adrian is rad


car, flags, repairs, spirals, flowers, ¡baboons!

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:05 am

rented Beetle on Boyes Dr.

I rented a 1977 Beetle through December. It’s pretty fun. It’s quite a different driving experience, even compared to my no-nonsense VW Golf that I had before I came. Nothing is power (steering, locks, windows, etc.). It doesn’t have AC or a radio. It takes a minute to warm up enough until it’s willing to be put into gear. There isn’t an intermittent setting on the wipers and the turn signal doesn’t turn off by itself.

When there’s road construction, there’s a person employed whose sole purpose is to wave an orange flag all day warning of the start of the construction area.

The TV at my apartment broke on Thursday and my flatmate said she’d get it fixed. I don’t know if I’ve ever known someone to get a TV fixed[1]. In the US, the cost of getting electronics fixed is rather high whereas the price for new or used consumer electronics is relatively low, so people just tend to get a new one. Here the opposite is the case. Besides washing machines and sewing machines and laptops, I’m having a hard time remembering any piece of consumer electronics that I’ve known someone to get fixed. TVs, cell phones, digital cameras, etc–just get a new (or used) one. I told my flatmate about this and she, rightfully so, thought Americans are quite wasteful.

A couple people have asked which way the water spirals as the toilet flushes here. Toilets flush straight down here, but the sink in my apartment drains clockwise. However, this is, apparently, due to how the vessel is construction or the water enters rather than anything to do with the Coriolis effect.

flowers at kirstenbosch
flowers at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden

I spent the afternoon at the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Garden. I walked around for a while looking at all the things, especially the proteas, fynbos and silver trees, but I chose to sit and read by the prehistoric cycads. They’re funny looking plants and they date back hundreds of millions of years.

A cautionary sign on Boyes Dr.

I love this sign. I read it ¡Baboons! and it makes me laugh to myself every time I see it.

[1] I did know someone who fixed’s tEp’s TV while he was living there, though.


it’s a holiday here

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:53 pm

It’s Heritage Day here. I started off wearing red white and blue and ended up in the green and yellow, so how’s that for heritage?

It’s also known widely, but unofficially, as National Braai day and I attended one in Fish Hoek, where my aunt and uncle are staying while they’re in town from Jozi. The boerewors was good as was the SA cricket win against New Zealand.

sunset st. lucia
sunset on the St. Lucia Estuary

It’s been a little while since I updated about what’s been going on, quite a while in fact. After Ingwavuma, I went to St. Lucia Estuary and Hluhluwe Game Reserve for a couple days.

st. lucia beach
a beach in St. Lucia. hippos were a few hundred meters away

St. Lucia is a tourist town, but getting a good meal was nice. In the estuary park, I went for a cruise on the estuary itself and saw hippos and crocs very close plus a lot of birds and some buffalo and waterbuck. I also walked along the expansive beach between the Indian Ocean and the estuary where fishers cast their lines into one or the other and hippos lounge.

a zebra in Hluhluwe

I went on a game drive in Hluhluwe*. It started at the crack of dawn (5:30am). I’d seen zebra and rhino before we even got in the gate. It was a pretty good morning, staring out over the beautiful hills and velds and seeing all sorts of animals both close and far away.

palms and table mountain
Table Mountain as seen from one part of Tamboerskloof

I arrived back back in Cape Town about a week ago. It’s been pretty hectic since, trying to get set up and whatnot.

I moved into an apartment in Tamboerskloof. The TBK as I (and only I) call it is at the top of the city itself, towards both Table Mountain and Signal Hill. I picked the location because it’s quite walkable. Within a ten minute walk are a number of restaurants and bars, a couple grocery stores, a swimming pool and the start of Long St, which has lots more restaurants, bars and shops. So far I’m enjoying living here, though there certainly is some adjustment having been in either suburbs or very rural areas for the last month and a half.

But I’ve spent a lot of time the last week buying things for my room (bed, sheets, curtains, etc) and basic food stuffs. I’ve unpacked. I have rented a car through the middle of December and I’ve met with a couple places about potential jobs. So it’s been a busy time.

I’ve been posting plenty of photos over at my photoblog.

*the hl sound in Zulu is sort of like ‘shl’ except the sh sound is formed by trying to make the l sound with your tongue but instead pushing around your teeth into your cheeks.

Addendum: All South Africans think that Americans only bbq hamburgers or maybe hot dogs. I guess this comes from movies. Perhaps I’m not the average bbqer, but I’ve grilled or seen a much wider variety of things being grilled than what’s grilled at the braais I’ve seen here (which is usually wors, chicken, chops and/ or steaks).


cape foot + double sheet

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:25 pm

I learned today that from 1859-1950 the foot in the Cape (aka the Cape foot) was 12.396 English inches. Apparently this still shows up on some old architectural drawings.

I had my bed delivered yesterday and I tried to put on my double-size (aka full-size in the US) sheet and it was really a stretch to get it on. I was a bit perturbed but I thought it might be that the mattress is quite tall and that could take up all the slack plus some. The mystery was solved today, though, when the bed shop called to say that they’d made a mistake and delivered a queen bed instead of a double.


heart USA

Filed under: — adrian @ 8:00 am

I really like this design. I seriously considered getting the original poster of this design when I first heard about it but I was slow off the mark–they were part of a limited edition print (though he’s since reprinted it)–and $75 was enough that it made me pause for a while to consider whether it was worth it.

The other day, though, I noticed that he’s made a shirt of the design. $30 is steep for a shirt, but compared to $75 for a poster, it seems like a reasonable price. I ordered it.


on water usage

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:40 pm

water spigot at okhayeni
the water spigot at Okhayeni Primary School–the school doesn’t have running water

On Tuesday, I took my first hot, running water shower in two weeks. It was glorious and I wanted it to last forever, though I kept it to a reasonable length.

Immediately afterwards, though, I thought to myself: I bet that’s a week’s worth of water that I just used. I decided to do some calculations to see if I was right.

US federal regulations now mandate low-flow shower heads, which allow 2.5 gallons/ minute at 80psi or 2.2 gallons/ minute at 60 psi. Let’s assume the latter and a short, 5 minute shower. That’s 11 gallons of water or 41.6 liters of water. A pre-1992 shower head might let 5.5 gallons/ minute flow through it. Total water usage for an older, high-flow shower head for the same shower would be 110 liters.

By comparison, by the end of my visit to Ingwavuma, I was using about 25L of water every 2.5 days (plus 5L of bottled drinking water.) That works out to 84 liters of water a week. So about two showers with a low-flow shower head or less than one with a high-flow shower head is about a week’s worth of water. And let’s not even talk about washing dishes or doing a load of laundry.

This is just about facts; I’m not pointing fingers or trying to guilt-trip anyone.


quickly quickly

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:16 pm

I want to go to bed, but here’s a quick post.

Zulus have a habit of doubling words in English. “Yes, we must go quickly quickly.” Or one of my favorites is what what. “Over there, you’ll find another tuck shop with what what.” (For another reference, you may remember Mbecki’s “softly softly” policy on Zimbabwe, though I believe Mbecki is Xhosa.)

On Saturday, when we went to watch the rugby match, we got to the lodge’s bar (where they have TVs) and walked in and turned the lights and TV on; then we sat down to watch the game by ourselves. A few minutes later, a woman walked in and asked if we wanted drinks. She sent in a guy to act as a barman when we said we would. He sat in the backroom most of the game, saying to just shout if we needed anything. But near the end of the match, he came out and asked me to help him on his computer, to make a CD with some songs on it. So in addition to my tip, I helped him with burning a CD; I feel like he did alright on the day.

I leave Ingwavuma tomorrow morning. It’s been a weird two weeks; perhaps the weirdest is that it’s felt like much longer. I feel quite settled here. I’ve been cooking for myself; I have a routine; I’ve made friends. It’s also so far removed from an American life or really any city life that I’ve experienced that it feels like I’m living another life–perhaps someone else’s life–entirely.

What better way to end a weird two weeks than a weird day: I changed a tire, set up two computers, and had lunch at a hidden cafe where the waitress ran (jogged is perhaps a more appropriate term) from the table to the kitchen, despite the fact that we were the only two people there and that we were in no hurry whatsoever.

Tonight was a going away bbq–a braai as it’s called in SA English. My family friend, her fiance, my coworkers and a few of the people I’ve met here all turned out. We ate well, chatted and had a grand time.

On the way back, one pick up served as the ride home for eight or nine people. I stood in the back holding onto the rollbar with two Zulus and a Malawian as we made our way down a bumpy dirty road. People may decry being careless about safety in foreign countries when one wouldn’t be at home, but this time it didn’t produce any injuries, just a giant smile on my face as we bumped through black night with cold air rushing past our bodies.



Filed under: — adrian @ 12:24 pm

Every morning, a sea of thirty pre-school voices greet me as I go past the playground. I never knew what they were saying, so I’d smile or give a little wave and half-ignore them, not knowing what they were saying. I learned yesterday that malume means uncle but is often used as a term of respect. So, oops.

By my coworker’s count, 29 people are employed at Zesize. Yesterday (and many days) there were four cars. And Ingwavuma, by many accounts, has gotten a lot more wealthy over the past few years. So that gives you a bit of an idea what gainfully employed individuals in a rural town such as this, even one that’s getting wealthier, can afford.

During yesterday’s school meeting with the radio project kids, they were asked to come up with themes for next week’s broadcast, which occurs shortly before the Heritage Day holiday and will be somewhat related to the idea of heritage. One kid suggested the theme of “Thank God I’m a black man”. After a beat, everyone looked at me to see if I was offended. I wasn’t but I enjoyed the awkwardness of the situation.

Tonight I had my first full conversation in Zulu; granted, it was merely the simplest of exchanges, but I was quite proud of knowing what to say.

I learned today that all the land around here is owned by the king of the Zulus and people have a ‘Permit to Occupy’ (PTO, as they’re known) at best. This, apparently, has its upsides (prices are low and even the poor can afford land) and downsides (can’t be used as collateral at a bank; impedes business development).

Today was quite nice. I went to watch the SA rugby test match at a local lodge with the family friend’s fiance. It was a good time. And it was my first beer in two weeks. After we had a simple lunch on his stoep and dozed for a little bit before hiking out to the edge of the mountains, where they drop down into Swaziland. On one side one can see Mozambique as well and the Ingwavuma river winds through some small hills. On the other, it faces the west and the plains of Swaziland on a shear drop of 600m or 700m. We watched a beautiful sunset from there.

It’s been nice living this little slice of African life; for me it has been a simple and calming time. But I’m not worrying about money, food, clothing, shelter or really much at all right now. I don’t want to misrepresent this area, though. For all the of the romantic ideals of African life, life here is difficult for the average person. For its increased wealth, Ingwavuma still has issues of high unemployment. HIV/ AIDs effects nearly every family and the taboo of the subject hurts the situation even more. Carrying water from the pumps, which run intermittently, a job often left to children, is time-consuming and takes up time when they could be studying or playing. There are water-borne illnesses. Mosquitoes carry malaria. I could continue on, but I think you get the idea.

Just a couple more days here. I’ll be sad to go.


q x c

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:14 am

So there are three click sounds in Zulu and I’ve been practicing them quite hard. Today while trying to master two words, Abaqophi (the shortened name [1] of the radio project, I believe this is “recorders”) and uxolo, meaning “excuse me”. A Zulu guy was trying to explain the q click sound: “It’s the sound you make when you call a chicken.” “Uh…I’ve never called a chicken.” I’ve previously heard the x sound described as the sound one makes to call a horse. I feel like the average American may have problems relating to these descriptions.

Well, I’ll try to describe them a little more clearly. C is the sound you may make if you’re tsk tsk tsking someone. Back of the tongue is anchored on the molars and the front pulls down fairly softly right behind the front teeth. It’s fairly high pitched and has a bit of a ‘wet’ sound. Q is the sound you make if you place your tongue flat against the roof of your mouth behind your teeth and then pull down quite strongly, but don’t smack your tongue against the bottom of your mouth. It’s quite a strong, low and open. X is perhaps the trickiest for me. Anchor the front (on the palate behind the teeth) and back (on the molars) of the tongue and pull down with one side. It’s not a clean ‘click’ but it’s cleaner than the c sound. It’s medium pitch, a fairly percussive beginning and a ‘wet’ middle.

One final note: these sounds can have a n sound to them (nx nc nq), but in their purest form have no n sound to them. This is the trickiest part of their pronunciation to me. Alright? Got it?

A few days ago Colin pointed out that there would be a race between a carrier pigeon and the ADSL of Telekom, SA’s (formerly?) national telecom company. The task would be to transfer 4GB of data between computers 50 miles apart. I told Colin that I’d be betting on the pigeon. Well, I would have done well if I’d bet money:

[The] 11-month-old pigeon, Winston, took one hour and eight minutes to fly the 80 km (50 miles) from Unlimited IT’s offices near Pietermaritzburg to the coastal city of Durban with a data card was strapped to his leg.

Including downloading, the transfer took two hours, six minutes and 57 seconds — the time it took for only four percent of the data to be transferred using a Telkom line.

Wow–that’s pathetic.

The line between hitchhiking and public transportation here is quite blurred. Public transportation, as I’ve mentioned consists of ‘minibus taxis’ which you flag down when you want to get on and get off where you want, paying a fair for the distance in between. Except in Ingwavuma, these aren’t just minibuses[2]. They’re pick-ups with benches in the back, SUVs and, this evening, a sedan. So basically the only difference between this evening and hitchhiking is that I paid the guy about a dollar.


Above are the aforementioned potpits in the road between Bhambanana and Ingwavuma. Shown are somewhat benign examples. For a sense of scale, the one in front is about 2.5 feet across.

The day after last Thursday’s soccer game, I felt fine. First thing into Monday’s game, I pulled—maybe tore—my quad. It’s fine when walking around but the first steps of running, it hurts like crazy. I’d better be careful about it.

The power went out this morning so I couldn’t heat water for my bucket shower. I ended up taking a cold half-shower and with yesterday’s temperature dip, I was shivering the whole time. And yet, still, there is something about life here that draws you in. I’ve met a number of people here who came here for a year and are still here three years later. I wondered how that could happen, but yesterday and today I’ve been wondering to myself if I couldn’t postpone my return to Cape Town a few more days, a week, maybe.

[1] Abaqophi basOkhayeni Abaqinile is the full name–the Strong Recorders of Ohkayeni; Ohkayeni is the primary school where the program is based.

[2] In Cape Town they are strictly minibuses and run quite regular routes and do generally work more like buses. The locals both here and in Cape Town just call them ‘taxis’ or ‘public transportation’.


a couple of funny things

Filed under: — adrian @ 9:23 am

Story time 1: So I went to the store on Tuesday and bought a freshly baked loaf of sandwich bread—it was still hot even. It wasn’t cut though, but when I was checking out I saw this bread cutting machine over to one side, so after I paid, I went over to it to get my bread cut. I put my bread in the ‘in’ side and turn it on and wait for my bread. Nothing comes. At this point I realize there’s this teenage Zulu girl next to me and she’s looking at me like I’m a complete moron. She shows me how it works; you have to open up the back and put your bread into the pusher part for it to work. This whole time she still has that look of contempt on her face.

Story time 2: This afternoon/ evening, the temperature dropped to about 60 degrees. I’m still wearing my long pants and t-shirt from the day and I feel fine. All the locals—all of them—are wearing jackets and knit hats. Apparently this passes for cold here. They did not believe me when I told them this wasn’t cold.


approx daily schedule

Filed under: — adrian @ 12:08 pm

No day is exactly like this, but this is sort of how things have been going:

6:30a wake up

6:35-6:45a heat water for bucket shower

6:45-7a shower

7-7:30a eat breakfast, read email/ internets

7:30-7:45a wash dishes

7:45-8a get ready, walk to center

8a-1p radio project work

1-2p lunch at my rondavel

2-4p radio project work [1]

4:15-6:30p read, play soccer [2] or go for a walk; carry up water or boil water for drinking as necessary.

6:30-7:30p make and eat dinner

7:30-9:45p read, blog, listen to music; sort photos or videos etc.

9:45p-10p brush teeth, get ready for bed

10p go to bed

[1] on Wednesdays and Fridays, for the radio project, we go to a school that is farther away from about 12:30-4:30pm, so I eat lunch earlier on these days.

[2] soccer is Mondays and Thursdays


oh yeah, it’s a holiday there.

Filed under: — adrian @ 11:22 am

A friend’s mentioning his overtime for working today reminded me that it’s a holiday in the States. I’d totally forgotten. Enjoy your day off. My next holiday is Sept 24, Heritage Day.

I’ve made some friends here, or acquaintances at least. There’s a group of young people working at NGOs, the hospital, schools and churches. They’re mostly from South Africa but there are some Germans and things in there too. These are some of the same people I played soccer with on Thursday. On Friday I went to a residence on the hospital grounds to play a board game and hang out with some of them. That’s what passes for night life here in Ingwavuma but it was a fun time.

On Saturday I took public transportation alone for the first time here. Public transit here (which is quite similar to Cape Town’s public transport) are ‘taxis’. These are minibuses, SUVs and the like, which people flag down to get in and then get off where they need to, paying a set fee for the distance to the driver. It’s sort of like a hybrid between a taxi and a bus in American terms. Fare from here to town is R7, a little less than $1.

I’d taken them with some people from Ziseze before, but Saturday’s trip into town was my first alone. Great victory! Except I got there at 1:10pm and the shops close at 1pm. What kind of town has shops that close at 1pm? But I walked around for a while and got a coke at a take-away place that was still open.

goat in the road, Ingwavuma
a sheep in the road in ‘town’ in Ingwavuma

The “town” of Ingwavuma consists of a small shopping plaza with less than a dozen establishments, only a few of those are bigger than the couple hole in the wall take-away places. There is a supermarket, a building supply place, a gas station, a furniture store, an electronics store and a barber shop. Across the street are maybe a dozen stalls where people sell (probably home-grown) vegetables and things. Goats may be wandering in the street; cattle aren’t far away.

water spigot at okhayeni
the water spigot at Okhayeni Primary School–the school doesn’t have running water

One of the places I’d got to via taxi was one of the schools the radio project works in, Okhayeni Primary School. The radio project group has called themselves what translates to the Okhayeni Strong Recorders. I think this is a pretty rad name.

Sunday I went to a local church which is mostly made up of Zulus. The preacher spoke in English but a member of the congregation translated on the spot–I was really impressed with this guy, incidentally. The service itself wasn’t particularly noteworthy besides it lasting 3 hours, but as I sat waiting for the service to start, some of the gathered, mostly women, sang some hymns in Zulu rather spontaneously. One started a hymn without any prompting or communication with others but many others soon joined in, filling out the harmonies. Some of them were particularly gorgeous and gave me chills.

zulu homestead
a somewhat typical homestead around here with some older mud-and-stick buildings and some more modern buildings

In the afternoon I went for a long walk down the hill along the main road, turning back only when I was hot and sweaty and miles away. The road was surprisingly quiet and besides the occasional homestead, it was mostly just grass and trees and hills and valleys around me.

Homestead does tend to be a more appropriate term than home here: most places people live have multiple smaller buildings bunched together. Often they’re separated out by function–one may be the kitchen; one may be the sleeping quarters.

One Zulu exchange that I’ve enjoyed particularly is as follows, and it definitely loses something in writing, in the rhythm and cadence:
One: Sanibona (hello, to a group)
Group, in unison: Yebo! (yes, or general acknowledgment)
One: Ninjani (how are you, to a group)
Group, in unison: Siyaphila (we are fine)



Filed under: — adrian @ 11:07 am

I arrived in South Africa a month ago today. Seems like not all that long, right?

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