26 December 2006

Post-Christmas trip to Cape Town

Cape Point, where the Atlantic and Indian Oceans meet.

Funny sign at the jackass penguin colony near Simon's Town.

Paul at the second southern most point of the African continent. Cape Agulhas, to the east, is the southern most point.

17 September 2006

Short Takes

It’s been quite awhile since I posted an update. I guess the longer I’m here and begin to re-visit places, I don’t have lots new to tell you. But here are some short takes from recent travels.

Sasol (http://www.sasol.co.za/) is one of the large energy suppliers here (coal to liquids and gas to liquids), but they make a number of other products, too. They also contribute hugely to all sorts of community projects. They are, for example, the largest corporate sponsor of the Springbok rugby team. There are several academic libraries in the country that are carry the Sasol name because they have received enormous donations from the company. The bird blind at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Garden was paid for by Sasol.

Their library is one of our largest corporate customers, and recently they invited Jean, Salome (our operations manager and the customer service rep for that account) and me to visit. We had a tour of their wax plant, and then went to lunch at an adorable café in Sasolburg. They also gave each of us a gift bag with several goodies. It was so very nice to be on the receiving end of such treatment for a change! It was an interesting and fun day. I’m hoping that maybe we can go tour their coal mine next year. My paternal grandfather was a coal miner, so that would be particularly interesting for me.

There are so many interesting and colorful birds here! Here are just a few that I’ve seen recently. I suggest going to Google Images (http://www.google.com/imghp?hl=en&tab=wi&q=) to look up photos.

Sometime in July, Jean and I went to an open house sort of thing that the library at University of Pretoria hosted. As I parked my car, I saw on the lawn in front of me a grey lourie and a hoopoe, both really groovy looking birds. I’ve also seen a hoopoe in my front lawn, but only once.

When Colleen and I were driving from Grahamstown to Port Elizabeth the week before last, I saw what I think was a Knysna lourie. It may have been a purple crested lourie, but given the location, I think it was a Knysna lourie.

I’m also quite fond of helmeted guinea fowl. They are all over the place, including a field near my house. They are also a popular theme in craftworks; I’m sure I’ll come home with a number of representations of guinea fowl.

And the lilac-breasted rollers are small but magnificently colored little guys. I’ve seen them at Kruger National Park.

Things Have Changed
We (Rehette, Colleen and I) have just completed two weeks of “road shows”. There’s so much going on with EBSCO, and it’s difficult to phone one library and say, “May we spend 6 hours with you?” And then ask the same of other libraries in the same area. So, we decided to bring folks together for a series of one-day seminars. When I picked up the rental car in Cape Town early last week, I was surprised to discover that it had automatic transmission. I wasn’t quite sure what to do at first! We had the car for 2 days, and I was just getting used to it (not looking for the clutch when starting up) when it was time to turn it in.

Whenever I move back to the U.S., I just may need to get a car with a stick shift. Don’t they get better gas mileage anyway?

Another reason I haven’t written much lately is that I suffered a somewhat more acute than usual case of homesickness for most of August. It wasn’t debilitating, and I don’t want you folks to worry. But I was glum, and just didn’t feel that I had much to say without whining. I’m feeling better now. :)

A few Sundays ago, I joined Feng Hua Wang (the Chinese American woman who works in the library at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria) for a jazz brunch here in Jo’burg. It was hosted by a local jazz club, and I’ve signed up to join them. The next meeting is at the same restaurant this Thursday evening. I also found out that one of my colleagues in the Gauteng South Branch executive committee (S’bu Thembela at Wits University) enjoys jazz, so I’ll ask her to join me sometime.

My friend Jeff deGraffinreid is going to Kenya to do research for his PhD, and will stop in Jo’burg for a few days at the end of this month. I’m looking forward to showing him around my adopted city. Then Mom and Claudia are coming for Christmas. I’ve got good trips lined up for them, and am really excited about their visit. The next group is my English friend Sarah Maylett (we were at the same school in Zimbabwe), her father and aunt. They will come in March, spend one night with me, drive from Jo’burg to Kruger, and then down the east coast to Cape Town. They’ll take 3 weeks for this. I’m planning to fly and meet them in Port Elizabeth so I can join them for the “Garden Route” from PE to CT.

Who else would like to visit? :)

03 August 2006


The recent heat wave in the U.S. has prompted some of you to ask me how hot it is here.

Basic Geography Reminder: South Africa is in the Southern Hemisphere. The seasons are reversed from those in the Northern Hemisphere (where the U.S. is located).

It is winter here!

And boy howdy, is it ever. Yesterday as I drove to work, it was 2.5C (around 36F), and I don’t think it warmed up much above 8C (46). There were rumors in the morning of snow in nearby suburbs Krugersdorp, Sandton and Honeydew, but I never saw anything myself.

I made sure to be home in time for the 7.00 p.m. news so I could see how the rest of the country fared. The southern and Eastern Cape areas are having flooding rainstorms. Roads and bridges are washing out, flights delayed, some people dead. The central Free State had snow. Bloemfontein had about 5 inches! (I was in Bloemfontein last week, and it was -9C when the plane landed that morning!) Interior Eastern Cape and KwaZulu Natal provinces also had snow. The border to Lesotho (a mountainous country that is surrounded by South Africa) was closed because the road was impassable.

The high today will be only 10C (50F). As I’ve mentioned to some of you before, this may not seem all that cold, but keep in mind that most buildings – homes and offices alike – don’t have central heating. Our offices have individual units in each office, but the hallways, break room and bathrooms are icy. At my house, I bought a small space heater for the bedroom and another for the lounge. I have an electric mattress pad on my bed, plus a nice, fat down comforter. Sleeping is fine. It’s getting out of bed in the morning that’s a mission!

When I was here last winter (July and August), it was pretty mild. Daytime temps were in the mid teens (14-18C = 57-64F), sometimes warmer. “This is winter?” I thought. “I can live with this!” So, when I was packing things up in Birmingham, I had trouble deciding if I should bother bringing any wool sweaters, hats, gloves, scarves, etc. Thank goodness that I did!

Here are some news stories and photographs:



22 June 2006

Glowing mountains in the almost sunset. Posted by Picasa

Oranges and mountains. Posted by Picasa

Eleni relieves a tree of its burden. Posted by Picasa

Nadine picks oranges. Posted by Picasa

The slowly filling dam (lake). Posted by Picasa

21 June 2006

Our Visit to the Orange Farm

Before I tell you about our visit to the orange farm, it occurred to me that I should tell you a little bit about Youth Day. When I first heard of it, I assumed (as maybe some of you have) that it’s another false holiday, created by the candy or toy industry. I’m sure some of you have heard my diatribe against Valentine’s Day. But a couple of days before Youth Day, I heard a story on the news about the Soweto Uprising which occurred in June, 1976. Aha! There is a real, logical explanation for Youth Day. In 1976, the ruling party, the National Party, introduced Afrikaans as the language of instruction in all schools. Students in Soweto rioted in protest, which was the beginning of weeks of violent protests across the country. The introduction of Afrikaans was probably just the straw that broke the camel’s back. The protests were also about the poor facilities, overcrowded classrooms, and poorly trained teachers. Youth Day honors those young people who lost their lives during this struggle.

So. As I mentioned earlier, Colleen and I went to Cape Town a couple of days before the book fair so that we could call on customers. Friday was Youth Day, so there were no customer visits to be made. We went to the gym to swim, had breakfast at my wonderful guest house in Constantia (http://www.capestay.co.za/constantiastables/), and then drove north to an orange farm 18K outside Picketburg.

Colleen was very close with the family of her best friend in school, and the woman we visited, Nadine, is a sister of that friend. Nadine and her partner, Eleni, bought an orange farm last year. Eleni is still living and working in Cape Town; she comes up on weekends. They have a 2 ½ year old daughter, Cassandra. Nadine’s parents recently moved to the west coast down from Jo’burg, and they were visiting, too.

Eleni put Cassandra down for a nap, and she and Nadine drove us to the orange groves. The trees had been kind of neglected by the previous owner, but Nadine has been working hard to get them into shape. She improved the irrigation and drip lines, sprayed for pests, and did a lot of pruning. Last year, they produced only 3rd grade oranges, and not too many, that they sold to a local broker. This year, the crop was much larger and better in quality. We learned that the 1st and 2nd grade oranges are sold for export, largely to the U.S. The main difference between the grades is the appearance. Beautifully colored oranges with no blemishes (or only tiny ones) are first grade and go for export. The skin of an orange can be affected by several things. An orange can be sunburned! High winds can damage the skin. Tiny mites and rain can also make unappealing marks. Here in the regular grocery stores in SA, we get mostly third grade oranges. But there is little, if any, difference in the quality and taste of the fruit itself.

The block in which we walked had not yet been harvested, and there were quite a few trees with so much fruit that some limbs were bending low to the ground. We spent a little bit of time picking fruit to relieve the trees. You must twist and gently pull an orange to get it off the branch.

When we got back to the house, Nadine started a fire for a braii. Brian, her dad, showed me how to properly score and peel a navel orange. It’s so easy! I think I’ll be eating oranges more often now.

In addition to the oranges, Nadine and Eleni are raising chickens, turkeys, sheep and goats. They have 4 or 5 female goats that will deliver kids any day now. Two lambs are still being bottle-fed in the evenings, and Colleen and I got to do that. Colleen also helped round up the goats for the evening. Ever since they ate my vegetable garden in Zimbabwe, I have no fondness for goats, so I decided not to participate in that.

The farm is in a valley with rugged but beautiful mountain ranges on either side. The sunset was rather spectacular. Beautiful sunsets make me think of my neighbor and dear friend, Bonnie Snow, who passed away in the summer of 2001. I always feel her with me when I’m admiring a lovely sunset. I seldom try to take photos of sunsets; they never come out as nice as the real thing. So, I just try to lodge them in my memory. I think I’ll remember this one.

Reading room in the SA Parliament library. Posted by Picasa

Spiral staircase to 2nd floor, SA Parliament library. Posted by Picasa

A colorful stand at the Cape Town Book Fair. The posters talk about the 11 official languages of SA. Posted by Picasa

Nula, Yvonne, Ursula, Colleen and Katy at the Cape Town Book Fair. Posted by Picasa

The Cape Town Book Fair

Those of you in the business know that the Frankfurt Book Fair is the biggest, most important book show in the world. EBSCO is not a bookseller, but we go to Frankfurt in order to have meetings with many of the publishers with whom we work. Sometimes it’s a good chance to meet with publishers that don’t attend the American Library Association, which is the largest library association meeting in the world.

The organizers of Frankfurt decided to try a book show in South Africa, and they chose Cape Town. The first Cape Town Book Fair was held 17-20 June at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, a world-class convention venue. (In fact, I cannot figure out why the International Federation of Library Associations, IFLA, chose Durban instead of Cape Town for its 2007 conference. Cape Town is much nicer than Durban, and the CTICC is more than adequate.) Colleen, Salome Potgieter and I attended so that we could meet with some publishers, meet and greet our librarian customers who attended, and generally support the book fair.

It was wildly successful! Attendance exceeded expectations after the 2nd day; they had to print more tickets and hire more staff. I was really pleased by this, because SA is not a country with a strong reading culture. They have already booked the CTICC for next year, and I’m sure we’ll go again.

The stand next to ours was fun. It was three Irish ladies there to promote a book that one of them has written. It’s called Suitcase Number Seven, and is about the travails of an Irish rugby player named Tom Cleary (Ursula’s uncle, as it turns out). It’s a “fictional memoir.” The ladies – Ursula (the author), Yvonne and Nula (maybe short for Fionula?) – were so nice and fun. Ursula and Nula are going to travel around SA for a couple of weeks, and they will phone Colleen and me if they make it to Johannesburg. They’re following in the footsteps of Tom Cleary, who traveled here in 1961 with his team on a tour of SA.

A publisher called Jacana Media (based here in Jo’burg) had the cleverest display in their stand. They had the artwork or photos from their book covers printed on fabric and made pillows out of them. And then at the end of the conference, they sold the pillows! I was so excited when Colleen told me the pillows were for sale. I got one (that she had picked out and put aside for me; it was perfect) called The Drum Café’s Traditional Music of South Africa by Laurie Levine. The book came with a CD enclosed. The pillow did not. :)

We went down to Cape Town a couple of days before the book fair to call on customers. One of the visits we made was to the library at Parliament. Unfortunately, I didn’t get any photos of the Parliament buildings. You have to get permission from the PR office for that, and we didn’t have time. Maybe I will do so in advance on the next visit. But I did get some photos of the lovely library. I’m putting some of these in as individual posts.

The day before the fair, 16th June, was a public holiday – Youth Day. Colleen and I drove north of CT to visit an old friend of hers who has an orange farm. I’ll write a separate post about that day.

07 June 2006

Public Holidays in South Africa, 2006

Around the time of Memorial Day, several people noted that I wouldn’t be celebrating that here in South Africa, and some wondered just what the holidays here are. Below is a list of the 2006 public holidays in South Africa.

1 – New Year’s Day

21 – Human Rights Day

14 – Good Friday
16 – Easter Sunday
17 – Family Day
27 – Freedom Day

1 – Workers’ Day

16 – Youth Day

9 – National Women’s Day

24 – Heritage Day

16 – Day of Reconciliation
25 – Christmas Day
26 – Day of Goodwill

05 June 2006

Ronald H. Brown Commercial Center

A couple of weeks ago, Jean received an invitation to a networking session at the Ron Brown Commercial Center. The Center is a part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, and as I understand it, at least one part of its mission is to assist U.S. companies that are interested in doing business in southern Africa. Here are links to more information about the Center and a speech by Don Teitelbaum, who is the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria (and basically the acting head of mission, since we’re without an ambassador to SA right now).

http://usembassy.state.gov/pretoria/wwwhpr15u.html (speech by Don Teitelbaum)

At the networking session, representatives from U.S. Embassies in various countries in Southern Africa were available to talk about business opportunities in their respective countries. The invitation was transferable to one person within the company, so Jean gave it to me. She’s been telling me (as an example), “Don’t bother going to Zambia; there’s no money there.” So, I thought it might be a good idea to speak with official representatives to get the real skinny. I was particularly interested in knowing how good the funding is for university libraries, government libraries, and what large companies with libraries might be operating in various Southern African countries.

Getting into the place was quite a mission! After going through a sturdy gate and being buzzed through a well-guarded, locked door, I had to walk through a metal detector, and my handbag went through the screener just like the ones at the airport. Then the woman guard took my nail file (I forgot it was in there), car keys, and small flashlight to keep in an envelope for me while I was inside. She even made me apply some of the lotion I had to make sure I wasn’t carrying dangerous biological agents! Gee.

I had my camera with me and had thought about taking a picture of the building from the outside, but decided that would not be wise. I remembered too well Mike “Baba” Burke’s experience in Zimbabwe. When the Zim 10s (the 10th group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Zimbabwe) had just arrived in Harare in October, 1999, he walked by the U.S. Embassy one day and decided to take a photo from the park across the street. Moments later, someone tapped him on the shoulder and demanded to know who he was and why he was taking photos of the embassy. It was a U.S. Marine, and Mike had to talk fast to explain himself!

Back at the Ron Brown Center -- most of the representatives at the networking session were actually citizens of the countries they were representing, although they worked for U.S. embassies. The first person I spoke with, however, was an American woman who was representing Zimbabwe. I already knew that there is no money in Zimbabwe; the University of Zimbabwe used to be a customer of ours, but they haven’t had the money to renew subscriptions for a couple of years now. But I wanted to talk with this woman just to get an idea of how things are there. It’s not good, not good at all. Inflation is now well over 1,000 percent, all kinds of goods (including maize meal, cooking oil, sugar) are in extremely short supply, and in the last 10 days, petrol has become scarce once more. I asked her if the people show any signs at all of rejecting Mugabe, and she said exactly what I’ve said to folks who have asked me the same thing – they are warm, friendly, passive people who don’t seem anywhere close to rising up against the current government. Heartbreaking.

I also spoke with representatives from Zambia and Malawi. I think there may actually be some opportunity in Zambia, and the representative I spoke with knows a woman in the national library association office who sounds like she will be a great contact. Things not so good in Malawi.

I chatted with a man (a South African) who works in the Ron Brown Center, and he said that the center in Nairobi will eventually be doing a similar sort of session for East African countries. I won’t go all the way to Nairobi just for that, but I’ll get the name of the coordinator there, and maybe be able to drum up some business – or at least reasons for business trips – up to Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, etc.!

04 June 2006

Shopping Shopping Shopping

Oriental Plaza
I met Colleen at her house on Saturday morning (3rd June), and she and I (and Brody) went to Oriental Plaza for non-specific shopping. Remember that here in SA when people say “Asians”, they’re usually referring to East Indians, and that’s true of the word “Oriental”, too. Oriental Plaza is a mall, but it’s sort of open-air, like an Indian bazaar, and it is full of imports from mostly India (I did see a shop called Dubai Designs). You can find almost anything you want here – clothes, shoes, linens, cookware, jewelry, etc. Those of you who have been with me to music festivals know that I have a penchant for hippy swag, and this place is full of it. Gauzy, fun printed dresses, pillows with sparkly things, bedspreads, purses, incense, etc. I’ll go back to Oriental Plaza for that kind of stuff, but also for fabrics. I finally bought a Nelson Mandela kanga! (A kanga is a colorful piece of cloth that African women use to wrap around themselves. In some countries, like Zimbabwe, it’s worn on top of regular clothes, usually to keep your regular clothes clean when you’re working around the house or traveling on a chicken bus. In Zim, they called them “zambias.” I think in east Africa, kangas are usually a whole outfit unto themselves; you’ve got the wrap-around cloth, plus a matching piece to wrap around your head.) There are quite a few curtain stores in Oriental Plaza, and I saw some stunning fabrics. Maybe I’ll take some with me whenever I move back to the U.S. My dining room on Clairmont Avenue in Birmingham could use some curtains…


Artists under the Sun
Last Wednesday, I had lunch with Feng-hua Wang in Pretoria. She’s a Chinese-American who is the Information Resource Officer for Southern Africa. She’s based in the Information Resource Centre in the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, but she visits U.S. embassy and consulate libraries in several Southern African countries, evaluates them, makes recommendations, and gives training sessions and workshops. We met briefly at Liasa last September; she had just moved here from her last post in Nairobi, Kenya, where she was doing the same thing for East African countries. She invited me to join her and another American woman at an art show at Zoo Lake here in Jo’burg on Sunday morning. It was a beautiful, sunny day, though a bit chilly, but perfect for walking around looking at art. The artists were almost exclusively painters, and there were some very nice works there. I found out that the show is there the first weekend of every month, so I didn’t make any big purchases but instead will hold off until I’ve been here awhile and have seen more things. I did buy a little bitty watercolor of two African ladies carrying things on their heads. Some of you may know that I also like to collect small watercolors that are representative of places I’ve visited. I have ones from Rome, Paris, Amsterdam, Mexico City, Beijing and Hanoi. This small one will join the collection in my hallway on Clairmont Avenue. I may also start a collection of African ladies carrying things on their heads. I already have an oil painting that I got in Zanzibar, and now the small watercolor. And I saw another acrylic painting at this show of women carrying bundles of sticks (firewood) on their heads that I liked an awful lot. But I’ll wait a bit…

http://www.artistsunderthesun.org/index.htm (not a very good site)

Rosebank Craft Market
After the visit to Zoo Lake, Feng-hua and Traci Mell (a political officer in the U.S. Embassy; she works with refugee programs; her previous post was 2 years in Pakistan!) didn’t need to get back to Pretoria right away, and we were close to the Rosebank Craft Market, so off we went. This is a huge craft market that’s held only on Sundays and public holidays on the rooftop of a mall in Rosebank. I didn’t realize just how huge it is, or I would have planned to spend more time there. As it is, I’ll have to go back. It will also be an excellent place to take visitors who want to buy presents or goods for themselves. There is all the usual crafty stuff that you see in many markets (bead work, wire work, masks, dyed and painted fabrics, caftans, wooden bowls, spoons, etc.). There’s also a largish section where you can get cheeses, dried spices in bulk, biltong (dried meat, like jerky but better; comes in beef, ostrich, kudu, and other game meats), olives in various kinds of mixes, cakes, pies, bagels (bagels! They didn’t actually look all that good, but it was amusing), and then a food court with Thai, Middle Eastern, Chinese, Portuguese and African foods. I had some beef with pap (pronounced “pop”; same thing as sadza in Zimbabwe, ugali in Swahili-speaking countries, nzima in Malawi – a cornmeal porridge kind of like polenta from Italy only lots thicker) and tomato gravy. I couldn’t eat pap every day, but I do like it every now and then, and it’s no fun to cook.


26 May 2006

My First Visit to the Doctor

Last Tuesday and Wednesday was SALAC – the South African Library Acquisitions Conference. I was scheduled to speak on Wednesday (17 May), and I was really looking forward to it. The conference organizers wanted PowerPoints and papers one week in advance of the conference so that they could put them all on CDs for the attendees. Normally, I would have been finishing up a PowerPoint a day or two before being scheduled to speak, and it is very seldom that I’d have an actual, full-fledged paper prepared! But because they wanted those things in advance, I did them, and so I was really, really prepared. It was my first public speaking opportunity here, and I was excited about it. Plus, I was happy that I made it onto the program and our competition did not! Sorry, Alison. :)

I woke up Tuesday with a slight cough, but thought it was only the beginning of a cold. As the day wore on, though, I felt worse and worse. Rehette finally talked me into skipping the cocktail reception that evening and took me home early. By the time I got settled in enough to take my temperature, it was up to 102F! Yikes! I took all kinds of over-the-counter drugs, and went to bed early that night, hoping against hope that I’d be cured during the night. No such luck. When I woke up on Wednesday morning, I still had quite a fever and felt miserable. I sent email to Jean, Rehette and Colleen, apologizing for my absence and asking Colleen to read my paper at the conference. Then I hunkered down in bed to get better.

Nothing doing. When I woke up on Thursday morning, my fever was 102.4F! I finally decided that it was time to visit a doctor. A few months ago I’d gotten a recommendation from the young lady in a salon that I occasionally go to, so I called up Dr. Trish Campbell for an appointment. I was able to get an appointment for that afternoon.

After filling out the requisite paperwork, I sat in the waiting area. After just a few minutes there, a cute, petite, stylishly dressed youngish woman with an Irish accent called me in. She led me into an office, turned around, and introduced herself as Dr. Campbell. I was a bit taken aback, both by the fact that she herself had retrieved me from the waiting area, and because she was younger than I expected. I told her as much, and she admitted to being 37. Old enough, I guess, to have a little experience under her belt. As she was asking about my history, I mentioned the hysterectomy and she expressed surprise since I was “so young.”

“I may be older than you think,” I said. I told her that I just turned 44, and she was shocked. She thought I was roundabout 28! I LOVE HER ALREADY!!

(I’ve experienced this more than once here, and I think the actual fact is that women age more quickly here. Maybe the sun is stronger at this high altitude, I dunno. But I’m taking precautions to protect my skin!)

After reviewing my history and current symptoms, Dr. Campbell took me into a tiny little examining room just off her office. She took all the readings herself – temp, blood pressure, pulse – then followed with an exam of lungs, throat, etc. She announced that I had “acute pharyngitis” – a really bad sore throat, man. She also asked me for a urine sample, which she herself collected and tested (for blood, I think; it was fine). She then escorted me to the lab so they could draw some blood. And when the lab results were in the next day, she herself called to discuss with me.

The whole visit was fine, and not that different from visiting a doc in the U.S. except that she did more of the work herself, rather than being assisted by a nurse or lab tech or some such person.

Here was the biggest difference – I do not yet have medical insurance in SA (still have it in the U.S., not to worry), so I had to pay for all of this on my own. The doctor visit, the lab work, and all the drugs she prescribed for me (antibiotics, codeine cough medicine, antihistamine, pain/fever reducer, and some sort of tablets to help prevent yeast infection from the antibiotics) came to around R700 – less than $120.00. WOW!

I’m feeling much better, by the way. Spent most of that weekend in bed, and came back to work on Monday (22 May). I still have a lingering cough and some congestion but feel fine otherwise.

22 April 2006

Flat Stanley visits the Rosa Parks Library in Soweto. Posted by Picasa

The Rosa Parks Library

The national library association here is called Liasa – Library and Information Association of South Africa. (They seldom capitalize acronyms; drives me crazy.) There are regional branches, tied mostly (I think) to the various provinces. Because the population of Gauteng is so big, we have two branches here, Gauteng South and Gauteng North. In late November I attended branch meetings for each. In the meeting I attended, it seemed to me that Gauteng North has more white people, and they are largely Afrikaans speaking. The Gauteng South meeting seemed to be more of a mixture, and what’s more, because there are more blacks in that group, and because the blacks here speak a variety of languages, most everyone speaks in English. Well, all of the business and programs of the meetings are in English, but I’m talking about the networking chit-chat before and after. Furthermore, the Gauteng South group just seemed more warm and friendly, so I decided to affiliate with that group.

(Aside – I don’t think I’ve mentioned in any of these posts that “black” is the politically correct term to use here. Can’t very well call them African Africans! And you can’t say African or native, because the white people are also Africans and natives! Black, white, Asian and coloured (a person of any mix; black, white, Indian, etc.) are the terms used. Asian almost always refers to people from the Indian subcontinent of Asia. I’ve seen very few Chinese, Japanese, Korean or southeast Asians here.)

The GSB group was also in desperate need of a secretary to fill the unexpired term of someone who had left. I figured that jumping right in would be a good way to get involved and meet people, so I volunteered. I’m really glad I did. I’ve enjoyed getting to know the folks on the Executive Committee (Exco), and knowing a few friendly faces at the next Liasa conference (end of September) will make it more fun.

Anywho, Selaelo Ramoleta is on the Exco, and she is the director (I’m pretty sure) of the American Consulate libraries in Johannesburg. One of them is at the consulate in downtown Jo’burg, and the other is in Soweto. This year is the 30th anniversary of the Soweto library. To mark the anniversary, it was decided to rename the library after Rosa Parks. A big celebration was planned for April 19th, and Selaelo invited the Exco members to attend. I accepted the invitation gladly.

The American Library, as it was called until this past Wednesday, was originally established in the Orlando (an area within Soweto) YMCA. In the 1980s, it was moved to the Ipelegeng Community Center, in the Jabavu area of Soweto. For many years, it was one of the few libraries of any size in Soweto, and it was also one of the few places where Sowetans could get news from outside of South Africa.

Today, the library has collections on small business practices, HIV/AIDS, American society, politics, education and economics. The Book Club is active in promoting a “culture of reading”, and in improving the writing skills of its members. It’s an attractive, patron-friendly library, and I was impressed by the dedication and professionalism of its staff.

The ceremony itself was well-planned and interesting. We heard remarks from the usual dignitaries – some representatives from the U.S. Embassy in Pretoria, the Bishop of the Anglican Diocese of Matlosane who is the former director of the Ipelegeng Community Center -- readings from a couple of South African poets (Don Mattera and Maishe Maponya), and the keynote speech from Ms Phylicia Rashad. Then Ms Rashad unveiled the plaque in front of the library door that formally launched the Rosa Parks Library.

After the program, a buffet lunch was served in the hall where the program was, and in the library. I ate in the library, and was seated between the current director of the community center (also an Anglican priest), and a Methodist minister from a nearby church. Tim (the Anglican) and I had an interesting chat about race relations in all the various places he has studied and served (including NYC and Chicago). He said that during the apartheid years, he was treated as a hero in other countries, just because he was black. He was the first black priest at a church in Rosebank (a sort of swank part of Jo’burg), and it was sad to hear how some of the older white parishioners treated him initially. They would be friendly enough at church, but if he came to their homes, he would be asked to use the servants’ entrance, and hurried out if anyone else (white) came calling.

I think I’ve told some of you that I’m not necessarily seeking out Americans while I’m here – I know a lot of you at home! But I do occasionally miss an American accent, and I got my fill on Wednesday. It was a nice day, and I’m glad I went. I was happy to represent librarians, Americans, and Alabamians! And I felt very proud of myself for successfully navigating myself to and from the community center. I always feel more at home in a city when I know my way around. I’m getting there…


24 March 2006

Grapevines at Groot Constantia wine estate. Posted by Picasa

Table Mountain wearing its table cloth. Posted by Picasa

Hout Bay, south of Cape Town. Posted by Picasa

Menu from Africa Café

I think I’ve told you about Africa Café (http://www.africacafe.co.za/) in Cape Town in a much earlier post, but let me refresh your memories. It is located in the “city bowl” of Cape Town, in an 18th century Cape Georgian house. Each room has a theme. There is the Egyptian Room, the Morroccan room, and the Ndebele Room, among others. They serve dishes from all over the continent, plus some that the owner/chef, Portia, has created.

The meal begins with a hand washing ceremony. Many traditional African foods are eaten with the hands, and so it’s good to have clean ones. You hold your hands over a basin that the server holds in one hand, and she pours warm water over your hands from a pitcher in her other hand. Everything is served communal style; the server brings out bowls of each dish, and you serve your own plate and eat as much as you like. The menu appears on the sides of a round vase that sits on the table, so you can consult it during the meal if you forget what you’re eating!

So, this is what Dad and I ate when we visited on 18 March 2006.

Cassava bread (southern Africa)
Xhosa imifino patties (spinach and mealie meal patties; kind of like what we in the Southern U.S. call hot water corn cakes)
Dhania dip (coriander, tomato, chilli)
Ehtiopian iab (white curd cheese with fresh herbs)
Tunisian briouates (phyllo pastry parcels filled with potato, carrot and garlic)
Chick pea mix in phyllo parcels
Egyptian ta amya (white bean patties cooked with coriander and parsley

Morroccan cous cous (finely sliced dhania, dates, carrots, corn and garlic tossed in cous cous)
West African fish imojo (salad of fresh fish chunks, tomato and peppers)

Pumpkin curry (an Africa Café recipe)
Congolese spinach (with fresh tomato, peppers and pilchards)
Cape mussel curry
Morroccan lamb stew (tender lamb stew sweetened with dates)
Malawi chicken macadamia

Fresh fruit kebabs
Rooibos tea or coffee


04 March 2006

Katy in Pompeii Posted by Picasa

South Africa has not joined the European Union

I told Mom that I probably would not do an update on my trip to Italy, since Italy doesn’t have much to do with South Africa. But my trip to Italy was a direct result of my being in SA, so I’ve decided to write about it after all. And many of you are reading this blog because you like to read about travel.

In the early months of the year, various regional groups of EBSCO offices have sales meetings. The North American one, which includes offices from the U.S., Canada and Mexico, is the largest. There are also Latin American, Asian and European meetings. (Attendance at some of these meetings as a training specialist is the reason I’ve been able to visit places like Hanoi, Viet Nam; Taxco, Mexico; and Beijing, China among others.) South Africa doesn’t fit very neatly into any of those categories, but there are two good reasons for us to meet with the Europeans. The first is that we are on the same time as most of the European countries (however, it still takes approximately 10 hours to get to anywhere in Europe!). The second is because of our European Service Center. Because we are on the same time as most of Europe, we have a group of folks in our office who do some of the background work (order processing, routine customer service work, etc.) for our European offices. This allows the staff in those offices to work on the more complex problems. It’s a good system. My manager, Jean Smith, was recently honored by becoming a member of the EBSCO Founders Club, and I think it was largely due to her suggestion of the ESC.

SO, the 2006 European sales meeting was just held in Sorrento, Italy. Rehette du Toit (the sales rep for SA who calls on corporate and government accounts) and I left on Wednesday, 22 Feb, and arrived in Napoli early afternoon on the 23rd. We arrived a day early so that we could sightsee around Naples. This was Rehette’s first visit to Italy (and I think maybe her 2nd visit to Europe), so she was awestruck. She continued to use the word “stunning” for everything from natural vistas, buildings, shops, etc. For myself, I found Naples to be rundown and seedy. It’s a shame, because it does have great natural beauty, and you can see that it was once a lovely city. We did see some good things, though, including the Duomo di Napoli. The original Basilica di Santa Restituta (who was, coincidentally, an African martyr), was founded around the 4th century AD, and was built on the remains of a Greek temple. Construction on the second, adjoining church, Santa Stefania, was begun during medieval times and continued with additions and changes through the centuries. The National Archaeological Museum was also well worth the visit. The Gabinetto Segretta (secret cabinet) with erotic art recovered from Pompeii was amusing, and some of the mosaics recovered from Pompeii were amazing. I’d never seen such tiny tiles in a mosaic!

Even the food in Naples was disappointing, though Rehette used the word “superb” more than once. I had told Dad once, during my first trip to Italy, that I thought it might be impossible to get bad food in Italy. Well, we didn’t have bad food, but we did have some mediocre food.

On Friday evening we took the train down to Sorrento. We had most of Saturday free (the meeting started with a group reception and dinner that evening), but I spent much of it in my room, finishing a PowerPoint for the one presentation I was scheduled to give. Most of the rest of the meeting was taken up with EBSCO stuff – early meetings during the day, and group dinners until late at night. I always find our sales meetings to be good learning opportunities, and a good chance to visit with faraway colleagues. This one was particularly good, mostly because there were more opportunities for active participation rather than having folks from Birmingham talking at you all day. Partly that’s because the group is somewhat smaller, but largely because this group was really unhappy with that format, so a couple of years ago the management team said, “Okay, we’ll give it to you. You design your own program, and we’ll go with that.” To that end, all of the European sales managers meet several months before the sales meeting (this year it was in Paris, but I couldn’t go because I had just returned from my October visit to the U.S. and didn’t want to leave the office again so quickly) to decide what programs and speakers they want, including workshops, “master classes”, etc. Another web-based meeting, and lots of e-mails later, and we have a sales meeting planned. Very effective.

So, back to the travelogue. We did have Monday afternoon off, and Marco Cassi, the general manager of our office in Torino and the host for the meeting, arranged for buses and tour guides to take us to Pompeii, which is only about 45 minutes away. (In fact, when I complained via e-mail about Naples, my friend Sam responded that “Naples is just a delivery vehicle for Pompeii.”) Sadly, it rained most of the afternoon. That meant that it took us a little longer to get to Pompeii, so we had less time to spend there. In all, we were there for 2 hours. The guide for my group said that you could spend a week there. I’m not so sure that’s right, but I could easily spend 2 days there, so 2 hours gave us only a taste. It was fascinating, and here are two examples. They used pieces of white marble placed every few meters in the roads, so that drivers could see the way at night – the original cats’ eyes! And they used big blocks of stone as crosswalks on the streets. Two blocks meant the street was one-way traffic, and three blocks meant it was two-way. If I’m ever in the area again, I will go back. As Rehette and I drove back to the airport on Thursday, we passed by the entrance to the Pompeii excavations (you can see it from the autostrada), and I said, “Just think – Pompeii wasn’t the only town here. There are probably all kinds of similar things lying beneath this whole area.”

Oh, and the food in Sorrento was better! We stayed at a Hilton that had an orange and lemon grove right on the property. The fresh orange juice was fabulous. We had lots of fresh fish, since it’s right on the Amalfi coast, and I had smoked salmon for breakfast every day. We get fresh and smoked salmon here, but it’s pretty expensive since it’s all imported. And the pizza, which was invented in Napoli, was exquisite!

I think I mentioned in my last post that my digital camera was stolen, and I still haven’t replaced it. I may try to get some photos from a colleague to post here.

Ciao, raggazzi e raggazze!

21 February 2006

I Have a Work Permit!

I was out of town when my passport with newly issued work permit was returned from the Department of Home Affairs. When I came into the office on the following Monday morning (20 Feb), I found my passport that Jean had sweetly tied with pink ribbon. I was a very happy girl.

The permit expires on 16 February 2009. If I understand correctly, it may be extended for only one year.

EBSCO House in Blackheath, Randburg. Posted by Picasa

20 February 2006

Starting point for Midmar Mile on far side of lake. Posted by Picasa

The Midmar Mile

A few weeks before Christmas, Colleen talked me into swimming the Midmar Mile. The Web site (http://www.midmarmile.co.za/) identifies it as the world’s largest open-water race. These days, I seem to need some serious motivation to get exercise, so I thought this would be perfect. I had already joined the Virgin Active gym in October (part of British entrepreneur/showman Richard Branson’s empire), and had been working out with some regularity. So, from a fitness standpoint, I wasn’t starting from scratch. The days before the holidays were hectic, so Col and I weren’t able to swim together much, but we each managed to get some time in the pool, and I was able to swim a couple of times while I was home in Tennessee. After Christmas, we managed to get together a few times for practice. Some days I would want to swim less, and some days Colleen would want to swim less, so it was good that we could encourage each other to carry on.

The race is held in the Midmar Dam (they use dam to refer to both the structure and the lake created by the structure), which is about an hour northwest of Durban, in the KwaZulu-Natal province. Ralph is not a swimmer and decided not to join us for the weekend, so Colleen, Brody (their 2 year old) and I drove down on the evening of Thursday, 9th February. We stayed in a Durban suburb, called Botha’s Hill, with a friend of Colleen’s. Shona and Colleen met when both their husbands were working in Lagos, Nigeria. Shona and Charles now live in Jakarta, Indonesia, but Shona comes home every 8 weeks or so, and we caught her on the tail-end of a visit.

This visit, in itself, made for a very pleasant weekend, indeed. Shona and Charles have had some financial ups and downs, but I think they are currently in a very nice upswell. The original part of the house was built 100 years ago, but they’ve added on substantially. The current project was to convert the huge verandah on the back of the house into a huge kitchen/dining room/lounge area. Two of the walls are solid windows, a very unique kind of thing I hadn’t seen before. They are floor to ceiling panels; when you open the end panel, you can then slide the next one down to it, and fold it back. And so on with each successive panel. So, the whole room can be open as if it were still a verandah. The kitchen is very deluxe, and the whole thing is such a pleasant room. The work was just finishing up when we were there, so we spent some time helping Shona, her daughter Caitlin, and her housekeeper unpacking boxes of dishes, washing, polishing silver, etc. We had hoped to go to the beach at least one day while we were down there, but the weather wasn’t very good. But Shona’s house was so pleasant that it was okay by me just to laze around, reading, napping, drinking tea, and polishing silver. It also introduced me to a lifestyle (big house, lovely grounds, swimming pool, live-in staff, etc.) that I hadn’t seen yet.

The race was on Sunday morning, and we got a late start leaving Shona’s. We also underestimated the crowd and attendant traffic! Plus, we found out from friends later that we should have received an information packet in the mail that would have given us parking and shuttle instructions. But we didn’t have that in hand, and since neither of us had been there before, we bumbled around trying to decide where best to park, how to get the shuttle to the other side of the lake, etc. By the time we finally ended up at the registration point, Colleen just had time to thrust Brody into the arms of her friend Rene, who had agreed to keep him while we swam, and we rushed to the starting point. If you see her, ask Colleen what else she did not have time to do beforehand, which proved to be quite uncomfortable for her.

The race is separated into age and gender groups, but even then, because there are so many participants, the start times are staggered. If you have never swum in the Midmar Mile and you did not participate in a seeding event, then you are given a white swim cap and you are in the last group to start (for your age and gender). This identifies you as a “Midmar virgin.” Because Colleen and I had done a seeding event (the 1K race in Germiston in January), and based on our times in that event, we were given yellow caps. I think, though I’m not sure, that there were two groups before us. Red and either blue or green, I forget. So, for the 31+ and under 13 women (yes, us oldies were swimming with the youngsters), the red caps started at 8.30 a.m. There was a delay of 6 or 7 minutes (I couldn’t always hear the announcer), then the next group, 6 or 7 minutes, then the next group, and so on.

One nice thing about this race is that it is a straight shot. You swim from one side of the lake to the other, within a lane that is marked by buoys along the way. The race in Germiston was like a big triangle. Swim a few hundred meters to the first buoy, around it and to the next buoy, around it and to the finish. Midmar is easier. One not so nice thing about it is that because it’s such a big lake, there’s a likelihood of bigger waves in the event of bad weather. When we started out, it was cloudy but calm. Sometime during the race, though, it started to rain and the wind picked up. Fortunately, that lasted only for a few minutes.

There are small boats and lifeguards on surfboards all along the route, so if anyone gets into trouble during the race, someone can quickly paddle over and give assistance. I don’t know if this happened during our race. I was worried about how young some of the girls were, but they seemed to do just fine!

Colleen’s biggest problem during swim races is that she gets bored. My biggest problem is that I get frustrated with all the bodies around me. The beginning of the race is particularly crowded, but then it thins out. At one point, though, I got stuck in a gaggle of 5 or 6 youngsters, and couldn’t seem to get around them or power through them. Finally, I just slowed down a lot, let them pass, then changed my course around them.

As you finish the race and exit the water, there are volunteers who hand you a medal (everyone gets one), and a timekeeper who is calling out times. There are also photographers, and you can later find your photo on the Web site and place an order, if you wish. Then you have to walk through a throng of onlookers, most of whom are seeking their friends or family members who were swimming. I managed to find Rene and Brody. I was astonished to discover that I finished before Colleen. I am a good swimmer, but she does triathlons and is just much more fit than I. She’s also only 35!

Here are our results. If you want to view the file yourself, go to http://www.midmarmile.co.za/Catergory%20Results.htm, scroll down to Event 5, combined results.

My final time was 38:23. My position was 854, my category position (female 41-50) was 124, and my gender position was 828.

Colleen had a final time of 39:01, position 903, category position (female 31-40) 196, and gender position 877.

This past Sunday (19th Feb) we swam in a 1K race in Midrand (between Jo’burg and Pretoria). Colleen finished before I did again (as she did in Germiston), and we each imporoved our times for the 1K. Then we came back to Jo’burg, showered, collected Ralph and Brody, and had a nice Sunday brunch at Betty’s restaurant, near their house. There’s another race in March, but I won’t be able to compete in that one because it’s while Dad will be here for a visit, and we’ll be in Nelspruit that weekend. Maybe Col and I can find one for April. I want to continue competing, because it gives me motivation to stay in the pool!

Cheers, everyone!