South African National Arts Festival … virtually

One of our highlights when we lived in South Africa, now more than 10 years ago, was to attend the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, which has now been renamed to Makhanda. The arts festival is an 11 day celebration of performing and visual arts with some amazing music, theater, comedy and dance. As South Africa is such a diverse country with many different cultures and attracts international talent, there were always many amazing performances to see. We attended the festival for five days in 2006 and attended the full 11 days the following year.

Although we love attending the festival, we have not been able to return since we moved away from South Africa as it was a very long trip. This year however, the world around us has changed significantly due to the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic and South Africa is no exception. Due to the pandemic, for the first time in its 46-year history, the National Arts Festival was held entirely online from 25 June to 5 July 2020.

Although it is not the same as attending in person, we did take the opportunity to attend the festival virtually this year from our home in the US. We saw some great music (especially Jazz), a variety of different African dances, some interesting plays and participated in some great virtual digital experiences.

For example, Digital Rise brought a performance called Mechanical Souls which involved all the participants being onboarded in a fictitious human droid company. As part of our “onboarding” , we were invited to watch a VR movie of a wedding including some droids the company made. However there is a twist in that every participant sees a different version of the movie. We then jointly discovered the full story by discussing what we saw as a group. It was a great, interactive, performance and a great use of different digital media.

Another example of a digital experience was “Human Study #1 from a distance” which was brought by a Belgian Artist, Patrick Tresset who built a performative installation using robotic agents drawing participants, similar to an artist looking at their subject and drawing it. The experience involved posing for 20 minutes in a Zoom session while the robots made their drawings using different algorthims. You can find some of the photos of the experience as well as the final drawings below.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable experience and it was great to be able to attend this unique arts festival virtually. Attending in person is obviously a much better experience, but it was impressive what the festival managed to achieve in a virtual environment and we appreciated being able to attend this amazing event in these unprecedented times

Share Button
Goodbye South Africa, Hello Switzerland

Goodbye South Africa, Hello Switzerland

We did it again … and added another country to our list. We moved back to Europe – Switzerland this time. More specifically we ended up in Zug in the German speaking part of Switzerland.

Although we are getting used to moving around (this is Johan’s 8th country and Karl’s 6th!), moving internationally continues to be a big adventure every time. We moved out in South Africa at the end of January and moved into our new place in Zug mid-February. We are still up to our necks in boxes, trying to shoehorn a medium-sized house into a city apartment, but we’re getting things sorted out and starting to feel at home in our new location.

Changing from South Africa to Switzerland takes some getting used to, particularly since we moved from
summer in South Africa to winter in Switzerland. And, of course, everyone tells us we’re having record amounts of cold weather. The snow-line has come down to visit the city folk, and enough snow comes off the balcony railing to make a couple snowballs. In South Africa, we’d still be using the pool.

The following pictures from both sides of our move give a glimpse of some of the differences (click on the image to get a larger version of the photo).
MoveSA MoveSA_Switzerland

More about our adventures in Switzerland will undoubtedly follow!

Share Button
Monkey-ing around

Monkey-ing around

In our post of June 7, 2007, we mentioned the “Birds of Eden” bird park. Right nextdoor (same parkinglot) is another animalpark called “monkeyland”. Monkeyland is a monkey sanctuary (who would have guessed) where different types of primates roam around in a section of forest.

When you visit monkeyland, you first end up in a visitor center with restaurant, where you can observe the monkeys around you and have something to eat or drink. If you are not paying close attention, the monkeys may steal some of your food though! Entrance to this area is free and is a great experience.

If you want to see some of the more shy monkeys and want to see monkeys in their natural habitat, you have to take a paid tour around the forest with a guide. The guide takes you along the different paths, including across a suspension bridge, and points out different monkeys along the way. As the monkeys are free roaming, you never know what you may end up seeing where.

We really enjoyed this sanctuary on the Garden Route and actually went there a couple of times. You can have a look at some of the photos we took during our visits there by clicking on the picture below.

Monkeyland Album

Monkeyland Album


Share Button

Happy New Year from hot South Africa

Best wishes for 2008 from South Africa!

This is our third New Year in South Africa and we are still not used to celebrating Christmas and New Year in the middle of summer! Hot weather (the last few days it has been approximately 30C/86F) does just not seem right for this time of the year. Particularly when you see Christmas trees, hear Christmas charols and people shoot fireworks for New Year. We celebrated by making several trips to the beach and going swimming in our pool at home … in the mean time we are hearing about cold weather in Europe and the US. What a different experience!

All of this will change soon: in February, we will move to Switzerland where Johan will take up his next position in the company. We will move out of our current place by the end of January and will make a little trip to Cape Town, both for leisure as well as for work, before we make our final move. The move may prove quite a shock as we will go from summer weather in South Africa to winter weather in Switzerland, which will take some adjustment!

A couple of weeks ago we visited Wavecrest, a beach resort on the wild coast in the Transkei, approximately two hours drive from where we live. Going to the Wild Coast is always a great experience as it is one of those places where you really feel like you can have a whole beach for yourself. You also drive through a more remote area to get there and experience a very different side of South Africa. Here are some pictures of our experience. As always, please select the picture to see a larger version.

Panorama of the lagoon and the beach – click on the picture to get a full screen version and experience the location!

We use Panorama Factory to create our panorama’s. Not only does the tool do a fantastic job at stitching pictures together, it also works under Linux and Mac. As both of us run Ubuntu at home, this is an important criteria!

Pretty rocks by the beach:


Two people canoeing on the lagoon:


In order to get to wavecrest, you drive on a dirtroad in the remote Transkei area. The Traskei is a hilly, green area and feels very remote and poor. This picture shows one of the the views along the way. Judging by the size of the dwelling, the family living here must be of pretty well of:


Driving on dirt road takes some getting used to. You have to drive carefully as there are animals on the road, such as this cow:


Share Button

We ARE in Africa

Our website has gone very quiet lately, mainly due to being extremely busy. For those of you who are wondering, we still are alive and well and still are in South Africa.

In general, living in South Africa is like living in any other developed country with reasonable good road infrastructure, good housing, shopping malls, telephone, etc. It would be easy to forget that one is actually living in Africa.

Now and then, you get reminded of this fact when reading the local newspaper with stories about a witch being killed by her fellow villagers, a chieftainess being killed because the village does not agree with having a female leader or a four-year old being killed by a traditional healer to ensure a successful hairdresser business. Of course, you also learn about some of the local Xhosa traditions such as the initiation rituals or boys stick fighting.

It is amazing to think that all those stories happen so nearby and you are not really aware of it on a day-to-day basis. However, we are also reminded about the fact that we are living in Africa every time recently we have electricity cuts. This happens on almost a daily basis, often for several hours at a time. Much of this is due to “load shedding” as there is not enough electricity to go around, so the power company turns of different parts of the country at different times. It would not be that bad if it would be announced when such cuts would happen, but the power company, Eskom, and the city, who send us the bill, cannot agree on who should inform the public so nobody knows when the cuts will strike. What we do know is that the problem is not going away anytime soon. In fact, it has become such a normal event that people hardly react when it happens. The other day I was in a business meeting when the electricity, and therefore the lights, projector and airconditioning, went of. People just continued to talk as if nothing has happened as it is such a common occurrence. Similarly, you learn to live with it at home.

A few weeks ago, the electricity outage caused our ADSL Internet connection to go down … and stay down for 8 days! The local telecommunications monopoly, Telkom, had many issues countrywide resulting in waiting times of up to two hours for phone support. The people providing the support often did not know what was happening and our ticket was closed automatically after a few days, even though the problem was not solved! Mind you, for all of this, we are paying among the highest ADSL prices in the world for very poor speed.

So, yes, we still are living in Africa …

Share Button
Birds of Eden … the pictures

Birds of Eden … the pictures

As mentioned in our previous blogpost, we visited Birds of Eden, the worlds largest aviary on our recent trip to Natureś valley. This particular aviary covers two hectares and includes different habitats such as a river, an indigenous forest, a lake, etc. There is an amazing variety of birds in the free-flight aviary and you sometimes can get very close to them. There are also some smaller mammals such as bushmonkeys and the Golden-Handed Tamarin. If you are visiting the Garden Route in South Africa, including the Birds of Eden (and their neighbors Monkeyland) is highly recommended!

Click on the picture to see our pictures from our visit to the aviary.


Birds of Eden Album

Share Button
Easter weekend in Natures valley

Easter weekend in Natures valley

During the long Easter weekend (4 days), we visited Nature’s valley in the Garden Route, Western Cape, South Africa. Nature’s valley is a small village which is a good base to explore the area from, including Elephant park, Monkeyland, Birds of Eden, Nature’s valley and the Garden route area. We will post the pictures for Monkeyland and Birds of Eden separately. You can find pictures of the trip by clicking on the picture below.


Natures Valley Album

April has many holidays in South Africa, resulting in number of long weekends. It is a lovely time of the year to travel through South Africa as the weather is still nice and warm and there is not much rainfall. Unfortunately, it tends to also be very crowded during these long weekends, particularly the Easter weekend, which tends to fall within a two week school holiday .

By booking well in advance, we managed to get a reservation in Nature’s valley, which is a remote small town by the ocean in the Garden route. In fact, we briefly stopped over in the town during an earlier trip through the Garden Route.

For this visit, we stayed in Tranquility Lodge, close to the beach at Nature’s valley.  Although the location was great, we found the lodge disappointing, which probably mainly had to do with our specific room. The rooms are tiny (more or less the size of the bed), but most rooms have a covered area with table and chairs outside where one can relax. Unfortunately, our room did not have such an area, making the whole three night stay rather uncomfortable. To make things worse, we were close to a pub which often had music blasting until late in the evening, which does not go with our idea of “Tranquility”.

Unfortunately, the weather was not too great which meant we could not do many of the things we had planned to do as most things of interest int that area are outside! At one point, we were in Knysna and the weather became sunny and pleasantly warm. Instead of staying at Knysna, we decided to go back to Nature’s valley to go canoe on the lagoon. By the time we got back there, the weather had changed completely – it had become windy, there was lightning and it started raining! We never did manage to do the canoeing 🙁

What we did also not realize that it is extremely difficult to get into any restaurants on the Saturday before Easter. Not only are there many tourists, but this seems to also be a very popular day to get maried in South Africa! Several of the restaurants were closed for private functions because of weddings. We ended up eating at Hemmingway’s restaurant right on the N2 on the lagoon of the Bitou River. The restaurant also was completely booked full, but the hosts went out of its way to find us a table. The service and food was very good and we strongly recommend the restaurant.

Share Button

Boldly bald

For the third year in a row, an annual “shavaton” took place all over South Africa, including East London. During this day, you can get your hair shaved or sprayed green for the benefit of the South African Cancer Association CANSA.

We went crazy and decided to go for the “real thing” and had our hair shaved. The result looked like this:


Karl’s hair was surprisingly soft after the shave. His haircut looked like this:

Johan’s hair, on the other hand ended up very “sticky”. So much so that he had a hard time pulling T-shirts over his head as they became stuck in the hair, similar to velcro.

When we got the haircuts, the weather was very hot and humid and therefore the advantage of the cut was that we were able to “keep our heads cool”. However, a day later, the weather changed and it became suddenly much colder. I guess the haircut worked to keep us cool!

Share Button


Over the last week or so, comet McNaught was supposed to be visible on the Western sky in the early evening. Unfortunately, the weather has not been that great lately, so we were unable to see it because of clouds.

However, when we were at a concert on Saturday night, a group of people suddenly got up and went outside and started looking at the sky. We followed them and saw the comet very clearly in the sky with its tail trailing over a large section of the sky. It was spectacular.

Since we didn´t have a camera on that Saturday night, we went to a friends place on Sunday night to try to take some pictures. He lives at a farm away from the light with a great view of the Western sky. We found out it is very difficult to get decent pictures of a Comet. However, here are some of our best photo´s. As always, click on the photo to see a larger version:

Share Button
Christmas greetings from South Africa!

Christmas greetings from South Africa!

This year will be our third christmas in South Africa and we are still not used to this whole “Christmas in summer” concept. Yesterday, we wrapped Christmas presents after a swim in our 27.4 degree Celcius (81.3F) pool. Today, the weather is wet, but warm, and people are planning their braai´s (barbeque) and beach walks for the next couple of days. A very different atmosphere from Christmas in the Northern hemisphere!

I would like to share a picture with you that I saw in the Daily Dispatch, our local newspaper, that gives you an idea about the Christmas atmosphere in South Africa:


Many of you, who are from colder climates, will therefore understand why we often “dream of a white Christmas” out here in South Africa. For your enjoyment, in case you have not yet seen it, here is a brilliant little flash video with reindeer singing “I am dreaming of a white Christmas” . The animation has been around for a while, so you may have seen it before, but it does the trick for me every time!

Anyway, best wishes for the holidays from South Africa!

Share Button