to tap into and fall in love with. I cannot tell you what it was for her, but I understand her feelings.

I wish her luck on this new journey she has embarked on and I'm sure whatever happens it'll make her life richer. And completely from a selfish point of view (you knew this was coming) I'd like someone to speak Finnish with....

My friend, I'm crossing my fingers for you.  

Monday, April 06, 2009

Heaven on Earth and other pleasant things

I'm so sad the weekend's over. I haven't laughed like I've laughed this past week in a long time. Hanging out with our guest brought back huge chunks of my childhood (that I've apparently drunk away, or possibly my brain has finally yielded intellectual control to my sizable posterior that is just not up to the responsibilities), and reminded me of why I once considered our guest my best friend ever. I'm truly glad she is back in my life. Standing ovation to that guy who invented Facebook.  

As I write this, our guest is on her way back to Finland, and the hubby is away, possibly until the end of April. I'm by myself, and feeling like I'd give almost anything to be back in Ivory Tree Game Lodge in Pilanesberg Nature Reserve, from now on referred to as Heaven on Earth, or simply heaven, as that is where I intend to go when I die, and hopefully many times before that. 

Being the snob that ya'll know and tolerate, I've visited quite a few five star establishments, usually liked them, or even loved them, but none of my previous five star experiences (not referring to anything dirty so go ahead and stop giggling) have ever come close to the bliss that was our long weekend away. 

I'd heard good things about Pilanesberg before, but no one we know had ever stayed in the lodge that we chose. i.e. Heaven on Earth. The cost of two nights being a little bit on the expensive side my expectations were high indeed, which usually does not bode well, as I'm an expert at complaining and generally just finding fault with things. Yup, positive is not an adjective many people would use to describe me, apart from the hubby, but we've already explored the depth of his delusions on other occasions. Anyhow, I'm forced to admit that Heaven on Earth actually exceeded my expectations. And that is no easy feat. 

We arrived on Friday just in time for the lovely lunch set in the nice and airy thatched roof dining room. Having most likely started a widespread movement against buffets in my previous life, from the moment I laid eyes on the set up I was expecting to experience some flashbacks, but ended up having to admit that the chicken was tasty and juicy, the couscous delicious, and even the coffee lovely (and delightfully plentiful). As difficult as this is for me to put into writing, the buffet won me over. And the hotel being merrily void of children (bonus!) I couldn't even resort to my sneezing/coughing/sticky-hands-on-the-food argument. Buffet 1, Snobby Finn 0.

After lunch, as we had retired to our respective cottages, and had had plenty of time to utter small shrieks of delight over the huge bathtub, the outdoor shower, the private patio overlooking the park, the luxurious bath products, and the quiet (only interrupted by said shrieks) surroundings, the phone rang. Our ranger Mike introduced himself and wanted to know what we would like to drink on the afternoon game drive. Trying to play normal as well as wondering whether the lions had the same penchant for the liquid as me, and whether they would try to eat me if they smelled the wine habitually coursing through my veins, I did not order wine, that night. I probably entertained some sort of idea about needing to 'stay alert' lest I'd be eaten by a giraffe or something. On the break between the afternoon drive and the night drive, while in a hide in the wild listening to the sounds of the bush, and staring at the clearly visible milky way, I wished I had that glass of wine to toast the perfect moment though. Toasting with water is just not the same.

I, the hubby, and our guest were the only ones on the drive that first night, and as our ranger Mike turned out to be a true fountain of interesting information as well as being the head ranger in the lodge we were blessed with plenty of cool new facts about South African wildlife while it felt like we were the only humans in the bush. We saw kudus, rhinos, hippos, zebras, giraffes, wildebeest, impala, and some tsessebi, alongside plenty of other antelope-type animals, other critters and birds the names of which apparently did not stick in my, albeit at that point not even foggy, brain. As I've said before, observing the animals in their natural surroundings, doing what they do best - being wild (sleeping, and funny enough, farting like mad) - is an experience very different to visiting any zoo. As opposed to the feeling of pity that normally accompanies such a visit, seeing these animals made me feel a surge of healthy respect for, if not slight fear of them instead. And the first day's catch was only one out of the big five.  

For our visitor, who had according to her own words already fallen in love with South Africa, meeting our brown-eyed ranger offered yet more to love about this wonderful country. I don't think this visit will be her last. As my 'crush' days are long gone (luckily, as I seem to have let even basic grooming slip), I'm loving the possibility of vicariously experiencing this long distance crush. I had forgotten how much fun it is to talk about boys, and it used to be my favorite pastime.

After indulging in a bottle of Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir (one of my all time faves) at dinner, the next morning's wake up call at 5:30 in preparation for the 6AM game drive was almost too much. However, after having mine and our guest's cups of coffee's worth of caffeine in my brain, and a warm blanket around me I was ready to see the sun rise over the mountains, while watching the animals either wake up, turn in, or rip a tree from the ground. The drive was amazing. Our surroundings were rife with bird and animal calls, and even as the cold air whipped my face (note to self: It can be cold in Africa, wear a hat), I could definitely see why the Dutch stayed. 

Regardless of the frosty morning, and as so often happens here, as the sun climbed higher and higher the temperature rose exponentially. When we got back from the drive to have breakfast, freshening up in the cottage involved changing into a swimsuit. I had brought Jasper Fforde's 'The Eyre Affair' to read by the pool, but my newly found friendship with our visitor and the pleasure I took in speaking Finnish after such a long time, not to mention the nice bottle of white we consumed, meant that the time sped past and I only read about four pages. Before we knew it it was time for lunch, followed by another game drive. We did manage a dip in the pool, and I am again multiple sunburns richer. Awesome, if potentially skin-cancerous, fun in the sun.   

The evening's drive offered us excitement indeed. After almost crashing into a 6-ton elephant by the name of Half Tusk who did not feel the need to yield to the right, we managed to spot some lions who were after some tasty wildebeest, only to be approached on the other side by a hippo out of water who probably did not understand how close it had gotten to us and quickly fled when our ranger shined the light towards him. Since our guest had a hard time looking away from the ranger's pretty brown eyes, and the hubby was desperately supporting the camera apparatus possibly permanently attached to his face, yours truly was left to shine the light into the bush in search of the hunting lions. Cool as my task was, it should not have been done by the half-blind me, and after the first glimpse of a female running through the grass, and a male (or really only its mane) moving away from us, the lions eluded us. Still, officially I have seen a real live lion. I can tell you that even just the glimpse of the mane, or something moving through the grass at a wild speed really truly demands your respect, as does seeing an elephant 'flex his muscles' in front of a tiny Toyota Yaris whose driver is not backing up quickly enough for him. Points to wild SA.  

The next morning, after the last game drive, and after our guest had contemplated several extreme ideas - from chaining herself to the vanity in her room to quitting her job in Finland on the spot and asking for work at the lodge - we finally left Pilanesberg. I guarantee you, not only our visitor, but all of us are already busy scheming ways of returning, especially to the lodge, and both I and the hubby are all excited about learning what comes out of this crush.

I feel like a sixteen year old again.