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I met Lek!!!

'Lek' Chailert is a Thai conservationist who runs the wonderful, wonderful Elephant Nature Park outside Chiang Mai, and also founded the Save Elephant Foundation. She's spent most of her life caring for elephants – her park is home to almost forty elephants, mostly elderly and rescued from exploitation and cruelty. She also looks after hundreds of homeless dogs and cats, a small herd of cattle and buffalo, and many other animals. She also campaigns against animal cruelty in general across Thailand and the surrounding countries, as well as setting up similar sanctuaries elsewhere.

She's one of my personal heroes, and I was thrilled to bits to meet her in person, quite by chance, while visiting the Elephant Park. I ran into her while playing with one of the many content-looking cats that call the park home, and she was kind enough to take me and my mum on a tour through the kitty 'dormitories' that house the other cats, with her dog accompanying us. It made us slightly late for our trip back into town, but I wouldn't have missed meeting her for the world.
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Uploaded the better pictures from Africa to imgur, if you're interested, difficult as it was to cut down several hundred elephant pictures to a representative handful.
 

- Swakopmund and Surroundings

Odd little town; still firmly German in character and language. Streets and buildings named after Bismark or Kaiser Wilhelm are side-to-side with those named after modern African leaders. Quaint central German architecture will sit on one side of a road, while on the other, desert sands stretch out to the horizon. The nearby town of Walvis Bay is similar, if slightly larger and with British influences taking the place of the German, and with a harbor full of seals, dolphins and pelicans.

The desert and mountains are spectacular; in some places very reminiscent of central Australia. Also home to the welwitschia plant, an unusual species described by Charles Darwin as the 'platypus of plants' due to its unique combination of traits rarely seen together.
 

- Etosha National Park

Dry, almost a desert in many places, the giant national park is nonetheless filled with animals, and staying here made for some of the most satisfying days of our holiday. We saw giant herds of elephants, zebras, kudu, springbok, impala and wildebeest, alongside jackals, warthogs, ostrich, and rhino. We were even lucky enough to spot a pair of lions at the waterhole, and a leopard one night!

We suspect because of the dry season and the current drought, animals were clustered around the handful of waterholes in greater numbers than usual. Whatever the reason, it was absolutely magical seeing a herd of at least thirty elephants, from elderly animals with worn tusks to tiny babies only a month or two old hiding beneath their mothers.
 

- Okavango Delta

Another highlight, even in the dry season. Accommodations were wonderful, with elephants and other animals visible from the balcony of our rooms! As water flows south-east from Angola, birds follow, so we saw great flocks of cranes and eagles feasting on the fish of the river, alongside graceful lechwe antelope.

They proved only a sideshow, though, compared to the real stars, the hippos! At least thirty rose from the water as we came around a bend in the river, surfacing, snorting, and submerging again, occasionally stopping to challenge us with a threatening 'yawn'. It is rather intimidating being eyed by several dozen half-submerged hippos, any one of which could easily overturn our boat if they grew aggressive.
 

- Chobe River and Zambezi River

Sadly, we only had a single night here before crossing the border and reaching Victoria Falls, but it was delightful! Like the Okavango, the Chobe River flows from Angola – where it's known as the Cuando – before flowing south-east through Namibia and Botswana. Much of its length is protected national parks, and the countries that control it have been surprisingly good about managing its water in a sustainable way.

We sailed down part of it at sunset, taking in the view and the diverse wildlife. Hippos, though not as numerious as at Okavango, alongside giraffes, cape buffalo, various antelope, any number of birds, a handful of baboons, and a great many basking crocodiles!


- Victoria Falls (Mosi-oa-Tunya)

Our final stop saw us cross the border into Zimbabwe, and the great falls more than lived up to their reputation! They were almost full when we visited, so mist and spray blocked much of our view, but really, that just added to the sense of size and power. We got drenched – a welcome relief after the arid stretches of Namibia and Botswana.

Like everywhere else we visited in Africa, the Falls had their fair share of wildlife. Baboons crossed our path at the Falls themselves, while near our hotel, we were treated to the sight of whole families of vervet monkeys and banded mongoose. Finally, on the hotel lawn itself, we ran into a small group of warthogs, who seem to have found a niche as lawnmowers.

 

All in all, an excellent holiday, and I recommend everywhere we went. If I went again, probably instead of doing the overland tour from the coast, I'd fly direct to Windhoek and then travel direct to Etosha and stay there for a few days, then return, fly over to Maun and from there go to the Okavango Delta and spend as much time there as I could afford. Both were the absolute highlights of the trip, and I heartily recommend them to anyone looking to visit southern Africa.

If you do want the full overland experience, though, we booked with Nomad travel, and they provided an excellent service. Accommodation and meals were much higher quality than I expected, and while the pace was hectic, I never felt like we were being rushed from one attraction to another – the driver was always willing to stop and give us as much time as we wanted if we spotted something interesting.

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Guess who just booked a holiday to southern Africa?!

Guess who just nearly went mad trying to find connecting flights to southern Africa?!

(Seriously, a two hour flight from Johannesburg to Namibia should not include two other stops and a six hour layover...)
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You know, it's not that I want to spend more time at airport checkpoints, but I do think it defeats the point of searching my bag if you're just going to take my word for it regarding what's in the boxes in there.

Nope, nothing suspicious here, just a bunch of opaque containers. Next!”

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First day back from Hawaii has mostly been spent under the house, unsuccesfully trying to coax the cat out of her hiding spot. Apparently she didn't approve of the cat-sitters...
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So, I'm heading out to Hawaii on vacation in November! Going to visit O'ahu, Maui, and the big Hawai'i island itself!

(Did you know Honolulu isn't on the big Hawaiian island? It's on one of the little ones? I don't get you Americans and your state capitals...)

Anyway, anyone got any tips? Little things to see or know before going?
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IT IS FINISHED!!!



After so long, it feels weird to actually have finished my thesis, but here it is... Yay!

(Yes, I need to submit five bound copies of it... I was lucky enough to get a scholarship this year, which, in the end, barely covered printing and binding costs...)

Now I don't have to feel guilty every time I run across a reference to Haiti or the Philippines that I'm not working on my thesis!
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Sent off my full draft of my thesis. You'd think actually getting the thing finished would be a weight off one's back, but the waiting for my supervisor's comments is the hardest part of the whole thing...
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I think I've lost interest in my thesis topic already.
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Was walking down the street today, and a guy commented on my Che Guevara T-Shirt I was wearing.

It was kind of awkward, because my actual feelings towards Che are rather ambivalent. I own the T-shirt more for the kitsch value than anything else. The man’s ideals cannot be criticized, I feel, but his methods ranged from the brutal to the incompetent; his attempt to lead a revolution in Bolivia that lead to his death was almost comically inept. And the cult of personality that developed around him after his death is very much about the romantic image of the revolutionary ideal at the expense of the more complex reality of his life.

So, as I said, it’s awkward when I’m wearing the shirt and someone comments on it, because I am sympathetic to the point of view that he wasn’t an individual that should be immortalised in the way that he has been, while at the same time, the right-wing Latin American governments and their American backers weren’t really open to any sort of compromise with the left, so I’m not willing to complexly condemn Che’s revolutionary socialism either. It’s a complex issue, and not one that it’s easy to have with strangers I meet on the street.

Of course, as it turned out, the whole situation ended up a lot less awkward – for me at least – once it became clear that the guy thought Che was a musician…
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When I started my honors thesis this year, I was told it should be 20,000-22,000 words long.

A few months later, my supervisor told me the word limit was actually 16,000-18,000.

Today, she told me that the word limit includes footnotes.

This is not good for my work ethic to have my workload constantly shrinking through no effort on my part...
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Personal documents I did find while going through my filing cabinet:
  • Set of school photos (1998)
  • Instructions on how to receive my final high school results (2001)
  • 400-word essay on the plot of Grease (1997)
  • Crude drawing of ‘dragons migrating’ (c. 1994)
  • Certificate proclaiming that I was a ‘busy bee’ at ‘Maths Day’ (1993)

Personal records I did not find:
  • My tax file number
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Finally applied for honours. Just have to wait a few weeks to see if I'm accepted...

Would have applied a month ago, but it took this long to make sense of the application process. *sigh*

Now, I just need to come up with a thesis topic...
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Finally got my results for last semester, a good two days before this semester starts...

High distinctions in everything! Including one unit where I wrote my final essay while I was sick as a dog, taking three types of cold medicine, and as a result haven't the slightest memory of what the essay was actually about...
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If you’re wondering why I haven’t posted in a while, it’s because I’ve been having a shit of a few weeks.

Personal rant things behind... )

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