South Africa #5: Feeling SALTy

Have you all noticed my pattern yet? - it's something like work ~ 50 hours a week, frisbee 2-3 times a week, morning walks at least 4 days a week, beach at least once, and ballroom dancing twice a week followed by some wild weekend adventure.

The great whites were having fun with us too

This week, SANSA was hosting ~15 undergraduate students for a summer school. I popped in and out of a few lectures like an aloof foreign graduate student, and I joined them for play time at the beach (ahem, 'hosting the students on a recreational activity'). I naively thought "Oh, if I wear my clothes, I'll resist going into the water! What a great idea!" and in my infinite self control, immediately ran into the ocean upon arrival. Of course, I had to drag like 6 of the summer students and Amore' in with me. Heaven forbid I am uncomfortable in my wet work clothes alone...

Can this be every day?! 
 I do have some sad news to report... my 'tough' FujiFilm XP60 which I bought used 2 years ago and beat the living daylights out of finally went to the great electronics box in the sky. Getting pounded by the 1 meter waves for an hour kind of did it in... whoops. It was supposed to be water proof up to 15 m, but I don't think that accounted for additional pressure from waves. The beach photos are was it's last little act of love before giving the black screen of death. So let's take a moment to consider the impressiveness of it's short (well, about 18 months longer than typical Lo electronics' life expectancy) life:

Mmmm this didn't help keep my camera alive
(1) Getting dropped down the side of a mountain (6+ m fall, hit about 4 boulders on the way down). I have no idea how the screen didn't shatter.

(2) Getting dropped out of a tree (Yeah...)

(3) Surviving previous beach/wave pounding (I should have known better, really. I had warnings)

(4) Surviving Michigan winter - snowshoe backpacking at 5F!

(5) "Here will you take a picture of me?" [Lo throws camera to friend who lacks expected coordination skills] x 100

(6) Many countries, many backpacking trips, many kayaking adventures, many rain storms, many frisbee sessions.

"I play you a song pretty lady"
[I already bought a replacement here in South Africa... XP 80, coming this week through the exciting roulette that is South African mail!]

I re-discovered my favorite dance at ballroom - the boogie ( I haven't quite mastered those cool flip moves, but I might be obsessed with this dance... it may be because as a follow, I get a lot of say in this dance. For example, let's say the guy wants me to do 1 turn and then spin out and spin back in. I can see that, do a turn, and then just go in for another turn because I want to. Ah! It's so wonderful!

I'm bigger than SALT!
Saturday morning early my advisor picked me up and we began the 5 hour journey to Sutherland in the Northern Cape. Why Sutherland? It's were SALT the South African Large Telescope is! And it's massive (11 meters across!). We made a pit stop along the way for lunch at a town called (phoentically!) Mikey's Fontaine (who knows what that is in Afrikaans). When we eat a meal, Mike (South African advisor) likes to announce to our server immediately that I have a severe disability (re: vegetarian) that must be accounted for. I usually passive face him immediately and ask him how his dune buggy is doing (it's age: ~2 Lo life times, no joke, and no, it doesn't actually run).

Mike was headed to SALT to meet with a student of his studying sprites, so he dropped me off at the visitor center for a tour and hasta la vista'd. The tour was... nothing short of interesting. Try to picture my face as the hidden space physicist in the group as this example exchange occurred:

Space Cadets!
[after conversation about star color reflecting temperature]
Enthusiastic tourist: "So Mars is red, it must be cold then too, right?"
Guide: "Oh no, so Mars is actually a yellowish color, it's not cold but it's not hot enough to be star"
Skeptical tourist: "Wait, you mean Mars the planet right?"
Guide: "Yeah, Mars is yellowish, you'll see it in the telescope on one of our night tours. It's because of the temperature"
Lo: "...."

Road trip home... beautiful day! Look at that road quality too!
The night sky was, of course, unbelievable. Milky way, Magellanic clouds, and the seven sisters were all clearly visible. I joined in on a night sky tour group, and learned several new things. For the 5th time this week too, I was called out for having a 'strong' American accent, which always piques people's interest (best guess where I am from: North Dakota... really?). The best analogy is South Africans see my accent the way I/East Coasters see heavy Texan accents. SA's may have an impression that Americans walk around with cowboy hats and pistols. Then again, I can't judge because it's extremely difficult for me to tell the difference between SA English Accent and British English Accent... to me, they really are identical.

 In the morning, I went for a walk in the dessert and reminisced about Los Alamos. The fir trees smelled the same here, and it was a delightful walk :) We drove back after breakfast, and I went hiking in the nearby mountains for a few hours in the rain after we got back.

Now I'm back in Hermanus preparing for another exciting week. Lots to do as always, so let's see what the next week brings :D


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