Monday, August 24, 2009

The Ostrich Migration!

Do ostriches migrate? Not sure, seeing as they don't fly.

But this ostrich did. The Botswana Hash (also known as the Kalahari Hash) migrated, as it does annually, to some place in South Africa, just south of the border. The way it goes is that 90 km or so are covered by various teams, each team responsible for a bit of the distance. And then among each team the runner carry an ostrich feather duster, and change every so often. In the case of the old folks, it's very often, in the case of fitter folk, it's less often.

Being among the fitter folk, I was not only among the first team,but also among the second team (as was all of the first team, what with the second team not getting visas in time to enter SA). A five am rise, 6.30 am departure, 8 am running start. 'Sprint', we were told....And so we did. With the pick-ups and drop-offs it means, essentially running behind a car. Not so good for the lungs. Also not so good for the interior of the car, given that most of the running was on dirt roads, which were very sandy. My car had the additional disadvantage of being well-oiled inside, given my home-made salad kept in a box, specially bought for it's nice closures, but which leaked all over the place....

What with the second team not arriving, we had to cover a total of 27.4 km between five of us. Then I had to drive for a South African team....Later, I also took on 3 km of a cycling leg (again someone had visa problems), and finally joined another team of 6 to cover a further 6 km. Plenty of running was done, and waiting while we drove ahead of other groups and waited for them at the end of their leg. The landscape was deserted, which was just as well seeing as it might not have looked very kind to see an older person running after a car full of younger ones.  And at around 4.40 pm we had all arrived!

See hashes? See different cultures? The Botswana hash is very nice, a family kind of hash, with people of all ages. The South African Hash, mentioning no towns of origin, but they were not that far from the BW border, were a rough lot. Geeez, their songs - the Botswana hash was covered in embarrassment while listening to the SA lot. It's interesting how different hashes attract different folk.

SA got well carried away with themselves; there was one (rather butch) woman who gave me a hard time all day, over this, that and the other, finally kneeing me in the groin over me burning a lid of a cardboard container. No harm done :-). I was shocked at the time and it was only later that I thought that maybe she fancies me and does not have the words to express this....some sociological studies have been done on how little boys make friends, and they often beat each other up first before becoming firm friends. There's not much danger of that on my side, but I wish I had thought of that at the time and grabbed her in my arms and kissed her! That might have sorted her out!

Some people camped, in a seriously nippy temperature; I shared a room with another guy and in fact was very warm indeed (though by the time I showered in the morning no hot water was left).


Saturday, August 08, 2009

Spring has sprung!

Today looks a bit like verbal diarrhoea, no?

Spring sprang in Gaborone on Wednesday, 5 August. Waiting outside the yoga place at night I suddenly realised it was not as chilly as usual at that time of night. The next morning a colleague reported that she had taken one of the blankets off her bed.

Today I went into my compound's pool for the first time, and as probably the first person this spring. A South African friend laughed and said it showed that I came from a strange country. And yes, ok, it was rather nippy, especially in the morning. In the afternoon it was better, and it's quite nice to swim. Though putting the head into the water, to spare the neck a little, was a wee bitty challenging.

By 2 pm today there were distinct symptoms of sunburn. I'm glad I brought some stuff out with me.


South Africa photos (Viola Congress)

A Street in Stellenbosch (Hamman Street, don't ask me why they called it that!).

Below the lads from Pretoria giving their best playing kwela music to the clear delight of their audience

View of Table Mountain on a dreich day

A wonderful magnolia in Stellenbosch


Them thar wild animals

It's Saturday, I have the office car (not pranged anything yet this weekend...).

So I thought I'd do my duty wild animal wise and go to Mokolodi Game Park, just outside Gaborone. I even found it, first time - that does not often happen to me here. (It's off the Lobatse Road).

Since people rave about the park's restaurant, that was my first stop. It has nice outside seats, with a view over the park (no giraffes wandering by), and a day's special involving pork knuckle, sauerkraut and 'bratkartoffeln'. Almost enough to make me turn back! But in the end I had a wonderful salad and a fillet steak with chips. Folks here are great on meat, less so on vegetables.

Then off I drove towards the game park, only to find that you have to be a member to drive your own car in it, otherwise you have to participate in a guided tour (which costs less, I am Scottish!). And today's tours were already booked. I suppose that is nature conservation for you. Did not see anything alive, though passed closely by the reptile department. Bit scary that!

My local colleagues seem to think that those wild animals are best kept in a zoo. They are really scared of them, perhaps not surprisingly. I told one that in Europe buffalo milk is used for rather nice mozzarella - she exclaimed 'How do they milk those wild beasts?'

It reminds me of the day my son (then 9) and I met a little snake sunning itself on a stone in Scotland. Not sure what it was, but my (half-African) son screamed and screamed and ran away. Even then I wondered if a fear like that could have been passed down genetically (certainly not culturally in our case). Having just read Carl Jung on something like a common unconscious (between all people) which is fed by ancient myths I still wonder about that. He suggests that apart from their own psyche people's unconscious is also fed by all sorts of stories and myths from ancient times till today. (Though I think Jung looks at this from a learned middle-class point of view - he analyses [probably Swiss] folks' dreams and links them to all sorts of mysterious mystical events all over the globe. Can't imagine that my friend's English removal man, who, on being told that she works for the European Union, said 'never heard of it', would have similar dreams, and might well think his analyst is off his head talking about squares and circles, and ancient Indian myths. Myself, I prefer Freud, plain old sex and family problems. No wonder Freud and Jung fell out.) Wow, bit of a detraction here, no?


Separation anxiety!

So a guy goes and buys Lisa Batiashvili's recording of the Beethoven Violin Concerto, combined with 6 miniatures by Tsintsadze, a Georgian composer.

Now, normally one expects the main piece to come first, with the fillers filling up the end. One is then rather startled to find the rather folksy, almost folksy-poppy miniatures at the front of the CD. Some people, slipping it into their player and wandering off, might think they have slipped the wrong CD in altogether, especially since the first piece starts with a startling drum solo (but then, so does the Beethoven...).

Me, I was totally startled, if not stunned, to find a rather cheesy arrangement of 'Suliko' as the second piece. Suliko is, in any case, a rather cheesy Georgian song, and the arrangement adds an extra layer of buffalo mozarella on top. It's the one song that unites all of Georgia, and Georgians abroad, if drunk and/or homesick, will burst into this. Given that I am not good at dealing with separation from people or places (family history, and yes, I have just the right job for that, don't I?), eg Georgia, it had me damn nearly in tears. It's incredibly emotional! I wonder if Mr Saakashvili was singing it yesterday, on the anniversary of his war against Russia.

All these pieces, arrangements of Georgian songs (I thought I recognized another one or two of them) are brilliantly played by Batiashvili, who obviously has this music in her blood. Even the men's songs (aggressive pieces) she plays with the right (sword) edge. Her Beethoven is pretty stunning, too!


The wee soul!

At work we have, among others, this lovely wee security guard. He's a slip of a lad, barely at the shaving age, and I dread to think how he would protect us against a marauding horde brandishing machine guns. Let's hope that never happens!

It seems he is not that well paid, like most security guards; one time, while I was out for a smoke, he asked me for some money because he was so hungry - I did not have any on me; I have also seen him sell phone cards and one time he was handing out cards for a taxi firm; that evening when I needed a taxi I used them - it only took them three phone calls to me to find my place. Had I mentioned that Gaborone is not good at doing addresses?

Yesterday he turned up at work wearing a pair of glasses. I asked him about them, about to make a quip about old age not coming itself, when he took them off and showed me that in fact they did not contain lenses - it was just a rimless, and lense-less frame! He would not admit to his motivation....He did look rather cool in them, and most people had not notice the lack in the specs.....Aaaaah!

Here's a wonderful conversation my friend varske had whilst moving from Oxford, England, to Vilnius.


Thursday, August 06, 2009


This yoga is so funny, and not altogether challenging, quite sedate, in fact (literally, given that we never stand up). The teacher is a 'counsellor' by trade; not sure I can take that entirely, in public, like.

We always start the session with 'what kind of [thing] am I today'. In my first session it was fruit, so after dismissing the thought of 'lemon' I said 'orange'; in the second session it was 'weather' ('cloudy'; interestingly she was facing a wind which she was having to fight). Today it was something to eat, so I said 'sausage'. That caused a bit of a stir (I imagine serious yoga folk being vegetarian; I also have had enough psychoanalysis to know fine what I was saying). She asked what kind of sausage; I said 'boerewors' - a Southern African kind of sausage. Did not elaborate that it was long and full of fresh meat..... Later there was some exercise involving massaging the abdomen and being nice to the bits inside it, including the ovaries. I pointed out I did not have any [functioning ones]. Resisted manfully voicing the suggestion that I might massage my testicles instead. The teacher suggested it was a shame I did not have any ovaries; it's rather a matricentric outfit, no?


Sunday, August 02, 2009

What a finale (a series of finales?)!

South Africa, and in particular Hester Worlitz, who was the main mover behind the 37th International Viola Congress, has really done itself proud! Hester and I both attended our first congress in Germany in 2003, and were both enthused to do a congress in our countries. I did not manage to pull it off, but Hester did, and the end of the congress was a triumph!

The congress dinner at the Morgenhof was magnificent (though they seemed to be unable to cater for vegetarians, and proportions in South Africa between meat and accompanying vegetables seem to be greatly in favour of meat... the wine flowed very generously...).

Early the next morning not that many people appeared, but eventually trundled in for a fascinating lecture recital of Brazilian music for viola. In Brazil the viola is a guitar-type instrument played by violeros; this has the result that many European type viola teachers ('viola di arca' played by 'violistas', give or take my non-existant knowledge of Portuguese) find themselves attended (once) by many little boys wanting to play the Brazilian viola, and getting a big surprise!

The closing concert was almost the highlight of the concert. Luise Lansdowne's group of students from the Royal Northern College of Manchester (including, it turned out at the very last minutes of yesterday, a lad from Wrexham) did a really funny, and technically stunning, performance of caricatures by Hindemith of military and waltz music. Finally it was the performance of the massed viola ensemble, a regular feature of congresses, where everyone can play along (even I, had I had a fiddle on me). This year's group must have been one of the biggest groups ever - with the lads and lassies from Pretoria and a few other players as well. After some rather dreary pieces (I hate Gordon Jacob's music) and the Queen of Sheba they then launched into an African suite, written specially for the congress by a local composer (sorry, white, I maybe should not go on about people's skin colours) - that was fun. But the final medley of South African songs, written by a black guy from Johannesburg (also specially for the congress) was riotous and brilliant - and for me incredibly emotional in terms of social cohesion, sense of human family and so on. What a finish! And then the group of youngsters from Pretoria just could not stop playing and played song after song, including dancing, while the rest of us were enjoying end-of-congress drinks. A brilliant end to the congress!

In the evening some of us went for dinner in a local restaurant (not cheap), as did all the UK students (students obviously ain't what they used to be given that they could afford to come along to this, apart from also perhaps paying for their flights here, and renting cars locally). It was really, really great having some relaxed time out with very good friends! Roll on the next congress in Cincinnatti (sp?)!