Sunday, November 28, 2004

Hello from Cape Town! 28 Nov. 2004

I'm sitting at an internet cafe in Cape Town on a beautiful Sunday morning. I've stopped in to check football scores from yesterday so figured I would zap a quick Blog note.

What a beautiful city! The only attraction I've missed doing here (so far) is visiting the top of Table Mountain. I've been up to the cable car station twice now, but winds were too strong at the top of the mountain both times, so the cars weren't running. Might give it one more try later today. There's been plenty else to do though, and I've gotten some beach time in also. Cape Town has been the end to a great week of seeing South Africa, that included Pilanesberg earlier in the week, where I petted a baby rhino, a baby cheetah and a baby lion. Pictures to follow! I'll be back at Stonehaven on Monday and will try to get pictures and stories posted soon. Gotta go enjoy my last day at the Cape for now though.

Friday, November 19, 2004

American invasion, Nov. 19, 2004

Another American is coming to Stonehaven.  My friend Ken from Atlanta is on the way to South Africa.  (Together, we form a highly respected doubles team in ALTA, striking fear in the hearts of tennis players all over Atlanta, or at least giving them a good laugh now and then.)  As I post this, he is about to wing his way across the Atlantic Ocean, with a re-fueling stop in the Cape Verde Islands.  Assuming he hasnt started a revolution there and been declared king (his fantasy, not mine), he will arrive on Saturday morning, and assuming he is polite and non-confrontational to Customs, we should have him to Stonehaven for a nice lunch.  Ken will be in the country through the next Sunday (28 November), so with all the touristy things we have planned, I likely wont be posting much to the Blog until after that.  I will run through our tentative itinerary here in a nutshell.  A map of South Africa is here if you would like to get a sense of where we will be.


Saturday, we will hang here at Stonehaven and let him get a good nights sleep to get over his jetlag.  Hopefully he will sleep down the road at Stone Manor, since there is a late wedding here, which means disco music through the night, plus I will be up at 10:30pm Saturday night for the Auburn-Alabama game.


Sunday, he and I will drive up, on our own, to Pilanesberg Game Reserve.  If you look at the map, its just to the north of Johannesburg and Pretoria.  I will be driving us, and its my first road trip alone, so wish us luck.  Im taking back roads so as to avoid Jo-burg big city traffic.  I have a map and a compass.  How hard can it be?  It would normally be a 2 and a half hour drive, so not that far.  With my back road driving and not knowing where Im going exactly, it may take us a little longer.  While in Pilanesberg, we will also visit Sun City, which is (from what I know about it) South Africas version of Las Vegas.  In Pilanesberg, we will schedule game drives to see the animals.  This is where Rosemary and Rex took the Orkadians just a couple of weeks ago and they saw plenty of animals.


Tuesday we will drive back to Stonehaven.  Wednesday will be our day in Johannesburg.  On our agenda that day are the Apartheid Museum, the Gold Mine Museum tour, and a flea market. 


Bright and early Thursday morning (Thanksgiving Day back home, but just another day here), we fly to Cape Town.  Cape Town would be about a 12-hour drive, so we are taking South African Airways instead.  In Cape Town, we will truly be tourists, and will look into doing things like Table Mountain, Robben Island (where Mandela was imprisoned) and wine country.  I believe the whales are swimming just off the shore this time of year, so I will be looking into doing a whale watching expedition.  That next Sunday, Ken flies straight back to Atlanta.  I will fly back to Jo-burg on Monday morning (Nov. 29). 


So I might get to post on the Blog between Pilanesberg and Cape Town, but no promises.  I am also not sure how much, if any, I will be checking emails during the week.  I am sure I will have plenty of stories to tell and pictures to post afterwards though.  Be sure to keep your emails coming to me anyway, as its always good to hear from home!


Oh, and click here for one last message to the Tigers before the big game on Saturday.


Oorlog Arend!  Thats Afrikaans for War Eagle!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Animals, animals, animals, Nov. 17, 2004

Animals have the right of way at Stonehaven.  I think I have put this in the blog before, but there is a Doggies Menu in the Stonehaven menu that starts out: Stonehaven welcomes all dogs as long as they are not grumpy, bad mannered or anti-social to fellow dogs, humans and resident Stonehaven animals.  Items on the Doggie Menu include Meat Leftovers (a deal at R9.50!), Rice, Dog Pellets, A Bowl of Milk, and a bowl of fresh Stonehaven Well Water (no charge!)


There are other animals besides dogs here of course.  In the section known as Dr. Doolittles Diner, customers can sit with rabbits, ducks, geese, turkeys, chickens and tortoises running around their feet.  Just off Dr. Doolittles Diner is an area off-limits to humans where a lot of eggs get laid.  Just behind that is an area protected by an electric fence where all the animals are put at night, safe from predators (for the most part anyway).  It gets kinda wild in this little zoo!


There is a male and female turkey, and Mrs. Turkey recently laid eggs!  Our first turkey eggs here!  So far, one has hatched and is a strapping young turkey baby that mother turkey is very proud of.  She is still sitting on the others and we check them daily waiting for more new arrivals.


I have also mentioned before that its tortoise-mating season.  Click here for a sample of that.  Over 18 only please!  It seems its actually everybody-mating season here!  And you wouldnt believe those horny roosters!  (Apologies ---or maybe congratulations!--- to my South Carolina Gamecock friends out there.  What a mascot you have!  Go Cocks!)  I watched one rooster try to mount a rabbit.  The rabbit was quite perturbed.  Just yesterday one of the staff came to me with a (we thought) rooster wrapped in a sheet.  He was soaking wet and shivering.  A customer had alerted the staff member to the fact that roosters were fighting each other near one of the watering ponds and one fell in and was about to drown.  So I took the ailing rooster and put him in a towel and talked to him soothingly until he calmed down and dried out a little.  I took him back to his fenced in area and put him back down and he just stood there looking dazed and confused.  And almost every rooster in the place started charging him!  I was knocking them away with the towel.  Well, as the rooster dried out more and his coloring changed, we realized this was no rooster, but a female chicken, and they were all trying to jump her!  She eventually gained enough strength to run away and hide from them, so I left them alone to let nature take its course.  I later saw her in the company of one rooster who must have won her favor somehow.


We also have a tortoise that falls into the water regularly.  He is not a turtle.  Turtles swim.  Tortoises dont.  This one little guy seems to be trying to drink from the water pond, and in he goes.  We have to keep an eye out for him and go get him out of the water, shake him out, drain the water from inside him and send him on his way.  Until he does it again.  Oh, and also, only the white staff will rescue the tortoise.  None of the black staff will touch a tortoise because they believe that touching a tortoise means you will have a pregnancy soon.  I am not making that up.


Then there is our confused little baby chick.  We had noticed a mother duck and mother hen laying on some eggs right next to each other.  In fact, the rare times either moved, we couldnt tell whose eggs were whose.  Turns out the mothers and babies couldnt either!  Now we have mother duck waddling around with 2 beautiful baby ducklings, and a baby chick.  The baby chick is enamored with mother duck, you can just see it, and it tries to do everything mom does.  Mom is digging through mud for bugs or something, and baby chick is trying to do the same thing, but very unsuccessfully.  And when the family goes swimming, baby chick just gets frantic!  It runs around on the side of the water chirping with all its might!  But its a good thing that it instinctively knows it cant go in the water.  Mom duck seems to know also, and doesnt make the chick go in.  Nature is a strange thing.


We have also had a terrible problem with cats getting in and killing baby rabbits.  At first we thought it was an owl doing it, because it only happened at night in the electric fenced in area.  But with more research, we found a place where either cats can get in or the babies are getting out at night.  (We have researched buying an invisible fence to keep the cats out, but invisible fences arent sold here in SA.  And would they work on cats anyway?  We are still searching for a local supplier)  We have caught a couple of cats red handed with the dead baby rabbits in their mouths, so the cats get punished big time.  The icing on the cake happened in my room one night.  Now Mrs. Cat does bring me the occasional dead bird to my room, which I am told is a gift for me and I should be honored.  She has brought me 4 so far.  I keep my bathroom window open all the time so Mrs. Cat can come and go as she pleases.  Well one night Im sitting there in my room and a cat (not Mrs. Cat) comes bounding through my bathroom window with a dead baby rabbit in his mouth.  A wild chase around the room ensued and I cornered the cat and got the rabbit (already a goner, unfortunately).  Sorry no pictures for this part of todays blog.


When I think of leaving here and coming back to the States next year, saying goodbye to some of the people here is going to be a very hard thing.  But saying goodbye to some of the animals, I just dont even want to think about.  Kali has bonded with me and takes every step I take.  She seems to worship me.  I keep telling her shes Johns dog, and she does love John, but she seems very attached to me.  And its mutual.  Ugh. 

Monday, November 15, 2004

Weekend wrap-up, Nov. 15, 2004

On Friday afternoon I went to visit a Reflexologist.  Anybody reading this ever been to one or know of their existence in the U.S.?  (Supposedly they are common in the U.S. and Canada)  I didnt even know what one was, but several people here at Stonehaven go regularly to this local one, and I met her socially a couple of weekends ago so called her and made an appointment.  Reflexology, in a nutshell, is the practice of working with any problems in the body through the feet.  Evidently all nerves in the human body end in the feet, so by working certain parts of the foot, they can affect for instance, the liver, or circulation, or back problems.  I unfortunately (knock on wood) dont have any ailments that she can work on, but wanted to go anyway.  All my nagging tennis injuries I had before I left the States have pretty much left me, since I havent played much since July.  So I was going to her mostly for the experience.  She started (after washing my feet thoroughly) by putting these big boots on me, sealing them around my legs, and sucking all the air out of them.  The feeling was like when you have your blood pressure taken; that squeezing feeling they do on your bicep, except this was in my feet.  We left them on for about 10 minutes, and when she took them off, my feet were multicolored!  Blue and red and purple and shades in between.  She would look at an area on my second toe for instance, and from the color of it tell me I have a stiff neck, which I knew anyway.  She also told me right away my feet were calling her a liar.  She had gone on and on since she met me about what a laid back personality I have, very casual and easy-going.  When she took the boots off and looked at the soles of my feet, she said I obviously internalize things and maybe am not as laid back on the inside as I am on the outside.  The only negative she could find with my body is she said I have a lot of acid in my system.  That could be because of my intake of wine, which has increased significantly since I arrived in South Africa!  She worked my feet over for about an hour, which was wonderfully relaxing and therapeutic, and actually energized me (some people had told me they need naps after visiting the Reflexologist, but I felt the opposite). 


I drove myself to the Reflexologist, which I am doing more and more of these days, trying to get accustomed to the driving on the left thing.  I got lost going there, which was also good for me, I guess.  Like Ive said before, driving on the left really isnt that difficult, but I find shifting with my left hand awkward and hard to find the proper gear at times.  Practice makes perfect I guess.


On Saturday I played some old man tennis in the afternoon, had a late dinner, and made a pot of coffee to stay up for the Auburn-Georgia game.  It started at 10:30pm here, and the radio broadcast was thrilling to listen to.  I rarely listen to radio games when Im home in America, so this is giving me flashbacks to listening to games as a kid, which we did every Saturday, since we werent on TV every week back in those days like we sometimes are now.  Times change dont they.  It is nice to take a step back in time sometimes.  I emailed friends who were sitting at Jocks and Jills in Atlanta back and forth several times during the game, so it was almost like I was there with them, sharing a basket of chips and an adult beverage.  Ntwa Nonyana!  (Thats Sotho for War Eagle!)


On Sunday I had planned a little pool time at the house of a friend in Vanderbijlpark, which we did until the rains came.  Just a quick afternoon shower with a terrific lightening storm.  We seem to get one of those about once a week nowadays.  The winter here was very very dry (remember I was here over 2 months before I even saw rain); its a little more humid here now but still dry and they say they need the rain badly.  But every time it rains they complain (its during a wedding or big function or other things, never at a convenient time). 


This week, I am preparing for a visit by a friend from the States!  My tennis friend, Kenny, arrives on Saturday, and I am trying to plan an action packed week for him.  The people at Stonehaven are anxious to meet him and want to know if he talks like me.  (hes from North Carolina, so the answer is yes)  We might try to cook a Thanksgiving meal while hes here, but between all the touristy things Im planning on us doing, we wont be here at Stonehaven a whole lot.  South Africa doesnt celebrate Thanksgiving of course, but they all know what it is, and they like the idea of having a day to give thanks for all we have.  The idea of all that food seems appealing to them too.  Actually on Thanksgiving Day, Ken and I will be flying to Cape Town.  More on our agenda later in the week.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Some miscellaneous pictures, Nov. 11, 2004

Christmas is coming!  The Christmas Crackers are showing up around Stonehaven!  Anyone besides me not have a clue what a Christmas Cracker is?  On all their Christmas menus here, I had noticed mention was made of Christmas Crackers.  You can bring your own, or we will supply you.  I figured, hmm, OK, maybe some people prefer Ritz, or Saltine, or who knows what kinds of crackers, but I couldnt figure out what the tie to Christmas was.  So I asked.  People here cannot believe that I dont know what a Christmas Cracker is.  I felt so stupid.  But Im an American, and after our election, they expect stupidity from Americans.  So they filled me in on what a Christmas Cracker is.  This is a Christmas Cracker:


The tradition is, that at a Christmas dinner, this thing is at each persons place at the table.  The game is, 2 people each grab an end of the thing and pull.  One of the ends will pop off (crack!), and the person left holding the middle section gets the prize inside.  Sometimes its just a silly hat, or a pair of fake teeth, or something like that, which is pretty much what was inside my Christmas Cracker:


Nice, expensive Christmas Crackers can be bought with expensive things inside too.  But evidently here, no Christmas dinner or party would even begin without Christmas Crackers.


Now we know.


Another Saturday wedding at Stonehaven this past Saturday:


We are having usually 2 weddings every weekend now.  Tis the season, I guess!


Its a tough life for kids at Stonehaven.  This is Thando, one of Sarah-Pats playmates.  They were watching Barney one day, and I guess Thando just couldnt take the excitement anymore:


Here are Thando and Sarah playing one day last week:


Its also a tough life for the animals at Stonehaven.  Kali is growing fast (Great Dane still a puppy) and sometimes just cant get all of herself on the couch before she gets too tired and just stops where she is:


Kali has been sleeping with me a couple of nights upstairs, much to the chagrin of Mrs. Cat who thought I was exclusively hers.  She sometimes just hangs out in the vines that grow just outside my window until Kali falls asleep on my couch, then she comes in and gets in bed with me.  Find Mrs. Cat in this picture:


Mr. Cat just cant be bothered with it, and fell asleep one night in the middle of Rosemarys receipt-sorting:


A few afternoons a week, if Im down at the river in the late afternoon, this … thing… comes by that I havent figured out what it is.  Its 8 guys on bicycles, pedaling their bikes, facing the side of the river, but moving the boat (or whatever theyre on) down the river.  I guess maybe theyre preparing for the Tour de France or something, and this is one of their training methods:


Looks kinda fun!


Yesterday Rosemary and I went into Jo-burg for lunch with an old friend of hers, Kryshia.  Now I met Kryshia when I was here in 1984, and what do you think she wore to our lunch yesterday:


Yep, I gave her that shirt 20 years ago.  Kryshia is now a mother of 3, and I got to meet her oldest daughter (college freshman) working next door to the restaurant where we had lunch, in the Seattle Coffee Company store, which is the first one of those Ive seen in South Africa.  No Starbucks here, but I think they own Seattle Coffee Company anyway, and there are a handful of those here.  I got a Grande cup of coffee and man was it good!  The coffee here in South Africa is OK, but they mostly drink instant coffee.  You can order filtered coffee (as they call it) in restaurants, but it just doesnt have the flavor of that good old Seattle coffee from back home.  It was nice to get myself a fix yesterday!

Monday, November 08, 2004

Racism, Nov. 8, 2004

Im reading a book by a South African author; his name is Wilbur Smith.  He actually used to own a home here just down the river from Stonehaven.   I had asked around about reading some local books while Im here, so someone brought me one of his books.  Its a good story, a good read, but I ran across a paragraph in it that I found very interesting and true, so I thought I would pass on:


<quote>When she called him a racist, he smiled at her and said: In America that word is dreaded as the ultimate insult that can end a mans political career, or ruin his business or ostracize him from society.  You are all so terrified of it, and the blacks know it and exploit it to the full.  Even the toughest hard-headed businessman or politician rolls over like a puppy dog and whines if you call him that.  This isnt America, and here we arent terrified of that word.  Here racism is the same as tribalism, and we are all blatant tribalists, especially the blacks.  If you want to experience true dedicated tribalism and racism, then come and live in one of the newly independent African states.  If you call your average black politician a racist, he would take it as a compliment, it would be the same as calling him a patriot. <end quote>

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Cheap Labor, Nov. 4, 2004

One of the big differences between life back in the States and life here in South Africa, is cheap labor.  As an example:  before I left Atlanta, my refrigerator died.  I had to have a repairman come out to look at it, give me an estimate, etc.  Which of course involved wasting most of a day held hostage waiting for the repairman who said he could be there between 8am and noon and showed up at 11:55am.  That is the way we do it in America.   So my refrigerator here in my room died this week.  (I know.  I am beginning to get a complex.  Its me.  Refrigerators dont normally die, but something in my body chemistry/aura/karma must be destructing them for some reason) So we called the repair-place, and within an hour, 2 (black) men came and took the refrigerator away to be fixed (yes, they lugged the thing down the stairs from my room).  That is the way its done here.  When its fixed, or I get a new one, 2 men will take it back up those steps.  I suppose it is much more cost effective to keep technicians at the office to look at the broken refrigerators than it is to have them go out to places, since they can easily just have the dead fridges brought to them.  Cheap labor in general shapes life here.  Im not complaining, but since Ive been in South Africa, I havent made a bed, done laundry, cleaned my room, cleaned a bathroom, cleaned after myself in general, picked up a spill, or washed a dish (please, no comments from those who would say I dont do those things at home either).  There are ladies who do all of that.  When I lose a button, I just give my shirt to a lady and ask her to sew a new button on it, or mend a tear, or whatever.  The floor in the space where I work is swept and mopped twice a day.  I have had to teach the ladies that clean my room that I dont like my running shoes laundered after every run.  Now Stonehaven may be a little bit of an exception, because it is a business that employs plenty of cleaning ladies (gardeners, etc.) to keep it running.  But most people here have full time cleaning ladies, and sometimes gardeners and others too.   I know the names of most of the ladies who work here, and I talk to them, but sometimes communication is difficult because they dont speak English well (and my Xhosa sucks!). 


As I said, Im not complaining, but I do feel angst over this.  I do feel guilty that all of these things are done for me.  Im certainly not accustomed to it.   Sure, growing up, we had a maid, but as an adult Ive always had to do all of this for myself. 


But there is huge unemployment in this country, so I reason (and I am told) that at least these ladies (and men who lug refrigerators, work in the garden, maintenance, etc.) have jobs, and they will get pensions, and they get health care insurance through work.  If I insisted on doing my laundry, making my bed and washing my dishes, one less cleaning lady might have a job.  So Im doing a good thing, right?  Help me out here!


In my recent speech to the Rotary Club, I did talk about this phenomenon of cheap labor.  I also talked about how our situation in the South at home was/is similar to what theyre going through now.  After our Civil War (War of Northern Aggression), we had 4 million slaves who were uneducated who had to be integrated into our society.  It was 100 years later before we passed the Civil Rights Act that made discrimination a crime and started programs like Affirmative Action.  Before that, blacks had to ride at the back of the bus, and have separate water fountains, right?  We didnt call it Apartheid, but it was a somewhat similar social structure.  After the Civil Rights Act was passed in the U.S., maybe slowly, our labor became not so cheap.  I think back in the 1960s, it was pretty common for most families to have a maid full time, wasnt it?  Its certainly not that way today.


10 years ago in South Africa, Apartheid was banished.  A new government came in and they have started programs to integrate a massive black population who is very very poor and mostly uneducated, into better housing, better jobs, better lives.  They have the added problem here that we didnt have, in that there are 13 official languages here!  (English, Afrikaans and 11 tribal languages like Zulu, Sotho and Xhosa)  Their constitution already bans discrimination based on race (and other things too, such as sexual orientation --- they are way ahead of us there!), so no Civil Rights Act is needed, but it is still a huge chore to bring the blacks of this country who grew up under Apartheid, into mainstream society.  It may happen generation by generation.  (They want it to happen much faster than that.)  And possibly, cheap labor will go away here too.  


And though I am looking forward to coming home again, I am not looking forward in the least to doing my own laundry again.


By the way, if you would like to see my PowerPoint presentation for my Rotary speech, click the link:


Its a pretty huge file so if youre on dialup, I wouldnt bother.  On high-speed connection, it might take a few minutes.  Its just the PowerPoint outline of things I talked about to the group, with pictures, etc.  I also added in some music here and there (like the Auburn marching band!), which I took out for the online version… made the file way too big.  So use your imagination.  I think they enjoyed the speech.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

A political commentary, Nov. 3, 2004

This is just a rant, and as I type, polls are still being counted, so I am not sure who has won/will win the election at this point.


I wont turn this Blog into a podium for political views (Ill say it again, I am not a Demo or a Repo, I pretty much dislike them both equally), but I get asked a lot via emails from home, what do South Africans think of our political system and who do they want to win the election.  I have a lot of political discussions here (over beer and wine of course!), and though I really dont have strong opinions myself (I am cursed with being able to see arguments from both sides), I do get a constant inflow of their opinions here.


There was a front-page article in the Sunday paper this week about the American election.  One statement made in the article was that Americans arent voting just based on opinion of whether we should be in Iraq or not.  Americans have a full plate of issued, from jobs and the economy to gay marriages, that will sway them to vote for Bush or Kerry.  Well, this stunned some of my friends here.  The big surprise was that those issues would sway someone to vote for Bush when we are stuck in a war that we clearly should not have gotten into to begin with, and are only in because of President Bush.  Dont confuse this with my opinion; its just what South Africans (and Scots and Brits and one Lebanese) here are telling me.  Their feeling is that clearly, Americans will vote Bush out to send a message to the world that we know we never belonged in Iraq and we want out as soon as possible.


Another opinion is that the video taped statement last Friday from Bin Laden was actually a clear, coherent statement, and that in his way, he was offering us (America) an olive branch.  They hope we take the olive branch.


As individuals, people here LOVE America.  Our culture, our movies, our trashy reality TV shows, our everything!  But they worry that our government is putting us in great danger.  People here worry that we just dont know how unpopular we are in the world, and they worry we are going to suffer more for that.


I can only tell them that yes, to Average Joe America, whether the queers can marry each other is more important than what some damned foreigners think of us in a popularity contest, and that we are good, and Bin Laden and Saddam are evil (like Hitler), so we were obligated to invade Iraq (like we did Germany).  Not that I am proud of how Average Joe America thinks, but it seems to be a fact.  I guess we will see, as the election results pour in.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

No Daylight Savings Time here, Nov. 1, 2004

Hey, everyone at home changed clocks this weekend.  South Africa doesnt have Daylight Savings Time, so there was no clock changing here.  (Everyone I talk to thinks its a GREAT idea that the country should adopt, but it has just never gotten off the ground).  So as of now, I am 7 hours ahead of Atlanta and 8 hours ahead of Alabama.  If youre reading this from somewhere else, youll have to do the calculations yourself!


Ugh, this makes those upcoming night Auburn games even WORSE for me!

Happy Halloween, Oct. 31, 2004

Halloween isnt a big holiday here, due to the local churches pressuring communities to stop celebrating this satanic day.  Too bad such a day of fun for adults and kids has to take a backseat due to the opinions of a few.  The waiters and waitresses (they are actually called Waitrons here --- that is the official position title in South Africa) did wear costumes on Friday to kick the weekend off, but everyone held their breath and hoped no church people complained or went to the local papers.  Today, Halloween Day, no costumes, no kids trick or treat parties, nothing.  It feels like a Halloween Grinch came down from the mountain and took all the fun stuff away.  But I guess we are safe from satan.


These Auburn night games are killing me.  I slept from 10pm to 1:30am, then got up and dialed in to listen to the Ole Miss game.  It was 5am when the final minutes were ticking away and I felt safe enough to go to sleep.  Slept till about 10am, and feel a little bit jet lagged.  And I guess our last 2 games plus Atlanta will be night games as well.  The things I have to do to pull the Tigers through from down here.


I played some more social tennis yesterday, which was enjoyable.  Today is a crystal clear sunny day and we are going to a braai for the afternoon.