Sunday, October 24, 2010

where maids have maids

i really liked this photo essay of the middle class in africa.  this is the kenya i was best acquainted with when i lived there.  and one that is rarely represented in the media, although if you peruse my facebook photos, you'll likely see a few similar shots!

Monday, October 18, 2010

southern south africa, in a nutshell

it's lame, but here is a list of stuff i've been up to the past few weeks (if you are so inclined to be interested).  i need time to process the things i have done, the people i have seen, and the thoughts i have thought over the past three weeks, but in the meantime...

cape town
  • i still love this city
  • i saw the colours, mosques, and unique architecture of the bo-kaap for the first time this visit
  • a trip up table mountain in the cable car is certainly worth it (and maybe one day i will hike all the way up the mountain)
  • staying at the westin grand was grand.  so was the spa.  and the waterbeds where you get to wait for your toes to dry after a pedicure.
  • weddings and dress fittings and chaos, oh my!
  • i could watch the boulders beach penguins for hours
  • entering the main central train station from the back makes you think you are in africa.  exiting it from the front makes you think you are in europe.
  • a few roads to nowhere that were there when i visited 5 years ago and are still there.  just unfinished freeways in the centre of the city, no big deal.
  • a farm town anywhere is a farm town everywhere.
  • protea farms are neato.  proteas are also neato.  buy one next time you see one in the shops (or shoppies as the south africans might call them) and rest assured that it will last 3-4 weeks (which might offset the guilt for purchasing a flower that had to be transported from so far away).
  • might i suggest staying at the sugarbird manor if you visit stellenbosch?  their staff are wonderful and their cats are so cuddly.  and watching the guinea fowl run across the lawn will make you giggle every time, i swear.
  • wine tasting at bilton was accompanied by chocolate, delicious.  i kept thinking that it was missing a G though and it should've been biltong as we are in south africa.
  • lunch at asara was also yummy.  the fish and chips were, as my mom put it, the best she's EVER had.
  • views every way you look, stunning.
  • lunch at jordan.  springbok tartar.  amazing.
  • zipping through the hills in our rented hyundai atos, otherwise known as the lunchbox.
  • the friendliest americans and brits at the guesthouse.
  • a place for foodies and for anyone who can appreciate a good meal and a glass of wine.
  • evenings of wine (and sherry) drinking with our hosts who provided us with a history lesson of rural south africa, both good and bad.
  • dinner at dutch east.  perhaps the best fish i have ever had.  ever.
  • a continuation of south africa's wonderful service.
  • even the pubs serve gourmet food, including the scrumptious burger at elephant and barrel, which we shared along with some much-needed pints of beer after all that wine!
  • one of the best meals i have ever had at reuben's.  ever.  see a theme here?!  a little piece of trivia - reuben is taking over from gordon effing ramsay at the cape town one&only hotel's restaurant.  yes, he's that good.  and so were the staff at his restaurant.
  • a wine tasting with hilarious scots at solms-delta was followed by an incredibly informative social history tour with johan throughout the winery.  this place is a must-see if you are in the area, it is the site of a san living site hundreds of years ago and then of a homestead of european farmers.  and i want to bottle johan's intelligence and enthusiasm for nature, people, and learning and sell it, it was that encouraging and inspiring.
  • this is where i lived 5 years ago.
  • it hasn't changed much.  a few new shops and some roadworks, but otherwise the same.
  • surprising aunty joey, the woman i lived with, was something i will never forget.  and i am certain, neither will she.
  • as happens in small towns, the phone was soon ringing with people confirming that yes, i had shown up unexpectedly.
  • and she baked me melktert.  whipped it up.  just for me.  i also want to bottle this 60+ year old's energy, love, and spirit.  but i am not sure i would want to share it with anyone.  it is that special.
  • my own milk tart, just to reiterate.
  • a trip to struisbaai and l'agulhas - the most southern point in africa!  as they do not hesitate to advertise everywhere.
  • fynbos.  and the some more fynbos.
  • whales!  whales from the coast and whales from a boat.
  • the wind returns.  eesh.
  • final bits of shopping.  woolworths.  pick n pay.  other shoppies.
  • a random siting of a woman i used to work with in kenya.
  • lunch at burgundy.  another delectable steak, cooked to perfection.
  • cape dutch and more cape dutch houses.
  • calla lilies and more calla lilies growing like weeds.

Friday, October 08, 2010

10 for cape town

k gave me an idea.  or more like, i am copying her post!

10 things about cape town, after a week of visiting.

1 - it gets windy!

2 - the back of the main train station is a little grimy.  the front?  completely clean, shiny, and spruced up for the world cup.

3 - speaking of the world cup, there is a lot of contention about how much greenpoint stadium cost to refurbish and it hosted 8 games.

4 - apparently if something is hot, you say it is 'as hot as kenya' because there is some understanding that kenya is always hot!  this makes me laugh when i think of sitting in my office with my blankets and scarves wrapped around me, leaning towards my computer because it gave off heat, and dreading the next time someone would open my office door and let cool air inside during july in nairobi.

5 - 'taxi' is a shared minibus.  'cab' is a north american style taxi.  they both get you to where you are going, one just takes longer and the other is prohibitively expensive for most capetonians.

6 - going on township tours seems as weird as ever, especially after spending the day there to visit my friend and her family.

7 - melktert has been missing from my life since i arrived, but i WILL find it!

8 - the westin grand has a breakfast that compares to a mini banff springs brunch.  the service is top notch and i have yet to explore the services available in the spa.  people, save your aeroplan points and you too can live the life of luxury!

9 - i wasn't sure that it would be, but going up the cable car to the top of table mountain (or as my mom calls it, table top mountain) is worth it.

10 - there is a big crate man built at the waterfront out of old coca cola crates that i think is pretty awesome.  his name is elliot.

Thursday, October 07, 2010

i liked it, so should you

my laptop battery is dying and as i await the room delivery of the converter that i need to charge it, i leave you with this, an absolute must read for anyone who wants the skinny on why those billions of dollars have been held up by the us senate that were earmarked for haiti reconstruction.

and (bonus!) there is a great little bit on why the word 'orphanage' should give you a rash.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

a page-turner, i concede

today, while sitting in a catholic church in a small town outside of cape town, i finished The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson.  and what did i think?  meh.  good, entertaining, captivating at points.  but not well written and i am not sure if this is due to the author's writing skills or lacklustre translation from swedish to english, but errors like 'disinformation' instead of 'misinformation,' improper hyphenation, and the use of the word 'had' in duplication in a sentence drove me batty.

some might not be bothered by the writing style and it might interest you to read about the perversions of society, but i needed to finish it to find out the conclusion to the story and less because i really cared about the resolution or the characters involved.

like i said, the story was a page-turner indeed, but i felt it lacked depth and i still don't feel as though i really know the main characters after 800 pages.  which, to be perfectly honest, might be enough for me to pick up the second in the series as i am slightly intrigued.

pick it up, it won't be tough to finish if you have a little time on your hands, but don't expect it to live up to the hype (remember The Da Vinci Code...?)

Friday, October 01, 2010


after a journey that felt like nearly forever, a little shopping jaunt in london's heathrow, and a tearful reunion at the cape town airport, my mom and i have settled in to our hotel (with a view of the atlantic and the smell of a bakery in the wee morning hours!) and are ready to take on the mother city.

it is a funny thing to come back to a place after 5 years and to be reminded of small things (the ever honking shared taxis plying the roads for passengers, the way south african pronounce 'here' like 'he-er,' and the newspaper headlines stuck on street posts) and to see how things have noticeably changed.

i was last in cape town after south africa had been officially democratic for 10 years (in 2005) and even had the opportunity to attend the african national congress' celebration of democracy (where i was one of the only white faces in the crowd that had barely a dry eye because of the pride and excitement), but i rarely saw mixed race couples or groups of people of all colours out together.  in one short day, i already have the sense that it is different now.

and who am i to make such bold statements, but in my experience, it feels like a more diverse and truly rainbow nation.  however, we have only been in airports and the rather cosmopolitan area of sea point in cape town and it is surely very different in the cape flats, the townships, and the rural areas.

but all in good time, we will see that face of south africa too.

needless to say, i am thrilled to be back, to have familiar faces welcoming me back to the southern hemisphere, and to be enjoying the stunning weather!