Week 2 of Post Grad Life.
Hello from South Africa:
How unbelievable is this?! I am at my fourth continent of the year and with three of my closest girl friends from my master’s program, who I can truly call my global sisters. These are the same girls with whom I’ve got to travel all over the world this year and we finally got to have our one last trip together, and in South Africa of all places! What an absolute crazy reward and a total cherry on top of an amazing year!
For those of you who haven’t been keeping up, this was an all-expenses-paid trip sponsored by South African Airways. It was a video contest by Trevolta.com (a startup company that does crowd funding for travel trips). The video requirement was to film a short clip of four friends and what freedom means to us.
Here is the winning video:
The 16 Hour Plane Ride:
So my amazing trip with these girls started back in NYC. Colombia and I were on the same plane, whereas Dubai was flying out of Washington DC and France out of London. Oh my goodness that flight there was so damn long (16 hours), but it also went by pretty fast thanks to my ladies on each arm. I was sitting right in between Colombia and this sweet 80-year-old missionary woman. Her name was Joan and she was absolutely precious. As much as I hated how uncomfortable I felt sitting in the middle of a four-seater row, I had a lot of fun on that plane ride. It was 16 hours of no movies and chugging down bottomless wine with the two ladies beside me, and yes, that included Joan.
Colombia and I bonded so much with this lady. She was heading to Zimbabwe with pretty much the rest of the passengers on that plane for a missionary trip. We talked to her about everything from religion to boyfriends to our startup ideas. When we told her about our contest prize, her response was the best: “they should’ve at least given you girls business class… after all, you gals are business ladies.”
16 hours, a couple empty bottles of wine and no sleep later, we arrived to Johannesburg. Immigration was the biggest joke ever. Colombia and I had to go through different lines because of different visa requirements. She got held back for awhile actually because of her passport/boarding pass issue, but I had the funniest customs experience in my life. Recall the conversation with the immigration officer:
Officer: “What is your name?”
Me: “Hyojin Oh”
Officer: “How old are you?”
Officer: “Hm young. Are you traveling alone?”
Me: “No, I have a friend. She’s in the other line.”
Officer: “Oh, it’s another girl?!”
Me: “Uh yes…”
Officer: “So what did you do on the plane?”
Me: “Uh I slept and ate. The movies weren’t available.”
Officer: “And what did you eat on the plane?”
Me: “Uh lunch and breakfast.”
Officer: “What kind of food did you have?”
Me: “Uh scrambled eggs.”
Officer: “Did you have any South African wine?”
Me: “Yes, it was very good.”
Officer: “Oooo ok ok! Very good.”
After that, he stamped my passport and let me go with a big smile on his face. Haha, wtf.
Despite how great passing customs was, baggage claim was not as cooperative. Colombia and I waited for close to an hour for our bags, only to hear that the container with our luggage went missing and no one knew where it was. WTF. Colombia and I were so exhausted from our flight that the last thing we needed was to have our luggages be lost. No one at the airlines knew wtf was going on and had no idea where our bags were.
At one point, I got really paranoid that I caught the Ebola virus when I landed or something because I felt so feverish and faint. It hit me out of nowhere and I literally thought I was going to pass out any moment. Don’t worry… I think it was the 16+ hours of no sleep (I stayed up the night before so that I can sleep on the plane, but that backfired on me) and the wine that got to me all at once.
First Night in Johannesburg:
Later that night we went out to meet the founders of Trevolta at the Nelson Mandela Square. Their story of how they got the website started was pretty inspiring, I’ll definitely keep it in mind if I ever start a crowd-funding website.
Back at the hotel, the girls and I had such an amazing time bonding and catching up with each other. Again, we were only away from each other for one or two weeks, but we had hours and hours of stories to tell each other. I cannot imagine what it would be like when we actually have to live our own separate lives thousands of miles from one another. Scary and strange thought…
First Night in Cape Town:
The second day after breakfast, we headed straight to the airport again to fly to Cape Town. This past week, it honestly felt as though I’ve spent days at the airport, rotting away. Even when we landed, there wasn’t too much we could have done since it was raining. Just our luck…
We just strolled around and stumbled upon a gift shop, where we learned how to play the African drums:
Dinner was awesome. We literally went all out:
Day 2 in Cape Town:
Our third day, we went to the slums of Cape Town. That was a really strange experience of its own. We saw all the poor living conditions that people were living in and got to talk to some of them. Basically, they told us that they live with at least 10 different families in under one roof.
This is a little controversial, but I didn’t feel all that sympathetic, but rather upset at how dysfunctional the South African government was at actually trying to help the poor. So these slums are provided by the government to give the poor free housing. The problem is that, the people who live there will never leave. They’re not going to leave even if they have a good job because they choose to live there and take advantage of the free rent and being close to their community. The other part that bothered me was that these people were also trying to make money off of tourists by selling overpriced souvenirs and asking for money because we visited their homes. I understand that they’re poor and that we are privileged in so many ways, but I hated that it looked like they were putting on a show and then asking for money, especially since the tour guide lived there and was all in on the scheme. It seemed like all they were doing was taking and not actually asking for help to improve themselves. What upsets me the most was that this is a huge tourist attraction and a “must-see.”
The one really great thing about coming here though was seeing the school children. It was such an incredible feeling having a stampede of children running up to you because they’re just so happy to see you. They’re so different than American children. They were not at all reserved, but rather swarming and tackling you do get attention. It really brought a huge ear-to-ear smile to my face to be able to spend some time with these kids.
After that tour, I finally got back to the hotel to see that my suitcases finally made to Johannesburg. This was day THREE of having to wash and dry the same underwear (ew, I know), dress and my boyfriend’s oversized sweater in the middle of winter.
We had another amazing lunch and then headed out again for a penguin tour.
So now, imagine seeing wild penguins just roaming around everywhere. We were at this national park where you can literally see penguins standing only a couple feet away from you. The coolest part was seeing a huge herd (flock?) of penguins just chillen on the beach. I didn’t even know that there were penguins in South Africa. I thought they only existed in Antarctica! Woah is me.
Day 3 in Cape Town:
Day four of South Africa we were up at Table Mountain first thing after breakfast. The weather was so perfect and we were so ready to bring Dubai up on her first hike. She really wanted to take the easy way out and take the cable car up, but of course, the three of us girls would never let her do that. She was our little Herbie for the day, climbing up the first hike of her life.
The view going up the mountain was really incredible, but the top of the view wasn’t as great as I thought it would be. It sort of looked like the view from Stairway to Heaven, but not as great. For one, it was really foggy and two, nothing really beats Stairway to Heaven. However, of course, it was still nice to be able to share that moment with my girls. We actually ended up filming some dance moves on top of this boulder as part of our South Africa music video. Crazy.
As soon as we got back home after a day’s worth of touring, I literally passed out. I was way too exhausted, but because of my late night nap, I ended up staying out partying until almost at the crack of dawn… That was probably the stupidest thing I could’ve ever done.
Day 4 in Cape Town:
At the start of day 4 in Cape Town, we had an 8am pickup for our Robbin Island tour and I was beyond wasted and hungover that morning. I don’t know what was worse: the hour long boat ride getting to Robbin Island and almost puking from hangover+sea sickness or falling asleep during the tour when our guide was a freedom survivor.
Frankly, the only thing that really got me up and awake during that whole tour was when I was standing by the edge near the water and got completely soaked by one of the big splashes. That was not fun, but well deserved. I was such a hot mess that morning and was on the biggest struggle bus. I have no excuse for that. It was an awful experience and I will never do that again. Lesson learned.
Later in the afternoon, we went to a cheetah preservation… but I was frankly more interested in these fellas:
Then our chauffeur drove us out to the wine country and omg that view was SPECTACULAR. It was just one wine field after another with gorgeous high mountains in the background. He was such a champ too. I think he ended up driving us to like three different wineries because they were all closing and we wanted to do some wine tasting. We never got to do it unfortunately, but we did get a little creative on how we spent the rest of the afternoon:
On our way back to the hotel, he even drove us up to the peak of Lion’s Head for the sunset. He said it’s the best place to see the sunset in all of Cape Town, and he was totally right. It was magnificent. I wish these pictures could’ve captured that moment. Here, my Global-Eyes sisters and I had our little closing ritual of one of the best trips of this year together. It got quite emotional since we have no idea when and if the next time will be for all four of us to be together again.
When the sun was finally setting, I think my body was too. I had not slept since the night before and I really was starting to feel my body crash and burn. It was super hard to stay awake during dinner too, but I champed it out. All I wanted to do after eating was pass out for a goodnight sleep, especially since our flight back to Johannesburg was at 6am. BUT NO. The girls would NEVER allow me to do that. Instead, they dragged me out for one last hoorah, and of course, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.
Final Day of South Africa:
After a crazy night of partying, we made it onto our 6am flight just on time. Frankly, I don’t remember anything between security and waking up to see Dubai holding a doggie bag of puke. LOL. I’ve seen these happen in movies, but I never knew people actually use puke bags. Poor Dubai, but that shit was HILARIOUS.
We landed back in Johannesburg and took a long nap. Unfortunately afterwards, I had to say my last goodbye to them since my flight was the first one out and they had a show to catch. It was definitely bittersweet. I was so sad to leave, but also super stoked to go to my next destination: Hong Kong. I’m excited because I’ll be back in Asia, since I get to fly to Korea afterwards and see my family again.
So here I go again… I’m back at another airport, heading to a new continent and the start of a new life. My GEP chapter finally comes to an end as I say goodbye to my dear Global-Eyes Sisters. I will truly miss you girls and this crazy lifestyle that we’ve called “normal” for the past year. I’m excited to go off to Hong Kong and see what sort of crazy adventures I’ll find myself in.
xoxo from Johannesburg,