Thursday, November 29, 2012

On our way!

We've been home in South Africa since Saturday and as usual it's been "all systems go!" Grant had his eye check-up on Tuesday, I had a few routine examinations. On Wednesday I had to renew my South African driver's license which is always a great challenge, because of the system and staff attitudes at the official offices. However, I had all my information ready (certified copy of my SA ID, now-expired driver's license card, an official form completed and the exact amount of money) so it all went very smoothly. Within twenty minutes I had paid, arranged for a proxy to collect my new license card when it arrived and left the premises. Whoo-hoo! (Unless you've had the experience of applying for or renewing any personal documents anywhere in Africa - even South Africa - you won't know the jaw-grinding frustration and eye-rolling exasperation a person experiences. So my pleasant experience yesterday was a welcome relief!) 

Grant and I are off on a bike trip to the Southern Cape. As this post is aired, we'll be mounting our trusty machine and set off on our journeyLast night after we'd taken the three dogs for a long walk on the golf course, he prepared the bike and I walked around taking photos of our house, garden and pets. 
Collages of various angles of our house and garages - mainly from the back where we spend all our time!
 The view of my garden from our bedroom

The front of our house (which we never use, inside and out) our driveway and our darling Labrador, Angie
 From top: Megan our Maltese x, Eddie the Jack Russel and Angie. Center Chip and Felix, our last two remaining cats in South Africa, and bottom Felix again and Angie and Eddie asleep at the front door. The dogs never come indoors

I wish you all a wonderful day today,  a pleasant weekend tomorrow, and safe and healthy week ahead. Till we meet again here on Blogger, bless you all!   

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thank you!

Many thanks to all who commented on my post about Tigger yesterday and for your kind thoughts and condolences. It meant so much to us to know there are people out there who have gone through the same thing with beloved pets and reached out in sympathy to us.

While we were waiting in the vet's surgery for the sedative to take effect on Tigger, the young receptionist whom we know well and also remembers Tigger from a previous time four years ago when he spent three weeks in "hospital" with them, came and put her arms around me a gave me a hug. 

Later as we walked out, she handed me an envelope and said I could open in in the car.  I did. It contained a poem which, while I read it, made me well up again. I thought I'd post this poem here for anyone who may be - or has been - in the same position as a pet -owner,  as we were this weekend. This may just help you to make that final decision and also console you in your sadness.

If it should be

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should wake me from my sleep
Then you must do what must be done
For this last battle cannot be won

You will be sad, I understand
Don't allow your grief to stay your hand
For this day, more than all the rest
Your love and friendship will stand the test

We've had so many happy years
What is to come will hold no fears
You'd not want me to suffer, so
When the time comes, please let me go

I know in time you too will see
It's a kindness you do to me
Although my tail its last has waved
From pain and suffering I have been saved

Do not grieve that it should be you
Who has to decide this thing to do
We've been close through all these years
Don't let your heart hold any tears

(Author unknown)

One last photo of Tigger taken in September

May  you all have a wonderful day.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A sad homecoming

 Tigger, three months ago, still looking fit and healthy...

We arrived home in Marquard late on Saturday afternoon. After unloading our luggage and saying goodbye to Angus and family, we greeted the excited dogs out on the patio. Coming indoors I saw Felix and Chip on the pool table but bent down to greet Tigger who always sleeps on a plaid blanket on a dining chair under the table. I was shocked to see the deterioration in my 16 1/2 year-old ginger cat since we'd left home three months ago. Emily had told me a week ago that he was struggling to eat solid food and she was tempting him with morsels of tinned pilchards and fish juice washed down with warm diluted cow's milk. But now he had gummy eyes and a black rim around his mouth. When I stroked his back, all I felt was skin and jutting bones. I cleaned his eyes and mouth and brought him morsels of fish and warm milk which he ate.

Later on he staggered into our bedroom and clawed his way up my side of the bed. There he kept nudging me purring all the time. I fetched his plaid blanket and draped it over the end of our bed and placed a bowl of water in the corner of the room. We all fell asleep but later I woke and found he was not on the bed any longer. I checked through the house and eventually found him in my bathroom cupboard sleeping on a pile of fluffy towels. He got up when he saw me, meowed and had a long drink of water. Then he went back inside the cupboard and fell asleep.

On Sunday morning, Grant checked on him in the cupboard and said he had a black rim around his mouth again. I washed him again but he kept trying to claw my hand away from his face. I decided to phone our vet in a town about 60km away to see if they had an emergency service on Sundays. They do and made told us to come in immediately.

I made a comfortable bed of blankets and towels at my feet in the car and carried my dear old cat out in another large towel. Although I placed him on the floor, we hadn't gone 10km when Tigger sat up and tried to climb up onto the seat. I picked him up, still wrapped in the towel, set him on my lap where he tried to take an interest in the passing countryside. All the while I chatted to him about what a beautiful and spirited little kitten he was. He also never caught birds, lizards, mice or anything that cats normally hunt.

We duly arrived at the vet 's office where he and his receptionist showed us into the surgery. He weighed Tigger who tipped the scales at 1.8kg! His normal weight until about six months ago was 5kg. A quick look at the old cat, and his prognosis was not good. He said that Tigger's kidneys had failed; that is why he had bleeding ulcers in his mouth. He never suggested anything but when I said I felt we'd made that decision that pet-owners hate to make, he explained how he did it. He first administered a sedative and then would inject straight into the heart until it stopped. He asked if I'd like to leave the cat but I asked if I could stay with him. (Gran, who cannot handle any of this, stayed in the reception area) While we waited for the sedative to take effect, I stroked Tigger and told him he'd soon be seeing his old friend, Mandu (our West African cat) and also Magnus our Scottie with whom Tigger had grown up in the nineties.

Finally the vet administered "the" injection and within a few minutes Tigger sighed once and was gone.

He is buried under the orange tree in our garden and will remain in our hearts forever. 

Rest In Peace, dearest old Tigger.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Where's our mum?

Hi Bozo, last week I, Ginger jumped onto the top of our cat-tree. I never go up there as I'm rather unfit and [according to some] too heavy to get up high. But I wanted to prove a point: our yoomens are away again, but we won't stress - we will be well-cared for by Regina and Pendo and soon our mum will be back in Tanzania again... 

Well, let's hope so.

 Meanwhile, Shadow is grooming himself; it seems he's not too concerned about where "she" is - for now anyway.  
 Ambrose as usual tried to sneak into the travel bag before they left but mum took a snapshot of him and that was that. He's also here waiting...

For more posts about pets around the world, click here

Saturday, November 24, 2012

In transit from East to South Africa


Lake Victoria by day

 The Tilapia Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria
 Lake Victoria by night

After spending the night in Mwanza, Grant and I caught the early morning flight to Dar Es Salaam on Friday. Arriving in the city mid-morning (even on the day before the weekend) was a treat traffic-wise. Normally, when Mohammed our taxi collects us late in the afternoon, we spend the better part of three hours grid-locked with thousands of other commuters all with the same idea (that of getting to your destination for the evening!) Today we weaved through the streets with ease and were booked into our hotel by 11.30am.
The view of the Indian Ocean from our hotel room

It is as pretty as the picture suggests

Tomorrow morning Mohammed collects us at 4.30, takes us through the deserted streets of Dar es Salaam to the airport (*sigh* why does it feel as if we're always in transit? LOL!), we board the 6.35 flight bound for South Africa. Four hours of flying, minus an hour time-difference and we land at Oliver Tambo Airport, Johannesburg at 10.30. Give or take between ten and forty -five minutes to clear customs, we collect our luggage and head for the domestic departures way across in another terminal.  

Once we've checked our luggage into the Johannesburg/ Bloemfontein flight, we normally only have a fifteen - minute wait before we board the smaller plane bound for home.

All things being equal, we should land in Bloemfontein by 12.30 on Saturday where our son, Angus, daughter-in-law, Amanda and our grandchildren will meet us and take us home to Marquard. 

I hope you're all having a great weekend. Speak to you later from our home in Marquard.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Summer skies over Tanzania

The long road ahead...

...stretching into the blue yonder. 

Today as this post is aired, we'll have spent the night in a hotel in Mwanza on the shores of Lake Victoria and are on our way to Dar Es Salaam on the next leg of our journey home to South Africa.

You all have a wonderful weekend.

For more beautiful sky posts, click here

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Going on leave today!

At about midday today Grant and I will say goodbye to our kitties here at home, to the Guest House staff over at the GH and to Thys and Marnitz. We are off on our three-week break in SA. We leave Mwadui and travel for two hours to Mwanza. tonight we'll stay over in Mwanza at the Tilapia Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria. The idea is to catch the early morning flight to Dar Es Salaam instead of the one we normally take at 1.45pm. This way we arrive in Dar Es Salaam at about 10am, drive through the horrific traffic to our hotel on the shores of the Indian Ocean and have most of the day to do some Christmas shopping for the company. Whatever we buy, we'll leave with Mohamed our taxi driver in Dar and collect it on the way back in mid-December.
 I'll miss the quiet tree-lined streets of Mwadui
I'll miss our three cats who, in turn, if they have their food laid on, probably won't even notice my absence! 
I definitely won't miss the frequent and hours-long power-outages that are part of summer here in Tanzania!  

Instead of going home for Christmas, Grant has given a couple of other expats the option of spending the special holiday with their loved ones. We will be back in Mwadui for Christmas but we're not alone. Most of our friends from the Client company are also here. We ladies have already arranged a good Christmas Day at the pool, but more about that much later.

As usual we will stay overnight at the SeaCliff hotel in Dar Es Salaam and catch the morning flight to Johannesburg,  South Africa on Saturday. In Johannesburg we connect with our domestic flight and should land in Bloemfontein at 12.30. Angus and Amanda and their precious little ones will meet us at the airport. From there it's an hour-and-a-half drive home to Marquard. 

I hope you're all having a great week.

Birding around Mwadui and in my garden!

Earlier this week I posted about a ride around the mine on Saturday and a trip to spot birds in the bush outside Mwadui on Sunday evening. The first day I was thrilled when Grant stopped just inside the mine for me to photograph a kingfisher on the power lines above the road. Although not the first time that I see this bird, or even photograph it; it was the first time I managed to zoom in properly and get several beautiful clear pictures. Behold my first-ever clear photos of a ...
 Striped Kingfisher

 And again. Isn't it a beautifully clear image? I am so thrilled with these photos, I just have to show you ...


On Sunday, as I posted before, we had real lean pickings in the birdwatching section. However, Grant, Wessel and I enjoyed the ride out into the African bush and I even managed to take some lovely photos of the trees and lush countryside now that summer is upon us. On the way back, Grant drove along the airfield towards town. And there in the middle of the strip was a strikingly beautiful bird strutting along obviously feeding on insects on the ground.

Once again Grant stopped so that I could get photos. Although I knew this was some type of plover, I had to wait until I got home to identify it in my African bird book.

 Spur-wing Plover (Spur-wing Lapwing) 

Even though I took several photos, I was unable to catch the glint/light in the bird's eye. I realized why when I read in the description that it has dull red eyes! 

Back home this week,  I heard the early morning call of the Grey-headed Kingfisher. As soon as I could, I headed out into the garden with my camera. But no matter how long I waited under the tree where I could hear it calling, I just could not manage to see it. Michael, who is relieving Askari Edward while he's away, called me to see an ndege/ bird at the back of our house. I tiptoed along behind him until he stopped and pointed to the orange tree! An African Paradise Fly-catcher, which is prominent and resident in our garden, was sitting on its nest. This bird is a distinctive bird; the male has a blackish-blue head with a bright blue bill and eye-ring; the back and long tail is chestnut and the underparts of grey. The female is similar but has a duller eye-ring and bill and a shorter tail. Both the male and female take turns to sit on the nest. 

I took photos of the male sitting on the nest. I saw that he was quite suspicious of my presence and took care not to show myself too much and so disturb him. After lunch I couldn't wait to show Grant the nest and I was delighted to see the female sitting on the nest this time. Of course, I dashed back into the house for my camera and took photos of her too. Take a look at the unique art of camouflage and sharing of parenting in this breeding situation. Note too, the differences between these two birds in my photos below.  
 African Paradise Flycatcher male on the nest in an orange tree in the garden
The male was quite suspicious of my presence so as soon as I had a few photos, I left him in peace! 
African Paradise Flycatcher takes her turn on the nest

Although she kept her eye on me below, she was a lot less suspicious than her mate! 
So this is my story about the fantastic birds (even though only a few) that we saw in and around Mwadui this week. 

I hope you're all having a great day.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Gardening and art in Mwadui

Yesterday I finally finished painting the pottery tiles Amanda had left for me. These are for my friend, Sonja who has moved back to SA. The tiles will be baked when Amanda returns in December and afterwards any one of us South Africans going out again in the New Year, will take them home to Sonja! This is the first time I have ever drawn anything so it was quite a challenge. However, I am motivated now to continue with this exciting new hobby when I return to camp next month.
My first solo attempt at drawing, painting and decorating pottery tiles. You can see by the designs that I pulled out all the stops. I sure had fun!

As it's four months since we enclosed our back garden, I thought I'd share photos of what it looked like before and what it's like now.
 Photo taken mid-June with friends at the back of our house
 Our enclosed garden photographed this week
 A closer, wider view of the enclosed garden: note the three cats enjoying the greenery

Before we enclosed the back area with reeds, due to two boisterous dogs in our large garden, the cats weren't able to wander safely outside. Having this cosy area has made a great difference and we spend most evenings out there with our kitties. Often Marnitz joins us and as posted before we've had a potjiekos meal as well as many BBQ's out here. 

One thing we discovered though, was that our youngest cat, Ambrose is able to clear the fence in one swoop if left to his own devices. In fact, one evening something (I cannot think what) spooked him and he did exactly that. Marnitz and I dashed around the outside of the reed walls and there was little Ambrose, crouching in between the roots of a tree just beyond the fence. Two very surprised dogs, sitting about a meter away were just staring at this apparition which had fallen from the sky I yelled so loudly (at the dogs, poor things) that Ambrose took fright once more and sailed back over the fence into the garden where Grant was waiting! 

Last week Grant sent two men from the workshop to add six rows of wire suspended between angle iron stays which they'd welded to the orignal  posts. Facing inwards, we hope this is a deterrent if ever Ambrose should try to clear the fence again! 
 Semunye and Asmani add six strands of wires to the top of our fence

Meanwhile I have sown and successfully grown planters of herbs and sweet pepper seeds just outside my back door. I also brought back a sprig of mint from home in September.  I mollycoddled it in a small tin in my bedroom window until it had eight leaves true. Then I planted it out into a larger plastic container outdoors where it is doing exceptionally well. I have asked  Edward to water it and the other herbs daily while I'm on leave.
Young, strong basil plants grace the rectangular planter; the  round bottle in the center boasts my healthy South African mint, the lush plants in the background bottle are cat-nip (the cats have turned their noses up at this!) and the newly planted bottle in the front will soon sprout sweet peppers and coriander/cilantro. 

Last but not least, I have two sunken bird baths in the garden which, along with seeds that I put out daily, attracts a host of Grey-headed Sparrows, several Spotted Palm Thrushes, Red-cheeked Cordon-bleus, Red-billed Firefinch and the ubiquitous doves. There are also a few resident colorful lizards who rush up to the seeds and nuts for a quick snack. At night we've heard (and also seen while out there BBQ'ing with friends) frogs enjoying the refreshing water of the ponds. 
 The "piece of string" that interested Ambrose in the garden turned out to be a dead baby snake

This week while sitting out while the cats frolicked around in  the garden beds, we noticed Ambrose trying to lift, what looked like, a piece of white string. Eventually I unfurled myself from my relaxed position on the garden chair and walked over to have a look. It was a baby snake, albeit dead as the proverbial doornail. It had been dead for a while, so we couldn't blame Ambrose for its demise!  The fact that we already have a variety [small] wildlife visiting our garden is exciting. It makes you realize that the garden is healthy, inviting and alive 

I hope you're all having a great week.  

Bottoms up!

White-faced Whistling Duck on a dam outside Mwadui (You'll have to take my word for it, LOL!)  

For more posts on Wordless Wednesday, click here

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

A ride through our world in Mwadui

On Sunday afternoon, Grant and I collected Wessel (remember my IT friend and helper with all things electronic?) from his house and drove off into the bush. We were going to do a spot of birding. We hadn't been out together for about three months  as we'd been on leave in September, and Wessel was out in October so we had lots of news to catch up on. 

We had ridden for about twenty minutes when we realized that we'd not seen one bird or even a sign of wild life. Nevertheless, the drive was beautiful; since the last time we'd all been along this route together, we'd had ample rain and the world had greened up considerably. 

Grant stopped several times for me to get out and take photos of the village I'd posted about many months ago. Wessel told us that during the eighties, a whole settlement of people stayed in between these trees. To this day there are still the remains of buildings and rubble. Now it is just nature but still every bit as beautiful and peaceful as it must have been then.
Summertime [in Tanzania] and the living is easy...

All three of us spotted a movement along the road at the same time and all three shouted ["what's that ahead?"] at once! As we drew closer, we saw that it was a lady on a bicycle and not deer or large bird. She made such a pretty picture against the beautiful trees, that I had to capture the image.
Women riding bicycles is a common sight in Tanzania

We put the lack of birds down to the fact that a huge storm was brewing on the horizon. Grant stopped so that I could photograph a tree in full bloom against the brooding sky.

Is this not the most heart-stopping beauty? 

On the way back, Grant stopped so that I could take photos and Wessel could have a smoke break. He and Wessel continued talking about whatever they were talking about in the car! 

Wessel and Grant chat up a storm! (no pun intended!)

Thanks for the comments on my post about our ride around the mine on Saturday. The mining photos I posted are of the "pit". When we talk about the mine, it is the whole area: the dams, the processing plant (we have no access to this) the sort-house (ditto, re access!) and the conveyors and other machinery that make up the mining operations.

I have linked with Our World Tuesday which you can see by clicking here