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Races. #16: BMW Modern Autohaus Marathon

Published February 21, 2016 by kokoinsouthafrica

Yesterday I ran another marathon~ 42 kilometers or 26.2 miles. I ran it just for fun, and a lot of Peace Corps volunteers were there running other distance, and my host mom and sister came too! 

  My host mom has been coming to races with me and running 5k’s and working her way up to 10k’s now! So proud! After some coaxing my host sister decided she would do a little training to prepare for her first 5k- which she completed yesterday!! I believe any person can achieve remarkable things if they can push themselves beyond their perceived limits. I enjoy seeing this being done in the physical context, and find great joy in helping people discover their own physical ability. I’m grateful for the opportunity to have positively influenced my host family with running. 

  
My iPhone has a nike+ running app that I wanted to test out. I used it on my iPhone about 3 years ago, and I like the idea of having a log to track my runs. First I tested out the app on a treadmill. I ran 5k in 27:17 according to the treadmill. I had to keep running until about 29:30 for the app to log 5k. The app wasn’t recording distance properly; I thought, ok, maybe the app just isn’t accurate for treadmills but for sure running on the road would be more precise because the app is tracking distance via gps, versus treadmill running which uses an accelerometer through the app on the phone. So I took my iPhone out on the marathon course with me and kept it in my waist pack while running. Once I hit the 10k mark at 57 minutes I looked at my phone to check the accuracy of the app- it said I had only run just over 4 miles!?! Hence, the nike+ running app is horribly inaccurate not only on the treadmill but with road running as well. In the past I’ve used Map My Run and from what I remember it seemed to work pretty well, so maybe I’ll switch back to that because Nike is terrible. 

  The course itself was pretty flat with no major hills and on all tarred road. It was hot as balls, as the African summer is in it’s prime. Some aid stations ran out of water (rookie mistake) which forced runners to walk for a substantial amount of time. I also struggled with my asthma most of the race. I have a respiratory disease and it can be limiting at times. I have trouble finding a balance between my ambition and the reality of sickened lungs. I tend to set lofty goals for myself ignoring the limitations I know I have. Asthma causes me to struggle breathing just doing regular-ass things. Then I try running a marathon and get angry when I’m slowed to a walk because I can’t breathe. When I was young I used to be really self conscious about it. I was embarrassed having to carry my inhaler with me especially when running in gym class, always trying to control my breathing. Over the years I’ve learned techniques to avoid asthma attacks, but they can still happen of I’m not careful. But I love to run. I always have. As a kid my favorite recess activity was racing the boys across the blacktop. I’ve always loved running. So I still try my best to push through and manage my inner dialogue that flip flops through positive and negative cycles. There are moments where I curse the gods for damning me with a weakened respiratory system. Then I have to remind myself that despite my frustration and limitations, I still cover a distance that less than 1% of the world population will ever do. Running a marathon is absolutely crazy, and each of those 26 miles presents its own challenges I must overcome to get to the finish line. 

Some days are good; some days are not so good. I overcame the adversity, ran when I could, walked when I couldn’t breathe, and met some cool people along the way. I strolled through the finish line with a big smile on my face as I heard my friends cheering my name. One thought that kept me pushing through to the end was knowing afterwards I would go to my friend’s house and leap into her pool while simultaneously guzzling champagne. ūüôā 

  I am constantly being humbled by my physical limitations, and at the same time motivated to keep pushing the limits to find out how far I can go. Asthma won’t stop me from running. 

  

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Empowerment

Published July 6, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica
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The crew! From the left: Me, Mapula, Thepiso, Tumelo and Busi.

On this year’s 4th of July, I wanted to introduce my host family to American culture and show them how we celebrate our Independence Day by organizing a women’s empowerment weekend away. Five of us ladies (ages 16 – 46) rented a vacation cottage in the lush, beautiful Graskop area of the Mpumalanga province, which is centrally located near many tourist sites, making it easy to get around and squeeze in all the funsies. Each day was filled with many activities, delicious food and a belly ache of laughs.

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I made a point to incorporate typical ‘American’ things into our day on the 4th – BBQing, making s’mores, and playing card games. I even managed to facilitate some ‘U-S-A’ chanting. ūüôā

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Turns out none of us are very skilled at BBQing and couldn’t keep the fire lit‚Ķso we took the party inside and finished up on the stove and roasting marshmallows over a candle. >.<

The aim of the weekend was to place emphasis on physical and emotional health, self confidence and overcoming fears. Each day we has group exercise- yoga, running, hiking and trampoline jumping. Each meal was carefully planned and home-cooked (and often vegetarian!) to encourage broadening dietary horizons and incorporating healthier foods into our lifestyles. We also had group discussions about boosting self image, feeling confident and recognizing ability.

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One activity supporting personal empowerment was zip lining!

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That’s the face of confidence.

Each of us took our turn zipping down a 450m line, 130m above a natural riverbank. This was easier for some more than others…but after extensive coercion and encouragement- we succeeded in getting all 5 of us women to zip the line! This adrenaline rush boosted everyone’s confidence and we were all smiles for the rest of the day.

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There were a couple of beautiful waterfall hikes in the area that we checked out РLisbon Falls and Berlin Falls at Blyde River Canyon.

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Lisbon Falls

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Berlin Falls

Another hike we went on took us to God’s Window.¬†We also managed to see the Lowveld View and the Three Rondavels – very popular panoramic mountainous spots in this side of the country.

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We found an adorable little photography studio where we could dress up in old 1920’s costumes!!

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Family photo!

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I just had to.

This ended up being one of my favorite weekends I’ve had in South Africa thus far. Getting to laugh, joke, cook, BBQ, sing, dance, jump, zip, and spend time learning and growing with these beautiful women was an amazing way to spend my 4th of July. (While supporting cultural exchange- yay Peace Corps Goals 2 & 3!)

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Ultra Music Festival – South Africa

Published March 17, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

I love me some music festivals.

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UMF.

UMF, or Ultra Music Festival, is an annual music festival of the electronic persuasion. It originated in Miami, Florida in 1999 and instantly gained popularity in the EDM world. With close to 200,000 attendees and tickets selling out every single year, the event grew and began holding international shows. It has debuted in over 9 countries worldwide and finally hit Africa in 2014.

This is the largest EDM event on the African continent, and after hearing great reviews from other PCV friends about the 2014 event, some friends and I decided 2015 was our year to venture to Johannesburg and steal a slice of this magic, which started at noon and went until the wee hours of the morn.

THE PEOPLE. 

We walked into the expo grounds and all I can say is‚Ķoh. my god. So many beautiful people. Like I can’t even.
Was there some unwritten requirement that all attendees be tan, buff and beautiful?¬†Is this where they’ve all been hiding?? I felt like Doug Butabi walking into the Roxbury and all I could stutter was “Sup?” over and over.

Instantly I noticed a severe lack of kandi and gear in general that’s indicative of raving. People were mostly wearing regular (African summer time) clothing, but you can’t judge a book by its cover- there was no shortage of PLUR at this expo center.

An almost palpable positive energy was floating through the air, mixed with some excitement and glitter. People were astoundingly polite and friendly. If someone accidentally bumped into you they’d turn around instantly and genuinely apologize. Whoa. And when packed like sardines in front of the main stage, anyone trying to pass would politely ask to maneuver around you‚Ķunlike the elbow throwing that I’ve seen at other festivals.¬†It felt like everyone was genuinely grateful to be there, grateful for the opportunity to experience the magic, and they left their egos at home for the night. This might have been partially because it was Valentine’s Day, so everyone was in lovey-dovey moods and high spirits.

Not only did I get to share this day with some of my closest PCVs, but my brother-from-another-mother Jovani was there as well! EDC partners since day 1, I felt incredibly lucky that we also got to share our first UMF experience together.

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THE MUSIC.

UMF-SA had a wonderful blend of featured South African artists, as well as the expected international headliners- Armin, Martix Garrix, Axwell & Ingrosso, to name a few.

Of the South African DJs, I really enjoyed Black Coffee. He’s pretty¬†widely known in SA, and is a magnificent example of how sensational and unique¬†South African house music can be.

It would be cliche for me to say Armin Van Buuren’s set was the best of all, (even though it was.) I appreciate his ability to read a crowd and play a set that he feels caters to the majority of the audience, but I wished he played more originals, and I wanted more melodic and soft trance. What we got was hard, pounding, “I wanna see everyone jump!” tracks over and over again. It was still fun though, but talk about a calf workout. Yeesh.

Stepping aside from the expectations and traditions, I’d say my favorite set of the night was DVBBS.¬†They brought this unruly, head-banging energy to the moment, similar to Steve Aoki but with less cake and champagne. I fully enjoyed every track they dropped, especially Pyramids. The whole crowd lost their shiz, including me.

By the 12th hour or so, my feetsies and brain needed a break from the ever-present thumping bass at the main stage, so a couple friends and I headed to another stage to finish up with Gorgon City. They provided a pleasant change of energy; swaying back and forth to some groovy deep house while wiggling my bare toes into the cool grass and getting lost in the fog machines…it was a solid way to end such a magical event.

THE FLAGS. 

One trademark of Ultra, and I guess most international festivals, is to bring a national flag to represent where everyone came from. This is a quick and easy way to see how global dance music has become, and how it unites people from all around the world.

UMF – SA was sold out with over 20,000 attendees, and I spotted flags from all over… South Africa (of course), Argentina, Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Mozambique, Spain, Tanzania, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Zimbabwe‚Ķ the list could keep going.

I think it’s important to recognize the significance of what the appearance of all these flags really means‚Ķit means that people from every different race, country, culture and religion can be united by music. They can dance and sing and frolic about without any negativity or judgement. Our differences are celebrated and everyone proudly waves their flags in the air while also looking around and taking in the beauty of all the other flags that are present.

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THE AFTERMATH. 

The next day, the typical Post-Music-Festival-Stress-Disorder set in. This is happens when the event is over, you are tired, sore, and deeply saddened by the fact that the magic had to end. This feeling can happen after UMF, EDC, or any other music festival where you danced your little heart out and connected with the love and energy of people around you. We stayed at a quaint backpackers which was walking distance to a lot of things so we cured this depression with a big lunch and a trip to the movie theaters to check out Fifty Shades of Grey. Sitting in a cool, air-conditioned theater is a great way to relax post-festival. I highly recommend it.

UMF – SA was a great experience and I couldn’t have asked for a better group of people to share it with. If I’m still around for UMF 2016- I might just have to go back!

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Also check out A Dark Minded Giggle for more of my EDM reviews and satirical humor.


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Races: #5. Modern Autohaus 4-in-1 Marathon

Published February 25, 2015 by kokoinsouthafrica

We woke up before dawn and had a solid 1.5 hour drive to the start line. Unfortunately we woke up late so that drive had to be done in less than an hour. We were super late to registration but luckily the 5km started 15 minutes later than the other distances, so when we arrived we were just barely able to purchase our race bibs and begin running.

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It was a very flat race course and a short half hour later we were done and taking photos at the finish line. I saw a few other Peace Corps volunteers that had ran as well!

Although this was only a 5k run, it was significant because I got to introduce my brother-from-another-mother to the world of road racing. He definitely enjoyed his first race and looks forward to signing up for more! My host mother also ran with us, this was her 3rd 5k race in the last 5 months! After me dragging her along to so many of my events, she took interest in running and is really working hard to prepare for longer distances.

I love running, and I really enjoy sharing my passion with my loved ones. I’m so happy I get to work out and bond with people at the same time.

After the race!

After the race!

Sometimes Photos Are Better Than Words.

Published June 20, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

Here’s a photo update of recent happenings in my neck of the woods!


Dogs.

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The puppies love sunbathing!

Odie and Pela are always play fighting <3

Odie and Pela are always play fighting ‚̧

Sometimes I find Odie napping in my laundry basket. Haha

Sometimes I find Odie napping in my laundry basket. Haha


 

Provincial Conference.

Some of South Africa's Peace Corps Volunteers

Some of South Africa’s Peace Corps Volunteers

The views at this venue were stunning

The views at this venue were stunning

Just a bunch of PCVs sitting around the campfire.

Just a bunch of PCVs sitting around the campfire.

And I got to explore this place with my PCV bestie.

And I got to explore this place with my PCV bestie.


Party time.

A graduation party for one of my relatives.

A graduation party for one of my relatives.

They definitely spared no expense.

They definitely spared no expense.

Rooms full of food catered for the event.

Rooms full of food catered for the event.

My host mom hard at work and a fellow PCV who came to help us celebrate.

My host mom hard at work and a fellow PCV who came to help us celebrate.

Group photo time!

Group photo time!

 

My host dad's cousin, she just graduated from University of Johannesburg.

My host dad’s cousin, she just graduated from University of Johannesburg.


Such an awesome full moon.

Such an awesome full moon.

These giant cacti that grow in my fellow PCV's village.

These giant cacti that grow in my fellow PCV’s village.

I've made a point to be on the treadmill to watch the sunrise every morning. It's life changing.

I’ve made a point to be on the treadmill to watch the sunrise every morning. It’s life changing.

This is cheddar boy. I think he likes me =)

This is cheddar boy. I think he likes me =)


Until next time! ‚̧

 

2 1/2 weeks- with added food bonus!

Published April 16, 2014 by kokoinsouthafrica

To say goodbye to the families that hosted us volunteers our first 2 months in country, we threw a massive farewell party! 

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33 volunteers, plus their host families (which each brought 1-5 people)…it was madness. 

Preparations began days beforehand, with peeling veggies, gathering supplies, and on the morning of the party I was picked up from my house at 5am, driven to the neighboring village where they party was hosted, and began cooking. We built fires outside and cooked over large pots. Then I had a quick break where I could run to my host sister’s grandparents house to change into this outfit that my host mother had made for me! They wrapped me in layers, put this headdress on my head, and back to the party we ran!¬†

It was a full day of eating, singing, dancing, and enjoying each other’s company. What a fun way to say goodbye!¬†


 

Then my family surprised me by throwing me my very own going away party…

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I was all sweaty and gross from working out, and a couple volunteers had come over so I cooked us dinner. When it was time for them to leave, I walked them out to the front gate and when I came back inside the house…SURPRISE! My whole family, and my LCF, were gathered around the dining table with a cake and food. I was thankful they did that for me. They truly were the coolest house family ever. 

To show them thanks, I gave them a few parting gifts. One of which I made myself! 

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Some photos of our time together. I’m sentimental like that >.< I love photo albums, scrapbooks, memory books. I love making them, giving them away, keeping them for myself‚ĶI keep everything. Letters, love notes, photos‚Ķnostalgia at its finest ‚̧¬†

And then…

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…it was time to say goodbye to my host family & move into my permanent site. That was a rough morning, a lot of tears. 

We loaded my luggage into the trailer, I climbed into the Peace Corps van and reached into my purse for a chocolate bar I had put in there, knowing I’d need some comfort at that moment ūüė¶¬†


 

As far as food goes, I cook/prepare food at home for pretty much every single meal. There aren’t restaurants in these small villages.¬†

But when we get a chance to travel to a big city like Pretoria once in a blue moon, we binge on all the yummy foods we’ve been so deprived of. On our last shopping trip we found a bomb sushi place…

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They had a great happy hour & a ton of vegetarian options on the menu! Om nom nom. 

 

But most days of the week I prep a lunch that requires no refrigeration or reheating‚Ķsandwiches, fruits, cold soup. The reason being is that I’m sitting in this little tent all day…

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Doing HIV testing and counseling 

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Some days are busier than others. But there’s usually village wildlife running amuck, and they provide some entertainment¬†

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These sheep don’t look ferocious, but they must have teeth like sharks because I threw this guy my apple core and he gobbled it up in 1 bite ?!?!?!? They’re funny creatures. They usually roam in groups so I’ll see them passing by, groups of goats and cows also. I see wild dogs too, but they’re so skiddish around humans they run away if I get too close. ¬†

 

The closest thing to a ‘restaurant’ would be a tin shack that sells sandwiches out the window. ¬†¬†

Occasionally I’ll grab a sepahlo or kota from one of them‚Ķ¬†

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This little bundle of joy is yummy goodness.

 

As far as availability of foods go, I find mostly all the same produce here as I do in the States. Since my diet is plant-based, this made my dietery transition into the developing world much easier. But I’ve learned new & interesting ways of preparing some vegetables while I was living in my last village.¬†

Chakalaka has got to be my favorite so far…

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Drizzle some oil on the bottom of the pot, throw in some shredded carrots, diced green bell peppers and onions and let it steam a little while with the lid on. Before serving, sprinkle some Peri Peri powder on it 

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I haven’t seen this stuff in the States before, but I’m sure there’s something similar. It’s really spicy, almost like chili powder.¬†

In a grocery store I found some veggie meat that I’ll cook and throw in the pot with the chakalaka. Anywho, this stuff is bomb.com. I make a big pot of it and eat it like every day.¬†

I’ve also made a similar dish but with shredded cabbage and diced onions, and instead of peri peri use garlic salt.¬†


 

The other night I was invited to dinner at a lodge restaurant. This isn’t a restaurant open to the public, it’s only for guests staying at this lodge. A ‘lodge’ or ‘guest house’ is a way of describing anything from a hostel to a hotel to a resort.¬†

I was served a plate of fruits…

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Apples, bananas and papayas, really simple stuff. But for some reason, a good combination of precise cutting and elegant plating made it much more exciting! 

Then I was served this…

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Sautéed potatoes, spinach, carrots, bell peppers, some other stuff…it was really really good. 

Then dessert was a bowl of¬†custard. People in South Africa LOVE their custard, so much so they’ll eat it plain.
Since I’ve been here, I’ve had the worst food cravings for the unhealthiest of foods. I never thought I’d miss American fast food so effing much, it’s crazy. When I close my eyes I can still taste criss-cut fries from Carls Jr or a quesadilla from Taco Bell. Especially after I’ve been drinking and I’m craving some late night junk food.

You never really appreciate what you have until it’s gone.

 


 

Until next time…

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Here’s the sunset I watched while walking to the gym last night ‚̧¬†