sydney day 5 – (8/2)

saturday was all about the wine country! knowing how much of a food/wine lover i am, my trip would not be complete without some exploration into the Australian wine country.

7:45 am we headed north with Rae to the Hunter Valley wine region. about 3 hours north of Sydney, Hunter Valley is known primarily for their Semillion’s. white wine is really not my thing, but it was an opportunity to learn something new!

“cellar doors” is what Aussies call their tasting rooms, and there is no fee to taste. the tastes are very small, and the education about the wine is pretty basic. because there were a few really new wine drinkers in our group, i listened to the “how to make wine” schpeel a few times. the biggest difference that i could pick up through tasting is the whites of australia can be VERY VERY light, so if you’re looking for a crisp cold – water like – glass of wine, AUS Hunter Valley is perfect. there were a few reds, which were very good. i learned that these bigger bolder reds come from the southern parts of West Australia – Margaret River, and South Australia – Wrattonbully. i was underwhelmed by the Hunter Valley, but i know more about wine from this region than i did when i arrived!!

dinner back in sydney was at a recommended singaporean chili crab restaurant, and boy was that an experience! mud crabs are enormous, their shells thick and very hard to crack, and this restaurant charged us $75 a kilo for the “golden crab” we ate. i have never heard of a $200 crab, let alone had one for dinner. OY!!! mud crab will always be the crab made of gold.

cheers mate!

cape town – being here

friday march 18 bishop court cape town, sa – 5:00 am

I have met the most interesting people and seen some of the most beautiful beaches, gardens and mountains in the world. I am in paradise, there is no question – but there is also still a struggle and tension here that is palpable. the questioning look (who are you, what do have, why are you here) comes equally from the blacks and whites. the coloreds have been the most open and friendly which is probably because they’ve been the most persecuted, and the most like us – mixed blood (African and other).

it wasn’t until yesterday (3/17) that I felt like I was finally on south african time – about 3 days to totally adjust, and I’ve heard that’s about what it takes. i’m 9 hrs different and chatting with ‘m’ has been pretty easy. I catch him as he’s winding down and I’m waking up. he’s so sick while I’m here and I feel really bad that I’m not there to take care of him, but I know he wants this experience for me as much as I’ve wanted it.

the kids arrive on saturday, they will be in London with a 10 hr layover in a few hours. I am so excited for them to get here, for us to start our real adventure.

we’ve attended three official events with auntie g (she is now known as auntie ‘the bomb’ gc – general consulate). I’ve always had a unspeakable bond to my auntie g. she bought me my first set of make up brushes, my first leather career briefcase, and she’s always encouraged me to go after what i want. she is my mentor, she is the beacon for me that says women can do anything they want. I only hope I be that for someone else.
the first event was an honoring of the Japanese diplomat due to the horrific earthquake in his home country. there I met women from here in SA – and of all things we talked about relationships and men. It’s the same all over the world ladies! smart talented women are single by choice, or have been told how intimidating they are…
we met dips (that’s how my aunt refers to the diplomats), from Botswana, France, Columbia, and of course Japan. There are over 15 countries represented here in SA, everyone is so nice but the accents are extraordinary. my brother says he’s never listened so hard before in his life. lol

the next event was a potluck luncheon for my aunts staff at the consulate. green cupcakes, green punch, Irish stew and soda bread with green butter. St Patty’s day didn’t go uncelebrated! I think this is when we realized just how important she really is. If the house (3 doors down from N. Mandela’s, and the arch bishop’s home is around the corner) with gates and guards, if the vehicles with armor plated doors, the trained drivers and bullet proof glass didn’t clue us in – visiting the US consulate solidified it. I probably can’t even type what it was like due to security – so I wont, but know that the United States is very well represented, and very well loved because of my aunt where ever she is stationed in the world.

party number three was last night – private gathering at the former ambassadors home on the waterfront, modern, classy condo that I could just put my things in the closet and be right at home. The party was to bring together great friends – 14 Americans and 14 South Africans. we met a lot of people from the Carolina’s (Duke and UNC alums), they were a ton of fun, and we met the most charming woman named Di. she is the former mayoris of Cape Town. she really was the most amazing woman, who told us about her 4 careers, her move to SA at 6 yrs old after her grand parents were killed by Germans, and her work to help people (black, white and colored) to cross their own personal divide and see each other not for the wrongs of the past but as individuals. at 92 yrs old she was so insightful and bright and the perfect energy for us to take with us for the rest of our stay. I met a young lady from Pittsburg who had almost the same “new job” experience as me – except her move wasn’t Sea to SF – it was US to CPT. she landed a graduate professor position at university of capetown 6 months ago. so smart, so beautiful, and so down to earth. I also met Ester who has put 980 young people into university here. she was an urban planning engineer who saw kids who wanted to go to school but didn’t know how to navigate the system, so she made some connections and is now working to make sure kids who desire college have a way to get there. now if you know me, and my passion for education you probably know where this is headed. there will be a trip to visit her kids before we leave!
there was a Lady and Duke present, a woman who grew up in Everett (yes Everett WA – where I grew up – the world is very small), a fabulous woman from Chicago who is almost 70 (looks 40) and retired. she spends 3-6 months a year in Cape Town, plays tennis and throws her own birthday parties – sound familiar?

and then there is the Denzel Washington part of these first 5 days. the night we arrived, (after the Japanese party) we drove around the city to get our bearings. We saw the stadium – so pretty at night, the waterfront, and passed the One and Only hotel where my aunt casually mentioned – Denzel is in town filming a movie and staying there. okay, no big deal, Denzel is in town (wrong-totally a big deal!!!). we’ve passed this hotel a few times, on our tour bus ride (which was amazing), and coming and going to the various events so I did some research on it. a six star hotel that is located obviously here in CT, the Bahamas, Dubai (2), Mexico, Maldives, and Mauritius. places I dream of visiting, but since I’m here I’m thinking we should check it out, right, and the little tiny fact that Denzel is staying there doesn’t hurt. so after the green punch lunch we have a few hours until the ambassador party and my aunt drops us off so we can do the other half of the bus tour from the day before. we were again only a block from the hotel so I think it was calling us to come see it! the other thing I haven’t mentioned is how great this has been to be here with my brother. these are experiences and memories with him that I will cherish forever! we make our way to the bar in the lobby which opens up to breathtaking view of table mountain. Its only been a few days and the mountain is everywhere and I already feel like I’m becoming accustomed to just seeing it (not quite taking it for granted, but just seeing it). We had wine and cheese, talked a lot with the staff – people are so smart, and when you make that “individual” connection everyone is very nice. I really wanted a pedicure (full spa day is coming hopefully) but pedi was needed ASAP. I got an appt, had to wait about an hour and that’s when our new friends working in the bar told us that when Mr Washington returns from filming he has tea and chills in the bar area with his assistant for a few hours – everyday! cool to know, but we have another event to attend, and my pedi should be finished by 5:45 so we would most likely be gone before he returned. the good thins is we can say we hung out in the One and Only for a few hours. the pedicure was the BEST of my life – not being dramatic, it honestly was an experience I would HIGHLY recommend if you’re ever find yourself in or near a One and Only hotel or in London/Paris and can get an appt. there are only 7 places in the world providing this pedicure and only 4 people in all of SA trained to give it. it was a dry treatment designed by dr basiten gonzalez (google him!). It was spendy, but 100% worth it! now this is where things get good, but first they went sideways. the pedi was suppose to be an hour, but i bonded with celeste – the woman doing my treatment. we talked and laughed about men, tattoos, kids, travel, and shopping while she educated me about the treatment and assigned homework. durning all of this I missed 2 calls from my auntie. we were supposed to get picked up to go to a short engagement before the ambassadors party but I didn’t hear the phone. and man, my brother was pissed, but what was done was done and it wasn’t intentional. when I reached my aunt back by phone it was 6:20, she said not to worry, she’d pick us up around 7PM. the evening weather was perfect so we hung outside around the sea water lagoon – watched this guy do kayak laps. we talked about the classes of people and segregation in south africa (whites, then blacks, then coloreds). right before 7 we decided to go back inside and make our way to the front of the hotel for an easy pick up and as we walked in I saw two men sitting in the corner. one of them caught my eye and smiled – I smiled back, he looked American and out of the corner of my eye I thought the man he was with looked Denzel-ish. we kept walking and I turned and quickly looked to confirm then whispered to my brother, that Denzel was sitting to our right-he had totally missed him. my brother glanced over and couldn’t believe I had spotted him. we didn’t freak out, we calmly walked to the front of the lobby and freaked out (quietly and out of their view!). now to decide what to do….I’ve seen and been introduced to a handful of famous people, but I’ve never approached someone on my own. I just don’t do it – I feel like they get hounded enough, and I may smile and acknowledge them but I’ve never interrupted what they’re doing and asked for a photo. I did ask Phil Jackson for his autograph once but that’s really the only person I can think of that I’ve approached. back to Denzel…my brother decides he can’t pass this up, that we should just say hello, so he walks back into the bar area and approaches them, while I am frozen in place watching from the top of the stairs. Denzel looks like he wasn’t bothered at all by my brother approaching him and I see them all look my way (sh!t)! now the voice in my head is saying (dork walk over there, you look like to fool standing way over here when they know you’re together!). I get my feet to move, I don’t trip and fall down the stairs and I make my way to this beautiful man sitting drinking his tea. he stands, extends his amazingly soft hand and asks my name and where I’m from. I speak (I think) and he continues to just hold on to my hand and look me dead in my eyes. I think there was more small talk – it’s all a blur. when he finally let my hand go, I introduced myself to his assistant (the man who originally caught my eye and smiled) Bobby. It all took about 5 minutes if that, but it was incredible. I think the best part was as we were leaving, my brother again told Denzel how much he appreciated him and started to say the line from American Gangster “my man” but he stopped. Denzel smiled his amazing smile, and said his famous line twice while giving my brother the black man handshake. Priceless.

cape town – getting here

getting there: sunday 13 san francisco 8:50 am

this trip has been 4 years in the making. it’s been planned, postponed, passport obtained in jan 2008 but surgeries, job changes, promotions, graduations and life continued to stand in the way of me and my journey across the world.

visiting my aunt, watching her work has been something I’ve wanted to do. from the time she was working in paris until now. she is my personal role model, the closest thing I have had to seeing a woman go after her goals, achieve them and raise her children along the way to be strong productive adults.

this trip was planned before the world wind apple transition, before the move to san francisco, and I’m happy these 2 weeks have been able to be accommodated by the new team. what wasn’t planned was the sudden influenza that attacked our home. scheduled to leave early saturday morning, I was trying to get last-minute things taken care of on Friday night manicure, brows waxed…stuff like that. I knew he had stayed home from work Thursday and Friday due to cough, but by the time I got home there was major illness going on. fever, chills, cough, delirium (it was bad). how do you pack and plan to take a 29 hour trip with your SO is crazed with flu?? needless to say, I didn’t. took the over the counter cold/flu remedies, took the temp through the night, called the nurse line even when things were at their worse and in the morning I called the airline to change my ticket. I needed to get him to a doctor, see exactly what we were dealing with and then take my trip from there.
dr. “see ya on saturday-membership healthcare” saw us, and was actually great. my mister definitely had the full blow version of the flu, and to be quite honest, I don’t think I had ever met the flu before. he got some codeine cough meds, and tamiflu to kill the virus in 5 days. knowing that I had been exposed to this ugly ugly sickness and wasn’t trying to make friends with it I asked if there was a chance this was contagious and if so what I needed to do. I learned that influenza is a social virus and it loves to meet as many new people as possible – sign me up for that tamiflu as well.

doc gave me a note to get my flight change fees waived, good karma pays back good karma! the initial change was done at 4 am on saturday prior to my 7:50 am flight. the agent wasn’t so helpful, and I ended up with a ticket 7 days away leaving my 2 week planned trip cut in half. once we had the diagnosis, and the medication I called delta and ended up with the what I had originally requested – a flight the next day.

sunday 13 atlanta ga, – 6:30 pm

airports, flights, people and their attitudes – wow! crossing the pond at the smallest point – didn’t know this is how it happened. fly north to nova scotia and cross over.
the cutest baby was in front of me traveling from Atlanta to mumbi via Amsterdam. With her was her mom and her grandmother who was more of a handful than the baby. She appeared to be very old – in her 90’s maybe and she was being taken back to India to live. the mom was very brave, but she said when there is no choice to travel with your baby and elder mom, you’re not brave, you’re just doing what has to be done.

so only an hour left on this flight and then it’s the big daddy of my legs – 11hrs from Amsterdam to Cape Town. we just flew over Ireland and we’re headed over the body of water between Ireland and England. It’s crazy that I’ve come all this way.

monday 14 amsterdam nl, – 10:30 am

met a few nice people traveling to CPT from NC and ATL. we hung out in the airport, trying to get connected to wifi with barely any luck, went through the full body imaging security scanners and talked about our strategy to make it through the 11 plus hour flight. I was going to try to sleep during the first half and stay awake at the end. No such luck. window seats are not kind, economy is not kind. cream cheese sandwich is bizarre and water in a little jello cup is interesting. I am definitely not in kansas anymore. we are flying almost straight down Africa’s northern half and hitting the western coast at the horn (port harcourt). everything is in Dutch, first languages spoken for announcements are not mine, and I wonder how the ‘amazing racers’ do this….
can’t get past the cigarette smell on this plane, it’s like it’s a a part of the walls, and seats. crazy – it’s night outside, we’ve flown from morning to night. it will be close to 12 hours, seen sun up and sun down. slept a few hours, mind over matter with the claustrophobic feeling of my legs being in this tight space, and finally settled in with two movies, a few meals and some small talk. man I need a shower!!