Visiting the "Mother City" and more...

Visiting the "Mother City" and more...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

First time visitors

If you are new to this blog, I would recommend that you start at the beginning... Please go backwards to the month of June to start reading forward for the South African trip...
Oh yeah please leave a comment to say hello...

Saturday, July 17, 2010

All good things must end.

A look back at our 3 week vacation.

Summing up our trip has been a bit difficult for me, due to the many different angles and ideas I want to describe. OK so here it goes!

Of course, the anticipation of a wonderful adventure gave us a warm, fuzzy euphoric feeling. We landed in Capetown after a 12 hour flight from London. Immediately, we enjoyed the views, that we had only seen in photographs online or on television. The mystical clouds that rested ever-so lightly on top of Table Mountain were stunning. These beautiful visions shut me and my lovely companion up for once. The physical attractiveness of this young country was totally outstanding. The long drives showed the backdrops of the glorious peaks and valleys all left over from millions of years ago resulting from when the earth shifted its tectonic plates.

We zig zagged through with anticipation, checking off the most typical tourist stops and must do events. The animal safaris and the picturesque beaches on both the Atlantic and Indian Oceans were spectacular! I have no idea how many countless new species of birds and flowers we witnessed, while observing nature in the national parks.

We took our time cruising on the opposite side of the car/road. The road surfaces were smooth and very easy to traverse. The lodgings in the 4 cities visited were impeccable. All were 5 star level even at a couple of the B & B 's.

The food... There were no signs in any of the grocery stores, that mentioned "Organic"... The meat had a taste that was familiar from our past. I was very surprised how juicy and delectable the game was presented. Every morning, for about a week straight, I would ask for the Kudo sausages; alongside of eggs prepared any style. While out drinking one night, I met a few farmers and I chatted with them about their farming practices. Go figure, they both laughed at me and said our animals all eat only grass and drink water... No corn products are supplemented at all... BTW, all of our chickens are free range too.

We traveled to South Africa expecting to see the wild, dark, untamed continent. Quite frankly, safety seemed to be a major focus; not only by the media, but also by our own government. The State Dept. sent us an updated safety warning just 2 days before leaving Chicago... Conversely, we were given a glimpse into the life of the wealthy in Africa. This privileged living standard is the result of the many hundreds of years of colonization. A price that many people all paid on different levels within the struggles>>> in order to have us reap benefits like: the meals [including alcohol] and luxury events [like spa treatments] were all just about one third of the price in America. There is a 40% unemployment rate with the majority of the those people living on less than $1.25(usd) a day [according to the HDI". UNDP.]

The smiles are real and the true Ubuntu aspect of life is reflected in them all... Pure KINDNESS!!! as well as the feeling that we were totally part of their own family...
I have never been this "welcomed" in all of my life and I only surround myself with all of you all; the best of the best.

The magical moments of our trip centered around interacting with the everyday normal people. Tanja and I found the most enjoyable time spent on the Cape was with it visibly different inhabitants. The whites, the coloureds, and the blacks; whom all seemed to be co-existing in this "rainbow nation."
***Side bar***
I must say that, as a Black American it was very mind boggling to witness this culture though. I still need answers please help if you know what I mean>>>

As an outsider, I want to make a few statements. I look forward and encourage anyone to weigh in on this subject please.

Knowing that just 16 years ago, things changed drastically for all of the people of S.A.
Surprisingly, I found it (being a medium color brown skinned man) very difficult to have anyone "black, coloured, or white" interact with me. (*until I revealed that I was an outsider) For example, I spent more than 45 mins, one night trying to flag down a cab in a busy, well lit club/party area {around 9pm}... Thank goodness, I ran into a group of German tourists (fellow drinkers) who in less than 1 min hailed a taxi for us all.
Tanja and I had observed this social attitude a bit earlier, when we rented our vehicle at the Capetown airport. Assuming that I was a gentleman; smartly dressed, with a neat folder holding the reservations in hand. The young black woman looked past me to address Tanja and ask if she "could help her " instead... Her perception was that I was the simply the "help". The clerk was not going to waste her time talking to me at all. Weird, but not alarming to me at that point.
I have to preface these thoughts with admitting that I was a little concerned/nervous about going to a country, that had just abolished segregation in the early 1990's. Especially being inter-racially married, I almost expected to get stares or at least something we are not used to in Chicago or in the northern states of America.

Please note, that the descriptions of my accounts were not ever negative in demeanor.
I am just explaining what our stay was like from my prospective as an (American) black man.
The next time, which would very soon, later turn into this pattern, that I am describing happened just 15 mins after checking into our 1 st hotel. We walked up to the counter and talked to the very charming manager [Afrikaan/white], who was in the middle of badgering and chastising one of her employees. The helper woman was dressed in a black dress with a white smock, you know, your typical maid outfit from the 1940-50. This [42 yrs old] cleaner woman was on her hands and knees washing the floor with a rag. She immediately jumped to her feet and began running down the hall to check and see if our room was ready. "What a bizarre reaction", we thought to ourselves without saying a word to each other. The barking of orders in front of us seemed different, but again we overlooked this to be summed up as a "stern management style".
Over the next 4 days, we would witness the definite class system and normalcy of talking to the help in any form or fashion by the "white/coloured" bosses. I believe that this is when I became aware that I was not lumped into this black lower class, just because of my "American status". Speaking out loud immediately proved that I was not a native and then brought on this totally different response by all invovled...

Feeling torn now, I had to delve into how the workers had come to working in this hotel establishment.
I could only get one to speak while doing her morning duties... Nobuim, a mother of one, was from the largest township in Capetown which, stretches for miles just outside the airport (known as Shanty towns). Just like on TV the tin shacks that you can see upclose on youtube if you put in shantytown or township tours.

The intense cleaning rituals that she displayed daily seemed ironic to where she lays her own head and child to rest every evening. I would try to engage her and other black staff members into conversations, but this was all way too much, as they never held eye contact and sheepishly wanted to not get away from speaking to the American. You see, once they heard me speak, they knew that I was foreign and not one of them after all. Now I was dumped into their other basket.
Very importantly this taught me early>>>

I had just learned my lesson (or crutch) that I would need to rely upon for the next 3 weeks in order to survive in S.A. Aside from all of the luxurious meals and hotel accommodations, personally I would not have feared as well in S.A. without having my white wife be presented first for any and all services needed. I mean like, everything from getting gas pumped to checking into flights, let alone from ordering drinks at the bar.

Speaking English with an American accent changed all of "it". This gave me a golden pass out of the majority, lowest class.
I really felt like a time traveler from their future or America's past... I think South African will arrive with equality a lot faster than America. Currently we are having race struggles in our country. It is all a part of the growth of society. I will be an ambassador for the country of S.A. and tell everyone to put it on your bucket list. You will be pampered on all levels of service and your spirit will get energized with a visit. I left there feeling blessed to have learned how to embrace fellow humans.

With all of that said, we had an Amazing time. I really feel like I connected with people on a level that will continue into our future. True friendships have already been cultivated and we look forward to hosting our world traveler friends soon. We must of turned down[no kidding] at least 10 different personal invites for dinner in strangers homes that we met... The South Africans rocked our world!

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Spain Wins

Well I am not really a fan of the deep sea and the creatures that lie below, but I must credit the Octopus that chose perfectly every important match of the tournament.

Millions watched around the world as the world-famous octopus descended upon on a tank marked with a Spanish flag, sitting for only a few minutes before grabbing a mussel and devouring it, while completely ignoring the Dutch tank — indicating a Spanish victory in Sunday’s final match in Sunday’s final.
The odds of all of his eight forecasts being correct, including the final, was put at 3,000-1, by bookmakers William Hill.

Go figure. Spain really played well, tonight and the Dutch have nothing to hold their heads low about.

Congrats to all including Paul the octopus!

Wrapping it up

Well gang, just like the German National team, we are preparing for our exist from South Africa. Last night we attended the 3rd/4th place soccer match here in PE. There were just over 36,000 locals dressed up: sporting face paint and blowing their horns. The players surprisingly played technically well. I can only imagine how lacking in luster and enjoyment they would have to preform for a bronze medal. Many talking heads world wide thought that this team would of added gold to their resume.

Although the day started out like a warm fall day in mid west of America, the night ended up being cool and misty like, Seattle. The international press has reported that a number of the players were not on the pitch last evening due, to having the same flu-like symptoms that Tanja has been complaining about for the last week.

Germs, germs, everywhere! Of course in winter the incidence of colds increases... plus I bet, adding ~700,000 new people from over the world into a small [space] country for only a month. It sounds like a proper petri dish to test all of our immune systems.

Tomorrow we head back to London and then to Chicago on Wednesday evening. It has been an amazing journey. I want to Thank you all for walking side along in our lovely holiday. We had the opportunity to do a little more than scratch the surface on issues. I still have a few more stories to add, but this was blog did have a good skeleton of our travels.

Have a great summer.

Halftime Chillin'

The noise level was crazy.

Friday, July 9, 2010

A week ago

I celebrated my Big 4-0 last week while doing the Big 5 safari. I was very excited to just be able to make this trip happen for the two of us. Tanja asked me before we left home, if I wanted or needed anything special for this usually week long festival, that I have had since a child.

I want to give a "shout out" to a few of our fellow travel mates that over heard us talking about my midlife milestone. After a night of bonding and comforting each other on the night sarfari we all eased into a nice formed new travel friendship. Tanja describes it as being on a highschool fieldtrip.

Our most enjoyable class clown from the Netherlands, pushed our teacher ( Safari guide) to the limit, by repeatedly saying... "please do not keep making those chicken sounds to the lions. They have a keen sense of hearing mate.... " ok ... "do not make the meow sounds either, " ... a few mins later ahh guys, how about No>>> "here kitty, kitty sounds either this is serious business and so on." you get the jest of our 50 yr old court jester. I was too cold and scared to even discourage him.

Joop and Rob, [from the Netherlands] Edwardo and Marcella, [Guatemala] and Tanja and I
spent 3 days together doing various adventure and fun activities. Well to my surprise on the 1st of July , the "Breakfast club" knocked on our door to our suite. There they stood with a lemon meringue pie and a bottle of S.A. flavored vodka... as they say here in Afrikaans; >>>Lekker [yummy].

Thank you guys for making my day even more special than I could of ever imagined.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

The Mayor of London, UK... speaks out.

This article was published in the SA Times and forwarded by a friend ours. Thanks Joel L...

This article has been written by the mayor of London.

This is a very interesting article written by the mayor of London!I wish you could have come with me yesterday as I ran through the delightful district of Westcliff, one of the richest square miles in Africa. The sun was taking the chill off the winter morning. The sky was blue. The urban forest of Johannesburg was a winter symphony of brown and green and gold.
Among the trees, on either side of the well-kept street, I passed the kinds of homes you normally associate with Beverly Hills. Here was the honey-stoned palazzo of a diamond executive. There was the schloss of the most successful boob-job exponent in the neighbourhood.
Each villa was the size of a country club, and through every set of gates you could see the carob-shaded tennis court or the ultramarine ping of the sunlight on the pool. Every property overtly proclaimed the determination of the haves to resist the depredations of the have-nots. Great brown Rhodesian ridgebacks snuffled behind the electric fences. Chubb security vans cruised quietly up and down. Fixed to the wall beside virtually every nine-foot impregnable gate was a sign announcing that any intruder would be met with an "Armed Response".
I wish you could have been there, to soak up the splendour of the lives of the affluent Johannesburg professionals. Then I wish you could have come with me to another neighbourhood, a township called Cape Flats, nor far from Cape Town. Then you would have understood the vast economic disparity of South Africa – the wealth gap that helps to prompt the security fences of Westcliff.
Here there was no tarmac on the streets. No one had cleared up the piles of rubbish. No one had painted the battered grey breeze blocks of the flats or mended the panes in the washing-hung windows. Of the hordes of unwashed kids who came out to compete for our presents – badges and trinkets – hardly any seemed fluent in English.
A nice one-eyed woman called Mary took us in to see her flat, and though she was immensely proud of her two chipped-eared china dogs, and though her lino floor shone with mopping, she had almost none of the amenities that are taken for granted by the poorest families in modern Britain.
She had no hot water. She had no cooker except for a couple of electric rings. She had no system of heating or air conditioning, and though Mary and her family were avidly following the World Cup, they were listening to the commentary on a crackling old radio. They had no television, and nor did any of the neighbours.
Above all, she had no job, and neither did her husband. It was years since he had last worked as an upholsterer for motor cars, and the same applied to all the hundreds of other men and women who swarmed out of their flats to welcome the delegation from London.
They had no job, and no hope of a job – and yet these people, Mary and her neighbours, were lucky by the standards of many in South Africa. Mary lives in breeze-block luxury compared with the inhabitants of the "informal settlements" – shantytowns to you and me – of which there are 230 in the vicinity of Cape Town alone, providing homes to about 500,000 people in a population of 3.5 million.
It is when you have such inequality, and such grinding poverty, you cannot be surprised that some pessimists have asked whether it was sensible for South Africa to take on the difficulty and expense of hosting the World Cup. That is why I have spent the past few days posing the legacy question to just about everyone I have met.
What happens on July 12, after the captain of the winning team has waved the Jules Rimet trophy in his sweaty palm? What will people say when the last fan has traipsed home and the last journalist has composed his last philippic against his defeated national team and when the last vuvuzela has parped its last melancholy parp? What will this World Cup leave for South Africa?
I have asked barmen and journalists and politicians such as the remarkable Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape province. I have ended up feeling like those Monty Python characters who were so foolish as to question the benefits of the Roman Empire. The World Cup not only gave jobs and skills and hope to thousands of local people.
The tournament gave an absolute deadline to South Africa for the introduction and improvement of all kinds of infrastructure – not just sports grounds, but roads and bridges and airports and bus lanes that would otherwise not have been built and which will benefit the country for decades to come. Above all, the World Cup has given this country something intangible but priceless: a deep sense of pride that it has taken on something difficult and done it well.
When they look at themselves in the approving mirror of world opinion, South Africans of every race agree that the first African World Cup is a joyous success, and that success breeds confidence. The rand is rising. South Africans who left for Australia or Canada are starting to return to a country whose banking system largely escaped the recent crisis.
The sheer number of visitors – about half a million – will help to open the eyes of the world to South Africa and its potential for trade and investment; and get this – crime, the crime that has been supposed to be one of the drawbacks of living here, is down 90 per cent in central Cape Town, and there has not been a single serious incident of crime or violence in any of the fan parks.
Of course there will be disappointments, and no one could pretend that the World Cup will solve the economic or political problems of the country. But it offers a sense of unity and confidence to a place with a tragic past. It should help to build the taxpayer base that is so essential to narrowing the wealth gap.
It gives potential wealth creators at least some of the infrastructure they need. Fifa took an inspired decision to give the World Cup to South Africa, and South Africa has responded brilliantly.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Just Videos Enjoy!!!

Halftime Brazil vs Netherlands

Here Kitty Kitty...... Night Safari seeking Lions. Add Image

Capetown, Fanfest Dancing Tribesman

A look at the backside of Table Mountain

Capetown, Fanfest USA Match

Eastern Cape, Jeffery's Bay