Thursday/ stamps, from South Africa

My shipment of stamps from a seller in South Africa that I had bought in July, arrived today— in a sturdy envelope covered with South African stamps.
(Very ‘meta’ to use stamps to send stamps .. and so much nicer than using a bland computer-generated postage paid label).

Lighthouses, issued Jun. 9, 1988. These stamps still have explicate postage rate values on (16c, 30c, 40c, 50c), and by 2022 they had lost some 90% of their original postage rate value due to inflation. (I used to convert 1988 South African Rands to 2022 Rands).
Migratory Animals, Issued Oct. 4, 1999. These are marked ‘Standard Postage’ (what we call ‘Forever’ stamps in the USA). So the stamp is valid indefinitely* for postage on a standard envelope. These were a good ‘investment’. Their value increased 3-fold from 1999 to 2022. (ZAR 1.00 in  1999 is equivalent to ZAR 3.31 in 2022, according to
*Marketing hype, not? Is anything on Earth ‘forever’ or ‘indefinite’?

Monday/ the Republic’s first stamps

Here’s the first definitive series of stamps issued for the Republic of South Africa.
This is the original set that was issued in 1961.
Slightly updated versions of the stamps with redrawn images and fonts for the lettering were subsequently issued and printed until 1973, when the set was retired.

Republic of South Africa, First Definitive Series, 1961
½c Natal Kingfisher, 1c Coral Tree flowers, 1½c Afrikaner bull
Pouring gold, 2½c Groot Constantia, 3c Crimson-breasted Shrike
5c Boabab Tree, 7½c Maize, 10c Entrance to Castle, Cape Town
12½c Protea, 20c Secretary Bird
50c Harbour, Cape Town, R1 Bird of Paradise Flower

Thursday/ stamps from 1954 💌

I bought this beautiful set of 1954 Union of South Africa stamps on Ebay because I have very fond memories of them.

My mom had a stack of letters⁠ with the rhinoceros on— correspondence between her and my dad from before they got married.

I had the half-penny, one-penny and two-penny in my collection at the time. The higher denomination stamps were spectacularly out of reach for a young collector:  very expensive to buy. The 10-shilling stamp depicts postage 240 times that of the half-penny stamp with the warthog. (Twelve pennies to the shilling).

In 1961, South Africa became a Republic, switched to a decimal currency (the South African Rand), and a new set of stamps was issued. I have that set as well, and will post it soon.

The stamps below depict a warthog, a black wildebeest, a leopard, a zebra, a white rhinoceros, an African elephant, a hippopotamus, a lion, a kudu, a springbok, a gemsbok, a njala, a giraffe and a roan antelope.
It was the first set of stamps depicting South Africa’s wild life heritage, and many, many more stamps depicting wild life would follow.

Thursday/ a pig’s ear

I found this arum lily (genus: Zantedeschia) on 16th Ave, at twilight (time stamp on the photo is 9.16 pm).

These lilies are native to southern Africa and South Africa. We call them varkore in Afrikaans (Eng. pig’s ears). The flower comes in pink hues as well, but all the ones I had ever seen in South Africa were white, like this one.

Monday/ three seed-rusks

rusk noun \ ˈrəsk \
a sweet or plain bread baked, sliced, and baked again until dry and crisp

biscotto noun bis·​cot·​to  \ bi-ˈskät-ō \ plural biscotti \ bi-​ˈskät-​ē \
a crisp cookie or biscuit of Italian origin that is flavored usually with anise and filberts or almonds —usually used in plural

[Definitions from]

I sometimes buy biscotti at Whole Foods, but they don’t always have it.
The best bet for me, when I want a special treat to dunk into my morning coffee, is to go to British Pantry in Redmond. They usually have some of Ouma’s rusks, an import from South Africa.

Ouma’s* ‘three seed rusks’. This box is going to be gone in a week .. or less. :). The box depicts storage of them in a traditional glass jar. And what are the three seeds? Pumpkin, sesame, and sunflower. The rusks come in a seedless buttermilk variety as well. 
*Ouma is Afrikaans for grandma.

Friday/ Team South Africa

Hey, Team South Africa! I see you.
Love the vellies*.
*Velskoene (“FEL-skoona”) or colloquially vellies (“FELL-ys”), are Southern African walking shoes, made from vegetable-tanned leather or soft rawhide uppers attached to a leather footbed and rubber sole, without tacks or nails (from Wikipedia).

Team South Africa, at the opening ceremony of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics.
[Picture from Team South Africa @TeamSA2020 on Twitter]

Wednesday/ Zuma is in jail, finally

I thought it would never happen, but here we are: former president of South Africa Jacob Zuma (age 79), is actually in jail as of Wednesday night*.

It gives me hope that a former president of the United States of America, can be found guilty (it should not hard, to do that), and be sentenced to serve a long time in jail as well. Lock him up.

*15 months, for contempt of court. After all that he had done, Zuma deserves to go for 15 years. 

Hundreds of Mr. Zuma’s supporters gathered on Sunday outside his compound, vowing to protect him from arrest. There were fears of violent confrontations between the police and the supporters, but that did not happen. [Picture by Shiraaz Mohamed/Associated Press]

NKANDLA, South Africa — Jacob Zuma, the former president of South Africa, was taken into custody on Wednesday to begin serving a 15-month prison sentence, capping a stunning downfall for a once-lauded freedom fighter who battled the apartheid regime alongside Nelson Mandela.

The Constitutional Court, the nation’s highest judicial body, ordered Mr. Zuma’s imprisonment last month after finding him guilty of contempt for failing to appear before a commission investigating corruption accusations that tainted his tenure as the nation’s leader from 2009 to 2018.

Under Mr. Zuma, who was forced to step down, the extent of crony corruption within the governing African National Congress Party became clear, turning a once heralded liberation movement into a vehicle of self-enrichment for many officials. The corruption led to the gutting of the nation’s tax agency, sweetheart business contracts and rivals gunned down in a scramble for wealth and power.

Mr. Zuma, 79, voluntarily surrendered on Wednesday, 40 minutes before a midnight deadline for the police to hand him over to prison officials. He was driven out of his compound in a long convoy of cars and taken to the Estcourt Correctional Center, the corrections department said. The arrest followed a week of tense brinkmanship in which the former president and his allies railed against the high court’s decision, suggesting, without evidence, that he was the victim of a conspiracy.
-John Eligon reporting for the New York Times

Friday/ Anton Goosen turns 75

South African folk singer Anton Goosen turned 75 today.

He sings mostly in Afrikaans, but also in English.
I love his song called Magalies, O Magaliesberg — a song that (somewhat) romanticises the hardships of the 1830s Great Trek of the Voortrekkers (pioneers).
Some of these pioneers ended up in what would become the Transvaal Colony, and is today called Gauteng Province.

The Magaliesberg is a modest but well-defined mountain range north of Pretoria, with ancient origins. It was formed some 2 billion years ago.
The area around the range has seen occupation by humans dating back at least 2 million years, to the earliest hominin species (such as Mrs Ples). The Sterkfontein Caves, which lie at the World Heritage Site called the Cradle of Humankind, are close by. [From Wikipedia].

Ox wagons during the Great Trek in South Africa (1835-1838).
[Picture from Wikimedia Commons, from p209 of the book ‘The Voortrekkers’ by J.S. Skelton, 1909].
Voor op die wa sit my hoepelbeenpa,
agter op die wa sit my vaalhaarma
Waai die wind, waai my jas,
knoop my Sannie haar sydoek vas
Veertien rooies voor aan die wa,
sewe van my en sewe van my pa
Die hotagter, die Afrikaan,
hy en sy maat moet die disselboom dra

(Front of the wa1 sits my hoop-legged pa,
back of the wa sits my drab-haired ma
Blows the wind, blow our coats,
ties my Tammy her silk cloth close
Fourteen red ones front of the wa,
seven of mine & seven of my pa’s
The left back, the Afrikaan2,
he and his mate, must bear the bar)

1Short for wagon, we say v-ahh in Afrikaans
2A breed of cattle indigenous to South Africa

Lyrics from ‘Magalies, O Magaliesberg‘ from the Anton Goosen album ‘Liedjieboer Innie Stad’ (1986), with my own rough translation into English.

Tuesday/ a Hermanus house, then and now

I knew the house in this picture from long ago was in Hermanus, South Africa .. but what would it look like today? I wondered.
I did not have the address, but that outline of the mountain in the background was all I needed to track it down. Here is what I found.

1964. That’s my brother and me (on the right), on the lawn of a rented beach house in Hermanus (a 90 min. drive from Cape Town, to the east).
And what magnificent machine would that be in the garage? It’s my dad’s 1959 Ford Fairlane (it had a V8 engine). The name is derived from Henry Ford’s estate, Fair Lane, near Dearborn, Michigan.

2021. So, some 57 years later. New roof & new paint on the house (of course), The brick chimney is still there. The hydrangea, ivy and big tree are all gone, but at least there is another tree or two. [Google Street View, Sept. 2010].
And here’s a Google Earth view of the area, looking northwest. I added some annotation. The house was just about three blocks from the beach. The ocean water is frigid, though. The shores here catch some of the cold Benguela Current from the depths of the Atlantic Ocean. The main road that runs through Hermanus is Route 43 (R43). On the right of the picture is a vlei (a shallow, minor lake, mostly of a seasonal or intermittent nature) that is now part of a nature reserve. [Picture generated with Google Earth].

Monday/ tropical storm Eloise

I’ve been following tropical storm Eloise for a few days now. There has not been large loss of life (official death toll in Mozambique: 12), but some 5,000 homes in Mozambique were destroyed or badly flooded.

I believe the Kruger National Park, the national parks in Zimbabwe, and the Moremi Game Reserve on the eastern side of Botswana’s Okavango Delta* will be OK. Some areas are getting soaked with 5 or 6 inches of rain, and this summer’s corn harvest is going to be damaged badly.

*This is the time of year that the enormous and very shallow bowl of the Okavango Delta fills up with about 2.6 cubic miles (11 cubic km) of water, spread over as much as 5,800 square miles (15,000 km2).

Tropical storm Eloise brought heavy rains over the south of Mozambique, the little land-locked country Eswatini, and the north and east of South Africa. [Infographic by Theuns Kruger/ Grafika24 for Beeld newspaper]

Thursday/ canola fields forever

Here’s a beautiful bird’s eye* view of the canola fields just outside Durbanville, South Africa. Look for Table Mountain and Lion’s Head to its right, in the distance.
*Picture was taken with a DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone.
[Photo from ‘Die Burger’ newspaper, submitted by Dirkie Heydenrych]

Wednesday/ Table Mountain’s table cloth

Table Mountain (elevation 3,563 ft/ 1 086 m) in Cape Town, South Africa, has an inch of snow on it.
Snow on the mountain is unusual, but not unheard of (there was snow in 2017).
The cable car up to the top has reopened (with masks required & a limited number of passengers).

A rock hyrax, also called the Cape hyrax, tries to catch a few rays of sun to warm up.  That’s Cape Town and Table Bay in the distance. [Photo Credit: Table Mountain Aerial Cableway Company]

Monday/ 50 yrs ago: no visa for Arthur Ashe

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.
– Arthur Ashe, American tennis player (b. 1943- d. 1993)

The US Open tennis tournament starts in Queens, New York City today.
There will be no crowds at the courts, nor in Arthur Ashe stadium —the largest tennis stadium in the world (capacity 23,771).

It was 50 years ago, in Jan. 1970, when the South African apartheid government took an outrageous stand: it refused Ashe a visa to play in the South African Open tennis tournament. The fallout and damage to South African sport were extensive. It solidified South Africa’s pariah status in the sports world. The country had already been banned from the Olympics in 1964 & 1968. It would be until 1992 before South African athletes could again compete in the Games.

Reporting from the New York Times in Jan. 1970. It was in 1968 that Ashe had won the US Open, at the time of this controversy he had just won the Australian Open in 1970. In perhaps his most celebrated win, he won Wimbledon in 1975.

Friday/ mystery bird: solved

I had to scroll through hundreds of Botswana bird photos to identify this white-crested helmetshrike, that I took a picture of long ago. (Googling ‘White bird with orange-ringed eye’ and several other similar attempts, did not do it).

We call a shrike laksman (sayla- ks-mon’) in Afrikaans: literally, executioner. The crimson-breasted shrikes in our garden in South Africa would find frogs or big insects, and impale them on the thorns of a bush before devouring them!

White-crested helmetshrike (Prionops plumatus), Tuli Block, Botswana, Jul. 1988.

Tuesday/ the day apartheid died

Young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, mark the country’s Youth Day holiday in Soweto, South Africa, Tuesday, June 16, 2020. Nearly 200 young South Africans, wearing face masks and keeping a distance, marked the country’s Youth Day holiday, the 44th anniversary of the 1976 Soweto students’ uprising which helped to bring about the end of the country’s previous regime of racist, minority rule. Äsivikelane is Zulu for “Protect each other’. [Themba Hadebe/Associated Press]
June 16, 1976, is a day that saw fierce police brutality in South Africa.  Several thousand high school students in Johannesburg’s poor township of Soweto demonstrated against the minority South African government.  (In 1974, a decree had been issued that had forced all township schools to use Afrikaans and English in a 50–50 mix as languages of instruction).

The march had been peaceful, but then a police convoy arrived. Not long after that, the protestors were fired upon with live ammunition, causing the deaths of several young students. There was more bloodshed the next day. The number of young people who died is usually given as 176, but other estimates put it at hundreds more.

Many white South Africans were outraged at the government’s actions in Soweto. It would be another 14 years before Nelson Mandela would be let out of jail, but at no point after 1976, was the government able to restore the relative peace and social stability of the early 1970s.

June 16, 1976. Umbiswa Makhubo carries the body of Hector Pieterson, 12 years old. The screaming girl in the picture is Hector’s younger sister Antoinette. [Photograph: Sam Nzima/Archive]

Friday/ king of the road

South Africa is under national lockdown orders, as is much of the world.
This pride of lions is enjoying the warmth of the quiet tar road just outside of Orpen Rest Camp.  These ones are resident on neighboring Kempiana Contractual Park, and wandered over to Kruger National Park.

Pictures were taken by Section Ranger Richard Sowry, and tweeted from Kruger National Park@SANParksKNP.


Friday/ proteas for Valentine’s Day

Nice to see South African proteas* here in my local Safeway (grocery store).
These may have been offered specially for Valentine’s Day.

*Pronounce ‘pro-tee-ah’.

Protea is both the botanical name and the English common name of a whole genus of South African flowering plants. 92% of the species are native only to the Cape Floristic Region, a narrow belt of mountainous coastal land from Clanwilliam to Grahamstown, South Africa. Nowadays, proteas are cultivated in some 20 countries, but it is time-consuming, and proteas need a Mediterranean or subtropical climate. [Information from Wikipedia].

Saturday/ fun and games in Cape Town, for charity

It was all fun and games in the Cape Town Stadium on Friday night, where the charity tennis match (‘Match for Africa’) between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal took place.

Comedian Trevor Noah and billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates joined them on the court, to start the proceedings with a set of doubles.

Cape Town Stadium, made into a tennis arena. The stadium was filled with some 55,000 spectators. The US$3.5 million raised for education and sport for kids in Africa, far exceeded expectations. This is a curtain-raiser doubles match, between Nadal & South African-born comedian Trevor Noah on the left, and Federer & Bill Gates on the right. [Picture by Mark Sampson @MarkSampsonCT on Twitter]. 
A scene from a long rally in the Nadal-Noah vs. Federer-Gates match. Federer was running back, chasing down a lob, and is doing the very difficult between-the-legs ‘tweener’ shot that is always a crowd pleaser. The players were all fitted with microphones, so that the crowd could hear their banter as they played. It absolutely does not matter, but Federer & Gates won the one-set match by 6 to 3.  (Gates is a little bit better at tennis than Trevor Noah, and for their part, Federer and Nadal just kept the ball in play, until one of the other two made a mistake).

Thursday/ making like an otter

Here’s a scanned 35mm photo negative, from my newest Google Photos album called ‘1990 Otter Hiking Trail’. (Yes, that’s me in 1990, striking an ‘otter’ pose for the camera. The water from the mountain stream is perfectly fine for drinking. The brown color comes from tannins leaching into the water from tree roots and decaying vegetation).

The Otter Hiking Trail is a five-day hiking trail along the Garden Route coast of South Africa and is named for the Cape clawless otter which occurs in this region.

Saturday/ South Africa’s diamonds and animals

My bundle of mail held by the post office arrived on Saturday.
One of them was a package of books & magazines I had shipped to myself from South Africa in October. The package was plastered with stamps of fabulous diamonds and ‘big five’ animals.

Famous diamonds from South Africa: The Star of South Africa (1869), The Eureka (1866), The Centenary (1986), The De Beers (1988) and the newest one of fame, the Blue Moon of Josephine (2014), a flawless 12-carat blue diamond, sold at auction in 2015 for a record $48.4 million.   The Big Five: African buffalo, Black Rhinoceros*, Leopard, Lion and African Elephant. *My usual disclaimer: the Big Five are for conservation and NOT FOR HUNTING. Only 5,000 black rhinos remain in the wild, a number that is double the 1995 number, though. The White Rhinoceros should really be a big fiver too, with some 20,000 still in the wild. Giraffes and hippos could certainly qualify, as well.