Thursday, July 16, 2009


My friend Kristen and I spent the night in Khayelitsha, the largest township in Cape Town. The place is home to around 1.5 million people, about a quarter of the population of the city. Most white South Africans have never been there.

Townships are colorful places, full of hand-painted signs and murals.


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Joe Slovo

We visited the Joe Slovo informal settlement. Below are the inside and outside of one of the shacks. No matter how long I spend in South Africa, I don't really get used to seeing these places.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Guga S'Thebe

The Guga S'Thebe community center in Langa provides various services such as computer classes and job counseling to residents of the township. Cool murals, too.

At the community center, local people learn to make and paint ceramic dishes. The center is also a venue for local craftspeople to sell work to tourists.


Monday, July 13, 2009

Langa Township

Amber and Jeff and I took a tour of Langa township. Langa was a township created for black South Africans during apartheid, and the area is still almost entirely black today.

The townships are generally poor areas, so it was interesting to see a section of relatively upscale homes within Langa. The apartheid government built these houses close to the freeway because they hoped passing foreigners would think all black people lived in nice places.

It's common to see shops in shipping containers on the sidewalk. This shop sells telephone minutes.

They were selling chickens on the sidewalk, too.


Sunday, June 28, 2009

Hippo Print

We were out birding at a wetlands nature reserve here in Cape Town and saw some hippopotamus tracks. Pretty cool. I haven't seen a live one yet but I'll be looking for them when we're in Kruger next month. My hand is for scale.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Color Pictures

For a while now I've been taking what I call color pictures. Here are my favorites so far. They lose quite a bit by being scrunched down on the blog. Clicking on them will get a full-size image.

Fynbos hillside near Betty's Bay

Succulent plant in Namaqualand

Rocks and grass near Augrabies Falls

Tanniny water and rocks near Betty's Bay

Native forest in Marloth Nature Reserve

Water and foam in Marloth Nature Reserve


Sunday, June 7, 2009

Far from Home

Don't worry, they made it back safely. You will too, if you come and visit us.


Saturday, June 6, 2009

Robben Island

A couple of months ago, our friends Amber and Jeff came to visit with their son Benedict. One of our outings was a trip to Robben Island Prison, where political prisoners were housed during apartheid.

We saw the lime quarry where the prisoners were forced to spend their days digging lime by hand. When they could, they gathered into groups, and the older prisoners taught the younger ones about South African history, economics, and the history of the freedom struggle. Partly because of this, Robben Island was sometimes called The University.

We also saw Nelson Mandela's cell and the place in the exercise yard where he buried his autobiography in order to hide it from the guards. It was found and destroyed, but the prisoners had already smuggled another copy out of the prison, so it didn't get lost.

The boat trip to and from the island was lovely, although it was very touristy. We had a great view of Table Mountain from the bay.

We also saw whales, even though they were out of season. I know readers of this blog (if I have any readers left after so many months with no posts) are fond of my fuzzy shots of whale tails, so here's another one:

Sorry about the long gap between posts. I'll try to be better. I think Andy is planning a post or two, too.


Thursday, March 19, 2009


We went to our first-ever cricket match.  By the end of it, we were fans.  It was the national final match, so there was a great deal of pomp:  dancing girls, guys dressed up in silly suits.  The referrees were delivered to the field in a helicopter.   They do the wave here, and they call it the Mexican wave.  


Saturday, March 14, 2009

They Feel Edible

To the touch, this plant feels like fruit leather.

This one feels like a red rope.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Monkey Wars

There was an ongoing battle between people and monkeys at the Augrabies Falls campground, and the monkeys were winning.  I think this was because the monkeys wanted one thing from the people:  food.  The people, meanwhile, wanted a bunch of different things from the monkeys, often all at the same time.  

Some people (like me) wanted to take pictures of the monkeys playing on tents and cars.  

Some people wanted to chase them off.  (In between throwing sticks, these people kept shouting, "Stop pooping on my tent!")

Some people wanted to feed the monkeys.

And a few fools wanted to get them drunk.  (It didn't work.  They spilled all the wine.)

As confusing as human behavior must seem to the monkeys, it's clear that they're willing to put up with us.  They came to visit us for breakfast and dinner, whether we invited them or not. 


Thursday, February 5, 2009

Cute Little Thieves

When I was in college, I read that vervet monkeys have three different alarm calls to warn each other of eagles, snakes, and leopards.  Now that I know these animals well, I can say for certain that everything else in their communicative arsenal means, roughly, "You go over there and do something adorable while I sneak up behind the people and grab that bag of nuts."

This monkey might look like it's just hanging out on a post.  But I was cooking dinner when I took this picture, and oddly enough, the monkey was one post closer to me every time I turned around.

Eating leaves?  Uh-uh.  This one has an eye on my bread.  

I'm afraid my bread didn't survive its attentions. 

It wasn't a fair contest.  There were about two dozen of them and only one of me.