Friday, August 21, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I am home; of course you all know that by now!!! But when you are away for several weeks, for some of us it can be a matter of hours, when you begin to miss the “comforts” of home. For me I think I missed the coffee maker!!!
COFFEE-In South Africa, coffee is not the same as here and while I think a huge percentage of the population drinks it; they have gone from brewed (filtered) to instant!!! YUCK. So DH had some coffee in the condo, which I drank the first day or so without question… since I was still recovering from the flight. By the third morning, I noticed I could barely choke down a second cup, so I read the can… coffee and chicory. I asked DH about it, and he said he got tired of always having to buy a jar of coffee and just bought the biggest can he could find. Now he is back to drinking Nescafe from smaller jars. In addition, you use an ‘electric kettle’ to boil the water in. Efficient and fast, but instant is instant.
So when you go out to eat and want coffee you have to ask for ‘filtered coffee’ or you might get a cup of instant. Now, those of us here in the US are always complaining about how strong Starbucks can be… well they’ve got nothing on South African ‘filtered coffee’. WOW is that stuff strong!
LAUNDRY- All the washers I saw were front loaders, but I didn’t go into 100 homes, so I could be wrong, but they were small, very small compared to mine at home and the laundry appliances are located in the kitchen. I think I mentioned in a previous post that doing laundry is a bit different too. Dryers, at least in the modern age, in South Africa, do not vent to the outside. They have a mesh over the same area, on the door as the Frontload Washer has window, and that is the lint filter. After doing several loads of laundry in one day- I would have to say it doesn’t catch enough lint. The surfaces in the kitchen were all lightly coated with fine lint and I am sure it’s not so good for the lungs.
GROCERY STORES- are an interesting place to visit. There are about 4 or 5 small stores for every Superstore, known as Hypermarts, (sort of like Super Walmarts, Super Targets, Meijers or Fred Meyers). The small neighborhood stores aren’t like our grocery stores at all. Maybe only 2 choices in any product category, and NOT one of everything under the sun, provided by every company, take for instance canned tomatoes, only 2 facings on the shelf and only one size can… and only the most popular type/flavor. Just the basics... but just about everything you could need and if one store doesn’t have it, they are close enough to check another. I think I mentioned once before, that the ‘malls’ here, have grocery stores in them. Not just the local strip type malls, but the indoor mega-mall too. Well the malls are different as well. None of the Anchor Store stuff (JC Penney, Sears, Macy’s, Nordies, etc.), just lots of stores name brand and mom and pop type, although ‘indoor mall upscale’. But the oddest thing is seeing the grocery cart going down the middle of the indoor mall or waiting outside store that forbids the carts, with groceries in them! Oh, and another thing from the grocery, (and sometimes other stores), is if you want your groceries bagged and you didn’t bring your own, you have to pay for a plastic sack!!! We need to do that here! It would make more of us remember to take a recyclable bag to the grocery, or to at least reuse the plastic bags. It is so interesting to watch plastic bags being pulled from purses and pockets at the check out! I shop at an old fashioned grocery, and ask for paper whenever I shop there, I recycle them in the back yard, but I’m thinking the next time I visit Walmart…. I’m taking some old fashioned brown bags. They load better, stand up better and they don’t say Walmart on them!
CARS- were another very interesting thing to see. Of course just about all of them were right hand drive, only a few exceptions, were really old classic American cars (Camero and a Mustang leap to mind). There were very few large cars; the Chevy Malibu was a luxury sedan… and many manufacturers I have never seen… TATA is one…and they weren’t very big, Gonow, and Chana and more. Some odd names too, for instance a Volkswagen van called a Caddy, talk about an Oxymoron… a Getz that I never did figure out who manufactures and a Jeep Liberty, under the Cherokee label (can’t quite figure the reason for the change though). Almost all the cars are manual shift and very small. The small cars were so small that the rear passengers were sitting just forward of the rear axle and there was maybe 12 to 16 inches to the reach hatch behind the seats. NO room for luggage! So we, the USA, has a long way to go for efficiencies in vehicles to catch up with some of the other countries. While the passenger cars are small the ‘big rigs’ are HUGE and have more than 18 wheels, much larger than US 18 wheelers.
HOMES-are surrounded by tall thick fences with an array of electrified wires above that for a foot or two. Most fences are 10-12 high. The property becomes a compound, everything of value is inside the wall, and the gates are kept closed. Even in some of the poorest areas, there is a compound like feel to homes. If you live in an upscale area, you also have a guard… at the gate(s). Many have large dogs too. Whole neighborhoods are wall to wall, not house to house!!!
HEAT- I did not see central heat or radiators, or fireplaces most homes, and again I was only in a few. South Africa is in winter now (opposite the seasons in the US), and the few times we ventured inland from the coast we experienced winter. Not as extreme as in Chicago, but cool enough to make me wish I had a heavier coat and some warm air moving about from a furnace! Durban on the coast experiences similar temperatures to the San Diego CA, weather…. Warm in winter and a bit warmer in the summer, although we have been warned that is also very humid. As long as we are talking about heat, one thing the South African’s know about is HOT water. The water from the tap is hot enough to scald! It’s a good thing if you are into long hot showers.
I am back into the domestic life, darn… and I will have to consider cleaning my house next week. I gave it a thorough cleaning before I left…. So I wouldn’t have to face house cleaning right when I got home. Axel is doing really well. I had to discontinue the oral pain meds because he was feeling too good and as long as he has 14 inches of staples, he can’t play too much or too hard.
No pictures in this post... I just didn't get around to taking pictures of the cars... although I really wanted a picture of a VW Caddy....
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Now that my dog, Axel is on the mend and I am home to nurse him through the remaining steps of recovery from his medical emergency; I can conclude my narrative about my visit to South Africa!!!
My last weekend in South Africa was a trip out to another Wild Game Park, oh DARN!!! Hluhluwe-Imfolozi (pronounced Shish louie- Em full O zee) and to the St. Lucia Estuary Park (pronounced Saint Lou sha) is about a 3 hour drive from Durban. Our friends Brenda and Carl went with us, Carl was our driver. DH and Carl have been to Hluhluwe-Imfolozi, but not to Stl Lucia, and Brenda and I have not been to either of the parks.
Our game plan was to meet with Brenda and Carl at their place (a mere 5 minutes away), all pile into their car, then drop their dog at the kennel on the way out of town. The kennel was an amazing place, talk about a K-9 resort! Social dogs are allowed to play together in very large runs, more like pastures… but she also has several very large parrots. My DH took a picture of me getting to know the birds. They didn’t appear to be too tame… so we didn’t give them a scratch… I have had a parrot and I know how hard they can bite.
We arrived at the park at about noon, a little behind schedule, because the highway didn’t have any plazas or gas stations, well ok by the time we all had processed our morning beverages… we had to make detour (of about 45 minutes total to find a bathroom). A BP Service Station saves the day!
Entering the Park is detailed. Afer you register your visit and as you pass through the gate, your pass is photographed and scanned, and while the pass is scanned a photo of the car it taken… The park opens at 6 a and closes at 6 p and this is how they keep track of visitors. Our first encounter was with a bull elephant. On the drive up to the Hilltop Inn we didn’t see too many animals, I think we spotted a giraffe along the way too, but it was too far away for a photo.
At the Inn we were too early to check in, so we decided to have some lunch on the patio. The weather was awesome… for lunch outside, although I would have liked to be sitting in the sun. There were a small herd of Zebras (3), 1 male and 2 females grazing a few feet away. After lunch we checked into our rooms. HA, right out of 195??, don’t you think? When we read 2 beds, we think, doubles at least, right? All the rooms are like this… You can push them together… but the image is priceless. The “huts” all have authentic thatched roof that is very high at the peak, and most of the windows have a heavy gauge screen, to keep the monkeys out, but much too large to keep any bugs out. The huts don’t have any locks on the doors, nor do they have a heat source or a cooling source other than a ceiling fan. Not sure I would stay there if it were any cooler at night or too warm during the day.
After we checked in we went for another short drive looking for more game. Just about the only thing we spotted was a warthog, who wasn’t very interested in us. We didn’t spend too much time looking for game on our own, as we had night time game drive planned. So we headed back to the rooms to prepare… After dark it can get chilly especially inland and up in the hills. Brenda and Carl, have heavy coats, and my DH and I layered up as much as we could for only having summer clothing… and then made our way back to the main building to catch our night “Ride”.
The vehicles hold 9 passengers up high over the bed of the truck, and 1 more can ride next to the driver. Brenda and Carl took the front seat and we took the second. Good thing, we had a human wind break. The drive was for 3 hours and we covered a lot of dirt roads and saw an amazing number of animals!!! Only a few pictures, and not to great, but the will serve my memories very well. We saw elephants, antelope, giraffes, rhinos, bush pigs (not the same as warthogs), owls, Cape buffalo and many more on the drive. By the time we were done with the drive we were cold all the way through, but we had dinner reservations and a chance to warm up! Dinner was a smorgasbord/buffet type meal with some Zulu entertainment that included dancing and singing by the staff. By the time we were done with dinner we were ready for bed extra blankets and all.
On Sunday morning we were in the car by 7 and heading for our second destination of the weekend, the St. Lucia Estuary… but we took a slow drive out of the park looking for more photo ops!!! Which we found with several of the giraffes… (I just love the expression on his face), and out the front window of the car we did see a big cat, but he was gone before we could identify or get a photo. DARN!!!
Our Tour Boat was leaving the dock at 10, so we didn’t make any other stops on the way. While we were waiting for the boat, we could see a mom and baby Hippo sunning in the shallows just a short distance from the dock. It was so cute! The boat tour was for 2 hours and did we see a bunch of Hippos! It was for Crocodiles too, but to be honest they aren’t nearly as interesting as the hippos and birds!
After the boat tour we went into the town of St Lucia in search of lunch. Brenda and Carl are making plans to return for a day trip… alas I will have to make do with this one visit! After lunch we headed back to Durban and the drive back was totally uneventful.
During the drive home, Brenda and I made tentative plans to visit the mall again before I leave… and that is planned for Monday, the rest of the week will be spent doing my packing and laundry, and as you readers know, that is not all that happened, (check Archived posts for Axels issues). I really didn’t go anywhere, after the call from the Vets, except to dinner the last couple of days. I was too worried about my dog and his health… and since the time difference, I was afraid I’d miss a call.
As always there are more pictures on the my Flickr pages... if you are interested in seeing more...
When I first arrived in South Africa, my DH said that he was told by his friends and co-workers that “Africa is NOT for sissy’s” and it’s not. I will post more about the culture, economy, and other observations in the next few posts… I wish I had taken more daily pictures of the day to day stuff… but hind sight is 20/20…. And sometimes you just get tired of carrying around a camera.
I had a blast, can’t wait to do it again. Plans are tentative for a return visit -December thru January….