Tag: Pilates

Field of canola blooms

Why We Travel … Ah, but both our lands are beautiful …

Oliver on top of Table Mountain, South Africa's Empire State Building.
Oliver on top of Table Mountain, South Africa’s Empire State Building.

It was finally cool enough this week to hold my laptop in, yes, my lap. Love your comments and questions … keep ’em coming … by email please.

First, a bit of common histories between the Republic of South Africa (SA) and the United States of America (US):

Europeans – namely Portuguese – discovered both the southern tip of South Africa and the southern island of America while looking for a way to spices of India in the late 15th century.

Bartholomew Diaz rounded the Cape of Good Hope in 1487, looking for India.

Christopher Columbus landed on the Bahamian Long Island (a great SCUBA destination, if you prefer great grey groupers to great white sharks), looking for India.

Vasco da Gama actually got to India not long after… Howard and I can show you where he landed, where he was buried, and immerse you in spices and tales of ancient Jews who pursued the spice trade an incredible 2500 years earlier – details here.

Europeans nearly wiped out the aboriginal San people; Europeans did that to the Native Americans, too.

Two weeks ago, Aenki Kassie, one of the last three people to speak the oldest surviving San language, died of chicken pox in Upington in the north of South Africa at the age of 71. She was of the Khomani people of the Kalahari Desert. Her N/uu language is the last of the !Ui language family, which was aboriginal to South Africa, and is represented by the Xam language used on the national motto: ǃke e: ǀxarra ǁke (diverse people unite.)

Jessie Little Doe, a Cape Cod social worker and member of the Wampanoag tribe has been working recently at MIT to reclaim her ancestors’ extinct and until recently incomprehensible language. (See documentary “We Still Live Here” for her amazing story.)

In the mid-17th century, the Dutch sent their ships around the world looking for spices and treasure, and established what were to be enduring settlements at the southern tip of Manhattan and the southern tip of Africa.

Both settlements “employed” and traded slaves. Slavery was abolished in South Africa in 1834 but not until 1865 in the US. In some ways, it still continues in both places.

Britain colonized the Cape beginning in 1795. (She needed to replace tax revenues after losing the American colonies in 1783.) On arrival, Britain drove the Dutch out of New York and the Boers out of the Cape. So we both survived British colonial bullying.

In the 19th century the Boers trekked east and north while American pioneers trekked west.

The Zulus defeated the British in the last quarter of the 19th century, while a century earlier, the French helped the Americans defeat the British.

The British defeated the Boers (local white SA farmers), winning important mineral rights, among others in the early 20th century.

Back in the mid-19th century, both countries saw mineral rushes – gold and diamonds financed the development of SA – gold provided riches for many in the US. The US dollar has replaced the gold standard; the rand is still in SA today, but no longer backed by gold.

And some cultural comparisons:

Main language in SA is English – but there is a surprising amount of Afrikaans at home. English is the main language in the US, too, but a surprising amount of Spanish is spoken at home. Most South Africans are bi or tri lingual – 11 official, plus signing. If some have their way, Zulu or Xhosa (extra credit for the click!) will replace Afrikaans as number two. Some say Spanish will be the official US language before long.

Racism lives everywhere in both places – in SA it seems to be more openly discussed. In the just-ended “festive season,” alleged racist talk was reported on the front pages of SA newspapers – about the beaches, in bank economic presentations, and on SABC news casts. And in our (granted) still-limited experience, segregation still lives. In the sports events, theater performances, restaurants, farmers markets, and outdoor festivals that we have attended, non-whites are rarely seen. Some would say it’s economically induced… There’s a free opening concert for the Darling music festival this Friday night – I will report to you next month who was there and what excuse was used this time by those who were not.

Guns:

Everyone asks us … Aren’t we afraid to travel in South Africa, let alone live here?

Fact: the highest gun ownership by far in the world at 113 per 100 homes is in the US; there are fewer than 8 per 100 in South Africa. Why the bad rep for South Africa? Enough said.

Good news for both countries (and Trevor Noah!)

Trevor’s Daily Show ratings are increasing. Now Americans can finally learn something about South Africa; South Africans already know much more about America. (For a fabulous insiders’ South African reading list, we might have to charge you.)

Festive season vs holiday season:

To begin, it’s a 4 week work holiday in SA vs 3 days in US. In SA, there are far fewer decorations and significantly less gift giving, thank goodness.

I know that the festive season falls in the SA summer, which explains long holidays, but come on – government regulation requires at least 2 weeks paid vacation – how much does the US government guarantee?

Year-end holiday traffic:

We’ve both got it! Americans go to FL vs SA’s going to Mozambique on two-lane highways with speed limits that slow you down from 100k’s to 40 k’s within about 100 yards, complete with camera-triggered police stops writing tickets for huge pay on the spot fines (and unofficial lower rates if you can get along without a receipt) when you miss one.

Ah, but our land is beautiful.
Ah, but this land is beautiful.

Ah, but our lands are beautiful.

Endless open roads, awesome mountains, two ocean coastlines and uninterrupted white sand beaches, straight highways across plains that go on forever before finally a curve … Some day we will actually get to drive across the US the way we have driven four times across SA.

Here in SA, water is lacking everywhere …

It is the driest year in SA in recorded history. Insects and snakes are invading houses looking for water and food. There is no water to grow corn and wheat and other staples, or to feed the animals. Food must now be imported at ever higher prices, impacting mainly on the poor who spend 50% + of their income on food already.

Democracy?

Both our constitutional democracies started with revolutions; both cry for good leaders to keep them going?

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.” ― Alexis de Tocqueville

In Democracy in America, de Tocqueville based his US travels upon the year 1831. Change United States to South Africa … change the date to 2016! And, add good women candidates in both, too! I wonder what would de Tocqueville have written had he visited SA?

SA has its Zulu-loving Zuma and the US has its anti-humanity Republicans.

Both constitutions support “free speech,” but how is that defined? What’s acceptable to our societies? Are people in SA freer to speak their minds? Will it jail people for homophobic, racist speech?

Both have a two party system. SA has two major parties – the ANC and the Democratic Alliance. In US, of course, we have Republicans and Democrats. It’s ironic that the ANC, the original freedom fighters (and sometimes communists), are now behaving like Republicans, who behave like the SA pre-1994 Nationalists. We won’t get into Republican goals now – we know them well. People say the ANC keeps all SA tax receipts for its members through inflated cronyism and corruption – and is the reason SA isn’t making sufficient progress in education, housing, infrastructure, and the overall economy. President Mandela hired a purposely diverse staff – Zuma hires Zulus.

On human rights …

Happily, two abortion foes were indicted recently (1.25.16) in the US – the beginning of the end of using malicious misleading media to change public opinion? “These people broke the law to spread malicious lies about Planned Parenthood in order to advance their extreme anti-abortion political agenda,”  Eric Ferrero, a spokesman for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said.

SA was the first to allow gay marriage. All people are protected by its 20 year old constitution. Sometimes, the US treats human rights like driving rights – every jurisdiction decides who can make a right had turn, who can pass on the left, who on the right … who will die by electric chair, who will spend a life in jail. Nothing much has changed – states’ rights rule.

And our economies …

SA and US are both first world and third world, with extreme class and economic disparities. US has a dwindling middle class – SA’s is hopefully growing. Will the US be reduced to developing world status? I’m not sure of the definition but it could happen. Anyway, what’s in a label?

Trade subsidies by US to SA nearly came to a halt because some negotiator in SA didn’t want SA to be known as a developing or third world nation. Third world status is required by the US to grant certain trade subsidies. Just think if this immense pride causes all that wonderful South African wine to go up in price in the US! Horrors.

The US government prefers to hide its economic problems – in SA, threat of recession makes government-released headlines seemingly daily.

We both measure job creation. Are new SA subsistence-paying jobs at MacDonald’s, Walmart or newly arrived Starbucks any better than the same in the US? None can support a family.

Good news, perhaps, SA farm workers have just had a minimum wage increase – to something like $1 per hour – bad news – wine may have to be more expensive, here, too!

What happens if illegal farm labor in the US become legal? Who will pay the increased cost of labor – and our food supply? What will cost more – legal pay for legal work or border fences? The cost of our NY and California wines just might go up. More horrors.

China …

Both economies depend on it. The Chinese buy half of SA’s wine exports; Americans would have nothing to buy (well, I’m exaggerating a bit) if China stopped producing cheap goods. And with the Chinese economy slow down (if you can call 8% slow growth), it may stop buying all that wine – and natural resources – from SA. (Actually, if you ever saw all the grapes growing up near the Orange River near Upington, you would realize that grapes are a natural resource, too, sold by the huge cardboard containers for who knows what use? Remember Gallo?)

And a few random social issues:

Both countries have unfortunate “no child left behind” curricula leading to sub-standard education programs in many geographic areas. Both countries are playing catch up from its racist pasts and presents. De-facto segregation leading to inferior education still exists in both. Is it any surprise that the most successful schools are in the wealthy zip and postal codes and not in the inner city neighborhoods and townships?

Prisons – do we both lock up politicians or only criminals? Perhaps the US doesn’t have a history of jailing as many people for treason or revolution …

One interesting difference – Trials are decided by judges in SA rather than by juries. Might it stem from the relatively small number of available jurists in a country that until recently only allowed non-whites to vote? Can it be judges and juries might be racially biased, regardless?

Sexual inequality? Lots of that in both places – I’m actually not sure which country provides more opportunity, or lack thereof, for women. A recent study by PwC in SA reports that SA women earn 28% lower reportable income that men; I leave it to Catalyst to do the same reporting in the US. The numbers are probably very similar.

And on a lighter note:

Let's eat! ... New York or Cape Town? The food looks just as good.
New York or Cape Town?

Both SA and US have their share of foodies – not sure where there are more. Cape Town seems to open a new restaurant every week.

And both have their share of hipsters. They don’t dress up much here – but they do love their pork pie hats … baristas, mixologists, craft beers and, of course, local wines.

And since we’re talking food – both countries have bagels, pastrami, coca cola, good local gin and Schweppes tonic – only in South Africa, they all cost us Americans only half as much.

Iris's fabulous South African blonde Pilates instructor at Stellenberg Gardens, Cape Town.
My fabulous South African blonde Pilates instructor at Stellenberg Gardens, Cape Town.

Women in SA have the healthiest looking bodies and the most gorgeous long blonde hair I have ever seen, anywhere.

Even with Pilates and yoga 4 times a week, and the wonderful hairdresser I discovered in Cape Town, I will never ever catch up.

And finally, a reminder of the weekend that just ended – when the US has snow blizzards, SA has blizzards of heat and wind.

Dear friends, when you finish digging out, come see for yourselves. It takes less time than you think – perhaps even less time than it took to read my blog.

Oliver teaching in the Darling township.

Why We Travel – more from SA, where it’s not all that different…

Well, so much for trying to do what we don’t do at home – we’ve actually had a pretty normal month.

View from the Robben Island boat. Usually back before sunset, but the captain decided to chase whales on the way. Fine with everyone but us ... we had reservations at Mama Afrika to hear my favorite Abavuki. 
View from the Robben Island boat. Usually back before sunset, but the captain decided to chase whales on the way. Fine with everyone but us … we had reservations at Mama Afrika to hear my favorite Abavuki.

Spent a morning buying tickets to the 11th Darling Music Experience – classical music with a twist… 2 weeks in late January/February… kind of like the Voorkamerfest we attended in early September. Interesting music in interesting venues… the local toffee (yes toffee) shop, a 200 year-old local winery, the local San Cultural center, the new brewery, a tent on the beachfront above the Atlantic Ocean… even doing a new version of a Mozart opera at Evita Se Perron, home of Pieter-Dirk Uys.

We were invited to a pop-up lunch last Sunday a few blocks away at the home of our local news publisher, the Darling Dorpskoerant. Among those attending: a senior official of the Municipality of which Darling is a part and his wife, Indians, here in SA for many generations, originally from Gujarat State in India. Their families were targets of apartheid… removed from District Six in central Cape Town as young children by the authorities that wanted the area for white people. Much of the talk at lunch was about how to get people on both sides of the tracks to come together over music of the Darling Music Experience. It’s still very much a ‘we vs they’… Is it really that they can’t afford to pay for the events, or is it something else?

Oliver teaching in the Darling township.
Oliver teaching in the Darling township.

And a highlight of the past month – we attended a concert by students of Music for All, sponsored by the Darling Music Experience. At the performance, the astoundingly good percussion group was missing its youngest drummer – a six-year-old who was in the hospital recovering from a serious dog bite.

Our son Oliver, also a drummer, went to the boy’s house in the township (the local word for an area of a town whose residents are not white – an apartheid remnant term) twice and gave him a lesson – and a new snare drum. What smiles on so many faces! The group will be performing at the opening of the Darling Music Experience – the 6 year old as well.

Thanksgiving in Cape Town

Thanksgiving was about as close to American as we could get, given the limited time we had to get Oliver a turkey. Instead of traveling 40 miles each way to Cape Town to buy a turkey (and then worrying that the gas that fuels our oven would run out just as the bird was in the oven the next day), I gave up on cooking and had fun with Oliver, who was visiting from Brooklyn.

A highlight (besides Thanksgiving) was Oliver’s day in the rain on Fancourt’s Gary Player-designed Links course… with a caddy who taught him to speak English with a proper Afrikaans accent. The course is said to be the best course in the country.

After golf, we raced to Cape Town for the 18th annual expat Thanksgiving dinner… at a great restaurant, Savoy Cabbage… Turkey was much easier there than schlepping to Cape Town from Darling to buy the bird, and then taking a whole day to roast it – and the pumpkin flan was more than yummy…

We went on a wine tour- and all we saw was this silly goat! Only kidding... This winery also makes cheese ... and a wine named Goats Do Roam. Very popular in the U.S., where we always laugh at the obvious takeoff on Cotes du Rhone. 
We went on a wine tour- and all we saw was this silly goat! Only kidding… This winery also makes cheese … and a wine named Goats Do Roam. Very popular in the U.S., where we always laugh at the obvious takeoff on Cotes du Rhone.

Also with Oliver, we checked out the new Darling Brew tasting room and bottling equipment. The “Best in South Africa” local craft beer just opened an awesome new brewery here in Darling.

Bought the not-quite-live Met Opera video tix to Lulu for a Saturday at 5… Drove an hour to Cape Town – only to discover that the huge stadium near the theater (built for the World Cup 2010 and hardly ever used since) was hosting all-day international rugby – with 55,000 fans all making their way to the stadium. We couldn’t drive anywhere near the theater. So much for fabulous Lulu that we were so looking forward to – hadn’t seen it since Santa Fe in the late 70’s – and this production directed by a South African, William Kentridge, whose Nose we saw at the Met in NY last year – it will be repeated, certainly.

South African art is growing on us – first Kentridge, and now Stephen Hobbs, a young artist from Joburg – who likes to create art that helps revive rust belts… like Joburg… like Detroit, where he lectured recently. We bought at his gallery, David Krut, last year during the NYC South African arts festival his “100 Ladies,” based on a derelict billboard in a street near his studio. Hung it in a stairwell for our renters to see every day to remind them where we are.

And we promised ourselves we would only do South African music and theater while we’re here – but hard to resist – attended a concert of Sinatra-ish songs recently in a Tanglewood-like setting at a winery in Stellenbosch – really lovely.

And next month, we’ve bought tickets to the Broadway musical (originally film) Singing in the Rain… close enough to the stage to get wet, we are warned. An SA production which has toured to Hong Kong, New Zealand, and Australia, and Joburg, and has finally arrived in Cape Town.

In February, we’re hearing a good old-fashioned big band play in the aforementioned winery theater, with Howard’s favorite meatballs and spaghetti at a place named Gino’s, that we learned about while visiting small Annandale winery, owned by a former Springbok Rugby star who sells his wines only there.

Yay! I’ve just booked a weekly private Pilates class in Cape Town. (Do I hear echoes of NY? Only difference is that I can’t afford it in NY!)

So, as our good friend observed when he arrived… where’s the jungle? We’re living about like we lived at home – except the seasons are reversed. Tomorrow, our across-the-street neighbors will join us for G&T… and maybe some wine. Best known composer in South Africa… head of composition at UCT – and writing just the kind of music we love to hear at the NY Phil or BSO at home.

So, you might ask, why do we travel? To learn that much of the world is just like home.

Helps us understand that we’re not all that different.

Hey, even the Chinese are moving in here, just like Scarsdale! The other day, the cable car driver taking a group up Table Mountain welcomed everyone in Chinese… Should we expect the same on the commuter railroad from Scarsdale to NYC soon too? Or the NYC subway?

A Thanksgiving toast at Savoy Cabbage. People are so nice here! A family sent us drinks because we agreed to change our reservation time to make room for them. 
A Thanksgiving toast at Savoy Cabbage. People are so nice here! A family sent us drinks because we agreed to change our reservation time to make room for them.

Well, happy New Year to everyone… Enjoy all your year-end holidays. We’ll be in Mozambique while the owners of our rented house are here. Will attend Friday night services at the synagogue in Maputo – more in our quest to prove that the world isn’t such a different place after all.

Why We Travel … Life in SA … Routine or Not?

It’s the end of two months in Darling. Our goal in living here for a year (in addition to some Burkat Global planning) is to live like locals. To me, that means having a routine. To Howard, that means none. So, “How’s it going?” as they ask in South Africa.

Let’s look at what’s become routine (and later – what hasn’t).

Every day everywhere is beautiful. Jaw-droppingly. Throw open the shutters of our little holiday house at the top of the hill every morning and from every window we see farmer’s fields on opposite hills and more fields stretching out toward the sea.

A view of the veld above Petunia Street.
A view of the veld above Petunia Street.

Our little house is beginning to feel routine. I find I’m no longer looking at what it lacks, but looking at what it is; a beautifully designed Greek-style, not typical of Darling at all and perfect for easy living with one great room and bedrooms wrapping around a patio with braai and pool – all positioned to maximize the views.

Our house on Petunia Street, Darling, Cape Town, SA
Our house on Petunia Street, Darling.

I found Monday, Wednesday and Friday Pilates and yoga classes at 8 AM right in our village. Blessed with fantastic teachers, and totally fit and supportive classmates. I can even walk to class, so Howard can take the car to the big new Virgin gym near Cape Town. By the way, walking down our hill is easy (confession … I’m still struggling back up!).

I’m routinely messing up on hikes. Getting to the first one, I donned my new hiking boots and skipping down the hill to the meeting place, tripped on my untied shoelace! I arrived bleeding to the Spar parking lot, only to learn I should have been at the Spar lot in the next town. So much for hike #1.

I dropped out of the second, too, before I even went. Someone who knows me well already told me I was unfit for a 16k up-and-down challenge. Ella, our leader, offered to train me – I’ve yet to establish enough of a routine to seize her wonderful offer.

Now I’m told it is snake season. I hate snakes! Do I want to hike badly enough to do battle with a puffader or a cobra?

There’s always the gorgeous Yzerfontein 18k beach. It’s only 15 minutes away, and we can hear the waves break all the way to Petunia Street where we live.

Spring is festival heaven – and if not festival, a market at least. Weekly visits are routine. Everyone is so relieved to have gotten through winter. Did I forget to say there’s no central heating? And yes, we can now make good South African fires to warm up, just like the locals.

Festivals are my time to routinely track down local treats … why wait for visitors? Wonderful local products – all carrying the Darling name, of course! Olives. Wines. Beer. Cheese. Yogurt Milk. Granola. Locally roasted coffee. Roibos chai. Flying Pig Saucisson. Fresh mussels. Toffee. Pomegranate juices.

Even bumping into Darling’s most famous resident and benefactor Pieter-Dirk Uys is becoming routine. We see him as often as possible at his world-famous Evita Se Perron dinner theater down the street (even though we sometimes miss an Afrikaans punch line he throws into an English show).

Wine is definitely routine with 6 local wineries! Darling vineyards are everywhere. And served everywhere. Even in the morning! Darling Brewery has an uphill battle, no matter how good. Darling has long way to go before becoming Williamsburg.

Our anniversary lunch at a favorite winery in Franschoek.
Our anniversary lunch at a favorite winery in Franschoek.

Routinely, complaints are made about the government – how the ruling ANC is messing everything up. But ah, our land is beautiful. Just hoping it won’t get too messed up.

Routinely, I greet my growing number of friends in Darling. So glad officer Satie’s family will be coming from the eastern cape soon! So thankful for the help from the Engen station team who help me buy more data and select our daily newspapers. (No paper delivery in Darling! And SA papers on not yet much online. Hey, this is a real small farm town – it took us six weeks to learn that the PO is inside that very Engen gas station we go to nearly every day.)

Our favorite viewpoint on the road to Cape Town!
Our favorite viewpoint on the road to Cape Town!

Weekly drives to Cape Town are part of our routine. And we’re initiating occasional overnights – just like if we were tourists! We look for reasons to go – anything new, locally written and produced. Operas. Musicals. Traditional bands. African. Jazz. No Cape Town Symphony yet, but some classical chamber – and a West Side Story that was better than Broadway! And thanks to Susan Werbe’s coaxing, we got off our butts yesterday and bought front row tickets for Rodriguez!

Meeting our new community is so easy. We just show up at a local event like Sunday’s classical guitar concert at the San Cultural Center to raise money for the music outreach program that keeps kids off the streets. People know us right away. We’re the Americans. The ones with the accents. Hey, I thought they were the ones with the accents.

Routine are my regular visits to the Darling butcher! What should I braai tonight? Sirloin Steak for 4 for $6. Rosemary fed Lamb? Beef boerwors? What kind of Biltong? Kudu, Springbok, others we’ve never heard of. Why not sample them all?

And we’ve found the Best Pastrami in Cape Town! On homemade rye yet. And in the next block, the best chocolate store – chocolate and caramel covered pretzels with sea-salt.

And we even know the routines for the local restaurants … Most are closed in the evenings, with one per day staying open for a special and very social evening meal. Briggs on Tuesday for local Afrikaans comfort food; Friday at the Marmalade Cat for oven baked thin-crusted pizzas – banana and bacon anyone? Or would we prefer the awesome Four Seasons?

We’ve welcomed our first guests and hope we passed the hospitality test. We’ve already got 10 more couples booked in through May!

Trips away from Darling have always been part of our planned routine. Exploratory excursions to the surrounding area are a reason we’re here, too. In four trips to South Africa (totaling 6 months over 10 years), we’ve now driven 20,000 kms. There’s so much to do – as much as we would like to stay every day in Darling, we just can’t … because there is too much to see!

Washing dishes by hand is now routine. And I finally learned how to turn on the washer and dryer. I may be the only one on the hill without daily help. Maybe I’m really not a princess after all.

Our first braii on Petunia Street!
Our first braii on Petunia Street!

And we make fires to keep warm, although spring really is on the way.

Patio braais to cook our food are fantastic, but we must remember to start early – wood fires take an hour to burn down low enough for cooking. Haven’t figured out how to turn on the oven yet.

Closing the latches are important activities in our daily lives. We’ve got 7 windowed double doors, 5 double shutters and at least 10 windows. Every door has a different key and multiple latches. Windows have latches, too.

Early to bed and rise. Good news is it’s light earlier now, and later. The primary schoolyard across street fills by 6:30 am. Rush hour to Cape Town begins before 6. This is a country without much electricity until now (and because it’s so new, there are continuing threats of load shedding and blackouts.) Another sign that people are up early is the church bells ringing loud and long beginning on Sundays at 8. Birds and animals begin squawking just before sunrise.

Soaking up sunsets. On Sunday afternoon, up on the hill at the San Center, there was not a cloud in the skyway; yet overlooking wildflower fields and the distant ocean, the sky was pure blue. Later back home, I looked up to check for the sunset – it’s actually raining! But storms pass quickly. And there is a huge drought – driest season since 1910 when recordkeeping began – crops are dying. Farmers can’t feed their animals.

Routine in Darling is volunteerism. Our interest now is to get sponsors for the local music festival, largely supported by old white people on our side of the tracks, who in turn run the free music school for the kids on the other side of the tracks. Also beginning to nose into Planned Parenthood needs here – although we aren’t even sure if it will exist in the US before long! Anyway, it’s easy to be involved.

I’ve discovered Anna at the bookstore, who will order anything and already knows my name. How great that we still have a bookstore here … better than Scarsdale. And she doesn’t make me cry (like owner Wallace did). I finally ordered a paperback version of Long Walk to Freedom to take on our upcoming mini holiday.

Routine … emails with friends. When there is time.

And we are all set for the next India tour, January 2017. Excited that we just decided to return to Brunton Boatyard again. It will add a few more dollars to the price, but it’s our favorite hotel in India (except perhaps Lake Palace, 30 years ago). Updating the web page and will announce soon.

So what’s left that breaks our routine?

We’ve had a break-in. Two guys broke in to house 10:30 at night while we were upstairs. We heard them and they ran away with my computer and Howard’s bottle of Johnny Walker Black Label scotch. Didn’t touch all our Darling wine! A private detective offered 1000 rand reward and got a tip that my computer was being offered on the street for 300 rand. Police caught the guys, who are now in jail. We’re waiting for the magistrate to release my recovered computer pre trial – I do have visitation rights. By the way, the break-in was the 8th in our neighborhood in week (very rare that it happens at all). But hey, two laptops were just stolen in our old neighborhood in Scarsdale, too. I’m typing with one thumb on my iPhone until I get my computer back– and/or get the new one working right.

Data black outs are the worst. “Sorry. Your prepaid Vodacom account is at zero left.” It’s a long story, but we don’t have unlimited internet here like at home – we’re renters … only here for a year.

Load shedding is no longer routine. (In case you don’t know, load shedding is an action to reduce the load on something, ie, the interruption of an electricity supply to avoid excessive load on the generating plant). Will there be more candle light dinners (like we had in the Oppenheim dining room in Kimberly on our road trip to Darling?) … Tune in to find out.

Falling on my face in the road in front of the old people’s home down the street? I know the old ladies were all watching from the windows. This will not become routine (these things are only allowed once).

Discovering that my local Standard Bank limits my use of services? Somehow, they think foreigners are money launderers. Me? Every time I go to the ATM, I pray I can still buy more data for my iPhone and WiFi router … now that I have finally figured out how to do it.

Not routine will be when all our guests learn that South Africa is a jungle! People are amazed when they see the awesome vast veld landscapes with colors changing with the seasons. No, it’s not a green jungle here. No Tarzan.

Our celebratory first picnic at the beach upon arrival!
Our celebratory first picnic at the beach upon arrival!

Never routine are walks on the beach … and picnics in the nearby national park on the rocks along the ocean. Lunch at a local winery. Returning home with the leftovers of the best $5 bottles of wine we’ve ever had.

This is important and not routine: Discovering the other side of the tracks. Where 90% of Darling residents live. Formerly “the township”. And learning how hard it is to integrate with folks in the hill! But efforts are always ongoing. At least half of the venues at the not-to-be-missed Voorkamerfest (South Africa’s annual multicultural event) were in homes across the tracks. Hosts are so proud and welcoming into their living rooms.

Will our uncontrollable coughing and runny nose every stop this week? Too many flowers. Can you believe we’ve developed allergies to Darling? It seems it is actually going around.

My new friend made chicken soup. She brings me fresh flowers from her garden and checks in with me in the morning to see if I need anything from her office at 6 AM! And she persuaded us to use her fantastic guest house after our break-in … before all the doors and windows got new invisible bars and all the latches were checked. I will never ever see this as routine, just thankful.

So much more to share!