Visiting Constitution Hill in Johannesburg, South Africa

Johannesburg is a beautiful city. Its O.R. Tambo airport is one of the biggest hubs in the continent of Africa with flights to and from major airports around the world. South Africa is also home to beautiful wildlife.

Johannesburg, and the whole country of South Africa, has a difficult past. Apartheid, or institutional racism, has made life difficult for many Black South Africans. It ended only in 1991, which is pretty recent.

Amid this tumultuous history, heroes rose and helped pave the way for peace and reconciliation. Nobel Peace Prize awardee Nelson Mandela is easily the most recognizable name from this era.

I visited Constitutional Hill in Johannesburg sometime in July 2017. It was a chilly, rainy morning. We bought our tickets. We waited for the guide and took the tour of the facility.

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How to Apply for a South African Tourist Visa in New York City

My responsibilities at work require that I travel to South Africa this year and next year. I’ve been to Johannesburg twice now and I will be there again next year. As a Filipino residing in the USA, I need to apply for a visa. I’m writing about my experience in applying for a visa to help anyone who needs to.

Who need a visa to go to South Africa?

If you are a US citizen, you don’t need a visa to go to South Africa. The South African Government has established some relationships with other countries, which led to visa-free arrangements.  Continue reading

Review of oBike Bike-Sharing App in Malaysia

Biking is a great way to commute. You can save some money on gas and you get a chance to exercise without going to the gym. I sometimes ride my bike to go to my office in Nashville. It’s a 26-km ride in the morning. I need to travel that distance to go back home.

My work responsibilities sometimes takes me to other cities and countries. It’s difficult to keep to routines and habits while traveling. As much as I want to ride my bike in different cities, I can’t bring my bike with me all the time.

That’s where bike-sharing comes in. Several startups have already started competing in this space. There’s B-Cycle in Nashville, Citi-bikes in New York, Bixi in Canada, and oBike from Singapore among others. My wife has tried the B-Cycle in Nashville sometime back and she liked it.

I found myself in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on a business trip last August. I saw a lot of bikes on the city streets under the train stations, near hotels, near malls, on the sidewalks, and near all the touristy areas. The day before I left, I tried riding one of them just to get a feel for how to use it, move around the city in a bike, (and well, so I could write about it on this blog.)

What is oBike

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Summer Fun at Cook Public Use Area in Nashville TN

Summer time means sun and swimming and fun! I love the many recreation areas around Percy Priest Lake in Nashville! There are beaches along the lake that are just 15-30 minutes away from us.

One of our favorite spots is the Cook Public Use Area in Nashville. Sure, its name doesn’t sound interesting. But it is an awesome place with a wide beach area for swimming, a number of picnic tables, and grills! So we took our inflatable boat, packed some food, and off we went!

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If you are looking for a place to spend the summer, have a picnic, and swim, Cook Public Use Area is a great place to go.

Here are several tips so you can enjoy your time at Cook Recreation Area. 

Location and Open Times.

Look at the map below to check its location. It’s very accessible and easy to find. Prepare $5 cash before you enter the park. You need to pay it at the guard house before you can enter it. They do not accept credit card payments, so make sure you have cash. For more details, please check out the webpage of this park.

There’s plenty of space for parking and this park is not very busy at all!

On weekdays, the park is open only until 5:00 pm. During weekends, it closes at 7:00 pm. I wish it were later than that, but that’s the rule. Right before closing time, the park ranger will roam in his golf cart and remind people that the park will close in 30, and then in 15 minutes.

Swimming Area

This park has a large swimming area. We’ve been to two other lake swimming areas–the Bryant Grove at Long Hunter State Park, and at the Cedar Creek Swimming area. But the Cook Day Use area is the best by far.

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It has a wide beach for swimming, the water is cool and clean, although it may look murky because of the sand disturbed by swimmers. Children (and adults) can play in the sand.

playing on the beach

Be careful about leaving kids’ toys and your stuff, though. When we went there, some of the kids in our group left their paddle board and toys somewhere in the sand, and somebody took everything! I couldn’t imagine anybody taking those things, but it happened!

Lots of picnic tables and grills!

You can choose a picnic table and there are plenty of those! Most of them, however, are a bit far from the swimming area. But it’s not a problem at all because trees provide shade along the walking areas.

picnic table by the water

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Fun for Kids

There is a playground for kids. It has a slide, monkey bars, swing, and a couple of climbing areas. It can be hot in there, though, so it’s best to let your kids play there in the afternoon. The playground area also has mulch to help cushion the impact if kids fall.

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If you forgot to bring floaties or life jackets for your kids, there are loaner life jackets available. It came in handy when we inflated our boat and the kids rode with me.

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The Cook Public Use Area also has a boat ramp for people who own boats. People can fish or just enjoy a cruise through the Percy Priest Lake. We had an inflatable boat. So we filled it up with air, I hopped on board with 3 kids (not mine, but my friend’s), and we enjoyed a short paddle on the lake.

We still have a couple of weeks before summer ends and we’d probably go there again another weekend soon!

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#WhereisCocosCar: Johannesburg

Last May, as part of my travel to the Holy Land, I decided to bring something that reminds me of my son. I asked him about it and suggested that I bring one of his toy cars. He chose one of his HotWheels: a Red Mustang. So I brought it with me and took photos of the red car in Masada, Qumran, and in almost all the places we went to.

I did not take photos of the red car in the sacred places as a sign of respect.

When I traveled to Johannesburg, South Africa, he decided to send his Blue and Black Subaru HotWheels car. So that is going with me to different places. Check out all the places that Coco’s cars are traveling by following the hashtag #WhereisCocosCar on Instagram and Facebook.

The photo above was taken at the Hector Pieterson Memorial. It was the site where a young boy (Hector Pieterson) was killed as a result of the uprising of the community against apartheid in South Africa.

Here’s an excerpt from the Gauteng Tourism Authority:

The Hector Pieterson Memorial and Museum, situated in Orlando West, Soweto, commemorates the role of the country’s students in the struggle against apartheid and in particular the role played by the school children who took part in the Soweto protests of 1976, many of whom were shot by the apartheid police while protesting against the sub-standard of education in black schools in South Africa.

On June 16, 1976, Soweto high school students took to the streets in a peaceful protest against the mandatory use of Afrikaans as a language of instruction in black secondary schools. The students planned to meet at Orlando Stadium before marching to the regional offices of the Department of Bantu Education, where they intended to raise their grievances with the authorities.

They carried placards that read, “Away with Afrikaans”, “Amandla awethu” (“Power to the people”) and “Free Azania” (“Free South Africa”), and sang the hymn Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika (God Bless Africa), now the basis for the national anthem of democratic South Africa.

One of the things I realized coming from my trip to the Holy Land in June 2017, and then going to this memorial and to the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg, almost every place on earth has a memorial on human suffering! As humans we are very good at inflicting pain on each other. Every continent, almost every country has an oppressed, marginalized sector.

Hopefully, when Coco grows up, he’ll learn about these incidents in history and learn to respect people whoever and wherever they are.