South Africa: Pressing for Black Liberation

Whenever I think of South Africa, I think of my father who was a staunch anti-apartheid activist and one of the most intelligent and well-read people I have ever known. His library included the works of Baraka, Lenin, Marx and Stalin. He had street credibility because he could run numbers with the best of them, he would smoke a pack of menthol cigarettes daily, and pull women like he was picking apples off of a tree. He would talk with everyone about what was going on in South Africa on the street or in the classroom. His intelligence was unmatched, and he could debate for hours about any topic without making you feel like a complete idiot although you knew you had no business trying to oppose him intellectually.In my family, we often call our fathers and uncles “Baba” which is a Swahili word denoting our ancestral relationship to them and a term of respect. I still remember Baba’s red, black and green hat that said “Free Mandela” and his use of the word “Amandla”. I would sometimes laugh at him with my teenage arrogance and ask him why his latest “soap box” issue should garner any of my attention. And with sadness in his voice, he would tell me that until Nelson Mandela was freed the world just wouldn’t seem right to him. For some reason, I understood that this wasn’t one of his typical radical arguments. This personal quest to see Nelson Mandela free represented something much more deep and painful. It seemed almost too painful for him to discuss with the same fervor and passion that he argued about money, politics and religion. He wanted to go to South Africa to fight firsthand alongside those that he viewed as his brothers and sisters in the freedom movement. He told me about the oppressive Bantu education, and the violent uprisings of students who refused to continue to be taught subservience.Recently, I was able to study abroad in South Africa as part of a doctoral program focusing on educational policy. We traveled there to study the educational system, and the country’s efforts to overhaul the damage that years of oppression had on their educational institutions. Our greatest challenge as students was trying to conceptualize what this meant for the millions of South Africans who wanted to pursue higher education. We constantly talked about the roles colonialism, hegemony and racism played in the Apartheid structure, but I don’t believe that any of us could fully grasp how this impacted the lives of people living this experience on a daily basis.Our South Africa study abroad provided us with a snapshot of what it must mean to work within a system that has historically prevented all students from receiving access to the best education possible. We attended lectures at the University of Pretoria, the University of Witwatersrand, and Tshwane North College for FET. At these lectures, there were administrators, professors and students. Each of these people provided us with a lens by which to view the transformation of the higher education system of South Africa in a post-apartheid system. I saw the influence that the apartheid regime had on the socio-economic status of many Black South Africans. The stratification that existed as part of apartheid was evident although the system of apartheid had ended over a decade before.When I took pictures of young children in Soweto who were begging for Rand (South African money), I felt more emotional about the bridge that many of the educators were trying to build for those who had historically been disadvantaged in their country. I wondered aloud how these educators could attain their goal of achieving integration at schools that were historically categorized by the four races in South Africa: Whites, Indians, Coloreds and Blacks. I didn’t understand their racial categories, their monuments to Dutch colonists (Voortrekker), or how and why whites still maintained control of many of the businesses and real estate in the country.I visited the former home of Nelson Mandela which stands in a small area in Soweto not far from the Hector Pieterson Museum. Mandela’s former home has become a museum where a person can walk through the house of the man who was imprisoned for 27 years on Robbin Island. In this Mandela Family Museum, the tour guide took us to the kitchen and told us how, for the time that they lived there, the Mandela’s (both Nelson and Winnie) often had a lock on the refrigerator because they had been told that their food would be poisoned. The tour guide took us through the tiny house and explained that Mandela attempted to move back to this house after his release from prison but was only able to stay there for eleven days because reporters from around the world camped outside of the house.Later on the same day, I visited the Hector Pieterson Museum. I saw pictures of the students (many of them children) who protested during the Soweto student uprising, some of whom lost their lives as police shot at them. The Hector Pieterson Museum is surrounded by vendors that tell you their stories in their deeds and words. Some are relatives of the deceased children, and they will tell you which one was theirs and how they were related to them. These relatives wanted to see if we appreciated what took place at this historic site when Hector Pieterson and many others gave their lives in the name of freedom. Hecter Pieterson is the dead 12-year old student that is featured in the famous photo of two children in school uniforms carrying his bloody body after the police shot him down. During the uprising the Soweto students shouted “Amandla” which means power to signify their solidarity with the imprisoned Nelson Mandela and the activist organization, the African National Congress.A few days into my trip we visited a place called God’s Window in Mpumalamanga and I was struck by the beauty and hope that still remained in a place governed for so many years by fear, hatred and pain. While standing at God’s Window, I no longer focused on the hegemonic practices of European countries that colonized third world countries around the world. Instead, I thought of my father and I remembered his energy and spirit.I was eighteen years old when Paul Nakawa Sanders passed away in August of 1988. Amiri Baraka eulogized my Baba in his book, entitled Eulogies and he noted that Nakawa transitioned from the Black Nationalism of the 1960s to a better understanding of the need for global activism or internationalism in his latter years. My father never lived to see the man that he admired, who was unjustly imprisoned for twenty-seven years, become President Nelson Mandela. His “Abolish Apartheid” t-shirts were faded and torn by the time apartheid was actually abolished. But I saw all of these things for him. I stood on the mountaintop at God’s Window and I saw that the beauty of South Africa is that it still exists. It stands in all its glory as a symbol of all that can happen when people- simple citizens, some children, some adults, some former revolutionaries, and even their skeptical daughters- believe enough to ignore those that would oppress them and continue on in their quest for Black liberation.

Habu to Genkotsu: Japanese Movie Magic Thailand Style

In May of 2005, Kurokoboshi took time out of his Tokyo hustle to film a movie in Bang Pong, Thailand. The following is an excerpt from the American-ex-patriate-Tokyo-dweller’s thoughts on making movies in the hinterlands of Thailand. Pre-quelI had the opportunity to act in a Japanese film entitled Habu to Genkotsu that was being shot in the Thailand countryside. It all started with a phone call from my friend Schon. He got an offer to do a movie in Thailand, but couldn’t take it. He wanted to know if I was interested. Always ready to add another chapter to my life’s story, I agreed. I had never been to Thailand. I had heard many stories about Thailand and experienced many situations vicariously through friends, and now it was time for me to share my experiences.Before leaving I met the directors, producers, and writers of the film I was going to appear in. I was impressed by what I heard. The film is based on a true story about an Okinawan sansen (3 stringed guitar) player named Ryo and his experiences growing up in Okinawa in 1968. Ryo meets an American military solider named George, and they discover that they have more similarities than differences. The atmosphere of the film is heavily charged with discrimination and prejudice- Okinawans and Japanese (yes there is a difference-big difference in fact), US military and Japanese/Okinawans, officers and enlisted soldiers- and takes place with echoes of the civil rights movement lingering in the backdrop. I finished my gig on the Joint One Radio Show on Monday as the Kurokobushi and had three days before shooting to discover who this George was and time warp to 1968.Day 1I left my home at 7am for Narita Airport, just before the morning rush. I grabbed my last bite of Japanese food for two weeks, boarded Thai Airlines Flight #647 and arrived in Thailand. Airports can be very deceiving. They make you think everything is okay and then you enter the real world. Outside the airport I saw my first glimpse of Japanese capitalism, a Family Mart (convenience store) and add it to the American capitalism glimpse (KFC) I noted earlier. Paul (our driver) rolled up in a mega van and it was off to the hotel in Bang Pong, our filming location. Paul spoke a little English so I drilled him for some heads up Thai. We arrived at the hotel about two hours later and I had dinner with the actors. Everyone was great especially Shogen (who is playing the part of Ryo) and Mitsuki. The hotel room had HBO Asia, but I needed internet access to see if the Spurs won game 7.Day 2Got up early and went for a morning walk. Traffic in Thailand is like a free for all, with few lights and tons of scooters. I had breakfast in the hotel and in the afternoon went to one of the locations were the actors Mitsuki, Shogen, Ishida Eri, and Sai were filming. I couldn’t believe how much rural Thailand reminded me of my Grandma’s farm in South Carolina. Time has actually stopped in some places. I did the traditional aisatsu (Japanese greeting, bow and small talk) with the directors, and entire staff. Greetings are so important in Japan because it communicates humbleness and respect. Things are on a hierarchy scale so I had to give props to the big fish. I took care of my responsibilities.Day 3One of the film locations had really bad karma. In one room of the house, the owner kept helmets from dead soldiers of the Vietnam War. Needless to say, everyone filming in that room felt sick and kanashibari (feeling of being bound or held down, but you can’t see what’s holding you). I met our police protection, a definite necessity when you’re in rural Thailand. He was very helpful and even let cast members ride his motorcycle. Kai showed me where the internet café was, at last I could reconnect with the world and find out who won the NBA Championship. We stayed at the internet café for 3 hours and it cost 45 cents. And the Spurs won, life is good.Day 5I rehearsed my first scene with Shogen and the director really liked it. But there was one small problem, George smokes and I don’t. It’s funny because Shogen didn’t smoke before the movie either, but through out the day I see him smoking more and more. I practiced all night, trying to decide how George would hold his cigarette. Maybe old school like Billy Dee in Lady Sings the Blues, long drawn out puffs with that right mix of sophistication and class; or like Larenz Tate in Love Jones, where the cigarette never leaves the mouth. It just dangles like a conductor’s baton moving in sync with each word. No, I got it. Denzel Washington in Devil in Blue Dress, a southern pace, not too slow not too fast.Day 7We headed back to the hotel and everyone wanted to have lunch in the open market near our shooting location. This was my first time visiting an open market and I had no idea what to expect. My only images of open markets were of old school James Bond movies. Reality was a little different. Now, I consider myself to be a brave individual, but the open market was too much. I try to eat as little meat as possible and this situation was strictly unsanitary. Important note: I was a member of the fortunate few that did not have any major stomach pains during the trip. I passed on lunch and went in search of fruit. I found a fruit juice stand and ordered a watermelon juice (hold the flies and bees). Here’s another small piece of advice, watch the vendor. He put ajinomoto (MSG) in my fruit juice. Yes, there was also an incident at the hotel where they put salt in the orange juice. It’s best to ask before you order.Day 8It’s George’s debut and I’m up early to eat breakfast at the hotel. The staff was nice and they helped me with my Thai. Departure time was 10am. We were the 3rd out of 4 scenes being shot. When we arrived at the location, Ishida Eri was finishing up her scene and everyone was preparing for the second scene. I practiced my lines with Shogen and become George. It’s kind of weird, but all of the film crew call you by your character’s name, not your real name. We had lunch after the second scene and I prepared for my debut. The assistant director announced my appearance on the set. I felt like royalty. We did a couple of rehearsals and then it was time for honban (recording).Day 11Another sunrise in Thailand and a new challenge. This time 5 cast members and I are off to see the bridge over the river Kwaii, the bridge not the movie. I learned a lot about the Vietnam War and WWII during the trip. For the record, the place is an official tourist trap. The bridge was a little disappointing, but very scary. There are no sidewalks on the bridge, just railroad ties and track. People and trains are crossing the bridge at the same time. It’s survival of the fittest. As for the bridge itself, I was expecting something bigger, as a kid I visited the Royal Gorge, and have become familiar with Japan Rainbow Bridge and Bay Bridge in Japan. This was relatively small. Oddly enough, we never crossed the bridge; we took some pictures, saw some foreigners, bought some souvenirs, and prayed for peace.Day 14Time came for me to leave. Shooting had wrapped up and the production lights were turned off. The two weeks in Thailand went by too fast but I had a wonderful time. The people were friendly and scenery was fantastic. Thailand is a melting pot of different religions and the traffic is insane. Here’s a little bit of inside info from me to you. Bangkok’s real name is Krung Thep Maha Nakhon Amon Rattanakosin Mahinthrayutthaya Maha Dilokphop Nophrarat Ratchathani Burir On Udom Batchaniwet Maha Sathan Amon Phiman Awatan Sathit Sakkathattiya Witsanukam Prasit. It means the city is large like the city of angels, the city houses the emerald Buddha and…Keep growing,Kkb

Make Dining Part of Your Branson, Missouri Experience

Regardless of whether you’re going to Branson, Missouri for shows and shopping, or theme parks and lake activities, everyone eventually needs to refuel, re-energize, and relax. What better place to kick back and unwind than at one of the many great restaurants the Branson area has to offer. You’ll find a wide variety of restaurants for every taste, from national chains (such as the Olive Garden and Red Lobster) to treasured local favorites (such as Granny’s Restaurant and McFarlain’s).For those who don’t know, Branson has a residential population of approximately 7,000 and an annual tourist population of more than 7,000,000. With that in mind, it is easy to imagine the diverse selection of restaurant choices available to area visitors (and the lucky residents). So whether you’re looking for a fine dining restaurant experience, a casual family buffet, or just some really fast food, you’ll find it all in Branson, Missouri.Due to the high tourist volume, it’s best to plan your vacation ahead of time; this includes deciding where to eat. You should consider consulting a Branson, Missouri restaurant guide to gather information on area restaurants to help make your dining as memorable and enjoyable as your other vacation activities. One such website where you can find an assortment of information and even customer reviews is DineBranson.com.Here is a quick FYI; there aren’t many restaurants in Branson that accept reservations, some, but not many. Generally the only exception to this is in the case of large groups, so it is beneficial to groups to make a reservation or you just may end up having to change your dining plans. And depending on the size of your group, you may want to be sure the restaurant has the capacity to handle you.Also keep in mind there are numerous bus tours that go to Branson everyday, so with that said, depending on the time of year, expect a wait at most of the more popular eating establishments. If you are a little impatient (or just really hungry), you might want to opt for one of the many great buffets Branson is famous for. Just be sure to take a little time researching your dining options before you go so that you don’t miss out on a delicious meal like seafood, steak, or BBQ just to name a few. Whatever and wherever you choose to eat, I hope you enjoy your Branson vacation.

First Visit impressions of Morocco

Having never visited Morocco or even Africa, I was very excited at the prospect in mid November 2005.As soon as I boarded the Royal Air Maroc plane at London Heathrow on a late Saturday afternoon I was in another world. Announcements and signage in English French and Arabic. Moroccan stile cuisine and hospitality.On arrival at the Aeroport Mohammed V after showing you passport several times I was soon on the motorway to Casablanca that is the principal city of the country (but not the capital). It seemed rather like being in France – autoroute signage, A French chain owned DIY store, but not so once the taxi had entered Casablanca itself. Here there were people walking out in front of cars, cars just about avoiding other ones and I was\very pleased I was not actually doing the driving, particularly with the lack of seat belts (or even one that worked!).There is a great French influence in the country – it was ruled by the French and Spanish till 1956 and a lot of architecture new and old is very much of the French influence and even the Post boxes are the same shape and yellow colour as in France.November is probably not the best time of year to visit the country, particularly if you don’t want to get wet. The rainy season is from October to November and April to May. On my second day I took the train from Casablanca to Rabat the capital. There is a very efficient and inexpensive rail network that is mainly in the north of the country. Unfortunately just before arriving at the station in Rabat the heavens opened. They had done on the previous day as I explored Casablanca, but the visit to Rabat only lasted just over an hour, because this wasn’t rain, it was flash floods and the roads suddenly took on the appearance of rivers. So much for exploring Rabat.The day before in Casablanca was much more successful. I had spent a while reading a popular traveler’s guide book that helped me understand more about the culture and people. I was not too surprised with offers by people wanting to help, show and ask for money. Men holding hands as they walked along or kissing when they met (like a guard greeting one his passengers) was part of normal life, it happened because they were friends, not a sexual relationship as would be thought of in the west. I also knew that I had to be careful taking photos as many women are not happy about this.The city has the Mosquee Hassan II a spectacular site, that is built with a glass floor on the shore of the Atlantic Ocean. The minaret is the tallest in the world — 200 hundred meters high. The roof also opens and shuts.Unlike a lot of European countries where taxis are modern vehicles, in Morocco you will find the large “Grand” taxis that normally travel with as many people legally possible going from town to city and are usually a Mercedes of the 1980s era that will be a certain colour depending on the town or city they are based in. Each town will also have its own coloured “Petit Taxi”. Theses are normally Peugeots and Fiats (colour coded for each town or city) that most likely started life in the 1980′ and 1990s in Europe and were exported south to start a new lease of life as a passenger carrying vehicle for four.Moving onto Marrakesh ( known as Marrakech locally) by train proved to be very interesting. Paying the additional amount for first class at least guaranteed a comfortable seat, although my limited experience in second class did not prove to have any discomfort. The landscape changes with more and more “dryer fields”, even cacti being cultivated in places and farmers using ploughs pulled by horses or donkeys. You can see Atlas Mountains in the distance as you come into Marrakesh. Many people decide to stay in the “Ville Nouvelle” where you will find the western style hotels and even villa complexes a few miles out where you are enclosed from the outside “real” world. I was staying in a small Riad in the centre off the Djemaa el Fna – the large city centre square in the Medina.A Riad is a type of Guest House that is normally built round a patio garden. Normally some of the rooms are open plan to the elements and there is not so much rain there as nearer the coast. The experience of reaching the destination was varied. A petit taxi to the edge of the Djemaa el Fna and then because taxi are not allowed in after midday you have to hire a porter and cart.The square is full of mobile restaurants, traders, snake charmers and appears to be very much alive most hours of the day. There are also several panoramic cafés where you can get a superb view day or night of the surrounding scene including the Koutoubia Mosque . If you want to sit there and have a beer or glass of wine think again. Morocco is an Islamic nation so alcohol drinking is not a high priority. Although wine and beer are produced in the country, many cafes and restaurants would only serve light drinks (Coke, orange, mineral water, coffee etc) or the national. drink -mint tea. You certainly would not have a problem in the hotels in the “Ville Nouvelle”.The food is generally excellent and very reasonable as well. The traditional Moroccan — Tajine (A steam cooked meat stew) and couscous were tried.The country has great contrasts of wealth and poverty. There are numerous developments being built as holiday homes near to Marrakesh and the three hour drive back to Casablanca to take the plane back home took in the new prosperous areas and past little “shanty”town areas of small buildings with corrugated iron roofs held down with boulders and each having a satellite dish. The taxi driver made a couple of stops to buy cigarettes. By the side of the road someone would come out with either packets or split packets. On each occasion the driver bought 2 cigarettes.Jobs are very important, the host at the Riad said that a waiter in a restaurant cannot afford to make mistakes. He knows that there is another million of unemployed people waiting to take the job. There are numerous police about. Normally going around in fours or more. They man roadblocks at the entrances and exits to most towns. This is probably high security or could be giving the employed force more to do.If you are going there on holiday make sure that you spend your Dirhams before you get to the airport. You won’t be able to change themback in the departures area or spend them on drink or tobacco at the Duty Free – they only accept euros.The country is large – about the of California USA, there is a lot to see, I would like to visit other cities like Tangier and Fes. Even though it rained in Casablanca and Rabat it was hot dry and sunny in Marrakesh and the last night of 17 degrees centigrade on the roof of the Riad was quite a contrast to 24 hours later back in the south of England that was undergoing one of the first cold spells of the winter.

Tahoe Vacations – Prepare for the Fun

When people think about Tahoe vacations, they are usually thinking about a skiing trip. That is because Tahoe is a great place to ski for people at all skill levels. From the beginner to the expert, you can find ski slopes that seem to have been made just for you at the hot spots for Tahoe vacations. However, Tahoe vacations offer much more.Skiers, snowshoers and snowboarders are likely to have an incredible time on Tahoe vacations. Even those who can’t ski will appreciate the beauty of this place.If barreling down a mountain of snow doesn’t excite you, then maybe you will find your place with the fishermen. Many people take Tahoe vacations just to fish. People will drive amazing distances because of the great fishing that the streams and lakes in this area have to offer. From October 1 to June 30, the streams that drain into Lake Tahoe and their tributaries are closed to fishing. However, many of the lakes, including Tahoe, stay open year round.There are many kinds of fishermen that go on Tahoe vacations. Some like to troll the lakes and streams, and some fly fish. Just make sure that you have any license that you are required to have, and follow the rules.Golf has become more and more popular in recent years and many people hit the Tahoe vacation spots for the premier golf courses. Golf is a sport that is popular to a wide array of people. The sport doesn’t restrict because of social class, race, age, or gender. More and more people are getting into it everyday. Even those who don’t golf can appreciate the natural and man-made beauty of the greens. And there are many courses to choose from on your Tahoe vacations.When you are going on Tahoe vacations, remember to bring the right gear – including sun block. Whether you are going to ski, snowboard, fish, golf, or simply soak in the beauty that is Tahoe, take care of your skin while you are there. When there’s snow on the ground, some people may not even think of the need for sunblock. This is a big mistake since sun’s rays can actually reflect off of the snow and ice creating an even more intense effect. When you are on the snow, make sure that you wear all protective gear included tinted goggles. The bright reflections off of the snow can also be bad for your eyes.With a bit of planning, you’ll have an incredible time on your trip, and you’ll likely find that a Tahoe vacation becomes an annual event.

Parador of Caceres, Spain

The Parador of Caceres is located in one of the great monumental cities of Europe. UNESCO has declared Caceres a World Heritage Site. Here in the historic section is concentrated the most impressive remaining example of medieval stonemasonry in the world. The perfectly preserved old town sits on top of a large hill rising above Plaza Mayor, and situated very near the center of the old town is the Parador Caceres.This impressive hotel is the result of the creative refurbishment and joining of five contiguous buildings; the former palace of the Marquis of Torreorgaz and four ancestral homes of former nobles. The palace part was built around 1488 by a knight of Saint James, Don Diego Garcia de Ulloa. The other ancestral homes were built later and they’ve all been combined into a labyrinthine, yet pleasing whole.The Parador is located on a very quiet street and provides the traveler with modern accommodations that still blend harmoniously with the medieval city beyond its walls.Try to have an evening meal at the Caceres Parador. Dining in the outside patio among orange trees on a warm summer night is a true pleasure. The cuisine here is superb, and of a variety you won’t encounter elsewhere. Try the venison with Casar cheese, or the roast kid with rosemary – both very representative of typical Extremaduran fare.The Romans founded the city in the 1st century B.C. as Norba Caesarina. Its present name is derive from the Arabic “alcazares” meaning “fortified castles.” The old part of Caceres is encircled by an ancient stone wall. This old section of the city – the “barrio antiguo” – is definitely for walking. A car would only inhibit your explorations and present a parking nightmare.Walking around Caceres Viejo from the Parador:– Wandering “el casco” (the old quarter) at night is especially pleasing. It’s easy to let the mind slip into the very real illusion that you’ve stepped back five centuries in time.- See Plaza de Santa Maria – Surrounded by old noble mansions.- Iglesia de San Mateo- Plaza de las Veletas – Stop into the archaeological museum there.- The “ferias de Caceres” is a fun time to visit. It usually starts during the last week of May and for seven days, the city puts on a continuous and action-packed series of events, bullfights, parties and fireworks. Be sure to arrange accommodations at the Parador well in advance.Interesting day trips include:– Trujillo – Another city that is a wonderful slice out of history.- Guadalupe – With its historically fascinating Real Monasterio de Santa Maria de Guadalupe.- Merida – With its many Roman ruins.The Parador of Caceres can well serve as a base for exploring Extremadura if you choose. It is no more than a couple of hours drive to any of the other captivating cities mentioned above. This is the area of Spain perhaps most reminiscent of the era of the conquistadores and the Golden Age of Spain. Stay for awhile – experience the history and ambience of one of Spain’s finest cities and most interesting hotels.For more on all of Spain’s wonderful Paradors, go to:

Spain ParadorsFor more information, and images of Parador Caceres, click here:

Parador Caceres

Planning Orlando Vacations, Right Down to the Sunblock

Orlando vacations can be coveted memories in your life. There are many things to do in Orlando. Whether you are going to soak up some sun, shop, hit all the popular tourist spots or just lounge away the days, you are bound to have a great time. There are a few things to remember that can make your trip even more enjoyable.One thing that you should think about when you are looking into Orlando vacations is your budget. Decide on your price range for accommodations and shop accordingly. You can look at online sites for discount lodging. Or, if you are booking a vacation through a travel agency, check what kind of hotels they have planned. Remember to compare price and amenities. Cheaper isn’t always better. Depending on how many are traveling in your party and how long you plan to stay, you may find that renting a house for your vacation makes more sense.Another thing that you should think about when you are considering where to stay on Orlando vacations is location. Check to see what side of town most interests you and try to find accommodations on that side. After all, you don’t want to spend the majority of your time traveling. You want to spend it enjoying life.If you know that you want to travel around the area but you are going to fly to your Orlando vacations, you might think about renting a car. Compare the costs and hassles of public transportation to those of renting a car for the duration of your stay. Also consider whether you’re comfortable driving in unfamiliar areas. If you plan to do some sightseeing outside the immediate area, public transportation may simply be too expensive.When you pack for your Orlando vacations, pack for what you’re going to be doing. If you are out for a weekend of romance, dress for romance. Bring comfortable clothes for sightseeing, but pack at least one “knock-em dead” outfit because few people can resist the lure of the Orlando nightlife. You may think that you aren’t going for the water, but bring a suit anyway. You may change your mind, even if it is in the hotel pool. Perhaps most importantly, remember sun block. You may figure you can stop and buy some, but the lure of the beach may be too much to resist from the first opportunity. You don’t want to spend half of your Orlando vacations blistered and miserable.When planning your Orlando vacations, try to think about what you need before you go. Be smart with your budget. After you do all of this, the only thing left is to make the trip to Orlando where you’ll relax, kick back, and have a blast.

The Islands of Holland

The Dutch Wadden IslandsThe west coast of Holland is almost a beach from north to south. The natural protections against the sea are the dunes. These products of wind, sun and water are one of Holland’s most interesting creatures of nature. They are the natural habitat of endanger species and therefore well protected by the Dutch government.The northern parts of the Dutch shore are the Wadden Islands. These Islands, Texel, Vlieland, Terschelling, Ameland and Schiermonnikoog are now considered as World heritage. This decision has a great impact of the people living on these islands. Due to the new regulations it will be more difficult to build, or to propose for building, industry or business permissions.The Dutch Wadden islands are very popular among the German and Belgium tourists. Texel is the biggest Dutch Wadden Island, and is also the island with the most possibilities. The island can be reached by a ferry which leaves from Den Helder.It’s a short journey by the ferry takes about twenty minutes. Texel is famous for its vast flocks of sheep and birds, and for the pleasant villages. The variation in landscape on Texel is such that the island is often termed as ‘the Netherlands writ small’. These landscapes are worth seeing, too. Because

of their special value, the dunes of Texel have been designated as a National Park.Vlieland is Next Island close To Texel. A great sandbank between Texel and Vlieland is the breading chamber of seals. Texel, Vlieland and Terschelling are situated close together. Yet those visiting these islands will discover completely different worlds. It’s possible to hop between these islands by small ferries.Between the islands and Holland is the Wadden Sea. The Wadden Sea is teeming with life. Twice a day, the current of the flood tide brings water from the North Sea, rich in sediment and plankton, much of which sinks to the sandy bed.In addition, the shallow water of the Wadden Sea warms up rapidly in summer. This means that algae and seaweeds are able to grow quickly. They form the basis of the enormous wealth of food that supplies the inhabitants of the Wadden Sea -countless fish, birds and seals.It’s worth visiting the Wadden islands of Holland. To reach the islands you must to take a ferry from Den Helder for Texel. A ferry from Harlingen for Vlieland and Terschelling, A ferry from Holwerd for Ameland and a ferry from Lauwersoog for Schiermonnikoog.

Port Douglas – Sleepy Seaside Town

Uncovering Port Douglas as the Hottest Hot Spot to Live and InvestAustralia’s national identity is as tied to sun, sand and sea as England’s is to bangers and mash but is there any sleepy seaside towns left anywhere on the eastern seaboard of Australia?It may seem difficult to believe, but hot spot Port Douglas still feels like a small coastal village and not Toorak by the Sea.Despite the enormous amount of development it will never be highrise like the Gold Coast nor will it emulate Noosa’s inflated prices. There is a lot of building and planning going on in the sleepy town affectionately known as Port by the locals, but it still retains its atmosphere and charming elegance.Its no wonder there is strong development and forecasts of continued growth, when as at June 2001, 84.7% of Australia’s population lived within 50 kilometers of the coastline and between 1996 and 2001, and Queensland has had a net gain of 92,200 people giving it nearly 86,000 more new residents than its nearest rival. This dive north has continued to increase to date and the seachange lifestyle phenomenon shows no signs of abating.Flying high on the success Carnivale 2005, Port Douglas is currently experiencing a mini peak as the beginning of the tourist season is upon us with much excitement and interest in the variety of “off the plan” development projects and new holiday resorts currently on offer. That coupled with the recent media attention of the Sheraton acquisitions by the Ray Group has created quite a stir and much debate and speculation with regard to the proposed boardwalk link between the Marina Mirage and Anzac Park and the beautification of the inlet side of town.With major celebrities meandering up and down Macrossan Street, smiles on the faces of locals and tourists alike it is hard to beat a town like Port Douglas with an award wining bakery where you can buy lunch for two under $10.00 and sit under a palm tree in the park to warm your frozen bones.We can’t speak for the rest of the sleepy seaside towns but we know everyone taking off from some cold city on a whim and a fare is destined to enjoy our charming yet growing village of Port Douglas.

Diving Scapa Flow

The Orkney Islands, location of Scapa Flow, a natural harbour since the days of the Norse invaders, more recently a base for the Royal Navy, The final resting place for the remains of the German High Seas Fleet and the destination for this years Selby Aquanauts diving expedition.The story starts at the beginning of the twentieth century when Germany envious of the colonies of her European neighbours and the wealth they are bringing decided to build a navy to match that of the British Royal Navy, at the time the most powerful in the world and protector of the biggest empire the world has known. With the Royal Navy as her target Germany started the first arms race of the 20th century.The Royal Navy’s policy at this time was to be able to outfight and outgun the 2nd and 3rd navies in the world combined so no two countries could form an alliance to defeat Britain and when Germany started their building Britain took a close interest.Since Britain was always more of a maritime nation than Germany the infrastructure was in place to build ships at will so this was a race Germany was destined to lose, especially when Britain brought out the first of a new class of warship, “the Dreadnought” larger and more powerful than any war ship ever built it gave its name to a new class of ships.As the great war started Germany’s naval policy was to shell Eastern towns of England to tempt the Royal Navy out and take them out individually. This policy never worked as, Germany, always nervous of what was over the horizon, tended to hit and run so the two powerful navies played a game of cat and mouse around the North Sea, Each wanting to meet in battle, but nervous of the power of their adversaries, until May 1916. Both fleets were out in force when a Danish merchant ship steamed past on the horizen and both navies sent a detachment to investigate. The British ships were met by an outnumbering force of the German “High Seas” fleet so turned and lead the Germans in a running battle onto the guns of the rapidly advancing dreadnoughts of the “Grand Fleet”. As darkness fell neither side could claim a definite victory. The Royal Navy had lost more ships but this was down to lighter armour to keep the ships faster and more manouverable. Most of the German ships had sustained damage that would have sunk a British ship so come the morning the German fleet had fled to harbour for repairs, many of them just floating hulks.The following day the “Grand Fleet” was back at sea and the “High Seas Fleet” was blockaded in port never to take to the seas in force for the remainder of the war.As the war came to an end the once proud German navy was escorted to internment at Scapa Flow where in a final defiant act they scuttled 74 of their own ships. Some were saved, others beached and during the 20’s and early 30’s a massive salvage operation took part and many of the ships were salvaged for scrap, but, with the onset of the second world war this came to a stop, and then, in 1945 when W.W.2 ended there was no shortage of scrap iron so the remaining 14 ship were left to rest.The Dive TripSailing South from our base at Stromness on the mainland of Orkney we pass the brooding high hills of Hoy on our right and as we head slightly east into the calm waters of Scapa Flow the islands part. In the distance we can see the low mounds of Burray, Flotta,Holm, Fara and Ronaldsay. Hoy by the way got its name because it’s the hoyest island in the Orkneys, the Vikings either had a dry sense of humour or were not very imaginative with name giving. It’s a glorious day, the sun glistening on the blue green water ahead. It’s a forty minute trip out to the wreck we are diving today. There is no rush to get our equipment together so during the next half hour the usual leg pulling and mickey taking goes on. During this time most of the divers have brought their gear up from the drying room where it was hung up last night and are starting to assemble it. A number of jobs need to be done, making sure you got a good air fill yesterday and for the majority of divers aboard analysing the Nitrox fill (Nitrox is an oxygen enriched air which has recently become the gas of choice for most responsible and suitably qualified divers) Because the boat was full of Yorkshire folk there was of course the tight wad who used air all week because it was free, my nitrox bill for the week was £19.50 which I though was good value especially when it was increasing my diving time by about 30%.

We are diving on the “Brummer” today and with ten minutes to go the skipper Robert shouts down from the wheelhouse to galvanise us into action.We arrive at the wreck site kitted up and ready to go and as Robert slows down we step off into the water. The wreck is bouyed so meeting my buddy at the bouy we exchange signals and begin our descent. Natural light fades as we go deeper until we see a dark shape below in the gloom. Landing on the deck along a row of empty portholes we exchange O.K.signals, make adjustments to our buoyancy and glide over the side. The Brummer lays on her side and we intend finning along the deck which is now vertical at our side.Descending to the seabed we look up and the wreck is silhouetted in the greenyblue glow from above. Ascending slightly we set off along the deck our torches picking out various features until, passing the anchor chain capstans we come to the muzzle of a 5.9″ gun, gliding along the barrel and round the protective shield we come to the conning tower, the command centre when in battle, the access door behind the conning tower is missing so we cautiously enter, disturbed silt threatens our vision so leaving we come to the bridge where empty windows still look out for the battle that will never come. Beyond that broken rigging,sagging handrails and dangling wires attest to her age. Checking our computers and contents gauges 35 minutes later we decide that’s it for this dive and retrace our route to the line. The sunlight shines down to meet us as we make our ascent and after pausing at 6 metres for a safety stop we finally emerge into the morning sun. James on the bridge is waiting to exchange O.K. signs with us and soon Robert is coming to pick us up. Another great dive.Once everyone is back on board we’re off to Lyness where the naval base used to be to visit the museum and have a bowl of soup in the NAAFI. By the time we return about an hour and a half later James is just finishing charging up our cylinders and Robert is flat out on the upper deck asleep in the sun. Woken by our return he soon has James casting off and it’s away to our second dive.The Second dive brings a choice of shallower dives. There are the blockships sunk in the sounds between the islands to keep out the U boats,both second and first world wars,a dive boat, bottle dives where the rubbish of years has been dumped over the side (I found a glazed stoneware preserve jar similar to one in the Stromness museum, others found an assortment of interesting old bottles) and the F2 a German escort boat similar to the R.N. corvettes. This was taken in war reparation but sunk, believed to have sprung a severe leak soon after and was not considered worth lifting. This is the one we’ll choose. An interesting point of this wreck is that it was sold for salvage in 1968 and during salvage a gale blew up and the salvage barge with all the salvaged parts went down yet again. The wreck lies in only 16 metres at high water and rises to within 7 metres of the surface. The hull is broken in two with the stern upright and the remainder on its port side.We drop down onto the barge and explore the salvaged parts for a while then follow the weed covered line to the F2 where we seem to be a source of interest to a number of wrasse about a foot long that follow us around the wreck. Like all the wrecks it is covered with life. Apart from the many types of fish we see the odd seal. There are numerious specimens of the tiny Devonshire cup coral, many types of anemone including the large plumose, many types of starfish including some huge sunstars over a foot across and on all the overhangs and superstructure grow dead men’s fingers, a soft coral. There are also many sponges,sea squirts and sea urchins and of course crabs, lobsters and shellfish Many of the spider crabs grow a garden of weed on their backs so sometimes while near the seabed a clump of weed suddenly walks away.As we leave the break in the hull behind we need to ascend slightly to go over to the other side to reach the superstructure where we find the single mast laid on the seabed the searchlight platform still recognisable. The forward gun is intact and the starboard anchor chain leads out from the bow. Being a smaller ship at shallower depth we are able to cover the whole wreck in one dive and still find time to collect a bag of scallops for tonights meal. Lovely fried in garlic butter.Other wrecks dived on the trip are Kronprinz Wilhelm, Karlsruhe, Koln, Dresden, Gobernador Bories and the Tabarka. The latter being a blockship in Burra sound. Formerly a merchant ship she lies upside down and being in a place of strong tides is swept clean and consequently there is no silt inside to disturb. Plates are missing but the construction seems sound so we enter. Passing through the engine room torches are needed as without them it’s pitch black. Three boilers lay in a row on the bottom and underneath one is a large lobster (tonights tea) While Christine my buddy is trying to tease it out I nipped the back of her leg, After she jumped I got a punch for my troubles. Passing through the dark engine room we see two more torch beams coming towards us and two more from our club pass by exchanging O.K.s on the way.This was the last dive and so with heavy hearts and fond memories of a fantastic week of diving we head back to Stromness to pack ready for the long drive home tomorrow.If you are inspired by the tale of our diving trip why not take a diving course and join us on one of our many trips around Britain. Contact John Hewitt. Master scuba diver trainer on Selby 702487 and the adventure can begin.The club meets in the Bay Horse in Selby every Thursday evening if you would like to call in for a chat.