Location: Lisbon, Portugal
OK took me like 5 hours to upload lal the photos I had backlogged. so out of energy. But will have a healthy post here in the next day or so. hope you enjoy
Location: croatia, sanski most and kosov, Yugoslavia
Well it has been a whirlwind couple of days here in the balkans. I cant believe it but my time in bosnia is already up. It was truly an amazing place and an incredible experience, but i do feel ready to move on, travel, and get some surf!!!
So, while Al was off exploring the croatian coast, i held down the fort in Sanski most. I did some grant writing, did a presentation for some SIT group from the states, and chilled pretty hard.
For the most part, hung with my buddy Amel and my boss vihidin. Took a scenic trip to the local waterfall and had some family dinners over at Vihidins.
then over the weekend i bounced down to sarajevo to get a little taste of the city, and just to get out of Sanski most for a bit and back to civilization, and WOW is Sarajevo incredible. It one of the most amazing cities I have ever visited. It is nestled in between massive mountains and has a really cool old town with great bars and cafes.
The history of sarajevo and the conflict is really amazing. It went from hosting the 1984 Olympics to being undersiege by serbian aggressors within the span of ten years. i actually got to hop in with the SIT tour of the city, so got a really good feel for the area. The city was completely surrounded by serbian forces from 1992-1994, and was constantly shelled from high mountain outposts. We saw sniper alley, a major street that was deserted for nearly 3 years because of sniper fire. and then we got to go on The Tunnel Tour, which was incredible. The bosnians constructed a 800 meter tunnel that went from inside the city, under the airport and to the only portion of sarajevo that was free of serbian control. the tunnel was the only way in or out of the city and the main supply line for troops and civilians. It was remarkable.
It was just so interesting to be in a city that had so recently been at war. And it has recovered amazingly well. the people seem extremely upbeat and are very open about sharing their experiences. But the effects of the bombing are visible everywhere. there are bombed out building and bullet ridden walls everywhere. some place haven't even been rebuilt, so they are stark reminders of the war. I actually went into an old sniper post that was totally in ruins. it was a little creepy going in there by myself, and when a dog came running down the stairs i nearly crapped myself. but it was incredible. then walked to the old ottoman ruins that overlook the city, and just took it all in. If you ever get the chance, it is def. worth the trip.
Al and I were both back in sanksi most for a couple days, said our goodbyes and then hit the road. We traveled north to Zagreb in croatia for a day and then flew to Kosovo last night. Kosovo is the newest self-declared country in europe, and is still not recognized by Serbia as a free state. but kosovo was also liberated by NATO bombing in 1999. It is now almost completely Albanian, but there are still small enclaves of serbs who are defended by UN peace keepers. Tensions remain high.
Anyways, leaving in the morning for istanbul, turkey for a week. gonna meet up with a buddy from college, so should be a good time. Then flying into spain and heading up to Hossegor france for some swell. It is supposed to be 12 ft. @15 sec. so could be double overhead barrels. pretty amped. gonna have to get into surf shape real fast, ha ha.
Ok, well more to come soon. checkl the new pics too. peace
Location: Sanski Most, Bosnia-Hercegovina
my life, well . . .I have pretty much settled into life here in sanskimost. It is a small town so you get the fell for it really quick. Me and al have a cool little flat in town. We have the third floor above a couple families. it is small but nice. and has a fire place which is the real treat. we always light it up and chill in the evening, since there isnt a night life really to speak of. Been reading a bunch, and writing again which is good. I think it happens more organically when I m gone because I dont have any distractions. Just lots and lots of time to think, ha ha, which is good and bad I guess.
i am glad to have Al here, but he leaves for 10 days to go see his girl, so gonna get a feel for traveling solo again here soon. Anyways, me and al are super lucky because his buddy rick was here a couple summers ago and he hooked us up with his buddy amal. He is a total bro and has been taking us around all the time. We ball most days and always chill. they really work sparsely around here, so people are always up for hanging. I mean, we pretty much always do dinner and coffee with either amal or our boss Vihidin. But amal is great. he works with his parents selling fruit in the market and speaks great englsih. It has made all the diference to have someone to show us around.
The same goes for our boss vihidin. he is a really interesting guy who started this whole organization by himself. He trained for 6 years to become an Imam, which is the leader of the islamic faith. he doesnt actually lead prayers in town but is devoutely muslim. But islam is much less strict here than it is in the middle east. women generally arent covered, some men drink, everyone smokes a ton, and people are pretty relaxed and embracing in general. But the majority of my experiences and my learning has come from sharing experiences with vihidin and his fam. I mean everyone here has intense stories related to genocide and the war. Vihidins dad was assumed dead for 8 months as he hid in the woods while serbs ethnically cleansed the town. he fled with the help of a neighbor to Slovenia to his family, who had already held his funeral. i mean, there are personal experiences that I just cant relate too. and the ethnic tensions are still extremely high and they could boil over into war at anytime. The memories of war color everything in this country. people were so deeply affected that it permeates everything. I have never been in a country so soon after an atrocity and a war. it is still very evident in the bombed out building s that werent fixed or the bullet holes in walls.
But we got to do something real cool last wekeend. Vihidin took us to go visit and stay with his family in the mountains in northern bosnia near croatia. WE hung at their farm and factory, ate with them, and chilled. it was so cool to go into someones home and just assimilate. the language barrier is tough but you can get by it with some hand gestures and an open mind. But the highlight may have been this Ottoman castle he took us too. there was no one in the entire castle, and the guard had to come from town to unlock it and let us in. we ran around the whole place, and it was remarkable. There were beautifully carvesd stones all through the center of the castle set atop beautiful grass. I mean, it looked like a gorgeous college campus, surrounded by massive stone walls and gorgeous buildings. i took some great pics, so I will pass them along for sure. but I cant seem to upload them to m travel page or even to an email which is annoying.
But my basic day is- meet vihidin for a breakfast of fried bread and meat. ha ha. the food tends to be a bit heavy but great. actually in the mountains one breaky was fried dough and cake. pretty light, ha. But then we go to the office and do a little work, and talk or read. then go to coffee and talk some more and chill. then some gulash for lunch, which is just beef sttew, but it rocks. then head to the court for some ball and head to dinner with al and amal. then home for a fire and a book. i guess the biggest change is getting accustomed to the change of pace. everyone is content moving slowly, and really appreciate just talking. well . . .smoking cigs and drinking coffee, and talking i guess would be a more accurate picture. I mean they smoke everywhere. kinda how I imagined.
Well . . I guess thats it. I am actually pretty happy, just adjusting more each day.
Location: South Africa
I know I am a month into the trip and havent gotten around to setting this up. But wanted to post some pics and give you feel for our life here.
I am gonna try to update it one more time before I leave, but this is more for those of you who wont be around Rye when we get back to share this with you personally.
The Hostel we have been living in is great. It is run by a couple, Jaime and Liz, who are really relaxed and have a beautiful place. Jamie took me out the first day I was here and showed me the wave, the rocks, and also quelled most of my fears about the big fish.
A lot of the people we met here have stayed here for a while. It has a kinda magnetic vibe that is hard to get away from. It is the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in, and is right across from the wave.
I actually found the place when I was looking to do some volunteer work, and it made it super easy. The owners have a partnership with a project in town called the Joshua Project, which is a school and soup kitchen for street kids in the area. Once I told Ry what I was up to, he felt like he needed to come and see it for himself and get involved as well, so both brothers are here helping and charging the surf.
The Project and Volunteering
I guess, to be honest, I had no idea what to expect with the project. I read what I could on the website and tried to get a feel from the people who had volunteered before, but it was still all a shock when we got there. We didnt really get to interact with the kids much during the day cause they were in class, and because we were here for such a short time that we would have been a distraction. So we scraped and painted the building during school, but got to hang with the kids after school or during lunch. We didnt get a lot of time with the kids, but in the time we had I feel like we were able to make some connections. Especially during the afternoon when we taught a surf school for all the kids. I got real sick, so couldnt go unfortunately, but Ry, Jaime, Lara, and Ed took all the kids out and killed it! They got boards donated in town and had a solid hour session where all of the kids got up. Pretty Stoked.
I cant fully explain what these kids go through each day. I have seen some rough areas in my travels, but nothing compares to what I have seen here. And what is scary is that South Africa is one of the more stable and prosperous nations in Africa, so this is merely a glimpse into the hardships that are endured on a daily basis throughout the continent. I cant really explain it to you in an email, and may not be able to in person either, but it was too serious an experience to minimalize it by explaining it in this posting. But needless to say, both Ryan and I were profoundly impacted.
The bright side is that there really are a ton of incredible people here. There is a 20 year old girl who has been here now for 3 years volunteering everyday at the project and at the hospital, which is pretty serious bearijg in mind what I was doing at 17, ha ha. Another couple sold there house in Holland to come and work with the project for the next 5 years. They told me that property values are sky rocketing here so they are lucky they got a home when they did in Jeffreys Bay. When I aksed whether they were going to sell there house here after their missionary time and buy a home in Holland again. They respinded that they planned on giving all the appreciated value of their home to the project when they sold and start from scratch when they returned home. It is hard not to be inspired around people who are so selfless.
Probably the most influential person we met just happened to be visiting the project while we were working. He came by to talk with one of the girls that attends his church and struck up a conversation with me and one of the girls that was working with us. He had recently moved from Washington State with his family to help at a church her and give his life to charity and God. He invited us to dinner at his farm outside of J Bay with some of the local members of the church as well. It was really incredible, because we got to hear first hand what was happening in the township (the ghetto here) and what the major problems facing the community were. We met one couple, Keith and Marlene, who had recently lost their only son, and decided to open their home to some local children who were being abused or whose lives were in danger. Many of the stories were even harder to digest, but too intese to go into now.
We tried to get an idea for what life was like for people in the township and for Dave. Daves life is pretty incredible here. I asked him what it was that he actually did. He replied, I just look for people to help, and help them. Around here it is not too hard to find people in need. Basically he walks or drives around the township and helps anyone and everyone he can. Sometimes it is crisis management, sometimes it is just lending a hand or giving someone a lift to work. It is an amazing way to help, and a good philosophy to live your life by.
We actually got the chance to go to a church service last Sunday which was really cool. Certainly a lot more energy and dance than St. Theresas in rye! There was an awesome live band and serious dance jams. Right up our alley. And before the service Keith took us through the township to meet some of the people in his neighborhood and give us a feel for what life was like there. The government is trying to provide housing and infrastructure to families that were displaced and disenfranchised during aparthied, but progress is slow. It took five years for Keith and his family to get a proper house, and running water is still unavailiable. We were lucky keith took us around, because apparently it can be dangerous if you dont know the people and cant speak Afrikaans. But our experiences were all positive and the people were incredibly inviting. Actaully, anytime I had my camera out everyone wanted to get in a picture, which made it really easy to interact with the locals and the kids.
And last week, after the volunteering at the project was done, dave invited us to come on one of his tours throught the township. We went and helped level the front walk way for a woman that had Neuropothy in her legs as a result of H.I.V., and we went to the hospoital to get her a wheel chair so she could actually leave her tiny home. We also visited with a boy in the hospital who had been abandoned by his parents, and had not had a single visitor in the six months he was in the hospital until dave came to see him. The boy has TB and H.I.V. that he had gotten from his parents. He was only 11, and his family had not been back to see him since they admitted him to the hospital. I feel like this was only a glimpse of the need that is out there. In reality, Dave is no more qualified to help these people than the next guy. In fact, he doesnt even speak the languauge, but has found a community that really needs him. We were truly lucky to have been allowed to work with him, visit their church, and really explore the township with Keith. Keith actually said something which really hit home. He said, That just having you guys come into coloured (this is the proper termonolgy for mixed raced South Africans) and Black peoples home up here is a huge step towards reconciliation. For these people, it was the first time a white person had entered their home, or shown the initiaitive to see what their lives were like, which is a huge deal. The fact that we were making an effort to come to their town and their homes helped in some small way to try to bridge the gap between the races. Keith told us that few, if any South African whites were ever seen in these areas. So, we felt truly blessed to have had this experience.
Fun Road Trips
We borrowed our friend Laurens car to get down to stroms river, an hour or so drive to the south, where there is the worlds largest bungee jump, zip lines, and lots of other cool stuff. The drive was epic, but ran into some minor car problems when we got there. Actually, the CV joint fell out and the entire gear box dropped. Pretty standard really when we hit the road. But we got it fixed and were actually able to drive it home.
Luckily these two twin brothers from the town, Kanyilhee and Kanyhiso, helped us find a mechanic and a hostel. We actually had to push the car to the hostel, which went pretty smoothly until one of the boys fell off the back of the car as we were heading down a hill. No serious damage, just a bump on the head. Actually he didnt even cry, and I would have been balling.
But eventually got there and the place was truly beautiful. We did a zip line over water fall and did the bungee as well. And let me tell you, 216 meters is a pretty big fall. Ha ha. It was one of the coolest experiences I have ever had. I jumped out as far as I could, and then it feels like a hand is grabbing your chest and just pulling you down as far and as fast a s possible. You reach speeds of 120 k. That is serious. Ryan actaully lied to them and told them he had jumped before and they let him go backwards off the platform. You will see his face in the pics, it will give you a good feel for how serious the drop is. They actually hung him over the edge by his harness and then just let him go. It was totally insane. We also have video that is priceless, but the pics will give you a bit of a feel.
More to come soon. Much Love, Ry and Ty