Friday, February 26, 2010

A Taste of the South African West Coast

We had a nice trip up the west coast of South Africa. We didn't go too far, but little distance is required to get a flavor for the vast open space of the west coast. Only a few miles north west of Cape Town the landscape becomes incredibly barren and lonely. It felt like Wyoming in the summer. It didn't take many miles for me to abandon my fantasy of driving for days on end deep into the Namibian desert. We made our way to a little town called Langebaan which is set on a very white, flat beach. Its a popular spot for kite boarding. It was incredibly windy. Our sun umbrella caught wind and flew almost half a mile until we could eventually run it down. The bright white sand is extremely fine, 3 days later and we are still trying to scrub it out of Ananya's hair.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Escape from Water World

Perhaps a week into our stay in Buenos Aires, the kids and I got caught in a torrential downpour. It was dark out, and we were sheltered under a restaurant awning, laughing about the rain and milling with other folks. The kids insisted we go for it and head home, despite my many warnings that we would be totally soaked. I relented, and so, we three started running; perhaps not 20 feet into our journey it was as if we had jumped into a lake. Nayan and I had a blast, laughing all the way home, enjoying the mixture of heat and heavy rain. Ananya shreaked after losing her flip flop and remained totally spooked that night, and for weeks after; for the remainder of our time in Buenos Aires, anytime Ananya saw clouds, or signs of rain, she stubbornly refused to go outside. We bribed her with a push button umbrella and lots of ice cream, and we spent much time convincing her that the rain was nothing to fear, and not much could happen. Looks like we were wrong. Our friend Maria who lives in Buenos Aires, just forwarded this article published in La Nacion, about the torrential rains. Take a look. Many of the pictures are from our neighborhood with water levels rising over 1 meter. The first shot is of a group exiting a bus while clutching a rope to cross the currents. Looks like we indeed escaped just in time.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Ridgebacks, Rottweilers, and Razor Wire

You know you're in South Africa when you see a sign like this next to a nice hotel. We're still getting used to being greeted with huge Rodesian Ridgebacks, German Shepherds, Rottweilers, and other slathering doobers while heading out for a hike. The locals don't seem to notice, and the dogs seem friendly enough when you're introduced, nonetheless, it is a bit nerve wracking. One of the hardest things to get over here is this ever present security obsession. From what folks tell you, the ubiquitous razor wire, electric fences, heavily armed ADT guards, and oodles of huge barking dogs is all necessary to keep people from being robbed. Its still tough for me to tell if this is the truth, or a bit of a hangover from the tenuous apartheid days -- it does, however, seem to be a bit overkill. When you chat with folks, most say something like, "we haven't had a break in before in the past 20+ years," or, "its usually just petty break ins, folks looking for quick getaways with a lap top, cell phones or other electronics." If so, I can't help but wonder why everyone cares so much -- get some insurance, a dead bolt, and be done with it; the rest of this hoo ha just freaks out the tourists. I also wonder if this isn't a bit of a self fulfilling prophecy -- razor wire wrapped home owners assume massive crime is just one tenement away, and the tenement folks see these armed fortresses presuming attempts will be made to rob them, and conclude, perhaps it is their duty to rob them. Even if the crime is truly this extreme a concern, isn't this race to the most hardcore security obsessors just pushing the crime to one's next door neighbor? After all, in between the hardcore homes are seemingly unprotected homes with little more than a friendly lab meandering about.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Seals and Sauntering Near Haut Bay

We had an amazing trip to Seal Island. It's a short hop from Haut Bay. You don't actually get off the boat, and wander around, as you may guess from the photos. Basically, its a few rocks, surrounded by rough waters and completely coated in seals -- a truly amazing sight, one of the most beautiful I've seen. We experienced some really big swells, but our stomachs thankfully held up.

Afterward, we bought some fish off the dock and hauled them back to our firepit out back. We're staying in a lovely cottage up in the hillside above Haut Bay called Placid Pine. Our host Louise is absolutely wonderful. The kids have been ecstatic here in South Africa; we have a large rustic backyard where they have freedom to roam a bit, there's a nice pool, and our hosts live in the house which the kids love to visit; Ananya especially likes to hang out with our fearless protector, Thomas the cat.
After a month couped up in a massive city like Buenos Aires, Nayan especially has been giddy, last night breaking out into a scream, "I just love campfires, I just love them!" I had to remind him to breathe afterward. Louise taught us an amazing technique for barbecueing. Basically you start a fire in a fire pit. Once its hot, you throw in some charcoals in a clump near the edge. When the coals are hot, you slide the hot coals over to another spot under a grill mounted on a pole with an adjustable clamp to control the height for heat control. Then you get to linger over the fire, enjoying the heat and view, occassionally clamping onto a hot coal and plopping it under the grill. Needless to say, our fish was tasty, and we've already begun designing our pit back home complete with a bread warming section and a pizza oven.
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