South Africa Part II: Kruger Park and Cape Town

In the last installment, I arrive in South Africa which is the home nation of my lovely girlfriend. I explore Joburg, meet her dad, and experience the chill South African lifestyle of braais.

Now, the real part of the trip was to begin.

All the while, I should mention, Trevor Noah loomed in the background. Yes, by coincidence it was the same week that Trevor started at the Daily Show! I’ve always been a big fan of Jon Stewart and I was really looking forward to it. It was a big deal, his face was everywhere. South Africa seems to be pretty proud of their native son taking over my countries best political comedy show. His face was on every newspaper. Especially after the now legendary Trump-as-African-dictator bit.

(Although the place we mostly stayed at had cable, soon I would be without it, without even Wi-Fi on my laptop to catch up with TV. I’d eventually catch up, I always do, but to tell the truth being off the grid was hard on me. More on that in a moment. )

Also, people paid attention to the Rugby World Cup. Not only am I an American, I am an American who doesn’t follow sports. I didn’t really care. People seem to care a lot still. Something or other happened, Japan, Samoa, Wales, New Zealand. I don’t know.

Okay, on with the story.

 

Days Five to Nine

Day Five was a busy day. In the morning we went to downtown Pretoria and saw the capital Union Buildings. Then, transferred to another parent and in the evening we were to spend time with the mother. Again, I was anxious. Again, it was no big deal and everyone was totally welcoming.

I suppose being in one’s thirties, parents would have to accept whomever their daughter chooses to be with. Even me.

An uneventful evening, and then the next day the trip to the Kruger Park began!

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Oh no, I knew it would partake of some driving, I knew it would be a challenge, but I didn’t know it would be that much driving.

My girlfriend’s mother’s husband drove, and we sat in the back. For days on end, we were driven around sitting in the back. Felt as if I was twelve-years old again.

Luckily I had my iPod. Got a lot of audiobook listening done: Gun Machine by Warren Ellis. I recommend it, a good listen.

First day out, a slow drive north with many stops at sleepy little towns where there’s nothing to do but buy postcards and trinkets from locals. Finally we arrived at Grasskop to stay at log cabin guesthouses on the night before the Kruger Park camping started. A nice town, an interesting art hotel nearby, and we ate decent Portuguese food.

Another thing about these old people I was hanging out with, they are serious morning people. Nice people, absolutely generous people who are kind enough to support and show me around their country on this tour. But seriously morning people. And I happen to be not. Had to get used to that.

At dawn left for the Kruger Park. Finally made it!

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The way the Kruger Park conservation park works, is that it’s not some zoo with animals on display for you. It’s an enormous area the size of a city or province. The animals simply go about their life. There is a fence around the edges, and I’m sure the rangers control the animal populations to some degree. Yet for the most part the animals are living exactly as they would in the wild, and any visitor can certainly get the sense that this is no zoo. No zoo pretensions here, it’s totally authentic nature, the way South Africans like it.

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One just drives around, on dirt roads, following a map if one likes or only wandering, and see what animals turn up. If there’s a lion, roll up the window. If an elephant is standing on the road, no choice but to wait until he decides to walk on (please don’t antagonize the elephants).

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Right off the bat I saw a lot. Giraffes chewing on the leaves of trees. Zebras hanging around. Families of elephants enjoying the day and spraying themselves with water to cool down. Endless herds of impala. With my binoculars, I sat in the backseat and we parked around various locations and took it all in. I got some good pictures.

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The campsites don’t open until the afternoon, so we really took it easy. Like, hours and hours of taking it easy. After a certain point, I was listening to my iPod and reading my thick George R.R. Martin (Storm of Swords, best book of the song).

The campsite parts of the day were more chill. You aren’t even allowed to go for a drive when it gets dark, unless it’s a guided tour, so we stayed in. Read in the cabin, relaxed. Swam if there’s a pool. Listened to the noisy frogs at the nighttime pool. Read some comic files on my computer, unitizing my laptop best I could though there wasn’t even any Wi-Fi! Used up the airtime on my phone fast.

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Every day we went to a different campsite, each with its own stylized bungalows. “Round hovel” or something it’s called in Dutch/Afrikaans. The first had these silly-looking blue-headed guineafowl birds that walked about.

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The second included a rhinoceros exhibit with a fenced trail, and we happened to even see a rhino walk right up (sadly no camera on me so no rhino selfie). Poor endangered creatures, least they have their horns here.

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The final was near Crocodile Bridge and filled with baboons and vervet monkeys walking around the site chill as can be – do not ever feed the monkeys.

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Every night, of course this being South Africa, we drank wine and had a braai. I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but it’s not my scene to be so into nature. I could have used a little bit more technology to pass the time. I mean, the stars were beautiful. The animals were indeed beautiful. Like that scary late part of the night when the leaves were rustling and the flashlight revealed a baby elephant came right up to edge of the camp to munch on greens. I was so nervous upon approaching. That was some moment. Even the hyena was beautiful.

Yet, I sometimes feel worried that there is something wrong with me. I cannot appreciate it the way other people can appreciate. I need something to read. I need some interactive media to comfortably remind me that the rest of the world exists, some distractions. I like that. Unlike locals that are ever content listening to the winds on a slight buzz. All the while, I partly felt like there was this underlying conflict because I wasn’t having some spiritual epiphany out there in the African wilderness.

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DATING IN CHINA

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DATING IN CHINA


(Table of Contents)

Firstly, from 2008 on:

Prologue: How I came to China

Part 1: Burning Man
I go to a big trippy festival

Part 2: Doing LSD at Burning Man
I expand my mind and receive an invite abroad

Introductions

Intro to Dating in China
First things first, let me explain how this thing will work

I arrive in China
The story officially begins, I get here

Girls

Mona
My first China-based girlfriend, and how that didn’t work out

Julia
The next level… Sigh, was it love?

Mary
A summer romance, a brief flight, all too innocent

Annie – Sky – Lulu – more
Singlehood, bachelor life, the learning process, playing the field…

Zoey

The Beginning
Long-term relationship begins, a defining point in my life

An American intermission
You can’t go ‘home’, and I try and I fail and I drift

The End
Finally, and sadly, nothing lasts forever

 

GUANGZHOU YEAR
In the city… the city of Canton…

And now, 2011 to early 2012:

My Guangzhou Year 1
An intro to the new status quo, as I pack up move to the ancient land of Canton/
the modern megacity of Guangzhou

Dating GZ Edition – Kendra
First story, I meet a crazed American abroad and adventured therein
Public nudity and disrespect, among other themes

China to Thailand to Cambodia
I travel, I bring a certain Cynthia, I make mistakes
But hey, that’s life and at least I got to see a new place

Dating – visitors and friends, others
Some characters from previous entries reappear, old friends reunite, a funny story happened one day
This time it’s not just about me

Rejected in Guangzhou
The stories everyone seems to want to know. Rejected!
Featuring Josephine, Seline, and more

The End – my humble successes
On a final positive note, sometimes life works out rather fine
It was a good year, I experienced a lot
I really shouldn’t complain

 

2012

Back to Shenzhen
In which I return to this town that somehow suits me

Emma
I begin the online game~

Jeanie
I have a girlfriend! I really did!

Yuki
I must admit, things got a tad gross.
Hope this wasn’t the beginning of a certain pattern…

 

2013: Epic Clusterfuck Year

Not Dating in America (and Hong Kong, and Canada)
2012 comes and goes and the world doesn’t end,
Meanwhile a bad start as I embark upon a year of drama bullshit

The Stalker
In which I make a foul choice which ends up following me around all year.
Dark times. No fun.

Carmen
I meet someone cool and travel to the Philippines
A brief positive note, albeit all too brief

Sonia – Jing – Amelia
POF, a site, met some peoples from differing lands, times are had,
and then I quit online dating forever more

The Very End
And I do mean it, the very very end.
I reflect and I consider and now it is time to move forward–

Dating in China 2012 – 2013

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SZ

 

PREVIOUS MEGAPOSTS

Dating in China 1
From Burning Man to Shenzhen, covering mid-2008 to early 2011

My Guangzhou Year
In the city… the city of Canton…

 

2012

Back to Shenzhen
In which I return to this town that somehow suits me

Emma
I begin the online game~

Jeanie
I have a girlfriend! I really did!

Yuki
I must admit, things got a tad gross.
Hope this wasn’t the beginning of a certain pattern…

 

2013: Epic Clusterfuck Year

Not Dating in America (and Hong Kong, and Canada)
2012 comes and goes and the world doesn’t end,
Meanwhile a bad start as I embark upon a year of drama bullshit

The Stalker
In which I make a foul choice which ends up following me around all year.
Dark times. No fun.

Carmen
I meet someone cool and travel to the Philippines
A brief positive note, albeit all too brief

Sonia – Jing – Amelia
POF, a site, met some peoples from differing lands, times are had,
and then I quit online dating forever more

The Very End
And I do mean it, the very very end.
I reflect and I consider and now it is time to move forward–

 

Not to be continued.

–Thanks for the memories!!

 

Ray

DATING IN CHINA – MEGAPOST 1

And now for your reading enjoyment. In case you missed it before. Allow me to lay it all out.

Megapost of my personal dating memoirs, covering the time span of August, 2008 to February, 2011

Links, from the beginning:

Prologue: How I came to China

Part 1: Burning Man
I go to a big trippy festival

Part 2: Doing LSD at Burning Man
I expand my mind and receive an invite abroad

Introductions

Intro to Dating in China
First things first, let me explain how this thing will work

I arrive in China
The story officially begins, I get here

Girls

Mona
My first China-based girlfriend, and how that didn’t work out

Julia
The next level… Sigh, was it love?

Mary
A summer romance, a brief flight, all too innocent

Annie – Sky – Lulu – more
Singlehood, bachelor life, the learning process, playing the field…

Zoey

The Beginning
Long-term relationship begins, a defining point in my life

An American intermission
You can’t go ‘home’, and I try and I fail and I drift

The End
Finally, and sadly, nothing lasts forever

 

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Zoey – the beginning


Birthday video 2010, my life circa that era

Dating in China, Hooking Up in China, when does it become Having a Stable Girlfriend in China?

After much patience, it became.

I think I have a pretty nice story of how I met Zoey, as these things go. An average workday, I took an early-morning bus, sat next to her, and started reading my paperback of The Great Gatsby. Not my favorite novel, though I enjoyed the recent film, it was only a paperback I picked up because you can get classic novels in English cheap at local bookstores. It even had the Chinese name, 了不起的盖茨比. She saw it, and started asking me about the book. Cool! I’ll keep in touch with this chick. We discussed the Chinese title and how 了 throws me off because it can pronounced either ‘le’ or ‘liǎo’

We exchanged phone numbers. Later she told me that I looked so young, and she thought I was a college student. I don’t know if she took me seriously as a partner yet. In any case, she was more than willing to correspond with me and it was a start.

I wish I could say I approached her and it was love at first sight or something. I have a vague memory of trying to sit next to a good-looking girl on the bus – because don’t we all do that at times, just a harmless split-second preference – but I don’t usually try talking to every pretty girl I see, at least not without psyching myself up first. Besides, on cold approaches I wouldn’t even know if she speaks English or not. So, it’s a bit passive that she talked to me first, but I think I did well in talking to her back.

I didn’t know at the time that this girl would become one of the main women of my life, one of my deepest relationships.  I didn’t know that I would stay with her all year and beyond.

Zoey was great. Very outgoing, very positive, not the shy type at all. Cantonese. Slim body type. Big smile. She changed her hair often. She had permed black hair when I first met her, then dyed it auburn, then straightened it, then cut it short and curled it. She was fashionable, not in the pricey wannabe way but in humble off-brand Chinese expressive sort, my kind of style.

She wasn’t very worldly. I know that she has since traveled abroad (I think she’s already emigrated, more on that later), but at this period she was fresh out of college working a trite office job and hadn’t been to Hong Kong yet. She was decent at English and we could communicate, but she wasn’t the super-fluent type. When I’d be distant and we would fight, she’d revert to Mandarin or Cantonese or even Hakka if she was really mad. We watched many movies together and I introduced her to a lot of my native pop culture. She was very open to learning more. She was a sweetheart, a perfect companion, exactly who I needed then and I didn’t even know it.

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Dating in China – Mona

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Me circa ’09, Beijing–>Great Wall

The dating in China officially begins.

After being situated in SZ, I was introduced to Mona through a coworker who was transparently playing the matchmaker. Mona was a 20-something independent office lady, an intelligent Hunanese (a common enough home-province for those in SZ) who studied in Beijing and came to Shenzhen to work and live near Hong Kong. She was good-looking, with long, permed hair and a nice figure and she liked to wear purple and green contact lenses. She liked Japanese pop culture and Marilyn Manson. Her English was good – which is kind of a requirement for me. I won’t date someone for language lessons with whom I can’t have a meaningful conversation. Which is one reason my Mandarin isn’t that good.

One day said coworker invited us both to a restaurant and then suddenly cancelled. We were left alone to get to know each other better. Obviously being set up, right? We ate and went to my apartment complex to talk about movies and anime and then we sat on a bench outside and made out among the soft evening winds. It escalated and we became a couple for four or five months and I started introducing her to others as my girlfriend.

Mona had a small apartment nearby; I’d often prefer going to her place to enjoy our time together and stay the night. She had a cute small dog, the poor thing cramped in a tiny apartment. We’d go on long walks with the dog, in parks and gardens and “mountain climbing” as the Chinese call hiking. I’d be the dog-sitter when she would go out of town. 2009 rang in and we celebrated the New Year at the stroke of midnight with a kiss.

There were some flaws in all this, some cultural and personality differences. Not all rainbows. But no big deals to get over. Most important of all, we had similar interests and she was nice and hot and she liked me. Though I did feel corny when she first held my hand at Dongmen, and I’ve since gotten used to how in China public displays of affection are a bit less public except for the ubiquitous hand-holding. It’s like primary school dating or something. Aw who am I to try to be so mature?

Occasionally I invited her to go to pubs with my friends, and she never seemed comfortable in that scene. Was it a mistake? Was I the one moving things fast, too much pressure? Is that something I do? When it was just the two of us we were fine. Usually we’d go out for dinner and stay in at her place on the weekends and watch bootleg DVDs. Celebrated my birthday like that. Other times she showed me around Shenzhen. I recall a great outing to Hong Kong, shopping and bookstores at malls and taking pictures at the Peak. Then, dangerously, we planned a trip to Beijing.

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