Quyen in Joburg

Thursday, September 28, 2006


OK now the title of this post may lead you to think that I am Japanese, but really, we're all the same, so who cares, right? I am moving blogs...since I've been back in the States I've been cooking up a storm in my very well-equipped kitchen. Sadly, the one piece of kitchen cutlery I always miss most when I travel is my trusty Santoku knife, which, funnily enough, happens to be Japanese. Those Orientals are mighty resourceful when it comes to knives, I tell you. If you could have just ONE expensive knife, I would recommend the Santoku. Its hollowed edges grasp even the most slippery tomato or onion.

Anyway, as many of you know, I'm completely obsessed with all things edible...food, that is. I've been watching the Food Network religiously, mesmerized by all the episodes I missed while in Africa, but that my TIVO so lovingly captured. So, I'm going to start a new blog chronicling my food adventures. This may not sound very exciting...to vegans, especially, but I promise you I WILL keep up this food blog, as I am determined to master the perfect baguette, the savory souffle, and my latest venture--MALVA PUDDING!!! Mwaahh ah ah....

Speaking of which, I am currently baking my malva pudding. Holy crap there's a lot of cream and butter in the sauce! Yes, I'd like a heart attack on the side of my pudding, please. But, to you foodies everywhere, this dessert is absolutely divine if made correctly. And let me tell you...that malva pudding at KITCHEN BAR (the restaurant in Bryanston, South Africa which was held up by thugs sporting AK-47's...damn those guns have an intense kickback, but that's another story) was absolutely heavenly. Not too sweet. Tender, moist, but still held its integrity. Perfect a la mode with a double cappuccino. Perfetto!!

So anyway, thanks to all my blogger readers, all three of you (Lillian, Sam, and The Rooster.) Join me at FoodsnobInLA for more adventures, and PICTURES of food. Now doesn't that sound more exciting than being attacked by baboons in Kruger Park?

Miss you all,
Quyen (No Longer) In Joburg

Come visit my new blog at FoodsnobInLA. Buon appetito!

Monday, September 11, 2006

September 11

This morning as I watched the 9/11 coverage on 60 Minutes, I couldn't help but feel extremely fortunate to be alive. Not only fortunate, but actually priviledged. Here I am 5 years later, living in Los Angeles, studying film at UCLA. I would never have guessed that within a few months after 9/11 I would quit my cushy job at Deloitte to become a photographer full time, and that I would be travelling to South Africa to shoot movies 5 years later.

It's easy to be selfish. It's easy to be petty. When I catch myself being both, it's hard to keep everything in perspective sometimes, but I know that I need to be grateful. And I am. I didn't think I was going to make it on that fateful day, so I am thankful that I get to live and travel and tell others about my experiences.

I'd like to share some photos taken on 9/11.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Back to the States

Sadly, the sun has set on my African adventure...However, I got to fly home in style. After standing in line at the airport for over an hour due to a power outage, I was rewarded with an upgrade to business class. I didn't realize I was in business class, though, until I went to the lavatory and saw the rest of the plane. I was wondering why there was so much leg room and wine? I even got ice cream! Yum. Plus, the cute young (married) professor sitting next to me (there were only 2 of us per row) and I kept ordering red wine, so the time passed quickly. A sweet end to an amazing journey.

Although I am no longer in Joburg, I may continue to post some other pics and events, as there is still much to tell about this amazing country. In the meantime, here are some pics--vultures, the baboon that climbed on our car in Kruger, a sunset on the N12 back from Kruger, a sunset on 3rd Beach in Cape Town where several young men were playing rugby. Also, here is a field on fire en route to Kruger. As I mentioned in one of the first blogs, fields are burned to prevent the spread of further fire, although sometimes it doesn't appear too controlled. Also, the fire helps facilitate new growth. It only struck me how long I had been in Joburg when we passed a bright green field. I turned to Thabo and asked, "Wait a minute, wasn't that field burning when we arrived?" Boy how time flies, especially when you're having a good time.

On my last day in Africa I color timed the trailer, which Ryan, an editor friend down in Cape Town, cut for Thabo. He did a fantastic job on it and we are ever grateful. Hopefully we'll be able to post something up soon. It's still in DVCam format. My first assistant camera Nick was kind enough to give me a ride to our amazing telecine house, Pudding, all the way from Benoni. Thanks Nick--you're the best!

Trying to get back onto USA West Coast time, but I keep on waking up at 3 AM, so feel free to IM or email me please. I'm dying here. It's so HUMID here, but I guess that's all relative.

Missing South Africa and all my friends,

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


On Monday we went to Soweto, the largest township in Johannesburg. We went first to a local Fish & Chips store where we bought "fat cake", or vet koek. A heavy, fried sphere of dough, it isn't as sweet as a doughnut and is more glutenous. From the texture, I reckon it has yeast in it, but not 100% positive. You can get it filled with a variety of savory minces, but we just had ours plain. We also got sweet tea with it, which is just black tea with condensed milk. We were the only white and Asian people we saw walking around. You don't go there without a South African, and thankfully Thabo is an excellent guide. It also doesn't hurt that he shares his name (which no white person has) with the president.

Next we continued our tour by visiting Nelson Mandela's house, which his wife Winnie looked after while he was a prisoner on Robben Island. Unfortunately, Mandela lived in the house only for 11 days after his release, and shortly thereafter divorced his wife. Here's a shot of me by Sugar Ray Lenoard's belt--Mandela boxed as a youngster, and knowing how big a boxing fan he was, Leonard gave him his belt. There is a shot of me actually wearing the belt, but I didn't feel like posting it...

For our next touristy attraction we headed to the Hector Pieterson Memorial. At only 13 years of age, Hector was the first casualty of the Soweto Uprisings in 1976. In this photo of Sam, the line in the ground leads to the spot where Hector was shot and killed. To learn more, please visit http://www.soweto.co.za/html/p_hector.htm.

These other shots are Sam and me enjoying our vet koeks and tea, derelict Orlando Power Station Cooling Towers (which ironically supplied power to white Joburg suburbs and NONE to Soweto), and our our vet koek ladies.


Sunday, September 03, 2006

Audience with a KING

Hooray!!! South Africa beat New Zealand in yesterday's rugby match in Rustenburg. It was Sam's first rugby match, so we think that's why South Africa won :) Thabo had prepared us for a loss, but with only a few minutes to spare, SA kicked in a goal to squeeze by New Zealand by just one point. Amazing. Oh, and rugby players are still HOT with their thick thighs and tight asses. Yum.

Other fantastic news--Sam and I met Leruo Molotlegi, King of Bafokeng, at the game. Because Thabo's uncle was doing the VIP security, we were able to dine in the King's tent, and actually ended up at the table next to him. He is completely proper, handsome, and unassuming, and is the richest King in Africa. He asked us how we ended up in Rustenburg (as we were the only non-South Africans there, and me the ONLY Asian person there) and when we told him we were from Los Angeles, he said he once dated a girl from there, but that she was AWFUL. Nice, eh? Anyway, we shook hands with the King. That's f-cking rad if I do say so myself! Here's a pic of him handing the trophy to the rugby captains of both teams. Even though SA beat NZ in this game, the All Blacks had already secured the Freedom Cup last week in Pretoria, so this faux pas led to the King handing the trophy to the Springbok captain before sorting everything out. Eish. It wasn't the King's fault, though. He can do no wrong in my book. I love him.

This morning Sam and I went to the Apartheid Museum. Extremely well designed and super informative, you have to be prepared for an emotional journey. Even the entrance to the museum, which is divided into 2 entrances--one for whites and one for non-whites--gives you a teeny tiny taste of what apartheid must have been like. When you buy your ticket they give you passes which indicate one or the other. Whether it was chance or not, I got the non-white pass, and as we walked through our separate gates it felt pretty awful to be separated from Sam, who was in a completely white section of the museum. And that's just the tip of the iceberg. An incredible museum.

Finally, we went to a braai at Thabo's cousin's house. Yum! We started with chicken livers and sliced avocados, and everyone was wondering whether the AMERICANS (Sam and me) were brave enough to try them. Ha ha ha. I told them "We've had dog. Livers are for sissies." Not even Thabo or Sue's son wanted to have the livers, which were extraordinarily moist and delicious with the onions they were sauteed with. For the main meal we had steak, chicken, grilled veggies, and salad. For dessert Sue made meringue with fresh berries and cream...delicious. Here's a pic of Sue's two kids and me. I've been camping in their rooms for the past two months, so I'm sure they can't wait for me to leave :) I will miss them dearly.

Tomorrow we're going to Soweto, the largest township in Joburg. After learning all about the Soweto uprisings 3 decades ago, I'm more than excited to visit this historical area. Can't wait!

Buona notte,

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Bryce and Richard

I apologize to all my loyal blogger fans, Lillian and Sam and the Rooster, but this one is personal. Bryce and Richard, you guys know how I feel about you, so here's to our good times before I forget. To anyone else who reads this it will probably make no sense whatsoever, but you have to realize that without these boys, we couldn't have made this film. You boys rock. I will miss you dearly. And in no particular order at all:

1. Car Accidents with Germans
2. Springbok Pie
3. Breaking glasses at the Game Farm
4. Being attacked by flying embers
5. Sleeping on the couch
6. Not sleeping on the couch
7. Ceremony (sir-REM-uh-nee)
8. Chocolates from the garage
9. Going over the top
10. Crazy-eyed kids in the intersection
11. Two cheeseburgers from McDonald's for breakfast
12. Lakeside Mall
13. Fresh whole cream milk
14. Portuguese restaurants in Melville
15. Beer at Lemongrass
16. Only smoking YSL's
17. Putting BNC's in mouths
18. Constantly dealing crack on set
19. but loving every second of it
20. What are we waiting for?
21. Our shady waiter in Sandton
22. Car mounts
23. Crazy Hillbrow "landlady"
24. Camera tests = B Roll
25. Moses totally hooking us up
26. Totally scoring with those vouchers
27. Never actually bringing any of our boys any beer (we suck)
28. P-p-p-p-ssy
29. Will you be my fiancee?
30. Pearl Cream--Ancient Oriental Secret
31. Driving around 'til after sunrise avoiding the cops
32. Katz Pyjamas
33. F-ck I'm hot
34. F-ck you're hot
35. It's like that Seinfeld episode
36. Mildew clothes
37. Arnica massages
38. Rubbing your heads
39. Make me an omelette
40. I just want a coffee, is that too much too ask?
41. Oh, and a scarf and a beanie
42. Vida Cafe in Greenside
43. Navigating by that damn burnt field
44. Short and stout
45. Gay, butch guy trapped in a woman's body
46. Not carrying handbags
47. Is he gay? Is he? Isn't everyone?
48. Baby! Darling!
49. Benoni
50. Joe Slovo
51. Hillbrow
52. Broken showers
53. Good Job!
54. Moisturizing dry skin
55. Champagne lunch at Soulsa
56. Freezing on the rooftop because we didn't have our scarves and gloves
57. Nearly falling off the rooftop
58. The Video Store
59. Rugby at the equipment house
60. Our favorite Steers
61. Melville
62. Electrolytes
64. Madame Zingara's and sitting on menus
65. Madame Zingara's body shots by the end of dinner
66. Our wine attendant at Morgenster
67. Sugar Mamma
68. Thai descent, Thai meal
69. China Corner
70. (At Bruma) - "Q, what do you use these items for?"
71. Bryce, I DON'T KNOW, I'm NOT Chinese!!!
72. Asian Count
73. David Kau
74. Absynthe shots
75. Transactions on street corners
76. Aqueous Cream
77. Scones on the Game Farm
78. Dance dance dance
79. That amazing bacon, avocado, cheese sandwich at WITS
80. Springbok Carpaccio with horseradish, rocket, and capers
81. Bl--- rape
82. Breakfast at 4 PM

I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but there were just too many fond memories we've shared. After living together for weeks on end, you'd think we'd tire of one another. Well, maybe you've tired of me, but I know I'm going to miss you guys dearly. Thanks for everything.


Lions and tigers and bears, OH MY!

Let's get this straight--there are no tigers and bears in Africa, so don't make the tourist mistake of wanting to see some (like Sam did). ALTHOUGH, at the Kruger Park store in Skukuza yesterday, we were standing in front of a TV watching a film about these two conservationists who are trying to assimilate tigers into Africa's terrain. The tiger population in Asia is dwindling, so these men feel that Africa is the last hope for these magnificent creatures. We were absolutely mesmerized, but then we got kicked out by the manager because we were spilling ice cream onto their floor. We told him, "We're rich Americans and we can BUY your f-cking store, so we can do whatever we damn well please." So actually, maybe some day tigers WILL roam the African bush alongside lions (but not bears, sadly.) What would happen to the ecosystem??

So back to our morning bush walk...two trackers with rifles accompany the small group of five hikers. I don't think there have been many instances where the trackers have been forced to use their guns, as it's highly discouraged, but it makes you feel a little better about being an open target. You must walk silently in a single file line, and should NEVER stray. As soon as you do, you're vunerable, as animals see the line as one creature (just as they see vehicles as one animal). If there's a problem or if you spot an animal you indicate to the scouts by snapping, whistling, or hitting your thigh, since the trackers are always in the front of the line. It's very exciting, I daresay, because you really appreciate the sounds of the bush and the knowledge of the trackers. After all, your life is in their hands.

We went on another morning bush walk the next day, and this time Thabo was able to join us. Our two hottie Afrikaans trackers were extremely knowledgable, and led us around the Lower Sabie part of the park. It was much more open than Skukuza, so easier to hike, but less protection for us. One scout, Johan, cracked open a dried piece of elephant dung and explained that because the diet consists of plants, trees, bark, etc., the poop contains medicinal properties. He then proceeded to light it and actually smoked it (SEE PHOTO). We all got a puff and can I just say it was the sweetest shit I've ever smoked? Very kind.

As we continued on our journey we walked right into a herd of elephants. They were no farther than 20 meters away, so we quickly ducked behind a bush. Luckily, we were downwind from the elephants, and in addition to their poor vision this allowed us to approach quite close to the animals. We stalked them for quite some time--there were about 20 of them, including several babies (adorable). As the mother started to come towards us, however, we quickly ran with our heads down to another bush about 15 meters away. It's best to stay in the shade so your binocs/cameras don't reflect. Our trackers told us to keep an eye on the mother to see her reaction when she picked up our scent. Still running but looking back, we witnessed the most amazing spectacle. As soon as the mother reached the spot where we had been and smelled us, she stood as tall as ever, opened her ears and raised her trunk, swaying back and forth. IMMEDIATELY the rest of the herd moved away from the threat. F-cking unbelievable.

Elephants have the capacity to "speak" and hear at a very low 10hz. Humans, on the other hand, can only hear 40,000hz. Hence, communication is instantaneous...amazing. Surely the highlight of the day.

BUT WAIT, as we headed back to our Jeep after seeing other animals, we bumped into our herd of elephants again. At the same moment, a hippo came charging out of the water exactly towards the spot we were headed, so we could've been run over had we been there a few seconds earlier. You never want to break up a herd, so we circled all the way around the elephants back to our vehicle. Oh yeah, and a lion stalked us the whole time, threatening us with his menacing growls.


As you recall from my previous entry, we had seen 4 of the Big Five on Day One. Well, on the second day of our safari, we spotted numero cinco. A huge lioness walked right in front of our car as we drove through the park, stopping traffic in both directions. A stunning creature. We were extremely lucky to see all of the Big Five in our first 24 hours, as many people who come to the park only spot two or three over the course of a week. I think it was because the Park knew we Americans would sue them if they didn't pony up...

During that same drive, we pulled over to look at some baboons when one of them JUMPED up onto the trunk of our car. It crawled over our roof and ended up on the hood. If you haven't had one on your windshield, believe me when I say that baboons are disgusting creatures with nasty (and I mean nasty!) looking rear ends, like somebody slapped a raw steak there. GROSS! Apparently, all they want is food and they'll bite you and knock your camera from you. Thabo screamed "LOCK THE DOORS! LOCK THE DOORS!"

That's all for now. When I get a chance I will post more photos and stories from our week in Cape Town, which is a blur to me. Too much...hiking?

We're off to see the New Zealand vs. South Africa rugby game now...mmm...piles of hot, sweaty men. A welcome change from warthogs and vultures.


Friday, September 01, 2006

The Big Five

KRUGER PARK--We just got back from our 3 day safari in Kruger Park. I drove (yes, I drove a manual car on the wrong side of the road) to and from Kruger from Joburg, so I'm pretty exhausted right now, but Sam insists that I write since it's fresh in our heads, including the memory of the bird which defecated ON my head :( Boo, but hey, it's good luck, right? Here's a long synopsis of our adventures:

Upon arriving in Kruger Park via the Numbi Gate, we spotted our first animal--the buffalo, which is one of the "Big Five". The Big Five are the buffalo, lion, rhino, leopard and elephant, and are categorized so not because of their size, but because they are the most dangerous, rarest animals in the park. Although not one of the Five (because it's not hunted), the hippo kills the most humans in Africa, and can charge at an exceptional speed on land. Just don't stand in the way of it and the water... Within a matter of minutes, we spotted our second of the Five, the rare black rhino, of which there are only a few hundred in the whole of Kruger (which spans 20,000 square kilometers!!!!) For those not on the metric system, 2.2 km = 1 mile. Two down, three to go...

Our next sightings were the impala, which we initially thought were the most elegant, graceful animals to watch (much like antelope and deer). But then we realized they're like the squirrels of Kruger. They're EVERYWHERE -- over 101,000 spread throughout. However, it's pretty awesome to see them prance around, as they can jump up to 3 meters high!! That's like, 9 feet. Hectic.

When we arrived at our camp, Skukuza, we were greeted by a band of crazy monkeys which attacked us. One almost jumped on Thabo's head, and another started screaming at us and flailing about in the trees above our hut in a very menacing way. As soon as the sun set, they left us alone. Pesky little guys.

Thabo BBQ'd (called a braai) lamb chops, chicken, and boerewors sausage along with vegetable skewers and corn--DELICIOUS--and for dessert we roasted marshmallows. As the night wore on we drank more and more until we thought we heard a women's choir singing African folk songs. Our ears were not deceiving us, though, and as we blindly made our way in the dark towards the music we stumbled upon the choir singing at a German private party (which we totally crashed). They invited us in, and we sang the South African National Anthem together until they started to sing the old anthem, at which point Thabo started to boo them. Who supports apartheid anyway?

The next morning Sam and I went on a morning bush walk at 5:30 AM. Because of the noise from the camp we first had to drive a half hour to our walking destination. As we neared our spot, we came across a sleepy leopard, number THREE on the Big Five, which was more curious than threatening. We stayed in the vehicle. Animals see vehicles and their passengers as one unit, so you can not have limbs dangling over the sides if you want to keep them. Interestingly enough the animals are not fazed by cars, but extremely skittish when it comes to humans on foot. So back to the leopard--I had a stare-down with it--you're never supposed to look away from a predator if you lock eyes. I'm going to start doing that with humans. I'll f-cking pounce on you if you dare look away. So anyway, the leopard was absolutely stunning, and we were extremely privileged to have come across it. Of the Five, it's probably the hardest to spot, as they're typically very shy and silent. The best time to look for most animals is in the morning, and it's definitely worth the effort of waking up early.

So next we got out of our vehicle and started our journey. We came across hyaena, zebra, giraffe, white rhino, kudu, and Elephant. FOUR down, one to go.

OK, very tired. To be continued tomorrow. Sorry for the baddest grammar and ramblings on.

Here are some pics of our adventure...

Enjoy. It's good to be back :)