Western Cape Update

Dear Readers,

I’m writing to you during my first South African thunderstorm.  I think it’s safe to say that thunder sounds the same, no matter where you are on earth.  The tin rooftops here do however make the rain sound like angry hail.  I wonder what it sounds like when it actually does hail.

Where to begin…  I suppose I should start with this past weekend.  My housemate returned from his conferences on Saturday, saying that the trip was a huge success for the company.  I went to the mall on Sunday, and we went for a drive through the wine farms region, followed by a Braai (I will explain what this is…) on Monday.  It’s nice to have company around the apartment again, and it was fun tasting wine and snapping photos of the statues and scenery only about 20 minutes from home.  We meant to go out for breakfast and then wine tasting, but since it was a public holiday here, the chosen restaurant was closed, so we skipped to the wine tasting instead.  I was surprised at how low the cost it was. We each tried 5 types of wines, and the total cost for us both was 80 RAND. Converted to CAN dollars, that is $9.60.  A fine breakfast for a fine price 🙂

A Braai is a South African BBQ.  If you refer to it as a bbq, you will be corrected (every time).  A South African will argue that the difference is that a Braai is far better.  The meal is cooked over wood-burning, instead of a gas flame.  I had my first Braai on “National Braai Day” or “South African Heritage Day” with my housemate, my coworker, his wife, and their newborn baby boy.  He’s adorable.

It’s been another productive week in the office.  I finished going through some Bird data, and went through tree data for a conservation program at a nature reserve, converting all of the common names to scientific names, and creating a nice long species list for reference.  I spent a lot of time with my nose stuck in a tree book and making sure I had the spelling right for trees like, the Stink shepherd’s tree, which is Boscia foetida subsp. rehmanniana, and Black monkey thorn, which is Acacia burkei.

My housemate points out birds while we are out and about, and so I’ve been able to learn some of them.  although, with all of the bird data names on my brain, I haven’t done very well at his quizzing.  There is a common one that I think I can recognize now, mainly because I hear it’s annoying to call every day from my apartment.  It’s called the Hadeda Ibis, similar to the Sacred Ibis.  Here is a youtube video of one,  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9rr2mrfYJAk     .. I’m rooting for the Croc.

Today I was given a fairly large research project on conservation education programs.  I wish I had some background in teaching conservation.  I’m feeling a little bit like a fish out of water with this one, but perhaps the more I learn from my research, the more I will be able to contribute in terms of creative thinking and ideas.  This is a great opportunity for me to help with the education of local communities living near a nature reserve.

I’d encourage you all you read this article, written by my housemate/boss.   It’s about land claims in South Africa.  It definitely got my brain wheels turning.  After I read it, he asked me for my thoughts.  I wish I had the chance to have discussions about articles I’ve read with their authors more often.  In addition, he took that photo of the lion!


Through the past few weeks, I’ve come to learn that I have quite a few followers. This makes me happy, so I will continue to make an effort to keep you guys up to date with what’s going on here on the other side of the planet.  Thanks for reading!

-Stef, S.A.

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