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Return to SA 6: Departures and Final Thoughts
Precarious Laundry Days!
The last few days in Durban were spent just hanging around. We did go for a drive up to Howick Falls, just past Pietermartizburg and spent a morning in Hillcrest. Howick falls are amazing. The falls are quite high and the sound thunderous. Unfortunately, the top of the falls has become a local laundry for the people living in the huts in the rural areas of Howick. After all they do not have running water or washing machines so where else can they do their laundry? Howick Falls of course! Actually I couldn’t think of a more dangerous yet more beautiful place to wash my clothes. Unfortunately the laundry at the top does detract from the spectacular view of the falls, but hey, they have to wear clean clothes!
We also spent a morning in Mitchell Park, where we came across the most amorous of tortoises. Have you ever seen tortoises mating? Well, we did! It was quite a funny sight! The male tortoise took an age to climb up onto the female, gave out two or three surprisingly loud GRUNTS and then it was finished in about 10 seconds! So much for that! We should say that the female tortoise was really upset that her slow walk was so rudely interrupted!
We spent the morning in the park. They do have a small zoo so we entertained ourselves by looking at the array of small animals. It was great.
On the Sunday morning, three weeks after arrival, we finally left Durban to go spend a few more days with Aunty Pam and Uncle Wally. It is always sad leaving loved ones, especially when you do not know when you will see them again.
In Johannesburg our friends Wayne and Michelle took us to a luxury African themed restaurant where they had the local cuisine of many African tribes on the menu. It was a wonderful time to spend with our friends. We do miss them a great deal and we always remember the moments we spend together with them. Hopefully one day they will be able to come out to Asia to visit us.
On the Monday morning it was time to leave. We had a deep heart to heart discussion with Aunty Pam and Uncle Wally about our time in China. They were encouraging and loving. They are always so positive about people and always so caring to all those around them. We love them and miss them.
Final Thoughts and Reflections
Yes, going back to South Africa is always good. We enjoyed seeing my father again and getting to know Yvonne better. We enjoyed seeing many of our friends not mentioned here. We enjoyed seeing Aunty Pam, Uncle Wally, Wayne and Michelle again. We enjoyed reestablishing friendships and relationships with those in our past. They are all great and wonderful people.
Despite this, the reality of crime and AIDS was in our face the whole time. South Africa is filled with wonderful places, beautiful people, glorious weather and inept leaders! The leaders of our country need to apply the law and grow some sense about HIV/AIDS instead of lobbying for position and power as they are doing now (in 2007), they should lobby for the welfare of the country and its people.
The other day I (Paul) saw Albie Sachs, justice of the constitutional court in South Africa, waxing lyrical about the law on CNN (November, 2007) and how it was like poetry as both poetry and the law are about the human spirit! He should wax lyrical like that to those victims of crime, both black and white and see how they receive it!
Yes, poverty also needs to be addressed! To do this they need a plan. I always get the impression that this government doesn’t have a plan. When I look at Hong Kong and know that 30-years ago half of Hong Kong Island (from North Point and Fortress Hill) was a shanty-town and see how Hong Kong has developed and grown, I know South Africa can too. But to do so, the government must have a plan!
Don’t Fly SAA!
Remember that’s how we started this travelog, well it is how we have to end. Although the service was better, the TV consoles still didn’t work! Such was our suffering and fate!
Hope you all enjoyed these thoughts and reflections of our Return to SA.
Look out for the Pictorial that we will surely post soon.
Take care all,
Paul and Queenie
Return to SA 5: Ithala, a day in the wild!
Why do most people go to Africa? To see the animals of course!
Another great day in Durban was spent at the Ithala Game Reserve. The game reserve a one hour drive from my Dad's house and we always love going there! They do not have any wild cats or elephants, but they do have rhinos, hippos, giraffes, zebras, wildebeest, springbucks and many other types of buck and antelope. This is the second time we visited there! The first time we went there was way back in December 1999. Queenie loved it so much she wanted to return!
Story of an Ostrich in 1999
The first time we went to Ithala in 1999 was quite an experience. In the picnic areas was a seemingly friendly ostrich that would come and peck the top of the barbeque grill for any left-overs. Some people, including Queenie and Yvonne thought it was safe to touch! I (Paul) was too scared as I think ostriches are dangerous.
After lunch we drove down to the hippo viewing-platform over the lake. We had to park our car about 25-meters away and walk along a narrow path to the platform. All of sudden, out of nowhere a large, fairly irritated male ostrich (about 8-feet tall) started to do some kind of mating dance in the parking lot. He was flapping his wings and was clearly agitated or horny! We couldn't tell which.
At this point, three of the men on the hippo platform with us decided to go back to their cars. The ostrich saw them coming out of the corner of his eye and charged them! They couldn't get back onto the viewing platform and the ostrich came right up to them. The man nearest the ostrich froze, stood dead still and stared at the ostrich (eye ball to eye ball) for what seemed to be an eternity (but was probably no more than 30-seconds). The ostrich soon lost interest and ran back into the parking area.
Now, anybody who knows anything about an ostrich knows that they eat anything. My father had left the back of his backie (pick-up truck) open. He was afraid the ostrich would peck inside the back of the truck and take or damage some things. So he bravely ran to the back of the pick-up, closed the canopy and jumped into the front cab of the truck before the ostrich could see him. By the time the ostrich realized my dad was there, my father was safely in the front of the vehicle.
At this point a man with his baby in one arm decided to head back to his car. He started walking down the path towards the parking area when the ostrich saw him coming. The ostrich was really angry this time and came charging quickly at the man. The man tried to push the ostrich away but as quick as lightning the ostrich kicked him. He was lucky that the first kick caught him at the back of the knee and forced him to buckle and twist. The second kick caught him on his shoulder as he went down.
Of course we couldn't stand by! Some of us remaining on the viewing platform charged the ostrich. I wasn't that brave to take it on without a device of some sort so I picked up the tin lid of a trashcan. By this stage my father had started his truck and had driven up next to the ostrich and was hooting. The ostrich looked really confused by all this noise and charged off out of the parking area.
Fortunately, the man who was kicked stood up. The baby that was in his arms was fine. And all he had wrong with him were two nasty cuts and a story to tell the grandkids.
Since then Queenie has believed me that ostriches are dangerous. It is not their bite but their kick!
Back to the future
So with these wonderful memories of Ithala, we all trooped off to see the animals. This time there were no exciting ostrich attacks or rhino charges. Just a pleasant drive among the animals. A great lunch with the family and an excellent day for viewing all the wonderful animals. But for us the highlight was getting to within 10-meters of a mother rhino and her baby. Of course, at that point we kept the car engine running in case we needed to make a fast escape.
The other highlight of the day were the giraffes. On one of the trails we were driving through the bush and came accross these two giraffes. They were a little timid as giraffes are but we managed to get out of the car and get close enough to take some great pictures. Unfortunately, some game warden arrived with a group of tourists, told us to get back into the car and chased the giraffes away with all his noise. Of course we had to comply because they threatened to evict us from the park. I suppose it was for our own safety (but there are no lions to worry about)!
Some of the other animals we saw are shown below
All in all we had a great time in Ithala. If you want to get out and see some wildlife in their natural, but protected habitat, we highly recommend this game park. It is not too far from Durban or Pietermartizburg and is a great day out. Pack a picnic basket and a bathing suit as their is a swimming pool in the picnic area.
Just remember, ALL the animals are wild, even the ostriches, so becareful!
Paul and Queenie
Return to SA 4: uShaka and Food Poisoning
uShaka Marine World
uShaka Marine world is a new aquarium and water park on the Durban beachfront. We were told that it is a fantastic place to spend the day and so we all went there together. My father and Yvonne had been there before but it was definitely a first for us. For us too it was quite exciting since we had not been to an aquarium in a long time. The last aquarium we had been to was Ocean Park in Hong Kong a couple of years ago and then before that the we had gone to the Aquarium on Penghu Islands (in the Taiwan Strait between Taiwan and China) which has since closed.
(For those who don't know Shaka was the name of a famous Zulu chief who introduced novel ways of warfare and made the Zulu nation one of Africa's most feared and famous tribes. It was the armies of the Zulu that years later defeated the British and the battle of Islandhwana. Shaka's home was a couple of hundred kilometeres North of Durban but his soldiers conquered far and wide.)
Arriving at uShaka reminded me in some way of all the tourist locations in Asia with all the tourist shops in an arcade leading up to the main gate. The old aquarium in Durban never used to be like this but now they have changed. Maybe this is a global trend and I have to get out to more theme parks!
The definite highlights of uShaka were in the morning. We got there around 10:00am and were hustled to the Seal Show and the Dolphin show. The seal show was quite funny as they got to act out some crazy story about a seal that was a thief. How appropriate for South Africa!
The other highlight for Queenie was being asked to partake in the dolphin show! Queenie always has a knack of getting chosen. She loves animals and being close to them! When we were in New Zealand she managed to become a part of the Sheep show in Rotorua. So anyway, this time she got to conduct the dolphin's while the danced and she got to feed them if they did something good. She had a great time doing it as she was allowed to touch them too. After all, dolphins are quite friendly!
As with most aquariums the underwater tanks are always very very impressive. The one with the coral reef and a wide variety of fish and marine life and was quite wonderful to watch. Once again, living so far from the sea and all marine life makes this place very special for us.
A unique feature of the uShaka is that they have a pool where you can swim with the fish! It is a great feeling. The freaky part about the swimming tank though is that you become part of the show. People walking past the viewing windows can see you and are likely to wave and take pictures of you. It was a lot of fun. Of course the scary thing was that right next to our swimming tank was the shark tank. The two were separated only with glass. If you swim in that direction and a shark is swimming in your direction it really looks like you are going to collide. It was an interesting idea putting the two together.
The rest of the day was spent just walking around and also going to the water park and sliding down the super tubes! It was here were the food poisoning started! I (Paul) was a bit hungry (it must have been about 3:00pm) so I bought a hot-dog. A short while after I started feeling nauseous but thought nothing of it.
When we left in the evening my father suggested we go eat something in the Pavillion Shopping Centre . Well dinner was fine but after dinner I found myself running for the nearest public bathroom and spending an hour vomitting everything up. We then went home where I spent the whole night and half the next morning with my head in the toilet. It wasn't a very pleasant experience.
Here is the kicker though! After spending six weeks in mostly rural China, after eating in restaurants where hygiene was an afterthought, of eating some of the strangest food in my life, I finally got food poisoning in my home town!
Yes, we LOVE AFRICA!
Until the next time,
Paul and Queenie
Return to SA 3: A Morning in an Aids Orphanage
On one of the days we were in Durban, my father and Yvonne took us to an AIDS orphanage that Yvonne’s church support. The orphanage is located in the Cato Manor shanty-town that lies directly behind the University of Natal, Durban Campus. It is a scare and an indictment on the government that after 10 years in power, there is no reasonable shift in the poverty levels.
An African woman called Priscilla ran the orphanage! She ran the orphanage out of her home and the Church had helped her register as a non-profit organization so that she could legitimately receive donations. The orphanage was a four-bedroom house shared with about 70 children! On the day we went some of the kids had gone off to an event so we never got to see them all.
Priscilla told us how she started. How one day the parents of a baby both died from AIDS and how someone had asked if she would be willing to raise the child. She said she couldn’t say no. Thereafter, whenever two parents in the community died from AIDS, she was given the child. Not all the children had HIV/AIDS but many did. She told us that by the time we returned to South Africa within the next few years, many of the children we saw would be dead!
In fact, my father and Yvonne had grown attached to one of the little baby boys in the orphanage and regularly took him home for the weekend. While we were in South Africa they received a call from Priscilla saying that the little baby boy had did from AIDS related disease.
HIV/AIDS is the tragedy of South Africa and something I (Paul) get so angry about. This article is being written in November 2007 as a retrospective and I recently say an article that said President Mbeki was a still and AIDS denier! Even with the horror of this pandemic so evident and even with all the science available on the spread of this disease, the “Renaissance Man of Africa” still denies that HIV causes AIDS!
It is also well documented that the next possible president of South Africa Jacob Zuma had sex with a HIV positive woman and that he said that all one needs to do afterwards is to take a shower. This from the ex-head of the national AIDS council and, added to this, the current minister of health is also apparently an AIDS denier! The lack of leadership on AIDS is horrifying and the results desperately tragic. The lack of leadership means a lack of education and a lack of medication. This means people do not learn how to protect themselves and do know how to take care of themselves once they are sick.
My friend who is a doctor told me that on a medical trip into the Natal Mid-lands he saw the hills filled with white crosses and most of the crosses belonged to the young who had died from this terrible disease. He also told me that the rate of infections in South Africa is much higher than the official government figures. If this pandemic is left to spread unchecked as it has. It will have disastrous effects on the country.
Back to Priscilla and her orphanage. Priscilla told us that their orphanage is so small and that there are not enough beds for everyone so they take turns sleeping in the beds. And she said one day she fell ill and that she lay on the floor for days with the babies sleeping on top of her. She also told us that the water had been cut off from the house because she did not have money to pay the bill. Yes! 70-people in one house and no running water! And yet the local government can spend billions on new soccer stadiums.
The AIDS orphanage was a sad day for us. Priscilla seemed worn out and tired. The children seemed to lack hope and strength. But what amazed us was Priscilla’s son. He was a strapping young man of about 20. He was so positive about life and about his dreams and what he was going to achieve in this life. In a place of such despair, there was someone with hope.
Priscilla for me epitomized the truth of loving thy neighbor. May their be more people like her today. Sadly, I recently learned from Yvonne in 2007, Priscilla lost hope. She left the Church and the orphanage and moved over to witchcraft. The children have been moved into another home where they can be taken care of.
I felt that Priscilla's plight was similar to Astrov's plight in Anton Chekov's play "Uncle Vanya." The sheer feeling of despair. Who can blame her for wanting to run away!
Astrove: No. In the third week of Lent, I went to Malitskoye, there was an epidemic...typhus...In the huts people lay on the floor in rows...Filth, stench, smoke, calves among the sick...and young pigs, right there...I wa on the move all day, didn't sit down or have a morself of food, and when I got home they still wouldn't let me rest-brought in a switchman from the railroad; I put him on the table to operate, and he went and died under the choloroform. And just when I least wanted it, feeling awoke in me, and I was as conscience-stricken as if I had deliverately killed him...I sat down, closed my eyes-just like this-and I thought: will those who come after us in a hundred or two hundred years, those for whom we are blazing a trail, will they remember and have a kind word for us? No, they won't, nurse!
Marina: People won't remember, but God remembers.
If you really want to have an inkling about the AIDS crisis in rural South Africa, we highly recommend you watch the film "Yesterday." It will give you a samll idea and break your heart! If you live in Taipei, we would gladly lend you our copy. Just let us know!
Our prayer is that God would heal Priscilla. Draw her to Him again. And show her his love. Her horror was to watch babies die everyday with limited resources and limited help. Our prayer is also that God would grant wisdom and knowledge to the leaders of South Africa so that they may provide the correct leadership that can save lives. Yes, we still believe in Miracles!
Paul and Queenie
Return to SA 2: A Day in Oribi
One of the wonderful day outings we had was to go to Oribi Gorge, a place of truly spectacular scenery on South Coast of KwaZulu Natal. The drive up there is always pleasant. We drove next to the ocean. The day was beautiful and I remember the sea being a crystal blue. When I (Paul) used to live in Durban I used to take the sea for granted! Now we live in Taipei. It is difficult to get to the ocean from here (well it takes a long time, at least one hour). So now when I see the sea, especially on a sunny day and when the water is clear, it is paradise found.
Oribi Gorge is stunning! It is an amazing place with amazing views. It is what Africa is all about: Big Open Wide Spaces. It is also dangerous! The cliffs are precarious and you always feel very small in the face of such wonder. At the top of the Gorge there is a newly opened game park with some Zebra and other buck.
We had a good time driving along the road looking at some of the animals. At the end of the road they had a suspension bridge hanging over part of the gorge and a lookout where you could walk about 5-meters out over the gorge. The sign on the suspension bridge said a maximum of six people only. But later on one of the wardens told us they had tested it with 30 people. So it should be safe. At the same time there was a construction engineer who worked on skyscrapers. He said he was to afraid to walk accross the suspension bridge. The bridge was a lot of fun. Especially when it started to sway. In addition to the animals, this was a definite highlight.
At the other end of the suspension bridge is what is claimed as the "Longest Long Drop in Africa." Yes! They had a long drop toilet! Heaven only knows where it dropped too but it did drop! There were no chains to flush. Some things are strange.
To end the day my father made some new friends. To know my dad is to know that wherever he goes he will always find someone he knows or make new friends! Two years after we were in South Africa we were in Hong Kong airport together and sure enough my father found someone he knew! Anyway, at the end of our time at Oribi Gorge my father and Yvonne met some English pensioners who were there for some afternoon cheese and wine. Now why didn't we think of that! I couldn't think of a better place to drink wine or eat cheese with family and friends!
The best part of the drive was the drive back to the gate. It was the time we saw the most animals. Everyone in Taiwan thinks that there are animals in my Dad's backyard! Africa is wild but not that wild. Of course we can drive out to see some of the animals, and not drive too far, but we still have to go to the parks and reserves. This nature reserve had just opened and so was still being populated with wildlife. But we did get to see a few of the animals.
(Lizard in Oribi)
(Zebra in Oribi)
Anyway, thats it for this post. We had a great time there and if you are ever in the KwaZulu Natal (KZN) area and want a great drive down the South Coast, head down to Oribi Gorge with some chilled white wine and cheese. You won't be disappointed!
Paul and Queenie
Return to SA 1: Arrivals and Reality
Don't Fly SAA (South African Airways)
Going back to Durban, the city I grew up in, is always fun. After China we went back to South Africa for three weeks to spend time with my father and see friends who we had not seen in three years. It’s always good going back. Everyone is a little older, a little wiser, a little more mature, we hope. Its not always true though!
The excitement going home started on the airplane. Let me say in our defense that we had booked on Cathay Pacific but they bumped us onto a South African Airlines (SAA) flight. What a load of crap! The service was terrible. I was really upset. We paid for Cathay service, which is always excellent, but got the best Africa has to offer. It started with the television console! It never worked. We couldn’t watch any movies! Then, I asked for some water. After half an hour I went to the galley and helped myself. An hour later the steward came to me and asked me if I still wanted water. I told him I would help myself! Finally, when we arrived in Johannesburg, we were getting off the airplane and the steward was leaning against the toilet door and said: “Shot bru. See you later hey!” (South African slang.) It was a disgusting flight.
When we arrived in Johannesburg it was even worse! After a long flight from Hong Kong we waited in an endless line while bags were checked for contraband. One guy in the line jokingly suggest that I declare Queenie since she was a foreign wife. Well, we all had a good laugh at that. Before the baggage line though the baggage conveyor belt with our bags broke! There was another one working right next to ours. It took them half-an-hour to decide to switch the bags. Of course we were really frustrated! Good luck Johannesburg airport for the World Cup, you are going to need it!
The First Few Days
Of course when we arrived in Johannesburg Aunty Pam and Uncle Wally were waiting for us. They are friends I have known most of my life and they are my second family. They took us home, let us freshen up and gave us a great breakfast. It was also the first time in a few years I got to see some cricket. Which is always a good thing! Uncle Wally and Aunty Pam are always so warm and loving and they always make us feel so special.
That day it was Aunty Pam’s birthday so we had to go for a lot of grocery shopping to buy food for their extended family who I have not seen in many years. It was good catching up with all of them. They have in some part been a part of my (Paul) life since I was a small child. They have watched me grow up and move on in life.
Of course the other highlight of being in Johannesburg is the chance to hook up with one of my best friends Wayne (Uncle Wally and Aunty Pam’s son) and his wife Michelle and their two kids Jolene and Kylan. Wayne and I grew up together and he has gone on to achieve great things in life. We remain great friends and it is always special to spend time with them! On the first Sunday we in Johannesburg, Wayne and Michelle took us out for the day. We went to a horse show, had a great meal in RJs and spent time with them in their house catching up on things and just shooting the breeze really. They were really excited about their new house they were building and we were so happy for them.
Back to Durban
We finally left for Durban on the Monday morning. Flying in to Durban is always amazing as most of the flight is spent overland and then, as you come towards the Durban you see the dazzling blue of the ocean from up high. I see the coast line that I recognize so well and although now Asia is my home, I always recognize this as the place of my birth and growth. There is always nostalgia. No matter how hard you try to drown its scream you never can. It always wells up inside and always lets you know that you are home.
Seeing my dad again after three years was also wonderful! He has always been supportive of me living overseas and we have, over the years, established a wonderful relationship. Sure enough he was waiting at the airport with his wife Yvonne and he two was excited to show us his new home that he had built by himself.
This was also the last time I was going to ever see my Dad's dog Sheba. She passed away in 2006. She was a great and wonderful dog who gave me and my father many years of joy. I raised her when she was a small puppy and I remember her enthusiasm as a youngster. In later years she developed problems with her hips and struggled to walk. Eventually she had to be put down.
I also got to meet their new addition to the family, Lady and Benji. Lady is a small little wreck of a dog that Yvonne and my Dad found outside the house one day. Out of compassion and kindness they took the little dog in and she has been a wonderful friend to them for quite a few years now.
(Dad with Benji and Sheba)
The Reality of Crime
Once home the reality of South Africa and the horrendous crime rate hit us.
My father told me of a person I knew as a boy who lived on the same street as me who had been murdered On New Year's Eve. He had a few teenage daughters. They chose to celebrate the New Year in a restaurant near our home. Some young Indian men came into the restaurant and started to trouble one of his daughters. He tried to defend her. A scuffle ensued and in the end he was lying on the road, stabbed. That is where he died.
During our stay in South Africa there was an armed robbery at the store near my Dad's home. On the day after, the police had gone to the store to get the security videos for the investigation. Having viewed the tapes in the store, they were on the way back to the police station when they recognized the car next to them as being the one in the security video from the robbery. They set off in pursuit and full on gun battle ensued in the parking lot of the local shopping center. It was 2:00pm.
Also on the day before we left one of my father's 70 y/o friends was executed in a butchers store where he worked. Some men had come into the store to rob it. After getting the money from the teller, they told him to kneel down and executed him right there in the store. The tragedy of South Africa is crime. There is so much! These were tragic incidents that framed the time we spent there.
The crime rate in South Africa is horrendous! And what irritates us all (even those of us living in foreign lands) is that the government seem helpless to stop it. It is a cruel society where bad things happen. And they shouldn't! The rampant poverty is no doubt to blame! When we were there the unemployment rate was reaching 40%! Many people live in shacks and squalid conditions. It is a sad state of affairs that afte 10 years of democracy, these conditions still exist, and yet we are told the economy is booming.
Anyway, this is the sad note on which I end this post! May God bless the families of those who are victims to crime and may God turn the hearts of those who would harm others and change their ways. South Africa (and Africa) needs our prayers!
God Bless all,
Paul and Queenie
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