Now that we know our way around, it must be time to move on! :-) We are quickly approaching the end of our time in Africa. We head to Singapore for four days on April 2 before heading to our final planned destination, Perth, Australia. We have really enjoyed our visit to South Africa. It is an absolutely beautiful location and, at least today, quite inexpensive to visit.
We've been spending our final days, finishing up our work here and trying to get our luggage weight down to 30 kilos apiece. (Singapore Air has granted us an extra 10 kilos each for our flight from Joburg to Perth, although we may still get charged for those 20 extra kilos by South African Airlines on our short hop to Johannesburg to connect with Singapore Air.)
We're donating a lot of things, especially the stuff we've bought here (other than souvenirs), and we've packed several boxes to send home by post. We're a little leery of this as we've heard there is a lot of theft of packages sent through the mail; for example, we've heard that a recent ad claimed that 95% of INSURED packages get delivered! Courier service and air freight to the States is quite expensive, but we've heard that mailing stuff from a bigger city is more reliable, so we'll go to Port Elizabeth next week to do the mailing.
In spite of the fact that Grahamstown is a small city, the University makes it quite a cultural one. For example, recently (March 5), the Vice Chancellor of the university hosted a lawn concert. Tickets cost SAR 5 (less than $1!). Everyone brought blankets and picnics. We went with Louisa and Peter Clayton (left) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
The concert had a variety of acts, including the bag pipes shown above, celtic music, a South African choir, and arguably the most exciting, Michael Baird, a British percussionist, composer, and producer currently visiting Rhodes University from Utrecht, Netherlands. Michael, who lives on our floor, played the Chinese gongs and Tibetan bells, and was accompanied by Geoffrey Tracey who whirled plastic tubing. (We expect to attend two more concerts by Michael and his students to be given in the next week.)
Michael is involved in some very interesting work. He's been here at Rhodes University several other times also working at the International Library of African Music, founded by Hugh Tracey and directed today by his son, Andrew Tracey (father of Geoffrey, mentioned above). In the 30s - 50s, Hugh Tracey traveled around Africa, making recordings (mono) of African music which he meticulously cataloged and produced over 170 78 recordings from. The original recordings were done using a handheld microphone. The earliest recordings were done first by cutting aluminum disks and then later acetate disks while in the field! Mr. Tracey often played the recordings back to the musicians, many of whom had never before seen a loud speaker!
Much of this music no longer exists because of political changes and other socio-economic factors other than in these recordings. Michael is systematically listening to, selecting, splitting (into stereo), and producing CDs of selections from these recordings. Six CD's have been produced so far and two more are in the works.
Since our last report, we have gone on two more safaris
We've also traveled through the Garden Route a couple of times, once to meet with the people who made my hearing aid (some of you will remember I've been having some trouble with my left ear.) and the other to visit Cape Town on the spur of the moment. We had planned to meet Rhona and Alan Chalmers in Durban, but due to some complications on their end and some complications with the hearing aid, that trip was cancelled.
So, in the meantime, we hope all is well with you. We look forward to hearing from you. You'll hear from us next from Australia!
Nan Schaller's and Walt Bankes' Sabbatical Page