South Africa – December 2008/January 2009
New York Airport (JFK)
South African Trip:
December 16, 2008 to January 11, 2008
We landed in Port Elizabeth on December 17, 2008 and were met at the airport by my brother Brenville and my niece and nephew. I was however surprised to see that my cousins Denise and Sandra with their husbands also came to meet us at the airport. Niloy, Sameer and I were then led to my nieces flat in Summerstrand on the beach front. After we settled in we went for dinner at Primi near Brookes Pavillion. We had some good food and South African beer. Then it was time to come home, because we were all very tired.
December 18, 2008:
We had an early start to the day. Qondaleke from the Ububtu Education Foundation came to pick us up and drove us to Zwide. We were able to see the Chris Hani informal Settlement, RDP housing projects and township life. We then went to the office and met with the various staff members, hearing about how the project get started and grew since 1999. The work that they do in the community is amazing, besides making sure that the urban youth work hard and get to college through various projects, thay also make sure that all these students eat at school every day through community gardens at schools. We visited one of the clinics that they support who caters to people living with HIV and Aids as well as TB. They do a lot of outreach and are actively involved in community upliftment ……. Ubuntu is visible in everything they do. They are also funded through the US and Canadian governments. We spent some time talking about the students they placed in universities, especially at Rhodes and how our USA Alumni can better support these students.
Qandeleke from Ubuntu Education Fund
Then it was time for lunch. We went to the Spur and had a great lunch and then stopped at The Boardwalk where we caught up on emails at the Internet Café. I headed back to the flat and Niloy and Sameer stayed on and decided to walk back. I’m sure they are having a great time. We will probably head to Barney’s for dinner. We also went to Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (UPE), but most departments were closed for the holidays. I did manage to take a picture in front of Ziggi’s a bar we frequented as students.
We went out to Barney’s for dinner and ended up having a really good time. We met up with Linda Meiring, Cathy Elliot and Grant (who looked like Brett Farve!) who went to UPE with me in the 90’s. After a loud reunion we shared a table, beers, old stories and lots of laughs. It was a pleasant surprise and good to see old college friends!!!!! Go oppi’s! Niloy and Sameer decided to go out a little more and I decided to stay in because we have to get n early start to Grahamstown tomorrow morning where I will be meeting with my Alumni Association at Rhodes University!
December 19, 2008
We got up early for our trip to Grahamstown. Rhodes University is situated in Grahamstown, about 130 kilometers from Port Elizabeth. Niloy and Sameer slept on the drive there. It was an exciting visit to Rhodes where I met with Prof. Peter Clayron – Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University. Prof Clayton is in charge of research and development and we discussed ways to help improve Math education in South Africa. I will be working on arranging an exchange program for SA Math teachers to visit high performing schools in the US Charter School network. We then went on a tour and our guide Michael took us all around campus. Niloy and Sameer were taken in by the beauty of the campus and compared it to a California Ivy League Campus. We then had lunch and shared some stories with all the staff of the Alumni House. Before we left it was picture time for the RHODOS, our campus Newspaper!!!
St. Claire, Niloy, Sameer at Rhodes University.
The drive home was pleasant with two sleeping beauties. We stopped at Sundays River to get some snacks before heading to my brother’s place. I was very excited to find that my missing bag was delivered to my brother’s house so all the gifts were saved. My sister also arrived from George by then and we were waiting for my dad to arrive from Cape Town. We then sat down for dinner. We had chicken curry, prawn curry, roast potatoes, Hong Kong Chicken, corn and rice with salad. It was a great meal. Still tired from the trip we retired to out apartment where the plan was to sleep for a few hours and head out, needless to say that we were so tired that we did not make it out at all.
Saturday, December 20, 2008
I woke up early and while the other guys were sleeping I went for a walk on the beach. It was so great and brought back many memories. People were surfing, swimming, rubber ducking, jogging …… the PE beachfront as I remember it. Now we are getting ready to go to breakfast at WIMPY and then head to the PE Oceanarium and snake park called Bay World. Niloy lost his contact in the bathroom this morning; he has another pair so he’ll still be able to enjoy all the sites … I mean see all the sites.
We went to WIMPY for breakfast (Niloy had 2) and saw a helicopter across the road giving tourist rides. We asked some questions about it and went across the road and booked our ride. A 10 minute ride cost us each R450 but it was amazing. We could see the city and was able to take some great aerial pictures of the beach and Summerstrand. Niloy got to sit in the front seat with the pilot.
Niloy, St. Claire and Sameer before our helicopter ride
After our helicopter ride we went to Bayworld where we saw a seal and the dolphins perform. The dolphins were a father and daughter team and they kept the crowd entertained and wet. After that we took a brief walk through the Museum and Snake Park. We then headed off to my Aunty Rosita’s house in Parkside. Here Niloy and Sameer met my cousin, Eshaam and after finding out that he loved and played basketball, they teamed up and left for Malabar to play some ball. I headed to my brothers house and Eshaam brought them there after they were done. They were able to meet one of my childhood friends, Carol Le Roux now a RN in the ICU of one of our local hospitals. We visited for a while and then headed to Delhi Snacks in Korsten to get dinner at one of my old hang-outs. Now it’s time to decide where to go for the night, I think Brookes Pavilion is top of the list, maybe Toby Joes or Tappas Al Sol. I guess Jetlag finally caught up because we did not make it out ):
Port Elizabeth Beachfront, Marine Drive: December 20, 2008
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Today is my nephew’s birthday and I got up early to go and buy him a gift. I bought him a gold ring at the Summerstrand Jewelry Store and did a bit of shopping for breakfast. I got back at 11.00am and found Niloy and Sameer still sleeping. Their bodies must be adjusting!!!!!!! We have to go to my brother’s place for the 21st birthday party of Kirston. I am extremely excited because I will be able to see many of my family members at the party. Time to wake up my buddies and get the day started.
So we were a little late for the celebration, when we there the speeches were already underway and I was put on the spot by my dad and had to deliver a speech. All the speeches were great and Kirston had a emotional speech thanking everyone in the immediate family for the role that they have played in his life. The food was served and everybody had a good time. We enjoyed s0ome lamb, chicken, rice, a variety of salads, bread rolls and some really good Cape Malay pastries. The guys were sitting around having beers and telling jokes. Uncle Boy was the highlight with all his funny jokes and saying good-bye 5 times. Niloy and Sameer had a great time. I managed to sit down and talk with some old college friends, uncles and aunts. We spent most of our day with the family before heading back to the apartment for a quick stop over before heading out. We went to Tappas Al Sol we met some great people, some who have been in the States before. The shot girls were very persistent and we could not say NO to having a few shots. We then headed off to PRIMI for a midnight dinner, for some or the other reason I think Niloy really likes PRIMI!!!
Monday, December 22, 2008
We set out early to meet up with my dad who was going to accompany us to Addo Elephant Park. When we got there the whole family decided to make the hour long trip. We stopped at Nando’s on the way and got some chicken burgers and sodas to hold us over until lunch time. We decided to take the game drive. It cost R190 per person and we got our personal guide.
What an exciting game drive. Zwaai our guide shared the rules with us and we were off. We spotted our first elephant shortly after that and then set forth in search of animals. We went to a watering hole as Zwaai knew the heat would bring many animals to wet their skins and take mud baths. He also informed us that elephant’s drink up to 200 liters of water a day. Wow, what an amazing site when we reached the water hole, Female as well as male elephants with little ones were cooling off. We got really close to them and it was quite a thrill. When the elephants left rhino came to take a mud bath. Once again we were stunned by the beauty of nature and these animals. Zwaai informed us that the Rhino was the most dangerous of the South African Big Five. We also saw some antelope and ostriches during our drive. Niloy and Sameer thought it was absolutely awesome to see and come so close to the animals. We briefly stopped at the Curio Shop before heading back to Port Elizabeth.
We had dinner at my brother’s place and watched a movie before heading home. We stopped at the Boardwalk to get on the internet and then had a few beers at News Café. Niloy had some passion fruit, a non-alcoholic drink he has taken a fancy to. Then it was off to bed.
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
We got up early once again and headed to Pick and Pay Supermarket to get flowers because we were going to visit my mom’s grave in Forest Hill Cemetery this morning. We also got some breakfast, Niloy got a chicken pie, I had a pepper steak pie and Sameer settled for two chocolate donuts. We bumped into Prof Piet Naude, a former teacher and Dean of mine at UPE. I introduced Niloy and Sameer to him. We then headed to the cemetery where we met my brother and my nephew.
Brenville, Kirston, St. Claire
Forest Hill Cemetery
Sameer and Niloy then left with my brother for a game of golf on our local Military base. They came back saying that they really enjoyed it. They took a shower before we headed to Malabar for dinner at my cousin’s place. We had a braai (BBQ) at Godfrey and Denise’s place and darn was it good. We had ribs, lamb chops, sosaties (kebabs), wors (sausage), roosterbrood (traditional bread cooked on the fire), salads and desert. There was so much food and it was cooked to perfection. It was almost 10pm when my nephew came to get Sameer and Niloy. They were heading out to play pool at one of our local pubs. It is now almost 2.00am and I expect them back at any time.
I also just received an email from US Immigration that my green card was mailed today. This is really good news and will make travelling so much easier. It was a long and tedious process and I am very glad that it is over.
December 24, 2008
Christmas Eve ….. I spent it the traditional South African way by doing the last minute shopping in the busy shopping malls and then heading to my brothers where the whole family got started on the cooking for Christmas lunch. It is quite a process because the Christmas lunch is quite a feast. We played some Christmas carols and my dad, brother, sister and I sang along. We then watched Christmas at the Riverria. Niloy and Sameer left just before lunch with Kirston and Melissa to Greenacres, one of our large shopping malls. I met them later at my brother’s house where we had Chinese for dinner. They then went bowling with my niece and nephew and their cousins. Niloy exclaimed that “Milky Bar” was the best candy that he ever tasted and wondered why it was not available in America. Sammer was the risk taker trying ox tongue (a South African delicatessen enjoyed at Christmas time) for the first time. He is a real trooper and promised to try a bigger piece at Christmas lunch.