Mustaches, Car Theft, Visitors, Concerts, and a Costume Braai

The new year is here, and for the second time, we watched it arrive under a South African sky. The very last day of 2010 we spent relaxing at a game reserve with friends, ringing in the new year from our camp chairs on the stoep. Midnight passed to the sounds of night birds and bull frogs in the bush—as well as the slapping wings of rhino bugs and giant cockroaches flying over our heads. Kale and I are looking forward to every adventure that awaits us in 2011, and looking back on 2010, it’s hard to believe how full this last year has been!

Zulu Nyala Safari Lodge

But what have we been up to for the last few months? Please don’t feel like you have to read this small book all in one siting…

OCTOBER

Weekend in Eshowe:

The weekend after our adventure to Lesotho with Uncle Dan and Aunt Corie, Kale and I took a day trip to the town of Eshowe with our friends Kenny and Annita. We met them and their friends Annette and Anthony at the entrance to Eshowe’s main feature: a beautiful aerial walk through the Dlinza Forest. Together, the six of us walked high above the trees on a tiny path, and I must admit, I got a little skittish! We were so high, but it was beautiful, surrounded by tree tops as tall as sky scrapers. Afterwards, we took a walk at ground level, and stared in awe at ancient trees.

Our guides for the day: Kenny and Annita

Is that tree really large or is that head just really small?

Five star picnic dining experience!

After a lovely picnic in the forest, we explored Eshowe’s castle and craft museum, and then drove back with Kenny and Annita to their home in Kwambonambi. It was a lovely evening, and during dinner we learned that Kenny and Annita keep a collection of expired bills from Zimbabwe on their fridge. Check out the size of these bills! Too bad money in Zimbabwe has a shelf life.

Jackpot!

The next day, on our way home, we stopped for a Sunday brunch in Salt Rock at the most divine place: the Sage Cafe. When my latte arrived, it was like art, and so I had to take a picture.

Milk froth rose art

Kale's strawberry shake was also quite delicious

Halloween:

For Halloween, we spent the weekend in Camperdown where our friends, Bryan and Brenda, own a beautiful lodge and aviation park called Emoyeni. To celebrate the holiday, they threw a Halloween party with live music and a very scary dinner which included bat wings, festering fingers, and dragon’s blood! Bryan is the banjo playing half of a bluegrass duo called The Bandits, and I have been lucky enough to join him and his guitar playing half, Craig, on occassion, and Bryan has been joining me quite regularly with his banjo at my own shows. So, it was a hoedown of a party, and the costumes were quite creative.

Gretl (as in Hansel and Gretl) and Buddy Holly (after the plane crash). Bryan is also a pilot and had some spare propellers hanging around.

Hansel, Gretl, and a Ghost Rider. Craig was so scary! I got the goosebumps just looking at him and his bullet holed head!

NOVEMBER

Movember:

So you all know about Movember, right? The month where men grow mustaches to raise awareness and funds for men’s health? Well, Kale made a nice mustachean transition over November’s days…

Before (reguar mustache/beard combo)

After (sporting nice trucker trails)

Finale! (back to the eighties)

He is finally looking like the before picture again. But I have to admit: that trucker was kind of sexy!

Phansi Museum:

On Nov 11th, I had the opportunity to perform at the Phansi Museum. The Phansi is a Zulu art museam in Glenwood, a south suburb of Durban. The night was absolutely magical. So many people booked that we couldn’t fit indoors, and so our hosts moved the concert upstairs to the balcony. We played under a giant tree and a starlit sky, and people told me afterwards that bats were flying over our heads! Local Durban songwriter, Shannon Connolly, opened the night with a set of blues and folk inspired originals, and then I was joined by Bryan on banjo and Kale on accordion and back-up vocals. The night was Kale’s big accordion debut—he joined me on four songs, and an astounding number of coworkers came out to support him. The accordion was such a success that we are now working on putting a whole set together and making Kale an essential part of my act. Bryan’s banjo picking was lovely as always.

Phansi Museum

Our Car Gets Stolen:

On the morning of Nov 18th—the very day our dear friends Tamie and Tariq were arriving in Durban from Minneapolis—I went to have breakfast at a friend’s house on a very busy road in hip Morningside. It was a divine breakfast with fruit sald, quiche, coffee, and even chocolate cake! After I had said my goodbyes, I walked out onto the street to find an empty space where I had left our Toyota Tazz. I was so confused that a man nearby yelled across the street, asking me if I was lost. “No,” I said, “I think my car’s been stolen.” “Oh,” he replied, throwing his hands up in the air, “Well, that’s Durban for you. Can I help you call the police?” “No, let me, uh, I just need to walk down the street to make sure.” I felt a little dizzy. I walked very far down that road, and no, our car was not just a little ways up ahead.

It was incredible because, first of all, it was the middle of the morning and a beautiful sunny day, on a busy road—not some shady late night alley. Second, I parked directly across from a security shack that was part of Durban High School. The security guard saw nothing. Third, our car had two alarms which I had set! One of the ladies I breakfasted with drove me to the police station, and we filed a report. When I told the officer that the car was a toyota, he just shook his head like I should have been expecting this and told me I was lucky that I hadn’t been hijacked or shot dead like that new bride in Cape Town. Thanks, officer!

I was panicked because our friends were arriving that night, and we needed a car for all the travels we had planned. Luckily, after my car accident in June, we had added car rental to our insurance policy. We had a rental within two hours, and Kale and I were able to pick up Tamie and Tariq from the airport in shiny luminscent tiny green wheels.

Tamie and Tariq Visit SA:

Tamie and Tariq had booked their tickets for SA almost a year ago, and we were so happy when they finally arrived! Tamie and I went to college together and have been quite regular parts of each other’s lives ever since—weekly walks and runs around Minneapolis lakes, sushi and wine dates, road trips, etc. But Kale and I had only met her soon-to-be husband Tariq a few months before we moved to Durban. We were excited to get to know him better and to show both of them around South Africa. This trip was their delayed one year honeymoon, and we were feeling mighty special that they chose this part of the world to celebrate their marriage.

So happy!

The trip was a whirlwind. The first day, we drove around Durban and then went in our swimming costumes (they call them costumes here, not suits) to Umhlanga Rocks Beach. We swam for a little bit until we noticed that blue bottle jellyfish were being washed onto the shore. Usually, Durban beach’s are very clean and safe, but every once in awhile when the wind changes direction in just the right way, swarms of blue bottles appear, and you don’t want to get stung: they are nasty little jellyfish. We abandoned the beach, picked up Kale from work and went to an all-you-can eat sushi buffet at which we stuffed ourselves silly.

That evening (after a post sushi nap), we took them to see a show. I was playing at a new place with a wonderful band called Thomas Krane who had asked Kale to join them on some of their tunes with accordion. The night, so promising, turned out to be the worst performance experience I have ever had. For some reason there was a ping pong table in this bar/gallery/venue, and two riotious young men decided to start up a sporting game right as I started my set. No one told the pingpongers to be quiet even after I made a gentle plea from the stage. They screamed, they roared, they grunted, and I sang. It was demoralizing. More so because I had been hoping to show Tamie and Tariq night life and the music scene at its best. Kale played a set with Thomas Krane afterwards, and the music was brilliant (luckily, the ping pong players had tired of their antics), but by the time we left, it was too late to grab a bite to eat nearby. Durban’s restaurant nightlight had closed, so we picked up food from the one 24 hour Indian fast food place in town and went back to our place to commiserate with tall glasses of wine.

Unit 11. Singing with my 'I officially hate ping pong" face.

The  rest of the weekend, we sped around town like maniacs, trying to give Tamie and Tariq every must-have experience. On Saturday,we went to the Essenwood flea market, and T&T bought some African art. In the afternoon, we went to Durban’s main beach front, the Golden Mile, and found ourselves the only white people in a very crowded ocean. The beaches tend to be so segrated, but it was nice in a way: we could easily spot each other in the ocean.

Sunning on the Golden Mile

After we dried off, we had sundowners at the famous pier restaurant Moyo and nearly froze to death from a sudden strong wind. Then we decided to go someplace warm for dinner: Yossi’s is one of the best restuarants we have found here, amazing Moroccan cuisine. We spent the night drinking, eating, laughing, and sharing stories.

Sunday was ‘visit all the local nature’ day. We started the morning by visiting the Mangrove tree reserve which is very close to where we live. It’s hidden, a locally kept secret, because conservationists want to protect the crab life from crab hungry fisherman—the mangrove colony is exploding with the an incredible variety of crab.

the "Tango Man"—this guy was as big as a papaya!

Crabs, crabs, everywhere!

a "Fiddler Crab" (pinkie size)

After the Mangroves, we stopped at our neighborhood bakery for some meat pies and then headed off to the Natal Sharks Board for their afternoon shark dissection. The sharks board does an incredible job protecting KwaZulu-Natal’s beaches and keeping the public educated about sharks. We watched a short, informative film about shark nets and drum lines and then headed outside for the main event: dissecting one of the sharks caught in the nets!

"Don't worry about the smell," she says, "There's no extra charge."

The shark was a great white, and the smell was powerful! The whole experience was one of the best things we have done in Durban. The woman lecturing was hilarious, and the dissector made very clean cuts, displaying the different organs like Vana White.

The liver...

Inside the shark's stomach: a half digested baby shark. Sick. And kind of really cool.

To end the day, we drove north to Mt. Mooreland and watched the evening descent of the barn swallows. They live in the grasslands just a twenty minute drive north of Durban, and at sunset they all fly home from the day’s travels. Literally, thousands of barn swallows fill the sky at sunset, and it is breathtaking. We brought wine and a bag of malt balls that Tamie and Tariq had smuggled in for me from the Wedge in Mpls. We were mesmerized by the swallows. I tried to capture them on camera but they just look like dots.

Yep. Dots. Sorry. They are small and swift.

On Monday morning, I drove T&T to the bus station and they hopped on for Margate to spend a few romantic days on the beach. Unfortunately, it rained the whole time! But they still visited a crocodile park and enjoyed themselves. I picked them up on Thanksgiving, and together we made a fantastic Thanksgiving feast while Kale was at work. We didn’t make a turkey, just the sides, and I made four pies in our toaster oven! Two pumpkin and two apple. I think my pies are my biggest accomplishment of 2010. We invited our Durban friends over for dinner and for the meat we had a braai. It was a lovely way to introduce our MN friends to our SA friends and introduce our SA friends to pumpkin pie and green bean casserole.

I can't remember the last time I've been so proud!

The next day we left for our weekend safari in the Hluhluwe Game Reserve. On our way to our lodge, we stopped for lunch at a Portuguese restaurant in St. Lucia before we went to see the hippos and the crocs that live there.

Uh, did we really order a whole chicken?

Can lunch get any more divine?

Hippos hang together...

... so do good friends around crocodile signs

We arrived at the gate of the Rhino River Lodge near Hluhluwe just as the sun was setting, and the animals were on the move. We saw a whole herd of buffalo just off the driveway as soon as we entered the gate

I really thought they were going to charge. But they were just staring at us.

The Rhino River Lodge was lovely, and we had the whole place to ourselves.

Cheers from the pool!

We planned to get up early the next morning for a game drive, but it turned out there were quite fantastic creatures living inside our chalet! We had a resident bat squeaking from the ceiling and giant flying cockroaches that scared us into screams and squeals. I got up from bed to turn off the light, and boom, one lighted right on my pillow! I grabbed Kale’s shoe and banged away, but it kept moving. I ran to the kitchen, grabbed a spoon and a cup and put the cockroach inside the cup, and then flattened its brains on the side of the cup with a spoon. I did this three times, with all my squeezing might. Still kicking. I threw it outside and the next morning when we got up early to take our game drive, it was by the door, wriggling. I learned recently that they can live for over a week without their heads!

On our drive through Hluhluwe, we saw some wonderful creatures.

Dung beetles seriously rock and roll! (dung that is)

An elephant cooling down on a hot day

Monkey friends

We returned to Durban on Sunday, which was Tamie’s birthday. To celebrate we went to the Rainbow Restaurant for live African jazz music, Umhlanga Rocks beach for a goodbye swim in the ocean, dinner at the Indian Connection, and fancy drinks with sexually suggestive names at Cabana.

The Rainbow Restaurant

Tamie really wanted a blue drink. Boy, she got a good one.

Oh, it was sad to say goodbye.  We took them to the airport on Monday, Nov 29th. Thank you for coming, you crazy lovers!

DECEMBER

Kale Turns 28 with a Transpose Your Age Costume Party Braai:

Kale turned 28 on the 30th of November, and we threw him a braai on Dec 5th with a twist. Everyone was asked to dress up at their current age transposed. This was to celebrate the fact that Kale had just turned the age of his birth year transposed: 28, born in ’82. Get it? So, I dressed up as a 3 yr old, Kale dressed up as an 82 yr old, etc. We had some great costumes.

Joh (85), Jaspar (3), Kale (82), Andrew (23, kneeling), Rowan (62), and Romy (92)

The old folks: 82 and 92

More old folks. One on oxygen.

Wow, quite an age difference in this marriage, 79 years to be exact!

82 and a sophisticated 62. Quite dapper men!

Old man sandwich between a 3 and a 4 yr old

Kale's so tired by the energy of this backpacking 23 yr old that his eyes are closed!

Trenton, being the same age as Hugh Hefner at 72, dressed up as him!

75 year old Santa arrives in a wheelchair with candy for the kids who've been good this year!

Those who were either 33 or did not have time to dress up!

We played age progessive games which started with a pinata, moved onto a pub quiz, and ended with a crossword puzzle!

Fatima (with a sign on her shirt that says "I hope I look like this when I'm 42") gives the pinata a good whack!

Then we braai’d.

The start of the meat. That sausage is normal here. It's called boerwors.

After the quiz, we had cake balls! Oh, they were gorgeous and delicious.

The biggest cake ball was for Kale of course!

Back to Eshowe:

The second weekend in December, we headed back to Eshowe to play a concert and spend the weekend with our lovely new friends we had met at White Mountain music festival in September. Loreen and Kevin organized a house concert for us at their friends’ place who run a tea garden and craft market from their back yard and patio every Saturday morning. It was a gorgeous weekend! Loreen and Kevin took us around town with their daughters and then dropped us off at the hosting home to get ready. The day that started out with beautiful sunshine turned to pouring rain just an hour before concert time, but people still came. A tarp was set up for the music, and the audience sat under a large porch. The place was packed! It felt like the whole town came out, and the rain added a nice background sound to the music.

House Concert in Eshowe, photo by Kevin McDonald

The following day, Kevin took us to Hluhluwe for a game drive. A deep lover of the bush, he was a wonderful tour guide. He knew the name of every bird, and his eyes were tuned to spotting animals between the trees.

Vultures

Following a big cat!

A sitting giraffe

A kingfisher

A monitor lizard

A sunning cheetah

A baby rhino

Christmas and New Years

For Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, we were lucky to be included in two different family gatherings. After eating enough good food to make us burst, we got in our car and drove south to a B&B on the beach. We lounged like pros, read books, watched movies, swam in the ocean, and got nice tans. It was wonderful to stay in one place and not have a plan. After five glorious nights, we left and met up with our friend Toni to drive up to our mutual friend Ash’s family’s place near Hluhluwe. As we neared the gate to Zulu Nyala Lodge, Toni revealed to me that one of my favorite movies was filmed in the lodge’s reserve: I Dreamed of Africa. It starred Kim Basinger, and it was the true story of a brave woman named Kuki Gallmann. Anyhow, I had seen this movie in high school and became obsessed for a time with moving to Africa. The movie took place in Kenya, but yes, parts were filmed in SA. I couldn’t believe it!  I felt like part of my destiny was being fulfilled!

Me with the dilapitated film set

During our two day stay, we went on a couple of game drives. The wonderful thing about game drives is that on every drive, we see something new.

A drinking giraffe

A family of elephant

A European Roller

And that brings us to home again with new days on the horizon. It is always exciting to begin a new year—and also quite gratifying to look back on the old one. Every year has such a unique identity. We are both excited to find what this one holds. We have a few weeks of getting back into our routine of work and music, and then Kale’s family is coming to visit, and we will be off again! We are excited to see them, and we’ll be sure to let you know about our advenutres. ~ Jaspar

Published in: on January 2, 2011 at 9:59 pm  Comments (2)  

One Year Down! One More To Go!

On Wednesday (Sept 29th), Kale and I celebrated our one year anniversary of arriving in South Africa.  We spent the evening treating ourselves to drinks at the famous Oyster Box hotel and reminiscing about the last year’s adventures.

 

One year! (We tried to look fancy for the Oyster Box)

 

There have been so many!  As we talked, we became a little panicked that we only have one year left to explore this beautiful country!  Not only that, we have become quite attached to some lovely people here.  We are very much looking forward to what our second year has in store for us. So, what have we been up to in the last few months?  The seasons continue to be opposite, and we just finished the gorgeous winter that Durbanites tend to brag about: cool enough for a light jacket but nearly every day filled with sunshine.  Spring has recently arrived with a chorus of birds to wake us in the mornings and a choir of night frogs to croak us to sleep at night.  Seriously, there must be toads the size of footballs hiding in the bushes!  Since we neglected our blog over the winter season, I thought I’d do a short run down of the last few months.

June

Well, you know about the World Cup, but you don’t know about the car accident I got myself into on June 1st.  It was minor, but it left us without a car for the whole month! I was on my way to the doctor’s office with a serious case of the flu, and since this was my first time to the doctor’s office, I drove right past it.  In an attempt to make a simple swing around the block, my brain switched back into right side of the road driving, and I turned right into the path of a very surprised and irate old lady in a small toyota.   I can call her an old lady because when she jumped out of her car with the velocity of a young athlete, she charged up to my window screaming at the top of her lungs, “Why are you picking on an old lady like me?”  I just stared at her for a second trying to figure out how my brain could betray me in such a cruel way and then said, “I’m sorry, I’m sick.  I’m on my way to the doc—”  “You’re sick?” she screamed, “I have ****ing cancer!!!”  No, it was not a very lovely turn to the afternoon.  But what was amazing about the experience were the people who pulled over to help.  A big strong tattooed man took the old lady in his arms and gave her a big hug.  Three Indian men stared at me like I was a complete idiot until I started crying, and then one offered to drive my car out of the middle of the road for me.  I had no idea how to handle an accident in South Africa.  “Do I call the police first?” I asked them.  “Do I call my insurance?” This small, professional looking lady (picking up on my foreign accent) told me that since no one was injured, it was faster to go to the station myself and make a report.  “Where is the station?” I asked. “You wait right here,” she said.  “I’m going to drop my son off at home, but I’ll be back in ten minutes.  I’ll take you there myself.” While I was waiting for her to return, a young woman came out of the house my broken car was now parked in front of and asked me if she could make some tea or offer me a cold drink.  “Ah, shame, shame!” she kept saying, empathizing with me: the one at fault.  Where else would I find such abundant kindness from strangers?

 

Our Toyota Tazz finally returned! Isn't she beautiful?

 

July

The first weekend in July, Kale and I went away to celebrate our three year anniversary (June 30th).  We spent the weekend in the Drakensberg at the Umzimkulu River Lodge in a little cottage that looked like it was made by a hobbit.  You can see in the pictures the beautiful colors of a South African winter.

 

Umzimkulu River

 

 

Our little hobbit cottage for the weekend

 

 

Our love makes us happy!

 

Also in July, I got the worst haircut of my life.  I mention the haircut as an example of what Kale and I have felt at every new step in this process of living in Durban.  It takes years to understand a city: where to get your car fixed, which doctor you can trust, which hairstylist will not hack away haphazardly until your new hairdo has robbed you of all sense of femininity and pride. (The woman literally took hair from the back of my head, pulled it forward over my forehead and cut it to the length of my fringe—what they call “bangs” here.) Learning a new place involves a lot of trial and error, and many tasks that were easy at home become looming and scary. Luckily, we are getting to know a lot more trustworthy people from whom we can ask advice.  So, after a few weeks of wearing beanies and scarves tied around my head and asking everyone I talked to if they had a hairstylist they could trust (most of them didn’t), I found Martin.  He looked at my hair, sighed, and said, “I’ll give it some shape, but you’re going to have to be patient until some of these layers have a chance to grow out.”  He had a cool half mohawk, wonderfully cut fringe angled to the side, and a calm personality.  (Never a hyper hairstylist again!)  Unfortunately, because I am extremely vain, you’re not going to get to see a picture of the awful cut.  Just imagine me looking like a shaggy boy from the seventies with red puffy eyes from all the weeping.

August

I turned 30!  Kale threw a huge sushi braai for me.  A sushi braai is, of course, a grand contradiction since you don’t throw sushi on the braai—I mean, sushi is raw.  But we had fun rolling our own sushi rolls and then cooking some meat on the braai.  We ate around a nice hearty bonfire, and I felt very special to celebrate with such a nice group of folks!  On my actual birthday, which was a Tuesday, Kale took me to the musical, “The Guitar That Rocked the World!”  It was the history of the fender guitar and the famous musicians who played it, complete with a live killer band on stage.  The night became incredibly special because August 10th is also the birthday of Leo Fender, the creator of the fender guitar.  So after the show, the cast brought out a huge cake in the shape of a fender guitar to share with the audience.  Notice the script on the cake.  You see how it was actually a cake for me?

 

"HAPPY BIRTHDAY LEO"—Well, I'm a Leo too!

 

 

Inside the Elizabeth Sneddon Theater after the show. Smile, I'm 30!

 

Also in August, Kale and I took a weekend to visit Ladysmith and do a battle site tour of Spienkop.  Spienkop was a bizarre and bloody battle between the British and the Boers in which both sides withdrew after suffering heavy losses—without realizing the other side was also withdrawing!  We arrived in Ladysmith midday and spent the afternoon exploring the town’s museum in which we learned that the town was named after the famous beauty “Lady Smith.”  We stayed overnight in a lovely B&B, and the next morning we drove off to Spienkop Lodge to meet our tour guide.

 

Durnford's Lodge, Ladysmith

 

To say we were disappointed with the tour is a vast understatement.  We felt like we were pulling teeth to get information about the area and the battle site from our guide!  He kept silent until we asked questions, but then when we did ask questions, we got the eyebrow raise of shame.  Both Winston Churchill and Mahatma Gandhi were present at this battle (Churchill as a courier for the British and Gandhi as a stretcher bearer), and you would think our tour guide would have brought this extremely curious fact up on his own?  Let’s just say we learned that a tour guide needs to be passionate about his or her subject.  Knowledge (particularly when withheld) is not enough.  The tour ended with a flat tire on the top of Spienkop hill.  Since the spare was also flat, we had to wait to be rescued.

 

The trench the British built. It was not much protection. Much death! They buried the bodies inside.

 

 

"Please close the gate to prevent cattle from rubbing themselves against the graves." That's what the sign says. Hmm...

 

September

During September, I had the fantastic opportunity to leave South Africa and visit my dear friend Amy the geologist/geophysicist in Munich.  I was very excited to bike around Munich (this is one of the most bike friendly cities in the world!), drink hefty mugs of German beer in the beer gardens (boy, are those mugs hefty!), check out Oktoberfest, hop on trains to see the famous castles of the mad King Ludwig II as well as the sites of the Sound of Music movie in Salzburg.  Mostly, I was excited to spend almost two weeks with one of my favorite people in the world.

 

On the terrace of Hohenschwangau Castle. I love yellow castles and my friend, Amy!

 

Munich was lovely.  I bought a pair of suspenders.  I ate lots of pretzels and drank a beer every chance I got.  You see, South Africa is lovely for wine, but beer?  There are like three kinds!!! So boring.

 

In the backyard of Amy's building. I am not bored.

 

 

At Oktoberfest. Now, that's what I call a pretzel.

 

 

Amy has the Lady of Bavaria statue behind her. Apparently, Lady Bavaria always has a lion(s) with her. And I’m like, lions in Germany? I know where the real lions are…

We both thought Oktoberfest was way over rated. But hey, that’s because we’ve both been to the Minnesota State Fair which gives all other fairs a serious kick in the arse!  All this one had was beer, pretzels, giant cookies, souvenir t-shirts, a few rides, and a chance to dress up German style.  Well, the dress up part was really cool.  But we both want to let you in on a little secret: the giant cookies they sell everywhere as trademarks of Bavaria? You are not supposed to eat them.  We tried.  Pretty on the outside. Inside tastes like cardboard.

And I spent over a week looking for the perfect one to enjoy!

 

A few days after I returned to Durban, Kale and I were off to the White Mountain Music Festival in the Drakensberg. It’s always held over Heritage Day Weekend.  I played on actual Heritage Day (Sept 24), which is also known here as National Braai Day.

 

White Mountain Stage

 

We had such a lovely long weekend, camping, listening to fantastic music all day long.  My favorite moment was when I was warming up behind the tent, just a few minutes before going on.  I could barely hear myself singing because I was standing between a port-a-potty and a huge generator, and suddenly this guy appears, wearing nothing but a pair of white swimming trunks and a black cowboy hat.  “I like your boots,” he says.  “What kind of music do you play?”  Turned out he played country music too and even has a song called “Red Boots!”  You can listen to it here: http://www.facebook.com/josh.grierson—just scroll down on the left!

 

My boots that attract like minded people.

 

On the last day of the festival, the wind picked up and some hot coals from someone’s braai started a fire.  It was crazy!  The music just carried on.  You could step out of the performance tent and see the fire sweeping the dry brush just behind the campground!  No one seemed too concerned.

 

Not too far from a teepee camper!

 

October

So now we are up to date.  Last weekend, Uncle Dan and Aunt Corie came to visit, and the four of us took a trip to Lesotho up the Sani Pass.  It was absolutely stunning scenery.  Kale and I had been to Lesotho over the Christmas holiday last year, but this was a new route for us.  On the way up Sani Pass, we stopped to take pictures and were nearly blown over the cliff by the wind!

 

That wind is mighty!

 

But then we got ourselves together for this nice group shot.

 

What a beautiful looking tour party!

 

 

Stunning. They call these cliffs the Twelve Apostles

 

Once we reached the top, we visited one of the small villages.  Inside a rondoval, a woman invited us to share beer and a giant loaf of bread that she had baked on a fire in the middle of the floor.  Guess what they burn for firewood since Lesotho has a serious lack of trees?  Dried cow dung.  They also use it mixed with mud to build their houses.  Very resourceful.

 

Delicious bread!

 

 

Our host outside her rondoval, baby on her back and all!

 

Kale bought a wool hat handmade by one of the residents of Lesotho.

 

And behind him, the donators of the wool!

 

Then we ate a nice lunch and drank Lesotho beer at Sani Top Chalet, the highest pub in Africa!

 

See, I wasn't kidding! Sign proves it.

 

Before we left Lesotho, we got one last picture of the unbelievable view.

 

You can't beat that!

 

Well, sorry we’ve been so absent on our blog!  Life keeps moving fast for us over here. It’s hard to sit down and write about it when we feel like we’re just barely keeping up with living it.  But we’ll try to do a better job of keeping you all informed on our adventures!  Until next time… Jaspar

Published in: on October 17, 2010 at 9:15 pm  Comments (1)  

Goodbye World Cup! Say Hello to Sardines and Films!

The World Cup is over, and yet, we are not depressed!  Durban has been keeping the good things coming, but before I tell you about them, I want to share these pics from the final World Cup weekend at the beachfront fan park.

Moses Mabhida Stadium (the smaller version)

One of our favorite features of the World Cup celebration was the sand art.  The artists really got quite creative!

Nothing like creepy sand art!

Yep, safe sex is important even for sand people (Can you spot the condom?)

The fate of all unsuspecting visitors...

All kinds of things were happening on the beach—live music, dancing, cricket.

Zulu singers and dancers

Kale and beach cricket

Gum Boot Dancers! They slap their gum boots for percussion and kick their legs high!

A Massive Drum Circle—well, they're not actually in a circle. But look at all of them on those bleachers!

The beachfront was lined with vendors selling their wares.

The greatest gift of the World Cup was a new promenade on the main beachfront.  It goes on and on for many kilometers—beautiful, wide, and safe.  People have been out walking, biking, skateboarding, and marching in traditional Zulu clothing!


What’s super special about the promenade is that it goes right in front of Sun Coast Casino which houses a movie theater.  So while Durban’s Annual Film Festival is going on, Kale and I can park our car at the beach, walk to the movie theater, and then sit on the beach for a little while before walking back for the next film—which is what we did on Sunday.  The film festival is one of the exciting things that’s been happening in Durban post World Cup, and our first film on Sunday was a documentary about the plight of white farmers in Zimbabwe: “Mugabe and the White African.”  The protagonist was even present in the theater to answer questions after the showing, but when the tape started rolling, it was the wrong film!  One of Mugabe’s henchmen had switched the reels!  Or at least that’s what Kale and I decided happened.  It made us feel better to think of ourselves as the victims of some conspiracy instead of incompetence.  As a substitue, the audience had an informative and heated discussion with the protagonist, and then Kale and I left to walk on the beach and grab some dinner before the second feature.  That’s when we ran right into the sardine run!

Catch a fish with your hand? It's really that easy!

The sardines run up the South African coast every July.  And they are so numerous!  People were just wading in the water and grabbing them with their hands, filling buckets.  Fishermen had out their nets, and it was the best kind of fishing we’ve ever seen—a happy, free for all, celebration.  Women in full church dress up to their knees in the water, kids with fistfuls of silvery fish—if only we had come prepared with buckets and plastic bags!  Some people were even collecting fish in their shirts (ones they were still wearing)—but I don’t like the taste of sardines that much.

Channeling their victims into their nets!

A nice silvery, slithery pile!

All those people, and everyone was so happy! Is there such a thing as a happy mob?

As we stood in the water, getting our jeans wet, we could feel the waves pushing sardine bodies against our feet.  I’ll admit it, I screamed a little and moved my feet.  I was too squeamish to reach down and grab the tasty buggers.  Did I mention I have a fish phobia?  We finally got out of the water and walked farther up the beach to order some food that was already cooked.  Indian food.  Oh, it was so delicious!  Durban has the best Indian food, and it’s everywhere—probably what heaven will be like.

Happy Lepaks with a background of happy kite surfers

So, the post World Cup depression that all of the newscasters and radio DJs and journalists were warning us about has not even had a chance to poke us a little.  The film festival tracked down the Mugabe film, and we saw it on Tuesday: http://www.mugabeandthewhiteafrican.com.  It was brilliant!  What next for the Lepaks you ask?  This weekend we are off to see five more films, go to two braais (South African for barbecue), and maybe even sleep a little.


Published in: on July 28, 2010 at 9:41 pm  Comments (2)  

Soccer

This weekend, Jaspar and I went out of town to celebrate our third year wedding anniversary.  We reserved a chalet on the Umzimkulu River, near the southern edge of the Drakensberg Mountains, and about 2 1/2 hours from Durban.  It was very relaxing and beautiful, and good to get away from the World Cup chaos for a little while.

…But I was able to go to a World Cup match a week ago, and thought I should share a few pictures.  In a week’s time, it will all be over and most of us will resume our normal life.  It’s funny…I had no interest in soccer before a few weeks ago, but these last few weeks, I’ve repeatedly found myself passionately breaking down the nuances of games with the most unlikely people.

Every Friday afternoon at work for the last few months we've all worn our SA soccer jerseys. For the first game against Mexico, Jaspar came to my work and joined in the fun.

The city really did a great job of developing the city beach front to make it a place people actually wanted to go to.  For the past month, it has been the place to be, with much entertainment and activities to go with the soccer madness.

The game I went to a week ago saw the Dutch defeat Slovakia 2-1.  I didn’t wear any team colours or costumes, but because I wasn’t wearing any branded clothing of a company not sponsoring the World Cup, they let me in.  (FIFA runs a tight ship)

To say the atmosphere and energy was impressive would be a huge understatement.  The stadium, the sounds, the fans, the costumes…who cares about the game anyway?

…well, we do, actually.  It’s been fun.

Published in: on July 5, 2010 at 9:56 pm  Leave a Comment  

Jessie Belle Sees Lions! Our Trip to Swaziland and Kruger

At the end of May, my friend Jessie came to visit, and she wanted to see lions.   For months, she had been sending me short reminder emails:  “I heart lions!”  “I really love lions!”  “I can’t wait to see lions!”  She was making me nervous.  Seeing lions in the wild isn’t something you can make happen out of desire: that’s the fun of an African safari.  You’re not going to the zoo: you’re driving around the bush.  Kale and I hoped that with four nights booked in Kruger National Park, Jessie would get to see her lions.

Jessie Belle on her African adventure!!!

In order to get to Kruger (which is inhabits the NE part of South Africa, covering a space the size of Israel), we had to drive through Swaziland!  Swaziland is surrounded by South Africa on the north, south, and west, and by Mozambique on the east. It is well-known for its practice of polygamy—with King Mswati III and his 13 wives leading the way!

We arrived in Swaziland early afternoon, got our passports stamped, and then a few kilometers after crossing the border, we were pulled over by a police blockade.  The officer looked over my license with a smug, impenetrable expression, and then walked slowly around to the passenger side of the vehicle.  “You are not wearing your seatbelt,” he said to Jessie.  “That is an offense.”   Jessie was charged 20 rand (about $3).  She said the exchange with the officer was worth the 20 Rand, any day.

On our way into Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary

After settling into our rondoval in Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary, we decided to take the night road out of the park to Swaziland’s famous music venue, House on Fire.  A band from Lesotho was on the bill for the evening, but when we arrived, the place was locked and dark.  Not to let our spirits fade, we decided to hit up Malendela’s Restaurant next door: an Irish pub that served Guinness.  If drinking Guinness in the middle of Swaziland wasn’t strange enough, look what Kale found in the men’s toilet!

A very famous urinal...

Kale and Jimmy peed in the same place!

The next morning, we woke up to a beautiful sunrise, and off we went!

Sondzela Backpacker's

Our first stop was Swaziland’s natural hot springs, cutely named the Cuddle Puddle. We drank freshly squeezed juice in the deliciously warm water, and after an hour, had to drag ourselves out of the puddle to get some shopping in before we drove the last two hours to Kruger.

The Cuddle Puddle

Swaziland craft market

Kruger is very strict about getting into the gate by a certain time: if you’re late, they either charge you a hefty fine, or they don’t let you in at all!  This became a bit of a problem when we accidentally took a very rustic road out of Swaziland, bumping around on rocks and red dirt at 20-30k’s per hour.  When we finally reached the exit border post, the patrol officers asked to search our car because they were bored!  We opened the trunk, and one of them asked if that was really a guitar in the case, and so I opened it up, and the head patrol officer started chatting with me about music.  “What do you play?  What’s your name?  Do you have any CDs?  We’d love it if you would teach us a song…” “I’m sorry,” I said, “but we are trying to get to Kruger before the gates close, and we’re kind of in a hurry.”  Jessie’s and Kale’s jaws dropped.  They couldn’t believe I had talked to a patrol officer like that!  But it was a good thing I had: we made it to Kruger just in time!

We only had a half an hour to check in and drive the 20k’s to our rest camp. Suddenly, there was a traffic jam of cars in the middle of the road.  I had just finished reading the Kruger rules: “Stay on the side of the road where the siting is so as to let other drivers pass on the opposite side.”  Cars were on both sides.  I was so mad! We weren’t going to make it to camp! And then the lady in the truck in front of us pulled over to let us sneak forward.  “Lions,” she whispered.  And that’s when we saw them.

Lions in love!

Lioness turns from her lover to stare at us!

Now, not everyone believes in the power of the heart as much as I do, but Jessie’s desire to see to lions materialized in the first five minutes!  That’s unbelievable.  And you never get that close to lions.  It was scary driving past them!  We were told later that when lions mate, they pick a place and stay put for four to five days, not eating, not drinking, only mating.  Lucky for us, these two picked the side of the road!

We saw many other gorgeous animals over the next few days.

Well, beauty is subjective


When eating a picnic lunch, know what's hanging above you.

Yep, he's totally eating a tree branch. Yum!

A true beauty, the Lilac-breasted Roller

The mating lions

On our second night, we took a guided night drive that brought us back to the lions. We didn’t see them at first because we were watching an elephant, but then someone’s flashlight swung low, and there were our lions, hiding in the grass! When the elephant got too close, they hopped up, and began mating a litte ways down the road! I was too shocked to get that part on camera.  What a roar!

A family of giraffe

I love Kruger!

Hello hippo!

Our little hut at Berg-en-dal

We decided to take some of Kruger home with us

We had thought that four nights was a lot to spend in one place, but we could have spent weeks driving around Kruger.  It was such an adventure.  And to celebrate our departure, the resident vervet monkeys decided to say goodbye by coming inside our cabin!  Kale was frying bacon.  I opened the door for just a second, and all of a sudden two monkeys squeezed their way through the crack.  One stole an orange from the fruitbowl after jumping into the sliced-up avocado that was waiting on the counter for the bacon.  (Ever heard of avo and bacon on toast?  Delicious!)  The other one sat on a ceiling beam, staring down at us—”Can I grab an orange too before I make my exit?”  Luckily, it jumped out the door without the orange, and we slammed it shut.  Avocado was smeared everywhere!  Fortunately, we had another one.

Goodbye Kruger and Jessie Bell!  We will be seeing both of you again soon!

Published in: on June 15, 2010 at 10:18 pm  Comments (2)  

World Cup 2010

Well, it’s been a long time since I posted last, but I’m going to try to renew my commitment to keeping this blog updated more regularly.  Just a week ago we returned from a great trip to Swaziland and Kruger Park.  Unfortunately, we had a bit of bad luck this week with a small mishap with our Toyota Tazz, which is leaving us carless for a few weeks.  But we will creatively cope, and I’m even learning the art of catching the minibus taxis.

But the real thing I want to write about is 2010.  On January 1, naturally a new year began, but here in South Africa, “twenty-ten” has still not arrived.  Here, 2010 is synonymous with the World Cup and until now, has always been referred to as this upcoming event.  I’ve caught the fever myself; I wear my Bafana Bafana shirt every Friday, I fly a South African flag in my car window, and I am on the brink of buying a vuvuzela!

The vuvuzela will take the world by storm over the next month.  It is a long plastic trumpet that, when blown at you, will scramble your brain and make you wet yourself.  There had been talk about getting them banned for the World Cup because of the distraction they cause the players on the field, but throwing the players into a state of confusion is the only way the South African team has a chance of winning (or tying) a game at all.

I have been able to go to two games over the past several months at the beautiful new stadium, and they have been great experiences and very different than American sports games.

  • Instead of hearing rally crys or an equivalent of the folksy “Take Me Out to the Ballgame,” during breaks in action, they were instead filled with hip hop and techno music blaring from the speakers, bringing much of the audience to their feet to dance along.
  • Any organic roar of the crowd was drowned out by the perpetuating buzz of vuvuzelas.
  • A trip to the concession stand made me start to think that lines are a “Western” thing.  After 20 minutes in a mosh pit trying to reach the counter, I went back to my seat hungry, thirsty, and nearly without my wallet.

And if that wasn’t enough, we had another TIA (This Is Africa) moment when the power went down and most the lights went out for 20 minutes during the game.  But none of this is to say that there is any doubt on my part that the World Cup won’t be a tremendous success.  It’s going to be an exciting month.

Published in: on June 6, 2010 at 8:29 pm  Comments (3)  

Kaelyn comes to Durban. With more animal pictures!

For three weeks in March we had our first visitor.  My sister Kaelyn braved the 24 plus hours of flights and layovers to get from Phoenix to Durban.  “I didn’t realize it was really going to be that long!” she said when we found her in the baggage claim.  Oh yes, you prospective visitors, it really is.

The brave pioneer!

On her first weekend, our new friends Derek and Kelly took us on an overnight trip to the game reserve Hluhluwe (pronounced Sha-Shloo-ee by the white people who can’t do the throaty cough-up sound for the H and the L).  Staying overnight in the bush was a first for Kale, Kaelyn, and I, but for Derek and Kelly,  this was just another weekend of many spent searching for the big five (lion, leopard, elephant, rhino, and buffalo).

You have to really look for the animals.

We left early Saturday morning and arrived at the park about 11am.  Late morning and afternoon are not the best times to see the animals, so on our first day, we caught sight of a few far away rhino, a warthog or two, and a lonely crocodile (which I spotted sunning itself on a rock—I’m very good at spotting crocs!)

He might look big, but he was just a wee little thing.

Then, nearing the end of our four hour drive, we came across a group of zebras hanging out in the middle of the road.  They were beautiful!  One zebra was pregnant, and we could see that she had recently escaped the claws of a big cat!  Healed cuts ran across her belly and her tail was barely attached.

A middle of the road find.

Ouch! This mama's a survivor!

We returned before dusk to our rented chalet, basic and lovely with a kitchen, two bedrooms, a living room, and a braai facility just off the back porch.  As we were cooking sausages, chicken breasts, and lamb chops on the braai (yes, we were really cooking meat outdoors and unfenced in the land where lion and leopard tread), we noticed how absolutely gorgeous the sky looked as the sun set, and so we walked a  few feet away from the braai to get a better view.  “Do you hear that?” Derek asked.  Chomp.  Chomp.  Chomp. “Listen.”  Chomp.  Chomp.  Chomp. And then he pointed.  Not 50 yards away were three zebras, gnawing on some grass.

A beautiful sunset in the bush.

Our friends and tour guides, Derek and Kelly

As the meat sizzled away and the night grew dark, I got a little jumpy in my flipflops.  Animal attacks are extremely rare in the game reserves, but not long ago at our very camp sight, a lone braai-er had his back turned to the night when a leopard jumped out and pulled his scalp off!  The man lived actually.  But I wish no one had told me this story.   I urged everyone to hurry up and get the meat inside, and so we did.  We ate, played Settlers of Catan, and went to bed early—listening to the sound of a hyena laughing at the night.

Derek and Kale, sitting on the braai before they lit the coals, scalps intact.

The next morning we were on the road just after 5am. The odds were in our favour because the sky was gray, hinting rain, and the air was cool: perfect weather for animals to be on the move.  The first thing we spotted were elephant droppings—loads and loads of elephant droppings, and the trees and brush on both sides of the road looked like King Kong had just come through in a stomping fit.  We were on the trail of the elephant!  We followed the poop, and suddenly, there he was.

We continued driving and saw so many animals!  Wildebeast, impala, more zebra, giraffe, warthogs, and even a rhino.  When we got out of the car at a lookout point, Derek began bragging to another gamer about our elephant.  “But did you see the lions?” the man asked.  “Lions?” Derek had definitely lost the contest.  We jumped back into the car and drove as fast as we could to the place where the man had seen the lions.  Two cars were parked there watching.  We pulled up behind the second one and got out the binoculars.  We spotted a family of lions in the distance.  We could make out the faces of three females and one male in the grass but their faces were very tiny.  The other two cars restarted and drove away.  Derek said he had a good feeling that we would see something if sat still.  So we did.  And that’s when everythings started to happen!  Kaelyn spotted a hyena in the bush quite close to us.  “There’s another one!” Kale shouted.

Did you know hyenas were this adorable?

“I bet there’s a kill right behind that tree!”  Kelly said, and she pointed out the vultures circling in the sky.  The tree was maybe ten yards from where we were parked.  “Drive in.”  Kelly commanded, and Derek inched his way off the road into uncharted territory.  We drove to the side of the tree and spotted a huge carcass, licked clean.  A wildebeast, we thought, and then Derek backed the car back onto the road, not wanting to get us into an uncomfortable situation.  We sat.  We watched the hyena.  Then we saw another hyena.  Then we saw another hyena.  Then we saw a hyena carry one of the wildebeasts legs right across the road!  Then we saw another hyena carry another leg across the road!  Then we saw another hyena carry another leg across the road!  All four legs of that wildebeast went past our van in the mouths of these spotted dogs.

The first leg goes across the road!

And there goes the second, angling the leg to look like a pirate!

Then we noticed that the lions were on the move.  We drove along the road to where it curved and soon enough, all four lions crossed the road in front of our car.  They weren’t as close as the hyena, but still, Kaelyn especially got some great pictures on her fancy camera.

What a sexy lady!

We continued to follow them to a watering hole.

Wildebeast makes us thirsty!

Two hours and we had seen a bull elephant, hyenas, and lions.  We decided to head back to the chalet to pack up, and that’s when we saw another elephant!  It was gorgoeus, in motion, walking right out of the bush towards the road.  We stopped the car, and the car that had told us about the lions pulled up next to us.  As Derek was telling the man about the hyenas taking away the legs of the wildebeast, the elephant got very close to the car and trumpeted at us!  It wanted us to move!  The other car sped off and that’s when Derek stalled our van.  Everyone screamed.  Derek restarted the car, and we sped out of there, the elephant waving its trunk behind us.

Really, he was only mock charging.

“Oh, my god.  Oh my god.  I can’t believe . . .” Derek got on his cell phone to brag to one of his friends about what we had just seen, and would you believe it?  Just as he was saying that an elephant trumpeted at us, a cheetah ran right in front of our car!  A cheetah!  Another rare sight!

The cheetah was too fast to get on camera, but here's a mama baboon with a baby on her back, running like a cheetah.

When we got back to the chalet, we made breakfast and packed up.  What a morning!

Yum! Steamy instant coffee in the bush!

On a final note, Kaelyn went outside with a load to pile into the car and noticed an entire clan of warthogs moving toward us.  She got out her camera and positioned herself so dang close to those warthogs I had to cover my eyes.  They are not kittens, Kaelyn!  But it turned out all right.

That baby warthog is about to charge my little sister!

Every South African we have told about the morning’s adventures has kindly informed us that will never have a morning like that again.  We were really lucky.   And particulary lucky to have my visual artist sister taking pictures of the whole thing. Thanks Kaelyn!

Published in: on April 9, 2010 at 7:36 pm  Comments (2)  

The daily lives of the Lepaks. With animal pictures!

It’s been a few weeks since we posted an update, so I thought I would write a longer one describing our daily lives here—what Kale and I have been up to instead of blogging—and then show you some animals from our trip to the game park, Umfolozi.

Life has been very busy.  Kale’s research team is understaffed and the work load has been heavier than usual.  Apparently, it’s hard to keep good workers in South Africa.  They call it “brain drain.”  Brainy people leave because more money can be made elsewhere.  In addition to brain drain, people in Durban tend to think that their lives have multiple elements—and work is not the most important one! Maybe it’s the nearness of the ocean (every male here is a surfer), but people with jobs don’t even bat an eye at taking off for long, cool vacations.  Kale’s manager just left for three months—to Australia, Thailand, and Vietnam!  This leaves even more work responsibilities for Kale, but it also puts a nice perspective on life.  We are in the midst of planning some exciting vacations of our own (more like week long vacations.  Three months: can you imagine?)

I, on the other hand, have been busy preparing my CD “Send Me Home” to go to print next week in Minneapolis.  I did a crash course in Adobe Photoshop with internet tutorials to create the artwork, and I also did a crash course with garageband to record an ode to Minneapolis which is a last minute song add to the CD.  (Don’t get any ideas, though.  This CD is anything but a crash course—it has been in the works now for over a year!)  I am so excited “Minneapolis” has a home.  Well, it is a home.  It’s my home.  I’ve really been missing it these days.

This brings me to the next part of daily life: missing family and friends.  Now that we’re over the shock of arriving and have settled into a routine, the missing part has had room to creep in.  We’ve been meeting incredibly friendly and interesting people in Durban, but meeting new people all the time becomes exhausting!  “Hi, this is me,” over and over and over and again.  “Where are the people who already know me?”  Oh yeah, reading this blog on the other side of the ocean.  The only new friends with whom I’ve reached a certain level of intimacy are the mosquitos that visit me every late afternoon on the patio.  It’s a regular family gathering, and they leave me with more love bites than any past boyfriend or current husband.

So our days now consist of patterns.  We wake up to the sounds of African birds every morning (this isn’t as peaceful as it sounds—some of them are mean little squawkers!),  then, if we are motivated, we walk around our neighborhood, and sometimes, like on this particular morning, we stop at a bakery for chocolate and cinnamon croissants or a meat pie.  (Yes, I said meat pie.  They are like hotdogs here, sold everywhere, and extremely delicious: flaky pastry and Indian spices!).  Then Kale gets ready for work while I get ready for work too except I don’t get paid or have to drive anywhere or have anyone telling me what to do.  It’s a pretty nice job.  I don’t even have to look nice, although, I’ve noticed that I work better if I put real clothes on.  I spend the mornings practicing guitar and writing songs and the afternoons reading, writing prose, and emailing, while Kale puts together marketing proposals and client presentations and sometimes buys a samoosa or two from the lady who comes around with them every day during lunch (samoosa is spelled with two “o’s” here).  Sometime in the afternoon I go for a walk down to the main neighborhood intersection (the one with the bakery, but I don’t always go to the bakery), and on Tuesdays, I buy a paper because Tuesday has the week’s music column.  Kale and I go out to hear live music about once a week, and twice a week, we go to the gym.  The gym is called Virgin Active, and we have almost gotten over the hilarity of the name.  Our favorite part of Virgin Active are the Finnish saunas in the locker-rooms.  However, it’s a more pleasant experience for me because the women are usually toweled (the men love being naked) and the women don’t yell at me about sauna etiquette—which some guy did to Kale a few weeks ago.  Apparently, Kale poured a little too much water on the rocks and the guy said, “Hey, you can’t just come in here and pour more water on the rocks.  It’s sauna etiquette for the person who’s been in the sauna the longest to decide how much water is allowed.”  To which Kale replied, “If you don’t want to sweat, don’t use the sauna.”  (I’m paraphrasing with a little added edge.)

Our most tortuous weekly routine is a weekend visit to “Hyper by the Sea.”  Hyper by the Sea is like Walmart on steroids.  We tried to take a picture of it for you, but the camera couldn’t capture it’s outrageous expanse.  Just imagine standing at one end of Walmart and looking through five Walmarts lined up next to each other in one long rectangle.  Rows and rows as far as the eye can see with home repair on one end, groceries on the other, and everything else in between.  And it  is packed!  Navigating is like changing lanes in south Mpls!  You know what I’m talking about, swerving back and forth so that you don’t get stuck behind a car turning left or a bus stopping on the right, only this is with grocery carts.  Madness.  Pure and utter madness!  The reason we shop at Hyper is because it’s very close by and because our health care plan gives us a 25% discount an all of the healthy food items that we purchase from there.  They actually put the money right back into our bank account at the end of the month which is awesome because food is expensive!  We’ve finally gotten familiar with Hyper’s layout so that we don’t end of walking a few miles while pushing a grocery cart.  “Brace yourself,” I say to Kale as we walk across the parking lot to one if its six sets of doors.

The only other regular routine in our lives is the library.  We love the library.  It’s a five minute walk away, and we check out a DVD every week.  Limited selection, but who cares?  We haven’t made our way through it yet.  (Oh, and we also check out books.)

Well, there you have it.  Our life for right now.  I have also been playing a few gigs and loving my guitar lessons, but I’ll save a music blog for another time.  For now, (if you can take any more), onto the animals!

Umfolozi is a game park about a two hour drive from us, and lucky for us, we had the friendliest tour guides for our first visit.  Kale’s parents put us in touch with a couple from their church who live fifteen minutes from Umfolozi’s entrance.  Kenny and Annita invited us for the weekend, fed us deliciously, and brought us really close to all of the animals that could eat us in return if they wanted to.  The craziest part at the game park was when Kenny pointed out the window at a dinosaur!  Or, at least that’s what I thought it was.  After the game park, they took us to the nearby town of St. Lucia where hippos and crocodiles just hang out in the river.  It’s so weird!  Imagine driving to a park, parking your car, and then walking down to the beach not too many steps away, and boom: a family of hippos is splashing in the water and there are five crocs hanging out on a sandbar next to them.  “Um, there are no fences,” I said to Kale, Kenny, and Annita.  “Nope,” they all shook their heads, and then Kenny proceeded to tell us two stories about people getting dragged away in the night by crocs when they went fishing down by the river.  “Never go fishing at night down by the river.”  Well, I thought that one was obvious.  But then he told us the story of hippos crossing the highways at night, and how a person can just be driving along, when wham, their car slams into a hippo.  That is some mighty roadkill.

Well, enjoy these live animals that we caught on camera.  I keep wanting to post pictures of monkeys but I have tried and tried to capture them and they keeping running away!  One of these days, I’ll catch them after a fruit binge when their eyes are all goggled over and their bellies are cemented to the ground.  This is also how you will find me after a trip to the bakery and my own meat pie.

Our trip to see the animals. . .

The first animal we saw! She was a beauty!

Impala breed like rabbits! We saw hundreds and hundreds.

That’s a big rhino!

Yep, it's a dinosaur!

Zebra stripes are like human thumbprints. Every zebra is one of a kind!

Mama zebra and baby zebra. But what I want to know is, did the mohawk originate with the zebra?

Warthogs

Does my smile contain some apprehension?

Kale, of course, thinks the whole thing is hilarious.

There's so much variety in croc and hippo signs these days.

Our animal weekend finished with a boat ride around Richard's Bay. Kale caught a cap! (I always knew he was a great fisherman.)

Published in: on February 9, 2010 at 5:27 pm  Comments (3)  

What’s in a name?

This weekend we plan to go to a national park to see all the big animals that draw most people to visit Africa.  So hopefully our next entry will include some cool photos.  But I have included a some here as well.  Last Sunday we spent some time on a beach north of Durban.  Jaspar collected many shells and I fed grapes to the little crabs http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgID_CpOxHU.  We are hoping to spend more time on the beach in the weeks to come.

 A few days ago, Jaspar declared that she would officially begin calling the street we live on ‘Adelaide Tambo’.  At risk of causing confusion when telling people where we live, or perhaps coming across as obnoxious to some, I will join her in this effort.  It is, afterall, the actual street name.  Durban has undergone waves of street name changes, from Anglo names, like Fisher Street and Williams Road, to African names like Dr Langalibalele Dube Street and Khuzimpi Shezi Road.  This was a sudden and controversial move that has incited many locals, and has led the name-changing process to become a small talk topic of choice, rivalled only perhaps by the weather and the World Cup.  Most of the old name signs were taken down or crossed out by the city, and replaced by the new names.  Soon after this was done, the new street signs were defaced and blacked out by the angry hardliners.  This made it incredibly difficult for us to find places when we first came here, because the signs were illegible, and the map we were using referred to the old names anyway.  But there are other problems…er…Problem.  As in Problem Mkhize.  This man overcame the misfortune of his troublesome name in becoming a trade unionist and eventual honorand of a prominent road that winds through a “lekker” (cool) part of town.  As you may expect, this didn’t exactly thrill business owners who became worried the association will have negative effects on the perceptions of their business.

Published in: on January 22, 2010 at 4:49 pm  Leave a Comment  

Our New Pets

  

Shongololo

I finally took some pictures of some of our new pets—or unwanted house guests.  This shongololo was between 15 and 20 centimeters long.  The shongololo is a common feature in Durban. It scuttles and scurries across the ground, but if you touch a shongololo, it will curl up into a nice tight coil.  This one is obviously between those two actions.  I think I would be more afraid of them if they had eyes. Really, they are just a nuisance because when I hear them going through the grass, I think: snake!

A snail as big as my fist

Kale and I almost stepped on this snail one night coming home from the gym.  It’s shell was the size of a child’s fist. Can you imagine the awful sound if one of us had stepped on it?  Oh, and the slime! The slime!

One by drowning, one by cat, and one by Doom!

So, yes, I collected dead cockroaches and took pictures of them because I am a brave woman.  Kale makes me catch them and kill them because they make him squeal, but luckily, I only killed one of these— with the spray insecticide.  With the other two I had some help.   Below, you can get a better idea of how big they actually are.  They might make you squeal too!

Flying Cockroaches to Scale

The Dassie Rat is as big as a cat!

In the Drakensberg, we were introduced to this animal: the dassie rat.  There were over thirty of them living in the long line of bushes outside the cottage that our new friends rented for New Year’s.  The dassies came out in the late afternoon and just stared at us like they knew something that we didn’t. Our friend’s daughter fed them bread pieces and they got so close!  They stink like monkeys.

Is the dassie's closest relative the grizzly bear? Nope, it's the elephant.

I decided I would sedate them with some relaxing folk music.

They like it when you sing to them.

Published in: on January 11, 2010 at 10:46 pm  Comments (3)  
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