30 September 2005

Jean Smith, Alpheus Makena and Rehette Spaanderman in EBSCO booth at LIASA Posted by Picasa

Zandi (R) and her friend Posted by Picasa

Tea tent and exhibits tents at LIASA Posted by Picasa

Nelspruit and Liasa

Jean Smith (general manager) and Rehette Spaanderman (sales representative) left in one car, and Colleen Mills (regional sales manager for EBSCO Publishing) and I left in another on Monday morning (9/26) for Nelspruit to attend Liasa.

Nelspruit (nel’ sprate) is a medium sized town and is the capital of the Mpumalanga province. Spruit is an Afrikaans word for river. Nel is a surname. Nelspruit is pretty much due east and a little bit north of Johannesburg, about a 4 hour drive. It's not very far from either Swaziland or Mozambique. I think I’ve mentioned that we need rain right now. Driving away from Johannesburg, the dust in the air was so thick you couldn’t see very clearly. At one point, when the wind was blowing particularly hard, it was so dark that Colleen had to turn on her lights. After an hour or more, the air cleared a bit, but as we approached Nelspruit, the air became thick again with smoke due to recent forest fires in the area.

For the first couple of hours of the drive, we went through gently rolling hills with fields that haven’t yet been prepared for planting. About an hour from Nelspruit, the landscape suddenly changed, and we were in a canyon or valley surrounded by pretty tall hills/mountains. It reminded me somewhat of the drive through the Feather River Canyon in California that my friend Sam and I made up to the High Sierra Music Festival in July, 2000. Lots of rocky, arid land, but some greenery, too and very beautiful.

Nelspruit and area is a little bit greener, and it is absolutely lovely. I don’t know why, but I wasn’t expecting it. The guest house we stayed in, The Rest Country Lodge, is 9 kilometres outside of town, and it is fantastic. The owners are a South African man and his Austrian wife. He is a medical doctor and she runs the guest house. They have 11 hectares (10 acres in a hectare, I think). Jean said she bet it used to be a farm. “So hilly!” I said. She guessed cattle, and Anita (the owner) confirmed that later. The main house is absolutely gorgeous. There are three main sections, each with one section of circular walls. One section is the private quarters for the family. There’s also a large, airy, light-filled dining room, similar lounge (den or living room), a lovely deck and small pool. The d├ęcor is perfect; lots of African art and artifacts, but not over the top. The guest rooms are in separate cottages. Jean and I were in a double A-frame cottage but with completely separate rooms. Walk in the front door and there’s a little kitchenette and full bath to the right. Keep walking straight ahead and you come to a HUGE bedroom with cathedral ceiling and French doors onto your own private deck. There’s also a small loft with twin beds. It is so nicely appointed. Lovely cotton sheets, ceiling fan, portable radio/CD player with a small but varied CD selection, little bottle of sherry on the dressing table, etc.

At 7.00 every evening, Anita puts out food to feed some semi-tame bushbabies and genets (a type of wild cat, related to the mongoose). If you sit very quietly on the deck or patio, you can watch them. There are also quite a few louries (a big, colorful bird) around, and lots of other birds too numerous to know, let alone mention. I have GOT to get a book about South African birds.

Tuesday, the first day of the conference, was sooo hot and humid. It really reminded me of summer in Alabama. Don’t know if I’ve mentioned this yet, but Johannesburg is VERY dry. I have used more moisturizer and lotion in the few weeks I’ve spent here (including my time in July-August) than I might use in several months in AL. But it’s a different story in Mpumalanga. Most of the vendors were complaining, but I welcomed it. My nasal passages felt better after a day of that!

When I told Steve “Smartypants” Murden that, “I’m in Nelspruit for Liasa,” he asked, “Is that English?” I’ve explained Nelspruit. Now let me explain Liasa. It is an acronym (they seldom capitalize acronyms here, which drives me crazy because EBSCO is an acronym and I hate seeing it spelled as Ebsco!) for Library and Information Association of South Africa. We are in Nelspruit for the annual conference. “Gee,” you might be thinking, “Nelspruit doesn’t sound big enough to host the annual conference of the biggest library association in South Africa!”

(For those of you on this list who are not librarians, let me give you some background information. The American Library Association has two conferences each year, Midwinter and Annual. Midwinter has grown in recent years and now has around 12-14,000 attendees. Annual has always been larger, and attendance there is between 18-24,000 depending on the convenience and popularity of the venue. There are just a handful of cities in the U.S. that can now hold ALA.)

So, back to the question. Is Nelspruit big enough? At just around 400 delegates, you bet it’s big enough! It’s actually quite a shame. The main reason for this low attendance is that a few years ago, Liasa decided to “take the conference to the people.” Instead of having it in one of the larger cities (Johannesburg, Durban, Cape Town, even Port Elizabeth), they’ve held the conference in more remote towns in more remote provinces so that the people in those areas will be able to attend. I admire the reason, but it hasn’t been very successful. Apparently, Liasa used to draw 800-1,000 participants, but it has been falling off for the last three years and this year is the worst. Another problem with having the conference in these smaller towns is that there is not always an appropriate venue. This conference is being held on one of the campuses of Tshwane University of Technology. Tshwane used to be a smaller technical college, but as a result of a number of higher education mergers earlier this year it is now a university level institution. This particular campus has only one hall large enough for all of the delegates to meet together, so they’ve put us vendors in tents on a sports field. It sounds a little primitive, and it wouldn’t have been too fun if it rained, but it has turned out to be okay. Tuesday was beastly humid, but the weather on Wednesday and Thursday has been quite lovely. A wind came through on Tuesday night and cleared out the smoke (remember the forest fires?), and it’s been clear, sunny, not too hot, and a bit of a breeze all day.

Exhibits ended on Thursday afternoon, and Rehette, Colleen, another vendor friend named Vic, and I drove up to Kruger National Park for a quick game drive. I’ll tell you all about that in the next update.

22 September 2005

Jacaranda tree near my house Posted by Picasa

Details -- no travelogue this time

Hi folks,

I still owe you an update from my trip to Cape Town at the end of August! Maybe I'll get to that this weekend. In the meantime, I want to send you my contact information, now that I have it! Just went to Telkom and the post office this morning.

(I had the pleasure of seeing some of you while I was in Birmingham and Murfreesboro, so forgive me if any of this is repetition.)

While I was here in July/August, I rented a fully furnished townhouse that is just a few kilometres from the EBSCO office. Sheets, towels, kitchen supplies -- really, I brought almost nothing from home except for sharp knives. It's furnished very nicely, too. The woman who owns it bought it when she and her husband separated a couple of years ago. She bought the townhouse, furnished it, and lived there for 3 months before they reconciled. So, it's not full of junk for renters. It's also in a very secure complex, with an 8 or 10 foot wall around, electric fence on top of that, and 24 hour security guard at the gate. Please don't worry about me.

Addresses below. Today I rented a post office box. That should be used for most mail to me. If you send something by an agent that requires a land address, use the office address.

The cats (Maggie and Tessie) were not able to fly with me (paperwork delays), but they will arrive tomorrow morning! No quarantine, either. I'm excited, but I'm afraid they will be upset with me for a few days. Fortunately, cats don't have good long-term memory, so they'll get over it. :)

I arrived to spring here. We still need rain -- the grass is brown and it's dusty -- but the trees are greening up nicely, including the gorgeous purple jacaranda trees. I'm sure I'll be sending a photo of those eventually. I love them.

Hope you are all well. More later!

Katy G.

Katy Ginanni
PO Box 4845
Cresta 2118
South Africa

EBSCO Information Services
1st Floor, EBSCO House
299 Pendoring Road
Blackheath 2195
South Africa

Phone numbers:
+27 (11) 794-7301 - home
+27 (11) 678-4416 - office