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!