Thursday/ sugarbush (I want you so)

The sugarbush is from the protea family. The ‘flowers’ are actually flower heads with a collection of true flowers in the center, surrounded by bracts (modified leaves). In days gone by, the nectar used to be collected and cooked into a syrup.

A famous Afrikaans folk dance song goes like this:
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Suikerbossie ek wil jou hê (Sugarbush I want you so)
Wat sal jou mama daarvan sê (What will your mama say of that)

Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Dan loop ons so onder deur die maan (Then we walk under the moon)
Ek en my suikerbossie saam (My sugarbush and I together)

I found this beautiful sugarbush (Protea repens) flower in the Stellenbosch Botanical Garden today.

Wednesday/ hibiscus in a hat

This guy at a traffic light stop in Rondebosch had a hibiscus flower in his ostentatious hat.

‘What’s up? What are you doing?’ I asked this guy in Rondebosch at a traffic stop. The light was about to change, and I could not get if he collected cans & plastic for recycling, or simply to help drivers get rid of trash! Anyway, ‘You’re doing good work’, I said, and gave him a little money.
There are plenty of these beautiful hibiscus flowers to be seen in the suburbs around the slopes of Table Mountain. I found this one in a fence in the suburb called Gardens.

Tuesday/ I’ll have an ‘ystervark’

There is aardvark and then there is yster- vark (porcupine). Local craft brewing company Hoogeberg (‘High Mountain’) named one of its lagers Ystervark. (I still have to try it).

The Ystervark is a ‘hybrid lager’, which means it was fermented at the higher temperatures usually used for ales. The time and temperatures used in beer fermentation is not an exact science, and allows brewers to be creative.

Monday/ art from the Baraka gift shop

This artwork was outside a gift shop called Baraka in the little Cape Quarter shopping mall here in Cape Town.

Check out the cool South African themed posters on their website.

‘Halo Spaceboy’, says the ‘King of the Impossible’ with his ‘Aladdin Sane’ make-up (the lightning bolt, from the David Bowie album cover). ‘Make Cape Town Wet Again’ says the text in the background, no doubt a play on Donald Trump’s infamous 2016 campaign slogan ‘Make America Great Again’.

Sunday/ blue skies at the Waterfront

Here is Table Mountain, basking under blue skies on a beautiful summer day, seen from the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town.

The submarine on display at the V&A Waterfront (as part of Armed Forces Day 2019), is the SAS Manthatisi. She was built in Kiel, Germany, commissioned in 2005, and is named after the female warrior chief of the Batlokwa tribe. Her home port is the naval base in Simon’s Town.

Saturday/ the ‘Bo-Kaap’

The Bo-Kaap (pronunce ‘boo-uh-carp’) is a former township on the slopes of Signal Hill, above the Cape Town city center. It is the historical center of Cape Malay culture in Cape Town. The Nurul Islam Mosque, established in 1844, is also located in the area. Here are a few pictures that I took today.

This is a scene on Wale Street. I love the Volkswagen Beetle with the blue doors. The backdrop is Table Mountain, of course.
Gorgeous dark green and – Salmon? Coral Pink? houses on Wale Street.
This is the entrance to the Bo-Kaap Museum on Wale Street. I love the wavy cornice on the roof line.
This is Dorp Street.
The minaret of the mosque called Masjid Boorhaanol Islam on Longmarket St, holding its own against a massive development project a few blocks away. Efforts to designate Bo-Kaap as a heritage area have been underway since 2013, and it may finally be approved this year by the Cape Town City Council. Still, the status does not entirely prohibit new construction; it simply stipulates that new construction should be subject to much more scrutiny to ensure it fits in with the existing structures.
A view of the old and the new. This is on Chiappini Street.
Here is the Nurul Islam Mosque, located off Buitengracht Street, and established in 1834.
The Jameah Mosque on Chiappini Street was built in 1850.  It is also known as the Queen Victoria Mosque, as patronage of the British Crown, when the Cape Colony was under British rule.

Lucky Friday

Cape Town highs today: 29 °C/ 84 °F and partly sunny. The days are still long: 13 h 15 mins. [Graphic from ‘Die Burger’].
A peek into my refrigerator here in my AirBnB apartment. The canned fish (Saldanha Pilchards) are from the chilly waters of South Africa’s west coast | Castle lager now has a non-alcoholic version | another favorite are the Windhoek Lights (2%), brewed in the German tradition in Namibia | the Crunchie bar has a crisp honeycomb center covered with chocolate | Ceres makes the world’s best fruit juice blends (this one very romantically named ‘Whispers of Summer’) | Woolworths (‘Woolies’) is the place to go for fine foods and yogurt | The Lindt rabbit comes from Switzerland, of course. I had to get it because the dark chocolate ones are hard to come by in the United States!

The weather was much cooler today.
There were no power outages, and tonight a lucky South African may win the largest local lottery jackpot ever: R 210 million/ US $14 m*.

I have beer in my fridge, and some of my favorite South African snackies, so life is good.

*A fraction of the obscene amounts offered in United States lotteries – but drawing 5% each year of US$ 14 m comes to $700,000. Plenty to live a lavish life, anywhere in the world.

Thursday/ it was a scorcher

It was a scorcher here today in the northern suburbs of Cape Town.
My little rental car’s dashboard gauge hit 39.5°C/ 103°F at one point!

There is no water supply crisis in Cape Town the way there was just a year ago (dam levels at 57% vs 25% a year ago). Even so: I try to use water sparingly. As someone said: the best time to save money, electricity, water, is when you still have plenty.

P.S. Check out the cool safari animals that I found today on Eversdal Road in Durbanville. They advertise artificial turf. I think the rhinoceros will make quite a statement, if I were to install one in my front yard in Seattle!

Wednesday/ the new ‘Public Enemy No 1’

It used to be, many years ago, that we would call South Africa’s national telephone company, Telkom, ‘Public Enemy No 1’. (They were a monopoly, and their services were mediocre at best).  Well,  these days that title belongs to South Africa’s electrical utility company, Eskom.

On Sunday, unexpectedly, the utility announced that it had to resort to Stage 3 Load Shedding mode, with widespread power outages. There were more on Monday, on Tuesday, and today. For Stage 3, Eskom implements rolling blackouts per published time periods and areas around the country, that forces a cut in the national power consumption by 3,000 MW.  (About 10%. The country’s power consumption needs at this time of year is around 30, 000 MW).

It now appears that there are major problems with the start-ups of the two brand-new power stations called Medupi (dry-cooled, coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) and Kusile (coal-fired, 6x 800 MW) , and that the utility was not forthcoming about it.

A team of Italian engineers (power supply & power grid experts) has been called upon to come and help devise strategies to get Eskom’s operations to a better place.  They cannot come soon enough .. even though I am sure we have South African engineers that are completely up to the task, if only they were given the opportunity by Eskom’s senior management.

Front page of Die Burger (‘The Citizen’) newspaper from Tuesday: ‘What the Hell, Eskom!’ .. and ‘Steenbras Dam cannot help until April’ (to generate hydroelectric power) | ‘Even Cyril (Ramaphosa, President), is shocked’ | ‘Could cost the country up to R5 billion (US$ 357 million) per day’ (per the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse).
Here’s an online notice of the outage that happened tonight in my area. These power outages hit large and small businesses particularly hard, of course.

Tuesday/ arrival in Cape Town

I made it in to Cape Town.
The flight out of Schiphol airport was 10 ½ hrs, on a Boeing 777 from KLM.
It was midnight by the time I had checked in to the airport hotel with my rental car.

Life-size LEGO figures of  Dutch colonialists at Schiphol airport, outside the airport’s mini-Rijksmuseum.
Over the Namib desert, with 2 hrs to go.
Our Boeing 777, at the gate at Cape Town International Airport. A lot of Dutch people were on board, looking to catch the back end of the summer weather in Cape Town.

Monday/ in Amsterdam

My flight made it into Schiphol airport at 12 noon local time, after the connection I had made in Reykjavik.

From Schiphol, I took the train to Amsterdam Central station.
The OV chipkaart that I had bought there, does the same as the Orca card that we have in Seattle, and more. The passenger uses it to tap on readers at train stations and on trains and buses, to pay the fare. The cards can be used anywhere in the Netherlands on local trains, trams and buses, and even on regional trains. Just not on ferries, yet.

The Boeing 757 that got us from Seattle to Keflavik airport. It is 6 am, and we are stepping into the terminal shuttle bus. It was 5 °C (40 °F), but man! it felt 10 degrees colder, with the icy windchill that whipped across the tarmac.
This is Amsterdam Central station, and I had just stepped off the train called the Sprinter. It’s just a 17 min run from Schiphol to Amsterdam Central.
The main facade for the Amsterdam Central Station building. Built from 1881 to 1889, it was designed by famous Dutch architect Petrus J.H. Cuypers. I cheated a little by just aiming at the top: there is construction and remodeling going on at the bottom, behind a fence.
I just had a few hours until sunset, and so I took the No 2 tram line from Central Station down to Nieuw Sloten and back. It is a great way to check out the scenery and the city.  The No 2 runs by several canals and town squares (Koningsplein, Keisersgracht, Prinsengracht, Leidseplein), as well as by the grounds of the Rijksmuseum.
Outside of central Amsterdam, and looking out from the tram, one finds plenty of 60’s and 70’s apartment buildings. These are built in a much simpler, modern style (than the traditional Dutch style). I like this one a lot: all straight lines, rectangles and squares.

Sunday/ Amsterdam bound

I made it to the airport, and it looks like my flight is on time.
I had to negotiate two blocks of bumpy, snowy sidewalk to the bus stop with my roller bags, but it was not too bad. It was easy from there: bus to the Capitol Hill train station, and train to the airport.

Now it’s 7½ hours to Reykjavik on Iceland Air, and another 3 to Amsterdam, where I will overnight on the way to Cape Town, South Africa.

I found this snowman in the little Spring Street park on Saturday afternoon.
Here’s the view at Othello station as my Link Light Rail train passed another on the way to the airport today.  I don’t think the Transit Authority had to take special measures to clear snow from the train tracks on Saturday. The Light Rail operated its normal Saturday schedule – unlike the metro buses, which had to switch to limited snow routes (routes that steer clear of the steeper inclines made slippery by snow and ice),

Saturday/ snowed in

15 cm = 6 inches.
Whoah .. lots of white when I opened my front door this morning! I can still make out the walkway to my front door, though .. so I know where to shovel the snow away.
Here’s an American robin (Turdus migratorius) with its striking orange breast. I found a whole bunch of them, feasting on the red berries on a bush by the sidewalk, here on 15th Ave. These robins are often among the first songbirds singing as dawn rises (or hours before), and last as evening sets in.

Well, we are at 6 inches here in the city, says my unofficial snow meter (the railing alongside the deck at the back of the house).

It is great to be in a warm and cosy house, and to be able to just watch the local TV station’s coverage of the conditions outside, and of the streets. I did venture out on foot mid-morning, to take the obligatory few pictures of the snowy street corners in my neighborhood.

 

Friday/ here comes a lot more snow

We had another round of snow this afternoon (almost 3 inches), with more expected overnight.
Then there will be a break on Sunday, before the snowfalls resume on Sunday night. That’s good news for my travel plans, since I have a flight to South Africa* scheduled for Sunday!  I hope I will get to the airport and get out OK.
*With a stop and an overnight stay in Amsterdam.

A fresh white blanket on the ground and on the trees and rooftops: about 3 inches of snow by nightfall. I know it’s not much by East Coast & Midwest standards, but 6 inches of snow in one go is a lot for Seattle. So let’s say there is 6 inches by Sunday. Weather models show there might very well be another 6 in. coming down on Mon & Tue, for a total of 12 inches in the city. Yikes. That’s why there were reports of stampedes for foodstuffs (milk & bread) at grocery stores, and for rock salt at hardware stores, on Friday morning.

Thursday/ a red onion’s layers

Here’s a beautiful red onion that I put into a roasting pan tonight, with sweet potato wedges,  butternut squash and Brussels sprouts.
It’s a little tricky to get everything to roast evenly, without some pieces getting burnt – but I’m learning!

Wednesday/ friends at Old Stove Brewing Company

This picture is from Saturday, taken at Old Stove Brewing Company in Pike Place market. It was at an event celebrating the new SR-99 tunnel and the up- and-coming new Seattle Waterfront Park.

From left to right: Bryan, Gary, Steve, Willem & Ken. The picture was taken by Hello There You. They arranged us in front of a green screen, and the background was added in digitally. The accoutrements (red goggles, crown, crab claws, salmon) were on a table, and we each grabbed one. I grabbed the cute sea otter plush toy.

Tuesday/ sunny and chilly

The sun was out, with clear blue skies on Tuesday. We got above freezing by a few degrees: enough to start melting the snow.
There is another system on the way that will bring more snow on Friday, though!

The view out my front door this morning. Yes, the walkway does not clear itself: I had to get in there and shovel the snow out of the way. (Not that I receive a parade of visitors every day, but hey, at least now the mailman can make it to the mailbox by the front door).

Tuesday/ it’s the Year of the Pig!

Tuesday marked the start of the Chinese lunar year.
2019 is the Year of the Pig (Boar).

This Year of the Pig (Boar) display was in the foyer of the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, Tokyo, when I was there in December. The boar depicts what the Japanese call ‘chototsumoushin’ (ちょとつもうしん): to run and push forward (to the future) powerfully and headlong. P.S. Check out the little piggies down below on the table. Maybe they are little hedgehogs :).
Here is another piggie. I found this display of a Year of the Pig stamp in the window of the Hong Kong Post Office when I was there in December.

Monday/ snow day .. brrr!

The snow kept sifting down through Sunday night, and by noon today, there was 4 inches of snow on the ground at my house.
North of the city, some places recorded 12 or 13 inches of snow.
It was cold today! Even the day temperatures only got to 29 °F/ -2°C.

As usual, I felt compelled to run out early in this morning to take a few pictures of the snow.  This is 6 am, looking north, while standing on the corner of Roy and 16th Avenue.
Here’s the early morning scene on 15th Avenue, with the snowflakes showing in the halo of the street light.

Sunday/ a not-so-super Superbowl

Well, the Superbowl was a bust.
The one and only touchdown of the game finally came in the 4th quarter.
The New England Patriots won over the Los Angeles Rams, as expected – congrats to them.

We did get a little snow on the ground here in Seattle, with more expected overnight. I was adventurous in the kitchen and tried my hand at a red lentil soup. It turned out really nice.

The final step in making the soup is adding in lemon juice and chopped cilantro and stirring it in. I didn’t even know before seeing the recipe, that there was such a thing as red lentils!