Visa Stories: South Africa

Posted by Arlo on Jun 7, 2013 under Postcard Valet, Travel

Awhile back, I sat down to write about all our border crossings.  Almost without fail, each one had it’s own drama to deal with.  I never did get through writing them all, but I mined this one from that pile of first drafts.

Visa stamps

We almost ran into serious trouble trying to get into South Africa.  It started at our embarkation point, Ezeiza, Buenos Aires’ international airport.

We were checking out bags to Cape Town, when the person behind the Malaysian Airlines counter asked us if he could see our visas.  No, we told him, we were planning to get them when we arrived at the South African immigrations.

He began to grill us for information.

Did we have return tickets?
No, we were planning to continue our travels through Africa.

How were we planning to leave the country? Did we have plane or bus tickets?
No, we didn’t know how long we’d be staying and figured it would be impossible to buy South African bus tickets from Argentina, anyway.

He sighed and said he wasn’t sure he could let us on the flight.  “South Africa is very strict with their entrance requirements,” he said. “Very strict.”

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Spiders

Posted by Arlo on Jun 3, 2013 under Travel

Still busy moving into the new place and haven’t yet had time to work on any travel-related stuff.  Thought I’d post a story I wrote some time ago, about spiders in Australia.  It was originally written with a different audience in mind, but rather than spend time editing it for the blog, I’ve decided to simply post it with that caveat.

It was the second night after we had moved into our new, one-bedroom apartment.  We were in Highgate Hill, a couple miles outside the center of Brisbane.  Very suburban, but with just enough trees and parks around that it still seemed a little wild.  You would see possums running along the telephone wires at night, bush turkeys digging around in our neighbor’s yards during the day.

The previous tenant didn’t leave us a very clean apartment.  We scrubbed the hell out of it the day we moved in, but I can’t say I was terribly surprised to see a huge cockroach in the kitchen that first night.  We resolved to clean behind the appliances and buy a bunch of roach traps in the morning.

Oksana, having scored a Work and Holiday Visa, was by that time employed.  On the night of “The Arachnid Incident,” she’d gone to bed around 10-ish.  I had decided I would take a shower first before turning in, myself.

Our bathroom – or rooms, rather – were split in two (which is not uncommon in Australian households.)  There was a tiny, rectangular room with just a toilet and enough room for the door to full swing inwards.  Adjacent in the hallway was another door into the shower room, where we also had our sink, mirror, and laundry apparatus.

I needed to use the bathroom first, but since I was going to take a shower anyway, I went ahead and stripped off my clothes and left them in the hallway. (We had a dirty clothes basket in the bedroom, but I didn’t want to disturb Oksana.)  I went into the bathroom, closed the door, and sat down to do my business.  I couldn’t tell you how long I was in there.  It could have been awhile. I had my iPhone with me.

So I’m just sitting there, you know? Sort of leaning over, looking at the iPhone in my hand, when something pushes its way under the door.  It was big – easily as big as my hand, though its legs were nowhere near as thick as my fingers.  Hairier than my knuckles, though, I can tell you that.  The worst thing, by far, was how fast it moved.  Once it unfurled its legs from under the door, that fucker moved!  Skitter-skitter-stop.  Skitter-stop.

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Homecoming

Posted by Arlo on May 25, 2013 under Postcard Valet, Travel

About six months ago I made a conscious decision to stop worrying about updating Postcard Valet.  This was after a few months spent worrying about why I wasn’t updating the site during our last few months in Australia.  Though I regret not explaining why I haven’t been updating, the rationalization for why was an easy one to make.  Once we got on the road again, at the end of the day I barely had the time and energy to back up our photos and keep up with my daily journaling… Writing for the blog – let alone video editing – would have completely exhausted me, as well as taken away valuable travel time.

Considering we just drove onto the Alaska Marine Highway and, in about six hours we will return to Juneau and our trip around the world will be at an end, I thought this would be a good time to finally write about what Oksana and I have been up to. Continue Reading »

P90X

Posted by Arlo on Sep 7, 2012 under Life of Arlo

A few months after arriving in Australia, Oksana and I noticed something distressing.  After a more than a year of hauling big backpacks around the world, nothing interested us more than sitting at home all day.  Evenings, weekends – didn’t matter.  If we had any free time, invariably our first choice was to spend it sitting on our asses.  Understandable, I suppose, but after three months of inactivity, some of our clothes weren’t fitting anymore… and we didn’t have all that many clothes with us to begin with!

It was Oksana who brought up the P90X program and wondered if it was something we could do at home.  I’d heard of it before, years ago.  I remembered it as an intense workout program designed for people who are already considered “fit” (whatever that means), one that uses small weights and body resistance for most of its exercises.  We did some research and I warned her that it would be a very intense program with a large time commitment – at least if we were going to treat it seriously.  She said she was game if I was.

So, 13 weeks ago – 90 days ago, to be exact – we started in on the P90X program.  Today is our official end date.

Here’s my “before” photo, which they encourage you to take so that you can see your progress (and one which, just so you know, I have a very hard time posting online!)

The after photos are posted down near the end of this entry.  Everything else is my thoughts on the P90X program.

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PV021: Salar de Uyuni (part 2)

Posted by Arlo on Jun 27, 2012 under Postcard Valet, PV-Podcast, Travel, Videos

This video, of course, continues where our first Salar de Uyuni video left off.

With everything I’ve got on my to-do list while we’re living in Australia, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like for editing more travel videos. The biggest hurdle has been recording new voice-overs.  Oksana is usually off working for 40+ hours a week, so there’s not much time for us to collaborate on the next big show-and-tell.  I realized, however, that I had a set of voice-overs still on my hard drive — the ones we recorded last year during our Bolivian salt flat tour.  ’Bout time I followed up with the second part of that fantastic tour…!

It wasn’t until I started editing that I realized how little footage I shot during day two and day three of that tour.  Lots of great photos, very little video.  I suspect it was because we didn’t have a reliable power source until the tour was over and I was worried about draining my batteries.  Made the edit a little harder to pull off, but thankfully, I was able to supplement it with extra photos (as well as some of Wendy and Dusty’s videos.)  I trust the beauty of the landscape still comes through.

Show Notes:

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For Mema

Posted by Arlo on May 21, 2012 under Life of Arlo

2010

Eulogies always leave me feeling vaguely depressed.  When Steve Jobs passed away, newspapers, magazines, television, and the internet had nothing but wall-to-wall praise for the man.  How much nicer it would have been, I thought, if he were still alive to read it.  Why do we wait until someone dies before talking about all the good they’ve done in life?

Regret.  That was the first emotion I felt after hearing the news that my grandmother had died (a week ago today.)  My mom told me two days before that her parents had just celebrated their 69th wedding anniversary.  “Why don’t you give your Mema a call tomorrow and wish her a happy Mother’s Day?”  I could have.  I should have.  All the time zones between Australia and North Carolina aren’t excuse enough for why I didn’t.

In my sadness, I think no one could possibly understand how I feel, but that’s not exactly true, is it?  Probably most of you have felt the same sense of regret, of sadness, of loss.  If only I’d visited one last time.  If only I’d told her I loved her when last we spoke.  If only she were still here.

This pain feels so personal, so unique to my situation, but in reality, most everyone can relate to losing a grandparent.  I’m luckier than most.  I knew six of my eight great-grandparents (though their faces and personalities have faded from memory since childhood) and I almost made it to forty years of age before losing my first grandparent.  Not many can say that.

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Cheetah

Posted by Arlo on May 10, 2012 under Photography, Postcard Valet, Travel

A Cheetah in Kruger National Park, South Africa

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We spent four days on safari, driving through the Kruger National Park in South Africa.  Our guides drove us around for hours each day as Oksana and I hung out our respective windows, searching the countryside for the next amazing animal.

Before we arrived in South Africa, I never would have guessed that so many of the iconic African animals could be spotted in a single country.  For some reason, I thought you had to travel all over the continent if you wanted to see lions, wildebeest, rhinos, giraffes, leopards, hyenas, elephants, crocodiles, zebra, buffalo, baboons, and warthogs.  (We saw most of those the first day in the park.)  About the only big African animal I can think of that we didn’t have a chance of seeing was a mountain gorilla.

The highlight of the safari, for me, was spotting a cheetah.  After we stopped the car to watch him, his brother also emerged from the brush.  Both of those beautiful animals eventually crossed the road directly in us before disappearing into a ravine.

The next day, it got even better.  Oksana spotted another cheetah.  Our guides were blown away.  Not only are cheetahs among the rarest animals seen in the park, but we were the ones to spot them – not them, the more experienced guides!

It was nearly sunset when we spotted the cheetah on the second day and we were far from our camp.  Still, it was such an amazing animal, our guides graciously allowed us to stay as long as possible.  As we watched, the cheetah got up and stretched, then went about marking his territory.  Against all odds, his path again took him across the road we were on.

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