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 CafĂ©’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 ChargĂ© 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.