Travel around the world and learn about other cultures through music and dance

I’m a (clean) fun loving person, people person who enjoys socializing and getting to know people and cultures from around the world. We are blessed with a rich and diverse world, let’s take a moment to get to know and celebrate our diversity for personal enrichment and enlightenment. The best way to get acquainted with any culture in the world, without having to buy an expensive air ticket, is through music and dance. You can attend cultural events in your home town or major diverse cities in your home country. With today’s advance technology, you can google music and dance videos from a world culture or country of your interest and watch them to learn more about that culture and try dancing to the music. It’s a great way to connect with the culture and its people. And when you actually get to travel that country, you will fit right in and the local people will appreciate you and love you for making the effort…..

Here are my travel around the world through music and dance videos. Enjoy and stay tuned for more…!

Travel around the world through music and dance

Travel to Latin America through music and dance

 

 

 

 

Travel to Africa through music and dance

 

 

Travel to the Caribbean through music and dance

 

Travel to the USA/Americas through music and dance

 

Please stay tuned for more Around the World music and dance videos….

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My Road Trip to Angola was Amazing

Angola is my third favorite country in Africa for various reasons. I was born in exile Angola, in a SWAPO refugee camp in Kwanza-Sul, during Namibia’s struggle for independence from the South African apartheid regime. I have fond memories of Angola from an early age of 10 when I left in June 1989 to go to Namibia after the war ended. Despite the war that my freedom fighter parents were fighting under SWAPO, my life in Angola was one of peace, joy, happiness and freedom. I felt so protected by SWAPO and the Angolan government that I had no worries or fears. All my basic needs such as shelter, food and clothing were provided for free. Life in Angola was great to me. It was the only life I knew and the first year In Namibia was not a happy one. I missed Angola and all my friends that I grew up with. Namibia seemed very strange. At one point, I wished that SWAPO would lose the election so that we could go back home to Angola to continue fighting the Boers…. Of course, that didn’t happen. SWAPO won and my parents and all exiled Namibians were happy to be back. I never got a chance to go back to Angola since I left in June 1989 but it has always been my dream to go back and visit my country of birth.

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Early March 2017 while visiting the northern part of Namibia (Owamboland where my Oshiwambo culture and family originates from), I decided to take a quick trip Angola just to see how she looks like. I was required to get a yellow fever vaccination to travel into Angola. I wanted to see everything so flying to Angola was out of question as I wouldn’t be able to see much and I didn’t have a lot of time to tour the whole country. So, I decided to either drive or take the bus. A friend told me about a luxury and affordable bus that leaves from Namibia to Angola called Macon. Before I could settle for Macon bus I decided to do a bit of research two days before my scheduled trip into Angola. Just to prepare myself for the trip, I visited the Macon bus station on the border of Namibia and Angola in Oshikango/Santa Clara. Before I could enter the Santa Clara (Angola side of the border), I had to fill in my immigration papers with the Namibian immigration officials. I was traveling on my Namibian passport so I didn’t need a visa to go to Angola. Namibia is one of the few countries in the world who don’t require a visa to visit Angola. Our car didn’t obtain clearance to go into Angola before so I had to cross the border on foot which was just a matter of going to the other side of the gate which is kept open during normal business hours. It is very close and easy border to cross. You just basically walk through with no questions asked until you get to the Angolan Immigration counter didn’t look very secure. From what I witnessed, anyone could easily cross into Angola without proper documentation but you will probably get caught eventually while in Angola because they have a lot of road blocks where they check for IDs. But I heard one can easily bribe the officers and still make it through the road blocks without proper documentation. I would advise against entering Angola and any country without a visa and proper documentation.

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Nonetheless, the Namibian side of the border (Oshikango) was very clean, very organized and orderly. I expected the same for the Angolan side (Santa Clara). As soon as we passed the Namibian side of the border, gang looking Angolans started hustling us. They offered to help us pass by immigration faster, they asked to exchange our money into Kwanza (Angolan currently). Some people were selling food and drinks in the open along the way to the immigration counter. It was a mess, compared to what we were accustomed to when we travel. But then again, this was my first time crossing any country border so maybe this is the norm but I doubt it…. When I got to the Angolan immigration counter, I saw people just passing through without their papers checked. I supposed the officials, somehow, knew who was a regular and who was visiting for the first time because my brother and I tried to just call through and they stopped us and we asked how come others could just pass through without being checked. Language was a problem at Immigration as they only spoke Portuguese and we only spoke Oshiwambo and English. Luckily, some of the Angolans speak Oshiwambo so they could translate to the officers. Soon after, we got our Namibian passports stamped and went through….

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The reality of life in Angola hit us once again the moment we walked out of the immigration building. We were hustled right away again by gang looking youths who wanted to exchange our money into kwanza. They didn’t take no for an answer, they keep following us and when they stop, the next person carries on. I feared being robbed. Good thing I was with my brother and I didn’t go alone to check out the situation on the Angolan side of the border. I would have been terrified if I had gone alone. I wouldn’t advise any non-Angolans, females especially, to cross the border on foot alone. It’s just too messy. And to make matters worse, there’s no taxi service near the immigration building. We had to walk to the Macon bus stop which was quite a walk. We were offered a ride on one of those motor taxis who look so unsafe and they don’t provide helmets for passengers and the driver is not wearing a helmet either. Those motor taxis only take one person at a time so my brother and I would have been separated which was not an option at this point. So, we walked to Macon bus stop.

Besides being hustled all the way to our destination, our next shocker was the uncleanliness of Angola. We have already heard tales of how Angola is dirty and how Angolans are not very clean people from those who have interacted with them in Namibia and those who have visited Angola. I just didn’t believe it was this bad. Compared to the Namibia side of the border, Santa Clara was very dirty. There was trash and dirty running water everywhere. We even saw people standing in very dirty water with their shoes, no shoes and flipflops waiting in line, with no care at all about the unhygienic water. I suppose this is the norm for them and it doesn’t bother them. Now I understood why everyone is required to get yellow fever vaccination before they would be allowed to enter Angola.

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Arriving at the Macon bus station was a relief and a ray of hope for Angola based on what I had seen up to that point. The gated bus station was very clean and had seating area, with phone charging ports and bathrooms and TV in the waiting area. It was also operating orderly and the customer service was superb. I inquired more about their service, the bus schedule, and the cost. They were indeed very reasonable. My trip to Lubango would cost less than US$50. My trip from Lubango to Luanda would cost less than US$100. I had gotten these information on their website which I was able to translate to English right now but I wanted to stop by and see for myself and ask all the necessary questions in person before I decide. I didn’t buy a bus ticket that day as I preferred to buy it at the same time when I leave, just in case I change my point.

We didn’t realize the border closes at 6pm (Angolan time) and 7pm (Namibian time). So, on our way back to Namibia, the border agents in Santa Clara wouldn’t let us through because the border was closed. They told us that the Namibian border was closed too. My brother and I started to panic. There’s no way we could spend the night in Santa Clara. We already didn’t feel safe enough in the town and we didn’t see any hotels while there. The only option would have been to sleep at the Macon bus stop but that was out of the question too. We didn’t know the border closed so early. I wish the immigration officers told us that we only had less than an hour because we told them that we are only going to visit the Macon bus stop and coming right back. To make matters worse, my sister was in the car with two toddlers and she doesn’t drive so it would not be safe for them to sleep on the Namibia side of the border either. We explained this to the immigration officers on the Angolan side and they let us through saying good luck, the Namibian immigration officers may not let you through. Once they let us through, we ran as fast as we could to the Namibian border. Everyone we passed was telling us the border was closed. One or two people told us to go and try to plead our case.

Indeed, the Namibian side of the border was closed too. We found people begging for the immigration officers to open for them so they can get into Namibia. The immigration officers had just closed the gate and were walking away when we got there. We called after them to please come and let us in but they just kept going saying the border is closed. I was so desperate that I was calculating how I’m going to jump the border fence and explain myself later. It wasn’t that high and I was determined that if I try, I would make it over. There was no way I was leaving my four-year son on the other side. Luckily, one of the immigration officers who saw us cross the border into Angola and who was there when we explained that we are coming right back, walked by and we pleaded with her to please help us out. She remembered us and went inside the building. She came back with the supervisor who also remembered seeing us. They eventually let my brother and I to get back into Namibia after hours. God bless their heart. We were so happy to be reunited with our family who were waiting for us in the car. Was it not for the two small children in the car, we would not have been forced to spend the night in Santa Clara. We were told to come back the next day to get our passports stamped so it would show a record of us having returned into the country. We lived to tell this tale and laugh about it. So, I would advise anyone using the border to make sure that they’re back way before 6pm before the border closes. Always ask what time the border closes because the immigration officers will most likely assume that you already know and won’t tell you. The time was written at the entrance somewhere but it is easy to miss if no one points it out.

Two days later, my brother and I decided that we would drive to Angola together as it would be faster than the bus and will provide more convenience and opportunity to sightsee properly along the way from Santa Clara to Lubango and then from Lubango to Luanda and then back. The night before we were supposed to leave, we were driving around in the village where the roads were bumpy and not tarred. This caused the back light of our car to fall off. We didn’t realize this until much later and all the repair shops were closed for the weekend. Our car wouldn’t be cleared to travel into Angola without all the lights working properly. I didn’t want to waste any more time and the uncertainty of having the light fixed on time, so I decided to take Macon bus to Angola.

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On a Sunday morning, my brother escorted me to Macon bus station on foot as we left our car at the Oshikango border. Macon bus does not accept non-Angolan debit or credit cards. So, I went to all ATM machines between the border post and Macon bus stations, about 4 of them, to withdraw money so I can pay the bus but they were all not working. Luckily, I had 2000 kwanzas that I withdrew from one of these ATMs two days ago but I needed 2028 more and the money exchange hustlers could exchange my Namibian dollars into kwanzas. The Namibian dollar is well received in Angola because it is stronger in value. I could get enough kwanzas so I bought my ticket and boarded the Macon to Lubango. The bus was very clean and I had a front seat right behind the drive so I could see everything. The bus also had entertainment (music and movies to watch).

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On my road trip to Angola, the first thing I noticed, other than the dirt and uncleanliness in Santa Clara, is how green the country is. The high way road was also excellent. I didn’t see any potholes until about 127 kilometers from Lubango. The Angolan passenger who sat next to me on my way to Lubango spoke good English so he could give me updates about Angola, economically, politically and culturally. He was also my translator as I didn’t speak Portuguese.

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I arrived in Lubango at night, about 8 hours later since I left Santa Clara. The trip would have been 4-5 hours by car but the bus makes frequent stops. We stopped in every town that we passed. This was a good thing because I got to see all the towns on the way to Lubango and this exactly what I wanted; to see as much of Angola as I possibly could on the road trip. It was great to be back in Lubango. Lubango is the last place I lived in Angola before we left for good to go to Namibia. I lived in the SWAPO camps in Lubango so we didn’t interact with Angolans that much and Angolans were hardly seen in our camps. The Mwila tribe that lived near our SWAPO camps were the only Angolans I was a bit accustomed to but we were discouraged from interacting with them. I believe this was for security reasons. Nonetheless, a friend of my who I had never met but was introduced to me by a close of friend of mine who was her relative came to pick me up from the Macon bus stop. Her name is Mariana and she’s a very beautiful inside-out lady of Namibian origin but was now living in Lubango. Lubango wasn’t much different from all the other Angolan towns we drove by along the way, except that it was a bigger town. When I got to my friend’s house, they were having a birthday party so it worked out great for me because I love to party. The Angolan music of kizomba, semba, kuduro and tarraxinha was blasting through the speakers, the food was great, plenty of drinks and the vibe was just perfect. I’m a social butterfly so I didn’t waste any time. After I greeted everyone and got a bit settled, I got right on the dance floor and enjoy my first party in Angola. The people there were so wonderful, you would think we knew met before…

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The next day, I went around Lubango. Our transportation was not available so Tatiana and I decided to take public transport… I didn’t want to get on the motor/bike taxi because they seem unsafe. Tatiana and everyone tried to convince me that they were safe but I couldn’t get over my fear of riding on a bike, especially when the passenger and driver didn’t have helmets. Unfortunately, I had no other choice as that was the only form of public transportation readily available and I was told that we were not going too far. So, I hopped on one of those. Boy, was I scared. First, people drive crazy in Lubango, I have noticed. There are no traffic lights so the bike was just maneuvering its way through the streets and crossing the roads was scary for me. I wanted to get to our destination quickly so I get off. I held on tight to the driver and I prayed that my fear wouldn’t distract him because an accident on one of these would be quite serious. I felt irresponsible agreeing to get on one of these. When we got to our destination, I told myself that never again, will I get on a motor taxi. Our destination was Millennium Mall, one of the major malls in Lubango. We went there so I could purchase a sim card or system as they call it for my phone so I can make calls and get on the internet at the local rate. Unfortunately, the Intel phone store there was down so I couldn’t purchase the “system”.

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Tatiana said we must go to another store and that we must get on a motor taxi. I was like “no way am I getting on those again. I have a 4 year child who needs his mommy…. I can’t be this careless with my life…” I asked if we could just call a private taxi. Public taxis are the minivan that looked just as unsafe and overcrowded as you’re in there with a lot of other people. I have seen those mini vans drop off people while still moving and people getting on them while they were still moving and the door was still open. So, we called a private taxi where it will just be me and Tatiana. However, it was going to take a long time and it is much more expensive. We waited for a while and eventually I got tired of waiting and asked Tatiana if the store is within walking distance. It was about 10 minutes away so we walked to another Intel store and on the way, I got a chance to sightsee Lubango. It was beautiful, although unclean with trash and dirty running water, just like everywhere else I have been to Angola thus far. Unfortunately, that cell phone store’s system was down too. We went to another one and same thing. I ended up not getting a sim card and I had to roam as I got tired of asking to use other people’s phones to contact my family and son in Namibia. I was roaming on my USA contract number and my bill for two days of roaming came to about US$250. Bummer! But I had peace speaking to my son and making him feel like I was close and that he was fine. I couldn’t take him to Angola because he was too young for the road trip and I didn’t have a visa for him. I also didn’t know how Angola was so I didn’t want to take that chance with him.

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Tatiana and I walked around downtown Lubango which was walking distance from where I was staying. The foot tour was fun but my face felt dirty from all the street dust and dirt. I quickly washed it when I got home as it was the most uncomfortable feeling. My face is very sensitive to dirt and I felt the same way I feel when I’m a room full of smokers. Nonetheless, Lubango was wonderful and the people I was with were wonderful and made me feel so welcome. I went on another tour of Lubango the next time by car this time. We went to see mountain Tundavala, Jesus Christ Statue and I got a chance to see more of Lubango. I couldn’t make it to the snake looking road because it was just too scary for me.

A few days later, I left Lubango with Macon bus for Luanda, the capital city of Angola. I wanted to stop by in Lobito as I lived there for a few months when I was 7 years old and had fond memories of the seaside town where I stayed right by the beach. I was running out of time and couldn’t stop by in Lobito so I went straight to Angola. The road to Angola was bumpy with a lot of potholes. Thank God I was in a huge bus and felt safe from accidents. I was so glad that I didn’t drive with my brother because the roads were so rough. Our car would have broken down and we would have been more prone to accidents. It would have been very unsafe for us, especially if we broke down in the middle of nowhere…. I believe God caused that light to fall off to protect us… Nonetheless, the trip to Luanda was fun. Again, I was lucky enough to sit in the front row, right behind the driver. I asked to swap a sit with someone on the bus because it was my first time in Angola and I wanted to see everything. They understood that I was a tourist and were very accommodating…. One of the things that stuck out for me during this road trip was the Unita place that I passed one time with a SWAPO convoy and feared for my life. This place is where a lot of Unita rebels used to hide out in a ditch nearby and ambush oncoming cars, mostly Angolan cars. SWAPO convoy was safe as it was guarded by SWAPO soldiers so Angola civilians used to join the convoy so they can safely cross this point during the war.  However, I saw dead bodies for the first time when I pass by there at the age of 6. I could never forget the sight of Angolan civilian cars burning with bodies inside the cars and on the ground with their legs sticking out. This was when there was civil war in Angola between the MPLA and Unite forces. So, it was quite amazing driving there again. This time it was a peaceful sight because the civil war ended when Savimbi, the leader of Unita was killed a few years ago.

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I also drove passed Sumbe the capital city of Kwanza-Sul the province in which I was born. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to go around Kwanza-Sul as my destination was Lubango but I intend to make another trip with more time to visit Kwanza-Sul. We eventually arrived in Luanda and I fell in love with Luanda once more. The city is surrounded by the beach and I’m one of those people who loves the beach and just being around the water. The city may not be as clean but it sure is beautiful and bustling with energy. One of my friends, Cafala, picked me up from the bus station and took me around Luanda. I spent the night at my cousin Martha’s place who lives in Luanda. It was nice seeing everyone. The next day I went on another beautiful tour of Luanda and spent some time at Miami Beach, one of the popular beaches in Luanda.

My time in Angola was short and went by very fast. Four days later, I returned to Namibia. The plan was to fly back as I didn’t need to take the long bus ride back anymore, now that I have seen everything that I needed to see. I went to buy a plane ticket but they were sold out and the next one available wasn’t leaving until two days later. The plane ticket to Ondjiva, the Angolan town closest to the Namibian border, the town after Santa Clara, was about 35,000 kwanzas. The bus would get me there sooner and at only 14,000 kwanzas. So, I decided to take the bus back. It was a long trip but well worth every time spent. I had an amazing time in Angola and I’m happy to finally say that I have been back to Angola since I left in 1989. I will be back again soon and with more time. The purpose of this trip was just to see Angola and reintroduce myself to my country of birth. My goal was accomplished and I have memories to last me until I visit again.

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South Africa I love you: Memories for life

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During my 5-week vacation to Southern Africa in February and March 2017, I had the pleasure of visiting my top three favorite countries in Africa: Namibia, South Africa and Angola. I was stationed in Namibia which is basically a smaller version of South Africa. The two countries are almost one because they share the same apartheid history, same food, music etc. Namibia was once almost considered a province of South Africa. I encourage everyone to read about the reach history of Namibia and South Africa. Unfortunately, Namibia is still very depended on sister-country South Africa…..

Anyway, I took a direct 1.5 hour return flight from Namibia to Johannesburg, South Africa, via South African Airways which has about 4-5 direct flights between Namibia and South Africa every day. I missed my first flight due to South African Airways lack of communication on new policies. When I flew South African Airways in 2014 with my one year old son, I wasn’t asked to produce any documentations for my son other than his passport. South African Airline’s new policy is that anyone traveling with a child has to produced a certified copy of the child’s full birth certificate and a letter from the father saying that the child has permission to travel. If one has full custody of the child, they can produce the court full custody order instead of a letter from one of the parents. I only found this one when I was about to fly to South Africa with my four year old. I had to miss my flight and catch a later flight after I had gotten certified documents required to fly with my son. Of course, I had to pay flight rebooking fees and other related fees. So to all parents out there traveling with children and using South African Airlines, please make sure you have those documents. I wish they had asked me to upload them when I bought my ticket online or told me to have them handy when I check in. There was no such communication. I ended up having to pay for South Africa’s lack of communication on new policies. I was quite upset about this but thanks for technology, I was able to get all the required documents with in a couple of hours and I was able to fly out the next day with my son.

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Nonetheless, South Africa is my second favorite country in Africa for various reasons…..Namibia is the first and Angola is the third…..  I love South Africa for various reasons… One of the reasons is that it’s a sister country to my motherland, Namibia, which shared the same brutal apartheid system and government. This resulted in my being born in Exile (Angola) where my my parents under SWAPO, along with their ANC comrades fought to end apartheid in their respective countries. I also love South Africa for its rich arts and entertainment. I’m of the opinion that South Africans are the best natural and effortless singers and dancers in the world. As someone who loves music and dances from all world cultures and backgrounds, no music and dance moves have ever moved and impressed me the way South African music and dance has. South Africans are very talented. Another thing I love about South Africa is the beauty of the country and its diversity. The country is beautiful, well organized and better managed than a lot of African countries. It’s good to go to an African country where things are orderly and well organized, on the most part (Namibian and South Africa), with out trash and dirty running water in the streets, electricity and water regularly shutting off at random times, without warning (Angola).

 

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Paying Madiba a visit at Mandela Square in Sandton (Johannesburg)

 

It was indeed a pleasure to visit South Africa again in March 2017 for a week. It was my longest time in South Africa. I have visited South Africa before but it was just a quick stop and I didn’t really get to see and do as much as I wanted. This time, I got a chance to visit three major areas in South Africa. I was staying in beautiful Pretoria, the capital City of South Africa, which is a short 30 minute drive to the busy and energetic city of Johannesburg. I was able to do an interesting tour of three major areas in South Africa: Pretoria, Johannesburg and Soweto.

Pretoria

While in South Africa, I stayed in Pretoria for one week and had a great time, especially sine it’s only 30 minutes to an hour drive (based on traffic) to Johannesburg, the major city of South Africa. Pretoria is the beautiful, ever green, and peaceful capital City of South Africa and therefore it’s full of historic sites. I visited the magnificent Union Buildings, the heart of South Africa’s government, with a beautiful garden and a huge statue of Nelson Mandela. I also visited the Voortrekker Monument which symbolizes Afrikaaner Nationalism. I then visited Church square with prominent buildings such as OuRaadsaal, Palace of Justice and Capital Theater

 

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Mandela Statue At the Union Buildings; South Africa’s beautiful parliament!
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Beautiful green and peaceful Pretoria

 

 

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This Mandela Statue is way bigger than the one in Sandton.
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All embassies in South Africa are in Pretoria so I had to visit Namibia’s; home away from home.
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Inside the Namibian embassy in Pretoria, holding a Namibian flag.

 

 

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Visiting the Voortrekker Momument!

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The buildings at Church Square are magnificent.

 

Here is a video of my tour of Pretoria!

 

Johannesburg

I had a great time on a tour of Johannesburg, a major town in South Africa! This city is amazing. I saw all the main tourist attractions including Sandton where the statue of Nelson Mandela is. We passed through the popular Hillbrow, Central Johannesburg, Braamfontein, Newtown. We stopped by the 269/50 stories Telkom Tower with a distinctive skyline where you can see the whole of Johannesburg. We visited the Constitution Hill which is the highest court in South Africa. I had the please to go inside the court. We also passed through the longest Southern African bridge, the Nelson Mandela Bridge. We visited the Carlton Centre also known as the Top of Africa; it’s the tallest building in Africa with 50 floors and you can experience the amazing view of the whole of Johannesburg from the 50th floor. We also visited the Apartheid Museum before visiting the infamous Soweto Township (see separate video).

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A view of Johannesburg from Top of Africa building (the tallest building in Africa)
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Inside the Top of Africa building

 

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Inside South Africa’s highest court (supreme court) – The Consitution Hill

 

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With my tour crew at the Constition Hill – The highest Court in South Africa

 

 

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Slogan for the liberation struggle movement. Portuguese for “The Struggle continues…”

 

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Ironically, I had an experience at the Restaurant inside the Apartheid Museum which made me feel like I was still in Apartheid South Africa. My four year son and I went to get food. We purchased our food but the food took a long time to come and we were so hungry. However, the white people who came after us got their food faster. I had to keep going back to the counter to ask how long it was going to take and every time they told me that it was coming. What we ordered wasn’t supposed to take long to make. So we waited an hour until I got really upset and went back to the counter and asked for the last time why I’m still waiting for my food when the white people who came before me all got their food. I told the restaurant servers that we need to do a better job treating each other well like we do white people. The restaurant servers were all black. They assured me that “no, it’s not like that ma’am….” But it was like that. I have noticed that in Namibia too, black service providers treat white customers better than they treat black customers. However, I will give these restaurant servers some credit because they were polite when I complained and apologized in the end and prevented a bad customer service situation from escalating…. They even let me go behind the counter to charge my phone. I think our people just need to be constantly reminded that we black people need to treat each other better. We are in this struggle together.

Watch my tour video of Johannesburg!

 

Soweto

I enjoyed the visiting the hotspots of Soweto, the infamous township in South Africa. The tour included a visit to the famous National Football Stadium (the Calabash) where the first and last matches of the 2010 World Cup were held. Visited the Diepkloof market area, Orlando West where the Nelson Mandela house and Desmond Tutu’s house is located. We also visited the shanty town and closed of the tour at Hector Pieterson Memorial about the Soweto uprising of June 16, 1976.

 

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Wow; I finally set foot at this historic place that I heard so much about! Goals accomplished!

 

 

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At the Hector Pieterson Memorial in Soweto.

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The Kalabash! Where the first and last World Cup match was held.

 

 

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You have not been to Soweto unless you take a picture with this background
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Walking in the Soweto township… See video below for more…
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The slums of Soweto

 

 

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Soweto also has the rich area with beautiful houses
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At Mandela House

 

Watch the video below of my awesome time in Soweto!

 

The only thing other thing I wanted to do while in South Africa was go party in Johannesburg. I live to dance so it’s not like me to go to a country and not go dancing. I was ready to go dancing but I was in South Africa the week when foreigners were being targeted violently so I was discouraged from going out partying by loved ones in South Africa. I personally didn’t feel threatened or unsafe in South Africa but that’s a story for another time…… I had a great one week in South Africa and I can’t wait to visit again. My next stop has to be Cape Town, the beautiful seaside city in South Africa with beautiful beaches and mountains.

View all pictures from this trip here: https://www.flickr.com/gp/148965481@N05/WjxmTQ

South Africa, I love you! Thanks for the great time. Until next time….. Stay beautiful!

With love from Namibia – Land of the Brave

Greetings from Southern Africa, Namibia to be exact! I’m on a 5-week vacation, visiting three beautiful Southern African countries; Angola, South Africa and Namibia.The beauty of being a Health Promotion Management Consultant  and running your own business is that you have the flexibility of being able to pick up and go on vacation whenever you want to, for as long as you need to, without seeking the “time off work” approval by anyone, and while still having the flexibility and option to do a bit of work while on travel… I suppose it’s more accurate to say that I’m on a business and pleasure vacation.

I flew here from Washington, DC Dulles Airport with Ethiopian Airlines. It was my first time flying Ethiopian Airlines since they just introduced a direct route to Namibia (with two quick stops). I enjoyed the 20 hour flight because the service was superb; great movies on my own personal TV, enough leg room, and they fed us a lot, rather too much but who’s complaining, right?!….. I would highly recommend Ethiopian Airlines… If anyone knows someone in management position at Ethiopian Airlines, please have them contact me or please share their contact info….

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Inside Ethiopian Airlines

Moving on…. 12 hours later, we landed in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, got out of the plane and waited for a about two hours before continuing to our final destination. However, we couldn’t leave the airport. Apparently, it’s hard to get a visa approval to Ethiopia and just about everyone needs a visa (I believe there’s only one or two countries exempt from the visa requirements). Nonetheless, my short stay inside Addis Ababa International Airport was horrible. It has to be the worse airport I have ever been in my life (but then again I have only been in two airports in Africa; Johannesburg/South Africa and Windhoek/Namibia. From the plane, outside the building, the airport looks beautiful. I even thought it looked better than Windhoek/Namibia’s Hosea Kutako International Airport. I was quite impressed. But as soon as I set foot inside the airport, I felt like I was at a village bus stop, some where in the remote areas of Africa. It was hot, over crowded and not welcoming…. I was standing in line for the whole two hours with nowhere to sit. The bathrooms looked small, scary and nasty from outside but they were actually cleaner inside than I expected. Maybe they just got cleaned before I entered since the cleaning lady was still in there. Others have told me that the bathrooms are usually nasty. I guess I was a bit lucky that day. Anyway, that was a bit disappointing considering the fact that Ethiopian Airlines provided top notch service. The airport should match its national airline and upgrade….. Two hours later, I was happy to leave Addis Ababa airport with Ethiopian Airlines. We made a quick stop in Gaborone, Botswana to pick up more passengers before heading to our final destination, Windhoek, Namibia. We didn’t leave the plane this time but I wish we did so I can at least say that I stepped a foot in Botswana since I have never been there before…. 20 hours later after leaving the USA, I arrived in Windhoek, Namibia to the lovely sight of some of my family members….!

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I’m happy to be writing this blog post from one of my favorite travel destinations in the world; the beautiful Namibia!  Namibia is my 2nd home for various reasons. I wasn’t born or raised here but my parents are Namibian. So I make it a point to visit here often, for business and pleasure. It’s good to be back home, surrounded by amazing friends and family , including my 4 year old son, who’s on his second trip to Africa. He came here for the first time when he was only one and loved it. Hopefully he will grow up to be a global trotter like his mommy.

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Recap: Trip to Namibia in 2014; my son’s first trip to Africa at age of 1.

If you have no idea where Namibia is and have never heard of it, do noy despair. You’re not alone. There are a lot of people out there who have never heard of Namibia and have no idea where in the world it is. I live in one of the most international cities in the world, Washington, DC, and I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that I’m the first Namibian they have ever met. 95% of the people I meet in the USA had never met anyone from Namibia. I used to joke around that maybe I should start carrying a petition so people who meet a first Namibian could sign the petition and I will present it to the Namibian government and compensate me for the wonderful job that I’m doing as a non-paid, un-official Namibian Ambassador promoting Namibia to the world… I decided the petition was not necessary; I’m happy to be of service to my country of descent and helping to put her on the world map, in my small but big way….

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The basics… Namibia is pronounced NAH-MEE-BEER, NOT NAMBIA; note that there’s an “i” after the “M.” Sorry, I know you can read and know how to put your letters together but I had to make that clear because that’s what I always hear when I say “Namibia”… People who have never heard of Namibia or been there make it a point to correct me saying…”Oh, you mean NAMBIA”…. And I’m like… “No.. It’s N-A-M-I-B-I-A…. There’s an ‘i’ after ‘m’…”… Now that we have gotten the pronunciation out of the way, here is the fun and cool stuff about Namibia that will make you fall in love with her, like many people do when they are introduced to her.

People think Namibia is a small country just cause they have never heard of her. She’s the 34th largest country in the world at 318,772 mi² / 824,292 square kilometers. she’s 12 times the size of the USA and slightly more than half the size of Alaska. In the general scope of things, the only small thing about Namibia is her population, which estimated at 2.3 million people. She’s a big, under populated country with a GDP per capita of US$6,000 which is quite high at 48% of the world average and therefore it’s considered to be a middle-income country, although there’s a big income disparity among its citizens. The life expectancy of Namibians is 63.88 years. Not too shabby…

Namibia is rich and beautiful country on the southwest part of Africa, with unspoiled, breathtaking landscape, highly protected environment, and wildlife. She’s neighbored by South Africa on the south, Angola on the north, Zambia on the northeast and Botswana on the east. The Atlantic Ocean is on the west. Namibia is blessed with an abundance of natural resources. She produces large quantities of lead, zinc, tin, silver, and tungsten. She’s the world’s fifth largest producer of uranium, is the fourth largest exporter of non-fuel minerals in Africa. She’s also rich in alluvial diamond deposits, a primary source for gem quality diamonds. Namibia has a rich culture from its 13 diverse ethnic groups; The San People (formerly known as the bush people who make up 3% of the population), Owambo (50%), Whites (6%), Damara (7%), Herero (7%), Baster (2%), Nama (5%), Kavango (9%), Colored (this does not mean black people like in America; it basically means mixed-race , 5.5%), Tswanas (0.5%), Himba (0.5%), Caprivian (4%), Topnaars (0.5%).

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Politically, Namibia is a peaceful country with a stable democratic government. It used to be a German colony and then after World War 1 when German lost everything, Namibia was handed to the British who didn’t want to deal with her on that level so she was handed apartheid South Africa, who ruled Namibia under the same apartheid regime that was in Namibia. Namibia and South Africa basically shared the same government and was an un-official province of South Africa from 1918 until the apartheid war ended in 1989. Namibia became independent from South Africa on March 21st, 1990. I’m proud to say that my parents were one of the brave freedom fighters who fled apartheid Namibia to pick up arms and fought to liberate Namibia. Namibia is coined “Land of the Brave” because of brave men and women like my parents who laid their lives down for the freedom that Namibians enjoy today.

Compared to many African countries, Namibia is quite industrialized, with good infrastructure. She is one of Africa’s success stories and is considered to be one of four LEAST corrupt country in Namibia. Most people who visit Namibia often marvel at her beauty, cleanliness, and level of development; citing that they felt like they were in a European country. So tourism wise, Namibia is a paradise and heaven on earth. I always tell people that there’s nothing in the USA that I can’t get in Namibia. The only difference is that life is slower in Namibia, there’s no sense of urgency, customer service sucks (my biggest Namibia pet-peeve; hopefully it has improved since I was last there 3 years ago), the air is fresher, the food it better, even coke/coca-cola tastes 100% better and more authentic (Lord help me, I’m on a coke diet but hopefully I won’t give in…)… Anyway, there’s no better way to introduce you to Namibia than through this amazing video. Check it out:

 

Week 1 – Hello Namibia! I’m back!!!

I spent the first week in Namibia catching up with family. We threw a party party for “sweet mother”, went out partying with some of my cousins, went on a tour of Windhoek, provided some global health fitness travel services, relaxed and enjoyed time with loved ones.

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Windhoek City baby!!! My home in Namibia!
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One of Namibia’s staple foods: Oshifima and Vambo chicken
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YUMMY! My son and I’s favorite items to consume while in Namibia!

 

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I love Windhoek!

First order of the day when you visit Africa is to get your hair done/ braided (styled) perfectly by the local people at an affordable price. Support local business… I got my hair braided by Johanna’s Beauty Salon +264816569253 (Windhoek, Namibia). Johanna has been doing hair since she was 10 years old! Video Music by: TK/Joseph Nashilundo.

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Fun Night out with family

Fun Night, party hopping from Katutura (the Windhoek township area) to Windhoek City Center where we closed off the night at Monaco. #Oshimwenyo (FunLife) with #Family #Monaco #Windhoek #Namibia

And of course, I had to visit Single Quarters for some Kapana. Kapana is Namibia’s delicacy and you can’t come to Namibia and not eat Kapana (barbecue meat prepared the Namibian way)….

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Global Health-Fitness Work in Namibia

I’m passionate about providing health, wellness and fitness services around the world. As a Global Health Fitness Professional with over 15 years experience in the field, I work with the The WellnessPlex Global Health Foundation, where we travel around the world providing free health education, health screenings such as blood pressure, cholesterol, body composition, glucose, and fitness/physical activities, especially in low income communities where there is a great need for such services. Our global health campaign motto is “Know Your Numbers and Move Your Body.” To support our global health campaign, please visit http://www.thewellnessplex.com or email info@thewellnessplex.com / thewellnessplex@gmail.com.

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Providing free health screenings #KnowYourNumbers
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Leading a dance fitness session #MoveYourBody

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Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek is a beautiful capital city of Namibia. It is considered to be Africa’s cleanest city. See for your self (video below). My tour included a visit to shopping malls, Parliament build and garden, State House, various Hills where you can get a beautiful view of Windhoek, Christ Church, National Museum, Christ Church/Christus Kirche.

Watch my tour of Windhoek City

 

Beautiful Windhoek City (Independence Avenue)

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Magnificent view of Windhoek City from The Hill…..

During my tour of Windhoek, I had an unpleasant experience while admiring the State House. This is what went through my mind soon after the experience….

The Status update I made on my social media profile which received a lot of comments and likes in favor: “Not allowed to take pictures and videos of the State House? What the heck? There are even signs on the big wall-fence saying no photos (videos) allowed…. (Disclaimer: I got the attached image from google)…… I don’t live in Namibia so yesterday I was doing a tour of Windhoek City like a true tourist, appreciating the City. When I got to the front/the main entrance of the State House, far far away from the nearest State House building, I got out of the car about to take pictures and video and the security stopped me saying no pictures and videos allowed. I was confused, like what???…Why??? There are no such restrictions at the White House in America, and even at Buckingham Palace, which is a far bigger deal than the Namibian State House, security wise… The public/visitors can even go inside the White House…. The State House was built with Namibian tax payers money but yet Namibians cannot even take a nice and decent picture of the State House, nor are public visitations allowed? This does not sound right…. Eepangelo nali talepo nawa (in Oshiwambo which means the government should do something about this)…. Or am I missing something???”….

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Namibia’s State House

My favorite part of being in Namibia is that I get to experience life in Windhoek City and life in Katutura, as I have family members who live in both. Katutura is a township in Windhoek. It is Namibia’s version of Soweto in South Africa. Katutura and Soweto basically have the same history of apartheid. Just like Soweto, Katutura is where black Namibians were forced to move to by the apartheid regime during apartheid, far away from Windhoek City where the white Namibians lived. Today, Katutura has a mixture of modern houses and shacks. It’s a people’s place where there’s constant fun and liveliness. People there seem happier, livelier and freer than those who live in big houses in the city, in spite the poverty. I have family who live in Windhoek City and Katutura, however, Katutura is my favorite place to stay and hangout while in Namibia.

Watch my Katutura video here:

 

I also got a chance to visit Hereos Acre in Windhoek a memorial site for Namibia’s hereos who played a big role in liberating Namibia from colonialist and apartheid. I had to pay respect to the fallen heroes of Namibia. Their blood and sweat waters Namibia’s  freedom that we so enjoy today. Their sacrifice for freedom is celebrated every year on the August 26 which is a national holiday.

Watch my visit to Heroes Acre here:

 

Week 2: Visiting South Africa!

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 I had an amazing time in South Africa visiting family and going around Pretoria, Soweto, Johannesburg and Sandton. I have members to cherish for a lifetime and I can’t wait to be back again soon. Be sure to read the South Africa post in my blog. Click here to read all about it.

Week 3: Back in Namibia!

When I got back from visiting family in South Africa, I got put the final touches on organizing my family reunion on my dad’s side. The reunion was a huge success. I got a chance to meet some of my family members for the first time and reconnected with the ones I already knew. I also got a chance to learn more about my beautiful large family. Family is precious and we should cherish each other at every opportunity we get.

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Enjoying a family reunion

After the family Reunion, I traveled to Owamboland (The North) where my family originates from. I’m from the Aawambo tribe and our native langue is Oshiwambo. Nearly all the Oshiwambo speakers in Namibia (50% of the population) travel to the North to visit family. You can’t visit Namibia and not travel to the North (village) to visit family in the village. The trip to the North is always a fun and therapeutic with because of the beautiful Namibian scenery, great company, yummy food and entertaining music.

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Road trip to the North… The scenery!
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The scenery…. Road trip to the North

 

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Beautiful Rainbow in Owamboland (the North)

Video of my road trip to the North:

The northern part of Namibia has towns and villages. The villages are traditional homes and every Oshiwambo family has a traditional home that they go to on a regular basis to retreat, relax, visit family and to celebrate special family events such as weddings. The towns are modern with brick buildings, indoor running water and electricity. The villages on are a different story; visiting a village is almost like going back in time to he 1800s of before that. I get to stay at both modernized and traditional villages on both sides of my family. I chose to show the traditional one cos it’s different. Let’s be proud of where we came from, how far we have come and appreciate it all.

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Inside a village homestead….
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The field..
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Village huts
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Olupalo… A special place for gathering in the village
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Village huts

The village homes are called homesteads and they are surrounded by a fence. Some fences are made of tree logs, wire barbs and bricks. Some villages have brick houses but most of them have huts where people sleep and they don’t have indoor running water/taps and electricity. So villagers have to fetch water from a community tap, the river or the well. Life is very simple in the villages. Most of the stead has a kraal for goats, cows and other domestic animals. The food in the village is organic as families grow and prepare their own food.

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Me pounding omahangu which is made into Oshiwambo staple food, oshifima
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At the village kitchen
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Working in the field…

Unfortunately, most villages don’t have indoor plumbing so one has to go and do their business in the bush (toilet) and take a bath in the tree-log bathroom as shown below.

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Village life: Going to the bush (toilet) to do my business…
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Village life: Taking a bath

I had a great time in the North. I believe this is the most fun I have ever had visiting the village and I will cherish these memories.

Watch my village video below:

 

Week 4: Visit to Angola

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Angola-Namibia border: In Oshikango (Namibia side) crossing into Santa Clara (Angola side)

After my time in the village, I decided to cross the border into Angola and visit the country where I was born. Angola borders Namibia so it was a lot easier and faster for for me to go Angola while in the north via Oshikango/Santa Clara Border. I had a great time in Angola. It was my first time back since I left back in June 1989 after the apartheid war ended. Read more about my trip to Angola here:

Week 5: Farewell….

Oh my way back from the North/Owamboland going back to Namibia to relax and get ready to travel back to the USA, I made a quick pass through Etosha National Park to see the wild life. It was my first time there and wish I had dedicated more time to spend at the park. I only spend an hour there and didn’t get to see all the animals. To see as many animals, you need to go in the morning or early afternoon and spend a whole day there as they close at sunset. It’s preferable the that spend the night there so you can take all the time in the world to enjoy this magnificent Safari.

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Here is my video of Etosha National Park

 

HORRIBLE CUSTOMER SERVICE IN NAMIBIA

I mentioned this at the beginning of this blog hoping that it wouldn’t be as bad this time and that there will be noticeable improvement but unfortunately, customer service remains HORRIBLE in Namibia, especially when the customer is black. A day before my depature, a store rep started a fight with me and my sister just because we asked her to assist us in the store…. Watch what transpired at #Safariland in Windhoek …… Namibian companies, please train/re-train your workers on how to deliver exceptional customer service…. Kudos to those who make customer service a priority.

 

Nonetheless…. As you can tell! I had the most amazing 5-week vacation in Southern Africa. Time went by too fast. Usually, I’m ready to get back home to the USA after the 3rd week as by that time, I have seen and done all that I needed to do during my visit. This time it was different. I believe it’s because I was traveling a lot inside and outside Namibia that I didn’t get to do everything I wanted. I didn’t visit Swakopmund, although I have been to Swakopmund before. Swakopmund is a coastal town of Namibia with the beach and the desert. It’s always a great place to visit. Here is a Swakopmund blast from the past:

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Enjoying the beach in Swakopmund, Namibia
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Quadbiking and horse riding in he Namib Desert in Swakopmund, Namibia

Furthermore, I didn’t get to do a full tour of Namibia and I didn’t get to spend as much time with most of my friends as most of my time was dedicated to spending it with family. But, there’s always a next time…. I thank God for traveling mercies and the wonderful time that I had and the people who made it special. Thank you!

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Admiring Air Namibia in the background at Windhoek International Airport
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Boarding Ethiopian Airlines back to Washington, DC via Addis Ababa
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In Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
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Apparently Addis Ababa is Africa’s Capital City….

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Going outside Africa, I was at the nicer part of Addis Ababa Airport – the new airport..
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Touch town Washington, DC, USA! I’m back home!

View all the Pictures here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskScbKnn

Why you should visit Rio de Janeiro, Brazil! I had a Blast!

This trip was not planned. It was one of those impromptu trips made with an attempt to get away and escape all the “noise and nonsense” I was going through at the time. I needed to get away so I called my cousin in Rio and asked him if I could finally pay him a visit…. With his trip blessing, I went online and bought my ticket. I wasn’t looking forward to anything in particular, I just wanted to get away….  Brazil was not in my top 5 countries to visit anytime soon, but it was the easiest place I could go to at the time mainly because I had a wonderful cousin there who would make sure that I had a great time and also because as a Namibian citizen living in the USA, I didn’t need a visa to travel to Brazil. I could just pick up and go….

I departed on Monday August 15th at 350pm (Washington, DC time) via Miami and arrived at 9:05am (Rio time).On Average, the trip was about 12hrs25mins. A bit long but I’m used to long flights. My cousin Dragon and his friend Nuuyoma picked me up from the airport. Everything looked quite small in Rio compared to what I was used to in America. The cars were smaller, the road narrower but the city looked beautiful and breathtaking… My heart smiled knowing that I was in for a treat…!

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View of Rio from the mountain top

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most populated cities in the world and the second largest city in Brazil. It’s considered a metro city built around the largest tropical forest in the world, the Tijuca Forest. The forests surrounding Rio gives it a tropical climate resulting in a warm and humid climate most of the year. For those planning to travel to Rio, the weather makes a difference to your vacation experience. I went in August, which is considered winter in Rio, although you can still walk around the city in your bikini and flip-flops. Compared to the winters of America, the weather was the perfect. It was nice and warm very warm and didn’t feel like winter at all. But it did rain quite a bit, limiting my daily trips to the beach. It also tends to get cloudy in the winter; especially on the mountain top. The winter cloudiness affected my view of the “Jesus Statue” the day I went to see it (I could barely see anything… More on that below)…. So future Rio travelers, it’s worth noting that summer season starts from the month of December and lasts until February, where the temperatures are a little high with low humidity and rainfall is expected. For those who don’t like too much heat, the best time to visit Rio is during the winter season, around the time I went, from July to September. As I mentioned before, Winter in Rio is perfect, compared to the winter in the Washington, DC (USA) where I live, because in the day, it is quite warm with plenty of sunlight perfect for the beach and sightseeing in Rio.

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Before I go any further, it is worth noting Rio de Janeiro’s interesting history…. It was actually Brazil’s first capital city when Brazil gained its independence from Portugal 1889. Yes, Brazil is a Portuguese speaking country and you should probably learn a few Portuguese words to help you get around because most/99% of las cariocas (local Rio people) don’t speak English. For all the two weeks I was there, I only encountered about three las cariocas who could speak some words of English but they were not fluent. The language barrier would have been a problem if I didn’t have my non-Brazilian cousin and friends who spoke both English and Portuguese fluently. Sorry I digressed… Where was I…? Yes, the capital city of Brazil later moved from Rio to Brasilia in 1960 to reduce the economic and financial pressure that was placed on Rio as the capital city. Sao Paolo is now the capital city of Brazil.

As Brazil’s top-notch tourist destination, Rio certainly lived up to its nickname Cidade Maravilhosa, which means Marvelous City. The city, which is mostly well known for its beaches, samba music, carnivals and football (soccer), is mainly made up of seas, mountains and forests. This diversity adds to its breathtaking beauty of white sandy beaches, towering mountains and scenic environment. Because Rio is surrounded by beaches, mountains, and has some of the world’s most famous landmarks, including one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Many say that it’s the most beautiful city in Brazil… I can’t make that judgement call (yet) because it’s the only city I have visited in Brazil….

Feeling at home in Copacabana

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My street intersection in Rio, right by Copacabana Beach
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View from my condo balcony, overlooking the beach
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Inside the beautiful and spacious condo… I wish I could own one of these in Rio….
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The major hotel in Rio, right near where I was staying… Copacabana Palace

I had the privilege of staying in one of Rio’s best neighborhoods, Copacabana, at a condo right across from Copacabana beach and a few blocks from the world famous Copacabana Palace Hotel. Copacabana is a hotspot for tourists from around the world and it is located in the South Zone of the city. It’s considered to be one of the culturally richer neighborhoods in Rio because it’s filled with bars, restaurants and upscale hotels.

Fun at Copacabana Beach

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Copacabana Beach – View from my balcony
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Hanging out with my girl at the beach….
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Copacabana Beach
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Having a great time at the beach…

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Enjoying the coconut….

I’m a beach girl so you know I was in heaven with these beaches in my backyard. I spent most of my time at Copacabana beach which was literally across the street from where I was staying. Such peace and serenity! Now I understand why many world travelers are attracted to Rio because of its famous beaches like Copacabana and Ipanema. Copacabana beach is located on the Atlantic shore. The beautiful view to the left of Copacabana beach is the towering mountain of Sugar Loaf and Fort Duque de Caxias built in 1779. Ipanema beach is a wealthier to Copacabana beach because it’s in a richer neighborhood. The beach is famous for water sports and is considered to be the best urban beach in the world. After seeing and experiencing these beaches, I understand the hype! The beaches never sleep. Visitors soak up the sun, take naps, play beach soccer and volleyball, exercise on the beach-gym equipment and dance like there’s no tomorrow….

Party in Lapa

You can’t be a true party girl and not dance the night away at the street party in Lapa. It’s the only neighborhood in Rio that will give you a real taste of the nightlife in Rio. It’s a party district conveniently and historically located downtown Rio. I have never seen so many people dancing and having so much in the street. Everyone was so happy and friendly. It was definitely a great experience. I recommend that all party-animals make this their first party stop in Rio.

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View of Lapa street party from one of the clubs in Lapa…
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They were drumming Samba and I joined in with a dance…
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I have no idea who these people were; we connected via music and dance!
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Lapa – So many people partying in the street! Awesome experience!
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I found my party home in Rio… Stoked!

Visiting Rio’s Tourist Attractions

Sugar Loaf Mountain and Cable Car

I enjoyed my trip to Sugar Loaf which is a 395 meter Tall Mountain named after the traditional sugarloaves, and located at the Guanabar Bay in the Atlantic Ocean. From the mountain top, you can see a spectacular view of Rio. I arrived at the mountain top with a 2-3 minute ride on cable car, but some visitors preferred to put their mountain climbing skills to good use by climbing the mountain instead. The Sugar loaf cable car was launched in 1912 and it’s one of the oldest in world and the first one in Brazil. The cable car makes stops at three stations: Praia Vermelha, Morro da Urca and Pão de Açucar, which are connected by four cable cars.

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Outside Sugar loaf entrance point…
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Sugar loaf depicted… In line to see the actual Sugarloaf
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Some visitors climbing Sugar loaf
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I preferred to take the Cable car instead….
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Inside the Sugar loaf cable car
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View of Rio from the cable car

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Christ the Redeemer

I hope my avid world travelers out there didn’t freak out when I failed to call the “Jesus Statue” earlier by its’ official name. I know the name; I just wanted to strategically mention it here. The statue Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor, in Portuguese) is a 30 meters/98 feet tall depiction of Jesus Christ and part of the new edition of the Seven Wonders of the World. I got to the statue by riding through the Tijuca forest National Park on a tourist bus which dropped us off at the tram station where we took the twenty-minute free tram ride to the top of the 700 meters/2,300 feet tall Corcovado Mountain where the statue sits. It was a sight to be beheld. However, we could barely see the statue that day because it was a cloudy and foggy winter day. It’s possible to see the statue in the winters, just not on a cloudy and foggy day. So that was a bummer. Nonetheless, the statue gives a powerful impression that Jesus is actually watching over Rio and blessing the city….

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The day we went, it was foggy at the very top, we could barely see the statue…

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Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro

Brazil is a catholic country, as is the case with most countries in South America. Therefore, I couldn’t leave without visiting one of the city’s tourist attractions, the Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro. The Cathedral has a beautiful interior and has a standing room capacity of 20,000 people.

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The Maracanã Stadium

I love football (soccer) and watching the world cup games! I played soccer in the Soccer for Jesus League in the USA and my church team won the most championships in the league. Soccer is Brazil’s national sport and lies at the heart of their culture. So with my love for soccer and the hype around the 2014 World Cup in Rio, I had to visit the most famous soccer stadium in the world; the Maracanã Stadium. The stadium was officially inaugurated during the 1950 World Cup with a capacity of 100,000 fans. At one point, it was the largest soccer stadium in the world.

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Favelas

Unfortunately, Rio is not all bliss. On my way from seeing the Jesus Statue, we passed by shanty towns/slums called Favelas, where people live in abject poverty. Rio is well known for its favelas where 23-24% of its residents live. Rio has more favelas than any other cities in Brazil. The favelas are also considered as tourist attractions so I hope the proceeds from tourists also benefit those who live in the favelas……

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Best ways to Get Around in Rio….

How did I get around Rio, you may be wondering…. Public Transportation! Rio is a fairly easy to navigate because it has an efficient metro system which includes trains and buses. It also has a bike-sharing system, taxis and I’m sure Uber/Lyft probably operates there now.  You have to research that…. Although it’s expensive and most don’t recommend it, you can rent a car and drive yourself around…. The best thing about using public transportation is that you can to really experience and see the city and get a chance to mingle with the local people….

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On the bus…
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The subway station in Copacabana where I was staying…C. Arcoverae
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Inside the subway station

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Riding the train/subway
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Enjoying the bus ride

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In the taxi…
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Hard corn on the cob; my favorite!!! It’s hard to find them this nice and hard in the USA…

The Food in Rio is GREAT

Yes, I managed to find time to eat! In fact, I ate way too much because the food was just OH SO GOOD!!! And it didn’t help that my favorite restaurant in Rio, Copa Grill, was a few doors from where I was staying. I had to run at the beach every morning for at least one hour to avoid putting on weight. I don’t know how they prepare their food, but coming from America, it tasted out of this world! Either their food is just so good, or America’s food is just too bad. I learned that food in Rio is a mix of Indian, African and European ingredients. It’s mostly prepared using techniques that originate from the native people and the adaptations made by the African slaves and the Portuguese using local ingredients. The food tastes so real and rich. I wonder if it’s 100% organic because it tastes like it…..

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Home made lunch with my cousin
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I ate here A LOT while in Rio… Delicious food!

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Exercising while in Rio

No wonder almost everyone looks great in Rio. The environment supports a healthy-fit lifestyle. Rio embraces sports as much as it does samba, the beaches and the sunny weather. Fitness on the Beach keeps everyone in good shape. All throughout the day, you see people jogging and running down the beach, cycling with a stunning view of the Atlantic, playing soccer and volleyball on the beach and elsewhere, working out at outdoor gyms that are stationed all over Rio in almost every neighborhood and along the beaches. It’s not rare to find a group exercise class taking place on Copacabana beach.

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Samba School Parties: Getting a taste of Carnival in Rio

When you think of Rio, what comes to your mind first and foremost…? You got it, CARNIVAL (Carnaval in Portuguese)! No doubt, Rio is mostly known for its exhilarating carnival which features samba music and dances, and colorful costumes. The carnival is considered to be the largest in the world with two million people per day on the streets during the carnival. I didn’t get to attend the Carnival because it takes place every year before lent, usually in February or early March, but I went in August.  But I did visit the purpose-built parade-venue where the Carnival takes place every year, called the Sambadrome. I also got a chance to attend parties at Rio Samba schools, whose main objective is to rehearse and prepare to compete in the annual Carnival. Samba schools are not samba teaching institutions as the name implies. They are simply associations or clubs representing a particular neighborhood in Rio. At these monthly parties, the schools host parties to showcase their work and new dances, with live samba music/bands. I got the closest experience I could get of Rio Carnival at the Samba schools where I perfected my samba dance moves. I particularly fell in love with the samba dance style by men. I LOVED watching them dance samba. They do it so skillfully, with swag and a certain playfulness that I can’t quite describe…. The women dance it very well too and as a dancer myself, I appreciate dances and dancers from all over the world, but there’s nothing more remarkable than a man who can really DANCE, effortlessly….!

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Outside one of the major Samba Schools in Rio
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Samba dancers performing
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Live samba band

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Shopping in Rio

I hate shopping unless it involves actively listening to music and dancing. So shopping in Rio was not on my To Do list. I left my tennis shoes/sneakers in the USA and I needed them to teach a free Zumba class I was offering at the Rio YMCA. We went around to different places but I couldn’t find the tennis shoes I wanted so I settled for those takkies (as they call them in Namibia and South Africa). So yes, there are plenty of regular malls to shop in Rio. I’m sure if you look hard enough, you will eventually have better luck at finding what you’re looking for, at the right price. Rio is an expensive city after all just so you….

My favorite part of shopping in Rio was visiting the markets. The markets are a great way to experience Rio. There are different types of markets spread around in the city. I lived across from the street from The Night Market in Copacabana which sets up between Rua Bolivar and Rua Sá Ferreira, close to Posto 6 and operates Monday to Saturday from 6pm to midnight. This is a souvenir and beach wear market catering to tourists visiting Copacabana. This is where I bought all my Brazilian beach wear that you see in the pictures, and other souvenirs.

I had the pleasure of visiting one of the largest, if not the largest and vibrant markets in the north part of Rio, Feira de São Cristóvão, also known as Feira Nordestina.  The market which attracts 300,000 visitors each month is housed in a sports-stadium-like venue which has about 700 stalls, bars, restaurants, dance floors, stages, shops, beauty salons, and so forth with an emphasis on fun and having a great time. I felt the party atmosphere as soon as I entered the market because it was very lively, crowded, and it looked lively and everyone was enjoying the food, music, arts, craft and traditions from the Northeast of Brazil. I enjoyed the food, live concerts and dancing Forró.

I also went to another market called Mercadão de Madureira, one of the largest markets in Brazil which caters to the average working Brazilian. It has more than 580 stores and is filled with locals engaging in their everyday business. You won’t find expensive designer brands at this market.  I went there to see if I could find a company that could make my athletic apparel, Valentina Apparel as a reasonable price since they generally have a variety of items at really low prices. I made some contacts as far as my athletic apparel but they didn’t work out in the end so I’m still looking…

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At the Mall…. Outside my store in Rio… ;-). I was excited to see a store with my name (Rachel is my first name, Valentina is my second name)!
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At the market
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Feira de Sao Cristovao/Feira Nordestina Market

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Inside the market

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Dancing Forro
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Concert inside the market

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Inside the market

Chilling and relaxing with new friends

When I wasn’t going around Rio, I was home or at a neighborhood bar hanging out with friend although I don’t drink. My favorite home pastime activity was playing a mathematical strategy card game called Casino. The game is played with 2-4 players. I have been playing Casino since I was about 8 years old so this is my favorite card game. I can play it all day and do a victory dance every time I or my game partner and I win the game. It’s the best card game in the world.

 

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Playing Casino, my favorite card game

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This game is addictive… It’s a lot of fun!
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Bragging: 2-0! We kept winning!
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The undefeated champs in Casio-Rio division! LOL!
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If I hear good music playing… I’m dancing to it! No other way around it!
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Never stop dancing….

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Other Rio/Brazil Interesting observations…

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Cariocas – The local people of Rio are called Cariocas. While interacting with them, despite the language barrier, I found them to be friendly and good-natured people. One just has to be careful because some of them are good at pick-pocketing, although I haven’t had anything stolen from me while there….

Hanging out downtown Rio – Business and Financial District

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Porn Advertising Phone booths– I was a bit shocked that it was lawful to advertise porn in public phone booths all around the city. I have never seen this anywhere else but no one else seemed to care….

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Porn phone booths in Rio

Black people in Brazil – It’s interesting to note that that Brazil has the 2nd largest population of black people in the world (after Nigeria).

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Watching capoeira …

Kids at Adult Parties – I was also surprised to see small kids out on their own partying with adults both at Lapa and also at Samba schools and it seemed perfectly okay with everyone there….

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Kids at adult party

I could go on all day about Rio but I have to stop here…. Although I wasn’t particularly excited about going to Rio and the trip was unplanned, I’m so glad I went as it turned out to be one of my best and special vacations. It was a memorable two week vacation….. I left Rio at 810pm and arrived in Washington, DC at 1025am on August 29th, 2011. I highly recommend Rio as a perfect travel destination. It’s the first place I visited where I actually got emotional when I was leaving. I made such a special connection with the city and its people that I felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind….. When I got back to the States, I was rejuvenated and more focused. The situation that I ran away from by going to Rio, seemed to have disappeared when I got back and set my life back in motion and on the right track….. Sometimes when your world gets overwhelming, you just need to get away from all the “noise” to refocus and find yourself again…. Rio de Janeiro, I thank you….!

I hope this blog post inspires your next exciting and adventurous escapade (vacation)….!

With love,

Chica Valentina

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Relaxing on the Balcony of the condo I was staying overlooking Copacabana Beach

See more pictures from my Rio vacation here: https://flic.kr/s/aHskXbkAVH