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Posts Tagged ‘South Africa’

Sitting in the morning sun……

Sun, glorious sun has finally arrived here on the West Coast! We have had continuous sunshine for over 2 weeks! We revel in it and the excitement is tangible. Everyone is outside. I soak up every opportunity to feel the warmth on my back. There is nothing better than a morning stroll along the boardwalk at the seafront. I watch the sea traffic out in the bay…..laden tankers, sleek yachts and majestic ocean liners. They glide by through the first narrows of the Burrard Inlet. Cheeky seaplanes swoop overhead and make their presence felt too. I have almost…..not entirely…forgiven Vancouver for the awful winter that we experienced this last year.

Watching the ships roll by….

Today was to be a different experience as I fancied to get closer to the water. I pulled my dusty bicycle out of storage and donned my ravishing helmet. The descent from our house is long and steep so I decided to NOT test the quality of my brakes. On the North Shore I jumped on the ferry.  My helmet irritated me as I hate the ‘hat- hair’ that it gives me. But this was definitely something that I was going to have to conform to. I tried to appear nonchalant, as if I done this many times before. But I stuck out like a sore thumb with my European Stroller with the basket on the front……in retrospect I am sure no one even noticed me! I must add that the cyclists I encountered that day had either rugged or very sleek bikes along with the most up to date bike attire. This was obviously a very serious sport!

On the seawall at Stanley Park

“You are being ridiculous!” I chastised myself and turned my attention to the view from the ferry across the bay.

It took me 2 hours to get from the city around Stanley Park and back with a few pit stops along the route. The pathway followed the seawall for most of the way. There were plenty of other bikers as this was obviously a favourite outride.

“On your left.” The cyclists shouted as they appeared from behind me. This unnerved me at first but I soon became accustomed to the ‘rules of the road.’ It was heavenly to breathe in the fresh sea air and to feel the cool breeze on my face. The bay was a hive of activity. I had to concentrate on where I was going as I was distracted by all the sea traffic.

The noon horn blew and it was time to stop for lunch. I sat at a sidewalk café with a wonderful vista over the yacht club. It was a sensory overload with some people watching thrown in for good measure.

Two thousand miles I roam just to make this dock my home….

There are times when I have to pinch myself. Where am I living? Yes, I am in Vancouver. During these times I reflect back on my life back in South Africa……for a minute on that seawall, I was racing down the hill from the Lonehill Koppie down to my school. But I return to reality…..

“It is time to head home.” My new Canadian friend had kept a watchful eye over this newbie on her bike adventure into the city. Thanks for showing me ropes! Little did I know there would be more to learn. I still needed to work out how to get my bike from the ferry onto the front of the bus. I was not about to attempt the hill ride up to our house.

There were limits to these exploits!

My bike has a new experience too……

 

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You can call me queen bee…..

The bright face turned around in the queue at Starbucks. She smiled when she heard us discuss the prospect of our ‘grab and go’ breakfast. Changing her stance discreetly, she continued to examine our faces. I wondered what could possibly be of interest to her so early in the morning. I felt like I had egg on my face! Most of us were just trying to hold ourselves together before that first cup of coffee! The morning face had been slapped together haphazardly and all other faffing had been done in record time. We had a plane to catch and we still had to make it through the Seattle commuter traffic.

That familiar coffee aroma wafted through past us. Mmmm….. I could not wait to take my first sip of the delicious bean beverage. The intrigued onlooker darted another glance our way. Was it our South African accents? Did I have some remnant of our cuddles with the twins stuck to the front of my raincoat? I thought back to those two sleepy faces and their precious sweet baby smell. We were going to miss them but would keep a close watch through skype and rejoice in all their milestones.

Goodbye cuddles with Jack and Kate.

Goodbye cuddles with Jack and Kate.

The queue shortened and we placed our orders. In no time the frothy steaming cups were passed across the counter.

Two grande latté

At last, I made my way across to the service table to grab the cinnamon. In my mind this was the piece de resistance. Three shakes would suffice and I automatically continued my routine as if in my own kitchen.

How y’all doing?

I glanced up and there stood the friendly face of our gawker. Did I really need this now? All I wanted to do was to knock back my first cup and to be left to wake up properly.

The melodious southern twang continued to tumble out. The questions ensued and we gave answers between the first sips of our coffee. It turned out that she had been to South Africa and was drawn to us as it brought back so many happy memories. Her eyes sparkled as she recounted her trip up to Kenya too. Then she stopped, almost in mid-sentence and looked us in the eye.

Y’all look like Ken and Barbie!

There was much laughter. Those who were old enough to recall my favourite toy joined in. Maybe we could pass for Ken and Barbie’s grandparents!

What a delight our stranger was. She brought amusement and a feeling of rejuvenation.  On those mornings when we creak out of bed and dare to look in the mirror, I gently toss over my shoulder…..

“So how is my Ken doing this morning?”

Ken in his other role....

Ken in his other role….

Kate enjoys the sparkles that Barbie has to offer....

Kate enjoys the sparkles that Barbie has to offer….

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Anne…….my name rang out through the hollows of the shopping centre here in Oakville. I was deep in thought and dismissed the familiar sound. Back in South Africa I used to get my name shouted out wherever I went. The friendly little faces of my pupils would pop up all over the place and they would always make sure that I took cognisance of the fact that they were there. Hello ma’am…..It was precious but there were times that I wished I could have gone about my day incognito.  Be careful what you wish for…..

Those Boland Mountains...

Those Boland Mountains…

Today is the 4th anniversary of us being in Canada. Four years…..It seems incredible! Time has moved so fast and there are moments that seem almost surreal. One makes links to the familiar back in South Africa and then I have to remind myself that I am actually living in Canada!  So today is one of mixed feelings. On the one hand it is a day of celebration….like a birthday. We have planned a special family meal to commemorate it. There is even that bottle of champagne that had for some time been hiding at the back of the fridge. As with each birthday maturation has taken place with the passing of each year. There has been settling in, acclimatisation and growth. On the other hand there is also that sense of loss that lurks in the shadows of the mind. The place that you try not to visit too often as it evokes those pensive thoughts ….

A Canadian sunset along the Sixteen Mile Creek.

A Canadian sunset along the Sixteen Mile Creek.

Then I heard my name again. There seemed to be more insistence in the shout this time. I hesitated. In my four years here in Canada, I have yet to be recognised by someone in a big shopping centre. I turned round slowly and saw the familiar face. Her bright eyes shone and the warmth of her smile greeted me.

“Hi, how are you doing?”

I ran up to my yoga teacher and threw my arms around her.

Yes, someone knew and recognised me.

I have history!

The sun sets on our fourth year in Canada...

The sun sets on our fourth year in Canada…

 

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The water rustled as it rushed down past the nests and over red sandstone rocks. The sharp corners resisted the flow and the water bounced out as it tumbled into the clear dark pool below. The black eagle nests were perched right up close to the edge. The deceptive array of tumbled sticks was sure to have a soft lining of feathers for the family. It was the penthouse suite and ‘nogal’ a room with a view! The only urban nesting pair of these magnificent Black Eagles had chosen well and had the most breath taking view over the Magaliesberg Mountains. The mountains that I knew so well…..

Witpoortjie Falls, the domain of the black eagle.

Witpoortjie Falls, the domain of the black eagle.

Emoyeni (Upon the wind), the female was about 35 years old and had captured the heart of her toy boy, Thulane (The shy one). She had been taken in by this strong and silent type when her first husband had disappeared some years prior. She had pined for a respectable period and then resolutely went out and surveyed the local talent in the nearby Pilanesberg. His mysterious ways had won her over and they set up home next to the Witpoortjie Falls. What a vantage point over the valley with the added dimension of an ensuite bathroom too! Emoyeni and Thulane had raised many chicks out of the pile of sticks nest that perched on the edge of the rock face.  It stood as a testament to the brood that had once lived there. But their little angels had grown up and moved out. I gazed up at blue sky that framed this rocky outcrop. The parents were there, flying high up over their home. These ‘empty nesters’ appeared to be rejoicing in the warmth of the African sun.

A rare sighting.....

A rare sighting…..thanks to Judy Haechler for this photo.

 

I stood and stared as Thulane and Emoyeni swooped overhead with an acrobatic display of delight. What a sighting! I turned and watched them soar high above the Witpoortjie Falls. As they caught the thermals, I could feel my spirit soar alongside them.  They hovered carefree and motionless for a while, then down they plummeted across the rock face and up the other side. Those in the know maintain that this was their courtship dance.

It was both elegant and had the required romance. Emoyeni was in her sleek little black number accompanied by the dapper Thulane in his best bib and tucker! There is bound to be the flutter of tiny black wings at the Walter Sisulu National Botanical Gardens soon. Gone are the carefree days to be replaced by pyjama drill escapades into the nearby mountains to keep the hungry mouths fed. It is the circle of life……

There is a constant to watching nature and the creatures that inhabit our world.  I am always mindful of the things that remain in sequence when I return to South Africa for a visit. It gives comfort when one faces the obvious changes that have occurred while I have been away.

 

 

 

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The turkey has enough butter stuffed under the skin to make Nigella blush and the gluwein is simmering away on the stove. Our tree sparkles from the front room……

The trees lay stacked up on the side of the road bursting with the promise of Christmas. The Douglas Fir, White Pine, Scottish Pine and the Blue Spruce….the choice was endless. Which one would it be this year? We had driven along Highway 8 through the greenbelt along the escarpment. The vegetables stalls had given way to the sale of Christmas trees, no more pumpkins and asparagus but rows of fuzzy green. Much thought and effort goes into the right choice of Christmas tree here in Canada. Families deliberate over how tall it has to be, the shape and whether it will shed its leaves. We stop the car at a nearby diner to grab a coffee and notice a little boy as he gazes up at the tall frame of the chosen tree.
“Dad, this is the one!”

The excitement and wonder beams from his face. The practical dad contemplates how he will tie it onto the roof of the car. He paces out the length and works on his plan. Mother has a faraway look on her face as she recalls the Christmases past and is envisaging this tree with the family decorations. There were heirlooms that are brought out each year and a few new additions to add to the sparkle. My coffee steams as I make my way through the brisk air. I pull my hood over my head and feel the fur trim snug against my face. My thoughts go back to 3 young boys that gathered around our tree back in South Africa. It will be the turn of our grand children soon!

Our Christmas Tree

Our Christmas Tree

The bare deciduous trees that shook off their leaves in the fall are tinged with snow. The evergreens cling onto the soft white powder like a cake does to frosting. The sun slips down behind the hills early as we wend our way back home. The snow illuminates our path and the houses twinkle with Christmas lights. Bright white lines the roofs, iridescent blue around the doorways and soft red sparkle in the shrubs. Fresh garlands accentuate   the wooden slatted porch and rustic White Birch reindeer guard the front door.

It is Yuletide in Canada and a time to make memories with family and friends. There will be a special place near our tree this year for those who are no longer with us. They will be  greatly missed.

I wish you all a joyous Christmas!

A white Christmas.....?

A white Christmas…..?

 

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“When I look into your eyes it’s like watching the night sky.”

A pair of Canadian geese paddled across the smooth river towards me.  It was a still evening and the reflections of the ripples floated towards the jetty. The geese scrambled out of the water and clumsily waddled off. Their sense of purpose meant that they were on their way to their quiet nest for the evening. I could not help thinking that they looked about as awkward on land, as I was about to feel in a boat on water! I stood on the bank as I contemplated my next endeavour…..dragon boat paddling! The words: ‘Face your fears’ and ‘start something new,’ were drumming in my head. After all spring was here and the enthusiasm and energy were infectious!

'The Girls'

‘The Girls’

“I see that you’ve come so far to be right where you are.”

Names were checked off, life vests fastened and the correct length of paddle chosen from the stock. My stomach growled and I was not sure if I was excited or apprehensive. It was probably my supper that I had wolfed down before I ran out the front door. As I adjusted my life jacket, things felt strangely familiar.  I was reminded of childhood holidays in South Africa where we would ‘muck about in boats.’ I adjusted my life jacket like a dab hand! I can do this……

The length of this was crucial.......

The length of this was crucial…….

“And when you’re needing your space to do some navigating.”

“Take it away, girls!” At first we clashed our oars together as we struggled to get synchronized. Splashes dashed over the boat.

“Watch your partner,” this was proving to be a challenge…..to keep your eye on the person diagonally opposite you and to pull on your paddle at the same time. Not only did I have to think this through but I had to get my body to do what I wanted it to do! I hoped that I could activate some old muscle memory, as it felt that some of them were getting a bit of a rude awakening! Then there was the question of technique!

“We’ve got a lot to learn.”

“Let it run, girls!”  We had a welcome break of a few seconds in between a burst of paddling. I felt my muscles burn…… and then the relief when we could just rest. It is amazing how just those few seconds allowed you to just keep carrying on. I was feeling it now. My knuckle hurt where I had bashed it on the side of the boat. I think my paddle was too long. I needed to remember that when I chose one next time. Then there was the exhilaration of the harmony when we were all in unison……. the fatigue just melted away. Our coach persisted, “Paddles up, girls!

“I won’t give up on us even though the skies get rough.”

It was a still evening and the lights shone down on us through the trees and reflected in the water. The sun had almost slipped away but we still had the last glimmer to steer by. We felt accomplished! All 20 of us had managed to paddle our dragon boat up stream a fair distance. We did not tip over and even built up a dash of speed! There were certainly going to be some sore muscles tomorrow. In the back of our minds we knew we still had much to master but allowed ourselves to indulge in our excitement.

 It was exhilarating! 

We can aspire to.......

We can aspire to…….

 

 

 

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The old tractor chugged along in front of me. It was heading along the windy road between the farms outside Stellenbosch. The wooden slatted trailer was laden with red grapes. They spilled over the edges as it bounced along. The round berries were bursting with juice and the sun picked up their purple hue. They would have a royal reception once they drove up the long driveway to the homestead. The wine maker stood alongside the cellar in anticipation. It was press season and he had his time cut out for him. I noticed all the activity on the farms as I slowly meandered along my favourite route. Farmers drove up and down in their ‘bakkies’ as they checked the harvest for downy mildew. The crop was looking good and it was all systems go! There was much to do and one sensed the flurry and excitement. They had to act swiftly as soon the leaves would change colour and would shrivel and drop. It would then be time for the plants to rest, but first these red jewels had to perform and yield.

The beautiful Stellenbosch Mountains

The beautiful Stellenbosch Mountains

In the distance the craggy Stellenbosch Mountain stood proud as it framed ‘the dorp.’ I thought of the time that I had run up its steep sides as an enthusiastic child. The descent had been a tricky one and I recall how I had eventually wobbled my way down exhausted and dehydrated. But that experience had not marred my fascination for this giant folded mountain. As a teenager I spent many hours wondering around at its foot. I used to enjoy a walk up there through the forest of pine trees to clear my head. (I remember there being much to contemplate in my teenage years!)

My cold- blooded encounter....

My cold- blooded encounter….

 

There I had discovered a wealth of flora and fauna and even had an encounter with a puff adder. It had been an unusually warm winter’s day and the cold blooded reptile had ventured out of hibernation. It basked on the rock and warmed its ectothermic coils. Fortunately his sleepy state had allowed me to get quite close up so that I could admire his shape and skin. My dogs did not hold the same fascinating and went into ‘fight or flight’ mode. Much barking ensued and the graceful creature slid off the rock and down into a pile of earth. They gallantly wagged their tails as they peered up at me. How could I not be grateful? 
The sight of the bright blue backdrop of sky brought me back to the present. As I made my way back to our family home, floods of memories filled my mind and were savoured.   

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