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Hi, all! How have you been? It's been so long since I posted something decent I can hardly remember, but I have lots to tell to make up for that!

Holiday was all kinds of lovely - South Africa is a beautiful if strange country. Ever more beautiful because despite what we'd expected, even the more touristy bits like the Kruger Park still felt surprisingly quiet and unspoiled to us - though the fact it was still the low season may have had something to do with that. The less touristy parts, like the Drakensbergen, felt like a different world altogether.

And anyway, it is a different world, if only because it feels so very unsettling to be a white person there. Even though no one was actually unfriendly (well, except for that one lady at customs, who almost didn't let us into the country because our passport had supposedly expired, even though it hadn't, and - I blame an 11-hour night flight without any sleep - caused me to start bawling right in the middle of the airport *blushes*) somehow it was hard not to feel a little guilty over our being there. Never mind there no longer being Apartheid, the majority of good jobs are still held by white people, and the majority black people still live in townships or little villages without modern facilities, which made it feel vaguely wrong to be a white tourist there, with money in our pockets and driving around in shiny rental cars. But really, the people, both black and white, were exceptionally friendly, so we did feel more comfortable near the end. And there were black people staying at hotels (though not the most expensive) and pretty houses in the little Zulu villages, so things must be improving, if more slowly than one would hope.

As for the trip itself, it was wonderful, rich and relaxing. We loved the Kruger park, even though we didn't see the really spectacular animals like lions or leopards. But it was the end of the rainy season, which meant everything was green and blossoming - despite it being autumn, everything seemed to be in bloom! And we did see rhinos, elephant, giraffe, zebra, wild dogs, crocodiles, wildebeest, hippos, and heaps and heaps of birds and impalas and kudu. I'll try to put up a little picspam later this week, once I sorted all the pictures! Here's an elephant-y one:

What I loved the most - and miss already - is the rhythm of life there. We didn't take a computer with us, but I'd packed books and games and decks of cards, and writing pads and styluses and copies of a fic I'd been working on, convinced that I'd be grabbing for them in no time; then once we were there, I never even touched them once. Well, except for one book (Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys) of which I read half, in very tiny bits, but that was it. We got up at seven and went to bed at nine, even though we're both essentially evening people, and it felt the most natural thing in the world. And we filled our days with driving, walking, eating, sleeping. In a way, I'm almost sorry I didn't write anything there - I'd been looking forward to working on fic - but the urge just wasn't there, and really, that was okay.

Miscellany notable fact #1: British Airways, which we flew with, are apparently quite proud of their television history. As a result I ended up seeing Dr. Who: The end of Time on the flight to Johannesburg. Watching it, sleep-drunk and tired and in a weird kind of mood, I was filled with a deep and unexpected sense of loss that, even more surprisingly, stuck to me for the better part of the following day. Still, just as unexpectedly, I loved it to pieces. I say "unexpected" because of some spoilery stuff beneath the cut. ) So now, of course, I'll have to buy the Specials on DVD. Are the other ones, Planet of the dead and Waters of Mars worth it, actually? Or should I just buy The end of time separately, if I can?

Miscellany notable fact #2: Did I tell you I discovered Stargate: Atlantis? I did, didn't I? Did I also mention I'm loving it, irrationally and wildly, beyond any hope of recovery? I even wrote an SGA ficlet, if you'll believe it, during stolen half-hours on the train, in the few days before leaving on vacation. It was a surprise even to me that I did, and it's not ready for posting quite yet, and anyway, I don't even know if anyone who's reading here even watches Atlantis - if you do, raise your hand, maybe? But still, all of this is making me very happy. On the other hand, there's this Twin Peaks fic I'd really, really like to finish, as just leaving a 10000+ word WIP to rust would be a terrible, terrible waste, so any encouragement (or threats? :) ) you can offer on that account would be extremely helpful! ;)
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In the grand scheme of things, vacation planning is really not something to get nervous or itchy about - you will not hear any argument from me. So why did I spend the past two nights puzzling about precisely that subject? *sighs*

Okay, here's the situation: after a relatively cheap holiday year, we were hoping to cross over to another continent sometime in 2010. Because of The Great Big Two-Year Project at work finishing in October 2010, preceded by half a year of testing and followed by two months of virtual firefighting (well, I work in ICT *g*), said trip has to be taken before the summer holidays - ideally, April - and has to be planned now. Add to that the other boundary conditions we're setting (i.e. nothing too long or too fancy, in an accessible country, preferably an English-speaking one, too) and we're left with two options:

(1) Two weeks on the road in South-Western USA

Just the two of us in a rental car hopping from motel to motel, exploring southern New Mexico and Arizona, Las Vegas and Death Valley.

Pros: absolute freedom, a country we're sure we'll love (we did the more famous national parks two years ago, and it was the best vacation of our lives), lots of opportunities to hike.

Cons: little time to plan the trip, plus we can't book the plane tickets yet, as the promotions only start in January... and there's always a chance we don't find a cheap flight, in which case the trip is off. *Eep!*

(2) Two weeks in South Africa, accompanying my parents on their holiday

Seeing wildlife as well as some gorgeous bits of nature. We'd mainly be doing Kruger Park and environs, including some time around Blyde River canyon, and perhaps the lesser known Waterbergen area above Johannesburg, but not much else, because the parents would be setting the tempo.

Pros: an opportunity to take a trip we probably wouldn't risk doing on our own, and doing it more cheaply because we can share a car and accommodation, parents organizing everything (they've been there before, so they know).

Cons: parents organizing everything *g* meaning we won't cover a lot of ground on those two weeks, and we'll definitely lose some freedom. Also, April is not an ideal time as it's the end of the rainy season, meaning more mosquitoes and less wildlife to be spotted.

This is so much a luxury problem, I know, but that doesn't make it any easier to decide. And if we want to go to South-Africa, we'll have to decide this week-end, or we risk missing the cheap flight. *twitches twitchily*

So - what would you do, dear people? The African bush or the wide expanses of the U.S. of A.? If any of you have some advice or thoughts to offer that could shed some light on the dilemma, please tell!


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