By municipal law suburbs have to have a certain amount of public open space. More or less behind our house is a large open field with this storm-water canal running through it. I've often seen people just sitting in the field, enjoying the sun, chatting with friends. I've also seen this little canal severely flooded during heavy rains, changing what is now a gentle stream into a fierce torrent. It's strange how a peaceful and beautiful place can so easily change into a terrible and scary one.
One of the really awesome things about our new neighbourhood is that there are far more trees than there were where we lived previously. I think only when one has lived without trees and then has them in abundance does one realise how nice it is to have them around.
Our house is on the slope of a small hill, which allows us to see the sun rising between the trees. The cool air at this time of the year and the trees being silhouetted by the sun makes the sunrise on a clear day a phenomenal experience.
In an attempt to find an easy way to clean a few plastic garden chairs, I dumped six of them into our swimming pool. I returned an hour or so later and fished them out of the pool, only to find this little monster stuck in its own web at the bottom of one of the chairs.
This Button Spider (known as the Widow Spider in other parts of the world) appeared to have drowned in the swimming pool. After shooting copious photos, however, I noticed a twitch from one of its eight legs followed by a slow rising and lowering of the abdomen.
I learned two things from this exercise:
1. Never try to drown a spider
2. Garden chairs don't miraculously get clean in the pool
Kommetjie (loosely pronounced commey-key in english) is a small seaside suburb, south of Noordhoek on the Cape Peninsula, and is known as an excellent surfing spot - though I'm sure that you can tell this from the photo.
This photo goes out to westernflyer who left a comment a few days ago requesting a seaside photo. Voila!
A Criterium is a bike race held on a short circuit of only a couple of kilometres (in this case 2.6km). The length of the race is determined by either a set time limit or number of laps.
The Jan Kriel Institute was founded by a minister's wife whose son died during an epileptic fit. Mrs Kriel started the school with only 4 pupils in 1937, and today the school supports over 550 kids with various educational challenges.
Read more about their history here on the institute's website.
We went to drop off a few blankets and pillows at the TAC warehouse this evening, for distribution to the displaced refugees and immigrants around Cape Town. I had mixed feelings being there: on one hand, really saddened by the violence and cruelty that has been perpetrated against the refugees, and on the other hand moved and heartened by the way in which ordinary men and women are giving up their time, money and energy to help these people... simply because they are people.
I spent some time chatting to the volunteers to find out what is needed most right now. If you have the means and the inclination, whether you live in South Africa or not, please consider helping in one of the following ways:
If you are in Cape Town
The items they need most right now are toothpaste, toothbrushes, soap, baby formula, and of course, more pillows and blankets. For the time being they have enough tinned food, toilet paper and sanitary towels - but that can change in a matter of hours, so if you're unsure it might be best to give the TAC office a call on 021 422 1490 before heading to the warehouse.
The warehouse is situated at 50 Canterbury Street (just off Roeland Street in Zonnebloem), and is open from around 8.30am to 10pm. They need volunteers to help with the sorting of donated goods, and also people with cars or bakkies to transport supplies to where they are needed.
The TAC office (4th floor, Westminster House, 122 Longmarket Street) is open 24 hours a day, and they are constantly in need of volunteers to help with phoning around, and doing admin and computer work.
If you are NOT in Cape Town
Please consider donating cash, either to TAC (which stands for Treatment Action Campaign: they are an HIV lobby and advocacy group, who have turned their hand to disaster relief - very effectively, I might add) or the Red Cross. There are a number of ways to donate to TAC, depending on where you live. Get more information here. You can donate to the Red Cross online here.
25 May is Africa Day, commemorating the day in 1963 when the Organisation of African Unity was founded. Unfortunately this day coincides with a sad period of disunity for South Africa. The past two weeks have been marked by shameful acts of crime and greed started by a handful of people under the guise of xenophobia. The issues surrounding the attacks are numerous and complicated, though still inexcusable. To date, the police and national defence force have together arrested over 200 people suspected of carrying out these attacks.
Our president, Thabo Mbeki, addressed the nation this evening on television, condemning the attacks and reminding the nation of its debt to the people of Africa. Click here to view his speech.
The guy in yellow is the Kaizer Chiefs soccer team's mascot who walks among the fans, rallying them up to support their team. I selected this photo from our archives because today is Africa Day and football is one passion that all brings all Africans together - even if they don't agree on who the best team is.
After moving house at the beginning of April, I eventually got around to taking most of the old cardboard boxes to the municipal rubbish dump today.
The part of the rubbish dump that you see in this photo is for garden refuse like branches, leaves, grass, etc. The big yellow machine is used to chop larger branches into finer pieces that are easier to compress and dispose of.
Whenever I stop to drop things off at this rubbish dump there are invariably five or six guys around who are very keen to help people offload their unwanted goods. It's sad in a way, but as the saying goes, one man's trash is another man's treasure.
The Afrikaans word "lief" means "love" in English. This spray-painted note was left on the road outside our office building more than a year ago.
Taking the glass elevator up to my office each day often gives me a moment to ponder this phrase and wonder what the story behind it was. It's needless to say that the intended recipient of this message never owned up to being such.
I wonder if the note had it's intended effect...
These two men were working on a construction site at the ever-expanding Tyger Valley Waterfront, near Paul's office.
I subscribe to an interesting service called Fact-a-Day, which reported a little while ago that, in terms of formal employment, the construction sector had the highest annual growth rate (11.5%) of all sectors from 2001 to 2006. I wouldn't be at all surprised if this sector is still continuing to grow faster than any other - there seems to be building work going on wherever I look.
This is another shot that Paul took at Ratanga Junction last weekend. Ratanga has 23 different rides, including the Cobra, a 779m roller-coaster that reaches speeds of up to 100km/h. As Paul's hinted at in previous posts, I'm absolutely crazy about funfair and theme-park rides; whichever gene is responsible for causing nausea and seasickness, I don't have it. Watching other people turn green and beg for the ride to be stopped never fails to amuse me though. ;-)
Today's weather wasn't the greatest for getting out and taking photos. It was overcast when I woke up and by mid-morning the hail had started, followed by heavy rain showers. I don't think that it was particularly cold today - just wet and miserable... perhaps it's nature's echo of the xenophobic trouble we're experiencing up north.
This photo is of the canal at the Canal Walk shopping centre - taken over the weekend, after the Canon roadshow.
Today's post is a tribute to the 22 (or more) immigrants who have lost their lives in the past week in xenophobic attacks across Gauteng. I'm not going to write a long post about the events of the past weekend - you can read plenty of horror stories if you search for them.
Whether here legally or illegally, these are human beings; what is being done to them is entirely inhuman. For the first time since I was a schoolgirl and apartheid was still in existence, I feel saddened and heartsore beyond words for my country.
I have met some wonderfully warm and kind people from other African countries working as car guards or selling their craftwork around Cape Town, and it breaks my heart to think that they might end up as victims of someone else's rage.
We are fortunate in the Western Cape that this level of violence has not yet erupted here. I hope with all my heart that it doesn't, and I hope that a solution is found soon to restore calm to the streets of Gauteng's townships.
To be honest, I'm not completely sure that Ratanga Junction is "the wildest place in Africa". I have a friend whose backyard is a serious contender in this area. But, let's leave that alone for now and get back to Ratanga Junction...
You'll remember from yesterday's post that I attended Canon's Playground roadshow at Ratanga Junction. During the refreshments break we had the opportunity to walk around this deserted theme-park, and although the security officials kept us to our designated area, I managed to snap a few shots. This carousel is relatively small, and is really something to entertain toddlers and dads while mom has a go on the terrible ride called Congo Queen. This particular ride (featured in yesterday's post) is a long boat that rocks back and forth like a huge pendulum, and leaves no way to escape once the nausea sets in.
We don't have kids, but I can assure you that I'd be the first volunteer to babysit and escape the wrath of this Congo Queen.
I went along to Canon's "Playground" Roadshow this afternoon at our local theme-park, Ratanga Junction. In addition to the expected marketing bits, there were two guest speakers describing a range of techniques and equipment for shooting both in- and outdoors.
Canon gave away loads of awesome equipment (lenses, camera bags, an external flash, photo printers, remote triggers, magazine subscriptions, etc.), which clearly went down a treat with the audience. Sadly, I didn't win anything this year... but you can bet that I'll be back next year, not only to learn, but also for that remote chance of winning one of Canon's spectacular lenses! ;)
The theme-park was closed to the general public today, so unfortunately I don't have any photos of people having fun or feeling nauseous, as Kerry-Anne and I do respectively. I'll show you one or two more photos from inside Ratanga Junction in the next day or two.
This building has large sheets of stainless steel shielding its huge windows from the bright sunlight. Fairly redundant in winter months, they're very useful in the summer months to help regulate the temperature inside the building, thereby reducing the energy consumed by the central air conditioning system.
There's one area in the middle of the building where (for asthetic reasons) there are no sun shades. Even though the windows are tinted, offices in this part of the building tends to be a few degrees warmer in the summer months. Every now and again, when my office become to chilly, I find a reason to visit colleagues in this area for a quick cup of coffee. :)
I'm fortunate enough to have a parking bay in the basement of my company's head office building. For many other colleagues it's invariably a daily battle to find a place to park. Before I got my nice, sheltered, always-available parking bay, I would drive up and down looking for parking, often ending up parking at a nearby shopping centre.
The parking bays closest to the building are snapped up by the few early risers - with the rest being left to park some distance from the building. Parking a little way from the building is good from an exercise point of view, but seriously unpleasant when it's raining or after your car's been baking in Africa's hot summer sun.
Heart disease is huge in South Africa. I'm not sure whether it's all the junk food, lack of exercise, or stress; or whether it's just a combination of all three. I've always had slightly high cholesterol levels (just under 7), so a couple of months ago I adopted a strategy in the fight against this troublemaker - cholesterol.
I did some research and found that oats is very good for combating LDL (the bad form of cholesterol). A pharmacist also told me about a natural product called Cholesterex, which is said to increase HDL levels, and HDL helps manage LDL in the bloodstream (or so I'm told).
What you see here is my daily breakfast, in the office kitchen - a cup of uncooked oats with cold milk and honey (a good alternative to sugar). This keeps me going until lunch time... after which I'm left ravenous, and head off to the canteen for a quick bite of lunch.
Now as far as the stress portion of the equation is concerned, I'm afraid this is unavoidable without the risk of being fired; and the exercise aspect - well, that's still up for decision. I think I'll give this diet a couple more weeks and then have another test. Perhaps eating better and taking supplements will be good enough? ;)
If you want healthy, not-so-fattening fast food in South Africa, this is probably the closest you're going to get. We don't buy take-aways very often at all, but if we must, then Nando's is usually a good choice (this is the take-away counter at Nando's in Kloof Street). They sell chicken, but unlike another (very popular) chain, their chicken is not covered in a thick layer of oily batter and then deep-fried; instead it's basted with either peri-peri or lemon & herb sauce, and then flame-grilled.
Nando's have become famous for their off-the-wall advertising over the years; and their in-store signage is pretty clever too, usually combining some sort of poultry theme with whatever's currently in the news.
There's been a bit of discussion recently around the issue of shopping mall lights staying on well after opening hours. Although it's not happening at the moment, there's been a fair amount of load-shedding across the country in the last year or two, due to electricity shortages; and I think there's certainly a case to be made for more responsible use of lighting by shopping malls and the like. Even though I always think the lights at Canal Walk are terribly pretty, that's really not enough reason to keep all those lights burning every night, is it? (This photo doesn't even begin to show the extent of the lighting at Canal Walk, by the way.)
A number of companies - such as the Virgin Active chain of gyms - have taken definite steps to lower their electricity consumption; maybe it's time that others followed suit.
It's Mother's Day today - the day to show appreciation to our mothers for the contribution that they have made to our lives and the sacrifices they've made to help us be who we are.
It's been a cold and rainy day today so we didn't venture outdoors much. I took this photo at Cape Garden Centre, a local nursery, a while back. Heh - perhaps it's appropriate to post a photo taken at a nursery for Mother's Day. ;)
My own mother reads this blog, so I'm dedicating today's post to her. Thanks mom for the 33 years of love and support - you've done good and I love you loads.
We popped in briefly at Sinn's last night to have drinks and celebrate a friend's birthday. Sinn's Restaurant is a trendy establishment at Wembley Square, a fairly new shopping mall not far from the city centre.
Sinn's, named after its chef and proprietor Thomas Sinn, has an awesome cocktail and tapas-style snack menu, and the cocktail lounge is fast becoming a favourite spot for casual get-togethers. And of course, it doesn't hurt that they offer free wi-fi. ;-)
Today when I tried to pay for petrol with my Discovery card the petrol attendant informed me that there was a problem and that they could not process the transaction. I ended up being forced to use the ATM at the filling station - and being late for an appointment... grrr... technology!
This card isn't a normal credit card. I can't use it to buy dinner, a fine set of glasses or even a candle holder. All this piece of plastic is good for is to buy petrol or diesel.
South Africa must be one of the few countries where you cannot buy fuel with your ordinary credit card. How disastrous it must be as a tourist to find out only once you've filled up your rental car's tank that the filling station won't accept your credit card.
Since we can't use traditional credit cards to purchase fuel, we have to either carry wads of cash around with us, draw money at the filling station's ATM, or use one of these special "garage cards".
It's winter here in Cape Town and this is arguably one of the best snacks for a cold winter's afternoon - or so Kerry-Anne has led me to believe. This slice of cake would normally cost between 16 ZAR and 20 ZAR, depending on where you chose to eat it.
I'd love to take a poll to find out how much you would expect to pay for this piece of cake in your country. So, please do leave a comment and let's find out where we're able to get the best deal on chocolate cake.
"Cross rail tracks only when area beyond is clear" is what the sign says. After crossing this particular piece of rail, motorists have only a couple of metres before they encounter a traffic light.
Perhaps some unfortunate motorist once had to reverse faster than a pregnant woman at a chocolate exhibition after the vehicle in front came to a halt at the red light. Or, perhaps the city council was smart enough to realise that drivers are often much like sheep. Whichever it is, this sign certainly is large enough to catch anyone's attention.
It's not too often that one spots an Austin Seven parked in the street - especially since they're not generally fitted with an alarm, immobiliser, or even gear-lock. I looked around for the owner, but they were nowhere to be seen.
About four years ago a good friend of ours dropped off a broken-down Austin Seven at our home for safe-keeping. He had bought it for a song and had the crazy idea that he could make some money out of it. It turned out that it would cost him far too much to restore and so he ended up selling it for around R2000 (200 Euro).
If I remember correctly, the new owner wanted to cut it in half, down the middle, and make some kind of artwork out of it...
This scene was the daily drudge for five years of my life - first as a student and then as an employee at a large corporate. The sixty kilometres per day in a train taught me that it is possible to sleep sitting upright... and it is possible to (*don't try this at home) land safely after diving out of a train window because you've overslept and nearly missed your station.
We recently had the pleasure of catching the train again for the first time in 10 years. The trains are still the same old trains - minus the aluminium baggage racks, which I'm pretty sure were stolen and sold as scrap metal. That said, as much as things stay the same, some things do change. In this case, the presence of armed security guards was the most apparent. There were (seriously) no fewer than 5 fully-armed, flak-jacketed security guards on the coach we were in. While looking perfectly approachable, all five had "don't mess with us" looks on their faces. I'm guessing that the intention is for them to discourage criminals from even boarding the train.
Although the train was no where close to the standard of trains in Paris, Singapore or Sydney, it was a pretty interesting ride along the Simon's Town route. 25 ZAR buys a ticket from Cape Town station all the way to Simon's Town and back - allowing the traveller to hop on and hop off at any stop along the way.
Winter is truly upon Cape Town. It silently crept up on us yesterday evening with some light rain, then greeted us this morning in sheer arrogance with overcast skies, icy cold air and patches of rain throughout the day. Perhaps I'm being a little melodramatic, though it is true, winter really is my least favourite time of the year.
Kerry-Anne and I ventured outdoors this afternoon and popped in at the coffee shop attached to the Wordsworth bookshop at Willowbridge (an outdoor shopping mall). If I had left Kerry-Anne there she would have spent the remainder of the day just like the subject of today's photo... reading and drinking coffee (though in her case it was white hot chocolate).
The pier at Kalk Bay seems to stretch out into False Bay like a huge concrete tongue. When one day you visit the harbour at Kalk Bay (again) do remember that it's mandatory that you take a walk out to the end of the pier.
Click through to our Extras blog for a few more photos of what you may see out on this huge concrete tongue.
A fellow Cape Town blogger captured this photo a few days ago. Even here, at the southernmost point of Africa, everyone seems to have been waiting in trepidation to hear the results of the not-so-recent Zimbabwean elections.
In case you're unaware of what's happened in Zimbabwe, let me explain. It's been five weeks since the Zimbabwean elections and only today were the results revealed. It appears as though the current president Robert Mugabe (leader of Zanu-PF) has lost to Morgan Tsvangirai's party (the MDC). Neither has gained an outright majority which means that a second round of voting will have to take place for one party to establish an outright majority.
For good reason many claim foul on the part of Zanu-PF, but it appears as though it's back to the waiting game to see who will rule the country. God bless and peace be with you Zimbabwe.
Fishing boats arrive in Kalk Bay after a long shift out at sea. Fishermen hop off the boat and unload crate after crate of ice-covered fish. A few men are responsible for scaling the fish, but this lady is the one who knows just how to cut them up into perfect-looking fillets. I watched her for a while and it was clear that she's being doing this job for years - she worked efficiently and absolutely precisely.
I would have bought a fish from her, but thought it not wise to attempt the long train trip home with a freshly cut fish under my arm.