By our modest standards, and taking our combined ages of 167 years into
consideration, our trip to America was an AWESOME success.
Without any mishap we travelled nearly 30 000 km: Johannesburg - New York
- Vancouver - Denver - New York - Johannesburg and home again.
Carl had had the idea to invite us into his comfortable home where we
stayed three weeks. He also
first suggested that Jules should join us from Australia. So she was there
most of the time. Of course, we
saw a lot of Zak, Amiel and Lybi and a number of friends in and around New
Five days on Vancouver Island with Frances and John Dawson and three days
with Carol Boyd in Denver rounded off a month of renewed human contacts and
a fresh appreciation of America.
THANK YOU ALL for what you did for us.
Technically I continue to be unashamedly impressed by jet-airtravel
despite hardships, jet-lag and many previous inter-continental flights.
This struck me again when I woke up in the middle of the night in the
main-deck centre cabin of the Boeing 747 which carried us to New York.
The dim cabin lights showed me that Jessie was fast asleep in her
comfortable business-class seat, as were all the other passengers. So I
got up to stretch my legs. I walked down the aisle and found that even the
cabin staff, usually chattering away in the galley, had nodded off in their
It was eerie. Perhaps the pilot was also taking a nap? The hissing of
the airconditionoing system was the only noise which suggested that
somebody was possibly looking after things. There were no vibrations or
other indications that this huge aircraft was not stationary, but hurtling
through the sky with 300 odd passengers aboard, 37000 feet up, at almost
the speed of sound. We landed on time at JFK, NY and were soon greeted by
The days in the leafy Mount Vernon and greater New York were most precious
through being together with Jules and Carl. Both were working in their
respective jobs while we were there. So, the "quality time" I got from them
- the odd conversations and exchanges of views and memories - was doubly
valuable. Julia, amazingly, dealt with her clients in Sydney, Australia,
via her laptop and the Internet. Carl's laptop and his three telephones
kept him in touch with his business, augmented by day and even overnight
airtravels to other cities. Even outside the supermarket or driving in the
car, he was on the cellphone to guide and cajole the members of his unit.
A conference call with one of them in California and the other in Chicago
was par for the course.
On our visit last year we first appreciated the scenery, the flora and
life in the tri-state area around New York. This time, sadly, Colleen was
no longer with us, but Carl's persistant gardening made the place
bursting with blossoms in late spring and served us his own freshly picked
strawberries. We also had many lekker meals and braais together. We saw
some more of the coast, Mystic Port with ancient ships, and the green-ness
of the rolling hills throughout the semi-urban vast surroundings of greater
New York. There were some cool days, but mostly it was warm to hot, to
Some of the memorable happenings were -
The Bronxville School outdoor Memorial Day Fete in brilliant summer
weather. Carl sold hundreds of cool-drinks while Lybi looked after the
Strong-man hammer-stand. The boys cruised between them and the other
Lisa Barth and her mother Betty Christensen could not do enough for us.
They took us to a concert by the New York Philharmonic at the Lincoln
Center. They gave us meals at the Yacht Club and at home where Anton,
assisted by Carl, was building a superb tree-house for their three girls.
With Jules we took the three hours Circle-line boat trip right round
Manhattan - fascinating to see and to hear the commentary about New York's
past and present. We had done the same trip many years ago.
It is worth repeating from time to time.
Lybi took us to the beautiful Botanical Gardens and shared meals with us
in her apartment.
We made our own way to Manhattan by 40-minutes suburban rail to Grand
Central to vote at the consulate in our second non-racial South African
General Election. Our votes cast for the Democratic Party helped to make
it the official opposition to the ruling ANC. We walked to the United
Nations building where we lunched and then visited the Frick collection
with its Holbeins and other art treasures.
George Soros invited me to lunch at his home in the best part of
Westchester County. Leafy landscape, and looking down on a lake at the
lowest part of his estate, were the background to our talks. These centred
the war and the dilemma in Kosovo - and, of course, the Open Society
Foundation in South Africa, sponsored by him, on whose board I serve. How
to strengthen civil society around the world to help reduce poverty
everywhere is the challenge of our time.
Patrick Zahnd, the Swiss-French AFS scholar whom we hosted many years ago
came to see us. We kept in touch with each other over the years and met
him in South Africa and Europe. He is now number Two on the International
Red Cross Delegation to the United Nations, is married with three young
sons. He was last in charge of South and Central America and lived there
in a large house. So the shock of living with his family in an apartment
on the 33rd floor near the UN in New York is very real. That you could
live, like Carl, near Manhattan in a HOUSE with a large garden was an
eye-opener to him.
It took us a day's flying via Denver, and change to a Beechcraft 18 seater
across the water, to reach Nanaimo on Vancouver Island. Frances and John
welcomed us warmly into their new home some months after they moved there
from Toronto. Their road is aptly named Overlook Drive. From their house,
a few minutes' walk from the water's edge, you look down on an appreciable
tidal pool that empties and fills every six hours
from the vast waters that separate the island from the mainland. Ferries
are crossing, snow mountains are visible both on the island and mainland.
Dense forests reach down to the shore. It was cool to cold, and rainier
than New York.
Leelah and John jr and family came visiting. John took me to a
PRO(fessional)BUS(iness) lunch. It was an interesting presentation about
Canada's mineral wealth and the conflict between exploitation and the
ecology. Drives, north, half-way up the island, took us to a National Park
Forest (800 year old tree, 90m high),
and south, to the impressive capital, Victoria. We wished we could have
Carol Boyd met us at Denver airport. She was also at our Golden Wedding
and last hosted us in Princeton. She moved to Superior over a year ago,
halfway between Denver and Boulder. The snow-clad Rockies are the
background to this vast semi-urban area, normally subject to drought, but
presently at its best with spring flowers and green lawns everywhere.
Carol, tirelessly took us everywhere to let us appreciate this part of
America: to a walk in the foothills of the Rockies, to the unique Toulouse
Lautrec exhibition in Denver, and to the amazing Butterfly Museum. (You
walk into a sizeable hot-house where colourful butterflies are released
twice daily, flown in from all over the world.) Judging by the
development, a second Silicon Valley is being created here, supported by
Boulder University. Walking about the town mall, made me think of
Stellenbosch with its mountain background and student population.
On our long trek home we spent a short night once more with Carl. To our
joy, he met us at LaGuardia with Marc. Until 2 am we heard the great story
of his drive with his three pals through the States and Canada.
Lindsay, smiling as always, kindly met us at Cape Town airport and took us
home. We unlocked the door and found our home as we had left it a month
earlier. The sun shone...