South Africa #6: A Romantic Get Away

This was an extremely stressful week in paradise. Lots of work preparing for COSPAR (re: a conference with lots of people) abstracts among preparing for our impending month long trip to Norway next week (!!!).  So after our local slave driver (re: advisor) left for England on Friday afternoon, Amore' and I decided we were well in need of a late afternoon break (re: WINE)

not... guilty! 
Like guilty underage college students, we took a bottle of wine to some rock outcroppings out of sight from the random small children running on the paths (?!?!)  and drank our pinotage out of coffee mugs. Some things don't change but at least I know what pinotage is now... I will say it's amazing to drink a bottle of wine with a friend as the ocean occasionally drenches you.

Make Love not War
For those of you who know my drinking tolerance levels (re: none), you can imagine my drunken stagger up the cliffs back to the car so I could immediately head to ... Ballroom Dancing - Valentine's Day style. I was only judged a little bit when I ran in twenty minutes late and basically fell asleep on my Waltz partner.

It was an epically fun night though. We had all these dancing savants who just magically appeared from Cape Town to make us feel like chums in Hermanus. It was seriously beautiful to watch them dance though, so maybe there's hope for me one day :)

I'm just relieved I finished. 
Let Valentine's Day weekend begin!
But Livin La Vida Loca doesn't end there... I danced till 11 or so (another half bottle of wine!), and then woke up at 6 to leave by 7:30 AM for an ... 8 K race with one of my colleagues. I should mention here that I don't run. And no, don't do that thing where you say "But Lo, you're in good shape, you were probably fine". I don't run - I had planned to walk the 8 K but then I was shamed into running ("Oh you'll probably beat us - you tell us that you are athletic and like to hike"). Did I mention this was a trail run? Did I also mention I had consumed only wine and cupcakes the evening before (re: regrets!).  I'm not going to lie, it takes some serious force of will just to pull out an 8 K trail run up and down a valley in sub 45 minutes out of nowhere... I'm kind of terrified of myself now.

I did find it interesting that despite my complete lack of training, I ended up in a runner's pack with a bunch of women approximately my age and my body type. The 0% body fat runners passed me almost immediately, but I am proud to say that I passed more people than I was passed by!

Come for a walk with me 
From there, I showered and then decided to commence the Lo-Date weekend. See, usually I hate Valentine's Day. Before you write me off as one of those jaded single people, really what is Valentine's Day? It was originally some weird homage to a specific Catholic saint who was brutally murdered via lion consumption by the Romans and somehow morphed into a holiday that forces you to define your relationship status with someone, go to a nice dinner, and buy them presents. Do you know how many breakups occur the week before Valentine's Day? What kind of twisted holiday is this? Can you imagine if Christmas had that kind of effect on people (announcer: And now half the families in America have severed because of Christmas stress).

So for the past 5 years, each of my boyfriends at the time had a no holds ban on even saying "Happy Valentine's Day". There was to be no celebration, murdering of innocent roses, nor heart shaped teddy bear buying. The boyfriends all seemed relieved at this mandate, but still attempted to smuggle some sort of obligatory affection in (oh look chocolate just fell from the sky!). I have since realized I have been doing Valentine's Day totally wrong.

I started off by eating lunch by myself at an ocean side restaurant. I read a book, relaxed, ate my meal, drank my milkshake and loved every moment of it. Sure, the waiter thought it was a bit odd that I was by myself "So, you're alone... that's interesting" but pffft whatever. I then wandered around town and bought sweaters for Norway next week (it's COMING). OK, I admit, I then went back to the office and worked afterward, but... the real date came the next day. I had this planned... I asked myself this week, "Now what would I want to do on a Valentine's Day Date?" Answer: Go for a crazy long hike.

I woke up late (re: 6:45 AM) and started off along the hills near SANSA. I have wanted to hike the big mountain by the ocean (see above ocean picture!) since I first showed up here. This was my day to do it :D. It was about a 6 km walk for me to get there and the looped I had planned was another 14 km.
View from the top!!! This moment included mango lunch too!

It was an amazing hike. The trail led through so many diverse landscapes... rain forest, burned forest, rocky outcroppings, high altitude plains with flowers, etc.  It was a perfect day too - slightly overcast so I didn't fry but not rainy the whole time. I ran into an older couple hiking together and chatted with them for a bit. It took all of five minutes before the guy and I had the following dialogue:

Him: So do you not have friends or someone that will hike with you?

Me inside head: No, I'm bat-shit crazy bro. I have a knife in my backpack.  
Flowers on the trail!
Me Actually: Oh you know, people are busy and my hiking buddy left last week.

Him (really confused apparently): Yeah, but there have to be other people around who will hike with you. You seem normal.

Me inside head: Dude, I have 4 L of water and several mangoes in my bag after starting at 7 AM and I'll be out till at least 4 PM with a 30 minute lunch break. I don't think anyone in Hermanus can keep that kind of pace. Me Actually: Of course, but they all had other plans today, you know Valentine's Day and church.

Him (won't give up!): But don't you have a Valentine's date or boyfriend?
This is why no one hikes with me. Units = steps, k = x1000

Me inside head: Seriously bro, I'm on a date with myself right now. You're making this awkward. Plus not all pretty, remotely interesting women have boyfriends. DEAL.
Me Actually: Boyfriends slow down my hiking pace and they require time and energy... I'm too busy with my head in space [laughs at my own canned response for when people ask me this which is entirely too often]

Oh Brad, you just had to sneak in there on my date, didn't you? 
Him and wife: [seem incredibly skeptical but also laugh as if this was a normal statement] Oh you young people, you should only settle when you're ready

They were really lovely people though, I just thought I would share this snippet with you all :) Anyways, around 15:30, I got back to my place, showered, and then walked to dinner for stage II of my self-date: a dinner with wine. The best part: as I walked in, there was a girl leaving who looked eeriely similar to me who had been doing the same thing. As she left, she left a rose on my table with a big smile and told me to enjoy my Valentine's Day dinner as much as she had enjoyed hers. Whoever you are, +10000000 karma points to you, thank you !!!

So there you have it - another week in South Africa. I think I've learned a valuable personal lesson this week though - Valentine's Day is actually a wonderful holiday when you make it about actions and not things. I know we do Friend's Day, Galentine's Day, etc., but when do we take a day to love ourselves? I took this day to do things I wanted to do for me... and I just feel so amazingly refreshed now. From now on, my Valentine's Days will be spent as days dedicated to celebrating the relationship I have with myself (and maybe some great guy one day too).

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