Thursday, July 31, 2014

Good Fences, (Good) Woodland Kingfisher

 The vibrantly colored Woodland Kingfisher encircled by the barbed wire on the chain link fence around the explosives depot
 Only the free-flying birds, insects and reptiles are permitted unautorized entry into the area behind this secure-looking wire fence
As always the Kingfisher sits while the intrepid photographer clicks away!

I'm linking my post to Good Fences Thursday kindly hosted by TexWisGirl and which you can access by clicking here.

Monday, July 28, 2014

On our way to South Africa

At midday today we leave site (and our three kitties and two dogs) and drive to Mwanza. We stay overnight at the Malaika Hotel on the shores of Lake Victoria. Next morning we fly from Mwanza to Dar Es Salaam and at around 2.45pm we board the SAA flight to OR Tambo, Johannesburg. We sleep over in Johannesburg and next morning early, we board the domestic flight to Bloemfontein in the Free State. We have a driver collecting us in our car and will drive to our home town, Marquard 160kms to the east.

So, nothing is quick and easy traveling between East and South Africa. But we look forward to a lovely three-week holiday.

More later this week when we arrive "home" 

The things we leave behind for now...
 Dr Williamson, discoverer of Williamson Diamond Mines. His statue is a stone's throw from our house in Mwadui 

Children walking past my house 

Toffee, our old Askari/guard dog in the garden
 And our precious Princess who is also under Toffee's  tutorship as Askari dog! 
Shadow and Ambrose 
And Ginger

Until I land and reconnect in Marquard, here's wishing you all a wonderful week ahead! 

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Mum's leaving again!

Hello Bozo, Lindy and Mum's blog readers. This is Ambrose and I'm feeling sad; Mum's leaving us again . I know we're not left alone while she and our yoomen dad go to a F A R place; Regina and Michael and Mary take good care of us. It's just that we miss her when she goes. 

Yesterday Dad Ginger and I got into the suitcase while Unca Shadow watched from the side. 
 My dad Ginger doesn't know that I'm under the flap!
Here I jumped out while Unca Shadow watched me and my dad from the doorway

I'll won't be posting until our Mum comes home again but wish you all good-purrs until then.

For more cute pet posts, please click here

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Last Saturday Critter Party for July 2014

This post is the last I'm doing from Tanzania for now. We're on our way out on our break in South Africa. 

A drive through the bush last week, delivered many birds and several mammals, some of which I managed to photograph and others which we just saw and enjoyed! 

While at Songwa last Saturday evening, I spotted many birds but close by a pair of raptors gave me ample opportunity to photograph them. 

 A pair of African Harrier Hawks
 African Harrier Hawk 

On Sunday a drive through the bush we spotted several birds, the first one being a White-browed Coucal.
White-browed Coucal 

In the bush beyond, we saw a quick movement. I lifted my camera, focused and captured this pretty buck.

Along New Alhamasi Dam edge, we stopped to photograph a couple of waterbirds. Apart from a Little Egret, a Hamerkop, an Openbilled Stork, I also photographed a Yellow-billed Stork foraging in the shallows. When I downloaded the photos, however, I noticed a beautiful pinky-maroon sheen on the covert feathers. When I sent this off to Jez for an explanation, he replied that it was a breeding adult!
 Yellow-billed Stork in breeding plumage. Don't you just love the long, double-jointed legs?

Just around the corner, at our favorite patch of water (away from New Alhamasi Dam), Grant stopped for me to photograph the herons which always sit in a tree over the water. As always I love the pond-lilies and took several photos! 
 White Pond Lily

On the way home we stopped to photograph several Little Bee-eaters sitting on a dry bush nearby. Before I could focus on the one bird, it flew off and all I got was the image below. (This was before I learned about the "fast" function on my camera! 

Little Bee-eater in flight

Back home on Monday morning after I'd hung the washing on the line, I sat in the sun with the cats. As I watched a Kingfisher flew in and sat on a tree branch above. (If I hadn't seen it flying in, I would not have seen it!) I took several photos...
 Woodland Kingfisher in my garden

Yesterday I saw our smallest and youngest cat, Ambrose (he, who does a Sunday post!) with his head stuck in the airbricks on the veranda. Grant and I are always amused by this and call him the headless cat. I couldn't see any birds out in the garden, so decided to go outside and check what was so fascinating to this sweet little boy of ours. First I saw nothing and then something scuttled past my feet and up a tree trunk near Johan's cottage. I rushed inside, grabbed my camera and snapped away.
 Agama Lizard in my garden

And finally a few photos of darling Princess who, at seven months, is a sweet young dog with the most amazing nature.
 Is this my best side?

 Or is this better?
Oh OK, this is my demure young lady look! 

I'm linking today's post to Saturday Critters Party with Eileen which you can visit by clicking here

I hope you're all having a really great weekend!



Friday, July 25, 2014

Winter sunset over Songwa Dam


Last Saturday we joined friends, Wessel, Louise and their young son, Wessie at Songwa dam. This beautiful body of water is situated outside town after crossing the main road.

Apart from enjoying a lovely evening together, we also watched the sun setting over the dam. Stunningly beautiful, don't you think?

I'm linking my post today with Skywatch Friday which you can access by clicking here

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Good fences, gorgeous grandchildren

Eijah and Bethany, two of our precious eight grandchildren!

For more Good Fences posts, please click here

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

More Winter Birding in and around Mwadui

Well, since last Wednesday when I posted on this meme, we've enjoyed several bird sightings. One has to wonder if the dry and dusty conditions really do prohibit  prevent good sightings! 

As we left the mining area and entered the bush proper, we stopped to photograph this little bird.
Grey-capped Social Weaver
Around the next corner, we stopped to photograph the ever-obliging d'Arnaud's Barbet

While I focused on the barbet above, we could hear the call of the  most elusive Slate-colored Bou-bou. I turned around, spotted the bird in a bush behind me and managed to capture this bird quite clearly at last. 

 Slate-colored Bou-bou

Recently Wessel showed me another feature on my camera. It would enable me to take photos of fast - moving objects; in my case: of birds in flight. I noticed a raptor soaring above us and swung my camera up to capture it. Although it's not very close (I'll master that part yet!) and I can't identify the bird, I was thrilled to be able to get this shot.

Raptor in flight: an image I captured using a function on my camera which I didn't know I had! 

Driving along towards New Alhamasi Dam which has been so full since the summer rains, that we've not been there for a while, Grant spotted a Coucal hopping across the road. These birds have a flopping, waddling gait on the ground and when moving in and around bushes and trees above. It's also surprising to see a coucal, as I always equate this bird with heralding the rain. (and it's dry season now in Northern Tanzania) 

White-browed Coucal

Still riding along the road next to the dam, we spotted a Grey-headed Kingfisher. As always, this bird always sits still while I get good photos! 

Grey-headed Kingfisher

On our right, we watched a pair of Long-tailed Cormorant sunning themselves on a dry tree in a body of water
Just below them was a third cormorant in an iconic stance drying its wings

Grant drove up onto the dam wall and turned the vehicle around. We drove along with New Alhamasi dam on my left. Soon I was calling for Grant to stop so that I could capture the many birds sitting on dry branches in the dam or forages on the water's edge.

African Pied Wagtail
Little Egret with its diagnostic yellow feet
Malachite Kingfisher
Pied Kingfisher
Yellow-billed Stork (I believe the pink-tinged wing coverts mean it's a breeding adult, but that's still to be confirmed)

Then it was time to wend our way back to town. As we left the dam area, we both spotted what, at first looked like a pigeon;  but it landed in tree nearby, and looked like it was eating fruit or greenery on it. Grant stopped the car, I got out and crept towards the tree. I managed one decent photo before the bird  flew away. 

Red-necked Falcon

Along the slimes dam wall, we stopped to watch another another bird which always affords great photo opportunities.  

 I'm linking this post to Wild Bird Wednesday which you can visit by clicking here
I hope you're all having a wonderful week full of birding and whatever else you enjoy.

Say no more...

For more Wordless Wednesday posts, please click here

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Pottery in Mwadui

On many occasions, I've posted about my twice-weekly pottery lessons. Apart from being an art which I've learned since being in Mwadui, it's also a social gathering of expat ladies to beat all other social gatherings!

Two-and-a-half years ago,  I joined the only other two ladies on camp at the time;  Tilla, who is almost 67, me at 61 + and Amanda who is 53. Amanda, of course it the potter and under her tutorship (and plenty of trial and error), I have slowly come up through the ranks to a reasonably artistic potter. Under Tilla's tutorship, I have learned perfection as only Tilla can exact perfection. So I am a combination of artistic bent from Amanda and part-perfection (I don't aspire to perfectionism as that is painful! LOL!) from Tilla!

Then more women arrived on site: in February 2013, Louise joined her husband, Wessel here. They have a 12 year-old son, Wessie whom Louise home schools. Although Louise hasn't joined the pottery classes,  she permits Wessie to attend classes for an hour each of those days! 

Around that time, we met two young Americans living in Mwadui. Eric is a teacher at the Lutheran school and his wife,  Linda is a part-time student councilor and deaconess. So Linda was invited to join our pottery classes. 
In October, a new client general manager was appointed  and his wife, Marita accompanied him. So another pupil at the pottery studio! In March this year, Debbie joined her fiance, Phillip on camp; and you guessed it: she has joined the pottery classes! Because Phillip works in the recovery plant on the weekends, he has two days off during the week. Now Phillip has joined us Tuesdays as well! 

As I said in the first paragraph, this gathering is the social gathering of all time! Two weeks ago, while Marita's two sisters visited, they joined the class on Thursday. I was sitting at the painting table with my latest project (I hope to glaze and bake it today) and all I could hear was a babble of excited women's voices!  
 Several items which I made during this last stint on site 
 A mobile which I made for my friend to hang in her beach house in the Southern Cape

Today Amanda and I are alone in the studio. Tilla, Marita and Debbie have gone out on their holiday break to South Africa. If Linda doesn't have a school commitment, she will join us as well. It should be quite a quiet session although women always like to talk!

Over the past three months, I've made several items; mostly gifts for friends in SA. One project I decided on, though, took up a great deal of my time and in the end it didn't turn out a success. Last year I drew  and cut out a  map of Africa. Forgetting that when you bake a pottery item, it has a 15% shrinkage, it was a lot smaller than I intended. So when it came to painting the umpteen countries on it, it was a real challenge. (At one stage I had Kenya - or was it Tanzania - landlocked!) This time I cut out a much larger map of our continent. Once we'd bisqued it (first firing), I had great fun painting each country in different colors. I kept a wooden child's puzzle nearby to keep to the exact mapping! 

Then came adding the names; hoo-boy! When I got to West Africa and especially the Ivory Coast, I kept "losing" whole countries. I remember Amanda looking over my shoulder where I worked at the painting table and saying: "Where is Sierra Leone! " 

* Sigh*

After two weeks of two-hourly sessions twice during that fortnight, I had completed my Africa. I placed it on my shelf for the next glazing and firing day. As I walked out, I said to Amanda that I don't feel good about this paint job. And she muttered, "If aren't happy with something, rather re-do it. "  

This happened on a Thursday class. I had the whole weekend and Monday to think about my dissatisfaction with my artwork . By the time I arrived at the studio on Tuesday, my mind was made up! 

I picked up Africa, walked to the tap/faucet on the studio veranda and washed off all the paint! Tilla saw me doing this and almost had an apoplexy! She couldn't believe that after all the hours I'd invested in this piece, I was going to start over. When I explained to her that I didn't think it was good enough yet, she (being a perfectionist, remember) agreed! 

I only had to touch-up the country colors a little and then I got to adding the names. This time I used a special pencil instead of trying to paint the names on with a fine brush and black paint. Although I was thrilled to bits when I'd finished this time, and left my item on my shelf for glazing and baking later that week, unbeknown to us, the glaze caused this pencil to run and the result was... 


My two pottery items; the blue one I made last year: not good. The colorful one I spent many hours trying to get the perfect continent and it turned out...not at all what I envisioned! 

I've decided to leave the Africa map for now and when I return from my break in SA at the end of August I will make another one and give this project another go! 

I'm linking my post today to Our World Africa which you can visit by clicking here

Monday, July 21, 2014

What a week!

As mentioned in last Monday's post, most of the time, so much nothing happens in Mwadui. And then you have weeks of things happening. Some pleasant like Thys' surprise party at the Guest House lapa last Friday. And others not so pleasant; like having to get expats out because they need urgent medical attention. 

Ten days ago at midnight,  Thys knocked on our bedroom window. He called out to Grant that Theo (our Ghanaian plant supervisor) had been taken to hospital with a suspected heart attack. Thys' words were: "Theo's still alive, but I think you need to go to the hospital!" Well, you can imagine!  

Grant jumped out of bed, got dressed and soon was driving up the road to the hospital. He was away for about two hours and when he returned, he told me that he'd been in consultation with the doctor who suggested that Theo is flown to Nairobi for further observation. Grant contacted the emergency medical services who would airlift Theo as soon as it was light.

The next day, as the light plane flew over Mwadui, I had several Whatsapp messages from my friends on camp who wanted to know what was going on! Theo was airlifted safely and taken to the Aga Khan Hospital in Nairobi. He is about to be flown to India for heart surgery but holding out just fine.

Last week without warning, I suddenly spotted a spot in my left eye. It was the strangest sensation; as I moved my eyeball, I'd see a bubble within the eye!  I made an appointment with SpecSavers, a South African optometry company which also operates in Mwanza and on Thursday Grant and I went to the city with trusty driver, William at the wheel! 

No sooner were we on the road, when Grant received a call from Thys who'd been to the doctor; he'd been suffering with mild chest pains and high blood pressure. The doctor suggested that Thys flies out (commercially this time) to South Africa to have a proper examination. So while we traveled along, Grant arranged flight bookings (which I later paid at a travel agency directly next door to SpecSavers!), and dealt with HR at our HO in Dar.  Meanwhile, I was on Whatsapp keeping Thys' wife, Elize, informed about the proceedings.  She was naturally very worried about her husband so far away, but I assured her that we were doing all possible to get him to SA soon. 

By now we'd arrived in Mwanza and at the optometrist. to find out about my eye condition. In 1999, I had laser treatment done to both my eyes. After 46 years of suffering with severe myopia, I suddenly had the best eyesight ever! And it has never wavered. Apart from wearing reading glasses for computer work and reading, I am able to see well into the distance without aid. The optometrist did all the tests necessary and then told me that the bubble - also known as a floater -  within my eye, is age-related. There is no real cure; he prescribed eye drops to help the irritation and here I am, just living with this spot in my eye! I must admit it has become less irritating as time goes by. 

Thys flew out to Johannesburg on Friday and Elize notified me of his arrival that evening. She has made an appointment with a renowned intern in Bloemfontein on Monday. She will let me know the outcome in due course.

While in Mwanza, Grant and I stopped off at Malaika Hotel, on the shores of Lake Victoria. We love to have lunch here: real Indian cuisine.

The view over the shores of Lake Victoria from the hotel's open - air dining area  

 Traditional Indian fare is served in traditional Indian dishes

Vegetable briyani, paneer in spicy sauce and chappati; delicious! 

I wish you all a wonderful week ahead.