Thursday/ Mandela banknotes

Here is my set of 2018 South African banknotes that I had assembled during my recent visit there. The notes are not new, but they are good enough for my international banknote album.

This is the 7th series of banknotes of the South African Rand, issued on July 18, 2018. They commemorate the 100th anniversary of Nelson Mandela’s birth. Nice African motifs are in the background. Also, by the holographic security strip, each note has small figures of one of South Africa’s big five animals: rhino, elephant, lion, Cape buffalo and leopard.
The back of the notes show a young ‘Madiba’ (his clan name) and key moments in his life: R10 Mandela and his birthplace of Mvezo | R20 Mandela and his home in Soweto | R50 Mandela and the site of his capture near Howick | R100 Mandela and his place of imprisonment at Robben Island | R200 Mandela and his statue at the Union Buildings


Monday/ at Cape Town airport

My stay in Cape Town has come to an end. I went to see my mom one last time, and cleared out of the nice AirBnB apartment that I had rented.

I am taking the red-eye flight up to Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport, and will go and stay in Rotterdam for a few days, before I fly home to Seattle out of Amsterdam.

Here’s the entrance to the check-in and departure lounges at Cape Town International Airport. The rental car drop-off is close enough so that one can walk to the departure lounge – very nice.
Children’s book with cute animal faces at the book store: ‘The Ugly Five’ (as opposed to the Big Five: lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo). The ‘ugly ones’ on the book’s cover are the wildebeest, the hyena, the vulture, the Marabou stork, and the warthog.

Sunday/ Table Mountain, blue

We drove up along the Atlantic coastline to the suburb of Table View today.
Table View is short for ‘Table Mountain View’.
The beach called Bloubergstrand (‘Blue Mountain Beach’) is close by.

Table Mountain is blue (kind of) when viewed from Bloubergstrand. Today there was just a puff of cloud on the mountain. 

Saturday/ the noon gun on Signal Hill

Table Mountain is at the bottom of this map, with Lion’s Head at the left and Signal Hill (elevation 350 m/ 1,150 ft) towards its northwest.

My friend Marlien and I went to see the firing of the noon gun on Signal Hill today. There’s a single-lane strip of tarred road that winds up to the top of the hill.

Here’s the Lion Battery with the two noon guns at the top. A time signal at noon has been fired by one of these guns since 1806. (Two guns so that one can serve as a backup). The two guns used are the oldest guns in daily use in the world.
Protect your ears! We all wore ear plugs. The cannon blast at close range reaches a sound level of 170 dB, the loudest bang many people would experience, ever. The bang is produced by a 1.5 kg/ 3.3 lb bag of gun powder.
The fuse is triggered remotely these days. Most of the on-lookers stood at the back of the cannon a good 50 ft away. The gunner that oversees the firing of the canon, announces ‘One minute’, ‘Thirty seconds’ ’10-9-8 .. 3-2-1′ . A few milliseconds before noon, an electrical signal is sent from the Astronomical Observatory’s atomic clock. The burst of energy zips across a telephone line, and ignites the firing cap on the cannon. At 12 noon sharp the gunpowder explodes with a loud Ka-Boom!

Every day – except Sundays and national holidays – the gun on Signal Hill is fired exactly at noon.

Friday/ Stellenbosch buildings

Here are some of my favorite buildings in Stellenbosch, from my visit there yesterday.

These giant ficus trees are behind the main administration buildings of the University of Stellenbosch.
The Moederkerk (Mother Church) on Drostdy St has a neo-gothic tower designed by Carl Otto Hager from Dresden, Germany. The building was completed in 1863.
Erfurt House, named after the town Erfurt in Germany. Johan Marthinus (Jan) Beyers built the imposing double story residence in 1876 with a wood and cast iron balcony on all sides of the building.
The Old Main Building (‘Ou Hoofgebou’) of the University of Stellenbosch. This building was also designed by Carl Otto Hager. It was completed in 1883 for what was named Stellenbosch College at the time. The flag on the flagpole indicates that the University oF Stellenbosch celebrated its centenary in 2018.
The building for the Bloemhof Girls’ High School on Andringa Street now houses Stellenbosch University Museum. It was built in the Flemish Renaissance Revival style and completed in 1907.

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.

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/ a red one with animals on

One more South African bank note arrived in the mail, that I had bought from an Ebay seller in Canada. My little collection of South African bank notes is complete – for now.
I now have all the ones that I have memories of, or that I used to have in my wallet, back in the 80’s and 90’s!

This is ZAR 50 note was the highest denomination of the Third Series of Rand banknotes, first issued in 1984, and only until 1990. I did not carry this bad boy in my wallet much! .. it was a lot of money at the time. Obverse: Jan van Riebeeck portrait (first administrator of the Dutch Cape Colony, 1652-1662); head of a lion. Reverse: Natural environment and fauna of South Africa: giraffe, impala, black wildebeest, zebra, palms, aloe, mountain cliffs (Afrikaans ‘bergkranse’) & setting African sun in the sky. [Pictures from Ebay].

Friday/ the Gariep Dam is on my banknote

I am still adding to my old South African bank note collection. My latest addition is the R2 note issued in 1966. It arrived in the mail today, sent by an Ebay seller – from Istanbul, Turkey, no less.

The Gariep Dam on the back of the note is South Africa’s largest, by far (cap. 5.7 cubic km /1.4 cubic mi)* . Its turbines can contribute some 360 MW of electricity to the national grid.

*By comparison, the Hoover Dam in Nevada can hold a vast amount of water, some 32.2 cubic km (7.7 cubic mi). It has not been filled to capacity since 1983, though. Then there is the Three Gorges Dam in China that is bigger still (the world’s largest), with a capacity of 39.3 cubic km (9.4 cubic mi).

The front of the 1966 R2 note features Jan Van Riebeeck, a founding father of sorts: the first administrator of the the Dutch Cape Colony in 1652.  The back of the note shows the Gariep Dam located in Free State province. South Africa’s largest dam, it was decades in the making, and construction was finally completed in 1972.  Its primary function is for irrigation, hence the cob of corn in the top left corner. [Picture from Ebay].
A still frame from Dirk Grobler’s YouTube drone video of the dam from Feb 2017. At the time the water level was only at 61%.  In April of this year, the dam was full, and attracted tourists from all over the country that came to see the water spill over the sluice gates in the arched wall.

Monday/ Cape Town has water – for now

Cape Town’s dam levels hit the 70% mark on Monday for the first time since 2015. The severe water restrictions that had been in place, have been relaxed, albeit just by a little*.   The rainy season is coming to an end in September, and a long dry summer lies ahead.

*The City is asking residents to use no more than 70 liters (18.5 US gal) per person per day, up from a 50-liter (13 US gal) limit.

Cape Town metro area dam levels the last 5 years, in September. The picture is of the Theewaterskloof Dam, gloriously at full capacity in Sept. 2014. It is currently 52% full, up from barely 12% before the 2018 winter rains had come. [Picture credit: Twitter post from Cirrus@OrionnebulaAE].

Wednesday/ the South African drill

South African sports legend John van Reenen (71) passed away on Tuesday at his home in Calitzdorp, South Africa. (He suffered from diabetes). He studied art right here in Seattle at the University of Washington until 1971, and was a world-class discus thrower at the time.  He wanted to attend the 1972 Olympic Games, but was barred as a South African citizen. South Africans were barred by the IOC from the Games from 1964 to 1992, due to the South African government’s apartheid policies.

At an event in Stellenbosch, South Africa, in 1975, Van Reenen set a world record with a throw of 68.48 m. Discus throwers studied and imitated his technique, known for a long time as ‘the South African drill’. Perfecting a good technique is notoriously difficult – which may be why the world record of German Jürgen Schult of 74.08 m, set in 1986, still stands today. It is the oldest record in all of men’s track and field.

Shaun Pickering posted this picture of his dad Ron (on the left), coach to South African discus thrower John van Reenen. This is around 1975.

Monday/ Van Riebeeck’s three ships

My 1975 South African ten rand note that I had bought on Ebay, arrived in the mail today. I wanted one – correction: had to have one – for my bank note collection. I have fond memories of the note.  When I was very young, I saw it as a lot of money, almost a fortune.  I still remember my mom pulling out two of these green notes from her wallet, to pay for a semi-automatic knitting machine that she had bought at a store. Whoah! How cool, I thought.

This R10 note (R for Rand) was part of the Second Series of notes of the Republic of South Africa and was in use from 1966 through 1978.  Front: Dutch navigator and colonial administrator Jan van Riebeeck; Union Buildings in Pretoria that form the official seat of the South African Government; Springbok, national animal of South Africa and mascot for many national sport teams.  Back: Table Bay and Table Mountain with Van Riebeeck’s three ships at his arrival on April 6, 1652: the Dromedaris; the Reijger and the Goede Hoop. [Picture: Ebay]

Tuesday/ buffalo makes five

Hey, a buffalo!  I thought, as I spotted one at the Target store’s toy section yesterday.  I got one for my African animals collection.

This is a cheapie one ($3.50, made by a company called Terra), and I will still look for one from my favorite purveyor of animal figurines, the German company called Schleich.  The Terra-made buffalo does have a lilac-breasted roller (‘troupand’) sitting on its back, a nice touch.

My collection of Big Five animals*, a reference to the big game animals that trophy hunters go for in Africa.  I really hope that more and more, it will instead be a reference to five popular animals that game reserves strive to have on hand, for safari tourists to see roaming in the wild.  *African buffalo, black rhinoceros, African elephant, African lion and African leopard.

Monday/ on ‘Zuma Exit’ watch

Ever since South African President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address last Thursday was postponed, there was a buzz that his ouster is near, finally.

Zuma assumed office in 2009, and soon disgraced himself and the presidency with corruption and incompetence (see newspaper clipping below). Last December, South Africa’s Vice-President Cyril Ramaphosa became the ruling African National Congress party’s chairman, resulting in a leadership crisis. 

Word on Monday night in South Africa was that the ANC’s National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting had ended with a decision to recall Zuma.  Sources say Zuma had earlier agreed to resign – but on the condition that he stay put 3 more months in office. It was rejected by the NEC.

Tue 2/13 update: President Jacob Zuma is expected to brief the media at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Wednesday.

Wed 2/13 update: Zuma gave a rambling, meandering response to the moves by the ANC to get him to quit. (He basically asked ‘What did I do wrong?’ and plans to stay on at least until June). There’s a little ‘as you sow, so you shall reap’ going on here. The ANC had protected Zuma for far too long.

Wed night 2/13: Zuma announces that he is resigning with immediate effect. (Good riddance).

From a recent issue of the newspaper ‘The Witness’. ANC is African National Congress, the ruling political party in South Africa; NPA is National Prosecuting Authority and SOE is State-owned Entity.