Slices of South African History

A must-stop in South Africa is the Apartheid Museum. As you walk through the museum, the history of 20th Century South Africa unfolds. Even the entrance makes a statement. The ticket to the museum arbitrarily assigns you as either Blanke or Nie-Blanke; and depending on which you draw, you enter through the appropriately labelled door. Thus begins a lesson in history.

Apartheid Museum Entrance

It could easily take days to truly appreciate every exhibit and to read about the many cultures converging on South Africa before apartheid – the Dutch (or Afrikaans), the Brits, the Chinese and others.  Clips from speeches and news casts and stark photographs tell a story that is hard to hear but impossible to turn away from.

Apartheid Museum Taxi Sign

In a small courtyard, stands a replica of the cell (roughly 10’x10′) in which Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years. It was difficult walking through it and daring to imagine nearly a lifetime inside of it.

Apartheid Museum Mandela's Cell

In one section of the museum, countless nooses hanging from the ceiling served as reminders of all who were tortured and killed fighting for freedom of oppression.

Apartheid Museum Nooses

It was eerily quiet as I walked past the solitary confinement cells.

Apartheid Museum Solitary Confinement

Time flew inside the museum. Two and a half hours later, we were on our way to Soweto or South Western Township.

Soweto Sign

We stopped at the Mandela House at 8115 Orlando West Soweto. The house was small but full of history. The house has been restored and converted to a museum. The blemish in the middle of the wood beam in the top left photo is a bullet hole. If you enlarge the photo of the open window (top right), you will see a message inscribed into the brick wall. I love that I captured this photograph of the house just as the sun shone brightly above it.

Soweto Mandela's House

Soweto Mandela's Home Back Entry

‘It was the opposite of grand, but it was my first true home of my own and I was mightily proud. A man is not a man until he has a house of his own.’

Nelson Mandela, The Long Walk to Freedom

Inside the home turned museum were artifacts from Nelson Mandela’s life. According to the placard, in the early years of his imprisonment, Nelson Mandela was only allowed to write and send one letter every six months.

Soweto Mandela's Letter from Prison

Besides the Mandela House, we stopped by the former home of Bishop Desmond Tutu. Amazing that two Nobel Price Laureates lived a mere two blocks from each other. We also stopped by the memorial to 12-year old Hector Pieterson who was killed by police during a student demonstration. For an interesting recent article on Soweto, read ‘The Nobel Street’ where Mandela and Tutu lived by Alex Court and Diane McCarthy for CNN.

Soweto Hector Pieterson Memorial

While much of the housing in Soweto was modernized, our driver did take us past some of the squatter camps, communities without running water or electricity. If you look closely, you may see an antennae or two above the shacks, possibly electricity being diverted from the nearby train tracks.

Soweto Squatter Camp

We were fortunate to have a few hours to visit the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site at Maropeng, about an hour’s drive outside Johannesburg. Maropeng means “returning to the place of origin” in Setswana, the main indigenous language in this area of South Africa. (source)

Cradle of Humankind Visitor Center

Featured inside were the over 1,500 fossils of the Homo Naledi skeleton. What an amazing opportunity to see something of such historical significance first-hand! To learn more about this find, you can read the National Geographic article online.

Cradle of Humankind Homo Naledi Fossils 1

The top photos are close-ups of the Homo Naledi jawbone, teeth and hand. Below are 3D printouts of the reconstructed Homo Naledi foot compared side-by-side to the Au. sediba foot and the foot of a modern human being. (source: museum display placard)

Cradle of Humankind Homo Naledi Fossils 2

Stepping outside, I could see for miles across the South African landscape.

Cradle of Humankind Landscape

South Africa is a place of stark contrasts. We drove past mansions surrounded by high walls and vibrant flowering plants and lush trees, except that each wall was topped by barbed wire or electrified fences. We were told under no circumstances should we walk along the streets unescorted and certainly not past nightfall. This is a country rich in natural resources such as gold and diamonds and where over 17,000 murders occurred in one year (source). Yet it is a vibrant place full of energy and possibility and a rich history. I hope to have another opportunity to return and more time to explore.

Neighbourgoods Market

On a busy trip to South Africa, I managed to squeeze in a few local sights. It’s hard to get to know a place sitting in hotel lobbies and conference rooms. One of those places was Neighbourgoods Market (not a typo).

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The market is located in the midst of Braamfontein, a business district in Joburg. Braamfontein stands for “the spring by the brambles” (source). The area has been undergoing some revitalization and Neighbourgoods Market is one example of what draws South Africans to it. There is an eclectic bohemian vibe to the area that also houses the city’s local government and the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship.

Neighbourgoods Market 1b

The market was a magnet for families, older couples, cliques of young people – a blending of ages, races and colors. To find the market, you walk up an alleyway with a sign hanging over welcoming you to Neighbourgoods Market. A turn up the driveway into a parking lot becomes an oasis in the middle of the gritty landscape. An entire floor is hopping with cooks grilling their meats and vendors selling fresh breads and offering tastes of biltong (dried meat similar to beef jerky). There was cheese to be sampled and an assortment of marinades, dips, pastries and local wines. This pear-shaped dim sum was filled with minced chicken tucked inside a light cornbread.

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The Exotically Divine booth served ital vegetarian dishes from locally sourced fruits and vegetables.

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The coconut salesman was busily removing the husks from the fruit with a large machete. You stuck a straw in the fleshy center and drank fresh from the gourd. Coconuts 30 Rand, Happy Coconuts (with rum) 50 Rand.

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I watched as the paella was being made. First they simmered onions and garlic. Every time I walked past, a new ingredient had been added – calamari, tomatoes, shrimp – all being stirred together at a light simmer.

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The fudge was divine. I nibbled away at a square of this salted caramel version. Oh my. Delicious!

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I did not get to sample this lovely lemon meringue – I was much too full by then – but it was so pretty I had to take a photo.

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It felt like a fly by but I’m so glad I was able to sample a bit of Neighbourgoods Market.

 

Yarn in Navasota

On our Mother-Son college road trip, I teasingly told my son that I only planned to stop at five yarn stores en route to Texas A&M. My 17-year old was not amused. I wish there were that many yarn stores along the way! He was actually quite patient with me when I took the business exit through Navasota so that I could visit WC Mercantile.

WC Mercantile 2

Navasota is a small town with just over 7,000 residents. It’s downtown is lined with quaint historic buildings that house antique and other local shops. It was a cold and rainy day so I headed straight to WC Mercantile located on East Washington Avenue. And what a delight it was!

WC Mercantile 3

WC Mercantile has a wonderful selection of yarns for the knitter or crocheter and a large space devoted to luscious fibers and spinning wheels. I went straight for their local yarns spun from Texas Alpacas.

WC Mercantile 4

WC Mercantile 5

Love these project bags!

WC Mercantile 1

The owner was very nice and helpful. She was at a table teaching a customer to knit. This is why I love local yarn stores.

WC Mercantile 6

In the back of the store, they had a cute little Christmas tree on which hung sheep ornaments and these. Too cute!

WC Mercantile Ornament

In addition to yarn and fibery stuff, I couldn’t resist these cards. They look like original watercolors. I particularly like the one on the left. No grannies here!

WC Mercantile Cards

Navasota is about 45 minutes north of Houston. I am looking into one of their day-long wheel spinning classes. It would be a nice getaway from the city. If you are ever in the area, stop by and enjoy a few hours of all things fiber!

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Girl’s Weekend

Mom turned seventy-something this month and I had been contemplating a mother-daughter weekend for some time. To make it even more fun, we invited my aunt whom I had not seen in a while. Thus began our girl’s weekend.

The destination was Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg was founded by German immigrants and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia. (Source). It is located among the rolling stretch of the Texas Hill Country just a short drive from Luckenbach, Texas. Yes, the one with “Waylon and Willie and the boys.”

We took the scenic route on Farm Road 1376 to get there and made our first stop in Sisterdale, Texas (population 25). Housed in a restored cotton gin is the winery for Sister Creek Vineyards.

Sister Creek Winery

We toured the various rooms where the grapes are turned into Merlots, Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays. Oak barrels were neatly arranged in rows fermenting the wine. A sign read, “Employees only please. Our wine is resting.” After a wine tasting, we packed up a couple of bottles and hit the road again.

Upon arriving in Fredericksburg, our first stop was the cottage which would be our home for the weekend. Words cannot describe how adorable this place is – all 440 comforting, quaint and cozy square feet. Mom said it was like staying in a life-size doll house.

The Cottage

Once settled in, the rest of the weekend was filled with one delight after another. It turns out that the monthly Fredericksburg Trade Days was during our girl’s weekend. Trade Days is a giant flea market with 7 barns and various acres of antiques and collectibles. The girls were giddy with excitement stopping at every booth, finding shabby chic and rustic decorations, and sampling Texas salsas and peach jams.

Trade Days 1

Trade Days 3

Trade Days 2

For meals, we ate hearty German food and locally-brewed lagers and ales at the biergartens and steakhouses; and creamed corn frito pies and bacon-wrapped grilled jalapeños at the food stalls at Trade Days.

On Sunday morning, after enjoying hot coffee and the freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies left at the cottage by our host, we stopped at Wildseed Farms. Wildseed Farms has acres of zinnias, sunflowers, dahlias, and other wildflowers; and rows of vegetables and shrubs. Everything is labeled so that one can buy the seeds or plants from the nursery.

Wildseed Farms Nursery 2

Wildseed Farms Nursery 3

Wildseed Farms Nursery 4

Wildseed Farms 2

Wildseed Farms 1

Wildseed Farms 3

We shopped, slept, did our make-up together sitting at the cozy kitchen table, talked, laughed, and enjoyed life. Just us girls.

Wildseed Farms Nursery 1