Saturday/ the Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa

The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (MOCAA) opened in September 2017. The art collection is housed in an old grain silo complex at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town.

Clockwise from left: the front of the MOCAA building | open tops of grain silos on the inside, given new life as six-storey high skylights | looking up from floor 0, by the elevators | utility tunnels from the old grain silo | looking down to the main entrance hall.
From top left, clockwise: Julien Sinzogan, born 1957, Benin: La jetée (The Jetty), 2010, colored ink and acrylic on paper | Cyrus Kabiru, born 1984, Kenya: KwaZulu Natal Elephant mask,2015, Pigmented ink print | Thania Peterson, born 1980, South Africa: Location 4, later District 6, 2015, Pigmented ink print | I recorded no notes for the red dog!
This room was the highlight of the museum for me. Roger Ballen was born in New York in 1950 but for over 30 years he has lived and worked in South Africa. ‘Ballenesque’ is a retrospective of his work.
From His strange and extreme works confront the viewer and challenge them to come with him on a journey into their own minds as he explores the deeper recesses of his own.
Another Roger Ballen composition of strange and distorted figures and photographs.

Friday/ hadada ibis

There is a big lawn at my guesthouse, and early in the morning a few hadada ibises are out foraging for worms.  Amazingly, the lawn is still a little green in spite of the drought, and they have to work at it with their beaks, but they do find an earthworm or a bug now and then.


Thursday/ can the ANC change course?

The 54th National Conference of the African National Congress (South Africa’s ruling political party) is set to start on Friday at an exhibition center near Johannesburg.   The event is more or less the equivalent of the national party conventions we have in the United States before a presidential election. By Sunday, the ANC will have elected a new chairperson, and it is very likely that this person will become South Africa’s new president as an outcome of the 2019 national elections.

Even though Cyril Ramaphosa served as deputy president of South Africa under President Jacob Zuma since 2014, many (most?) South Africans hope that he will prevail over his rival Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, ex-wife of Jacob Zuma. It is time to pay serious attention to South Africa’s economic challenges and clean out the worst of the vast corruption and cronyism in the Zuma administration.   Ramaphosa has tweeted that he wants to address infrastructure challenges, and wants to target a 5% growth rate for South Africa’s developing economy (currently at about 1% annual growth).

From the front page of the newspaper the Sowetan.  There are high hopes that Cyril Ramaphosa (on the left) will vanquish ex-wife of President Jacob Zuma, Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, and reduce corruption and help rebuild the economy.  Zuma’s presidency (he took office in 2009) has badly tarnished his own reputation, and that of his party, the ANC.

Wednesday/ day zero looms

It drizzled a little bit today here in the far northern suburbs of Cape Town (68 °F/ 20°C).  I am sure the precipitation did not add even a fraction of a percent to the water level in the dams here, though.   At the current dam levels (34.2% full) and water usage, city officials estimate ‘day zero’ to be May 18, 2018.  Day zero comes when dam levels have dropped to 13.5%.  At that point there will be no more water coming out of faucets, and residents will have to collect water from some 200 collection sites around the city.

From today’s front page of the Cape Times newspaper. The City of Cape Town is working hard at procuring more water resources, but is behind schedule. Day zero is looming – estimated to be May 18, 2018.

Tuesday midnight/ arrival in Cape Town

I arrived in Cape Town!  The connection in Charles De Gaulle airport involved a long walk to the departure gate. I didn’t mind: good to get one’s circulation going after sitting in an airplane.  And, I could check out some of the better insides of the departure terminal (which was not the case last time).

There are signs everywhere in Cape Town airport, and at the overnight hotel, that implore visitors to save water. ‘Every drop counts’. I will try to.

Sights inside Charles De Gaulle airport, on the way to the departure gate. Macaroons always make me think of French President Emmanuel Macron!
Top: The flight tracker on the airplane showed us flying over Algiers (north Africa), but then bearing west and coming in over the sea towards Cape Town, skirting the coast of Angola and Namibia. Here we are about 5 hours away from arriving. (The other pink city blob is Johannesburg). Bottom: Our Boeing 777 at the gate at Charles De Gaulle.
Here’s the Boeing 777 at the gate in Cape Town International Airport – almost 12 hours after departing Paris, and flying 9360 km (5,816 mi).

Early Tuesday/ to Paris, then Cape Town

I am at Frankfurt Airport. I checked into an airport hotel on Monday night. My flight to Paris is early Tuesday morning, and there I will catch the Air France flight to Cape Town, South Africa.

This is one of the departure halls in Terminal 1 at Frankfurt airport. I love the ‘industrial design’ look of the ceiling (maybe it’s a little dated for 2017?).
This is the hotel side of the skybridge connecting the airport to the on-site hotels. Translucent by day, the glass panels making up the shell of the skybridge, turn into a mosaic of reflections by night.
And here’s a late-night view down into the lobby of the Hilton Frankfurt Airport, from the tenth floor. The light fixtures are LED, and continuously change their colors. (I’m staying in the cheaper Hilton Garden Inn right next to the Hilton proper).

Monday/ Galleria Kaufhof

My movements on Monday were curtailed by persistent, soaking rain! I postponed my trips to the Geldmuseum (money museum) and Schloss Höchst (castle Höchst) until my return stop here, and spent some time in the Galleria Kaufhof, a classic department store with seven floors.

It seems the ravages of Amazon has not yet hit Germany, or at least not this store in particular.  The store is a great experience, and besides – total square footage of department stores in Europe is roughly half that of the square footage in the United States. So: they may be safe for now.

I’m taking refuge under a large umbrella across from a nice Christmas market stall. This is close to the MyZeil shopping mall, with the Galleria Kaufhof department store in the background.
Inside the Galleria Kaufhof. CLockwise from top left: life-size tiger at the Schleich animal figurine display. Nice! | Adidas t-shirt featuring the Deutscher Fussballbund (German soccer federation) and touting their 2014 World Cup win | life-size Panda bear complete with bamboo, at the Schleich display | these cute creatures are German Christmas elves (?), I think. I guess they belong by the Christmas tree, but I’m not sure!

Sunday/ Weihnachtsmarkt, Frankfurt

I made it to the Frankfurt Christmas market on Sunday night. The biggest one in the city is at the Römerberg, the public square in the old town, and seat of the Frankfurt city administration since the 15th century.

It was cold! .. but by evening the snow had stopped. Later, when I was already back in the hotel, a heavy downpour of rain later washed away just about all of the snow on the ground.  I hope the stalls for the Römerberg vendors stayed dry inside!

The giant merry-go-round is one of the main attractions in the Romerberg square, and good for adults and kids.
This giant Christmas tree was brought in (normally there are no trees on the square), and lit up brightly, with a nativity scene down below.
And here are the stalls – several dozens of them, selling glühwein, coffee, pretzels, bratwurst and all kinds of Christmas souvenirs and decorations. One of my favorite ones was a set of wooden alphabet letter cut-outs, each letter made into a little train car with wheels and hookups front and back. Then one would think of a phrase, or simply a name, and buy the letters and build a little letter train for the mantelpiece.


Sunday/ arrival in Frankfurt

I arrived in Frankfurt without incident.  I had a short connection stop in Reykjavik (clear, 26°F/ -3°C).  On the plane, we waited just a little bit for other connecting passengers, and to get the all-clear from Frankfurt.  Snow was starting to fall as we arrived in Frankfurt at noon (32°F/ 0°C).

Clockwise from top left: Boarding Iceland Air’s Boeing 767 flying machine that took us to Reykjavik | Icy tarmac in Reykjavik as we board the ‘Surtsey’ Boeing 757 for Frankfurt. Surtsey is a volcanic island that appeared in 1963 south of Iceland. | Over Scotland, on the way to Frankfurt, flying southeast into the sunrise | View from the plane as we arrived in Frankfurt in steady, sifting snow that’s falling.

Friday/ my bags are packed

My bags are packed – more or less – for my departure on Saturday, for my journey down south to South Africa. I am making a two-night stop in Frankfurt on the way, and will end up in Cape Town by Tuesday night. Weather permitting (there is snow in the forecast for Frankfurt on Sunday), I will go to the Christmas market there on the Roemerberg, the old town square.

Here is my itinerary: on Iceland Air to Frankfurt via Reykjavik. Stay a day or two, then Air France to Paris, to fly from there to Cape Town a KLM Boeing 777.

Thursday/ a little Danish for you?

.. no, not a pastry that you can eat – the kind you can read. I got this little first-grade reader book at a second-hand bookstore for a few dollars. For now, I don’t intend to learn Danish. I just like the o with the streg (ø) and the a with the overring (å).  So foreign

‘Søren and Mette’ was first published in 1954. The authors were teacher Knud Hermansen and psychologist Ejvind Jensen. The artist was Kirsten Jensenius. An updated version of the book is still in use today.


Hey! I can read Danish (a picture really is worth a thousand words). A cow. A sow. Mette sees a cow. Søren sees a sow. Søren and Mette see a cow and a sow.
This is at the end of the book, so a little (a lot) tougher to make out, so check out the translation at the left .. and look for the seven animals hiding in the forest!

Wednesday/ Prost! with a Helmut

My helmet had a nice foamy head, and I liked the crisp taste.


We went to a pub called ‘Standard Brewing’ tonight, in Seattle’s Central District. It’s been there a few years, but it was my first visit.

The beers on offer are brewed on site, and I had a Helmut: a Munich ‘Helles’, a medium- bodied lager with a full malt presence and a clean finish.

Tuesday/ ‘The President Stole Your Land’

Homepage of outdoor clothes maker Patagonia’s website today. Its billionaire owner is vowing to fight Trump’s executive order in court.

‘I have a bone to pick with your President Trump’ said my friend from South Africa on the phone today. (She is an enthusiastic outdoors person).  Yes, I said: I think I know what you mean.

From the New York Times: Trump sharply reduced the size of two national monuments* in Utah on Monday by some two million acres, the largest rollback of federal land protection in the nation’s history.  The administration shrank Bears Ears National Monument, a sprawling region of red rock canyons, by 85 percent, and cut another monument, Grand Staircase-Escalante, to about half its current size.

*National monuments are lands that are protected from development by law. They are roughly analogous to national parks, but while national parks are created by Congress, national monuments are created by presidents through the Antiquities Act. 

Observers say this order by Trump will precipitate a legal battle that could have far-reaching implications for the course of American land conservation, and for national monuments.

That’s me and my 1996 Toyota Camry, in the left corner.  The spectacular rock formation is in Monument Valley in the south of Utah, and the picture is from a road trip with my friend Marlien, in 1999. We had overnighted in a little town nearby, with the charming name of Mexican Hat.

Monday/ fog, then sun

There was a thick fog hanging in the city this morning, but it was dry, and the sun came out later.

Here’s a gorgeous picture, tweeted today by Irfan Chaudhry@IrfanDesign, of a Kenmore seaplane at Kenmore, Washington. Kenmore is at the north end of Lake Washington, close to Seattle.

Sunday/ the construction goes on

Deadlines have to be met, and time costs money – so construction on the new downtown Seattle buildings soldiers on, regardless of the season.  The crews do take a break on Sundays, and then I can go check on their progress.  Here are two buildings near Westlake Avenue and Denny Way.

This is 2202 8th Ave, a 40-storey condo building, as seen from the south from Blanchard St. The inset below shows Denny Park as a green patch behind the building, and the architect picked an oval shape to ‘provide a visual bridge between the intersecting Downtown and South Lake Union neighborhoods’. The building is near a weird triangular confluence of major streets.
This is 2100 7th Ave (‘Amazon Block 21’), viewed from the corner of Blanchard St and 8th Ave. There will be two buildings, an 8-storey and a 24-storey. The bottom picture is an artist’s rendering of the completed project, and is the view when one stands on the opposite side of the construction site (with one’s back to the biospheres).  I guess the S on the crane stands for Santa?


Saturday/ strange currencies

You know with love comes strange currencies -from the song ‘Strange Currencies’, R.E.M. (1995)

Also: with travel comes strange currencies. I sorted through my stash of foreign banknotes today, keeping the crisp new ones for my little amateur collection.  I will exchange the others for Euros or US dollars at the airport, during my upcoming trip to South Africa.

I thought for sure, that by now the Hungarian forints that I got in Budapest in 2008, would be of no use – replaced by Euros – but no: they’re still good.  The Hungarian government is in no hurry to adopt the Euro, apparently.  I have Danish, Swedish and Icelandic krona notes as well, to exchange.

A bunch of notes, but not worth much! All those Hungarian forints on the left, Ft 12,100 in total, come to only US $45. The 6,000 Icelandic krona (bottom left) are worth US $58. Maybe I can spend these at Reykjavik airport when I stop there.  The Danish & Swedish krona (top left) are only worth $10 or so.

Friday/ Michael Flynn pleads guilty

Today, Michael Flynn* pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI in January (about meeting with the Russians). Doesn’t sound like a big deal? It’s a very big deal: a felony, a serious crime that can send the offender to jail for 5 years. Flynn will be a convicted felon, after all is said and done. Harry Litman writes in an opinion piece in the New York Times that Flynn will testify as a witness for special investigator Mueller, and that this ‘portends the likelihood of impeachable charges being brought against the president of the United States’.

*Former Director of the Defence Intelligence Agency (2012-2014), former National Security Advisor to President Trump, resigned after just 26 days in this role on February 13.

From Harry Litman’s opinion column in the New York times. ‘ .. indicating abuses of power arguably well beyond those in the Watergate and Iran-contra affairs’.

Thursday/ Senate Republicans at it: beggaring for special interest donations

Here we are again, watching the Senate Republicans doing their best to press into law, as quick as they can, without proper debate and hearings, an immoral law that will touch every American.   (The Republican House had done their part already). The monstrous tax-cut bill that takes money away from students, teachers, hard-working middle-class people – and healthcare from sick people – is about to get voted into law.  At the 11th hour on Thursday night, a few Republicans balked at the $1 trillion (at least) that it will add to the budget deficit, but it will probably pass on Friday.

As Republican strategist Steve Schmidt says in his tweets (below): if you are a generation X-er, you should be aghast at what the Republican septuagenarians and octogenarians in Congress are doing in the name of politics.  They are beggars for donations from corporations and billionaires, and they are making all of us pay for it.

Let’s see. The United States is $20 trillion in debt. Another $10 trillion will be added the next 10 years. Oh, and let’s add another $1.5 trillion on top of that by REDUCING high income earner taxes, and INCREASING liabilities for students, teachers, middle-class workers. [Graphic from the New York Times]