Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas in Darkest Africa

Preamble…. We have been without Internet for a couple of days, so I am very behind postings… and will have to start crowding... to tell everything!!! I will say that my visit this time is going by so very quickly!!!

On Christmas Eve our Rental Car, (more like a ‘glorified’ roller skate),

was delivered on time, right to the condo. It is what they called a Kia Picanto. The car conveniently had 5 doors; 2 for us to use and 3 more to get the luggage in and out. The trunk space was negligible would hold maybe 5 grocery bags and a gallon of milk. Good thing we didn’t have any kids to ride with us… they would have had to ride on top. We loaded and headed for Pietermaritzburg, a bit over an hour away. One of the other oddities was the turn and windshield wipers were reversed in this car. Most vehicles here seem to match the US except you drive on the other side of the car. We met Fanie and Thornton there put our stuff in just about all the remaining room in the bakkie (pickup truck) and turned in the rental car. On our way out of town we stopped at a grocery store and completed the overstuffing of the bed and capper on the bakkie, and I do mean stuffed!!!

We then took off for Darkest Africa. See here for a map on Google,  (campsite A). The drive was about 2 hours more and it was too dark to take photos on the way in… so we headed right up to the main house… met the property owner (Pete) and several other family members and friends, also there to have Christmas. Pete served all of us weary travelers and family a meal of cold sliced venison (game from the Farm), a roll and cold pickled beets. Then off to the rondeval, I didn’t think to take a picture of ours, which is a bit different than any I could find on the Internet…. The building is typical to South Africa; it is round with a thatched roof. Ours was approximately 40 feet across and the walls maybe 11 feet high, and built below grade on two thirds with thick stone wall about 8 feet up… and the rest of the side was screened, the remaining third was screened from top to bottom with screened a door set off to one side. The full wall screens could be pulled up similar to Roman shades, to facilitate any cool breeze or for easier access. There were 6 metal bunks… moveable, so we moved 2 together for a double…. Sort of… and the kids used them as intended…. We made our beds and pretty much fell into them. When lights out came it was DARK!!! DH has a bit more respect for my little travel size Maglight!!! He had to make a trip to the outhouse in the middle of the night. When I say dark, think no electricity…. No street lights, no over glow from nearby town, nothing human…. Really DARK inside the rondeval, outside it was star or moon light only, and filtered by trees.

In Africa, in the summer the sun rises early. The sky starts to lighten at about 4:30 in the morning and full sunrise is around/about 5 am. So, you have to sleep past daylight to get enough rest if you go to bed late! We all got up around 7-ish…. I took a walk with my camera… and caught a couple of pictures. My first encounter was with a Millipede… or in Zulu a Shang ga lo lo, (I have spelled it phonetically, because I don’t know how to spell it in Zulu). This guy was about 6 inches long and moving at a good pace.

We had a delicious breakfast and then down to the rivers edge, which is named the “Boesman’s River”. Where because of the rains was a mixed with silt for silky brown color… The butterflies all came to drink from the rivers edge. I saw at least 6 varieties, but only a few showed their wings… There were some really bright birds too. The Yellow Weavers, which build nests hanging from the ends of branches, and the entrance, is from the bottom, so snakes can’t get in. Another interesting fact, the Weavers strip the leaves from the branches so they can see the snakes…. I saw another bird, but it stayed in the shadows so I couldn’t get a good picture to share. It was brown, red and blue! Along the other side of the river was a shear rock wall that there were swallows nesting, and skimmed the river all day. I have posted a few pictures on my Flickr page.

Soon, folks we met at the house the night before started showing up. They had to get the lamb on the spit and the vegetables in the oven… Around noon, everyone else arrived and we waited for the lamb to finish. Next the tables were set up for an informal Christmas buffet, which had lamb, venison, waterbuck, 3-bean salad, more pickled beets, butternut squash, carrots and potatoes roasted in a stone oven! Everyone had their fill and then there was dessert!!! A real Pudding Triffle- complete with pecans and brandied cherries with vanilla ice cream. Talk about a laid back Christmas. Antoinette, Pete’s daughter, had a small gift wrapped for each guest. It was so nice to feel welcomed and included!!! I wish I had known, so I could have brought something up for her, too!!! We had a gift for Pete, because DH has been to the Farm several times since coming to Africa and wanted to show his appreciation for allowing him to be there.

So far the biggest disappointment here has been that the box I shipped at the beginning of December still has not arrived!!! It has most of the Christmas gifts and the tree in it!! We may have Christmas 2009 in late January 2010.

I more to tell but it has to wait… this is already getting wordy, (nearly 1000). But yesterday I found a quilt shop!!!


I want to give fair warning. I am planning a giveaway for January!!! Details, coming around January 3rd… so stay tuned.

More LATER!!! oh and Happy New Year!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

So Much To Tell...

So I am going to post again to the blog…. I have so much stuff going on… I am feeling so special… I live such a boring life…. Most days and then I get to do something so different from my everyday life, like go to Africa twice in one year! And for long stays, so I get a bit of a feel for the area, people, climate and customs.

There are many added benefits too. Like, even though there is a full kitchen, I don’t cook here. The pots and pans are marginal at best…. as are the utensils. And the cooktop is induction… which -well -is much too slow and much too hot for me to balance cooking on. So we eat out a lot! So far I have mastered grilled cheese and salads in the kitchen here, although I have to sharpen the knives every time I use them, because they won’t hold an edge. Another benefit is the condo comes with cleaning ladies, every day except Sunday, like in a hotel. The linens are changed each Monday, and the rest of the place is kept up by them…. Dusting, mopping, counters, etc. daily. All I have to do is stay out of the way.

I mentioned in the previous post (yesterdays) that we went to a
street market on the waterfront in Downtown Durban on Sunday.
I have taken a couple of pictures of some of the loot… I got 2
table cloths that will probably become jackets, like the one on this page. One
is a light blue and dark blue block print on white. It has elephants in
the center - (if you want to see more in a photo, just click on it for a larger view).

and the other is a bunch of African figures dancing
in black on a multi color earth toned background.

My DH saw a painting that he liked…
well actually he wanted a large painting…
and I liked this one, because the trees are
Acacia and have leaves and the elephants.
We will have it framed in a simple black
frame and hang it in the family room,
which has become the “African Room”
in our home.

I was poking through some blogs I follow, read or pop in on once in awhile, and found a neat surprise. Becky of Beckys Blabber blog, posted an Honest Scraper… award on me. So I will have to address that too here, soon (I was thinking tackling it today, but this post is already long!). It’s about honesty and trueness in blogging…. You have to tell 5 things about yourself and bestow the Award on 5 other blogs! I don’t read too many blogs on a daily basis. If I did, I would never get up from the computer. I don’t know how some people do it…. I like to sleep about 8 hours every night…. and eat, and both take up a significant portion of time all by themselves. Add in the other “have to’s” and you are just about out of daylight and that leaves either a bit more time for the computer or in the sewing room. (So there is one honest thing!).

I have plans to visit with a friend, Brenda, at her place. We will be looking over the jacket pattern I made (again like this one), to see if she likes it. If she does we will start the plan!!! We will have to visit the fabric store (not quilting) for a suitable piece for her. And tomorrow she and her neighbor, Verna, will have lunch on the Promenade, just outside my door. It is supposed to be a great place for breakfast and lunch and if my nose is half right it will be spectacular!!!

I finally loaded a visual ‘Visit Counter’ to my blog… I had been meaning to do this for several months… ok, well since summer. But sometimes… the computer and simple escape me!!! And then getting things to work… well you know … I just let it go. Someday I will even find a layout with 3 columns that lets me put my own picture in the header…. But I have many other things I’d much rather do that search through endless template pages on the Internet!!!

In closing, let me wish everyone a Very HAPPY Christmas!!! I hope to post again before the New Year, but in case I don’t get too a SAFE New Year!!!

And as always- MORE Later!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Africa Again

I’m in South Africa 4 days now!!

The trip from home to O’Hare in the Chicagoland area didn’t take any time at all. Has to have been the fastest ride to the airport I have ever taken. NOT a single orange road construction barrel out there!!!! It is an unusual occurrence for a Chicagoland Interstate Toll Road… and has to be a first since I’ve lived here. So I checked my bags, (which were considerably under weight), got through TSA without a hitch and proceeded to the gate; where, since I was early, waited 2 hours to board the plane. The flight was uneventful… on United which is saying a lot.

So for all the talk about long lines and cramped travel…. I noticed that both Chicago O'Hare and Washington Dulles are deserted. Not many travelers on the concourses; at least in Terminal C at O’Hare or Terminal B in Dulles. They say the plane is full going from N American Continent to the Dark Continent… but I did manage to have my seat switched from a center to an aisle…. Would have preferred a window, but I hate centers… You never get an arm rest in the middle.

The plane to Africa was full. There were 1 or 2 vacant seats, but of course not next to me!!! I don’t know if it is just me or what, but on flights in the US I just about freeze to death. I always take a light jacket to put on. The flights to Africa are warm, very warm; I just about roast. But I got here in one piece and in great shape. I landed at my final destination at 10 pm on Wednesday evening. I left O’Hare at 11 am on Tuesday!!! I did manage to get a fitful 5 or so hours of nap time on the plane which left me in good shape to catch up easily with a regular nights sleep.

On Thursday I got through the whole day without a nap!!!! Surprised everyone with the quick body clock turn around. I got unpacked and discovered that TSA had searched one of my bags and somewhere the other bags lock and the tabs the lock goes through were broken completely off, and the contents of my bag had been gone through…. Nothing missing as far as I can tell. But the one bag will be history when I get back to the states.

After I unpacked, I took a walk on the beach and promenade. It was hot and a bit humid. I even got a little sunburn. I took a couple of photos. One of the pictures is of the beach. This is the South African summer, so school is out and this is the major holiday/vacation spot for many South Africans and some from interior countries too. So the beaches fill up, the umbrellas are toe to toe, and there are lots of people on the beach, as you can see in the photo. (To see more photo detail or a larger version, remember, just click on the photo and it will take you to a larger view.)

I snapped a portrait of an African Daisy again, but this time with a bee. I like the shot.

On Friday, I had to go over to one of the local resorts to look into a rental car. They have a small pond with some Macaws (Scarlets and Blue and Golds) with a small pond with some Wood Ducks. I really liked the face on this guy.

The Indian Ocean is rife with sharks, but there are also Whales and Dolphins. So the other morning looking out the window I spotted a pod of Dolphins. Not that you can tell that much from the picture, but it is Dolphins.

And last but not least today, we went to a flea market/street market, where mostly handmade goods are sold. Mostly African, but there were some East Indian stalls with food and clothing, some linens and some Tupperware too! I picked up a couple of things… but I didn’t go hog wild. I know we will be going to some other places, so I save a couple of dollars/rand to spend elsewhere.

I took one other picture, a red hibiscus flower. It bordered an old garden along the waterfront. Since South Africa will be hosting the 2010 FIFA World Cup (Soccer), they are in the midst of fixing up lots of public areas. I think that along with the waterfront, the garden is also getting some attention, it was fenced off and not really looking to well cared for.

Christmas will find us at a Farm, celebrating with a very large eclectic 'family' of friends. We will be semi camping in the wilds. I can't wait to see some more of Africa.

I hope everyone that reads this has a joyous Christmas!!!

and as always-

More Later!!!

Saturday, December 12, 2009


Yes I have been quiet. I have been sitting on my hands. Well that is not really true. I have been very busy getting ready to spend the holidays away from the cold. Far, far away from the cold, actually where it is SUMMER!!! Of course I will change my mind and wish for cooler temperatures, shortly. Here -Near Chicago it is cold. I’m sure everyone in other parts of the US is aware, because half of the news broadcasts are about the cold and snow in the mid-section of the country. We didn’t get the feet of snow that other areas around us received (Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan), -nope just a few inches, which already look a bit dirty and bedraggle. Of course we had rain first which turned to sleet which turned back to rain then froze with a layer of snow on top. Talk about treacherous driving conditions.

So what has been going on in the meantime? Well I have the baby quilt quilted and the binding machine stitched down, hand work will be done next week. I have the wreath quilt also quilted and the binding machine stitched also, and again hand work will commence next week. Today I will start on my 4” x 4” Crazy Quilt Squares, so I will have something to work on by hand once the bindings are done. I have one smaller project to complete, 2 -4” 4 patches for a baby quilt being done for a Pickle Road Yahoo Group Member. I think picking the fabrics will take the most time. We are supposed to think… Crayola.

Last week I hosted my Bee’s holiday party. What was I thinking when I volunteered? Anyway, we had a potluck that was absolutely delicious. Not much in the way of leftovers. So we are all really good cooks or starving… I think it was more along the lines of good cooks!!!

I also went to another holiday party… These ladies are all Longarm Quilters. I was invited to join, by a friend, when I was looking into purchasing a longarm machine. Well that has all changed because I am not home as much and my so called budget has been spent on plane tickets and kennels for the dog. Anyway it was a very fun afternoon. The best part, for me was when, one of the ladies pulled out a printout from the Internet of something she wanted to make!!! It was from my Flickr page, and was the Mariners Compass I did as the center for a Round Robin a couple of years ago, (it’s not done yet)… Anyway I am flattered….. and my head swelled for a nanosecond, but hey it was a compliment!!!

I have shipped a small fake Christmas tree, battery operated LED lights and ornaments by mail along with lots of other Christmas stuff. It will be like being in San Diego again for Christmas. I have not idea what else we will do for the actual holidays... but it will be different and the is good.
More later....
The countdown begins… So my next post will be from South Africa!!! Hopefully with pictures…