Thursday/ the tragedy in Johannesburg🔥

A fire that had started in the early hours of Thursday morning in an illegally occupied apartment building in the inner city of Johannesburg, South Africa, led to the death of 74 people.
The building had long been ‘hijacked’ from the city by a crime syndicate, and illegally rented out to vulnerable people.

As far as historians can tell, it’s the worst mass casualty in the storied history of Johannesburg. The metropolis of 5.6 million was founded in 1886 with the Witwatersrand Gold Rush.

The front page of Die Burger (The Citizen): 74 die in inferno. The building is located in a gritty industrial area of the city, in a suburb called Marshalltown.
[Photo credit: Reuters]

Tuesday/ from Spain, South Africa 🇪🇸 🇿🇦

Two envelopes arrived yesterday, with the latest acquisitions I had made for my stamp collection inside.
The sellers did me the favor of pasting lots of beautiful stamps on the outside of the envelopes.

Clockwise from top left:
150th Anniversary of Spanish Stamps (from a set of 11)
Issued 2000, Oct.8, , Perf. 13 (round stamp), 13½x14, Photolith.
3067 A1073 Multi-colored 200p €1.20 Invention of the antenna and radio
3063 A1073 Multi-colored 200p €1.20 Signature of Miguel Induráin, cyclist
Traditional Sports and Games
Issued 2008, Perf. 13½x14, Photolith.
Miniature Sheet of Martial Arts, 3 stamps & 3 labels
3577 A1469 Multi-colored, €0.43 Stick fighting (palo canario)
3577 A1469 Multi-colored, €0.43 Wrestling (lucha leonesa)
3577 A1469 Multi-colored, €0.43 Wrestling (lucha canaria)
150th Anniversary of International Red Cross
Issued 2013, Oct.28, Perf. 12¾, Photolith.
3939 A1722 €0.90 Red and white
Tapestries of Sports Scenes Taken from Painting
Issued 2009, Jul.6, Perf. 12¾, Photolith.
3657 A1519 Multi-colored, €0.78, By Francisco de Goya (El Juego de Pelota a Pala)
Women’s Dresses by Paco Rabane
Issued 2013, Sept.12, Perf. 13×12¾, Photolith.
3926 A1715 Multi-colored, €0.52, See-through dress of red diamonds
3926 A1715 Multi-colored, €0.52, Dress made of large golden disks
[Information from Scott 2017 Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue]
Clockwise from top left:
The 40th IHF World Hospital Congress
2016, Oct.31, Perf. 14
2496 Multicolored, Intnl. Small Letter, Minisheet (75mm x 75mm)
The Many Faces of Nelson Mandela
Issued 2001, Nov.26, No watermark, Perf. 13¾, Designer Alf Kumalo
1481 Multicolored, Airmail Postcard Rate (R2.10), Nelson Mandela
1477 Multicolored, Airmail Postcard Rate (R2.10), Nelson Mandela
Wildlife— The Big 5
Issued 2001, Apr.25, No watermark, Perf. 14
1386 Multicolored, Airmail Postcard Rate (R1.90), Cape Buffalo (Syncerus caffer), Imperforated Right
1385 Multicolored, Airmail Postcard Rate (R1.90), Leopard (Panthera pardus)
Fauna and Flora— Fish
Issued 2000, Nov. 1, No watermark, Perf. 14½x14¾, Designer Chris van Rooyen
1335 Multicolored, 60c, Powder-blue surgeonfish (Acanthurus leucosternon)
1334 Multicolored, 50c, Coral rock cod (Cephalopholis miniatus)
African Nations Football Championship, South Africa
Issued 1996, Jan. 10, No watermark, Perf. 14¼ x 14, Design Marc de Jong
1027 Multicolored, Standard Postage (60c), Goalkeeper w. Africa map outline
[Information from]

Monday/ fishing for a watermark Ⓜ️

No 3: The RSA (Republic of South Africa) watermark was introduced in 1964 and used for updated prints of the Republic’s first definitive series of stamps which was originally issued in 1961.
[Source: Stanley Gibbons Stamp Catalogue]
I dunked about a hundred scraps of paper with 1c stamps on in cold water today, separating the stamps from the paper.

I was hoping to find just one stamp with an upside-down RSA watermark.
Alas— no such luck with today’s batch of stamps.

This 1c stamp from the Republic of South Africa’s first definitive series (1961) comes with five distinct watermarks:

1.  Coat-of-arms
2.  No watermark
3.  RSA triangles
4.  RSA triangles, arranged tête-bêche (one pointing up, one down)
5.  RSA triangles, upside down

Can you see it? Part of a triangle watermark is visible on the left of the stamp’s back, and part of another triangle in the bottom right corner.

Monday/ books from afar 📚

While I was in South Africa, I shipped myself a box of books to Seattle from Pretoria, and another box from Stellenbosch*.
The boxes landed on my porch today.  They went from South Africa to London’s Heathrow airport, then to Cincinnati, Ohio, and then to Seattle.

*The Protea bookstore in Stellenbosch —always full of new and old Afrikaans books— was going out of business, and I could not pass up the opportunity to scoop up fifty-some books for $1 or $2 apiece.

A box full of books is HEAVY, so the shipping by air (DHL) was expensive: several hundred dollars. It was still completely worth it. Ground shipping takes several months and it’s just not reliable (your package might never show up). 
The book with H.A.T. on the cover is a monolingual Afrikaans dictionary (‘Handbook of the Afrikaans Language’).
I read the little green book as a first grader.

Tuesday/ northbound ✈️

My time in Cape Town is has come to an end, and I will fly out to Frankfurt overnight.
From there I will take the train to stay in Berlin for a few days before I go home.

The Lufthansa Airbus A340-400 that will take us to Frankfurt, at the gate at Cape Town International airport.

These sunset pictures are from Clifton 4th Beach last night. The steps down to the beach are called the Seagull Steps, and the rocky hilltop overlooking the beach is Lion’s Head.

Sunday/ here comes the sun ☀️

It’s a short drive from my hotel up with Kloof Nek Road, to reach the turnout onto Signal Hill Road that runs to the viewpoint at the top of Signal Hill.

Sunrise is at 7 am, and I was in position and ready to take a few pictures of Table Mountain catching the first light of the day.

Saturday/ a walk in the Gardens 🌺

It was quiet early on Saturday morning in the Gardens (also called ‘The Company’s Garden).
The garden was originally created in the 1650s by the region’s first European settlers and provided fertile ground to grow fresh produce to replenish ships rounding the Cape.

Friday/ Long Street 🏫

My hotel is in the Tamboerskloof neighborhood in Cape Town.
Theses pictures from my self-directed architecture walk are all from Long Street or nearby.
That’s Table Mountain in the last picture, of course.

Thursday/ Cape Town bound

I’m back at Johannesburg’s Oliver Tambo International Airport, and getting ready to travel to Cape Town.

Returning my rental car ..
.. and checking my two bags
My magnificent flying machine at the gate here at OR Tambo International airport.
The Embraer E195 jet is made by the Brazilian-led multinational manufacturer Embraer SA and is the largest member of the Embraer E-Jet family.

Tuesday/ a drive to the city 🚗

Here’s my round trip that I made on Tuesday, with a few stops.
I thought to stop in downtown Pretoria and walk around a little bit around Church Square, but decided against it.

I made my way to the city by using the Old Johannesburg Road, and then came back via the N1 highway.
The South African Air Force Memorial is a memorial to South African Air Force members who have died whilst in service of the South African Air Corps and its successor, the South African Air Force from 1915 to the present during times of war and times of peace. It was inaugurated in 1965.
Here’s downtown Pretoria, in a street crowded with minibus taxis. Honk honk! all the time. Are they honking at me? you think. No, at prospective passengers on the sidewalk.
This is not a tree. It is a cell phone tower.
Now making my way to the east side of the city along the M11 route. Many of the streets are lined with jacaranda trees like this one.
Inside the enormous Menlyn Park mall off Atterbury Street.
Sign outside the Starbucks store. The mall has a Seattle Coffee as well as a Starbucks.
A display in a store, offering some nice lighting options to help mitigate the darkness of load shedding (blackouts).

Monday/ the Voortrekker Monument

The Voortrekker Monument is located just south of Pretoria in South Africa. The granite structure is located on a hilltop, and was raised to commemorate the Voortrekkers (pioneers) who left the Cape Colony between 1835 and 1854. It was designed by the architect Gerard Moerdijk.
Construction started on 13 July 1937 and the monument was inaugurated on 16 December 1949 by Prime Minister D. F. Malan.
[Information from Wikipedia entry for Voortrekker Monument].

I walked around the monument today, before going inside. I climbed the 299 granite steps from the carpark to the top (at the inside), in the process. From the ceiling balcony one looks down at a cenotaph* that says ‘Ons Vir Jou Suid-Afrika’ (‘We For You South Africa’). 

*A cenotaph is an empty tomb or a monument erected in honor of a person or group of people whose remains are elsewhere.

Monday/ new album pages📄

The blank stamp album pages that I had ordered from Denmark, landed on the porch on Saturday, and I tried them out today.

The first two pictures below are my existing, preprinted pages and pockets, from German company Leuchtturm. They run from 1961 through 1981.  The pages from 1982 onwards are now out of print. I scoured Ebay and the internet, but could not find a used set.

So I am trying out Leuchtturm’s blank pocketed pages, to stand in for the years starting in 1982. I printed ‘South Africa — Suid-Afrika’ and the year on paper strips that go into the top of the page. It looks OK. Maybe I need cream-colored paper to print on— or is that being too persnickety?

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.