22 August 2009

A Charm of Its Own

New York, indeed, has a charm of its own.

After a pretty miserable experience trying to fly to New York, we finally made it. I won’t bore you with details (like missing the last flight of the night) about the troubles we had trying to get there… but trust me, it’s better that way. Getting to our hostel, which happened to be about a block away from Times Square, was pretty easy. I loved the hostel because it brought me back to the times when I was in Africa, where I had my first hostel experience.

After settling down, we started our trip with a really cool cruise around the New York Harbor and into the Hudson River. We left Battery Park just before sunset, which gave us the perfect setting to view the city for the first time. The sunset was ridiculously amazing. Here’s a picture of the infamous Statue of Liberty.

How beautiful is that?

Another great thing about this cruise was getting a breath taking view of the New York skylines! For those of you who know me, I love city skylines and would like to take picture of as many cities as I could before I die. Hopefully, that’s not anytime soon! Anyways, this place has tons of them. I couldn’t believe how many skyscrapers there were in New York. To capture the whole skyline, you would need to be in a helicopter. I could barely afford the boat cruise, so the helicopter tour needed to be postponed. Maybe next time? Hehe.

Here’s a picture of the Lower Manhattan skyline. This one was kind of eerie to look at. If you look towards the center of this particular picture, you will see some open space. That open space is where the World Trade Center Twin Towers were. Being there really made me realize how crazy that day must have been. When I really thought about it, I couldn’t even imagine how scary it was. The good thing is, it seems like they have made a tremendous amount of progress in the area’s recovery. People seem very optimistic with what is planned.

Another interesting activity we had organized was a visit to the American Museum of Natural History. I had an idea of how it would be, but didn’t expect it to be as fascinating. I was ecstatic to find out that there was a hall that displayed many African exhibits. Again, I was brought back to the first trip of my summer. We also visited other exhibits such as Space and Earth, Exhibits of Asia, and one of their most popular ones, the Fossil Series.

"A premier attractions in New York City is the Museum's series of fossil halls, including its two famed dinosaur halls. The Museum is home to the world's largest collection of vertebrate fossils, totaling nearly one million specimens. More than 600 of these specimens, nearly 85 percent of which are real fossils as opposed to casts, are on view."


Before heading to New York, a friend of mine told me I must walk across the Brooklyn Bridge. Even it was extremely hot and humid, we did it! It was a great experience. Chryssa, my friend and travel buddy for New York, was just excited as I was. It was so fun that we decided to walk back across it. I remember walking and and not knowing what to think. I just couldn't believe i was in the middle of this amazing city. The views from each side of the bridge were just spectacular. I also couldn't believe how many bottles of water I drank during that walk alone. Every couple feet on the bridge, there were people who sold ice cold water bottles. I probably bought about five of them during the walk. Once we got to the other side (Brooklyn), we decided to rest a bit. We found this cute little park located right outside of the bridge entrance. There, we sat and watched a family with two kids ride their new bikes.

When you think New York, you must think Central Park. I don’t think everyone quite understands how big Central Park is. We spent a good five to six hours one day, only making it around half of it. We eventually went back to explore the rest, which was just as compelling. When you’re in central park, you don’t really hear the noise of the city, but at the same time, you don’t lose the feeling that you’re in one. Does that make sense? You need to be there to fully know what I’m talking about. Here are a few pictures I took.
Central Park from the Top of the Rockefellar Center
I was so ready to buy him a six pack of Dos Equis.

Sheeps Meadows, apprently the summer hangout spot!


On our last night, we walked to the Empire State Building and rode an elevator to the top of it. Since we had already gone to the top of the Rockefeller Center during the day, we thought it would be a good experience to check out the city from above during the night. It was a great choice. Seeing all the lights from the buildings and getting one last look at the city before we left, couldn’t have gone any better.

One of the many great views!


Throughout the trip, we also had some fun that didn’t require so much walking and looking around, but did require a lot of money. The nightlife was lively and food was delicious! I think that’s enough said about that. Let’s just say… I must admit, that’s where most of my money went. So, if you ever plan on going to New York, save up some extra cash and enjoy the great food... and drinks!

Meet Eddie and Mark. Two of the funniest and coolest bartenders in NYC. Check them out at the Hibernia Bar off of 50th (between 9th and 10th)


Overall, this trip was great! Met more amazing people, had some outstanding food, saw many sights, and spent the rest of my money--- but worth every penny. Everyone who has asked me how New York went, gets the same answer. I tell them it's a place of it's own and there's really nothing like it. It's a must see. Elysabeth's facebook comment to Chryssa's page was right... "There's a charm about it that you won't find anywhere else."

Lastly, I couldn’t have asked for a better travel partner. Thanks again, Chryssa!

What’s next? Looks like my summer has come to an end. Work has started (the day after I got back, which was hell) and school (my last semester of undergraduate studies) starts on Monday! My bank accounts are offically empty, but I have no regrets in anything I did. I must say, being broke isn't as bad as it sounds. Ok, maybe a little bit.

I do have plans of mini trips and exploring new things, so don't worry--- I will be updating my blog.

Thanks again for all your support. I really do appriciate it. Have a good day or night!

New York, I love you.

Until next time,


If you're interested in looking at the full set of photos I put up on Facebook. Click on this link, it should work for the public.


12 August 2009

Post Africa, Pre Apple... the BIG Apple.

Home Sweet Home.

So I’ve gotten numerous requests to do a “Post-Africa, Pre-New York Blog.” Not a bad idea, right?

It’s been a little less than a month since I’ve been home yet it feels like it has been only a few days. I still can’t believe how fast that trip went by. Coming home was definitely something. Aside from the dramatic change in weather, the extreme jetlag that lasted about a week and a half, I could honestly say the transition was not as bad as I expected. It’s nice to have the feeling of just being home and close to my family and friends again. I really missed my bed too. For the first couple of days home, I would literally sleep about fifteen hours a day because I was so exhausted from everything. I'm fully adjusted now, but then again, I have horrible sleeping habits... that's the what the summer is all about though.

I’ve probably said this so many times since coming home, but the trip really did change my life. Everyone I have talked to and had a deep conversation about what I did and went through, while in Africa, told me it was obvious that this trip impacted my life. There are just so many things that remind me of that place. One thing, for example... every time I notice the sky during sunset, it reminds me of the times I would be sitting out on my balcony with my roommates, just hanging out. You know, the times you don’t want to forget, but easily do. And man, those African sunsets were gorgeous, indescribably different from the ones in California. I miss them so much. I could write for days and day about how differently I look at things now, but let's not get into that.

All in all, the experiences of being there are only making my life here, in good ol’ America, much better. I am very appreciative of more things than I ever have been. We’re lucky to live in such a great, diverse, amazing, country. If I could preach one thing to all of you who read my blog, it would be to take advantage of being an American. Unlike many countries around the world, we have so many opportunities to travel. I remember talking to many of the locals I befriended in Africa, telling them to come visit me one day. It’s so much easier said than done for them. For them, as well as so many other countries, coming to America is probably one of the hardest things to do. But for us… get the cash, book the ticket, and you’re there. Where am I going with this? Take a break from working sometime, plan a trip, get some rest and relaxation… explore the world. It’s at your fingertips, why not?

"There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered."
- Nelson Mandela


So what’s next for Vino on a Voyage? (Cheesy, I know.)

New York, New York!

Photo by: =xxchange; deviantart.com

I really, honestly, shouldn’t even be going because I’m so broke, but I’m going anyways and I am extremely excited! This time, it has nothing to with school and I’m going with one of my best buddies, Chryssa. We’ve got a rough schedule of what we want to do, but who knows what will happen. For those of you interested, this is what we’ve got planned:

8/13: Depart from Orange County at 21:35

8/14: Check in to our hostel: 311 Times Square, Explore Times Square, New York Harbor Cruise @ 19:00

8/15: Rockafeller Center, Saint Patricks Cathedral, more city exploring

8/16: Walk the Brooklyn Bridge, Little Italy/China Town, Possible Broadway Show!

8/17: Central Park Picnic, American Museum of Natural History, Ground Zero

8/18: Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, relax and hang around the city, last minutes shopping

8/19: Farewell lunch, depart to Orange County... Home!

Other than it being pretty expensive, I've heard so many good things about New York. I over-read, on a Facebook comment, that "NYC really is amazing... there's a charm about it that you won't find anywhere else." I guess I'll have to see for myself. Hopefully, I think the same.


Sorry Lys, I had to.

I just thought I'd take the time to say farewell and good luck to my buddy Elysabeth. She's leaving this Sunday to take on a four-month, full-immersion, study abroad program in Lyon, Fance. She's worked her bum off to make her trip possible and I can't express how excited and proud I am of her. Not only is she one of my best friends, she's the one who inspired me to start a blog... heck, she even helped me come up with my blog name. If you have the time, check hers out:


Anyways, good luck Rice Cake! You're going to have a blast out there! Just remember, don't get home sick, we'll all be here when you get back. Keep in touch though, ok!

I'll miss you.

Well, that's it for now. Thanks for reading again, everyone. I'll have another post when I get back. So be ready!

Until next time,


PS. Shout-out to Western Michigan University! Thanks for reading my blog!

14 July 2009

Farewell South Africa...

This is it!
Like all good things, my trip must come to an end...

As I have said before in my past blogs, this trip has been absolutely amazing. I am spending a few hours of my last full day in the internet cafe to write this blog not because I have nothing else to do, but because I really do enjoy sharing my experiences with everyone. I am very happy to hear that people actually read and follow it and am extremely thankful for everyone and their support!

Since my University program ended, my trip slowed down quite a bit. By no means does that mean it got boring, it became more like a holiday, more relaxing. I loved it. I started off my first days of freedom (from anything school related) by spending time in Jeffrey's Bay. That was a cool experience in it's own. There, I watched some professional surfers compete in the world famous Billabong Pro held at Supertubes Park. There are pictures to come, so I'll move on.

After a couple days there, I phoned some friends I made during my first week here and asked if they wanted to hang out before I left. They were more than happy to. Both of them, Brett and Bradley, invited me to their houses for a Braii and Potjai. The food was delicious! It was such a cool experience being invited to a typical South African home for lunch and dinner. The families were great and very welcoming. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures from that. I do, however, have many stories to tell! Invite me for some coffee and I'll fill you in, deal?

Ok ok, let's get started with some pictures...


This is a photo of everyone who lived in my flat (apartment). This, in particular, is special because it was our last group picture together. I already miss living with them.
After waiting seven weeks, we finally made it to J-Bay!
The highlight of our J-Bay trip was having the opportunity to check out the annual Billabong Pro Surf Competition held in Supertubes Park.
The sand crowd enjoying some good music, good waves, and good surf!
People up in the nosebleeds!
While in Jeffrey's a few buddies of mine took me to Saint Francis, which was about a half hour drive. This place was beautiful.

A road sign...obviously.
During the first couple nights of the Pro, there was this event called the Malibu Festival. There, they had local and national South African bands play some music. It was pretty awesome!
Here we are driving up and down the coast!
Brett going camera crazy when Kai Otton of Austrailia comes out of the water after a great run on the waves!
Kai Otton checking out the heat after his.

My new place... Lungile Backpackers in Humewood, Port Elizabeth!
The guys getting their surfboards ready...
Can you find me?... I can't either.

This picture is of the Quicksilver Megastore during the pro-sufer signings! The free food, free beer, awesome DJ, great crowd and lively atmosphere made this such a cool event. It was obviously the place to be!
Kelly Slater! My roomate describes him as one of the most respected professional surfers in the world! I must admit, I do agree.
The Billabong Factory Shop
Even after some rain, these sand-works stood strong!
Lastly, a Jeffrey's Bay sunrise...

I just thought I'd show everyone where all the "magic" happens! Yes, this is the internet cafe I've been using to write my blog!
On my last day of school, after our farewell breakfast, I thought I'd be a cool idea to take a picture of our campus and show everyone. I mean, this is why I came to Africa, right?
The California group with the great International Office staff.
I actually took this one this morning while walking down the beachfront. A storm had just passed and the sky was starting to clear up. How beautiful is that?

I'm not sure what I'm feeling right now. I am really excited to see everyone, but dreading the fact that it means going back to routine. Work, school, sleep, repeat. Ok, maybe I'm exaggerrating. I guess, when I get home, I won't be as bummed out as I feel. I know for a fact that this trip sparked something inside of me I didn't think I had. I found a new passion, a passion to travel the world to see what else is out there. I want to experience things that most people say they want to do, but unfortunately, never end up doing. Who knows where I'll end up next. I have a few trips in mind, but will find it extremely difficult to top this South African experience.

Before I say my farewell on this blog while in Africa, I want to thank anyone and everyone who has supported my trip here. Thank you to everyone who took care of my group, to the South African locals who gave me such awesome experiences, to my parents, my family, my friends, and to you. I wish I could find the words to justify how thankful I am but no matter how hard I try, I can't. It's just one of those things...

Again, this trip is one to remember and it's been amazing, South Africa...

Thank you and farewell!

Until next time,

PS. Yes Mom, I'm coming home!

08 July 2009

Welcome To Amazing!

(isiZulu for "Hello")

To me, Welcome to Amazing was not only the theme for the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, it seemed to be the theme for the past couple days! We started off the weekend by packing up and heading to Grahamstown for their annual Arts Festival! It is said to be the largest festival of it’s kind in the continent of Africa. The food, the drinks, the art, and the amazing vibe of this festival, doesn’t compare to anything I’ve ever been to! It was interesting to see the various types of art with an African twist to it. I would try to explain how cool it was through typing about it, but we all know my photos do a much better job! Check them out and let me know what you think!

Central Market
This was probably one of my favorite areas. There were numerous street performances and great crafts for sale!
Greens Feild Market
The band we were watching in this photo was pretty awesome! It was a soft-rock, acoustic group who sang in both English and isiXhosa!
This comedian was Egg-celent! He was walking around telling jokes "on the phone" while entertaining everyone with his extravogant hat! His crazy laugh still haunts me!
My buddy Kevin and I enjoying a Kudu Roll... after a Kudu burger. Yum!
Everywhere you walked there was bound to be a poster advertizing a show or two... or thirty.
Cape Town Big Jazz Band
This is one of the three jazz bands we saw. The other two were younger, yet talented, groups.
Some of the street acts were pretty amazing! This one, I think, was a traditional Zulu dance. What I found intersting was the fact that they would be singing, dancing, and chanting at the same time.
Another show, which happened to be my favorite, was the African Beat Production. It was a spectacular review of African music and dance over time. No words can describe how talented these performers are!
On our way back to Port Elizabeth, we were lucky to have yet another amazing sunset! These two are of the same sky at the Nanaga Farm Stall Market.
This view was only there for about five-minutes. I turned around and it was gone!


The Addo Elephant National and Scotia Game Park was an experience at another level of amazing. I seriously needed to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. If I had the internet speed and time, I would definitely share all my pictures! For now, enjoy these!
Our park guide called this "The Bum View." It's obvious why... right?
Just enjoying the breeze outside the van!
It's Pumba!
I saw this sign as we stopped and wasn't sure if I wanted to get out of the vehicle. I remember watching this video on YouTube of lions attacking people at places like this. Scary stuff! Don't worry, I didn't stay in the van, I was brave enough to get out.
I couldn't believe how close these elephants would get to our van! These gentle giants were massive!
Driving to the water hole!
I remember driving up to this and not knowing what to think or say. I was speechless.

Fun Fact: It takes an elephant eight months after birth to fully learn how to control the 60,000 muscles in their trunk!
The sign of a lion being here! Rest in Peace, Buck!
Zebras! How do we pronounce it? Potato is tomato as Deborah is to Zebra?

Sh*$ happens!
I think everytime they would face our truck like this, our hearts skipped a beat. You never know when they're ready to attack.
The following pictures do not justify the size of these lions! It was so intense when we parked right next to them. Our truck was wide open so they could have easily jumped in for a quick snack!
I would have gone to play with him, but I'm allergic to cats. Bummer!
We were told it was mating season... no wonder she's tired.
This lion was probably the scarriest one! Oh wait, it's just Marci! Here we are enjoying our last couple hours of the game ride. Searching for night activity was so much fun!
We ended our excursion with some delicious food and drinks! Chicken, Springboc, veggies and rice. One of the best meals I've had in South Africa!
Overall an amazing couple days with some amazing people!


I'm sorry to say that this might be my last blog entry during my stay in South Africa! My university program has ended and I have one week left here, so I'm going to take the time to do some exploring. Tomorrow, a few of my travelmates and I are packing up and heading to Jeffery's Bay for a couple nights. There, we will be exploring the town while watching some world class surfers at the Billabong Pro Competition!

After our stay in Jeffery's, there's a chance I might be flying to Johannesburg. My free accomodations in Pretoria are still pending, so that trip isn't set in stone. For now, I have reservations at a hostel in Summerstrand just in case. Either way, I don't see how this trip can get any better!

Thank you to everyone who has been keeping up with my blog. I truly enjoy sharing all my experiences with you! I promise my voyages are only beginning and there will be many more to come!

Peace, Love and Chicken Grease!

Until next time,

Usale kahle!
(iziZulu for "Goodbye")