Lions and tigers &etc oh my!

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 at about 1:31 pm

My somewhat adventurous weekend ended with a truly African interlude: a nature reserve by the Cradle of Humankkind. It was ridicuawesome. Basically for $10 you can just drive around all these different areas where there are various wild animals. Importantly, there are no fences, so it’s just you (in the car) and them (lazily sleeping 50 feet away because they’re used to visitors and its the height of the day but STILL). Lions, cheetahs, wild dogs, ostriches, wild boar, kudu, other bizarre antelope like things. There were some rhinos somewhere but I couldn’t find them. This has gotten me super excited for Kruger, which I’m supposed to go to in a week and a half with some people from work.

South Africa has the most diverse bird population in the world

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Sterkfontein

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 at about 11:00 am

Sunday I had the chance to explore briefly one of the most important paleoanthropological sites in the world, the so-called Cradle of Humankind. It’s been the source of numerous early hominid fossils, some of which are on display at the Sterkfontein Caves museum (the caves are the most significant site in the larger 47,000-hectare region). There’s something, as Elaine put it, almost spiritual about seeing where you came from. It’s a fascinating place. After the museum you can descend into the caves, which are interesting as sources of fossils but not terribly spectacular as caves because all the limestone (read: stalactites & other formations) has been mined out.

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the apartheid museum

Tuesday, July 15th, 2008 at about 10:50 am

Saturday afternoon I went to the Apartheid museum. A good museum, well worth it for anyone who has a chance to go. I spent an hour and a half there and it wasn’t enough; I’m not sure I would have wanted to stay longer, but I still feel like there are holes in my understanding of just the exact history of everything (never mind the emotional comprehension of it all). Bizarrely, the museum is located inside of a theme park / casino complex, sort of off to the side. It was a gray day the day I was there, a very rare winter rain here. The two pictures are of the museum from afar in the parking lot and part of the elaborate entrance.

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Revolutionary!

Monday, July 14th, 2008 at about 2:36 pm

They produce a lot of older-looking cars here, I think the factories just keep pumping them out indefinitely. You see a lot of this one, the CityGolf! This was Larry’s car.

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nine & nine

Sunday, July 13th, 2008 at about 2:06 pm

Nine US soldiers killed in Afghanistan today and nine US Army deserters are ordered to leave Canada.

I barely ever read these stories anymore.

Farah Nosh/Getty Images

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Centurion

Tuesday, July 8th, 2008 at about 11:04 am

A common site here

This is a pretty common site here. There’s a sign saying something to this effect on pretty much every house in this neighborhood (and the neighborhood, remember, is surrounded by two layers of fences, one of which is entirely electrified). I have this image of trucks full of guys with machine guns coming screeching up if I accidentally set off the security alarm. Security is a huge industry here, and to be fair it grows out of a real problem: the crime rate here is very high. But South Africa is one of the most economically unequal country in the world, and to a certain extent I get the sense that people are trying to cocoon themselves from this fact. I may be projecting this, however; just because I don’t want to see how ludicrous the relative displays of wealth here are doesn’t mean that the average South African is as squeamish.

I will say this, however — largely I’ve been quite impressed with how friendly everyone has been (and when I say everyone, I mean the largely white, largely Afrikaner upper class I’ve been interacting with on a regular basis). Not to say that there haven’t been hiccups (some people really hate Americans, for example, and there’s often little to be done there). And not that people in casual low-level interactions are particularly open: I smile at everyone, from the maids I pass walking to houses in the neighborhood while I bike to work to guys sitting around on street corners to rich Afrikaners waiting in their cars at traffic lights, and no one smiles back. But generally, and when it counts, people have been quite nice at work & out and about. At the bar on Saturday a guy in a Blue Bulls jersey asked us what we were drinking, but us another round, and never said another word, happy his team won I suppose. And the same guys who blankly stare at me on the street corner are still quick to make way for me to bike by. It’s a society under strain, but not, as of yet, lacking civility.

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the gardens botanical

Monday, July 7th, 2008 at about 2:23 pm

A relatively quiet Sunday: woke up late (long night on Saturday, and needed to catch up on some sleep from the week prior), had a leisurely lunch, biked to the botanical gardens. Very pleasant. There’s a long walk they call the Dassie trail, after the small hyrax that lives among the rocks and trees there. They’re related to elephants, of all things. There are some on the CSIR grounds as well. They’re difficult to spot, as they blend in and they’re quite shy. The best picture I managed to get of one is this somewhat blurry brown one. There were also little huts the displays in them about medicinal plants that were quite cute. And outside of them was an enormous aloe plant, which are all over the place here, but I quite like.

hard to believe they\'re related to elephants, they look like guinea pigs so charmingan aloe plant

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sharks at bulls

Monday, July 7th, 2008 at about 2:28 am

After going to Faerie Glen I biked back to Villa Africa and had a few minutes before going to meet Avery (another Stanford studentl; we lived in the same dorm this past year) at Loftus stadium for the night’s rugby match. My appreciation for organized sports is limited, but this was actually pretty fun. The game’s aren’t too long, things happen somewhat constantly. I’m not about to become a regular, but it was fun. After the game we headed to Hatfield square, big bar area near the University of Pretoria. Since the local team (The Blue Bulls) had won (over the Sharks, of Durban), there was a lot of celebrating going on. It was a fun night.

Durban Sharks vs. Pretoria Blue Bulls

And here’s the real kicker: Avery brought two friends of his who also work at IDASA (Institute for Democracy in South Africa), one from Columbia and one form OSU. So who do I end up sitting next to? Lauri Feldman’s ex-boyfriend. He knows half the kids I know from Uni through her. Small fucking world.

Avery, of Stanford, and Colin, of Columbia

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faerie glen

Sunday, July 6th, 2008 at about 7:45 am

Unexpected, right at the outskirts of Pretoria about a 20 minute bikeride from here, is Faerie Glen, a nature preserve surrounding a stream and steep ridge. It isn’t huge, but for being so close to a city it’s large. Biking around, some parts could almost be Meadowbrook park, so like the prairie they were. But the difference lies in the vertical: stashing the bike behind some trees I scaled the ridge’s rocky embankment, and was rewarded by sweeping views of much of the larger Pretoria area. The haze prevented too great of visibility, but the skyscapers of Pretoria’s center were visible in the distance.

The view from atop Faerie Glen\'s ridge looking towards downtown Pretoria

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empire lite

Friday, July 4th, 2008 at about 9:52 am

The remnants of colonial life are funny. Every morning, tea time at 10:00, everybody stops working and goes to have tea in the canteen. Every morning when I get up I’m served eggs (that’s the only cooked option, eggs) while listening to classical music (they’ve got 3 minidiscs of classical music, and that’s all, so it’s the same every morning). It’s all fine, but somehow still feels quite out of place sometimes, like an affectation of some lost civilization in an inappropriate setting. If there wasn’t such heavy history behind it I’d say it seemed silly.

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