Monday, October 29, 2007

Red Sox Fans are Everywhere!

Who knew that the Red Sox had so many fans in Tweeling?

It started on Friday morning, when, for a reason noone knew, we skipped the Friday morning assembly. Every Friday the whole school gets together and the students sing gorgeous songs. A teacher leads a prayer, the principal makes announcements, and everyone heads off to class.

This past Friday there was no assembly, so the kids in Kate's first period class hadn't gotten their Friday singing out of their systems. Kate tried to get them to focus by promising that we could all sing for the last five minutes of class.

The students took the deal, but only on the condition that Mrs. Mahady teach them an American song to sing.

Kate, at a loss for any American song that would work, except for "We Will Rock You," wrote the lyrics to "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" on the board. She had to explain the rules of baseball (including trying to convince many kids that it is not cricket), and the importance of peanuts and cracker-jacks, but it caught on fairly well.

As a lifelong fan and a Boston native, Kate never really believed that she'd see the Red Sox win a World Series, so we weren't going to miss it if it was happening again. Kate and Andy had to wake up at 4am to watch games 3 & 4 broadcast from Colorado and sit through hilarious South African explanations of "Home Runs" and "Outs" and "K's" on ESPN World.

It made us proud, surprised, and homesick to see the Red Sox POUND Colorado. Congratulations to the Red Sox and to Red Sox fans, we deserve it after so many years of excitement and disappointments.

Now if we can pass some of that magic on to the Free State Stars...

Monday, October 22, 2007

Hier Kom Die Bokke...

South Africa dropped a massive rugby bomb at the World Cup Finals in Paris on Saturday. The Springboks won the Rugby World Cup for the second time (the first time was in 1995, the year after Mandela's election) by delivering a solid beating to England.

The win means alot to South Africa for a few reasons. First, sports were very segregated in apartheid South Africa. Rugby was historically the Afrikaans sport, Soccer was the Black sport, and Cricket the English-speaking White sport. Baseball was ignored by all except for American exchange teachers (who watched game 6 at 2:30 AM). At one point in history, all South African had to register by their race, which determined the rights that they were allowed or denied. Which sport you played was used as a factor if your race (mostly Black, White, Coloured - a mix of races, and Asian) was in question.

Sports have remained fairly segregated after the end of apartheid, along the former racial lines. However, whenever there is a huge win to celebrate, like a Rugby World Cup win in 1995, an African Cup of Nations soccer win in 1996, or this recent Rugby win, people of all races pull together to support the team, and to celebrate the win.

Just like they do when the Red Sox are in the World Series...

In fact, when the injuries of apartheid were still very sore, Mandela scored huge points all over South Africa by being photographed in his Springboks shirt during the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

Second, South Africa needs something to be excited about. The crime statistics in South Africa are atrocious, the level of poverty that many people live in is horrifying, and the country has the highest population of HIV/AIDS patients in the world.

Third, South Africa didn't even qualify for the 2006 FIFA World Cup, though they are hosting the 2010 World Cup. Hopes are very high all over the country for 2010, not only for a good soccer performance, but also for the world to see that South Africa is coming along. This rugby win gave alot of people hope that South Africa will be successful in 2010 on many levels.

This guy is not worried about any of that...

Kate and Andy made a "Sports Day" of the Rugby Final and watched the Free State Stars win in Bethlehem. The Free State Stars came back from being relegated (sent down to the minor leagues) to being currently third in the Premier Soccer League.

Free State Stars fans have come out of the woodwork (not unlike Red Sox fans when they are winning) and have donned all of their gear.

Their field is about as big as any high school field in America, and they don't have any sponsors, but they draw the fans.

Jomo Cosmos have a far better slogan, however.

Still on the sports theme, but back in Tweeling, Andy has started an Ultimate Frisbee team with a group of volunteers from the Rainbow Clinic.

They played their first muddy match 2 weeks ago on Refeng-Thabo's field and tied a team from Frankfort. Andy has requests from schools both in Tweeling and Frankfort to come teach about "that thing that you were throwing last weekend."

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wildflowers in Namaqualand

Onward went Kate and Andy's quest to visit the most bizarre places on Earth. After saying goodbye to the parents from Cape Town, we drove rental car number 7 straight north from the city, into Namaqualand. Namaqualand gets its name from being the ancestral home to the Nama people, one of the last surviving groups of Khoikhoi, the original residents of South Africa.

Namaqualand itself is beautiful, as we thought it looked alot like South-Eastern Arizona, and every spring the whole landscape bursts with wild daisies, making this really tough place very, very pretty.

We based ourselves in a town called Kamieskroon (pronounced in Nama with a click for the first "K"), which is right outside of Namaqua National Park and the Skillpad Flower Reserve. There's absolutely nothing to do in Kamieskroon, except for drive around and look at flowers, which made for a very relaxing weekend.

It's hard to worry about too much when your whole plan for the day is to look at pretty flowers.

We drove the rental car down a "4x4 Only" road out to Hondeklip Bay, a kooky town on the coast.

Hondeklipbay is home to what must be one of the most dramatic shipwrecks in the world. The picture doesn't do it justice, because the ship was really big and it is tipped diagonally-sideways, with its bow jammed into the rocks.

We didn't spot any big game, as Namaqualand is much too dry, but we saw both the "Cute" and "Scary" brands of wild animals on one of our flower-drives.

The cute animal was the endangered "Namaqua Speckled Padloper." Likely endangered because it likes to walk on the road.

The scary animal was the very dangerous Cape Cobra, which was kind enough to show us its hood and give us a good fun scare. We couldn't get close enough to it to take a picture of the hood, but you'll have to trust us that it was very creepy, especially when it slithered off into the bush and camoflauged perfectly with its surroundings.

We finished off our visit to Namaqualand in the wacky town of Springbok, the largest town in the whole of Namaqualand (it's as big as that description makes it sound). Our visit to Springbok was made, just slightly, in honor of the Springboks, South Africa's national rubgy team, which has plowed its way into the Rugby World Cup finals this weekend, where they're going to see how many England players they can send off in stretchers...

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Family Vacation, Redux

After two days in Free State, the family left Tweeling for places more exciting (if you believe that places can be more exciting than Tweeling).

We all left Tweeling on Saturday morning for Tilodi Wilderness Park, a game park in the northern state of Limpopo. The park was gorgeous, and the central lounging area overlooked a water hole where rhinos, wildebeast, warthogs, reedbuck, and impala came to drink.

On our first game drive we encountered seven rhinos and were able to get scarily close to them.

Later, the big bull (the one with the stubby horn from fighting the rhinos at the other park, through the fence) walked right by the viewing deck.

We were guided on a walking tour of the park by James, who taught us all about rhino dung...

He also showed us exactly what is in impala poo...

On the walk, Kate scored a huge amount of game-spotting points by finding this tiny endangered turtle.

On the last morning, Andy was carrying his luggage to the car when he was greeted by three of the park's biggest rhinos, standing about 15 feet from our cabin. He won the "Closest to a Very Dangerous Animal award."

We couldn't find the giraffes at Tilodi, so we made a detour through Pilanesburg National Park on the way back to Johannesburg. Brian Mahady scored long-distance game spotting points by picking out this giraffe from almost a kilometer away.

Jazzed by our sighting of the family of five giraffes, we drove straight to Johannesburg and flew to the always-lovely Cape Town.

Our first day in town we drove to the Cape of Good Hope, a gorgeous drive down the coast to where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet.

We posed for the obligatory group photo at Cape Point.

We were able to spot whales from the shore along the route. It’s the season for the Southern Right Whales to come in very close to the beach.

We all agreed that we saw more whales from that beach than we had on all of our collective whale watches. The Dads were able to study them with their binoculars…

While the Dads were watching the whales, both Moms did some shopping. See if you can spot your Christmas present…

From Cape Town, the Farkases headed out to wine country to visit some of Kate and Andy’s favorite wineries.

This photo shows Andy and Sherry at Fairview Winery, the vineyard that makes Kate’s favorite Goats Do Roam wine and delicious goat cheese.

Meanwhile, the Mahadys took the always-fun cable car up to the top of Table Mountain.

We’re told that it is always windy at the top of Table Mountain, but it was incredibly calm and gorgeous for our visit.

The Mahadys later found themselves out in Table Bay on a catamaran cruise towards Robben Island.

We had to say goodbye to the parents from Cape Town, where they braved a Cape Town – Johannesburg – Dakar – Washington D.C. – Boston plane marathon. They are still catching up on their sleep and we are wondering if there will be any other visitors before we leave in December. The Skipskop always has room available...