2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads This blog is on fire!.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A helper monkey made this abstract painting, inspired by your stats.

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 2,800 times in 2010. That’s about 7 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 34 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 11 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 28mb. That’s about a picture per month.

The busiest day of the year was August 22nd with 105 views. The most popular post that day was Trip to Dondi and farewell.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, nancyhendersonjames.com, mail.live.com, mail.yahoo.com, and mail.aol.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for namibia, jose chipenda, nancyhj.wordpress.com, institute near huambo angola +dondi, and san namibia.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.


Trip to Dondi and farewell August 2010


Hello world! June 2010
8 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,


Link to Angola photos September 2010


In Angola! August 2010


Who is going? July 2010

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Angolan consulate in DC closed

On this Thanksgiving Day, I am very grateful that my family and I were able to travel to Angola in August. I came home thinking seriously about going back next year. But now that may be impossible. The Angolan consulate in Washington DC, and probably also in Houston and New York and wherever else Angola has consulates in the US, has closed. The Angolan ambassador has been recalled to Luanda for consultations and the newly appointed American ambassador to Angola may not be able to start work. Bank of America sent them a letter saying that their accounts were being closed, with no explanation. Last year HSBC closed their accounts. Rumors are that money laundering is the basis for this action. The US State Department is working with the consulates to remedy the situation. Since Angola is the 6th largest supplier of oil to the US, I imagine it is in our interest to work it out. I hope that this will be a temporary closing, for my sake as well as all the other Americans who plan a trip soon.

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Mystery post!

In my attempt to post a cute video taken at Jardim Infantil in Canata, Lobito, of my family and me doing the Hoky Poky, another photo was mysteriously posted. I have deleted that post. It was of a young girl carrying water containers, taken near the Benguela airport… having nothing to do with Hoky Poky!

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Link to Angola photos

So far I’ve assembled a slide show of our 2 weeks in Angola. The other countries will be forthcoming. Please look under Blogroll to the right for the link.

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Thoughts on unemployment

Unemployment is high everywhere we went in southern Africa. I’m no economist and don’t have a sophisticated understanding about the economies of Angola, Namibia, Mozambique, and South Africa. These comments will be based on my observations only.

In Angola, with projections of 7-12 % growth in the near future, fueled by the oil economy, the problem must be related to lack of education and training. Even before the war for independence and the civil wars, education was not a high priority with the Portuguese colonial government. It took even lower importance during the 40 years of wars…two generations uneducated.

As we traveled around the 4 countries, Angola had by far the fewest schools. Even in Lobito and the other cities, where you might imagine more schools, they were tiny and didn’t appear to be in session. School age children roamed the streets, usually unaccompanied by adults, to the great distress of our friend Jose Chipenda. He and Eva are concerned that even those who are in school aren’t learning anything because teachers have little training. Many people we talked to complained about the lack of books. Brazil has a robust publishing industry and is one source of books, but getting them to Angola is hard. The one bright spot was in Huambo. A couple of large schools were near our hotel. Early in the morning, the sidewalks were full of throngs of students in uniforms.

Education in Namibia is not free, but it is required up to grade 7. Peter-Hain, our cultural tour guide, spoke wistfully of Botswana’s REAL free education. After 7th grade, students have to go to one of the far flung towns for high school. Given the huge spaces and the tiny population, getting to high school is a real challenge, but the population is largely literate. Still the unemployment rate is very high. Mining of uranium and diamonds, cattle and game animal ranching, and tourism are the major industries. I imagine that the history of apartheid and white rule continues to affect the economy.

An article in one of the Windhoek newspapers (there are many in English the official language, German, and Afrikaans), highlighted the problem of Chinese companies winning the contracts for various construction projects. The government’s explanation was that native Namibians aren’t skilled at writing proposals or at quality control.

Mozambique’s poverty level is listed at 172 out of 175 countries, according to UN figures. People get by mainly on subsistence agriculture. Driving through the countryside as far north as Inhambane, I had the sense that the land is very productive. We saw lots of little gardens, papaya and other fruit trees, cashew trees, etc. But evidently countries such as India and China are buying up large tracts of land to plant for their own populations, leaving less for the locals. In town, large numbers of men are idle. In Maputo, along the main streets, everyone is hustling, trying to make a couple of meticais (37 mtc to the dollar). Children beg for change, something that happened only once in Angola.

The current government has stepped away from the socialist ideals of Samora Machel, the first president. Following the requirements of the World Bank, less is going into social programs. I was impressed with the number of nice looking schools and health facilities I saw, but later read that Moz has become the darling of the NGOs and they are the education and health providers. The article said that if the government put into place taxes and tariffs on the corporations that are drawing resources out of the country, it would have enough money for those social necessities.

South Africa is the economic powerhouse of southern Africa, supplying food and manufactured items everywhere we went. So why is there so much unemployment? The answer must go back to the way apartheid and its earlier incarnations completely disrupted society. On our last day in Cape Town we went to the District Six museum. District Six was a multicultural area of inner city Cape Town, crowded and poor, but economically viable and vibrant. From there everyone could walk to work. When the government decided to make it a whites-only area, all the people were moved tens of kilometers out of town to Kayelitsha, Guguletu, Mitchell’s Plain, and other locations with no schools, no work, no infrastructure. To this day, those townships are vast areas of abject poverty. The houses are literally right next to each other. The kids have to play in the small space between the wall of the township and the freeway. We wondered what happened when the soccer ball was kicked into the highway, or when the grazing cattle and pigs decided to wander onto the road.

I wish I had more answers to the unemployment questions. Any ideas, anyone?

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Tasting at Solms-Delta

A winery partly worker-owned near Franschhoek

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Mountains, oceans, wine, food!

A connection with Bridget, a South African friend at home in Durham, led us to the place where we’ve spent 10 days in Cape Town. It is the lovely former home of my friend’s parents, located in the Somerset West suburb about 40 km out of town. At first I was disappointed that we would not be in the city, but in fact it only takes about half an hour to get to the city and it puts us on the way to many sights and activities out of town.

The Helderberg Nature Reserve, our first outing, is very close. We hiked a trail up Helderberg mountain through the fynbos, the distinctive Cape vegetation of restios or sedges, proteas, and ericas or heath. It was hard to pass the proteas, in oranges, yellows, whites, and reds, without taking yet another photo. They are endlessly fascinating in all their phases. Another day we wandered around Kirstenbosch Gardens, on the back side of Table Mountain, looking at the varieties of plants making up the Cape Floral Kingdom. It is the smallest and richest of the world’s floral kingdoms.

The unique plants, the mountains, and the sea make the Cape a beautiful place to visit. One day we headed into the mountains on a wine tour, starting with a couple of estates in Somerset West. Vergelegen, with museum, gardens, restaurant, and tasting room, has been here since 1700. Morgenster had the perfect combination of olives and wine. We tasted extra virgin, lemon, and truffle olive oils, olives black and green, and olive paste. Bypassing Stellenbosch, we stopped at Delaire, near Franschhoek, for lunch on the patio with the mountains as our backdrop. One reason for stopping there was to see Deborah Bell’s art on exhibit. She is Bridget’s sister, and a well known South African artist. In Franschhoek we tasted at Solms-Delta. The wine drinkers in the crowd especially liked the Vastrap and the Cape Jazz Shiraz. I appreciated the fact that the farm workers share in the winery ownership.

With the Atlantic and Indian oceans close by, and False Bay, Hout Bay, Table Bay, we had to turn some attention to the water. One day we took the ferry to Robben Island, the infamous political prison, once home to Nelson Mandela. Our guide on the bus tour was knowledgeable, and a former prisoner, who was arrested for sabotage at 18 and spent 6 years there, gave us the details of life in the prison. After an obligatory tour of the Victoria and Albert waterfront, too touristy for my taste, we ate dinner at Wakame, a sushi restaurant, in the developing Green Point waterfront area. From our table we watched the waves crashing, and sailboats and kayakers making their way up the shore.

We devoted a day to the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Point and another to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point in Africa. I always thought that North Carolina beaches were hard to beat, and for swimming that’s true. But for sheer gorgeous waves, clear waters, and rocky shores, this coast is amazing. On the way down the peninsula we stopped to see the African penguins at Boulders Beach, and had a picnic at Buffels Bay with the assistance of a park attendant who kept the Chacma baboons at bay so we could eat more or less in peace. We parked at the Cape of Good Hope and hiked up to Cape Point, where the lighthouse is, and back. Cape of Good Hope is the southwestern most point of Africa, but not, as we had thought, the dividing point of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans. On the peninsula we spotted an eland, some zebra, and the lounging dassies, similar to our marmots.

It was at Cape Agulhas that we witnessed the official demarcation of the two oceans. We started the day watching whales at Hermanus. The southern right whales come to Walker Bay to have their young and spend some months lolling around, within easy view of the cliffs in town. At DeKelders more whales and a group of dolphins entertained us while we picnicked. A very long drive later in Agulhas, we stepped into the Atlantic on one side and the Indian Ocean on the other. We hiked along the beach, looking for the fish traps of ancient Khoi peoples from tens of thousands of years ago, a reminder that Africa is indeed our mother continent. As the day was dying, we ate at the restaurant that bills itself as the southernmost restaurant in Africa.

Perhaps our most amazing day in Cape Town itself started with a cable car ride to the top of Table Mountain, a hike on the mountain to Maclear’s Beacon and back, a walk to Artscape Theater to see a dance performance, topped off by a Panafrican meal at Gold Restaurant. Ihaw Elisha, performed by Jazzart Dance Theatre and choreographed by Sbonakaliso Ndaba, was 100 minutes of nonstop energy. They played to an enthusiastic mixed audience.

Our Gold Restaurant experience began with 45 minutes of learning to drum on djembes, taught by instructors from Mali. We all finished with slightly bruised hands. You won’t believe the meal, 14 courses celebrating the cuisine of the 6 African countries that played in the World Cup:
1. South African spiced tomato soup with Xhosa corn pot bread
2. Algerian Kefta Kebabs with yoghurt
3. Cameroon baked fish, marinated in parsley, coriander, and limes, with herb mayo
4. Algerian briouats, folded phyllo pastries filled with meat
5. Cote D’Ivoire baked white yam wedges with peanut sauce
6. Bafana Bafana Bobotie, Cape Malay spiced ground ostrich with custard topping
7. South African chutney to top the Bobotie
8. Ghanaian groundnut chicken
9. Cameroon Morogo, greens with red and yellow peppers, tomatoes, and chillies
10. Nigerian mixed salad, similar to cole slaw
11. Algerian saffron couscous with mint and raisins
12. South African stewed rooibos nectarines
13. South African sponge cake and pudding
14. Cote D’Ivoire fruit platter

The courses were interspersed with drumming, dancing, and larger than life-size puppets that walked among the tables. Needless to say, we staggered home with very full bellies and fell into bed.

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Protea on Helderberg Mountain

Too many to choose from!

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Cape Town

The last 10 days of our southern Africa tour are in Cape Town. We go from the grit and vibrant street life of Maputo, and the amazing beaches of the Indian ocean, to the very European city of Cape Town. At the Maputo airport we met another American couple on their way to the Cape. She works for the US CDC and he is the accompanying spouse, also employed at the embassy. She commented that Cape Town has the distinction of being a western city very close to Africa.

But of course it’s more complicated than that, given the history of South Africa. The population of the city is 50% colored, a third is black, and the rest are white and others. The emotional leftovers of apartheid will affect the country for many generations, despite Mandela’s work toward reconciliation upon majority rule. Apartheid’s strength came not from a massive police presence so much as dividing the population into competing groups, even for instance dividing the coloreds into 5 groups, all vying for a very limited piece of life, and each just a bit lower on in rank than the next.

As we’ve driven around the Cape, we’ve seen prosperous areas and huge swaths of dire poverty. Street kids beg for money for food. Mitchell’s Plain and Kayelitsha, the townships off N2 on the way to our digs, are jammed with shacks made of metal and plastic pieces. There is also evidence of rebuilding, with brightly colored substantial houses in orderly rows.

In our time here, three young men in their early twenties, one white, one colored, and one black, have given us their take on their country. All three were quite positive. The white man was a waiter at Delaire winery and restaurant near Franschhoek, in law school and planning to be a lawyer. Incidentally, while the clientele was mostly white, the wait staff was mixed and the guy in charge was black.

The colored man was a guide on our tour of Robben Island. He confessed that he had messed up in high school and his mother wouldn’t pay for college, so he is working his way through in computer science, a field that is guaranteed to grow, he said. Once he makes some money, he’d like to get a political science degree and become a politician in retirement. The black man was a waiter at the cafe at the Grand Daddy Hotel in Cape Town. He was studying marketing at the technical university. Each of the guys told us that this was a great time to be a young person in South Africa. They and those even younger aren’t burdened by the attitudes and psychological loads of 20 or 10 years ago. They see a lot of possibilities for themselves. (We haven’t had opportunities to talk to young women for their perspectives.)

I think that has been the most exciting aspect of our time here in southern Africa. The last time I was here white man’s rule was supreme, although it was obvious when I left in 1961 that it was coming to an end. In the case of South Africa it took another 30 years. Now all countries run themselves, with varying degrees of freedom, corruption, and success.

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Good bye to Moz

Far too soon we had to head back to Maputo from Tofinho. It’s an 8-hour drive, but this time we left at 8:00 am. This gave us time to take some photos of the little towns and villages, and the landscape of palms and cashew trees. We also stopped for a picnic lunch in a park along the Limpopo river in Xai Xai. Our curious observer as we ate we identified as the town crazy. He laughed and talked to himself and got quite a chuckle out of us.

The challenges of driving in Moz included driving on the left, the fluid notion of lanes, and a 100 km section of the highway where it was reduced to one lane or was full of potholes. But the highway is getting fixed and where it has been completed, it is smooth and wide. Our biggest recurring mistake was mistaking the windshield wipers for the turn signal…our automatic response to 50 years of driving on the right. I was stopped again by the police on the way home at a speed trap. His radar gun had clocked me at about 5 km over the limit, but he was feeling charitable and said, “Today I’ll let you go, but go more slowly.”

Upon our return to Palmeiras Guest House, Celia, our hostess, informed us that we had missed some excitement and chaos in town in the form of a general strike against the government’s decision to raise the price of bread. Unfortunately it resulted in several deaths and vandalism. The strike began on Wednesday morning and lasted into Friday. Luckily we had left on Tuesday and returned on Sunday. Had we tried to leave on Wednesday we would have found all roads out of town blocked.

For our last meal out in Maputo, we returned to Milano Grill House where we’d had the first meal and where I discovered Laurentina beer. We like that place because it caters more to Mozambicans than to ex-pats. The very last meal the next morning was yet another splendid breakfast at Palmeiras…fresh squeezed juice, fresh fruit salad, yogurt, a vegetable egg pie, a variety of breads, spice loaf with powdered sugar sprinkled on top, and Portuguese shrimp and meat pastries. It was a grand farewell after a wonderful week.

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