Monday, May 27, 2013

Meet Elliot

This is Elliot.  He is a giant made up of over 4,000 Coca-Cola crates.  He resides at Cape Town's waterfront.  I heard he moved there about the time of the World Cup in 2010.  His main goal in life is to draw attention to the need to recycle.

I always have mixed feelings about big exhibits like this.  Don't get me wrong - I am all for recycling, and love art made from recycled stuff.  We do it all the time at home.  I have one small room full of "junk" just waiting to become master pieces.

One of our latest pieces is an escalator made from cardboard box.  It was create something for show-n-tell that starts with the same letter as your name day.  Forget elephant, and all those other "e" words.  The escalator was the subject of choice.

At minimum, Coca-Cola did get attention.  If a huge red man permanently blocking the view of a beautiful landmark does not encourage you to recycle, then I am not sure what will.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Stranded at Uitsig!

Scenes from Constantia Uitsig Restaurant, Cape Town, South Africa

Well, its not as bad as the title sounds...

One cloudy afternoon we took our rental car and headed to Constantia. It is beautiful and everything that you would expect it to be. 

As it began to rain, it was the perfect time to stop and have lunch.  On our quest for the perfect vineyard restaurant, we decided to try our luck at the Constantia Uitsig Restaurant.  It was a busy weekend, so my son and I went in to see if there was a table available while my husband got our stuff out of the car. 

When we arrived back to the car, my husband asked me for the car key.  I did not take it.  He was driving, so he kept it with him.  It couldn't have gone far because he never left the car.

We looked, and searched, and searched and looked.  It began to rain harder.  We kept looking. We borrowed the security guard's flashlight and looked all around the car and in every hole in the car.  We even searched the impossible where you know there could be no key, but you keep searching anyway kind of places.  

I could not get angry really.  It was annoying, but my husband was already upset enough with the situation, so why torture him.  Or maybe I stayed calm to protect my own legacy.  The fear of future stories like "Remember the time that mom lost her mind when you lost that rental car key in Cape Town?" were in the back of my mind.  Our son was amazingly helpful and patient throughout the entire ordeal.  He searched the inside of the car thoroughly where he could be sheltered from the rain. This was family teamwork at its best.

After more than an hour and a half later, we had enough.  We called the rental car company, defeated by the key.  It was going to take two hours for them to bring another car.

Even though the restaurant had no space, we went back inside to their bar.  When I saw the waiter that turned me down for the table, I asked him if he remembered me.  He did.  I explained how my husband lost our car key and that I really needed some wine.  Looking, and possibly smelling like the dog that was left out in the rain, he directed us to a couch in the bar.  

We enjoyed a bottle of wine as we waited, and they even threw in some freshly baked bread.  It wasn't the lunch we planned, but we did get to spend the afternoon in a beautiful vineyard restaurant sheltered from the rain.  

A friend of ours has a theory that a baboon could have picked it up.  I saw many baboons along the coast, but none in this region.  It is (kind of) nice in theory to think that a monkey was sitting in a tree laughing away as we scrambled in the rain, but I think this will remain one of those unsolved holiday mysteries.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Al Ain Zoo

Al Ain Zoo
And while we are on the subject of wild animals, here are a few images I took earlier this year at the Al Ain Zoo.  It is a very nice zoo and well worth the visit.

This year's National Geographic Photo contest winner was a picture of a tiger in a zoo.  No, I am not comparing myself to a Nat Geo photographer!  The story and choice are very interesting - but yet, is it really that surprising?

The photographer visited this lion many times, so got to know his subject and perhaps was better able to anticipate its behavior than someone just passing buy.  It is a really nice image of a lion shaking off water after a bath.

This is not the first ever impressive image from a zoo.  There is a lot of other amazing zoo photography out there to be discovered.  For example, a French photographer, Nicolas Evariste, and a German photographer, Wolf Ademeit, have both done amazing black and whites of zoo animals. They are so good that they look like they were shot in a studio.

Perhaps the more controversial question to address is not why Nat Geo chose a winning picture from a zoo, but the reasons why the animals are in the zoo.

Sitting proud at Al Ain Zoo

Mother and baby rhino at Al Ain Zoo

Friday, May 17, 2013

Aquila Private Game Reserve

From Cape Town, we took the long day trip to Aquila Private Game Reserve.  When I asked the hotel about them they told me, "I am not going to tell you that it is a glorified zoo, but..."  However, since a good friend recommended it to me as a great place for kids, I went with her recommendation.

And it was just that, a great introduction to safari and wild animals for children.  The real deal can be very long and tiring for a small child, so this is a good first safari option.  Even though it is small, and a few hours drive from Cape Town, I encourage you to visit.  The drive is beautiful, the animals are well looked after and have been saved from lost land, trophy hunting, poaching and more.

Every animal there has a story....

An elephant at Aquila Private Game Reserve, South Africa

Cape Town, South Africa

Hello computer! Hello pictures!  How I have missed you!!! 

I have been going through an upgrade.. It is painful and takes a lot of time.  I don't think it should be this way, but I am kind of lost when it comes to finding highly effective personal IT support here. I assume that all the good support is working for large corporations, which makes sense.  I am still hopeful that there are some out there somewhere, but I've yet to find them.  References are welcome!

So until I catch up, I leave you with this picture from a recent trip to Cape Town, South Africa.  Its coast is very dramatic.  Rocks, cliffs, and light - its beautiful.  I can't wait to dig through the rest of those files that are waiting!

Camps Bay, Cape Town, South Africa

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Monster Trucking in Abu Dhabi

Last weekend we took our son to Abu Dhabi to see the "first ever Monster Truck show in the Middle East".  It also happened to be our first time to go to a monster truck show.  I did not quite know what to expect, and I was surprised to see something that I assumed was so typically American here.

I am still left with a lot of thoughts and questions about this phenomenon, for lack of a better word.  Maybe it feels mysterious because the announcer's voice sounds so much like the ones on the fake wrestling matches.  (Yes, I just used the "f" word.  WWF is fake.)

I am just skeptical that they were able to fix the super deluxe tough as nails humungous truck that would not start in a matter of minutes to get it up and running to win the entire competition.  Call me jaded, but maybe I've been a car owner too long to fall for this.

In addition to its reality, the show left me with many questions:

Are those white cars they jump over and crash the left over ones from the economic crisis?  Dubai faired out pretty well after 2008, but there were many rumors of people who lost jobs leaving town and abandoning their cars at the airport.

The smoke that comes out of the cars at the end of the free-style round, is that really an overheated engine, or just some fancy dry-ice compartment?

Why does a guy have to run all the way across the field to bring Captain America his shield before he climbs out of the truck?  Is there not a secure place to store the shield on the truck?

More an observation than a question - the Arabic translator just seemed to give up on Arabic all together and for the second half we had a play-by-play English to English translation of the event.  I don't think it was a huge deal because for the most part, I think most spectators who spoke Arabic would likely understand English here.  This is good proof to support an article I saw in a local paper last week about Arabic becoming a lost language in the region.

Does Ozzy Osbourne get credit for every time they play the song Ironman when the Ironman car performs?  My son was so pleased to learn that I used to sing this to him when he was a baby.. well, it was a hum because I know none of the words.  Its amazing what songs you get stuck on when you have a colicy baby.

And why is it that when a vehicle overturned, there was no ambulance to be found?  Bulldozers came in to tow the trucks right away, but I did not see anything that resembled a fire truck, ambulance or similar.  Perhaps another sign of the "f" word.  Staged and confident so no safety necessary?

The most significant observation this experience left me with was the reality that people are more similar than we think.  Yes, we are all individuals in our own way, and when I looked around I saw kids and families from too many countries to count.  The variety was amazing - various ages, religions and color that all came there for likely the same reason - to be entertained and enjoy a night out with family.

This only confirms what I strongly believe and what I wish others would realize:  We are not so different.

Picture from