The Year of the South African World Cup

This year has been one of fantastic adventures and difficult challenges. Alisa and I began the year in Washington DC having started entry level jobs at the most innovative technology company on the planet, but with no real plan for the future other than to save up and return to Africa, where hopefully we would find employment. When the email came from FIFA on the 5th of February notifiying me that I had won tickets to all the matches I had submitted for during the random drawing, it gave me what I thought would be new purpose to life. I finally had confirmed tickets to return to the country I had fallen in love with only 3 years earlier. It would finally give me a reason to book my plane tickets and set off, hoping that Alisa would tag along for the World Cup part even though she sought to find a ‘real’ job in Washington DC. The year took on new meaning when just seven days later, I received another email accepting me into the African Studies Program at the University of Califorinia – Los Angeles.

I had lost hope of getting into graduate school when I saw my GRE scores flash on the screen the previous December. I thought I had blown my money on apps and the test as well as the chance to improve my chances for ‘real’ employment in the near future. So when UCLA sent the confirmation email of my acceptance, I was relived and surprised that I had got in. That surprise grew when just a few weeks later I learned that the Masters of Public Diplomacy at the University of Southern California had also extended it’s acceptance letter to me. Suddenly I had a reason to return to the United States after the World Cup, and I set out to convince Alisa to embark on this journey of a lifetime. Continue reading

Review: Kumuka Worldwide

The decision to go with an Overland Tour to complete our bucket list of places to visit in Southern Africa was one that we arrived upon late into our two months in the region, but in the end provided us an opprounity to visit places that would have been very cost prohibitive had we done it on our own. Victoria Falls was number one on Alisa’s list, and as I had wanted to take the opportunity to visit Botswana, we looked for a trip that would cover both of these. Since we were approaching the end of our trip, money was becoming tight, thus finding the right option, time and cost wise, was imperative. Our search was extensive, but Alisa decided on Kumuka Worldwide as our best bet because they fit the timeframe we wanted, had an affordable cost, and had openings on the upcoming trip. Booking last minute proved to be difficult with some of the other companies so we quickly made the booking at Kumuka as Alisa assured me that I would be able to buy Travel Insurance through World Nomads (Kumuka requires travel insurance, and it was very easy to purchase from World Nomads). Our trip from Victoria Falls to Johannesburg was booked, so now we had to get up to the starting point. Continue reading

Botswana with Kumuka: Our Overland Tour

Since we had first come to South Africa in 2007, we had heard the great stories of people who had the opprotunity to visit Chobe National Park and the Okavango Delta in Botswana. Many had described the experience as magical, and once in a lifetime, but a trip there had always been out of reach for us because of the costs. Many had said that doing it on the cheap by on your own was no feasible and not worth the effort. However, to go the ‘proper’ way cost thousands of dollars for the flight to your 5 star resort/lodge in the Delta.

Alisa was determined to make it to Victoria Falls this time in Africa while I had made list of the Etosha Pan, the Delta, and Chobe on my list of things to do.  Upon looking at options for overland tours that would bring us to the Falls and incorporate the rest of our wish list, Alisa stumbled across numerous tours and organizations, but finally decided on Kumuka Worldwide, and their overland trip through Bostwana that originated in Victoria Falls and returned us to Joburg. It was also in our budget range, which made it seem like a great way for us to see three of our outstanding destinations.

Getting to Victoria Falls was half the fun, and you can read about our journey to Bulawayo and our train journey to Victoria Falls here.

For Botswana, we weren’t able to post updates as we went, so here is a recap of our journey with links below. We’ll add more days and we finish filling in the details on our notes of those days.

Best of Botswana Pictures


Flight Over the Delta

15 July

We wake at 0630 in order to pack up camp, and I’m still wondering whether there is another game walk, as I could have sworn during our briefing there was a mention of some activity in the morning. But we take all of our supplies directly to our beachfront and load up the makoros. We wait for Dixon and are soon off.

Along the way I chat with Dixon about his villages soccer team, The Big 5, and his family. He also tells us that the government has placed a plan on any new construction of wooden makoros. I expect him to take this opportunity to ask for some contribution or for a piece of soccer apparel, but he doesn’t. He’s been professional throughout and Alisa and I have developed an actual friendship with him, that is rare in on time in Africa. So often your guide makes you feel like they are just buttering you up in order for you to give them something. I’m not found of this type of ongoing paternalism and have made it a point not to leave anything behind or give anything away to the men we’ve encountered. Continue reading