Strange and lovely things at DUT

There are the most majestic trees and plants at DUT that we take for granted. What greets you in the morning if you are not rushing and take the time to look up is this most beautiful HUGE rubber tree20170221_072048.jpg

This provides the lunchtime shade near the food hub.

20170201_122339.jpgEverywhere are these fever trees and two huge ones greet you as you enter the main car park. The inevitable stralitzias and giant stralitzias,so much part of this area:20170201_123456.jpg

and then there are precious cycads just casually posing here and there.20170213_074203.jpg

this building has been built around the tree.

20170216_072417.jpg

And then there are strange statues like this one

these were surveying students surveying the grounds..something we do at Waldorf schools with the lecturers looking on and relaxing.

And unexpectedly these amazing lilies:20170223_112506

Odd things are these very effective brooms that come free from the palm trees that are everywhere. They sweep a lot at a time.20170224_071245

and then a quirky name on a take away:20170224_070909

And then I discovered a student hub:20170301_080312

Luckily, as I look older I am not questioned when I enter the staff canteen that serves the best coffee and really cheap and delicious and healthy meals. The students have to deal with instant ricoffee and real junk food (mostly vetkoek) and snacks but luckily tempered with fresh fruit.

And something unusual we enjoyed doing was painting each other to indicate the various muscles in the body. We had to know the names, origins and insertions of the major ones and teach it to each other.

Being a tourist in my own country

And so I returned to South Africa after a long flight via Dubai. I was nervous about getting home, as there was so much trouble in Europe and the middle East. I never thought I would think that the safest place to be was actually South Africa in its lonely corner far away. I had a good seat in the plane and could watch as the landscape changed from green square patches over Europe and the UK, then the dryness of the middle east, the absolute blue of the immense sea, the dryness and occasional patches of cultivation through Africa. you could see a transition into SA, where cultivation was more extensive and defined, but still dry, as it was the end of winter, and then coming into the Cape where everything is green again, extensive wild mountains with lush green patches of cultivation.

I couldnt help feeling like crying when Table mountain appeared through the clouds and we landed in Cape Town, and I realized how much I missed this beautiful land. After that I found myself relishing everything I had previously taken for granted and felt like a tourist in my own country, as if seeing things for the first time:

SO, HOW DO YOU KNOW YOU ARE IN SOUTH AFRICA?

Well first was that you dont have to deal with a machine for everything. Second people smile and are helpful. Third, there are many black faces, which are rather rare in Britain. So arriving at the airport the smiley BLACK faces with AFRICAN accents and a smattering of Afrikaans and that wonderful, South African accent. People could actually understand what I said first time I said it. The airport was clean and open and efficient, and not cluttered with shops and harassed people.

Familiar people

In Britain everyone was a stranger. Of course, the best was seeing my son again, and realizing how much I missed him. Then bumping into familiar people everywhere.

Then there were so many other things I discovered over the first weeks back:

One ply toilet paper.20160814_093004 In England I could only get 2 and even 3-ply toilet paper, thats so smooth its like using plastic.  One ply absorbs so much better. I never thought I would appreciate that. In the UK, you also go through a roll very quickly, and they all have methods of cutting corners, like making shorter rolls or wider inner cardboard or thicker rolls.

 

 

 

 

 

Large sachets of sugar in the coffee shops. 20160808_144128In the uk, they give you such tiny sachets, you need at least four in a cup. Here I only need one and a half and its more than sweet.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Coffee shops allow you to help yourself to condiments..as much as you like. In Britain you get charged for each sachet (R15 each!). and the price of coffee in a cafe. What a relief to pay from 15 to 20 rands rather than 40 to 50.20160816_133723

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blue skies are a normal occurrence rather than unusual, 20160805_135130and I headed for the first beach, where there is soft white sand rather than hard round pebbles or purple mud. And so is bare feet. I had bare feet only once the entire year in England.

20160819_161642.jpg

BEACHES IN ENGLAND

Wide vistas, where you can see for miles

rather than just a hedge, which is mostly what you see when driving around in the UK.  Where there are views, you are not allowed to stop..or you get charged a parking fee!

Pavements on BOTH sides of the road, and wide enough for 3 people not just one. I realized that South Africa is a generous country.

Parking that is FREE and available.

Wide, well engineered roads with furrows either side for rain run off and NO potholes. Yes, dont kid yourself, South African roads are much better than the UK, where rain constantly potholing the badly made roads that have very bad drainage, and then taking ages to fix them.

Money is not so heavy and we only have only 7 coin types that are light as opposed to 8 heavy coins in the UK,(including 1 and 2 pence that are worth F-all, and hardly ever used, but they insist on giving it.) My purse always weighed half a ton, and nobody wanted my change.

South African prices! Boy, was I glad to see those! when you are paying over R40 for a coffee or tea, R20 minimal for parking anywhere, even on the beach, R300 to enter any National Heritage site, R2000 for a small speeding fine going 3 mph over the very slow speed limit of 45kmph in a built up zone. The only cheap thing is cars at a third of the price in SA even taking into account the horrendous exchange rate

Despite there being many throwbacks from the colonial era, like the street names that hark to ye olde England,

most are quite reasonable rather than the weird names you find in England. Very occasionally you can rely on something odd.20160813_104007

It was really great to have someone put in petrol for me instead of doing it myself. 20160813_141127

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And here you DONT PAY FOR AIR AND WATER. (R10 for 5 minutes or air or water in the UK, which you have to put in yourself! to me this is criminal!). Okay you do give tips in SA, but to have a friendly face doing it all for you its worth the tip which is much less. R10 (50p) tip is seen as a HUGE tip.

In the UK, you dont have to worry about your car being broken into, but it is true here too, as we have car guards. they also expect a tip but its nothing like the parking fees you pay in the UK. (more like 25p is generous for a whole morning)20160824_13454120160813_111538

Rain shelters over shops. In the UK, the shops do not have rain shelters over the pavements despite the fact that it rains constantly. In SA we dont use umbrellas because we know that it is easy to skip from shelter to shelter and whole streets are sheltered. This is something that is so generous that we take for granted.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SA is also a very generous country when you go touring. Besides all the wonderful views, there are always special turn off places at the best views and road verges and MANY designated FREE picnic sites.

Real  Mountains. Everywhere.20160818_174953

Empty spaces for miles

Real wild animals, not just squirrels and bunnies.

Cows grazing alongside the roads. This was only true in one site in Britain,on Minchinhampton common.20160814_105146

Sunsets. In the UK, the sky is generally covered with cloud.20160818_174247

Night sounds. There are no sounds of frogs and crickets or night jars , or anything other than cars unless you live near the sea..and even then, you are never sure that it isnt the cars you are hearing.

Night skies:

To actually see stars in the UK is unusual. Although they often announce celestial events, on TV or radio, you never see them because the skies are always clouded or too many lights. Capetown has a lot of light scattering, but even then, you can see the stars because there are no clouds.

Good Libraries with actual books.

Libraries in the UK are terrible. They have very few books, the choice focuses around British writers..usually romance or thrillers. There are NO interesting non fiction books to expand your mind (only history books about Britain..nothing too controversial) and its all self service. Books taken out with a machine, books handed in with a machine, and only one librarian for the entire library (and a few volunteers) In SA its hard to choose a book because there is choice, friendly librarians to help you locate a book, which, if they dont have it, will find it for you. Also videos for free. (In the Uk you pay R20 to loan a video or music..and not much choice.)

National Art gallery and museums do charge you in SA, but the fee is reasonable. R30=1.50 pounds) In the UK, some of the art galleries and museums are free, but despite what they say, most are not, and they charge you at least R180 (9 pounds)to R300(15 pounds)! Even if you take the highly inflated exchange rate out of the picture, you are usually paying the equivalent of R100-150. They do say that it is valid for a year, but who is going to come back inside a year? South African Art is also very exciting.

Route markers tell you which direction you are going. This one tells you it is going SOUTH.20160825_174401I cant tell you how often I got lost in the UK.I had no sun to work it out as it was cloudy and no mountains or landmarks..just hedges hedges hedges. Route markers just told you which route you were on, and if you didnt know the town you were going to (there are so many funny names) you could easily be heading to Landsend when you should be going to Norfolk. I kept having to back track.

The speed limit in built up areas in England is 30mph (48kmph) and you darent go above it. so everyone creeps through the towns, thats why it takes so long to get anywhere. Distances are measured in time not miles. In SA it is 60kmph (37.5 mph) a little more reasonable. Top speed in England is 70mph (112mph).

 

 

Roads are STRAIGHT.

The only straight roads in England are the roman roads and the motorwys and there are only a few of those. Further confusion arises at circles that are everywhere and can lead you in a totally different direction to your map even if you follow the signs. Heaven forbid if you are not, you may end up on a highway. These have very few exits, so you could be going for man miles before you can turn around. In SA if you head one direction, it rarely changes..this could be boring, but it makes for easy driving where you can relax rather than be on tenterhooks looking for the next exit, or back tracking when you discover you are not in the town you thought you were. All towns in England are pretty, but also all look the same, so if it wasnt for the signs, you wouldnt know where you are.

Cars older than 15 years and not in peak condition are seen everywhere on the roads.

Dogs run free and are not muzzled.

Toilets have a mechanical flush that actually needs you to touch the handle and energy to use.20160819_150844

Spring has sprung with the first South African wild flowers.

People talk loudly and shout across streets. People laugh with a belly laugh. People talk straight so you know where you stand. They actually want to know how you are when they say “how are you?” They rarely use the word “nice”. They hoot at everything. They say sorry if you get hurt even if they have nothing to do with it. Ubuntu is not just a trade name on a can of cola..it is a living everyday reality.20151020_134719

Viva South Africa, Viva. I am so glad to be back.

 

 

London in 4 days again

I decided to reverse the way I came to the UK, but going by bus to London for 4 days and then on to the airport. So I booked into the Hostel I was in before. Luckily tings had improved there over the year. They got rid of the miserable front staff and now have polite and helpful people (this was a major complaint on their website) They also had improved their entrance and gave free wi-fi instead of charging an arm and a leg for it. I was put one floor lower, whew, those stairs are a killer, but it was in season so my 6 bed room was full of 6 sweaty people. It was hot and muggy and the window opened only very slightly. Also because of Health and safety fire rules, every lading was closed by a fire door. Now I am sure that no fire would spread there, but the health of the occupants wrt fresh air was definitely compromised. Its funny how some issues take precedence over others..too bad if you cant breathe, at least you wont get burnt down. One fat Italian had luckily bought a fan that he kept running and we opened the fire door with a fire hydrant.

Unfortunately the same fat Italian was also a LOUD snorer. My earplugs were not designed for those decibels, but somehow, amongst the other MALE snorers, I managed to sleep. (As I said before, the rooms were mixed male/female..but I was the only female.

London was full of tourists, as it was holidays for most. This gave it a good vibe too. So I planned to meet some of my OLD friends there.

I first planned to go to Camden market to get some souvenirs to take home, despite the fact that I literally had no place in my suitcase, which was already overweight, but I decided to throw away some clothes,  I had got too fat for. (yes, despite all that exercise and healthy food, I had put on weight! I put it down to the huge amount of carbs you end up eating on a low protein vegetarian diet, as you are constantly hungry. Also the fact that you cant buy a small bar of chocolate..they are ENORMOUS..so you end up eating it all in one sitting.) Camden market is some place you wont see anywhere. I had come previously with Amie (a German girl who had volunteered previously in SA and came to visit me in England).

They had this zulu restaurant with boerewors rolls for R180! (9 pounds).

I thought that I should first go to Portobello road market, as I had not yet been there. Well after that I didnt really need to go to Camden market, as I got all my souvenirs there. Its an incredibly long street lined with market stalls and shops, but difficult to find, as its not advertised.

There was this shop with literally hundreds of old singer sewing machines that echoed a similar one in camden market. In Malawi they would have been used, not just posing in the windows.

I wished I could buy more, but my bulging suitcase said no. I thought of sending some things home by post, but the cost was prohibitive. (R2000 for 5 kg). So more clothes got turfed out.

The next day I met my OLD friend, Andrew, and we walked to Kensington castle, which was where Lady Di used to live. Well, I am sure I would also have been depressed there..what an ugly square building..just lots of square rooms, and the garden was so formal and full of tourists. I am sure the paparazzi were lurking at every corner.

Then we found the memorial to prince Albert, the love of queen Victoria. Well you cant miss it..it is HUGE. She must have really loved him. At each corner of the memorial was a statue commemorating the conquered lands: Africa, Asia, Europe and America..it looked like she did it all for him.

Coming from an ex-colony, I was not impressed, and wondered what the “Rhodes must fall” group would have done. London is FULL of colonial relics. I found that the street leading to Trafalgar square had a statue of a (male) war hero very 100 yards or so, I began to wonder if that was all that was commemorated. then I found one for all The FEMALE war heroes…but war heroes nevertheless.

The worst was finding the funeral mask of Lord Kitchener in ST PAULS CATHEDRAL. He was responsible for the slash and burn tactics that led to the establishment of the first Concentration camps in South Africa during the Boer war that the Germans emulated so sadly in the second world war. Eventually 26,370 Afrikaner women and children (81% were children) died in the concentration camps. I am not surprised that he is guarded behind an iron gate, as I am sure his memorial would have been defaced.20160801_133435.[.

Frederick Joubert Duquesne, a Boer soldier and spy, claimed that he had assassinated Kitchener after an earlier attempt to kill him in Cape Town failed. I was shocked that such a cruel man was lying in state in one of the most important Cathedrals. I wonder if one day he would be brought to justice by the ICC. (The ICC seems biased towards Africans and Germans)

Another sculpture that had SA echoes, was this one in Hyde park called ” Physical energy”. 20160730_180547Three of these sculptures were created and one is at the Rhodes memorial in Cape Town! The artist: George Frederic Watts. It was dedicated to Cecil John Rhodes, but the plaque does not mention him at all.

Watts said the statue was “a symbol of that restless physical impulse to seek the still unachieved in the domain of material things”. This was particularly appropriate for Cecil Rhodes, made his fortune before he was 30 and in 1880 established the De Beers mining company, which has dominated the diamond industry ever since.

Rhodes used his wealth to try to extend the British Empire in Africa from the Cape of Good Hope in the south to Cairo in the north. Rhodes’ dream came true shortly after he died when Britain took control of one million square miles of the Transvaal at the end of the Boer Wars. Rhodes left his fortune to Oxford University to fund the Rhodes Scholarships. the third sculpture is in Harare, Zimbabwe. “Rhodes must fall” would have  a field day in London.

Talking about de Beers and gold and diamonds, we went to Harrods, and at last I saw where all the money has gone..well the SA gold and diamonds. As Trevor Noah said Britain never thought of giving the gold back, but that we could win it back at the olympics, one gold medal at a time. (I found out that each gold medal contains 0.1 ounce of gold. Thats a lot of medals to win!)

Harrods has to be seen to be believed. It is really a hub for the ultra rich, I am surprised they dont charge you to go in. Frankly, its quite embarrassing in its opulence in a world of so much poverty. When you flaunt riches like that, you are asking for economic migrants to come to your country. (I also wonder how much can be truly said to be earned rather than stolen at some point in history and even still.) I am afraid I felt quite sick.

The fashion, however, was unusual and creative, but totally unaffordable.

We walked down Baker street, where people were queueing to go two by two into Sherlock Holmes’ tiny house at 221B, 20160730_142348then we  went to Regents park, where we were serenaded by the open air theatre that was staging Jesus Christ Superstar, and sounded magnificent although we could only hear it. Other typical scenes were bobbies on the beat that still wear those Mr Plod hats, women doing a race for cancer awareness and many street performers..mostly levitators.

The next day I went to meet a colleague from Constantia Waldorf school..Eva Binamu, who is now Eva Godfrey, our wonderfully popular and under appreciated (by staff) eurhythmy teacher who is excelling at Kings Langley Waldorf school in London.

We had trouble meeting each other, as London roads were blocked off by a bicycle race similar to the Argus in cape town, (but not as big, even though they say theyre the biggest in the world..I have checked..its not as long and not as many people ride it). it raises funds for charity..see the flags and see my previous post about charity in the UK.

So finally we met at Kings cross station which is huge. 20160731_164822The Eurostar to Paris leaves from here and so does the Hogwarts express, where I saw platform 9 and 3 quarters..with everyone in line trying to get a photograph next to a baggage trolley.

The new harry potter had just come out and a harry potter shop was doing a roaring trade in wands,owls and funny sweets.

The queue was too long to buy any momentoes. It was lovely seeing Eva, and we had a good skinder..although she’s too sweet to skinder. It was good to see how fully involved she was..a member of college and board, and planning to start a school in Tanzania.

Last and not least, I went to the Tate Modern again. A new wing had been opened that I wanted to see. 20160801_101817By this time, my feet LITERALLY were blistered from walking, so I took the tube. First to Big ben and watched the hundreds of ways people were photographing it in all kinds of ways.

Then to the millenium bridge, which I walked over, admiring the contrasting views of St Pauls cathedral and the shard.

There were some of my favourite artists like Kandinsky, Matisse,

but not their best works, but the Picasso was my all time favourite,the weeping women, that I had seen many years ago in Paris. 20160801_115835I ventured into the new wing that had HUGE spaces for HUGE art pieces.20160801_101658 The installations were so odd: this was a mirrored installation, used as an excuse for a selfie20160801_102210…that I found I had mistaken an office for an installation. 20160801_110642I found an interesting African artist making a comment on colonialism using a colonial desk, gold bullion and money. 20160801_104608Active installations like the one of Marina Abramovic, who lets herself be abused by the pubic by displaying a host of items on a table that can be put on her, then videoing the results;20160801_105816 and another woman artist from Bangladore, who uses human hair to knit these great spider webs. 20160801_112138However, the installation that electrified the audiences who could not stop photographing was that of Jane Alexander, a South African artist who used a the red kalahari soil and created a  surreal 3 dimensional landscape that stopped you in your tracks, with Chandeliers dripping from the ceiling, a commentary in the appropriate place on colonialism.

And so, my exploration of my colonial roots ended as I passed some vandalized bicycles to remind me that Britain is not so different to SA.

and  in me pushing my overfull bags to the bus stop using a Tesco trolley bergie style, as I refused to pay the exorbitant taxi fare to get around the corner. I didnt take a photo of that! But this is me at the airport, using the disabled toilet so that I could get my baggage in with me, taking a selfie in the mirror.A20160802_123834

And so I headed home, having had some enlightening experiences and also VERY glad to be back in SA. My next blog will be looking at my own country from British eyes.20160803_081312