November 02, 2002

2/11/2002 Cape Town, South Africa

2/11/2002 Cape Town, South Africa
(Phill)

Yeah, umm, GREAT WHITE SHARKS... It was totally brilliant (sorry to sound like such a tourist). So I woke up this morning nice and early (5am) and got picked up to go drop myself in a cage surrounded by the world's most dangerous predator. Actually, I really didn't know what to expect, whether they came close or not. Anyway, we load up and make the 2 hour drive again, spot of breakfast and out on the boat. The boat wasn't really that big and since we were told to expect 4 meter sharks it honestly seemed like they could do some SERIOUS damage to it.

So we anchor the boat near an island full of baby seals (don't think about what they're for) and drop in the cage. The skipper and our guide are busy dropping in a disgusting concoction of fishheads and fish livers. Ough, combine that smell with the rocking boat and you have at least two of my co-divers being sick overboard. Anyway, after aimlesssly sitting around for about an hour patiently waiting for sharks to appear we suddenly see fins approaching the decoy (rubber thing shaped like a seal). The first sight is absolutely enough to strike fear into you, this thing was massive: teeth gleeming and these tiny beedy eyes ("with his wee beady eye's, you're gonna buy my chicken" name that movie!). The power of it grabbing the decoy shook the boat!

After taking a few photo's we don our wet-suits in two's and get in the rather flimsy looking cage. You'll see the pictures of it, it didn't don confidence!

Basically the way it works is the sharks come in after smelling the blood of the fish, when they get closer they come accross either the decoy or a massive fish head on a rope. They zone in on it and at that point the skipper pulls it toward the boat and the shark chases it with it's mouth open, they pull it around the cage so the shark gets really close. When you're under the water it's insane to see this gigantic thing, you can feel the water being pushed out of his way as he goes by.

Anyway, the first time is really frightening and then your confidence goes back up and you want to do it again. Overall we saw about 5 different Great White's all between 3.5m and 5m long. Crazy crazy big.

On my last turn in the water the shark actually outsmarted the skipper and as he approached me in the cage (sitting as close to the shark side as possible to see him better in the murky water) he ignored the fact that the skipper pulled the bait out of the way. Yeah, at full speed he comes out of nowhere and suddenly I'm looking directly at a great bloody white shark, jaws wide open, just a matter of feet away. I throw myself back (which is hard to do without getting your hands outside the cage, bad idea that) and as I just push off the bloody thing smashes head first into my cage. It's really hard to explain what that feels like, a mixture of total fear and adrenalin. I'm thrown back into the cage as the skipper tries to reattract the sharks attention with the bait. Probably as fast as it happened the sharks twists around to go after the bait but in the process smashes his tail fin into the side of the cage. My hands were throbbing just from that impact. I could hear the cheers of the people on the boat, they were definately jealous!

Very cool day!

Posted by Admin at 09:39 AM | Comments (0)

November 07, 2002

7/11/2002 Paris, France (Phill)

7/11/2002 Paris, France (Phill)

Okay, I made it to France in a record 36 hours and 4 flights, quite impressive since a direct flight is only 10 hours. Anyway; Im here for the impending brith of my first neice or nephew, so if you need to contact me by phone this is one of the few oppertunities. Obviosuly not going to post the number here though! Just email me and I'll get it to you.

Hope things are great; I'm just readjusting to the bitter cold here. Knee still hurts! but I do have my kilt now so that makes everything better :)

Posted by Admin at 03:49 AM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2002

10/11/2002 Paris, France (Phill)

10/11/2002 Paris, France (Phill)

Eugh, I hate French keyboards! Anyway, the event that I'm here in France for finally took place on Saturday at 2pm. The event, of course, is the birth of my first neice or nephew. So as I said around 2pm my sister gave birth to a new future French Passport holder. I know what you're thinking, do we really need another French person? My sentiments exactly ;)

Oh yeah, I suppose it's important to share some other details, huh? Well, it's a beatiful wee girl, kind of a pink colour, with dark hair and no teeth. Really lots of hair though, she doesn't thankfully have the simpson eyebrows but she's got tons of hair on her head already. She kind of has that cone-head shape going but I'm told thats normal and will fix itself soon. Lets hope so or she'll be wearing a heck of a lot of baseball caps! The exhausted parents kept the name a secret until now, but I can reveal that her name will be Clarissa Anastacie Falempin. Very cute.

Anyway, I'm spending my time here resting and catching up on a year of Friends episodes. My mum was taping them to spare my sister from the horrors of French TV (I actually watched French Pop Stars the other day!!!). I should be out of here at the end of the week and off to see the lovely Fieke in Utrecht, Holland. I even picked up my kilt and some nicer clothes at the airport last week from my brilliant and strong (after carrying my spare bag) Aunt Sandra. So I've been poncing about in preppy clothes this week; It's really nice to not smell, well smell as much, again!

Posted by Admin at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

November 17, 2002

16/11/2002 Versailles, France (Phill)

16/11/2002 Versailles, France (Phill)

Okay? last day in France for a while. Leaving on a jet plane (train
actually, but that isn't part of the song) for Rotterdam, and onwards
to Utrecht tomorrow.

I've spent this week doing the fqmily, new uncle thing. Clarissa is
totally fabulous. My present to the parents was a nice wee website to
showcase their ne daughter. I know, very geeky, but I pro,ise it was
requested. I didnt manage to actually make the web site truely
interactive, so you could hit a button on the site and a big arm
would release from the side of her crib to tickle her or anything,
but it's still cute. Check it out at www.clarissafalempin.com

I think I am about ready to move on though? cause when Clarissa's
asleep its pretty boring. I'm out of Friends tapes and the highlight
of my day is listening to the BBC World Service. Not a good sign!

So the next plan is to go to Holland to visit Fieke. It sounds like
theres wuite a lot planned; but since shes still in class I'm sure
I'll be entertaining myself. Of course, that might be made easier
with the 5 girls in her house! :)

Its funny you never really appreciate your language until you travel.
Being in France is so terribly frustrating because the older
generation here rarely speaks English. FOr example, we went for
dinner the other night with Felicity's in-laws. They really dont
speak English, they politely try but most of the meal I sat in
silence. I do understand wuite a bit of French, but speaking it is
pretty traumatic for those around me. It's actually pretty
uncocomfortable if you think about it. It's, of course, tough for me
to keep quiet that long (my mum and aunt both speak french, so really
its just me that doesnt), but also it means the rest of the table
keeps trying to include me in the conversation. What you end up with
is this running commentry in English which keeps interrupting my
attempts to zone out! :)

No really, its been decently good, but time to move on. My knee is
getting worse and is actually wuite painful so I'll probably go see a
doctor this week in Holland and get it looked at. I've been eating
cheese all week so I really need to start working out again! Yes I
know, you're terribly upset that the biggest problem I have to deal
with is the amount of cheese I'm consuming. Actually not true, I
finally got the paperwork for my job back in Austin. I'm probably
accepting an offer back out there starting in January, but the H1B
work permit is a massive headache. Mainly becuase it requires so much
documentation from me. Things like diploma's, old passports, old INS
documents etc... arent exactly things I carry around with me! I left
copies both in Austin and London, except I'm not in either place, not
will I be for a while. So I do have some real worries.

Au revoir!

Posted by Admin at 05:11 AM | Comments (0)

17/11/2002 Rotterdam, Holland (Phill)

17/11/2002 Rotterdam, Holland (Phill)

Just a quick post to announce that I'm out of France! I got the early TGV through Belgium to Rotterdam this morning> I'm not meeting Fieke for another couple of hours and I thought Id take advantage of a cheap ($1.40/hour) internet. I did wander around Rotterdam for a bit but it's really just another big city, although if I was doing a world tour of McDonalds I'd have come to the right place!

Posted by Admin at 05:14 AM | Comments (0)

November 19, 2002

19/11/2002 Utrecht, Holland (Phill)

19/11/2002 Utrecht, Holland (Phill)

Just a quick note, too many emails to respond to today and I'm meeting Fieke in 15 minutes. I did make it to Utrecht which is about 30 mins south of Amsterdam (convenient, eh?). Yesterday was actually a big Dutch holiday calledd Saint Nicholas day. Basically it's the christian part of christmas with less commercialism. I think they substituted racism instead though! It's quite wierd but I got to spend the ceelebration with Fieke and her 5 female roommates. It was very tough :)

No really it's the trraditional day when St nick arrived by boat to Holland from Spain. What they all do is make a present for a roommate and eat traditional Dutch food. We ate this potato-cabbage-sausage contraption. I'm not positive about the ingredients becuase I truely didn't recognize them! But in the end it was dececntly good. Then came the presents, so the way it works is you secretly add the presents to a pile without saying who bought what for who. Then you roll a dice and the person who rolls six gets to pick or give a present. When you get your present it's home made and generally something to do with you. One of the roommates got a model of a really messy room with a pig in it, another a jumbo jet maded out of cardboard and foil. Really I was very impressed with all the effort, I imagined giving my friends a can of beer rolledd in toilet-paper (what kind of statement is that!).

Anyway, that's only a small part of it, oncee you get your model thing, you actually have to break it open to find the hidden real presents. It's all small stuff, candles, socks, things like that, but it's the celebration of the opening that makes it cool. After all the presents were open they started singing all these Dutch songs (the wine helped I think).

It was really unique and definately a cool experience. Granted since lots of Dutch was spoken I couldn't understand 100% of what was going on, but I pretty much followed. And they were all very nice and spoke english whenever I looked too confused. It's amazing how well the Dutch speak english.

I did do some touristy things yesterday but since it's miserable and wet I went and saw a movie for half the day! Tomorrow, Fieke and I are heading either up to Amsterdam or off to meet her parents. Tonight is volleyball (she's playing, not me) and thursday is a party. I think Saturday is a rave. it's hard to keep track of it all. Needless to say I'm having a great time!

Posted by Admin at 05:23 AM | Comments (0)

November 21, 2002

21/11/2002 Amsterdam, Holland (Phill)

21/11/2002 Amsterdam, Holland (Phill)

Well, it's a bloody cold day in Amsterdam! Raining, miserable and with a bit of a biting wind, but it's definately warmer than yesterday! Fieke had the day off school yesterday so she took me up to Amsterdam. We didn't manage to leave her house until about midday and neither of us were really looking to see everything yesterday. We did manage to go to the Rjeike Museum and see some famous paintings by Van Gough and Rembrant. Except, neither of us are exactly into art so we moved onto wandering the streets and trying to find a hotel.

Once we found the hotel we headed out for dinner and to visit some bars. Since this is Amsterdam that's actually the tourist thing to do and not just me being lazy, I promise! We did take a walk through the Red Light District but I wasn't allowed to buy anything :) Wait, I think my mum reads this, so I should explain that the red light district is actually a massive lightbulb shop selling only red lights!

Fieke hopped on a train back to Utrecht this morning to try and make it back in time for her 12:00 class, not that she had remembered to bring her school books with her! I think I'm a bad influence. I went to the Anne Frank House. The war still is a pretty bad memory for the Dutch and so Fieke didn't want to come and do that one yesterday, it's not even really a topic you're supposed to discuss. Anwyay, the Anne Frank House is, of course, where Anne Frank hid and wrote her famous diaries about Jewish treatment during World War II. Really it was very impressive and quite amazing that such a young girl could write such stirring journals. Of course they put my wee one's to shame!

I'm now in a massive internet cafe waiting for the rain to stop. Will probably head to the Van Gough museum this afternoon, and maybe write some postcards. That's my tough decision for the day! :)

Tonight there's some party that I'll go to. I'm pretty tired though so I may pass. I was also thinking about heading to Germany for a day or two early next week, I didn't realize how close we were to Berlin. I had a great time there last time so maybe another day is in order?

Posted by Admin at 04:03 AM | Comments (0)

November 25, 2002

25/11/2002 Utrecht, Holland (Phill)

25/11/2002 Utrecht, Holland (Phill)

In this episode of Phill's Journal: Hospitals, Raves and lazy days!

Phew, it's been a crazy few days. My knee is still hurting so I got to spend almost 3 hours at the hospital on Saturday. Obviously a doctor would've been more convenient but it seems like Holland has a medical system that's in the same dissarray as the uk. Very overtaxed and you can't just pick which type of doctor to go consult with. Fieke took me to the local doctor except because I wasn't registered with them they sent me to the hospital. So off we went, the first Casualty department was closed (can you believe that?) and they suggested we go to a different hospital. They also suggested that I shouldn't mention that I had this injury for a couple of weeks and certainly shouldn't suggest that we walked to the hospital. Apparently that would have made them not help me!

Anyway, we do get to the next hospital, quite nice actually. But we sit in the waiting room for about an hour and then in an empty room for another. The nice doctor did examine my knee and basically came to the conclusion that I had torn my miniscus and perhaps had fluid under my knee. Of course, that meant that I should go see an Orthopedic surgeon and get a wee hole drilled in my knee to get a better look. After calling the specialist she had to inform me that there was a waiting list and there's no way it could be done before I left (a week later). So I got bandaged up and she advised me to try to keep off it and see someone as soon as I got back to Scotland.

So, being me, I had to do the opposite, what could be worse for a damaged knee than 7 hours of intense dancing? Yup, we hopped on a train to Rotterdam to meet up with some of Fieke's friends and head off to the rave. We were supposed to be met by her friend Arie at the train station. Unfortunately, we were later to find out that Arie had been pulled over for going 120km in a 50km and had his car and license confiscated. Good start, huh?

The Rave was different from British one's (that I remember). The age range was massive, although most people were abuot 22, some were in their 40s! None of the clothes I brought were really suitable for this kind of place, so Fieke had loaned me some of hers. Basically I was wearing all black, some flare-type back trousers and a tight black angel shirt. The shirt had red wings on the back (stop laughing Rob!). Anyway, I hated it at first but it definately was suitable for the occasion.

Most that know me know that I hate dancing, only Kelly know's why though. But anyway, the best part about the whole thing was how friendly everyone was. Everyone was smiling (well apparenty, except me, since I dont smile when I dance). I stayed with Fieke most of the night, but when she would leave to go chill out or drink more water (we consumed about 5 bottles each!) one of her friends would come and look after me. I was amazed how nice they were.

Anyway, I must've danced for most of the 7 hours but I didn't get tired, think I was just too into it. Having a great time is a great way to keep energized. We didn't walk out into the cold until about 7am when it closed. It was bloody freezing when we did leave though and then we walked to the center of the city turning a 20 minute walk int almost an hour! Worse still when we eventually found the station and got on the train an anouncement came over the speakers telling us that there was work on the line between Rotterdam and Utrecht and the train, (and subsequent trains) were cancelled.

We ended up getting on numerous trains before finally taking a massive 2 hour tour of Holland trying to get back to Utrecht. We went through The Hague and Amsterdam so it was hardly the most efficient way of getting there! We got home at 10am or so, absolutely exhausted. It's a strange feeling to be travelling on trains on your way to bed when everyone else on there is on their way to Chruch, or to go shopping, it's quite disorientating.

We got home and went straight to bed, waking up at 4 or 5pm still exhausted. So we stayed in and ate leftover pizza and watching movies. Brilliant weekend.

Posted by Admin at 02:19 AM | Comments (0)

November 28, 2002

The Hague, Holland (Phill)

The Hague, Holland (Phill)

Quick one, I did forget to metion the latest Feik-ism. The lovely Fieke managed to inform me that I "might be intelligent in some way". Deadly serious too, that's good to know. For all you who thought I was just good looks, or simply wasting earth's valuable oxygen, it's now confirmed that I'm more than just that! ;)

Well, in the past few days I've continued the tourist theme. I went back to Amsterdam for the World Information Exhibition, typical nerdy stuff that I like. I managed to get asked to leave when I modified one of their information kiosks to give me free internet access! The following day Fieke and I went to meet her parents in their little village near Rosendaal. This is the first stop in Holland from Belgium and Fiek's mum explained that lots of people come here just to buy drugs and hop back on the train to Belgium/France.

Fieke's family was, of course, lovely. Thank goodness they all spoke English! Fieke, her brother, and I all wandered around the little town. Didn't take long to do it all! We went and visited her sister and their horse, (I found out that my sisters name, Felicity, is a very common name for a horse in Holland). We stayed for dinner before hopping on a train back to Utrecht.

Today I went to The Hague, which is the Washington DC of Holland. The home of their government and Queen. I actually even got to see their Prime Minister as he left his offices and my gosh does he look like Harry Potter! No broomstick, but he's got the hairdo down!

It sounds like the Gala that I brought my kilt for is cancelled, so we're talking about doing a nice fancy dinner instead. We fly over to Glasgow this weekend in time for the Aberdeen University party in Glasgow, there's a ceildh (Scottish highland dancing) as well as VERY cheap beer and drinks, so it ought t be a night to remember (or forget with all that beer).

Posted by Admin at 08:59 AM | Comments (0)