New Year’s on the Town (Cape Town That Is!)

I arrived at my hotel in Capetown, a little dazed from the events of the night before I and wondering what South Africa had in store for me. Well, starting off, the hotel said they didn’t have my reservation but the hotel had been booked for months. I tried to stay composed as I asked to speak to the manger, but I was terrified. This couldn’t be happening!  What would I do, and on New Year’s Eve, no less. Luckily the manager found a room for me, but said I still had to pay out of pocket. I considered myself blessed that I had the money to pay. I walked to a convenience store, bought a pack of cigarettes, and a phone card and started a series of call to Orbitz Customer Care to settle the situation. An hour later, with the situation resolved, I settled down to rest and figure out what to do with my night.

Nothing fits. I’m fat! I was having anxiety problems trying to figure out what to wear. I didn’t have that many options anyway. I finally threw on a black halter top and pants, did my make-up and walked down the street to a club called Cubana. I paid the admission and headed straight to the bar. I was apprehensive – here I was, in a new city by myself, at a club by myself, hoping to have fun on New Years. Everyone was there in groups. I had no place to stand, no one to talk to. I felt extremely lonely even though I was in the midst of people partying, dancing and laughing. I was hoping that getting drunk as quickly as possible would help me loosen up. The bartender was cute: tall, chocolate colored, with what looked like a perpetual smirk on his face. He made me smile. I ordered two shots of tequila and a Heineken. I slid one of the shots to him, raised my glass and we drank together. I ordered another shot, smiled flirtatiously, and walked off feeling warm and thinking the night may have some possibilities.

I walked around, danced but still felt like I needed more to drink. I went back to my same bartender and asked for two more shots. He flirted, saying that he would fix me a real drink for New Years and that he would be the one giving me my New Year’s kiss. Oh really? I took him up on his offer, coming back to the bar 5 minutes to midnight. He started putting together an elaborate show of glasses stacked on top of glasses and multiple liquors mixed together. The people at the bar started looking at us. The DJ started counting down. 10! 9! 8! He lit the drink on fire and poured in the last shot. I drank the liquid fire to the cheers of the patrons at the bar. Drink, drink, drink! 3! 2! 1! HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Cheers went up. People clapped. Couples kissed. I looked over the bar at the bartender like where is my kiss? He quickly came from behind the bar, grabbed me and kissed me like the rest of the club didn’t exist. I swooned – partly from the alcohol, the rest was from him.

I partied hard the rest of the night, dancing everywhere, flirting with white boys. I left and walked down the street to the gay bars. I sat down and starting chatting, drunkenly telling some of them how cute they looked. Sometime during the night at Cubana, I had gotten a hold of a pink feather stole and gay men constantly kept coming up to me telling me I looked FABULOUS. I met a fag hag, a 50+ lady who seemed to know every gay man at the bar. We talked about her dress and together we cussed out a druggie who came up to beg a cigarette from me and then told me to fuck off. I ate a hot dog from the man selling hot dogs on the corner. I danced in the street with people I didn’t know. In otherwords, I had a great time! I finally found my way back to the hotel and fell into bed around 5:00 AM.

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Discovering Mauritius

**I know that these posts are behind…but let’s pretend like I posted them the day after they happened. umkay? **

Today, I rolled over in bed at 7:00 AM wondering why in the hell would I book an 8:00 tour when I am supposed to be on vacation. I was still tired from the night before, a late night drinking and talking to the band. I was sitting at the bar, talking to Damish when I noticed all of them staring at me. They were all brown-skinned, what I would consider visibly black with obvious African ancestry. Different than most Mauritians I had seen – most of them looked like East Indians. I walked over to them and said, “Well, since everyone is looking at me, I might as well introduce myself.” I asked about where they were from, telling them that I hadn’t seen many people that were dark-skinned. They were incredulous, saying there were a lot of them around and I must not have been many places on the island.

Its interesting how I felt a need to categorize them, I wanted to know, were they Black, like me. They obviously identified with me a little because they noticed me versus all the other patrons. I also wondered if, like other places in the world, they were marginalized because of their dark skin. Destined to be on the bottom of the hierarchy and live in the invisible places of Mauritius. However, they considered themselves Mauritians and offered no extra explanations. The piano player did tell me that his ancestors were from Zambia. We exchanged email addresses and promised to correspond, although truthfully, I lost the paper. I hope they email me…

The tour guide, Thierry, was a slight-framed guy of Indian descent with light brown eyes, incredible eyelashes and a quiet demeanor. I was a little fascinated by him and how before answering a question he would look down, his long eyelashes on his cheek, considering what he would say before speaking.

There was only one family on the tour with me, a couple from Romania but living in London. He was a huge burly guy that looked like he could have been a bouncer or an extra in a Russian mob movie. He was accompanied by his small wife decked out in a designer outfit and heels, completely inappropriate for roaming through South Mauritius and two little blond girls. When they found out I was American, they tried to engage me in conspiracy theories about 9-11 and how they were sure that people knew it was going to happen. The husband told me that I should watch the movie Zeitgeist and I would know the truth. I will definitely put that on my Netflicks list. They talked about money a lot…too much actually. How much he made in construction, how much their vacation cost, the price of fuel, blah, blah, blah.

They day was pretty uneventful. We went to Casela, a kind of garden and zoo. The birds were in cages and you couldn’t really look at them closely. There was mud everywhere and it was hot and sticky. I realized at that moment, that while exploring nature is cool in theory, I’m not really cut out for it in reality. I wanted to sit down somewhere with a cool drink. When we went to the view the waterfalls, I gave them a cursory glance since they definitely didn’t compare to Victoria Falls and walked back down the pathway to the car. At Charamel, the Seven Colored Earth, I took a couple of pictures and sat down to smoke a cigarette. Air-conditioning please. At the end of the day, we dropped the Romanian family at their hotel. I had come to enjoy watching the little girls flit around the parks with so much excitement.

Thierry had been great with the girls, patient but firm, like maybe he had children of his own. I asked if he was married. He answered that he used to be. He continued that his marriage and divorce was a love story until it wasn’t. I was curious, but felt that if he had wanted to expound he would have done so without my prodding. We rode the rest of the way to my hotel without speaking. When we reached my stop, Thierry asked me if I would like to meet him and his friends for drinks. Really? Wow. I had no idea this man was even thinking about me, even though I had been sneaking peeks at him the entire day. He gave me his number and told me to call.

Marriage and Divorce in Mauritius

This morning I made arrangements to go parasailing. I couldn’t just sit on the beach all day. So around noon, a big Mauritian guy named Chulo came to pick me up and take me on my adventure. On the way, we stopped at another hotel, I assumed to pick someone up, but Chulo told me his wife works there. She quit him two weeks ago. Fin, as he put it. I asked why but he seemed to be at a loss. Poor papi chulo…

I arrived and was the only one to go out at that time. My gracious hosts were two Mauritians, Paupu and Naved. The ride there was amazing. This is the first place that I have been where it seems like you can actually see where the sky ends and the water begins. It’s like you can see the color of the sky and the color of the water and there is this thin bright blue line that separates them. It’s gorgeous.

They have me sit down in my haunches and they start letting out the line. I start going up in the air and I’m having so much fun. I’m waving my arms and yelling. Then I look at the contraption holding me. So you mean, if these metal things (that look suspiciously like bookbag straps) break then I fall butt-first into the water. I start thinking, what am I doing with my life. How many crazy things must you do before enough is enough: jet skiing and falling into the ocean in Thailand, bungy jumping off Victoria Falls, swimming with sharks in the Dominican Republic. Well, who cares. Who-hoo! I’m touching clouds man!

After my parasailing excursion, I decide to explore Grand Baie, a little shopping and tourist area. I have no idea where I am, or even how I am going to get home, but I figure that I might as well check it out while I am there. I just start walking and wander into a few shops. Every shop seems to only have clothes in sizes 0-2. The ladies all look at me like, “we have nothing for you, you fat American.” I stop and get some food off the street, a roti filled with peppers and some other stuff. It’s delicious and only 8 Rupees – which is like 25 cents. I keep walking and run into a gelato place. The owner is nice, her name is Anna. She says she has owned the place for 2 years and stays in Mauritius for 5 months and France for the other 7 months. Is that the life or what?

I start to get tired of walking around. I’m not planning to buy anything since they only make clothes in baby sizes. Plus, I’m not really a chotsky type of person. I hate buying stuff just to say I bought it somewhere. Sorry, god-daughter, there will be no necklaces made from real Mauritian sea shells on this trip. I buy some cheese and crackers to go with my wine tonight while trying to blot out what Sebastian told me yesterday – the worst thing about drinking by yourself is going to bed alone. F… you, Sebastian.

When I get back, I decide that I need more excitement. I want to go kayaking. The manager at the boat house is reluctant. The waves are pretty choppy today. Maybe tomorrow, he says. I explain that I will be gone tomorrow on an excursion and leaving the next day. He asks me where I’m from and I tell him from the US. His assistant slyly asks about my husband. I tell him that there is no husband. The boathouse manager is estatic. Hey! I’ve been looking for a wife to stay with me in Mauritius, hey says, grinning at me with 2 missing teeth and the remaining not far behind. If it gets me into that kayak today, I would agree to be his third wife. We make a deal and off I go.

After a few wrong turns where I almost run straight into the rocks, I get the hang of it and start pedaling towards the ocean when I hear screaming from the beach. Come back! Don’t go too far! I turn back reluctantly, but I stay right by the edge of the reef and make up my own little game where I row with all my might towards the incoming waves. As the waves crash over the boat, I just laugh. At one point, I was trying to get the water out of my boat and I happened to look up. A wave was coming. Unlike the other ones that kind of fizzled out towards the end and just slightly rocked my kayak, this one seemed to be gaining momentum Uh-oh. This one looks kind of scary. I start to row but the wave overpowers me and tips my boat to the side. My hair!!! I right myself and look back towards the beach. My husband to be is doubled over in laughter. Hmph. That right there is grounds for divorce!

French Men Aren’t Gay…They Just Look That Way

Yesterday while laying on the beach, there was a young man laying on a beach chair beside me. I kept waiting for his girlfriend/wife to show up, but she never did. Could he possibly be here alone too? I saw him again at dinner, sitting solo just like me. I asked the waiter to inquire if I could join him. We introduced ourselves – he was Sebastian, from Marseilles, France. A cute, young thing. Tanned from endless beach parties and walking along the road with his backpack. As the night went on, I found out he was 26 years old, taking a vacation while he thought about if he was ready to settle down with the girl he had been dating for a year. We swapped traveling stories. I told him about the dancing on the tables in Singapore and the brothels in Cambodia, he told me about the falling out drunk on the beach in Panama and going yachting with some rich gay boys in Los Angeles.

Are you gay?

No.

Ok. Just wondering.

You see, Americans have no sense of fashion, he said, gesturing to his skinny jeans, loafers without socks and Polo sweater. To Americans, all French men look gay.

Hmm… (I didn’t tell him that regardless of his fashion choices, the gay men in every one of his stories was the actual giveaway)

After the band finished singing, we decided to go sit by the pool and put our feet in the water. I wondered aloud why all the couples of dinner ate in silence. Had they run out of things to talk about? Were they wishing they were there with someone else? He had noticed the same thing and said it was the reason why he was traveling alone. He didn’t want him and his girlfriend to end up like that. Well, he could always tell her about the gay boys…that’s something they should definitely talk about.

I don’t know. Maybe a quiet dinner with the one you love means that you are completely comfortable with them, even in silence.

We met the next morning for breakfast and talked about our plans for the day. He was leaving. Seems Sebastian is a rolling stone. He has an international network of friends and has the money to travel the world to visit them. Must be nice.

What Was I Thinking?

I may have made a little mistake on the last post. I’m not cut out to be a beach bum. I think it might be like dying a slow death if all I had to do everyday was just sit on the beach. Today I just meandered around, put on my swimsuit and sat on a rock in the sea, letting the waves crash upon me. Then I layed out in one of the beach chairs and read, thought, looked around, thought some more. I wanted to do some kayaking or waterskiing but the people in the beach house said the water was too rough so I just layed around. The plan was to have a massage at 4, drink a glass of wine and take a nap before dinner. The massage was great but since I found that since I hadn’t done a damn thing all day, I wasn’t even slightly tired. So, I watched a couple episodes of The Office in French and got dressed for dinner like I was actually to meet someone.

Luckily, I found an agent who set me up with an excursion for Tuesday to go site-seeing. I’ll try the watersports tomorrow and if that doesn’t work, then I am going to go to Grand Baie and find some watersports there. I am going waterskiing or parasailing before I leave this island.

Not a Single Thing

All I have to say is – what in the hell was I thinking about on Friday! Why in the hell have I waited to go on vacation by myself?

Last night, after drinking three Phoenix beers (a local Mauritius brand), I sang along with the band, danced barefoot, and smoked cigarettes lit by one of the cute Mauritian waiters (I don’t normally smoke cigarettes. I just felt like smoking on this vacation, makes me feel grown and sexy). I woke up this morning and didn’t have to worry about being quiet in order to let other people sleep. I turned on my music, got dressed and went to breakfast where my cute waiter friend Damish was waiting with coffee and fruit. I made an appointment for a massage (uhmmm, why don’t they have bikini waxes here??), checked on possible excursions and now I’m sitting on the beach typing this. I didn’t have to organize with other folks, didn’t have to make conversation at breakfast, didn’t have to do anything but just be me. I don’t have a single thing to do. I DON”T HAVE A SINGLE THING TO DO!

Maybe most people would be intimidated by this amount of idleness, but I’ve decided that I should do this for a living. I’m loving it.

Packed and Ready to Go

I am sitting in the lounge at the Lagos International Airport waiting on the flight that will start me on my big girl adventure: A 10 day trip to Mauritius and Cape Town – All by myself. I packed for this trip with a mixture of feelings. On one hand, I was excited. Look at me! Going on my first vacation alone! I have gotten to the point where I can take myself to an island off the coast of Madagascar and then hang out in the southern part of the African continent. This is wilder than my wildest dreams. But on the other hand, I was a little sad: Look at me! Going on my first vacation ALONE. I never dreamed I would be 31 and forced to go on vacation by myself.

A financial accomplishment but a personal failure, of sorts.

And honestly, I’m scared that this will be the first of many vacations that I’ll be taking by myself…because all of my married girlfriends will be too busy working or taking care of their families. I’ll be the eccentric but fabulous, continent-crossing, no-husband-having auntie who wears peasant shirts, Birkenstock sandals, an armful of bangles and dreads down my back. (Me! Own a pair of Birkenstock sandals? God Forbid!) I’ll bring my god-children gifts from all over the world like gold medallions from Bali, hand-woven fabrics from Ghana and fertility sculptures from some rainforest in Ecuador. They will look at me like, “what am I going to do with these?” I’ll leave behind an array of lovers half my age in all colors of the rainbow and when I finally do come back to the States, I’ll sit around in my girlfriend’s kitchens telling bawdy stories about being drunk and dirty dancing on a bar in Marrakesh. My girlfriends will laugh and say, wow, your life is so exciting while they whisper behind my back about how scandalous I am. They will take solace in kissing their children’s foreheads while they sleep and laying in the crook of their husband’s arms.

So needless to say, I’m apprehensive. I’ve successfully crossed the first hurdle of living internationally. Now, my first vacation by myself. Well, at least I can say that I surely have lived.

South Africa

So, I don’t have a lot of internet time but I am in South Africa! I’ve been here going on a week and have about one more week left. So here is a quick breakdown of what’s been going on so far:

Day 1 – Saturday/Sunday:
18 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg sitting next to a guy in my school who refers to himself in third person and like he is a corporation. The only good thing about this seating arrangement is that I refreshed myself in chess. The planes were so cool. We had movies and games on demand. I was able to watch the movie Tsotsi, a South African independent film that won a lot of awards.

Land in Jo’berg and go to lunch at Wandi’s. It was in Soweto and was a shebeen, one of the few places where blacks could go to drink during apartheid. Now it’s kind of a tourist/after Sunday church spot. They serve what I call a soul food buffet.

Then we went to the Hector Pieterson memorial, which is named after the first student to get shot in the Soweto riots. We also went to Mandela’s old neighborhood and house and his new neighborhood and house.

Later that night at the hotel we went to a restaurant close to our hotel in the Nelson Mandela mall. It was a Thai restaurant, absolutely delicious.

Monday – I was sick all day. I already had some kind of cough but mixed with hundreds of people’s germs for 18 hours just made it worse. I spent the day sleep in the hotel and later that night made an excursion to the local emergency room. Health care there…pretty much sucks.

Okay…I finished the post and my credit ran out. I’m pissed but I’ll update on the rest later.

I still can’t believe that I’m in Africa!!