My English diary published on my website since May 2001
Latest entry March 20th, 2005
1, Cessenon sur Orb (France), Sunday, May 6th, 2001
2, Cessenon sur Orb (France), Sunday, May 12th, 2001
3, Cessenon sur Orb (France), Friday, May 25th, 2001
4, Cessenon sur Orb (France), Tuesday, May 29th, 2001
5, Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Monday, June 11th, 2001
6, Cessenon sur Orb (France), Monday, June 25th, 2001
7, Nice (Rivièra, France), July 19th, 2001
8, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Wednesday, October 10th, 2001
9, Madrid, Barajas, Thursday, January 10th 2002
10, Springbok, South Africa, Saturday, January 26th 2002
11, Omaruru, Namibia, Wednesday, March 27th 2002
12, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Friday, May 24th 2002
13, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Saturday, May 25th 2002
14, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Sunday, May 26th 2002
15, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Monday, May 27th 2002
16, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Tuesday, May 28th 2002
17, Barcelona, On the airport, Thursday, May 30th 2002
18, San Sebastián de La Gomera, Sunday, September 15th 2002
19, Waipu, New Zealand, Thursday, January 30th, 2003
20, Gellibrand, Victoria, Australia, Tuesday, March 18th, 2003
21, Whiritoa, New Zealand, Thursday, March 27th, 2003
22, Whiritoa, Coromandel Coast, Thursday, April 17th, 2003
23, Upington, South Africa, Sunday, February 8th, 2004
24, Upington, South Africa, Saturday, February 28th, 2004
25, Windhoek, Namibia, Sunday, March 14th, 2004
26, Benoni, near Johannesburg, Saturday, April 17th, 2004
27, Playa de Santiago, La Gomera Isle, Sunday, April 25th, 2004
28, Iquique (Chile), Hostal Obispo Labbe, Sunday, March 20th, 2005
Cessenon sur Orb (France), Sunday, May 6th, 2001
Just a few words to starting my diary in English.
Since my stay in South-Africa in 1999/2000 already, when I started my web-based diary in Dutch, I have been dreaming of a practical way of realizing something similar in other languages without falling back on duplicating or --even more boring-- on translating. "No way" I would let these foreign language 'notes' outgrow to the column-like dutch version, but I do realize that every event can be be told in many different ways. Writing this diary, I feel that most of what happens around me is left untold. So why not select from this rich source of the untold?
The mere fact that I am now eight days in Cessenon, spent 13 hrs cutting 100 sqm of the 700 sqm to be cut producing 7 cubic meters twigs and branches will make you wonder how much more time I'll have to spend to cut back the hedge all around the property. I left untold how I will carry off the remaining cubic meters as the neighbour who helped me out with his tractor --and his wife with a broom-- was explicitly only willing to do so because is was his driveway of 50 meters along our property I had smirched.
Neither in the french, nor in the spanish version where I mentioned the snails I picked myself from the vineyard at the other side of the property to prepare a excellent plate last Thursday, did I mention the recipe. This will also keep you wondering, but it contains pertinent information about my way of life in this village of 1618 inhabitants 17kms west of Béziers in France.
And, yes, I had a fine voyage. Starting in La Gomera Thursday on 18.30, I arrived here in Cessenon on Saturday just before noon, having spend one night nodding on the airport in Tenerife and the other one sleeping in a proper hotel in Béziers where I arrived 22.55 on Friday. It was just a bit more comfortable than Perth to Tenerife earlier in April. Also this reflects pertinent information about my way of travelling.
Which proofs that I don't need to translate any of the other dagboeken, brouillons, apuntes or notizen.
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Cessenon sur Orb (France), Sunday, May 12th, 2001
"That-Was-The-Week-That-Was", in the 60s, was a satirical TV (or Radio?) programme. I hardly remember more than its title, but it describes perfectly my feelings right now, sitting at my Toshiba Libretto 50CT and looking back at my second week in Cessenon.
Several early mornings were so cold that I had to stay in bed reading or writing until the sun came out. (As you might not know, I am, as they say in spanish a friolero, very sensitive to cold, which is poorly in balance with my active morning hours starting at 4 or 5 AM).
And there was the 700sqm hedge begging to be cut, competing for attention with my brisk 2-hour walk, which is a more pleasant form of Physical Exercise. The hedge won. I made 9 hrs on the hedge cutting 170sqm and 6 hrs brisk walking covering 36kms.
The development of the sqmph (square meters per hour) is interesting. The first week I made 100sqm in 13hrs averaging 7.7sqmph. This week I made 18.9sqmph!! Nearly 150% increase!! If I could continue at this rate, the remaining 430sqm would be ready in less than 23hrs. Impressive! Let alone that I would increase my cutting speed with another 150%: The RCT (Remaining Cutting Time) would be just over 9hrs. Fantastic! Isn't it?
This must be the outlook of an economist. You'll have a more mundane outlook when I tell you that the first 100sqm was the most neglected part where I had to cut branches up to 2 or 3 cm diameter. A sort of deep cutback you need every so many years. The 170sqm of last week was mainly on parts that had such a treatment last year or the year before, so in stead of 7 cubic meters bulky branches I produced last week only 4 plastic bags of 130 liters each with easily compressable fluffy twigs. I'll keep you informed.
Apart from cutting back the outer part of the hedge, I have hardly been outside the 1000sqm property for shopping or drinking a glass of wine with other neigbours than the ones I share the hedge with. My outlook to the world is based on french TV/Radio and the Internet, where I keep reading french and foreign papers to follow some of the interesting developments. At present, to day in fact, the elections in Italy (Bernusconi: Yes or No?) and in País Basque. In particular de last one has my attention. The sheer intimidation by nationalists of non-nationalist takes dimensions of nazi stricken Germany in the years 30. The criminalization of nationalism by the governing party in Madrid has driven many more voters to nationalism, thus feeding unwillingly the terrorists of ETA. I follow this development with concern. It is Spain's weakest spot on the way of leaving totalitarian franquism behind.
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Cessenon sur Orb (France), Friday, May 25th, 2001
Among my non-writing activities the hedge took a more humble place since the last diary entry. Only six hours and 80sqms, bringing the score so far on 28hrs and 350sqms done --that is exactly halfway. Although there are some 'heavy' sqms to come, most of the remaining 350sqms is 'fluffy' as those parts have to share food and sun with impressive trees. However, hedge-cutting is to dominate the coming days as I am leaving for Holland and Belgium before the end of next week, and I want the cutting done when I leave.
Why did I cut so few hours since May 12th? There were three more 'activities' that absorbed the time I set apart for non-writing activities: The construction of the veranda/conservatory, the reinstallation of the brisk early morning walk and a depression of several days.
The latter is most enigmatic. It seemingly comes and goes beyond my control, but I keep suspecting some unknown action (or non-action) of myself as the source of the trouble. Generally it affects only my body. I feel tired without a cause and my thinking becomes slow and lazy as if my old CFS (Continuous Fatigue Syndrome) or ME (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) is back for a few days. Sometimes, like this time, it also tends to influence my positive thinking.
The construction of a beautiful 15sqm conservatory as an extension on the eastside of the house needed three days supervision. The removal of a window and a part of the wall to make the entrance and some new electricity connections that where not part of the contracted job, took another day. But now it is a beauty! It gets all of the early morning sun and nothing of the midday heat. As an extra I enjoyed a thunderstorm in that safe and dry space protruding deep into the garden the day after is was ready.
The reinstallation of the brisk early morning walk had another reason. My wrist started hurting after all the vibrations of the electrical hedge cutter and the demolition of the wall for the veranda. That gave room another form of physical exercise.
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Cessenon sur Orb (France), Tuesday, May 29th, 2001
The hedge! The hedge! That damned thorn-hedge!
Just before finishing I had to stop. Just two hours more . . . I thought.
After a rough cutting weekend --a bit of a race against the clock-- my wrist starting hurting again and I do not want to take any risk. It hurted my soul for having to stop just before the finish. But I made a rational calculation: I am a more experienced --and so a better-- soul-repairer as I am a wrist repairer. The anwer was unambiguous.
As I started this diary with some statistics and prospective calculations about the hedge, you may well be interested in the outcome so far. Since last time when I had spend 28hrs to cut 350sqms I did 8hrs more and reached a total of 560sqms. 'Light stuff', as you may conclude, because is was mainly in the shadow of bigger trees. 210sqms in 8hrs makes a very high average. Nevertheless it hides a very neglected part of 30sqms where I had to cut thick branches. I did that on Sunday. That had to be the very last thing because of the hurting wrist. What remains is the top of the hedge, length 140m, average height 2 m, width 1 m. But since I cut really deep and changed the rectangular cross-section to a trapezoid cross-section, the average width at the top is halved during this toil. I will resume this job after my return from Belgium and Holland.
And now my plans for the near future . . .
Thursday I'll take the TGV (high-speed train) to Belgium where Ghislaine will pick me up at Antwerp station. We haven't seen us since Christmas in La Gomera. W're both looking forward to it and I leave the subsequent program to your phantasy.
The remainings days I have to do some formalities in Holland and see some friends. I would have liked to return much sooner to a more healthy climate, but the presentation of a thesis for the PhD of my daughter Marine at het University of Utrecht takes place on the 19th. That's worth the delay! The 20th I'll go back to Cessenon, and, of course, first thing I'll do is finishing that damned hedge. I'll keep you informed. (No worries! Not just about the hedge. No worries!)
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Eindhoven (The Netherlands), Monday, June 11th, 2001
This is the very last day in Eindhoven. In an hour or so, I will be on the way to Kortrijk, in Belgium (near the french border and Lille) to visit Julie and Michel for a few days. Kurt and Tanya, from Gent, will join us for lunch. That is my "Belgian Connection". I have rented a car for the trip. I will be back by the end of the week after having zig-zagged between various places in Belgium and (western) Holland to visit friends, and stayed as much as possible in the pure air of the belgian seacoast.
There is also a meeting in Delft, my university town to prepare the student's reunion of next year. It will be the fiftiest anniversary of our freshmen's year 1952. The last few years I can't participate in the yearly reunion of our student's club because it takes place in November; too cold for my present condition. As this meeting is in summertime, and I happen to be here, I haven't hesitated to grasp this opportunity for meeting at least some of the old boys.
After my return to Eindhoven, there is still the visit to Utrecht University on the 19th to participate in the presentation of the doctoral thesis of my daughter Martine, the very reason for my prolonged stay in this polluted, chilly and rainy country.
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Cessenon sur Orb (France), Monday, June 25th, 2001
Since I wrote two weeks ago, things had to be changed slightly, but importantly. In stead of spending a couple of days in the pure air of the belgian seacoast I had to return to Holland due to an alarm of my MD who had spotted an irregularity in the routine blood test a week earlier. He feared a liver dysfunction, but an echography showed no irregularities. However, the blood irregularity remains; unexplained for the time being. I will have it investigated further here in France.
That was the bad news.
Here is the good news: I am in France, enjoying the mediterranean climate for a second time this year and recovering from de pollution and the chills from in the North. I am here since five days and I have already picked up the daily routine of this place: Writing early in the morning, a brisk two-hours walk, caring for the garden --including finalizing the damned thorny hedge, the Pyracanthas-- and reading and editing in the evening if I am not meeting friends around here. That will be my share of life until next month Ghislaine, my children and grandchildren will be spending their holidays with me.
The thesis of my daughter --full title: "Effects of Outreach Strategies on Quality of Pharmacotherapy"-- was a great success. Scientifically, it falls between the science of medicine and pharmacy, but with overtones of psychology and sociology because it centered on influencing prescription behaviour of MDs. Therefore the thesis was a challenge in 'academia', poisened as it is with empire building specialists and -isms. Not only academically spoken, I have appreciated it, also in terms of a reunion of friends and family I hadn't seen forlong, I enjoyed it. The academic celebration was in the morning and the party in the afternoon and evening.
Very early following morning, I had to take the train to Béziers, a twelve hours journey for the larger part with the TGV, the high speed train that makes 300 kilometers per hour over large parts of the traject. Understandably I slept a lot. At 1751, exactly as planned, the train arrived and Oliver, a younger friend here from Cessenon, picked me up from the railway station. We were very happy to see us again.
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Nice (Rivièra, France), July 19th, 2001
--"Of all places! Where are you now?", you might say.
Well, on the Rivièra, just to visit my friend Ignacio from La Gomera who is attending a summer course at Nice University on french language and french culture. He also wants to investigate the infrastructure created by the local, regional and country's gouvernment for the tourist industry. Up to that he wants to report on the so-called Silicon Valley of this region. Is that pretention? Is that reality? That is what he is after.
So I stepped yesterday in the train in Béziers for a 5.22 hour journey; this afternoon I'll be travelling back. Yesterday we had a very nice and long walk along the beach --the famous Promenade des Anglais-- and in the evening we dined together and took --of course-- a Salade Niçoise. That's all.
The problem of the 'liver disfunction' I have been writing about last time, is not yet resolved completely. Since then, there have been new blood tests. The first one with an alarming increase in the relevant 'liver' figures, but the second, last week, showed a spectacular (as my dutch MD characterized it) decrease of the same. He finally came up with his suspicion. It seems as if I have gone through a Hepatitis A which is now fading away. That's the good news. That Hepatitis A might well have been at the root of my stay in the Royal Perth Hospital, last march, with an aching belly.
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Wednesday, October 10th, 2001
Well, here I am. It's the third day already of my stay on this new station of my nomadic circle. After the harvest of the grapes, the vineyards change their couleurs from green to anything between yellow, brown, red or purple as a deep red wine. It is most beautiful, as it puts the Orb Valley in a completely different perspective; no longer dominated by the strait demarcations of the plots. More fundamental demarcations, from times long before ancient agriculturers invaded the area, are taking over. The colour patterns seem to follow subtle differences in altitude and types of soil, invisible to the innocent eye during summertime, when it is seduced by the mathematical approach of modern farming and the homogeneous green of the summer foliage of the grapevine.
The Orb Valley is a mixture of schiste and silica, but it is not homogeneous. Together with the differences in altitude and wetness it may well dominate the new pattern. Rougly spoken, one side of the valley is schiste and the other is silica with limestone.
The Orb Valley has shown to me quite another face I was used to. I had never been there so late. I feel as if I have seen its roots, its uniqueness, and the shapes God has intended to give to this country. I have seen it naked, without the artificial homogeneous green beadspread of industrial agriculture that denies subtlety and fears surprise. I wonder how this experience will influence my view of the valley when I come back next year. I'm sure I will not be able to avoid seeing through the homogeneous green early-summer foliage, its tortured lineaments. Lineaments as God shaped them. Tortured by our doctrine of uniformity.
Anyway, I'm on the Canarian Isles to start, as it were, a new life. That is part of the nomadic culture. This time I'm making a rough start as the trusted apartment I could rent the last few years was --all of a sudden-- "not available". Strange as it may seem, well positioned flats for rent are rare. Almost all are rented in the short term tourist industry on a weekly or two-weekly basis, and offer hotel-like service. As there is hardly a low season, landlords are unwilling to grant substantial discounts if you stay --say-- three months.
So a house-hunting season is on. I stay in the house of a friend as guest of his parents and already some searching tips have been investigated through the network of my friend and his family, all natives of La Gomera. There is a chance for one next week and for another one by the end of the month. I'll keep you informed.
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Madrid, Barajas, Thursday, January 10th 2002,
8 o'clock in the morning
I had a dream, or rather, I had two dreams. Nice dreams. I enjoyed them. The first one held for several days, the other one only a few seconds. But I enjoyed them both. I was looking forward to its outcomes.
In the first one I imagined myself passing the first night of my journey to Cape Town in Andrea's Hotel in Los Cristianos and the next morning I would comfortably take the bus to the airport to catch the 0740 plane to Madrid.
The second dream came into existence when the man of British Airways phoned two hours and a half before I was to leave La Gomera by ferry. The 0740 flight is canceled, he said and proposed me to leave the same evening and spend the night in Madrid at their expense.
--"Are you ready to leave?", he asked.
--"Sure I am".
Ignacio would be around any minute to pick me up to spend the last hours for some eating and chatting and to take me to the harbour for the 1830 ferry. Nothing could prevent me from accepting his proposal and at that very moment, the second dream started.
--"Could you be at the airport at 1800?"
--"?!?!?!?#1#??!%$*&?!!?!!", while I saw the second dream vanishing.
--"The last and only ferry is leaving at 1830", I said mechanically.
--"No worries", said the voice from a long way off, "the next one is at 0250. Can you check in at 0100?"
--"Yes", I said drowsily, while my first dream also passed away.
--"Of course I can", I added, regaining courage.
I just had finished canceling Andrea's Hotel when Ignacio arrived.
--"It could be worse", we concluded, "suppose he had called fifteen minutes later".
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Springbok, South Africa, Saturday, January 26th 2002
Well, here I am, in Springbok in the North of South Africa, one of the mayor destinations I had in mind. After I wrote this diary in Madrid, I had an unconspicious journey and landed just on time in Cape Town, rented a car and drove to Yzerfontein, 80kms to the North, where I was two years ago during three months. From there I visited friends in Saldanha and the nearest internetcafé in Vredenburg, another 80 kms to the North. Then I drove to Stellenbosch where I stayed with friends until yesterday when I left for Cape Town to take the bus up to here. Again an unconspicious journey of 550 kms in just over 8 hours.
--"O.K.", you are saying, "these are all very nice logbook statements. What happened? What have you seen?"
In Yzerfontein, this time, I did not stay in the idyllic cabin on the seashore like two years ago but in the Guesthouse Kaijaiki (which means 'small house' in Zulu) which I only knew for their restaurant and Maraai's famous mussel soup. Their style, both in the restaurant as in the rooms reflects their love for tradition. It concurs with their founding statement on a copper plate at the front door:
'n huldeblyk aan voorgeslagte vir geloof, fondamente en herinneringe . . .
[a hommage to ancestry for belief, roots and memories ...]
René & Maraai Bosch, 1997
Its style likens Laura Ashley, but --essential difference-- lovely decorated with original pieces from their own ancestors. "Boere-Elite", says Maraai.
In Saldanha I met with Robert Schaafsma, the unstoppable inventor entrepreneur, whose portrait I wrote two years ago. His mayor project is still a sailing vessel for profitable fishing for a family or other small group. Although it received good press in nautical magazines, it still lacks a demonstrative endurance test in real circumstances. But, in spite of repeated efforts, he has not obtained a fishing quotum in the preceding years. "Wrong skin colour", he says without rancor. Many other person would have been disappointed, but not Robert. In May he will be sailing with his two prototype vessels, Sailfisher and Sailtrader, to St Helena where he will have a fishing quotum. To finance the experiment, there will be paying guests aboard for this 3000 miles trip in a fortnight. Than there will be a fishing period of about six week with locally engaged hands.
In Stellenbosch I stayed with Niel, whose portrait I also wrote two years ago. He had guided me through the roots of modern Afrikaans, which where also his own roots. We re-visited those sacred places and made a long walk over the Stellenbosch University grounds and over its surrounding hills. This university was the third pole in the emergence of modern Afrikaans. Wellington's church being the second and the school of Josafatdal near Paarl, where Pannevis, the great stimulator, was headmaster the first.
But we didn't stop there. We also discussed the position of Afrikaans since Apartheid had gone. Will it survive against English with its worldwide backing? Or against the black languages, who are more politically correct?
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Omaruru, Namibia, Wednesday, March 27th 2002
It is just over two month ago since my latest information about my existence in English on Jan 25th, the day after my arrival in Springbok. So I have a lot to explain: "Why?" and "How Come?"
I stayed some six weeks in Springbok where I had few social contacts but studied intensively the country's controversial AIDS-policy and wrote about it. I left March 7th for Pofadder, a little village half-way Upington where I met a Dutch missionary, aged 82, who had been living there uninterruptedly since he his 29th. He hadn't been very successful in converting neither blacks nor whites, but, during thirty years he had educated many neglected children come from the big towns in the East, some of them still living in the region and caring for him now he had almost been forgotten by his bishop and his mission organisation.
I left Pofadder March 12th for Windhoek, some 1200 kms North of Springbok thus dropping the original plan to spend some time Upington.
Contrary to my 'plan' I stayed in Windhoek 12 days because I had many heartwarming social contacts all of a sudden. It also happened to be the twelfth Independance Day during my stay which was celebrated among other things with a beautiful concert blending classical (western) music with top folk music. And, of course, much to read in the papers related to the days and years leading-up to Independance in 1990 and to the evaluation of what happened since.
As I am making my way in Namibia in search for cultural remainders of its German colonial history, I landed last Monday in Umaruru, a little village some 250 kms northwest of Windhoek. After a week, or so, I will continue my travel to the coast, to Swakopmund which, like Umaruru, is considered as a centre of the remainders of German colonial culture.
I haven't decided as far as yet about the details of the remaining weeks until April 29th when I leave Cape Town Airport for Tenerife with the exception of a promise to my friends living in Cape Province to be there the last week --or so-- before leaving this continent.
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Friday, May 24th 2002
I am still in San Sebastián de La Gomera, but not for long. In six times 24 hours from now I will be in Barcelona waiting for the Talgo to Béziers in France. The hours before I will have been leaving my isle to catch the last flight from Tenerife and will have been dozing on the airport waiting for the early morning train to the main railway station. So far for the future.
Three weeks ago I left Cape Town and arrived the second day after. I dozed in planes and lingered on airports. This is the boring version. (100 words)
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Saturday, May 25th 2002
When I arrived, Ignacio was waiting for me on the jetty. We were glad to meet again after we had waved goodbye from the same spot four months earlier. We had enjoyed lunch together and lingered at the table until it was high time.
That was three weeks ago. We had hardly written. So we learned of our stories only when we sat down for a glass and enjoyed each other's company, like many times before.
Next week we will be waving goodbye again. Sadly, most probably, but looking forward to my return in three months. This is another reality. (100 words)
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Sunday, May 26th 2002
Before I left Namibia, Renate already mailed that we must see us on my return and that I should visit her new home in Agulo. To Tatino and Gineta I wrote that I would love to meet them in Valle Gran Rey.
One sunny day, last week, I rented a car to make our expectations come true. I crossed the isle and enjoyed its valleys and woods on the way.
Now I am writing and mailing to friends in France and phoned to Olivier in Cessenon sur Orb.
"Our new born baby is very ill", he said. I felt sorry.
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Monday, May 27th 2002
In Namibia I neglected my condition but in France I want to make a long distance walk to Olargues, where my elder brother lives. Six hours, right through the Parc du Haut Languedoc.
So La Gomera is my training ground. Twice a day I rush to the lower town by the public stairs crossing 80 meters difference for muscle training apart from brisk walking for endurance training every third day. Last week I had my final rehearsal: I crossed the mountains between San Sebastian and Hermigua in just over five hours. Non-stop.
My brother will be deeply impressed. Finally. (100 words)
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Tuesday, May 28th 2002
"What makes me return to this needlepoint on the worldmap? To this tiny spot in time and space? For a month or two? Once or twice a year?"
Questioning myself in Namibia recently, I thought of an airplane high up in the sky. A tiny dot with a long white tail. I "knew" that, up there, a stewardess was balancing a tray and offering a glass of sherry with a bright smile.
Yesterday, Ignacio and I had our farewell dinner. We celebrated seven years of friendship. We shared old memories and new ambitions. The Namibian point of view was irrelevant. (100 words)
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Barcelona, On the airport, Thursday, May 30th 2002
In less than an hour, I will be in the local train from the airport to the railwaystation of Barcelona where my train to Béziers will leave at 0845. Now it is 0520. The train from here will leave at 0611 I just discovered.
Than the long and chilly night of waiting will be over. I arrived from Tenerife just after midnight, some fifteen minutes before schedule.
In Los Cristianos, on arrival of the ferry from La Gomera, I could have taken a taxi to the bus station. That would have been enough for arriving on time on the airport. It also was the plan made by my 'economic inner'. But than, all of a sudden, my 'luxury inner' took over and said to the taxi driver: "To the airport, please". That made the difference between 3 and 17 Euro.
Here in the airport I have been very busy reading papers. I could not get in touch with my 'sleeping inner', so I stayed active all the time. Apart from the papers, I wrote my diary in German, French and Spanish and had a pleasant talk with a young man from Mexico who was going to visit Paris for the first time.
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San Sebastián de La Gomera, Sunday, September 15th 2002
After meticuously reporting in poetic 100-words texts during the last days of May, when I was preparing my journey to France, I left you behind on Barcelona airport, early in the morning. That is 108 days ago. What happened? Where have I been?
I arrived in France and impressed --finally-- my eldest brother (how hard is it to be the youngest) by crossing the mountains as foreseen.
Before that, I had met Olivier and learned that the baby was bettering. It had been a brain infection. It seemed all over. We were happy and shared a glass. Some weeks after, however, during my stay in Holland, the baby --and the mother-- had to return to hospital. For fear of a hydrocephalus developing. Anxious days and weeks followed, but, just before I returned to La Gomera, the baby and the mother came home from Montpellier hospital. The baby had a permanent subcutaneous drain build in for the rest of her life. Hardly visible, but essential. But she was healthy and prosperous and full of energy. Dominique, Olivier and I enjoyed a farewell dinner the night before I left. Until next year.
Of course, in Cessenon the damned firethorn hedge waited to be trimmed. Unlike last year, when I found the hedge neglected and in need of some extra deep-cutting, this year it had been pre-cut early in the spring. And I was not all alone. David came to help me during six days. But the sharp, semi-poisenous pyracantha thorns tatoo-ed my arms and legs for several weeks after. Here are some pictures.
And, there was my yearly visit to Holland for fun and business: Family, friends and the dentist. This time Ghislaine had invited Ignacio to come and travel around with us to see the remains of (war- and cultural) relations with Spain. For the Dutch it is called "The Eighty-Years War" (1568-1648) and is essential in the history of founding 'The Low Countries' as the one nation it is now. For the Spanish it is "La Guerra de Flandes", one of the many wars to be fought when you are a world-wide empire, in this case some insubordinate protestant nobles: How dare they!
Ignacio had given me his university textbooks on Spanish (economic) history and Ghislaine had found some very informative booklets about Holland (history, modern- and ancient art, culture and economy) available in Spanish. We could discuss the different view while visiting the key fortified cities of the time, Zaltbommel, Heusden and others. Some of them had beautifully restored ramparts to walk and talk. In Zaltbommel, having dinner at the riverside, and driving over the river dikes, we could see the huge traffic on the river Waal with its enormous inland vessels, an impressive picture of the 'low' countries in a literal sense.
We visited the Mauritshuis in The Hague for paintings during and after the Spanish occupation and in Bruges --being Cultural Capital of Europe, shared with Salamanca-- we roamed through the town on a guided tour and spent hours in the Van Eyck exhibition. We also visited a very informative exhibition "Hansa and Medici". Bruges, neither belonging to the Hansa-, nor to the Medici-business empires of those days, played nevertheless a crucial role in the economy of the time as the meeting point, the turning pin, where Hansa and Medici structures met. With Bruges we obtained an image of 'The Northern Territories' before the Spanish occupation, both culturally as well as economically.
Finally, as an unexpected 'grand finale' we could see the 'Entry in State' of Charles V, a nearly perfect copy of this historical event in 1542 on the same spot: The "Grote Markt" of Brussels.
July 6th, as Ignacio stepped on his plane to Spain July 6th, Ghislaine and I drove by car to the South of France. First to meet friends in de Provence. We made a boat trip through the Camargue, visited Arles' city center with Van Gogh's café and paid homage to the old mill in Fontvieille, nearby, where Alphonse Daudet wrote his Lettres de mon Moulin, well known to every Dutchman of my generation as one of the set books for French Literature.
So far for the tourist' section. Back in Cessenon, while I recovered from the polluted, cold and wet 'Northern Territories', we cared for the house and for the garden, and enjoyed each other's company. Later the children and grandchildren came in, and soon it was time for me to leave France.
On my way back I made a two-day stopover (3108-0109) in Barcelona, just to stroll the Ramblas up and down and to enjoy my street observer-ship. The pictures I made of the 'living statues' are on www.fototime.com. You can log in 'as my guest' with my e-mail address [see home page] and look for the album 'Barcelona'.
Now I am in San Sebastián de La Gomera and was fortunate enough to rent again 'my' appartment near the lighthouse with the beautiful view on Tenerife and the Teide. I am taking its picture everyday, firstly to see if I can grasp its beauty in the ever changing wheather conditions --as an excercise in picture taking-- and secondly to present it in an album on fototime.com if successful.
In the near future I will be going for a 'quicky' to Holland (2709-0210) for a reunion with university friends, the dentist again and for celebrating my 73th birthday on Sunday 29th in Eindhoven with my family and friends. Other plans include a visit to Rome in December with Ghislaine coming from Brussels --and I from here-- as traditional tourists.
My daughter Martine will share with me during a week around New Year's Eve and Day, just before I leave for the Southern Hemisphere. This year's destination is still open to consideration and reflection.
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Waipu, New Zealand, Thursday, January 30th, 2003
I left you, English readers, alone for too long. The latest entry was on September 15th so I owe you minimally the basics of what happenend since.
I was in La Gomera than, coming from France and preparing for a short trip to Holland. I had my 73rd birthday in Eindhoven on Sept 29th (eight days late) with friends and family. You can look at the pictures on www.fototime.com and use the 'guest login' with my e-mail address: [see home page]
It all happened --more or less-- as outlined on Sept 15th: I spend a week with my wife, Ghislaine, in Rome and my daughter, Martine, came to visit me just before I left, and I spend Xmas eve with Ignacio and his family. Gradually I had come to the conclusion that New Zealand would be my 'winter destination'. The only new element was a visit of a week to the Capeverdian Isles. Out of curiosity and to reconnoiter it as a possible 'winter destination'.
So I left La Gomera on Monday Jan 6th; spend one night in a Hostal in Madrid and the next day I left with Singapore Airlines. I arrived in Singapore in the morning to leave only late in the evening. The rain was pouring so I decided not to take part in the courtesy bus tour to the town. On Thursday I arrived at Auckland and booked for a week in the YMCA hotel. That was blunder: Apart from the normal town pollution is was terribly noisy facing a crossroads and neighbouring the main fire station. But I needed the time to overcome the jet lag and to get to grips with the basics of this new country.
At the end of the week I took the bus to Wellington. A full day. Some 700 kms. I was picked up by the friend of my younger years André who emigrated to New Zealand in 1952. I had left our home town already. For several years afterwards we kept in touch. Up to the time that we both got a family and children. Than we lost track, but through relations still living in our home town, I got in touch again. Now we have grandchildren and talk about our adventures in life. André kept himself very much involved in the Dutch community and thus we had several Dutch party's with sing-songs from our home town and region. Our local dialect was mainly spoken. Even in a purer form than nowadays in Holland. My brother and sisters, and even moreso their children, have our(!) dialect affected by the official Dutch. Not so in this enclave.
I interrupted my visit to Wellington with a three-day trip to the South Isle, to Blenheim, to greet a friend of my brother. Jan, completely different from André was completely integrated in the Kiwi-community. He was even proud that the Dutch Embassy had overlooked him when sending invitations for Year 2000 festivities.
Now I am back in Northland, the country North of Auckland. That is where I want to stay until I return to Spain on May 9th. I haven't decided exactly where to stay or to go. It is the region where New Zealand was 'born', as they say, and I want to delve into that. Meanwhile, there will be some 'pleasant interruptions'. In a few days a friend from Holland will come to Auckland for a roundtrip. I'm going to see her.
Next there is Theo and his wife Mineke who are travelling in a motorhome since Dec 8th, and will go back on March 8th. They are now in the most Southern regions, and will come into this region before the go home.
And finally there will be a trip to Melbourne to see Wim, a friend of me and André who has been missionary in Papua Guinea and is now Chaplain to the Dutch community. Also in the same area I will be seeing Tony and Irena, who I met in Chili some years ago. So this 'winter destination' is full of friends from former days. Quite different from my other 'winter destinations'.
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Gellibrand, Victoria, Australia, Tuesday, March 18th, 2003
Last Saturday I arrived in Melbourne. Wim, Tony and Irena (see Jan 30th), were on the airport. That was the result of earlier e-mails about my Oz itinerary. According to Wim I needed "4 hours and a 4x4" to get to the "bush" which provoked an immediate reaction of Irena and Tony about 'those Melbourners' and --possibly-- to proof their case that it was just 200 km and a regular car, they proposed to pick me up from the airport. Wim was there too. Before I had arrived, the threesome had smoked the peace pipe apparantly, and, as I noticed, with a lot of pleasure, as they were engaged in a lively discussion already. We took a cup of coffee together and agreed that I should go first with Tony and Irena and next Thursday they will bring me to Melbourne and we will have lunch together; four of us. Than, until next Monday, I'll share time with Wim to catch up fifty years of living apart.
With Tony and Irena I have been visiting already the 'bush', which appears to be a well-organized rural area and a starting-up tourist district. The 'Ocean Coast' has already an established reputation. Cape Otway is well known, but more into the interior new tourist's developments are apparent. Tony, as an active volunteer community developer, is well informed. He tells gripping and interesting stories about recent an earlier developments, like the reconstruction of an old railway track for touristic use and I was fortunate to be invited as an onlooker to the meeting of the local "Progress Association" of yesterday, discussing grass roots initiatives in various stages of development. If I ever succeeded "to look behind the touristic smoke screen", here I had one of the most fascinating opportunities to see "community building at work".
While I was in Waipu, nearly seven weeks ago, I met Thorkild, a Danish traveller a few years older than I. He owned a second hand car, bought only to travel easily during his stay in New Zealand. We travelled together most pleasantly during two weeks and visited several 'touristic objects' like Cape Reinga, NZs most Northern lighthouse. Coming back in the neighborhood of Auckland, I preferred to stay in Marco Polo's Backpacker's at Hatfields Beach. I dearly needed to "sit down and write". After a few days, my Danish friend's Viking blood apparantly started to tingle and he took off for further explorations.
Until my departure to Melbourne I stayed in Hatfields Beach and met Jeannette and Gerrie, two friends from Holland before they started their six week roundtrip. Later I met Theo and Mineke, also from Holland, coming back from a three month's roundtrip. We shared some very pleasant days. We don't see us very much in Europe living apart as far as the North of Holland and the very South of Spain. We needed, curiously enough, the 'other side of the world' as our meeting ground. We are looking forward to meeting again. Anywhere in the world.
Just before I left, last Saturday, I met Thorkild again. We had kept in touch and we both were happy to meet again. Next week he will return to Denmark. He hasn't had much luck the last days of his travel. His car broke down, and even after an expensive repair, it broke down again. He abandoned it and reduced his luggage to be able to travel by bus for the last few days, but than he lost a case. Unfortunately, the case with all his pictures and the presents he had bought for his friend, his Most Important Other. He had already been robbed of another case before I had met him six weeks ago. But, as a good Viking, although he was very sad about the loss and the bad luck, but he had not lost his positive spirit. Unbeatable he is.
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Whiritoa, Coromandel Coast, New Zealand, Thursday, March 27th, 2003
Back in NZ, but the weather hasn't improved. It still rains. If anything were wrong during this, my 'winter' trip, than is would be the weather. It simply rains too much. The cold is just endurable so pure air and a strictly kept diet have to make up for it.
I even had to buy real rainproof clothing several weeks ago in Auckland. I didn't need those for the isolated showers I was confronted with during the eight years of my status as "lightweight climate dodger". Here in Whiritoa, fortunately, I enjoy the purest air possible. In Hatfields Beach there was still a motorway between me and the sea. Whiritoa is like Yzerfontein in South-Africa: An isolated far-away village of a few houses only and our house is one of the nearest to the sea. For that, of course, shopping offers a problem. The village features only one shop selling the daily paper, some preserved food and hardly a thing more.
Whiritoa is a Maori word meaning something like 'twisted' and 'turbulent'. Maori toponyms usually refer to a typical climate or a natural phenomenon. As far as the wheather is concerned, this is correct up to now. Rain, turbulent wind and even moments of sunshine dominate the sky in rapid succession. On a simple --short-- stroll to the other end of the village, yesterday afternoon, I got it all.
We are living a monk-like life. I do a lot of reading and writing and Geoffrey makes even more hours on his computer. He is preparing a book with "everything" about just the family name MOREY; but in the most diverging spellings, of all times and from all over the world. His database covers over hundred and thirty thousand documents supplied by a large network of 'correspondents'. Yesterday, as he reported during one of our breaks, he received a database with some four thousand new documents. His computer gasped for breath, but it withstood the shock. Now he is debugging it from duplicates.
I met Geoffrey in Hatfields Beach just before I left for Melbourne. I was contemplating to visit the Coromandel Coast, which is a bit farther from Auckland, but to the South. 'Come to my house', he said and so I phoned him on my arrival. We met in Hamilton. On our way from the west coast to the east coast, we did the shopping for a couple of days.
To morrow we have to shop again.
Tony and Irena, after my return, already send me an e-mail with two messages. A pleasant one and a sad one. I'll start with the latter. The beautiful nature park with the remainders of the original rainwood of that area has been closed the day after we visited it. Vandals with chain saws had damaged over fifty trees. Some of them are in danger to fall over.
The other message was the recipe for ANZAC cookies, a simple oatmeal delicacy. Irena had the recipe and I had asked her to send it because I would like to make these cookies together with my grandchildren this summer in France. It is typically a thing they surely will enjoy doing and eating. And, if not, I will. Here it is:
1 cup plain flour
1 cup Home Brand Quick Cooking Oats
1 cup sugar
¾ cup desiccated coconut
1 tablespoon golden syrup
125g (4oz) butter or margarine
1½ teaspoon bicarconate of soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
- Mix the flour, oats, sugar and coconut together.
- Melt the syrup and butter or margarine over
- Dissolve the bicarbonate of soda in the boiling
water, stir into the syrup mixture and pour
over the dry ingredients, stirring until mixed.
- Put heaped teaspoons of the mixture about
5 cm (2 inches) apart to allow for spreading
on greased oven trays (or baking paper).
- Bake in moderately slow oven (350 Fº or 180 Cº)
for about 20 minutes.
- Then lift off with a spatula.
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Whiritoa, Coromandel Coast, New Zealand, Thursday, April 17th, 2003
In my ongoing inquiry into the meaning of ANZAC, as a word, as symbol or as a national myth, I was happy to come across a simple press release, one of these days, saying: "Turkish authorities rejected a bid by a company to brand food and drinks with the name".
For those who are not reading my more extensive writings about ANZAC in my Dutch diary the following shortcut: ANZAC is not simply the Army Corps during WOI; it is a national disaster, it is the birthpain of the nation, it is a symbol, it is the romantism, it is the heroism that still is remembered every April 25th, ANZAC Day, with religious and civil ceremonies. April 25th, 1915 the invasion of the Gallipoli Peninsula started. And it was a painful failure. It was against the Turks. It was a sideshow in WOI, many Europeans have no notion of Gallipoli and ANZAC. Overhere, down under, it is central to war memories and national feelings.
The reporter grasped the opportunity for recalling what ANZAC means to this country (and to an extend, also to Australia). He quotes a dictionary saying that it is 'a soldier in the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (1914-1918)' an 'informal: a person from Australia or New Zealand'. That is the lowest you can get.
Associate Minister of Culture and Heritage, Judith Tizard, commented that both Governments would go to seek international protection for the word. If the application is accepted, Anzac will gain the same protection as terms as "Red Cross". That is quite another tune about the same word.
There was no suggestion that anyone was trying to misuse the Anzac name overseas. In NZ it is protected in 1916, in Oz in 1921.
Ms Tizard stressed the fact that the words ANZAC and Gallipoli have a positive connotation in Turkey; it was also an important coming of age and creation of nationhood for Turkey:
--"The battle with the Anzacs is one of their central cultural identities. The Turks obviously feel as strongly about the word and the protection of it as we do".
So, for the time being, there will be no brandname ANZAC for the dozens of items ranging from carbonated drinks to salt the business company had in mind. ANZAC surely would have had appeal in the modern "sporty-healthy" market as it also reflects 'strength', 'endurance', 'simple food' and 'austerity'. Just like ANZAC-cookies which recipe I gave last time.(*)
--"What about ANZAC-cookies than?", she was asked.
--"The ANZAC-biscuit is made by several companies. It is a generic term, not a trade mark. It dates to 1915 when mothers made the biscuits for their sons serving in the Gallipoli campaign".
Well, a word-brandname with such a romantic history. Ouff!! A delicacy for the modern marketeer. You better protect that carefully.
(*) Tonni wrote that Henk, inexperienced in kitchen affairs as he was, had followed the recipe. "Delicious", she wrote. "Smoothly", added Henk.
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Upington, Holiday Resort "Die Eiland", Sunday, February 8th, 2004
Before I will have neglected this English Notes a full year, I am sitting down to recall what happened since my Notes from April 17th from New Zealand. From the Coromandel in the village of Whiritoa where I spend the last six week after my blitz visit to friend near Melbourne.
In this way I am fulfilling at least one of my self-imposed requirements: Let it be a continuing story.
It was quite rainy and cloudy during the rest of my stay, and I think I overplayed my hand in betting on the very pure air. Anyway, my condition weakened and eczema began to pop up. Back in Spain, while I was already bettering, a MD convinced me that his treatment would be 'absolutely non-allergic'. Well, in few hours not only the few spots near my ear, but my whole face, around the eyes and forehead and around both ears were cardinal-red. The worst disappeared in a few days, but my condition took quite some time to recover. In fact it haunted me the nearly the whole summer. As planned, I moved to France early June and soon I had my planned visit to Holland. Travelling, and passing over airports --by itself-- is 'detoriating the system'. So only after my return in France I gradully regained my condition. It is to say that I was not 'ill', I didn't have my normal flamboyant energy. I lacked concentration. I was easily distracted. I could just stick to the required garden maintenance, my (dutch) dairy and some private correspondance. And --of course-- I had my wife, children and grandchildren to stay with me for several weeks.
To avoid another visit to Holland I decided that a big repair of my teeth should be done by a French dentist nearby. After all in many ways a 'wrong' decision because the weather was extremely good in Holland for the rest of the summer. But the worst was to come. Gradually it became clear that he bungled the job, so, at the end of September, during my planned visit to Holland, I could see my (former) dutch dentist. He made the best of a bad job and had to extract a molar that otherwise could have been saved. He could not prevent that I must return twice to finish the job. So during November I made two blitz-trips to Holland. Very unhealthy, but, I must say, that the Weather Gods were well inclined towards me, and Holland had above average weather during my stay.
Just to continue spelling out my adventures in travelling movements, the next travel --already planned during our summer in France, was a visit to Naples with my wife. In stead of Ghislaine visiting me in San Sebastian before my winter-journey, we had our yearly leaving party in Rome the year before. That was a brillant idea. So this year we had our farewell week in Naples. I rented a small appartment outside the town and a mini car to be able to visit Pompei, Paestum, Herculaneum and have an appartment far away from the polluted town. That happened to be on the famous Amalfi Coast where Goethe travelled in the 18th century and Wagner wrote his Parcival in the 19th. We crossed the Golfo di Napoli by ferry from Sorrento to visit the town and used either the local train or our car for the other 'objects of study'.
Ghislaine never had been in the region, but she knows her 'classics' very well. She was a well-informed guide. I was there hitchhiking in 1949 and later as a busy businessman. It was a great week together. We had quite good weather during our visits and --most of all-- is was far from crowded. We could move backward and forward easily without long queues before all hotspots, and often we were all alone in a town district of Pompei. Unlike Naples, of course.
To celebrate the end of the year, Martine came to visit her father to enjoy our nearly traditional glass of champaign offered by the municipality of San Sebastián equally to tourists and residents, original Spaniards as well as 'extranjeros' like me. It is allways a happy fraternisation on the central market square around midnight. Fireworks and live music accompany the champaign. Like Naples, this is to me a heartfelt support, a "Fare Thee Well", from my most intimate 'friends' before I start my adventurous winter journey.
Than came the winter journey. I had been hesitating between Perth and Upington, but the long expected winter discounts were late this year. Only February 3rd, I could leave. Thank Goodness, the weather in La Gomera was exceptionally warm during January.
I am now in Upington. My flight back to Madrid is on April 18th. I rented a car in Upington and drove the 1000 km smoothly in three days. I plan to stay in an around Upington all the time and hope to write more systematically about this region. I made a bad start, because my computer was stolen from my bungalow in this holiday resort. Thank Heavens, I had brought my older computer, also a Toshiba Libretto, and I had backed up the contents on a CFcard. It is only the most recent documents I am missing, and, of course, all the dictionaries, the Britannica and other 'reference'. It happened some 24 hours ago, and the sadness, the anger and the shock are already tempering. It is part of the game. (Full story)
Another narration of the time since New Zealand is the increasing spam. I experimented with filters and with different webmails. Paid and free. I gradually knew all about it, but could not prevent that I had to give up my 'beloved' e-mail address. In spite of all the filtering I still received 40 spams a day. At home, and with a fast connection, I will not be too much of a problem, but looking forward to my time in slow I-Café's, I had to get rid of the problem. Applying quite strict filters, I had to check regularly if 'good ones' were labeled 'spam'.
But abandoning the address was not easy either. It was linked up in many relations, site admissions and newsletters. But it was a one-time job. Now there is silence again. I can turn to normal business instead of 'milking' through dozens of spam every morning.
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Upington, B+B De Bult, Saturday, February 28th, 2004
--"What are you doing over there in the Kalahari desert?"
Apart from my diary and 'regular maintenance activities', like physical exercise, reading papers and personal correspondance, I have --as usual-- a "self-imposed-study-object". Upington fascinated me already longer for its florishing town in the middle of the desert and the Oranjerivier as its life line. Contrary to similar places in the world, in Arabia for example, prosperity only came with settlers and colonists. Before, is was 'Stone Age'. Tourists' information is rather superficial on those details, only concentrating on 'adventure' and on raping 'virgin lands' by 4x4s.
Here, in the middle of the Kalahari desert, with the Oranjerivier crossing it as a thin line, I took the local water management as my focal point. I want to get in touch --socially, technically, politically-- with this fascinating process which grew from with colonialism, adventurers and settlers in this frontier region. I will be here until April 18th. Watch out!
I have already gone through the 'touristic' level of information. I got in touch with the relevant department of the Ministry of Agriculture in this town dealing with the water (re)distribution for more in-depth info. That was successful; management and staff are very helpful. I mastered already the 'new water management law-in-the-making'. Highly interesting as a concept, because it had to replace all older --local and regional-- contracts, laws and traditions. It was already under preparation before the end of the Apartheid-era, which, once Apartheid became 'history', added new political and factual dimensions to The Project. By itself, this project, is an exercise in 'tranformation'.
For South-Africa as a whole, the Oranjerivier Project is very important. It affects two-thirds of the country surface. Some thirty to forty years ago, they made big dams which gave the river in this region a constant flow and water (re)distribution started to be reorganised. Before that, de river didn't always flow all the year round.
Unlike the Nile and the Niger, also crossing desert regions, where for centuries already a farming culture prospered, along the Oranjerivier 'culture' only started late 19th century to make use of irrigation. I will concentrate on this region only. I will be visiting certain objects of control for the technical aspects together with inspectors of the ministry.
Not only did I receive ample documentation about the Oranjerivier Project as a whole, one of the top managers borrowed me from her private library a book which had --in her own words-- 'really opened her eyes for this region'. So now I am reading Mrs Conradie's personal copy. It is a multi-disciplinary book about
" . . . history, archaeology and physical anthropology of the aboriginal inhabitants along this river and in its hinterland . . . "
For the record:
Smith, Andrew B.(ed), Einiqualand. Studies of the Orange River Frontier, UCT Press, University of Cape Town, 1995, ISBN 0-7992-1584-8
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Windhoek, Namibia, Sunday, March 14th, 2004
The new water laws in after-apartheid South-Africa are rooted in the new Constitution which stipulates that everybody is entitled to access to safe water. This is --according to SA sources which I have to verify outside this country-- a unique feature among all other constitutions in the world. The new water law of 1998 has attracted international praise seen from the prizes SA received during international conferences.
In the past --like in many countries e.g. Spain-- water was owned privately and certain laws secured water for 'everybody'. In SA water was owned by the owners of the land adjacent to rivers. The only 'obligation' they had, was to form a regional board to mutually divide it (peacefully!) or sell it to outsiders. 'Outsiders' included municipalities if they didn't own property adjacent to a river themselves. Wells were the unique property of the owner of the land, responsible to nobody about its use.
The drastic change, installed by the new water law of 1998, is that all water is now owned by the state to divide among users. It includes all surface- and underground water as well as as waste water. It explicitly mentions 'all physical forms', liquid, gas or ice. So it also included the clouds. It is only limited by international agreements with neighbouring countries about water in border zones.
From there on, the law only recognizes two 'rights to water'. Number one being water for personal and household use and secondly for the maintenance of the ecology, in other words, protecting its source. Only the remaining water will be 'optimally distributed' over various economical, cultural or recreational applications on the basis of 'licences-for-use' issued on a temporal base. Renewable, but for forty years maximally. This means that up-to-now-owners may continue to use the water until 'better applications' --or one of the stipulated 'rights'-- have to be given priority.
The 'optimal distribution' is --of course-- the next hurdle to be taken. Interestingly, the application of the law is in the hands of the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry where Agriculture is not only the biggest user (60% nationwide, Forestry 12% versus Households 12%), but also holds the most disputed application from an economical point of view. In terms of contribution to GNP (Gross National Product), and the number of jobs, per cubic meter, agriculture scores by far the lowest of all other applications. Not only is there the irrigation dependent agriculture: In times of drought, when water shortfalls, the rain dependent agriculture also claims a share.
Up to now, this optimalization process was under the control of the famous/notorious 'invisible hand', the market forces being the guiding principle. This, on the one hand, has resulted in huge river dams, controlling over 50% of the water (neighbours like Botswana and Namibia only control 10 to 15%) and hardly any room left for more dams to be build. On the other hand --from a human rights point of view-- half the population had no proper sanitation and a third had no access to safe water and --from an economical point of view-- a huge suboptimal application developed.
I had an opportunity to leaf through all research projects (complete or partly) financed by the National Water Research Board. Optimization studies --economically, politically, culturally and socially-- form a large part. For example it is suggested that water-rich products, like certain fruits and vegetables, should be supplied by neighbouring countries on long term, state negociated, contracts.
In my Dutch diary I envisioned already the following suggestions in Parlement leading to tumultuous discussions:
--"Let's stop wine production and get the stuff France in exchange for our low water consuming diamonds"
--"And tomatoes from Holland . . . they will appreciate our gold"
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Benoni, near Johannesburg, Saturday, April 17th, 2004
I am on my way back. To morrow I will be flying home, to Madrid, Tenerife and La Gomera. Benoni, the suburb with the Italian-sounding name, is West of Johannnesburg. Close to the International Airport. That is the 'logic' of my presence. After a day-long travel through the Kalahari, I landed in the "Formule 1" hotel in Benoni, an unsought experience of being half-way Europe in this well-known French invention. But I cherish more feelings about seeing Benoni with my own eyes.
--"So why Benoni?"
Not long ago, Charlize Theron, a film star from South-African breed, got an Oscar in the VS. She had 'made' it overthere. I saw her in an Oprah show, and later on e-TV in SA. But than 'it' happened. She was received by Mandela himself. "I love you", she said to him in her characteristic ingenuous manner I had admired in the preceding interviews. "I love you too", Mandela warm-voicedly said, surprised but sincere. Later he spoke about her, as to encourage other young people from South-Afrika --a theme he returns on more often-- to take Charlize as an example:
--"Just a girl from Benoni", he added, still with apparant warm feelings. I could not distinguish whether he had fallen in love with the girl, with Benoni or both. Nor whether I had. Because for me, from that moment onwards, the word 'Benoni' became magic, far beyond the Italian flavor it had already. Is Benoni the ultimate of simplicity around over-sophisticated Johannesburg? Is this the prime example of basic SA?
--"I just want to see Benoni", I decided, unwilling to unravel it further. It is still early in the morning. I have a full day before me to see, to smell, to undergo this place, and to listen to its heartbeat.
--"Ah! Benoni . . . "
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Playa de Santiago, La Gomera Isle, Sunday, April 25th, 2004
Arriving in San Sebastián, I could not rent my favorite appartment, nor the other one 'as-good-as'. As Ignacio was abroad, and Ghislaine coming to visit me in a few days, I decided to rent a car and to leave San Sebastián inmediately to reconnoiter the isle which I hadn't done since the days I sold my car, and planned to rent one 'if necessary'. Living on walking distance from both the town center and from the mountains for my daily walk, this 'necessity' turned out to be in my mind only. I visited friends, criss-crossed landscapes I hadn't seen for years, and looked out for dwelling to spend the week with Ghislaine as to enjoy and 'savour' her 'welcome to Europe' visit to me.
So I did two days long, which is a lot of time if you imagine that the isle is near-circular with a diameter of 25 KMs. The few roads are very winding because of sharply rising mountains and steep valleys. The East-West main road, for example, is 50 KMs long, and you are a clever --or rather a dangerous-- driver if you make it in one hour. But even then, after two days driving, including cups of coffee and kisses at friends's country lodges in passing, you have had them all. (I speak of the roads).
One of the relations, who has a job at the 'ecological tourist center', had provided me with suggestions for Cajas Rurales free to rent. These are country lodges, old cabins of poorer times, now modernized for tourists of today, which forced me to go also on the secondary and even tertiary roads, some of them I had never visited. It was a great experience to embrace 'my isle' after returning from overseas. I even felt a bit ashamed that I had neglected it for several years, sticking to the capital town only.
I ended up on the South coast, where a small beach is rapidly exploding into a holiday resort. But this time of the year it is bearable. So Ghislaine and I will be staying here next week.
This morning I made a long walk, the better way of practising love for 'my isle'. I was near the top of this isle, which is not only a near-circle, but also a near-perfect cone with a flattened top of 1500 meters altitude. It is very green up there, and misty, and the clouds carried along with the NE trade winds, condense into 'horizontal rain' when meeting the trees. This is a highly interesting physical phenomenon that counts for more than half of the quantity of rain (Estimated to be 26 million cubic meters yearly but only a small fraction is captured. Attention Upingtonian readers: Around Upington, you are allowed to tap from the Orange River up to 10 cubic meters per second, which is 320 million yearly, but effectively less than a quarter is distributed yearly.)
The same trade winds cause the NEern half of the isle to be a lot greener all the year round. The SWern half, on the contrary, is dry an brown, and likens a desert with its brownish shrub. But this time of the year, with just a bit of extra humidity, it is 'greenish'. That starts in November-December as a 'greenish haze', and by now all kinds of flowers are blossoming. But not for long. When summer comes --in six weeks from now-- it will be brown, and harsh, and dry again. Only for the attentive observer, like in the desert, life goes on in chinks and cracks where the sun is not almighty.
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Iquique (Chile), Hostal Obispo Labbe, Sunday, March 20th, 2005
Before the year is over --if not, shame upon me!-- I must write you what happened during last summer in France, last autumn on the Canarias, and now --during European wintertime-- in Chile.
To start with the latter, I am since January 18th in Iquique, a desert- and coast town in the most northern region, close to the borders of Peru and Bolivia. Like last year, in Upington (South Africa), when I stayed in the Kalahari Desert, I'm again in a desert: The Atacama Desert this time, considered to be the driest of the world.
As far as I have visited the desert around here, I can confim that there is nothing of the shrub vegetation I saw around Upington, nor are there any sheep. Moreover, as far as you can look, the surface has been ravaged by the mining industry in search for salitre (potassium-nitrate) which was accumulated on the surface during thousands of years when the underground water evaporated.
Like guano --also a product of the past of this region-- it was used as fertilizer. Since centuries before, it was known as a component of gun powder. Early last century, nitrate could be synthesized on a large scale. That killed the salitre-activity, albeit slowly, so the region had time to find new economic foundations.
Now there is still some mining --e.g. iodine and copper-- and adjecent activities, but, most of all, it became a prosperous transit port for products to and from Peru, Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina. Iquique's harbour has naturally deep water (18 meters) and its access from the land is assured by newly built transcontinental roads.
Being North of the Tropic of Capricorn, it is very hot overhere, but a cool breeze from the Pacific keeps temperatures in check. The seawinds, however, don't bring any rain. For all the water they contain, they keep it up until some two hundred kilometers to the East, when they have to climb the Andes. That is where Iquique gets its drinking water from: Long pipe lines starting in the promontory, because no rivers come our way. This makes Iquique a man-made settlement in the nothingness. Like a ship in the ocean --or a little island-- it has nothing of its own.
Why did I choose Iquique? --or why Chile? --for that matter.
Apart from climate considerations, which are very important to me, I was returning to a place I had been visiting during my all-Chile trips in 1997 en 1998. I was fascinated by the democratization proces after the dictatorial regime of Pinochet. In a way it moved slowly, but it moved.
Less than a year after my visit, Pinochet was arrested in London, and that accelerated the juridical processes considerably. Late 2004, I detected signals of new accelerations, so I decided to observe it from nearby: To read it from the local papers, to hear comments from the local radio and to decipher comments in Letters To The Editor, the unbeatable thermometer of public opinion. That is what I am writing about in my Dutch Diary regularly.
That still doesn't explain why I landed in Iquique; it could have been anywhere in Chile, provided it had a warm and sunny climate. This town came from a series of lucky coincidences. One of my last days in Chile in 1998, I met a young lady in the local library of Iquique, and we stayed in touch with e-mail until we lost contact a few years later. In spite of obsolete e-mail adresses and moving to other places, one accidently kept little note proved helpful. So when I landed that young lady --with her husband-- awaited me at the airport and invited me the same night at a welcome party in her house to meet her friends.
Similar introductions followed in the next days, which is extraordinary in my life as a travelling person: In a foreign town it takes usually several weeks before a tiny social network emerges, and here, walking on the beach or strolling through the shopping center, right from the start I hear frequently: "Hello Gérard!"
OK, now back to where I left you behind, in La Gomera, just after my return from South-Africa. I only spent there a few weeks, until the end of May, to enjoy Ghislaine's company who came over for a week, to meet friends, walking the familiar tracks in the mountains and exploring new ones, and pay my yearly income tax. Early June I was back in France, without the usual stopover of a few days in Barcelona. I started inmediately mastering de cursed thorn hedge of our cottage in Cessenon sur Orb, which this time was not as bad as usual because friends, staying there during the autumn, had given it an extra cut before leaving.
Having mastered the hedge, I visited the Netherlands for family, old friends and some formalities, but the climate was very unfriendly this time, so I hurried back to recover in the friendly Mediterranean climate where --during July and August-- wife, children and grandchildren spend days or weeks of their summer holidays, and we enjoyed each other's company.
By the end of September, when the mornings and evenings got colder --and my migratory instincts started itching-- I moved back to La Gomera, but not without a pleasant stopover in Barcelona to loaf about its streets, its squares and --of course-- its Ramblas. Just for fun and familiarity. In October I was back in La Gomera.
By the end of November, Ghislaine, my wife, came to visit me and we spend a holiday together on Fuerteventura. As usual, I spend Christmas Eve with Ignacio and his family, and on Sylvester's Day, the last day of December, my daughter Martine arrived to spend more than a week; just with her father, without husband and children. Just two of us, because we always have a lot to tell each other.
When she left, it was time to leave, because La Gomera can be cold an nasty during wintertime. As my Gomerian friends have been writing me, is has been exceptionally bad this year.
Anyway, by the time I will be back on La Gomera, all will be forgotten and it will be warm and sunny. I'm here just over two months so I have one month to go.
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© Gerard van Eyk, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005