Tuesday, July 8, 2014

African Adventures volume 8. Siberian South Africa

You can’t really complain about the weather in South Africa. No, most days the sun shines over the amazingly diverse landscape filling me with awe at the natural beauty of the place.
The houses however are a different story. I really think the South Africans could learn a thing or two from American building techniques.
It’s not that the houses aren’t beautiful, just woefully impractical. Made with heavy concrete, stone and brick, most of the houses are designed with no insulation. The thick walls, reminiscent of Adobe are fairly good at keeping the cool in. That’s great when it’s ninety degrees. The fact is that most days it isn’t.

Most of the time the temperature seems to fall in the 70’s 80’s in summertime and drop to the 50’s and 60’s in fall and winter. That all seems very pleasant until they have what they call a berg wind which is a hot dry wind that feels awesome, like warm weather is moving in but it actually means the opposite. A cold front usually follows that can last anywhere from a day to a week.
We are in the middle of one now. We stayed with Roger’s mom for a few days and the cold weather blew in and there was no respite. The tile floors were like ice blocks, the walls have air bricks. You know, like actual holes in the wall in which air comes in. You stare at it watching birds fly by outside wondering who thought that was a good idea?

Coupled with the fact that no one seems to have much in the way of heat, it’s weird. His mom has one little heater in the living room and I stood by it as much as I could. During the day it warmed up outside but the house was as cold as ever. I started to feel like Elsa from Frozen. Everything I touched seemed to be made of ice.

We’re home now and there is a second cold front assaulting us. It’s about 50 degrees I’d say and the sea is whipping furiously against the rocks. The wind is blowing with such force that when I tried to walk on the beach this morning I got pelted with sand until I was forced to run home.

So, that’s all fine. What’s the big deal you say? It gets much colder in America in winter. Yes, but in America we have central heating and insulation. Our little apartment by the sea has neither. I’m shivering as I type this. I can feel air currents moving around the house as if I was sitting outside.

I just got up to put a sweatshirt on over the layers I’m already wearing. As soon as I can get a ride to Hillcrest I’m buying a big-ass heater! The biggest I can fit into our apartment.

Cheers from chilly South Africa!
(Note the all tile floor. Ice cubes for your feet...)

Saturday, July 5, 2014

African Adventures volume 7. Fed a strange baby an orange.

It was a beautiful morning on the beach. Rog and I had heard that bad weather was coming in later this afternoon so we went on our usual pre-breakfast walk.

I had to walk to the pharmacy to pick up a prescription. The no car thing is getting old but at least it was another hour of exercise under my belt.

When I got home we decided to go set up camp on the beach while the good weather lasted. A cold front is moving in and already Cape Town has been hit with freezing temps. It was in the eighties here though so we set up our mat and umbrella and I lay in the sun soaking in the rays like an iguana.

I took off to go swim, Rog wasn’t ready yet so he stayed behind. I jumped into the brisk yet beautifully clear water and stayed in almost an hour. I think my skin was nearly blue by the time I got out but it was worth it.

When I got back to our camp I noticed the addition of a little person. She was sitting on our mat next to Rog. I smiled at him and said, “What’s this?”

“A visitor,” he said. “She toddled over here and sat down and doesn’t seem to want to leave.”

I sat down next to her and said, “Do you speak English?”

“I think she’s too young,” Rog said.

“Oh.” I looked at her, she was really cute. She had hello kitty slippers and pink over-alls and a pink shirt on. She was really fascinated by the sand and kept scooping up handfuls and studying it as if it contained some hidden mystery to the key to life, which it probably does.

“Where’s her Mom?”

Rog pointed to a young girl who appeared to be about thirteen although I’m sure she was older. She was swimming and playing with a young boy, presumably her son. The son came out of the water and walked up to the child. I figured he’d take her away. He tugged at her and but she shook her head and wouldn’t budge.

“Hi,” I said to the boy who looked to be about six. “Do you speak English?”

He shook his head no. “Ah,” I said. He smiled and darted back to the water.

The mom came back up and I was sure she was coming to fetch her little one. She patted her on the head, said something in Zulu to her, smiled at us and took off down the beach.

I looked at Rog in alarm. He, as usual was totally chilled out. “Um, is she coming back, do you think?”

He shrugged, “I think she’s probably going to get her some chips or a snack.”

“Do you know if that’s what she said?”

“Not really,” he said.

The girl continued to study the mysteries of the sand and I said, “You think the mom thought, Hey, these two middle aged people are just sitting here doing nothing, maybe they can just babysit for the day?”

“Probably,” he said.

I sat watching the ocean as the tide went out. More swimmers arrived and the beach steadily filled up. The Zulu woman who walks up and down the beach heavily laden with hats, buckets and shovels and other assorted beach stuff that she sells to the tourists gave me a quizzical look as I sat there with the strange baby by my side.

After awhile the mom came back. She dropped an orange and a bag of cheese puffs in the sand and ran off down the beach to play soccer with some guys. “Okay, now I know we’ve been had. Right? This baby can’t peel an orange by herself and she can’t open a bag of snacks. We’re the babysitters, right?”

“Looks like,” Rog said.

I opened the cheese puffs and she opened her mouth obediently as I put one near her face and I popped it into her mouth. She ate a few but looked longingly at the orange.

I peeled it and broke each segment into two pieces. Her little hands were covered in sand so I popped the segments into her mouth one bit at a time. She seemed to like this and every now and then if I wasn’t fast enough, she’d turn her head and open her mouth and I’d pop another orange slice into her little face.

I was kind of ready to go have another swim eventually. Almost an hour had passed and while I was enjoying the company of this little person, I really did want to get up. Rog and I agreed that when she was finished with the orange, we’d go find the mother and hand her back.

Right as I was giving her the last segment, her mom came back. Rog and I got up and said, “We’re going to swim now, okay?”
She nodded and smiled and took the baby whose name I still do not know away.

We had our swim and as predicted as if a switch was turned on, the bad weather moved in. A howling gale swept the beach and the sand started pelting us and families everywhere folded their umbrellas and tents, gathered their things and quickly made their way off the beach.

I’m sitting inside now watching as the stormy weather approaches. The clouds have been soaring by at high speed shifting and changing into the most amazing creatures. Dragons, turtles, monkey heads.

So, it’s been a good day here. Cheers from South Africa