30 November 2005

Guinea fowl and duck at Kirstenbosch Garden Posted by Picasa

Freedom photo on Robben Island Posted by Picasa

Table Mountain cable car Posted by Picasa

Mandela's Gold strelitzia Posted by Picasa

Cape Town - view of Robben Island from Table Mountain Posted by Picasa

23 November 2005

Lipizzaners and Polokwane

I’ve mentioned to a few of you that I haven’t done much writing lately because I haven’t done much travel lately. I still don’t have my work permit and until I get one, I cannot get either a local bank account or, more importantly, a South African credit card. That makes it a little difficult to travel. But I did have a few interesting experiences last week.

On Tuesday, I went to Wits (University of the Witwatersrand) to do a little bit of training for a customer there. Just as I was packing up to leave, one of our local competitors (and a former EBSCO employee) walked up! We chatted for a few minutes – I’d actually been thinking about phoning her to see if she wants to play with our softball team, as we are chronically short of players. I think we made the poor customer a little bit uncomfortable!

Wednesday afternoon was the year-end function and AGM for SLIS (Special Libraries and Information Services group; sort of like a very mini-SLA). It was during this meeting that the Information Specialist of the Year award was presented. Jean and I had both served as judges for that a few weeks earlier, so it was really necessary for us to be there for the presentation. The meeting was held at the Kyalami Equestrian Centre (http://www.knet.co.za/lipizzaner/lipizzanersofsouthafrica.htm and http://www.horseworld.co.za/Articles/lipizzan.htm). It was a poor venue for a business meeting (I’d thought they must have some sort of conference centre, or at least big meeting room, but we met in the stands where audiences watch the horse performances!), but then we did get a special one hour performance from the horses. I thought it was going to be mildly interesting, but it turned out to be quite something! I don’t think I’d seen Lipizzaners perform since my 5th birthday, when Mom, Dad, Claudia and I went to Nashville for dinner at Shoney’s and attendance at the circus. At times I thought that the training those horses go through must be kinda cruel, but they really were beautiful to watch. Afterward, there was a very nice cocktail reception in the courtyard where the horses are stabled. And there was a plentiful supply of big carrots for those of us who wanted to give special thanks to the horses.

On Thursday morning, Colleen picked me up at home, and we met Julia Mofokeng, a customer service rep, at the office to begin our 4 hour drive up to Polokwane to visit the University of Limpopo. Limpopo made the 8th of the nine provinces for me to visit. It borders Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana. It’s one of the hottest areas in the country, too. I’ve been seeing their temperatures in the mid-30s C pretty consistently now. (Here’s my favorite conversion site that I’ve found: http://www.metric-conversions.org/temperature-conversion.htm.)

As we were driving up to Polokwane, I suddenly remembered that I have a young almost-relative who’s living there. Maureen FitzMaurice is the niece of my Cousin John Shine’s wife, Barbara FitzMaurice. John and Barbara live in Sonoma, California but Maureen grew up in Idaho. She is a recent college graduate and is currently serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer here in South Africa! Her experience is going to be very different from mine, I think. She is living right in Polokwane, which is the capital of Limpopo province and, I think, a pretty industrialized area. Apparently, Polokwane gets a lot of traffic, because it is on the Great North Road (the N1) that goes from Pretoria all the way up to Zimbabwe.

Barbara had let me know about Maureen, and I’d had an e-mail exchange with her, but completely forgot that she is there in Polokwane until I was on my way. I called from the Crackberry, and we arranged to meet for coffee when Colleen, Julia and I were on the way back from our appointment. Unfortunately, this was not meant to be. Sometime during the drive, my stomach started to hurt. It was okay while Colleen was making her EBSCO Publishing presentation but then became worse and worse as we were driving back towards town (the university is not right in Polokwane). We had arranged to meet two of the ladies from the library at a nearby mall for lunch. We had planned for this to be a working lunch, so that the 3 of us could get back on the road to Jo’burg sooner. But as we were discussing journals business, I had to excuse myself so I could go be quite sick in the ladies’ room. I managed to make it through the rest of the lunch, but by the time we got back in the car I really just wanted to get home. I called Maureen to explain, and promised to call her the next time I’m up that way and to give her more advance notice next time. During the ride back I felt progressively worse. By the time I got home, I had a mild fever and felt pretty achey (in addition to a still-upset stomach). So, I took some ibuprofen, beef broth, tea, and a hot bath, and went to bed at 8.30 that night.

Also last week, I had to take my laptop to the IBM hospital, and my car to the VW hospital. But those stories aren’t very interesting, so I’ll stop here.

21 November 2005

Thanksgiving Dinner

Despite having had a sick tummy since Thursday (17 Nov), I was determined to attend the Thanksgiving dinner hosted by the American Society of Johannesburg on Saturday evening. The dinner was preceded by the AGM (annual general meeting) of the society, which I attended because I wanted to get an idea of what they're about, what their activities are, etc. Still not sure whether or not I will join.

The meeting and dinner were held at Sides Restaurant in Dunkeld (http://www.tenbompas.com/Sides.htm), a somewhat posh neighborhood (located between Rosebank and Hyde Park, if any of you happen to be familiar with Jo'burg). We had the whole restaurant for the evening, and 44 folks, including kids of various ages, were expected. There were 2 long tables of 12-14 for grownups, one long table for younger kids, and one long table for older kids. Seems that last year they had kids mixed in with their parents, but that didn't allow the parents much time for socializing. One of the couples brought their housekeeper, Rosie, to watch after the little kids, and they were (thankfully) pretty well behaved.

The dinner started with some speechifying by the current president of the society, followed by the social chair who gave a talk to the little kids about the beginning and meaning of Thanksgiving. Then some of the kids made little presentations. We heard some facts about turkeys, a couple of poems, and so forth. One of the older kids said a prayer, and then we were served by the restaurant staff.

The menu:
  • corn bread
  • starter of either roast corn and crab soup with mild chili or grilled pear, roasted walnut rocket (arugula) salad with blue cheese dressing
  • herb seasoned roast turkey with stuffing and creamed potatoes
  • cranberry sauce
  • vegetables (steamed broccoli, roasted butternut squash, and roasted something I never identified)
  • dessert of either bourbon brownie or apple and cinnamon creme brulee

It was all yummy. Given my sore tummy, I didn't eat as much as I might normally have, but I did it justice.

During dinner, my closest companions were: Mark, an Irishman who spent some time in NYC and whose wife's father is American, so they want to introduce their kids to T'giving tradition; Linda, who was mostly raised in D.C. but has an English father and spent a lot of time in England; and Henning (from Germany) and his wife, whose name I cannot remember (from Zambia). I'm not really sure why they were there.

I'm not looking to meet lots of Americans while I'm here, but one reason I wanted to attend this event was not only to celebrate Thanksgiving with some Americans, but to hear some American accents. In this respect, I was disappointed. Seems that many of the members are women who married South African men, and they've been here for so long that they no longer sound like Americans! Still, it was a nice evening, and I'm glad I went.