26 June 2009

Prof. Wakho & Dr. Ismail

At every traffic junction in Joburg people are handing out leaflets, or try to sell something. We received this one last week. I reproduce it here, typos and all. The last line is a classic South African statement. I also love the way it gives an insight into the problems that concern people here: protection for security guards, cures for family infighting and bad spells on your business; and the solutions: control your enemies by use of a mirror, herbs to fix your physical problems, spells to find your lover.

Prof. Wakho & Dr. Ismail is hailed as the Herbalist of the Year in 2006 and 2008, they opened up in Sandton. They are Astrologers, Herbalist, Healer and Resarchers. They are the proud winner of the East African Control Council Award for a Lifetime Achievement in Astrology & Herbal Healing.


1. Each one has got a speciality in the following:
2. Read and tell ALL your problems before you mention them to him
3. Bring back lost lover, even if lost for a long time in 3 days.
4. Remove bad spells from homes, business etc
5. Ensure that promotion you have desired for a long time at work
Or in your career.
5. Herbal therapy for controlling early ejaculation.
6. Herbal medicine for enlarging the penis in both length and girth permanently
It stimulates growth of the tissue & muscle thus increasing size
7. Guarantee you to win that troubling court case, no matter what stage
8. Ensure success as you get rich quickly
9. Eliminate in family fights between children & parents, in-laws, husband, wife
And ensure peace & harmony in home.
10. Recover stolen property to your business and trace the whereabouts of people that hurt you
attract customers to your business & turn your trade into a favourite
11. Swollen body, pain of the joints & bones
12. Extreme protection for those doing dangerous jobs like security guards, bank managers, cash transporters, etc 
14. Guarantee that you are loved and trusted by your colleagues, husband, 
Wife, in-laws, friends etc
15. Quit alcohol, smoking, drugs using purely herbal therapies with no side effects
16. Do you have body and vaginal pains, bad periods, lots of fat all stomach pains, problems home/work/kids, many more

Prof. Wakho & Dr. Ismail
The only professional doctor who will listen and attend to all your problems because of disappintments in your life

15. Get married to that lover of your life in a short time and seal up yourr marriage with eternal love & happiness. 
16. Heal women problems of barrenness, disturbing menstruation, abnormally 
Long pregnancies etc. 
17. Ensure that a single person gets partner in shortest time
18. Bring supernatural luck into your life to win chance games,
19. Bring you to see your enemies and make demands on them using a mirror
Stop suffering in silence rush to get that help that you need to change your life if not you, do it for your loved one.


Consultation R50-00

22 June 2009

Yet another use for the Pogo

So I mentioned my cool photo toy - the Pogo printer from Polaroid - before, but with our travel prep in full swing I came up with yet another useful application for it. We have a set of 6 ammo boxes filled with stuff stacked on a shelf in the back of the car, but they are black so it's impossible to see what's in which one without dragging them out and looking inside. Instead of writing labels I photographed the content, printed a photo and used the sticky backing to glue it straight to the box. Voila.

21 June 2009

Everything old is new again

Strange how getting ready for roughing it on the trip involves long sessions at the beauty parlour beforehand. I guess it's all about augmenting myself so that when the hot water and nail bars disappear I will still look vaguely presentable.

It's been a long time since I had a perm, and seemingly a long time since anyone at the hairdresser had done one, but it seems a good option when showers become sparse.

19 June 2009

Skype is good for travellers

I can't begin to explain in how many ways Skype is keeping us connected right now and how much we are going to rely on it on the trip. We have had an account with Skype for years, although we had a bumpy start when they ate some credit of mine a few years back. But lately it has got more and more handy.

To start with we use SkypeIn, which gives us three local numbers in different countries. We have a landline number in Germany my family can call, one in the UK for Stuart's family and our friends, and one in Wellington for Merryl's gang and everyone we keep in touch with there. This means that people in those countries only have to call a landline in their country, not the expensive South African number. As a result people actually call us, which makes us feel more wanted ;-)

The money we spent on a Skype phone that doubles as a landline (it's hands-free and the base station connects to the router. Looks just like a normal phone) has been so worth it. All our international calls go through SkypeOut, where we pay a monthly fee for free calls to lots of countries. Stuart can make his conference calls, I can chat with my mum - brilliant. The phone displays all the Skype contacts which sync with Addressbook on the Mac, so we don't have to type in numbers. It also displays voicemails and any missed calls we receive via Skype. This alone has made it so much easier to use Skype to make calls. Before I was never logged in on the computer at the right time, and the sound quality is just like a normal landline call without having to dig out the headphones.

When we are on the road, we will have a satellite phone for emergencies, but people will still be able to leave us messages on voicemail, and since we get an email notification we can actually respond when anyone pings us. I am also hoping that we will be able to make use of Skype on the iPhone when we are at a hotel or other place with wifi.

I know this all sounds like a sales pitch, but after years of not really seeing the point (we had 2 hour long international calls for NZ$5 from New Zealand and pretty cheap rates from Dubai to most of Europe, so weren't too bothered so far) I am now a total convert. The only problem is that calls to Dubai are still really expensive, so it's not been an option to call anyone there.

17 June 2009

My new grownup feet

Ready for a six months long camping trip!


16 June 2009

This is driving me crazy!

There are many little inconveniences when one moves countries a lot, but none seem so deliberately infuriating and purposely designed to force me to tie myself in knots while trying to do something simple than DVD region coding. Man, as if it wasn't enough that I have to rip or re-buy my films if I want to watch them on my iPod, but to stop me from watching stuff on my computer just because I buy DVDs in a variety of countries that have been randomly assigned to different regions, that is just too stupid.

Of course my Mac should have a region free drive, and of course I could just wait to buy DVDs until I am back in Europe, or I could pay for a download from iTunes and then deal with the DRM on that and pay extra for the bandwidth to get the film that isn't all that much cheaper than a DVD in the first place and includes no extras, but why? How did we get to a place where I am a criminal for wanting to watch a movie? Soviet Russia much?


Just to give you an idea how totally ridiculous these regions are, here is a map. South Africa with Europe, why? And Australia with NZ and South America, good idea! At least Leo doesn't have this problem (as long as he stays out of the US).

13 June 2009

Visas part 3 - quick results

Amazingly, after handing all the papers in at the Ethiopian embassy in person, after answering another bout of piercing questions and after waiting for an hour while watching bad daytime soaps (although Scandal! turned out to be strangely moreish), we were actually issued with a complete set of visas! We were stunned, but made with the cool until we left the compound. Then we whopped. And went to the next place, the Tanzanian embassy across the way.

This visa was meant to be next day, too, and as it turned out the process there was extremely streamlined. From the stacks of bundled South African passports in the office and the parked safari trucks outside we surmised that lots of South Africans head of for their holidays to Tanzania during the South African winter.

And true enough, we returned the next day, picked up the passports, and were done. Easy-peasy. Merryl also needed a visa for Rwanda, so we thought we'd try our luck while we were in town. The visa was meant to take 3 days, so we were prepared to leave the passport, but as it turned out we were on a roll. The young ladies in the office not only got us a visa while we waited, but also managed to wangle it for the exact dates we were after (one of the problems with visa applications for a long trip is that many countries issue visas only for a limited length of validity, between 1 and 6 months. If you don't make it to the destination country in time, the visa is forfeit. This means that we can't apply for a visa for Sudan, for example, until we are in Kenya, as it's only valid for a month.)

So suddenly, after a lot of prep and agony, we were done. We are still missing a bunch of visas, but those we are going to have to brave other African capitals for. Fun.

10 June 2009

Visas part 2 - aka The Housekeeper Edition

Everyone tells us that Ethiopia is like no place else: The only African country never to have been a colony, with an ancient language sporting a unique script, food that is surpassing strange to the foreigner, and still in the year 2001 due to the fact that they stuck with the Julian calendar when most of the rest of the World went with the Gregorian one. So trying for a visa for our visit in October was pretty daunting.

I had prepared well after my return trip to the Tunisian embassy, where they had required an itinerary, ferry bookings to ensure we would leave the country again, bank statements and car registration papers. We had all those, plus separate bank statements for Merryl to show that she has independent means and a cover letter to explain that she is employed by us as a house keeper (well, it is almost true, even though I listed my own occupation as 'house wife', which just shows how much I am willing to compromise my principles for the sake of an adventure).

The visa counter at the Ethiopian Embassy in Pretoria

Unfortunately once we actually stood at the counter in the courtyard of the embassy and handed over our paperwork it was a whole other story. Maybe it was the idea that we were driving ourselves, that we were going to be camping, that we were leaving here in June, but would not pass through Ethiopia until October, but for some reason the embassy officer was very suspicious of us. What exactly he thought we would be doing in his country other than visit some old churches and hike in a few national parks I am not sure. Did we look like arms dealers trying to connect with our sources in Yemen across the water? Did he think we wanted to immigrate? Did we seem the types to foment revolt?

Regardless, the man was adamant to know everything about us. He thought of all sorts of other information we should supply him with, from our marriage certificate to an itinerary of our complete trip rather than just the bit through Ethiopia, more bank statements (and not 'manufactured ones, as he pointed out helpfully) and a letter stating the names of the passengers in the car, all car details (again, despite us supplying the registration and the carnet), and a letter from the bank stating that indeed we were the owners of the bank account whose bank statements we had handed over. Apparently having your name at the top of a statement is not enough, but an editable, unsigned Word document sent by email from the bank is irrefutable proof.

Oh, and my personal favourite comment from the man with all the power came when we showed him Merryl's employment letter. He took one peek at her with her cool Kiwi haircut and surf chick clothes and told me: "She doesn't look like a house keeper to me."