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South African Vibes

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My trip to South Africa in November 2009

Home again

South Africa Posted on Dec 28, 2009 19:40:35

Well, there is an end of everything – my South African adventure is over. I relive it, though, when working with my pictures. I’ve created an album.
Nothing else to do but endure our dreary winter weather here … and … soon it will be spring again, albeit not the same warm colourful version as experienced in South Africa.

Cape Town top eight

South Africa Posted on Nov 27, 2009 16:31:07

Today is the last day of my stay in South Africa. The two weeks passed very quickly and gave me a head full of impressions.

In my opinion, the top eight things to do when visiting Cape Town:

  1. In Cape Town, take the blue or the read double-decker bus where you can jump on and off as much as you like during one day. Thus you can get to know Cape Town and its whereabouts, listening to some interesting facts at the same time. The bus will pass all interesting places like Table Mountain, District Six Museum, the Botanical Gardens, Waterfront, etc. Don’t forget a sun hat if you choose to sit on upper deck.
  2. Table Mountain: take the cable car up and enjoy the most breathtaking view over the cape. There are different paths that take you to see the “table” with its exotic plants.
  3. Robben Island is a must: it is the prison island where the freedom fighters where incarcerated during the Apartheid years. Nelson Mandela spent a large part of his 27 years of prison on this island. His tiny cell is still there to see. Ex-prisoners show the tourists around and tell their stories.
  4. Green Market – very tourist oriented but full of beautiful African things like shirts, dresses, drums, necklaces, wooden sculptures, etc
  5. Mama Africa, a pub on Long Street where you can hear good groups playing African music. People of all nations, ages and colors enjoy the polyrhythmic drumming and singers singing their hearts out.
  6. A tour to Cape of Good Hope: rounding the Cape peninsula is an exciting experience. It is the meeting place of two seas: the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean. The Cape of Good Hope is however not the most southern point, it is Cape Agulhas further to the east.
  7. Spier, a Wine Estate near Stellenbosch about 40 km north of Cape Town. They have here an ambitious cheetah program to help save this wonderful feline from extinction: they raise the cubs to become ambassadors for the species. If you pay a certain amount of money and listen carefully to all instruction given by volonteers, it is possible to go inside the compound to have a close stroking encounter with both cubs and grown-ups. An encounter you will never forget!
  8. The tourist information in Cape Town will provide you with lots of information and there are sustainable tourist activities to suit all tastes.

Busy days and silent nights

South Africa Posted on Nov 26, 2009 13:40:15

The top picture to the left shows the lovely view from our breakfast terrace and to the right is the cheetah Felix (not a breakfast view, unfortunately)
Below are the nice learners & teacher at Westerford and bottom right shows my swimming adventure.

I am now in the last phase of my exciting South African trip. From noisy busy Cape Town to silent sunny Somerset West. In the night there is total silence. Not even a frog to be heard. Well I cannot complain because finally I had the silence I so much had been longing for.

On Tuesday we went for a swim in the Indian Ocean, in the green big salty waves and it was so refreshing! It is a bit funny to see all the Christmas preparations in the shops and then go out on a sunny beach.

Yesterday I met four nice students with their equally nice teacher at Westerford High School in Cape Town and today I received a warm welcome at Boland College and at Rhenish school in Stellenbosch. I hope this will be the beginning of another intercultural virtual exchange between South African and Swedish teachers and students. The school year is however drawing towards its end here so I have not been able to visit any lessons. Teachers and student are busy with the final exams and the school year will end in the beginning of December when the summer holidays start.

Contrasts enhance the picture

South Africa Posted on Nov 22, 2009 21:10:48

From the peaceful Spier to the noisy vibrating big city Cape Town.

The nights at Spier were velvet black skies with bright stars in constellations different from home as well as a wall of silence behind a symphony of different sounds from crickets, frogs and birds. Especially in the mornings there were a lot of birds tuning in, some with very strong high-pitched voices that sounded eerily human. These sounds were a nice background to all the thoughts and impressions that kept buzzing in my head throughout the conference.

Last Friday it was time to change surroundings. The taxi trip to Cape Town went fast: the chauffeur broke every traffic rule in the book in his vain urge to be the first in an endless queue of vehicles heading for Cape Town. I was very grateful to arrive safe and sound at the hostel near Table Mountain where I had booked three nights.

The luxury offered by Cape Town Backpackers Hostel was far from what we experienced at Spier. I found the hostel very good, though. Nice clean rooms and helpful welcoming staff – much more personal and sympathetic atmosphere than the cool somewhat colonial elegance at Spier.

Whereas the evenings were a bit slow and lonely at Spier, they are vibrating and full of life here around the main street, Long Street. Cafés, clubs, restaurants open until late and people everywhere.

We visited the music pub Mama Africa both on Friday and Saturday evening to listen to two different groups. A polyrhythmic explosion – the drum solos didn’t leave anyone in the audience untouched. And what an audience: a multicultural mix of people of all ages, colours and nationalities. When a veiled woman entered the pub and started moving to the rhythms the picture was complete. Wow, when will we see that in age/group-conscious Sweden?

From the conference I retain the phrase “Laughter has no colour” and it is also applicable to music. Music in itself has of course a lot of colours in its expression but this has nothing to do with the colour of your skin. And music knows no age limit either. At Waterfront, I’ve had the pleasure to watch and listen to swinging 75-80+ musicians with e.g a saxophonist playing with his arthritic fingers; perhaps not the most perfect notes but notes played with heart and joy. Music must reach its listeners’ hearts to mean something, to arouse feelings inside the listener. If it doesn’t, it will be just a background.

Crossing the street in Cape Town is hazardous. When the pedestrian light turns green after a loooong while, you have four seconds to cross the street before it turns red again. You just have to run for your life while the murderous car drivers, in their urge to put the survival of the fittest into practice, are roaring their engines to prepare for hunting down the slow ones.

Conference and Cheetahs

South Africa Posted on Nov 20, 2009 21:35:52

The conference is over and it went so fast. Too fast. I did my presentation today and it felt good. It’s really difficult to say everything in such a short time. I appreciate that I was accepted as a presenter: I really like to talk to an audience but I would have liked to have time for more questions. However, I was a bit afraid of getting long questions: some people here made long speeches instead of asking straight questions and it was surely difficult for the speaker to discern the question in the mass of words.

To speak for a long time is easy and the shorter the time the more preparation is requested. After all, with shorter time for presentations, the more presentations to listen to.

Yesterday I went to the cheetah compound and patted three darling kittens. I remember the names of two of them: Heathcliff and Felix. I like the fact that meeting these wonderful felines is on their terms.

Writing intensive workshop

South Africa Posted on Nov 17, 2009 21:10:58

For my part it was more listening intensive: some terms were new to me and there was a lot of information. Most of the participants in the workshop were tertiary level teachers so the material discussed was for teaching at university level. However, the approaches to the writing process are also applicable at upper secondary.

My head is full of impressions and ideas and I will need time to digest it all. In fact it is a good thing to write down as much as possible: writing clears the mind. Writing helps the thinking and vice versa.

Tomorrow is the opening of the conference and there will be many interesting presentations to listen to.

So phase two in my South African visit has begun with many thoughts and ideas about writing and how to help the students enhance their writing skills. And the weather is getting better!


South Africa Posted on Nov 16, 2009 23:09:11

Protea – national flower, Camphor tree, In the shade of an old oak tree
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The first days

South Africa Posted on Nov 16, 2009 22:28:21

16 November
Arrival at Spier Estate, the conference venue. After logging into the fine four-star hotel we went for a walk and saw the first cheetah. Tomorrow there will be a writing workshop which I look forward to attending. It’s getting warmer now.
A nice cup of Roiboos tea and time for bed.

15 November
Late breakfast on the terrace with magnificent view over the Helderberg mountains. I rehearsed my presentation to my South African friend Margaretha and we had a fruitful dialogue about the message I’m going to convey next Friday. I’m beginning to have second thoughts about me presentating at the conference. Do I really have something interesting to communicate? What audience will I have? Will they be listening? Will I be able to evoke their interest? I have mixed feelings, though: it will be so exciting to be part of it all, listening and learning a lot!

In the afternoon we visited the vineyard Vergelegen, which in Africaans is pronounced with so many ach-lauts that it sounds like a sneeze. The tourist brochure says: “you can experience the pastoral tranquility of the extensive gardens and absorb the history of Cape cultural heritage…” The most awesome thing to see there is the tall magnificent stout camphor trees.

In the evening, under a starry sky – but a sky different from ours, a howling wind shatters the windows of the house where we are staying. Kind of spooky!

14 November
Good to rest and sleep late after the long flight. In the afternoon we visited Lourensford Wine Estate, situated by the river bearing the same name. We did some cheese tasting – South African cheddars of different ages: matured 6 months and 12 months. We had a lovely cup of coffee, not outside, though. The expected spring warmth hasn’t made its appearance. It’s quite chilly and windy. In spite of the weather we went for a walk in the nature reserve to breathe some fresh air and look at the exotic plants and birds.

13 November
A long journey – all in all nearly 14 hours. Monotonous is the least one can say. I watched two films on the plane: Atonement (the book is better…) and the film about Coco Chanel that didn’t impress me too much. I think the film about Edith Piaf was much more touching and thought provoking. Much food was served and lots of water. I got my vegetarian meal first of all. Arrival at 23.00 at Cape Town Airport. No stars on the black velvet sky.

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