Monday, August 31, 2009

Meet our Foster Children (Part 2)

Birds in cages hanging outside the shop which my husband and I criss-crossed the city of Khartoum to find. We were in search of a birdcage for the budgies in our care

Yesterday I posted about our quest to find a birdcage in Khartoum. I left off at the part where I'd arrived at the address I'd been given in town and was waiting as the owner of a shop and a younger man rolled up the steel door. You can read all about this here. Now read on...

Our little birds love being on the balcony of the flat.

I called my husband and together we entered the shop. Apart from many tanks of exotic fish lining the walls, there was row upon row of birdcages hanging above our heads. We had found the shop which sells BIRDCAGES! Whoo-hoo.

My husband asked the price of the cage I picked out for our progenies back home. The shopkeeper told us. SDG300 / US$122. Phew, a bit steep. I made another choice and we were told it costs SDG100/US$41. My husband nodded and the cage was lifted down. Seeing there were no feeding or water troughs or a swing, (which the other cages had) my husband asked if he’d put them in for the price of the cage. The owner said: OK and fitted the necessary accoutrements which make for healthy and happy birds. I asked whether he had a mineral block and a bell but after pulling all sorts of items from a drawer under the fish tanks, I realised he didn’t have these items. My husband said he’d get a mirror from the little cafe/general dealer in our street and we’d have to hunt the bell and mineral block down on another day. He paid for the cage and after thanking him profusely for the birdcage, we bid him farewell. . (I’d shown him the Post-It and asked if he knew the gentleman from 3M, to which he replied, “Yes, my brudder”) Just goes to show the old adage still holds true: It's not what you know that counts, but WHO you know! (LOL)

The wild birds sit on the electric wire above the balcony. They originally came to peck up the seeds that the budgies scattered on the floor. Now I emty the seed trough onto the balcony for them

We came home, washed the dust off the birdcage and set up the food and water trough. There were two plastic perches, of which one broke immediately so we fixed two wooden dowel perches into the cage as well. I suggested to my husband that we do not place the nest from the old cage in the new cage. He was rather reluctant as he thought they needed it. I felt they’d never come out of that nest, especially seeing after we’d uprooted them and placed them in a strange house. We agreed to try them without the nest first.

Note the sparrow weavers and sparrows pecking away at the seed I dispense on the floor

Now I had to get the birds (who trusted me not one iota) from their old bungalow into their new palace. I placed the cage on the kitchen counter top and inserted my hand into the cage. The birds went crazy, fluttering up against the far wire and screaming in protest. I got the blue lady out first who tried to bite me, poor little thing, and into her new abode. Then I scrabbled inside the cage and got the green lad out, He really hooked into my finger but before he could really bite me, I had him installed in his new home.

Billy swings away serenely while Sweet pea clambers frantically up the bars of the cage

They spent a few hours, fluttering about in the cage especially when we entered the room. Eventually they settled in and even have mirror to admire themselves in now. (Mind you, the little female causes a riot when the male tries to get near the mirror. Is she preventing him from looking at another woman? Ha!) Within a few days, these little birds, which we’ve named Billy and Sweet pea, have become much more confident and outgoing. Oh, and hubby and I have agreed that we'll not be replacing the nest just yet...

The birds love watching television and will sit for ages staring at the screen

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Meet our Foster Children (Part 1)

The birds spent all their time in the cylindrical nest attached to the inside of this cage

When I arrived at my husband’s flat last week, he told me that he was bird sitting two budgies for a colleague who has gone on six week’s leave to the USA.

The birds were very introverted and spent ALL day in the little nest attached inside their cage. Periodically they ventured out onto the plastic perch, but as soon as I entered our home office-cum-sitting room where their cage is suspended on an elbow, they’d dive back into the nest, falling over each other in their rush to ”get away”!

I spoke to my husband and together we agreed that the first thing we’d do was find them a new cage. In a large, sprawling and very busy African city in general and Khartoum in particular, this is easier said than done!

The next morning I e-mailed a photo of the existing cage to my husband at his office. He printed it and showed it to his driver who immediately said he knew where to get one. It would cost SDG35. (Thirty five Sudanese Pounds/ US$14)

Next morning the driver arrived at the workshop and said he’d forgotten the cage at home, could he borrow the Land cruiser and fetch it from across town. My husband told him to return the money; we’d find the cage ourselves.

Hubby came home early, collected me and we set off into town. (He had to collect a parcel from DHL, so we decided to look for the cage at the same time.)

While we were at the supermarket last Friday, he asked the proprietor where we could find a bird cage. He suggested Home Care in Amarat, an extension of Khartoum2. (Does it sound complicated? It is, I tell you!)

On Sunday, while waiting in the queue at the same supermarket, there was an Expat in front of us who was returning an item. When she turned to apologise for holding us up, I told her it wasn’t problem. Then I asked her if she knew where we could find a shop has products for dogs, cats, birds? She thought for a moment and then said, “Perhaps in Amarat?”

We arrived at Home Care and I went into the shop, while my husband kept the air-conditioning running in the vehicle. (It was 10h15 and the temperature outside was 42°C)

One inside, I realised that this shop would not have bird cages for sale. It was the most incredible glassware and gift shop I have seen since visiting similar ones in Conakry, Guinea, West Africa, while doing the Christmas shopping for the goldmine company. I posed my question to the person serving behind the counter, but the language barrier got to both of us. He called a man from behind the shelves of exquisite vases, ornaments and other glassware, who, without a word took me outside and pointed to a shop further along the street.

My husband drove me to this shop and I alighted from the vehicle once more. This is not such an easy feat. I am 5'4" and the Landcruiser is high off the ground. I have swing my legs out of the vehicle, hitch my skirt up without exposing my knees (hoo-boy, shorts are so much easier) and step down carefully, because of the mud puddles all along the street.

This hand-drawn map and Post-it with an address on it, was the beginning of the solution to finding a shop that sells birdcages

I entered the second shop where a gentleman, reclining on an easy chair had just dialled a number on his mobile/cell phone. He looked at me, then spoke into the instrument without giving me a second glance. I entered the shop interior where I found the other clerk sleeping on the desk. I cleared my throat softly; no response. I called out a to him; still nothing. Then I loudly said:”Salaam!" (good morning) He pushed himself up off the table, sat back with his eyes still closed and stretched his arms above his head. He opened his eyes and looked at me lifting his left brow in enquiry.

I told him what I was looking for. Again the language barrier stunted our conversation and he looked at me blankly. By now the first man had finished his conversation and ventured into the showroom. When I explained by hand signals and sound effects (“woof-woof, meow, and tweet-tweet”) what I wanted to buy, he called me outdoors and took me onto the pavement. There he spoke to a passerby obviously relaying my request. This kind gentleman’s face lit up and he called me to his side. Saying something, he pointed about three doors up the street. I couldn’t see what he was showing me but asked him to repeat what he’d said. Still pointing, he said:”3M”. When I climbed back into the vehicle and told my husband the shop where we should find our birdcage was called 3M he (Hawkeye Cohen, my hubby) said, “I can see 3M up ahead”

Arriving at 3M, we could see many items – electric fans, buckets, toys, ornaments - on the porch which told us this was a small general dealer. I entered the shop between two long counters running the length of the building. Behind the counters were shelves laden with toiletries, stationery, ornaments and electronic gadgets. The proprietor approached me and asked if he could help. When I told him what I was looking for (I felt like a gramophone already!) he, in turn, repeated my request to a tall gentleman who was making a purchase. This man asked me in halting English what I needed and now, instead saying “woof-woof, meow and tweet-tweet”, I said I was looking for a shop which sold products for birds. To illustrate my point I puckered up my lips and made kissing noises. Immediately his face lit up and he said to the shop owner I wanted a bird, but he said it in Arabic. When I asked him to repeat the word, he told me a bird is called “arriva” pronounced "ahreevah".

Now the proprietor joined in with great enthusiasm. He said you go to 41st Street, Amarat. He took out a Post-it/Sticky post and wrote what I surmised was an address on it. Brandishing it in the air, he said: ”This my brudda's shop, you get arriva” He showed me the symbols for 41 and gave me the Post-it. As I was leaving the shop, feeling as though I was getting closer to the “treasure” we were seeking, the owner called out to me: “You come tomorrow, I have cage here” Thanking him, I assured him if I didn't find his brother's shop in 41st Street, I would return to his shop the next day.

I climbed up into the Landcruiser again and told my husband we need to head for 41st Street. He knew where the street is and we headed in that direction. Turning into a street which he thought led into 41st Street, we drove all the way up it without success. Thinking we may have misunderstood the instructions, we stopped at a Currency Exchange, one of the many in Khartoum. A very friendly gentleman(the people in this city are very helpful) ushered me into the office where three other clerks were busy with world market transactions on computers and telephones.

When I handed the manager my instructions on the Post-it. He turned it over (I had it upside down!) and said: “Ah yes, number 27. “ So I said, no it’s 41! He looked again and said: “OK, 41st Street.” He took a blank piece of paper from his desk and proceeded to draw a map on it. First he indicated the street we were in, and then where, at a fork in the road, we were to go up 41st Street. He said there was a school on the left, and we’d see GLAD centre just beyond. There would be a bookshop on the left (he showed this by patting his left arm) and an ice-cream shop up ahead. He saw me out of the door, waved to my husband who returned his greeting. I entered the Land-cruiser for what seemed like the umpteenth time, and showed my husband the map.

We entered the complex, past a bookshop on our left; and up ahead was... yes, you guessed it: the Ice-cream shop! As my husband stopped the vehicle I jumped out and entered the shop. After waiting a few minutes for the other customers to be served, I showed the gentleman my Post-it and the handwritten map. He said: “After (behind) this shop”

I returned to the vehicle, which was mercifully cool, and told my husband we need to drive behind the ice-cream shop. As we parked outside another small shop, I alighted and went inside. Once I’d handed the slips of paper to the young man at the till, he read it, nodded and came out from behind the counter. He gestured for me to follow him outside. I did, passing an older gentleman who sat on the veranda swotting flies.

We rounded the corner, and there was a large steel door, like the roll-up doors used on garages. It was closed. He began to punch a number into his mobile/cell phone but before he got an answer, another gentleman emerged from between the buildings. He bent down and unlocked the door and together he and the young man rolled up the door.

To be continued tomorrow...

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Barges on the Nile

Some of the barges on the Nile River, Khartoum

The Nile, at 6,671kms/10,587 miles, is the longest river in the world. Its headwaters, the White Nile and the Blue Nile join in Khartoum, Sudan to form the Nile that flows to Egypt. Ten countries share the Nile but about 60% of its length lies in Sudan, while 70% of Sudan is situated within the Nile River catchments.

River Transport Corporation (RTC) is the biggest barge operator in the Sudan. It is a public enterprise which operates on the river Nile while private operators undertake tributory coverage. Operators offer a range of facilities and services that include pusher tugs, general cargo, flat deck, oil fleet and self-propelled barges. This provides a cost effective logistics delivery option to Sudan's central and southern locations.

RTC is the only passenger barge operator with two passenger boats with a capacity of 244 beds. Visit the Barges of Sudan website here for more information on these vessels.

For more scenes around the world, click here

Saturday, August 29, 2009


Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful … (Col 4:2)

God’s children should learn to devote themselves to prayer and to remain watchful at the same time, Paul aptly wrote to the Colossians. Jesus told the parable of the unjust judge in order to emphasise this fact: that God listens when his children keep asking (Luke 18:1-8). “He will see that they get justice, and quickly,” he promised in Luke 18:8.

Legend has it that the great Eastern general Tamalani once had to hide from the enemy in the ruins of a house for hours on end. While he was sitting passively, he watched an ant carrying a kernel of wheat bigger than itself up against a wall. The kernel repeatedly rolled back to the ground, but the ant never gave up. It was only with its seventieth effort that the ant managed to carry the kernel right to the top. Tamalani would never forget this lesson in perseverance.

When you pray and the answer does not come immediately, you must be willing to persevere like the ant, and not give up praying. David Livingstone’s motto was, “I vow never to stop before reaching my goal.” If you can learn to keep on asking without giving up hope, the Lord will eventually answer your prayer in his own time and in his own way.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Blue Sky over Khartoum

Instead of wandering around my garden as I do in the late afternoon in South Africa, my husband and I walk up to the roof of our flat. There we have a view of the whole of Khartoum. Apart from greeting our neighbours going about their daily business down below, we also watch many planes coming in to land at Khartoum Airport. Surprisingly, the airport is a very busy one, with no less than 26 airlines arriving at and departing from the runway. I'll do a post on this later on.

After the downpour of rain we had this week, everything was washed clean and the sky was a clear blue.

Last night I took my camera up there and got many photos. I snapped away at planes arriving and then I spotted this aircarft (photographed above). With the speed it was travelling at, it was definitely not coming in to land in the Sudan. We thought it might have come from Cairo and be on the way to... (we know not where)

For more beautiful sky photos check out SkyWatchFriday.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's Raining in Khartoum!

I woke up this morning to find my husband had left for work and the power was off. Power-outage in Khartoum is a regular thrice-daily occurance. Because all the ceiling fans and airconditioners were off, I could hear rain pelting down on the roof.
Sure enough, when I looked out of the window I saw that the street was a quagmire and there was hardly any sign of life outside. I've found that things get going much later in the morning. Africa only wakes at about 9h45 and slowly eases herself into the day.

I phoned my husband and told him the power was off. He phoned the nightwatchman of our building (who I'm sure was NOT impressed at being awakened at 7h30) to start the generator. A few minutes later the power was restored and I began to prepare for my day.
At the moment my day consists of sleeping until 6h30 - 7h00 (Unheard of back home in South Africa where I was up at daybreak to see to my animals and to go to spinning and have my quiet time) I have a shower, dress and go off to the kitchen to make breakfast.

There is a large variety of fruit on display in the supermarket. It is very expensive so instead of buying a bag of apples and a pocket of oranges as I do in South Africa, i picked out three firm looking apples and two ripe oranges. My husband had already placed a punnet of grapes in the trolly, not looking at the price, but buying them because I love grapes.

Every morning I cut up half and orange, half and apple and then cut them into pieces in my cereal bowl. (I store the other halves on a side plate covered in plastic clingfilm. I add a few halved grapes and then top this fruit salad with a few spoons of yoghurt. I'm not sure whether the yoghurt here is fat-free but I recognise the container. It's the same yoghurt we had in Guinea. As far as I can recall, this was NOT a fat-free variety. Mmmm. To complete my health breakfast I add two tablespoons of cereal on top and decorate with more halved grapes. Viola!

My North African Health Breakfast
These scone which I got off Lynda's blog, are delicious and easy to make

When my husband arrived home this afternoon, I had baked a batch of Lynda's scones. These are delicious and so easy to make. You can see her recipe here.
Hubby readily tucked into the scones, cheese and strawberry jam snack I placed in front of him

At the moment I'm cooking dinner in between writing my blog post. It has stopped raining and we have the door open to try and dry out the floor.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

First Day in Khartoum

This is the first time I've worn a skirt in more than fifteen years. Women are not allowed to wear shorts (boo-hoo) in the streets so here I am, wearing a skirt
On my first day in Khartoum, my husband took me to town to buy groceries. The supermarket which he frequents was a lovely surprise. They stocked every possible item we needed albeit quite expensive. My favourite section of this shop after the fresh fruit and vegetable racks, is a refrigerated display case with all manner or delectable salads and exotic sauces. Exotic to me, but quite ordinary to the Sudenes and Egyptian people in this city. There is pickled brinjal (aubergine/eggplant) vinigarette gherkins, onions, beetroot, huge chunks of feta cheese and a myriad of pureed dishes of which I've begun to sample some. As the attendant behind the counter began to dish me a carton of "mish" (which looked interesting but I was not sure of the contents) I asked him if it had NO meat or fish. He assured me it was cheese, chillie and lemon juice, no meat. He asked if I was a vegetarian to which I replied I was. He dipped a plastic spoon into a creamy looking chunk of cheese and passed it to me, saying: no salt and no fat! It tasted divine so I ordered a few blocks. He told me the Egyptian name for it which I've forgotten, but said, "In English: cottage cheese" I was thrilled! My first day in North Africa and I've found a low-salt, fat free cottage cheese. Whoo-hoo.

The Gouda, tomato and cucumber baguette reminded me of being back in West Africa

After our shopping excursion, Grant took me to OZone, an outdoor restautant patronized by Expats and local folk alike. It is set in an island in the middle of the city but you would not guess it. You relax under beautiful shady trees between which pipes are strung. These emit a fine spray of water to keep you cool while you enjoy a variety of light snacks and delectable desserts and cakes.

The restuarant is set out under huge shady trees. A soft mist cools you as you enjoy the delicious snacks on offer

OZone, a popular gathering place for expats and locals alike. Ramadan had just started this day so the restaurant was very quiet.

The Blueberry Waffle and Ice-cream is to die for...

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Flying West Africa in 2001 - Part 2

Last week I posted Part One of the rather frustrating and near-disastrous trip we experienced when we flew out from West to South Africa on break. You can read about this here

Before I continue with the second and final part of this story, I'd like to explain something here. My mum had been diagnosed with cancer and my dad had just passed away on 11 September 2000 (a year before 9/11) so I felt I should go back to South Africa to be near her.

As I was actually leaving West Africa, I had all my belongings in two large suitcases, a medium-sized cardboard box and a vanity case. I've said this before and I reiterate: my husband is not a good traveller notwithstanding the fact that he has travelled thousands of kilometers/miles across the African continent over the past nine years. The only thing that sustains him on all his trips, is that he only has carry-on luggage. Well, as they say: women are from Mars and men are from... (whatever, women and men are DIFFERENT) and I had check-in luggage and quite a lot of it.

Back to the dilemma of arriving at Bamako airport for the second time that day to find that the plane we were to board was not air-worthy and no solution to our problem. We sat on my luggage at the side of the runway and waited. What for, we knew not! Back in 2001 cell/mobile phones were not order of the day and even if we'd had access to one, who would we phone? The company's personnel officer back in Johannesburg, who arranged all our travel details to and from site and from West Africa back home, also had no contact person in Bamako since the Head Office there had replaced him. Technically my husband, Grant and I were in "no-man's land" and would have to work this out for ourselves.

After waiting in the hot African sun for three and a half hours, Grant spotted a landcruiser towing an old aircraft onto the apron . It had been parked alongside several derelict helicopters and light planes in what we expats referred to as the aeroplane graveyard! These rusted and ageing old craft were a left-over from the middle of last century when Russian colonisation was a strong influence in Mali. After the landcruiser's driver had unhitched his vehicle and driven off. two men approached the plane and climbed inside. We'd been so enthralled watching this whole pantomime that we almost jumped out of our skins when a grey-haired gentleman appeared next to us. It was as if he'd materialised from thin air. (I wondered later if he was an angel... Mmm?) He informed us in very good English that we would be flying to Abidjan in the plane standing on the apron. My husband's face was a picture.

Neverthless, we picked up my luggage and walked across the airstrip to the plane. We left my luggage on the ground at the foot of the stairs and climbed up ourselves. As Grant stuck his head into the plane, he muttered that we'd be taking our lives in our hands flying all the way across West Africa to the Ivory Coast in this "rattle-trap". (I smiled to myself. Grant has has a keen interest in, and knowledge of, old planes. He'd told me, while we watched from across the airstrip, that it was a 1950's Russian Lette)

I gently nudged him inside and suggested he asked the pilots (or whoever the two men were who were "fixing" something in the cockpit) if this plane was bound for Abidjan. Then we got our next shock! (How much can the human heart stand? LOL!) Neither of these men spoke English. As far as we could ascertain the one man spoke Chinese and the other sounded like he was of Russian descent.

Using handsigns and gesticulations they indicated that we should go and take our seats and the expression "Cote d'Iviore" came up in the converstion. It seemed as though we were the only two passengers so we each took a window seat on either side of the aisle.

One of the pilots descended the stairs, loaded our luggage into hold and re-entered the plane. He walked to the cockpit and strapped himself in beside the other pilot who was already strapped in.

I was just wondering who would close the aircraft door, when a third passenger, a tall African man entered the plane. He turned around, pulled the door closed and locked it. After greeting us in French, he walked to the front of the plane. He chatted briefly to the pilots in the cockpit who had started the plane then he sat down in the first row.

With the aircraft engines screaming in protest at having to lift this old steel carcass, and after a bone-jarring, rattling ascent, we were finally airborne. The pilot banked the plane to the left giving us our last glance of Bamako. This sprawling African city, the capital of Mali, looked soft and inviting in the late afternoon sun.

It was 17h30; our trip to the Ivory Coast normally lasted two-and-a-half hours. Our South African Airways connection in Abidjan was due to take off at 20h15. It was the only flight out to South Africa for the week. If we missed it, we'd spend the first week of our holiday/break in Abidjan.

I walked to the front of the plane and in halting French ask the other passenger if he knew of any way to notify the deck crew of our SAA flight that we were on the way. He nodded, smiled and produced an Irridium Satelite telephone from his pocket. As he dialled the Abidjan airport to relay my message, I knew we could relax. We would make our connection that night.

After the plane touched down in Abidjan and came to a stop, the other passenger, who was obviously an airport official, took us under his wing. As the pilots unloaded our luggage, he called a porter and together, the [four] of us made a somewhat undignified dash across the airstrip to where our homebound plane was waiting.

As we entered the brightly-lit cabin and the flight attendants welcomed us in English, we breathed a sigh of relief. Finally we were on the last leg of our journey.

The next morning at 05h30 we touched down on South African soil in Johannesburg. Seeing the popular Nando's advertising on a building in progress, (see photo below) I realised we were home!

For more scenes around the world, click here.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I will never leave you

While flying up to the Sudan on last week, and knowing that I might miss my connecting flight in Addis Ababa (see here), I implored God to take control of the whole situation. I had my Bible on the seat next to me. I opened it and a Scripture which I’d highlighted, caught my eye. It follows the part in Mark’s Gospel when the disciples were out fishing and Jesus was asleep at the back of their boat. A fierce storm arose and the disciples were desperately afraid. They frantically woke Jesus. He rebuked the wind and quieted the water. Then He turned to the disciples and asked them: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?” (Mark 4:40 – emphasis mine)

I realised that the Lord was talking directly to me. I have followed and loved Him for almost four decades. Over the past three years, I have come to know Him in a very special way and only by His grace, am obedient to Him in all I do. I know He will never fail me or leave me. In Hebrews 13:5 and 6, He promises me: "I will never fail or forsake you. And I can say with confidence, the Lord is my Helper, so I will not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”

I sat back in my seat and trusted Jesus with my whole trip. And once again, He came through for me. That is why I love Him so much. Amen!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Tea in Tanzania! I wish...

I took this photo as we flew over friend and fellow-blogger, Lynda's farm

Flying from Johannesburg in South Africa to the Sudan in North Africa, the airlines seem to "hug" the eastern part of the continent. We flew over airspace of South Africa's neighbour, Zimbabwe, then Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya to the first stop in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Around 18h30 local time we flew over the Kilimanjaro region and friend and fellow blogger, Lynda's home. I took the above photo at that time. When I mailed her after my arrival in Khartoum, she said, "You should have dropped in for a cuppa" I wish...

For more scenes around the world, click here.

Tigger, the Ageing Acrobat

Tigger, at thirteen in human years, (96 cat-years) only drinks from the handbasin in my bathroom. A very agile old gentleman, is Tigger. Oh, I miss him and my other animals but know that Debbie is taking good care of them all.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Travelling up North to my Husband

Ethiopian airlines, preparing the aircraft for our trip to Addis Ababa/Khartoum, was more than an hour late on Thursday
Leaving Johannesburg and South Africa

Finally... The day had arrived that I fly up to be with my husband in Khartoum in the Sudan, North Africa. It was freezing cold in the Free State on Thursday morning when we loaded my luggage into the back of John's vehicle. Debbie strapped the three children into their car seats while I went back to stroke and greet my cats and dogs and tell them that they would be fine while mum was away. I don't think they believed me, especially dear Tigger, but I was swallowing a lump in my throat as well...
My domestic flight was uneventful and comfortable. I loved the trip over my beloved Free State farmlands and took photos for future blogs (ha- we never miss an opportunity, we bloggers, do we?)
Booking my luggage into Ethiopian airlines shortly after midday, I was informed that the flight was delayed. My heart sank (just a little) but it sank! En route, I had an hour in Addis Ababa to board my connecting flight to Khartoum. If we were delayed on the Johannesburg side, would I make the connection in time?
We finally took off at 15h25, an hour and ten minutes later than schedule. I sat back in my seat and relaxed (well, in between taking photos through a very dirty window)
Four and a half hours later I looked up at the on-board television screen. The two movies had finished and the plane's journey was depicted on an electronic map. All the relevant details flashed onscreen as well. Looking at my Addis Ababa boarding pass, I saw that I had to board the connecting flight at 20h50. Up on the screen the ETA (expected time of arrival) was 21h29!
Hoo-boy, was I late!
I asked the flight attendant if the flight to Khartoum would be held until Khartoum bound were on board. She shrugged and said if I missed the connection, the airlines would bus me into Addis Ababa where I would overnight in a hotel. Part of me thought: what a unique chance to experience yet another city in Africa, but the other part of me remembered a) the only clothing I had with me, was on my body and b) I wanted to get HOME to my husband waiting at the Khartoum airport.
Unless you have experienced third-world-travel, you cannot begin to imagine how vulnerable and helpless you feel when you are thrown a curved ball like this.
I disembarked the plane in Addis at 21h35 and jumped onto the bus already crammed with other passengers. As I was trying to balance my laptop between my ankles and re-adjust my handluggage (one weighty, bulky shoulder handbag/purse and one 7kg overnight bag with NO spare clothes in it. Rather, it was weighed down by my binoculars, Canon camera and zoom lens, our African birding guide - a huge, heavy tome and my Bible) I was called from outside: was I destined for Khartoum ? When I nodded, the person told me to get off the bus and get into anther vehicle which would get me to my plane across the runway. My heart did a triple somersault. I asked the young man: "Do you mean to tell me our Khartoum flight has waited for us?" Man, I praise God for His everloving goodness and mercy!
When I entered the aircraft in which I would complete my journey and made my way through business class down the aisle to my seat in economy class, as I passed the passengers, I thanked them for waiting for me. Some nodded, others glared at me.

Descending to land in Khartoum just before midnight, I had my first impression of the Nile and this vibrant African city. Although it was dark, the street lights illuminated the enormous river creating a very romantic picture.
After passing through the rigorous customs and passport control (which took more than an hour in a cramped, aircon-less office with a television blaring its late-night dance program as well as three different
cell/mobile phones blasting their owners' preferred music from their respective desks,) I picked up my [by-now-despised-ugh!] handluggage and made my way to the carasole. I stopped dead in my tracks. The belt was stationary; there was only one set of luggage on it and it was not mine. Taking a deep breath I tried to work out my next move. To enquire as to the whereabouts of my case, would almost be an impossibilty. The few remaining airport officials looked as exhausted as I felt and they probably couldn't understand English. Then it hit me: my case was in Addis Ababa and would arrive on the next plane.
Walking to the exit of the airport building, I was hit by the most unbelievable wave of heat. Secondly, I could hardly get out of the glass doors because of the humanity wedged in there waiting for people who had arrived by plane. The African nation is very exuberant and excited. They cannot imagine waiting for something or someone to come to them. Rather they surge forward en masse and will block the only entrance or exit to a building, sports stadium or entertaiment venue. Which is what was happening here. However, I could see my 6'2" husband standing at the outer edge of this crowd and made my way (quite forcefully, by this time, lol) through the people to meet him.
Later while we travelled through the still-busting, brightly lit streets of Khartoum, he assured me that my luggage would arrive on the following plane (Friday night) from Addis Ababa. It's quite a worry (to a woman, at least) to think your luggage could be floating around the African continent, on its way to another destination.This happened to me on my first trip to West Africa in 2000. Our aircraft, Air Afrique, an airline company which has since become defunct, had broken down in Johannesburg; we all disembarked, waited in the airport terminal for another five hours, boarded another airline and eventually flew to Bamako. Arriving in the capital of Mali, I found I had no luggage. I had to fly out to the gold mining town 120 km/75 miles inland on the light company plane where my husband was stationed. A week later my luggage arrived - it had taken a detour to Dakar, Senegal, 400kms/ 250 miles to the west! But I digress. Back to my present luggage situation. My husband said he'd pop out to the airport this morning and check if my luggage had arrived.
Praise God! Half and hour ago, he phoned me from the airport: he had found my suitcase.
I have finally and completely arrived in Khartoum!
Donkeys are a regular mode of transport in the Sudan as in most African countries
Khartoum's tree-lined streets are a delight to the eye

Friday, August 21, 2009

Sunset over Camp in Guinea, West Africa

Sunset during at the onset of the dry months of winter when the Harmatan is prevailant. This is a thick layer of dust in the air which creates a hazy view.

For more beautiful skies across the world, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

At last, I'm off to the Sudan!

My garden here at home in South Africa

By the time this post is published today, I will be on my way to Bloemfontein. I catch the domestic flight to Johannesburg at 9:45 this morning. I board the international flight, Ethiopian Airlines at 14:15 and I'm on my way! Whoo-Hoo! Tomorrow, Friday, is SUNDAY in Sudan (confusing I know, but even I will have to get used to it!) so my husband is home. I should be set up in my home office in his apartment by Saturday morning and hope to get back to blogging.

I have glanced at all the comments and thank you all for your kind comments. Of course we ALL know how it feels like you're on a roller-coaster the last few days before a long trip.

Hear you all many thousands of kilometers up the continent!

The view from my husband's apartment in Khartoum (on a windy day, LOL!)

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

An apology...

I know I said that yesterday's installment would be continued today. I don't know what I was thinking. I have run helter skelter since the beginning of the week and not had a moment at the computer. I will continue this post as soon as I am settled in my husband's apartment in Khartoum. I've not visited any other blogs but relish the idea of spending Saturday (which is the first day of the week for my husband as Friday is Sunday in the Sudan) catching up on everyone's posts.
I do apologies to all who have commented on my posts this past week. I have not been able to reply yet because of time constraints. Phew! From living this serene life for the past five months, with only myself to look out for, to dashing about making meals, explaining the cat-and dog- feeding program to my darling d.i.l., Debbie who with son, John will be taking care of our home in my absence.
(PS I've not even started to pack yet!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Flying West Africa in 2001 - Part 1

The light plane which flew us expats out of camp in Guinea to the International airport in Bamako, Mali

Air travel between countries on the African continent is fraught with frustration, exhilaration, exasperation and surprises. One such trip out from Guinea to South Africa on our break in 2001, my husband and I were the only two passengers in the light plane which flew us to Bamako in Mali. The first leg of the trip was between Lero where we lived and worked and Siguirri, the immigrations airport. To call a dirt airstrip with a wooden shack where your passports where stamped by a bored -looking official, while gendarmes patrolled the area around the aircraft with AK47's, an airport, is being romantic. However, our passports were duly returned to us and my husband and I, the pilot and co-pilot boarded the plane once more.
Once all the pre-flight checks were done, the propellers began to spin in earnest and the plane began taxied down the airstrip. My husband, seatbelt fastened, clutched his arm rests, leaned back in his seat and closed his eyes. Even after ten years of flying in all sorts of aircraft, he is still a nervous passenger. I, on the other hand like to watch the actions in the cockpit which was visible from the back of the plane. I felt the plane gain momentum and knew within seconds the nose would lift and we would be airborne. It always fascinated me how the co-pilot controlled the joystick while the pilot had a sturdy grip on the lever below his hand. I once asked the crew why they did this and the pilot told me that the co-pilot had to push the joystick to the ultimate so that the plane would lift off but if he suddenly panicked at the last minute or lost courage, the pilot was there to ensure this action would still take place and avoid complications.
That day as the plane began to lift off the ground, I saw a flurry of hands as the pilot pulled the throttle back instead of assisting it forward. The plane slewed dangerously across the runway. I glanced out of the window on the left and saw a huge black cow saunter across the airstrip. We had just avoided hitting it! Eventually, the pilots brought the plane to a stop. They unbuckled their seatbelts, stood up and came through the cock-pit door. Apologizing (huh?) to us for the inconvenience, they asked us to disembark. Everyone was visibly shaken. We climbed out of the plane and waited while the pilots checked the tyres. They had applied such drastic brakes that the tyres could be damaged. If so, we'd have to overnight in Siguirri while new tyres were flown in from Bamako.
Fortunately there had been a heavy rainstorm just hours before and the laterite surface on the airstrip was very soft. The tyres were undamaged. Boarding the plane once more, we fastened our seatbelts and this time the plane took off with no further problems. We landed in Bamako an hour and fifteen minutes later.
We breathed a sigh of relief and looked across to the airport terminal for our liaison officer to take us back to the company guest house. Our relief was short-lived because we were not met with our normal, highly efficient contact, Esau but with Amadou, a new man who spoke only broken English and had only begun to work for the company that week. And that's not all; as we entered the customs section, we could also see that this man didn't have the authority that Esau had. There was a lot of haggling, armwaving and pointing to us mentioning our company's name. Eventually the customs official, giving us a disdainful look, stamped our passports and allowed us through. As we waited at the luggage carousal for our cases, the locals jostled each other to offr to porter our stuff. We always declined. The airport is milling with humanity and we'd heard horror stories of expats who'd allowed these men to push their luggage in trolleys, only to get to out into the hot African sun and the "porters" had disappeared into the crowds never to be seen again.
Once we'd loaded our luggage into the company Landcruiser, we clambered inside the ten- seater stationwagon with seven other expats and their luggage. They had just flown in from their break on the international flight from South Africa. Squashed up against the others in the middle seat, with my husband next to his 2IC who was taking over from him while we were on break, we hurtled across the teeming streets of the Malain capital to the company guest house.
An hour and twenty minutes later we arrived at the guest house. Everyone peeled out of the vehicle and began to unload their luggage. The incoming expats would stay overnight in the guest house, flying out to the three mining sites the next morning. Just then the company manager came out of the guest house, and noticing me and my husband, asked Amadou why he had brought us into the city. Apparently we were supposed to stay at the airport and catch the next flight out. My husband, not the most patient of people, jumped back into the vehicle and told Amadou to get us back to the airport "viid, viid!" which is collequil French for "hurry up".

After travelling through the city and arriving at the airport once more, Amadou dropped us at the terminal. We entered the building for the second time that day. As we produced our tickets at the check in counter, we were informed that the flight we were booked on would not be taking off that day. The plane had minor problems and the ground crew was trying to repair them. In those years there was only one connecting South African Airways flight a week in Abidjan on the Cote d'Ivoire .(Ivory Coast) If we didn't fly out of Mali to the Cote d'Ivoire that evening, we'd be stuck in Bamako for a week. Even worse, if we weren't in Abidjan to board the South African connection at 8 that night, we'd spend a week in that city.
(to be continued tomorrow)
For more on This is My World, click here.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Wired to Worship

The fundamental difference between humanity and animals is that animals don't worship; people do. God has essentially wired us this way. As Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, He has placed "eternity in our hearts." We sense there is something more, and it causes us to worship.

Of course, not everyone worships God. But when you get down to it, everyone worships. Everyone has built an altar in their lives to someone or something.

Often, our problems and questions are resolved in worship. Asaph, who was grappling with the age-old question of why the wicked prosper, wrote, "When I thought how to understand this, it was too painful for me-until I went into the sanctuary of God; then I understood their end. Surely You set them in slippery places; You cast them down to destruction" (Psalm 73:16-17).

Asaph didn't understand why things were the way they were until he came into God's presence to study His Word with His people. Then his questions came into proper perspective.

Worshipping God affects every aspect of our lives. When we neglect it, problems will develop, as we see in Romans 1:20-25. These verses offer a look at the downward steps that occur when we fail to worship God.

It all begins with a failure to worship and glorify God. Verse 21 says, "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God . . . " For example, you might decide that you don't need to go to church this week. Next week comes, and you're too busy. Soon, two months have gone by. Prayer is no longer a part of your life. Bible study is not a part of your life. Church is not a part of your life.

A downward spiral has begun. It may not happen overnight, but it starts with a failure to worship and glorify God.

The next step down is a failure to give thanks. If you don't glorify God as God, then it is inevitable that you won't give thanks to Him. Verse 21 says, "Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn't worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. The result was that their minds became dark and confused".

Some Christians neglect to give thanks at mealtimes, thinking of it as unnecessary. I think that it is a wonderful thing when an individual or family stops before a meal and prays. You are acknowledging that God has provided that meal for you. Even when you are in a public place, it is a good thing to do. If people see you, then let them see you. After all, you are giving thanks to God.

Next, failing to glorify God and to give thanks will result in turning to other gods or idols. Verse 23 says, "And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people, or birds and animals and snakes".

When God is removed, someone or something will take His place. Many people turn to belief systems designed to alleviate a guilt-ridden conscience. They think that whatever is true to them, if it is their truth, then that is good. Many people live this way.

Failing to glorify God and be thankful will not only cause idolatry to enter in, but degraded and wicked living will soon follow. We find this step down in verse 24: "So God let them go ahead and do whatever shameful things their hearts desired. As a result, they did vile and degrading things with each other's bodies."

If you don't have God in your life and you are not following His Word, then you don't have a moral compass. You don't know what is right and wrong anymore, so you just go with whatever feels good to you and become more and more depraved.

As I said, everyone worships something or someone. At what altar are you bowing today? Will that god be able to save you? Will that god be able to help you when crisis hits? The answer is no - if your god is anyone apart from Jesus Christ.

You were created to have fellowship with the true and living God. You were created to glorify Him. He will bring you the pleasure, fulfillment, and purpose that you have been seeking from other things. But it starts with worshipping Him.


Sunday, August 16, 2009

The View from the Top

This is the view from the mountain at the back of the mining camp, Base Vie where we lived in Guinea

Beautiful African bushveld at its best

Moosa and I stand on the edge overlooking the African bush. The small silver spot (to the right of the tree trunk) is one of the houses in the camp.

For more beautiful scenes from around the world, click here

Caught in the Act!

Is it a racoon, is it a...
It's a cat! It's Clarice! In the White-browed Sparrow Weaver's nest
OK OK I'm coming down
Uh-oh, it's quite high up here

I have to keep my eyes on the branch

Whoo-hee. If I'd known how high this was, I'd never have...

This is real narrow
Almost there
Not far to the roof now...
Phew! Made it! OK Mum, so what did you want?
For more photos of pets around the world, click here