John C. Barry

My reminiscences, thoughts, and travel experiences

Category: Observations

Fear. Creative writing by a beautiful teenager.

Olivia’s “Fear” Friday, July 30, 2021. Olivia, my 13-year-old granddaughter, took part in Red Oak Writing’s summer camp during the week of July 26, 2021.  Friday 30th was a culmination…

Olivia’s “Fear” Friday, July 30, 2021.

Olivia, my 13-year-old granddaughter, took part in Red Oak Writing’s summer camp during the week of July 26, 2021.  Friday 30th was a culmination of the week where each of the eleven participants shared their creative writing works.  Kim Suhr, the Director, offers classes to adults and school-age students in grades six through twelve.

Each student writes about a topic of their choice, and two college students studying English facilitates enhancing their creative writing effort, including input from their fellow participants.  That benefits each student to learn from their cohort and the facilitator.  Each day they select a different topic or improve on their earlier work.

Olivia’s presentation was three minutes and fifteen seconds; Olivia shared with the audience her selected work, “Fear,” this Friday.  Writing has always been a passion for Olivia, with a potential career choice to be a writer.  Olivia attended this workshop last year, but due to COVID-19, it was conducted remotely via Zoom.  She enjoyed the personal connection and interaction this year more enthusiastically, including the fact that she attended with a few friends.

With COVID-19 concern due to the more virulent delta variant impacting society, the attendees at this workshop had to wear masks, as did we to attend the presentations.

Each of the participants displayed extraordinary talent in the quality of their writing.  The topics were as diverse as the student.  Stories varied from challenges experienced in war-torn London during the World War to interacting with aliens.  If I had any complaint, it would be that the presentations and handing out certificates of accomplishments wrapped up in under an hour.  What a thrilling time we parents and grandparents had to see our children confidently sharing their prose.

I reflected on the time when I was in high school, from 1959 to 1963.  Our English teacher gave us the assignment to write a creative story.  I recall how I went home with much enthusiasm and poured my heart and soul into my essay.  After handing in my task, my teacher requested that I read my effort to the class.  He added before I got started that he had never read such rubbish in his life.  I carry that scar of insecurity to this day.  I do enjoy writing, and my thirty-six blogs on my website are evidence of the fact.  If only teaches could understand the power they have to build or destroy a student.

That background is why I thoroughly enjoyed what these young girls did during their summer camp, and naturally, I was bursting with pride listening to Olivia describing Fear.  What a fantastic opportunity these young children have to develop their writing skills further.

Olivia: FEAR

The first time I see him it’s a Monday. We’d already been in school for two weeks and my science teacher had decided to grace us with a group project. I was standing up in the front of the class, my back to the other members of the group. That’s when he caught my eye. At the time he’d barely been a shadow, nothing more than a wisp of a thought. Maybe that’s why I didn’t recognize him. My eyes met his and they didn’t leave. He raised his eyebrow, my mouth went dry. By the time I snapped back to my senses five minutes had passed. I had missed my cue, leaving the rest of my group to fend for themselves. We didn’t pass.

The next time I saw him I was in gym class. It was basketball day. I hated basketball. My teammate passed me the ball causing the opposing players to swarm. I looked around desperately, but there were no openings. I started to panic, everybody was looking at me and I had no idea what to do. I spotted him sitting atop the folded bleachers. He looked down at me and I could tell he had even less faith in me than I did. I smiled at him, he just stared, judging. Slowly, seeing no other option, I raised my arms and thrust the ball towards the hoop. My shot went wide. We lost the game.

Over the next few weeks, I began to see him more and more. He was at my house, in my classes, he even waited for me on the bus one time. A few days ago I saw him in the mirror in the girl’s bathroom. I’d been waiting to wash my hands, it had been a break so all the sinks were taken by gossiping girls. I flinched at their loud voices, wondering if they ever talked about me. I hoped not. It was only a passing glance so I wasn’t sure but he was starting to look more solid. More real.

An hour later I walk down the hallway. A passing teacher gives me a funny look, and my death grip on the hall pass tightens. To me, it’s a lifeline preventing my heart from pounding out of my chest. The hairs on the back of my neck stand up as more footsteps echo behind me. A hand taps my shoulder and my pulse spikes. Hesitantly I turn around. To my surprise it’s him- or should I say you? Either way, I didn’t expect you to look like me. The only difference is your black eyes which stare unblinking into my own. You smile and hold your hand out for me to shake, exposing your sharp teeth and long claws- another difference. 

“Hi,” you say in your low gravelly voice. “I’m Fear.” I reach out and shake your hand. You feel more real to me than anything else in this school, but don’t respond. I’m too terrified to say anything.

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My Cape Town Conundrum. Factors in deciding an investment decision

The contrast: the United States of America with South Africa In a moment of irrational exuberance, I thought of buying an apartment in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.  My…

The contrast: the United States of America with South Africa

In a moment of irrational exuberance, I thought of buying an apartment in Cape Town, Western Cape, South Africa.  My sanity cautioned me, so I will not do it.  Why not?

In and around Cape Town, with views of The University of Cape Town, Cape Point, Franschhoek, and Paternoster

I was born in Cape Town, or more accurately Claremont, a southern suburb of Cape Town 7 miles (12 kilometers) from the city on the peninsula.  After marriage, Linda and I stayed in an apartment in Claremont.  A year later moved to an apartment in Green Point, a 10-minute drive north of the city, next relocating to Johannesburg 870 miles (1,400 kilometers) northeast of Cape Town.  We returned to the Cape to live in a rented house in Rondebosch East and then in Tokai, 13 miles (21 kilometers) further south from the city on the peninsula.  Our final move within South Africa was relocating back to Johannesburg.  Our daughter was born in Johannesburg, our son in Cape Town.

The fire damage is seen at The University of Cape Town, Mostert’s Mill, and Rhodes Memorial Restaurant

I compulsively follow South African online media reports daily, as I do to keep up with American news, and have subscriptions to two U.S. newspapers, one local and one national.  My Facebook page shows numerous daily photographs and videos originating from Cape Town and its environs.  In addition, I get daily updates from family and friends overseas regarding current developments.  The recent fires on Table Mountain that destroyed the library at the University of Cape Town, my alma mater, and historic Moster’s Mill, along with the Rhodes Memorial restaurant and tea garden, are tragic examples.  For the record, I do not obsessively follow developments in Johannesburg, where we lived for several years, including building our own home and from where we emigrated.  Please understand me; I love the Cape and environs.  I love our regular trips “home.”

If you have never had the pleasure of traveling to Cape Town, then it may be hard for you to comprehend the stunning beauty of this city and the surrounding areas in the Western Cape.  They have fantastic weather to amplify the splendor. 

Wisconsin, United States of America

In December 1986, we moved to Brookfield, Wisconsin, United States of America, a city 14 miles (22 kilometers) due west of Milwaukee located on the shores of Lake Michigan.  Milwaukee is a city two hours’ drive north of Chicago in the Midwest of the U.S. Overtime; we owned two houses in Brookfield and 13-years ago moved to our current location, a condominium in adjacent New Berlin.  You can learn more about our condo here:

There is no doubt in my mind that emigrating to the U.S. was one of the wisest moves we made in our lifetime.  The education system for our daughter and son was the best available.  After excelling at junior and high school, they attended private universities graduating cum laude in four years.  They both hold executive positions within their respective companies.  Only 41% of students graduate college or universities in four years in the U.S.  Now retired, Linda and I go for 40-minute walks daily in all weather conditions.  It is essential to understand that we adapted to a four-season climate over our 35-years in Wisconsin, the Dairy State.  We transform from the extreme cold with below-freezing weather in the middle of winter with the need for our central heating to the heat and humidity of summer with central air conditioning.  Our home provides year-round comfort.

Consequently, we have clothing to dress appropriately in each stage of the varying climate.  At the change of each season, we rearrange our wardrobe to keep the required clothing front and center.  I must add that when you look at the weather patterns in the U.S., we are in the perfect location not to experience tornadoes and other extreme weather conditions that impact communities to the south and east of us.  Our weather is the motivation for us to drive a symmetrical all-wheel-drive Subaru Outback, the safest vehicle to handle all types of weather conditions. 

We have not forsaken South Africa and almost every year travel to visit family and friends.  2013 was a unique year for me.  We flew to Cape Town on vacation; I returned in March for the 50th anniversary of our high school reunion, returning in November to attend my dad’s funeral.  Strange as it may seem, sometimes people will quiz me in grocery stores in Cape Town to ask my country of origin?  I suspect my word usage and some pronunciations have changed over time.  It is a traffic light, not a robot!  It is a trunk, not a boot!  It is a schedule (sked-ule), not a schedule (shed-ule)!  After our children started grade school in Brookfield, we attended a parent-teacher conference, and the statement was made, “your children sound normal.”  We are too old to change our accents.  Add to our situation, Linda and I speak to each other “normally,” which inhibits accent change.  Charlize Theron did a better job of adapting to a U.S. accent.  She moved from South Africa with her mother to Europe and a year later, in 1993, at age 18, to Los Angeles.  As an actress, she was motivated to adapt to a local accent quickly.  Trevor Noah moved to the U.S. from South Africa in 2011 at age 27 and has not altogether lost his accent. 

As a result of the bitter cold in winter with snow and ice, principally from December through February in 1999, we purchased a one-week timeshare in Florida for use during our winter months.  Our week could be extended to a two-week stay using the lock-off unit for a week and the large unit for the second week.  The investment provides us with flexibility.  We could trade our home location to stay in other resort locations such as Hawaii, the Caribbean, South Carolina, and southern California, each locale that we enjoyed over the years. 

Our desire and attraction for a warmer climate in our winter had me thinking of a more permanent place in Cape Town to support our annual visits.  I have a school friend who lives in the U.S. with a holiday home in Cape Town.

As we venture into our neighborhood, we are completely secure, with absolutely no concern for our safety.  That said, The United States of America is no utopia. 

Racism and gun ownership are significant problems in the U.S.  Police; stopping blacks while driving has led to several killings.  Sadly, the trend of fatal police shootings in the United States is increasing, with a total of 292 civilians having got shot, 62 of whom were Black, in the first four months of 2021.  Our local and national TV news features the latest victims daily.  In 2020, there were 1,021 fatal police shootings, and in 2019 there were 999 fatal shootings.  Additionally, the rate of fatal police shootings among Black Americans was much higher than that for any other ethnicity, standing at 36 fatal shootings per million of the population as of April 2021.  There are 330 million people in the U.S. with 393 million firearms.  More guns than people!  According to data from the nonprofit Gun Violence Archive, there were 19,379-gun violence deaths in the U.S. in 2020, including 300 children who were shot and killed.  The statistic excludes suicides involving guns, which consistently account for an additional 20,000 to 25,000 each year.  A further 39,427 people received injuries by firearms in 2020. 

Of one thing that we can be sure of, Republicans will never address gun violence in America. 

U.S. Congress passed the Second Amendment on September 25, 1789.  It was ratified December 15, 1791, and states, “A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”  More than 800,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serve in the United States in 17,985 U.S. police agencies, including City Police Departments, County Sheriff’s Offices, State Police/Highway Patrol, and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.  Aside from law enforcement, the U.S. has a Department of Defense (DoD) comprising Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, and Coast Guard are the armed forces of the United States.  The Army National Guard and the Air National Guard are reserve components.  With over 1.4 million men and women on active duty, and 718,000 civilian personnel, the DoD is the nation’s largest employer.  Another 1.1 million serve in the National Guard and Reserve forces. 

Why do we need each home to be a militia? 

The U.S. has moved on since 1789, but Republicans still hold the firm view and belief that we live in such danger that we need more guns than people in the country.  The resulting carnage be dammed.  Understand, too, that automatic and semi-automatic rifles with magazines that can hold more than one hundred rounds of ammunition have helped our communities’ mass shootings.  There have been 2,128 mass shootings since 2013, roughly one per day, where four or more people got killed in one incident.  Police killed 1,127 people in 2020, 121 shot dead after police stopped them for a traffic violation.  Our compassionate President Joe Biden wants to address the gun violence issue, but Republicans who control the U.S. Senate will never allow reform.  The Republicans are beholden to the bankrupt National Rifle Association (NRA), who help fund the elections of compliant Republicans, and a few Democrats and invest heavily in lobbying Congress to follow their will. 

When relocating to the U.S., we were forbidden from bringing guns or wine.  I was the owner of three handguns in South Africa.  I had participated in training and firearm sport and experienced limited hunting using both a shotgun and rifle.  I spent hours reloading bullets.  I will readily admit that with that experience, I am firmly against gun ownership in the U.S.  Why is it necessary?  Certainly not for protection in a safe country.

Growing up in South Africa, we were experts in biblically supported racism through apartheid (separate development) policies.  We learned that blacks could not go to heaven because they do not have a soul.  Frankly, it did not prepare me for what we discovered in the U.S.  Throughout this country’s history, the hallmarks of American democracy – opportunity, freedom, and prosperity – have been primarily reserved for white people through the intentional exclusion and oppression of people of color.  The deep racial and ethnic inequities that exist today are a direct result of structural racism: the historical and contemporary policies, practices, and norms that create and maintain white supremacy.  The U.S. has not won the fight against racial residential segregation.  The U.S. has scarcely begun a serious fight against the concentrated poverty that remains the most toxic legacy of American apartheid.  Racially exclusionary zoning practices persist.  Public housing authorities perpetuated segregation well into the 1990s; such methods have not ended just because they are illegal.  Illegal discrimination against black and Hispanic renters and owners goes on.  And whites still seek out and are steered to predominantly white neighborhoods.

We purchased our home in the upscale neighborhood of Brookfield in October 1986, a few months before permanently relocating.  The house was two years old and had been repossessed by the bank because its owner, a builder, had declared bankruptcy.  After we arrived, we learned from neighbors that they had significant concern as the rumor mill spread the message that the home had been purchased by “Africans.” The neighbors knew that the value of their homes would collapse, and the neighborhood would go to hell due to our presence.  Once they realized that we were white Africans, they arranged a block party to be introduced to and meet our friendly neighbors. 

I am puzzled by the fact that, as whites, we need to keep our race pure.  If any person is the product of a mixed race, they are no longer allowed to identify as white!  Famous mixed-race people in America include Barack Obama (white mother and black father), Kamala Harris (white father and Indian mother), Tiger Woods (black father and Asian mother), Malcolm Gladwell (white father and black mother), Trevor Noah (speaks seven languages with a white father, and black mother), and Megan Markle (white father and black mother).  Nationwide, approximately 2.4 percent of the population, over 6.8 million Americans, marked an identification with two or more races.  According to 23andme.com, my DNA shows 92.2% European, primarily French and German descent, 2.9% East Asian and Native American, 2.7% Sub-Saharan African, and 2.0 % Central and South Asian.  My father was of British and Dutch descent, and my mother French and Portuguese.  I am not too sure where the other ancestry originates.  Can I honestly classify myself as purely white?  In my South African days, under the white apartheid government, the pencil test was critical.  If they placed a pencil in your hair, did it fall out?  If yes, you were white; if not, you were black.  Very conclusive!

The United States is the wealthiest country globally, and it has the most significant wealth gap.  The United States leads the world in the growth of financial assets and booming stock markets.  Its wealth distribution is more disproportionate than any other country.  On average, Americans between 45 and 54 have a net worth of US$727,500, while the median is $124,200.  In 2020, about 580,466 homeless people were living in the United States.  On our recent trip to Florida, we witnessed people living under the bridge.  Florida is an attractive destination because of favorable weather conditions.  Locally in Milwaukee, we have approximately 970 homeless people where meals are provided, and homeless shelters can accommodate some of the needy.  As a wealthy country, Republicans will not support the poor because this is a free-market democracy where we all need to fend for ourselves.  Socialism to the Republicans is intolerable unless to help the top 1% wealthy and huge corporations.  In today’s paper, I read that our Republican state senator, Ron Johnson, reputedly worth $10 million, with a base salary of $174,000 (or $3,346/week) for doing nearly nothing in Congress due to COVID, wants to block the unemployed in Wisconsin from getting a weekly $300 boost to their benefit.  According to Johnson, the benefit will stop the unemployed from looking for work!

The Department of Homeland Security has advised that the greatest threat the U.S. faces is white supremacists.  Having a xenophobic, narcissist, alleged rapist, past president Donald Trump recording 30,537 lies over his four years in office, who by his admission, “loves to grab women by their pussies.”  As President, Trump fueled hate groups that ultimately led to the insurrection of the Capitol Building on January 6, 2021.  Trump’s followers attempted to overthrow our Congress, with the wild notion of installing Trump as a lifelong dictator.  The action resulted in five deaths and significant damage to our Capitol Building.  Trump fueled division in the country, religiously expounding his “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him because of all the illegal voting in the country, a situation not experienced previously with any other president.  Trump refused to attend the orderly handing over ceremony to Joe Biden, a first in U.S. history.  Republicans, by and large, hang onto his every word and deed to reform Republicans into Trump’s image.  My prediction is that Trump will successfully split the Republican Party in two, those racists pro-Trump, and the balance pro-America who honor the constitution.

So, where are we culturally or politically in a very divided United States of America?  We live with far-right-wing extremist radio presenters, for example, Sean Hannity and Glen Beck.  Then we have T.V. channels such as Fox News, OAN (One America News, describing itself as one of Trump’s most significant supporters), and Newsmax.  More right-wing influence with Internet sites such as Drudge Report, and The Daily Stormer, to identify a few.  All these media channels are sources of unfounded conspiracy theories.  Many followers of these sites are less educated Americans who do not read or travel to broaden their perspectives.  Suppose we take the COVID-19 pandemic as an example.  In that case, the Trump following and Evangelical Christians believe in conspiracy theories spouted about how bad it is to wear masks or subject themselves to getting vaccinated.  The result impacts the U.S. from gaining herd immunity and moving closer to society to socialize, shop, travel, and return to previously everyday life.

Taxes: The wealthiest 400 Americans pay a lower income tax rate than working-class Americans.  The richest 1% are paying the lowest income tax rate since World War II.  The wealthiest 1% hold a larger share of the nation’s wealth than in more than a century.  Biden’s capital gains tax, if passed, would only affect the top 0.32% of Americans.  The 2017 Trump tax law cut the corporate tax rate from 35 to 21 percent and shifts toward a territorial tax system, in which multinational corporations’ foreign profits largely no longer face U.S. tax.  Fifty-five of America’s largest corporations did not pay a cent in federal income tax.  These tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit wealthy shareholders and highly paid executives. 

Overall, it is hard to identify any inflection points around the TCJA (Tax Cuts and Jobs Act), which Congress passed in December 2017.  Despite the Trump Administration’s rosy promises that the post-TCJA economy would boom, it had instead grown on many dimensions at roughly the same steady, unspectacular pace as it did before the passage of the tax law, according to Mr. Burman.  He was a Treasury Department official during the Clinton administration.  However, he said, “If there are positive economic effects that I didn’t expect, I’m not aware of those.”  By cutting taxes, the law gave businesses and individuals more money to spend, expanding the economy.  But Mr. Burman says the long-run benefits the law’s authors promised—business investment and significant real wage growth—have not materialized.  Business investment rose in 2018 but has started shrinking in recent quarters amid uncertainty over trade policy.  And even that economic stimulus has not been particularly well-targeted, he said, because too much of the tax cut went to high-income taxpayers who are less likely to spend any additional money they get.  And the law’s hefty price tag has not been offset by more tax dollars flowing to government coffers.  Corporate tax receipts are down 23% since fiscal 2017.

The Congressional Budget Office projected the Republican tax cuts would widen the deficit by $1.9 trillion over a decade.  To be exact, Trump deemed his tax cuts “rocket fuel for our economy” that would kickstart a “rebirth of American industry.”  That rebirth did not arrive, as evidenced by various indicators of economic growth and labor-market health.  The tax cut linked to the record-low unemployment rate seen before the pandemic ignores several previous years of expansion.  The growth that ended in March 2020 predated Trump for several years and was the longest in U.S. history; job creation from 2012 to 2019 trended at about 2 million to 2.5 million nonfarm payrolls per year.  Trump also claimed his tax policy would supercharge business investment, but data details an increase that paled compared to prior expansions.  Domestic business investment climbed by roughly $251 billion from the first quarter of 2017 to its peak in the first quarter of 2019.  Yet gains were just as significant and more sustained during the dot-com boom of the 1990s and in the immediate wake of the financial crisis.

QAnon is spreading amongst evangelicals. QAnon is a virtual cult that began in late 2017. According to the conspiracy theory, former President Donald Trump is secretly working to stop a group of child sex traffickers. And an anonymous government insider called “Q” is believed to have shared secret information about that fight via cryptic online posts. Q allegedly last posted online on December 8.  Q’s messaging tactics draw from many themes in Christianity.  As Daniel Burke, CNN’s former religion editor, wrote, “According to the religious view of QAnon, Q is a postmodern prophet, “Q drops” (aka his messages) are sacred texts and Trump is a messianic figure who will conjure “The Storm,” an apocalyptic revelation exposing evildoers.”  Conspiracy theories find believers in many faiths. But the QAnon conspiracy theory is more popular today among evangelicals than people of other religions, according to a study by the conservative American Enterprise Institute.  “The Biblical worldview is that there’s a God who’s in control of the whole world. And one day Jesus is going to come back, he’s going to judge the wicked,” Kendall said. With QAnon, “there is a Q that knows everything, and Donald Trump is going to come back and judge the wicked, set up his rule, and his followers are going to live in their little Utopia.  But members of the flock aren’t the only ones susceptible in church communities. Some Christian pastors are also preaching to them.

Who is Donald J. Trump that the Republicans revere and hold in such high esteem?

When Trump falsely asserted that Barack Obama was born in Africa and thus illegitimate as President, it was permission for racism to blossom and fester. When he claimed he saw Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the September 11, 2001 destruction of the World Trade Centers, it was a vicious lie to feed prejudice and never happened.

Trump followers worship him because he is proud to be white, dumb, a liar, uninformed, sexually obsessed, clueless about important critical societal issues, exhibits extreme right-wing political views, hatred, and loathing for Obama, disdain for international and economic matters that he clearly does not understand, nor cares to learn, uncivil, inarticulate, self-centered, hateful, vindictive, racists, xenophobic, homophobic, Islamophobia, pseudo-religious, faux wealthy, contempt for the rule of law including the constitution, very loyal to his version of the Republican Party and their loyal supporters, and is always the maligned, harshly criticized, suffering victim.  His track record shows that he cruelly mocked the disabled; Trump is willing to tweet in ways that provide red meat to his base of deplorables, changing his views constantly to appeal to the seemingly disenfranchised.  Everything they see in Trump is what they see and pride in themselves.

The United States situation is puzzling where 40% of the population worships the ground that Trump walks on.  He got elected on the premise that as a businessman, he would perform better than any politician.  How could the Evangelical Christians fall for such a hoax?  There is so much speculation about the hold Trump had over the recent former leader of the Evangelical Church; Jerry Falwell, Jr.  Jerry proclaimed that all the faithful must vote for Trump.  We later learn that Jerry watched his wife repeatedly having sex with the pool boy.  Another athlete came forward from Liberty University with a similar accusation.  That got Jerry fired from Liberty University with a $10 million golden parachute, and worse yet, the loss of income for his immediate family, who was drinking from the same well.  When Christians prayed over him, Trump told Bob Woodward, “can you believe that insane stuff?”

Trump told more than 30,573 lies during his time in office.  The site lists lie by category showing the number of times lies were repeated.  Trump’s father gave him $1 million to start his business.  That should read $400 million; just another blatant Trump lie to make himself out to be a phenomenally successful businessman.  Mary Trump, who wrote about her uncle Donald is currently suing him for dramatically shortchanging her on her portion of Trump’s father Fred Trump’s estate when he died.  Donald said his father’s net worth was about $30 million.  It turns out Fred’s estate was at least $400 million.  Trump has said that he is worth more than $10 billion but is the only President to refuse to divulge his tax returns.  Then again, Trump has so many business failures: Trump Airlines, Trump beverages, Trump game, Trump Atlantic City Casino, Trump Taj Mahal Casino, Trump Marina Casino, Trump Plaza Casino, Trump Riverboat Casino, Trump Entertainment Resorts, Trump Magazines (Trump Style, Trump World), Trump Mortgage, Trump Steaks, Trump Travel (gotrump.com), TrumpNet, Trump Tower Tampa, Trump University, Trump Cologne, Trump Menswear, Trump Mattress, and Trump Vodka.  The tally of losses and the impact on suppliers and contractors is incalculable.  Many franchise products were dropped when Trump called Mexican’s rapists and criminals, and at the same time, the NBC TV network dropped his Apprentice program.

Trump repeatedly calls women names, including a phony, disrespectful, radical, extreme, and gold digger.  Trump’s name-calling of women black and white is not new.  He insulted Congresswoman Liz Cheney (for not supporting his “Big Lie”), Megan Markle (Duchess of Sussex), Elizabeth Warren (Senator), Hillary Clinton (former first lady), Nancy Pelosi (Speaker of the House of Representatives), Carly Fiorina (CEO HP), Omarosa Manigault Newman (former White House Aid), Megan Kelly (Fox TV host), Heidi Klum (supermodel), Alicia Machado (Miss Universe), Arianna Huffington (Huffington Post), Cher (musical artist), Anne Hathaway (actress), Maxine Waters (US Representative), Christine Blasey Ford (professor), Samantha Holvey (pageant contestant), Jessica Leeds (groped by Trump), Ivana Trump (first wife—raped), Kristin Anderson (photographer—groped), Jill Harth (businesswoman—groped), Lisa Boyne (entrepreneur—Trump looked up her skirt and commented on her underwear and genitals), Jessica Leeds (sexual conduct), Rachael Crooks (sexual conduct), Mariah Billado and Victoria Hughes (ogling at them in the nude in their dressing room while Miss Teen USA contestants), Temple Taggart (Miss Utah—Trump forced repeated kissing), Cathy Heller (mother with husband and children at Mar-a-Largo and forceful kissed her), Karena Virginia (yoga instructor—grabbed her breasts), Tasha Dixon and Bridget Sullivan (Miss USA contestants—ogled the girls while nude in the change rooms and hugged inappropriately), Melinda McGillivray (grabbed her buttocks during a concert at Mar-a-Largo), Natasha Stoynoff (People Magazine reporter, Trump sexually assaulted her and demanded an affair), Jennifer Murphy and Juliet Huddy (both kissed on the lips without consent), Ninni Laaksonen (Miss Finland groped backstage at Letterman show), Jessica Drake (adult film actress—grabbed and kissed her inviting her to his penthouse), Summer Zervos (The Apprentice contestant—grabbed her breast and kissed without consent), Cassandra Searies (USA Pageant—grabbed her buttocks and invited her to his hotel room), Alva Johnson (campaign staffer—kisses her without consent), Karen Johnson (kissed her, groped her, grabbed her genitals while at Mar-a-Largo), E. Jean Carrol (advice columnist—sexually assaulted her forcing his penis inside her in a dressing room).  What is very troubling is that former Attorney General Bill Barr used taxpayer money in his attempt to get Trump off these rape charges.  The incident took place before Trump was sworn into office.

In his years as a reality TV boss on “The Apprentice,” Donald Trump repeatedly demeaned women with sexist language, according to show insiders who said he rated female contestants by the size of their breasts and talked about which ones he’d like to have sex with.

In 1999 Trump wanted his father to change his will to cut his siblings out because Trump’s finances were in a dire strait, and his first wife was suing him for a fortune.  A legal case will proceed regarding this matter.

For Trump, the law has been a weapon, a tool, that he has used with abandon to advance his interests and attack those of others. “I know lots about litigation,” he once declared. On another occasion, he restated the point colorfully: “I’m like a Ph.D. in litigation.” By the time Trump became the presumptive 2016 Republican nominee for the presidency, he had been involved in, by one count, 4,096 lawsuits.  Trump has not been selective in the choice of targets or reluctant to pursue suits of dubious merit.  The range of his targets over time is exceptional: He has sued people over unpaid royalties in licensing deals.  He has sued Miss Pennsylvania.  He has sued Bill Maher.  He has sued the creator of Jeopardy! and Wheel of Fortune.  He has sued Scotland.  He has sued New Jersey.  He has sued New York City, and he has sued New York state.  He has sued Palm Beach, Florida.  He has sued an architecture critic from Chicago.  He has sued the secretary of the Interior and the National Indian Gaming Commission.  He has sued people for using his surname in businesses even though it was also their surname.  He has sued and been sued by longtime business partners.  He has threatened to file countless lawsuits he then has not filed.

To repeat, how can American’s support this dotard?  Are we in lockstep to be like other countries living under a dictatorship?

As one commentator put it somewhat succinctly:

  • The “billionaire” who hides his tax returns.
  • The “genius” who hides his college grades.
  • The “businessman” who bankrupted three casinos and lost over $1 billion in 10 yrs.
  • The “playboy” who pays for sex.
  • The “virologist” who knew more than Dr. Fauci.
  • The “leader of the free world” who said he “fell in love” with North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.
  • The “Christian” who does not go to church.
  • The “President” who committed treason by turning a blind eye to Russian bounties on our soldiers.
  • The “unifier” who calls white supremacists fine people.
  • The “philanthropist” who defrauds charity.
  • The “patriot” who dodged the draft five times.
  • The “innocent man” who refused to testify.
  • The “President” who took no responsibility against COVID-19.
  • The “tough, strong” man who wears makeup and hairspray.
  • The “deal maker” who never closed a deal.
  • The “ex-president” who calls for sedition against America’s legitimate elected government.

As Republicans tell the story, this was a few visitors touring the Capitol on January 6, 2021

The most egregious is the role Trump played in causing the insurrection of the Capitol on January 6, 2021.  Trump promotes the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen from him through fraud and illegal votes.  In Arizona, they are inspecting the paper to see if it contains bamboo, a sign that ballots were sent for Asia!  After numerous court cases, no fraud was identified.  Republicans have proposed 250 new laws in 43 states to limit mail, early in-person, and Election Day voting.  Essentially laws aimed at disadvantaging Black, Hispanic, and Asian voters who tend to vote Democrat.  To read more about the origins of the Big Lie, go here: The making of a myth.

Trump’s legacy will include the fact that he was impeached twice as President but saved by Republicans.  Trump dismissed the COVID-19 pandemic as a China virus, nothing more than flu, that could be treated by ingesting disinfectant.  The Chinese virus comment led to attacks on members of the Asian community in the U.S. and Canada.  Due to Trump’s contempt for the virus, more than 686,000 Americans died by September 2021.

After I retired, I took a position at a Subaru dealer selling vehicles, a brand that we already owned.  It was not for the money, as the income was mainly commission-based, but more for the socialization.  I only stayed four months.  During my initial interview, I explained that we had plans to travel to South Africa for three weeks at year-end.  The manager said that he could accommodate my request.  Once I joined the privately held company, the manager who interviewed me had left to take a position with a competitor.  My new manager, the owner’s son, informed me that each employee only has a one-week vacation allowance twelve months after the anniversary date of joining.  He recommended that I resign and guaranteed that I will be rehired once I re-apply after my overseas trip.  Frankly, I was mortified to hear how this manager treated our team, including women, dropping F-bombs in every sentence, and that was sufficient for me to elect not to rejoin this company.  Working in the U.S. can be a shock.

Additional indignation, for the first time in my life, I was an hourly employee.  I had to clock in and out by logging into a computer terminal when I arrived at work and before I left after my shift.  Heaven help me if I forgot to log in or out—that would be an incident report on my personnel record!

I had quite a learning curve after our relocation to the U.S.  The company that hired me facilitated our immigration through local immigration lawyers and only provided one week of vacation after the first year of employment.  The company owner helped in many other ways, in that he spoke to a bank manager who facilitated financing, allowing us to purchase a home in October 1986 and provided a line of credit enabling us to purchase two new vehicles, a Pontiac 6000 for me, and Honda Accord for Linda.  A few years later, after I started my business, I provided company cars to personnel that required travel to clients for sales or consulting purposes using my South African experiences.  They could select any vehicle as long as they were not outrageously expensive.  We covered all running costs, including insurance and maintenance.  Only later I learned that it had negative tax consequences for the staff.  They certainly enjoyed their vehicles.  One wife commented that her husband did not require a salary as far as she was concerned, but she loved the car. 

Please do not misconstrue my words.  We have enjoyed our 34-years in the U.S.  There have been notable exceptions.  The night of “Shock and Awe” when George Bush decided to bomb Baghdad, Iraq on Friday, March 21, 2003—the day I ended my allegiance to the Republican party.  I am grateful that we now have a compassionate president in Joe Biden who has already overturned many of Trump’s insane executive orders.  Having laid out the case that the U.S. is not a total paradise, especially after four years of Trump, already rated as the worst President ever, how does South Africa stack up in general, and Cape Town in particular?

Cape Town, South Africa

On April 6, 1652, Jan van Riebeeck arrived in Cape Town to create a supply station for the Dutch East India Company, suppling ships sailing between The Netherlands and the Far East.  They represented the first European settlement in what was later to become South Africa.  Portuguese explorer Bartholomeu Dias was the first European to reach these shores in 1488 and named it the Cape of Storms, later renamed Cape of Good Hope.  Vasco da Gama, also Portuguese, recorded his siting in 1497.  Human occupation dates to between 15,000 and 12,000 years ago.

The Dutch controlled this region until 1795 when the British took control.  It was returned to the Dutch in 1803 but occupied again by the British in 1806.  Cape Town was permanently ceded to the United Kingdom in 1814, now the capital of the Cape Colony.  The Cape got its parliament in 1854 and its local Prime Minister in 1872.  In 1910 Britain established the Union of South Africa, and Cape Town became the legislative capital of the union, one of three capitals.  Cape Town was the most racially integrated city when the Nationalist Party won elections in 1948 based on apartheid, racial segregation.  Cape Town has a population of 4,710,000 (in 2020).  Cape Town’s demographics feature 42.4% Colored, 38.6% Black, 15.7% White, 1.4% Asian or Indian.  Colored was a legally defined racial classification during apartheid.  Coloreds are a multiracial ethnic group native to Southern Africa who has ancestry from more than one of the various populations inhabiting the region, including Khoisan, Bantu, European, Austronesian, East Asian, or South Asian.  Because of ethnicities, different families and individuals within a family may have various physical features.

After establishing the Union of South Africa in 1910, it became a member of the British Empire in 1934.  The country became the Union of South Africa on May 31, 1961, now a republic ending its allegiance to the British Commonwealth.  In April 1994, the African National Congress (ANC), a black majority political party, took power after one-man, one-vote elections.  The presidents included Nelson Mandela (May 10, 1994, to June 16, 1999), Thabo Mbeki (June 16, 1999, to September 24, 2008), Kgalema Motlanthe (September 25, 2008, to May 9, 2009), Jacob Zuma (May 9, 2009, to February 14, 2018), and incumbent Cyril Ramaphosa (February 15, 2018).

On March 16, 2018, the director of public prosecutions confirmed that Jacob Zuma would face 18 charges of corruption, including more than 700 counts of fraud and money laundering.  Zuma’s political allies within the ANC and Tripartite Alliance protested the prospect of a corruption trial.  On February 3, 2020, a court issued an arrest warrant for former president Zuma on corruption charges.  For nearly three years, South African investigators have been unearthing a web of corruption around former President Jacob Zuma in a public inquiry that has captivated the country.  Zuma’s bribes were exchanged using top-shelf whiskey, luxury cars, and a cash-stuffed Louis Vuitton bag.  High-ranking officials distributed lucrative government contracts in exchange for monthly handouts.  That era of graft drained tens of billions of dollars from state coffers and has become one of the most infamous chapters of South Africa’s post-apartheid history.  Now, the country’s highest court will determine whether Mr. Zuma can be held accountable for contempt of court, and an era of consequence-free corruption, in a hearing that represents one of the most significant tests for South Africa’s democratic institutions in recent years.

Our South African homes. The home my parents built in Claremont, Cape Town with significant upgrades to security in recent years. The home we built in Edenglen, Edenvale, a secure gated community, outside Johannesburg with significant upgrades to the home after we left South Africa.

I liken South Africa to a Chinese water torcher.  Drip, drip, drip.  Over the years since we left, security is an evolving issue where people need to live in their homes as if they are in jail.  High walls surround each property, most topped with electric wiring as an added deterrent.  Homes are organized indoors with zoned safety areas, so you only move in certain parts of the house after the security alarms are set, once asleep but not in other portions of the home.  Within a residence, the first requirement is to ensure every window and external door has burglar proofing to guarantee no one can force entry.  Reinforced windows and door glass are essential.  Alert dogs sleeping outside on the premises are mandatory.  When I am in Cape Town have my taser and a very sharp pocketknife for protection.  I keep questioning, is this the way to live—in one of the most beautiful cities in the world?  Where are the police? 

The South African Police Service (SAPS) is the national police force of the Republic of South Africa.  The provincial borders share 1,138 police stations in South Africa, with a Provincial Commissioner appointed in each of the nine provinces.  SAPS employs 193,692 people.  I attempted to use their services when I was pick-pocked in March 2013.  The security offices in the shopping center had video footage of the theft and, naturally, the criminals.  Reporting the incident to the nearby police station was a waste of time.  For them to follow up would have entailed work.  With the SAPS being so inept, what are South Africans to do?  They have supported a booming security industry.  The Security Association of South Africa is a body representing private security companies.  At present, over 9,000 security companies render residential, commercial, and industrial security services, which comprises guarding, electronic monitoring, armed response, and asset in transit services. There are currently more than 500,000 security officers in the employ of these companies.  Security companies exist because of the high level of crime and South Africa and the total ineptitude of SAPS.

As a result of corruption endemic in South Africa, the State-Operated Enterprises (SOE) are primarily bankrupt.  These include:

  • Transnet (freight logistics),
  • SAA (the South Africa Airways),
  • South African Express (airline),
  • Eskom (world’s eleventh-largest power utility in terms of generating capacity, ranks ninth in terms of sales, and boasts the world’s largest dry-cooling power station),
  • Denel (armaments and military equipment manufacturer),
  • SAFCOL (forestry),
  • Alexcor (diamond mining). 

There are many reasons why these SOEs are in trouble.  One is reverse discrimination.  Whites in critical positions in these organizations were terminated or demoted.  I have friends and family impacted through this action.  Political appointments were made into executive positions, many or most without the skillset to manage their respective operations. 

I will use Eskom as an example, a company I provided with software consulting services.  At the time, Eskom produced the most reliable electric power at one of the lowest rates globally.  Today I have an app on my iPhone, “EskomSePush.”  Eskom cannot provide uninterrupted 24X7 power countrywide to consumers consistently.  They operate what is known as “load shedding.”  Eskom has four stages where each stage will drop service for two-and-a-half hours.  The app allows the consumer to key in their location and discovers when power will be cut.  If you were lucky, it could be late at night or early morning, but sometimes mid-morning or afternoon.  Planning around power cuts is near impossible because there is no logical repeat pattern.  If you operate a business and require power, then you are out of luck!  Generally, hospitals are spared this power outage.

A Powership deal locks South Africa into a 20-year contract to purchase expensive, dirty power when the cost of clean, renewable energy is falling every year.  South Africa has abundant sun and wind.  The CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) estimated this deal will cost South Africa R218 billion (US$15 billion).  A Powership is a ship on which a power plant is installed.  They anchor just offshore to provide ship-to-shore electricity to countries unable to generate enough of their own.  These are generally failed or failing states such as Ghana, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Gambia, Senegal, Sudan, Beirut, Iraq, and Pakistan, currently using Powerships on contracts of two to five years.  Under Minister of Mineral Resources Gwede Mantashe’s deal, South Africa will be paying R2.30 (US$0.16) per kilowatt-hour.  At the same time, Saudi Arabia has just signed a power purchase agreement for solar power at a record-low of $0,0104 per kilowatt-hour, which is equivalent to US$0.15 per kilowatt-hour in South Africa.  The alleged involvement of the family members of Minister Mantashe and senior government officials in the bid process must now trigger an urgent and comprehensive investigation into the bid.  Minerals and Energy Minister Gwede Mantashe has revealed that the Turkish company supplying the country with floating power plants to address power shortages is supplying 1,220 MW.  The Powerships are located in three coastal areas stretching from the Eastern Cape to the town of Richards Bay in KwaZulu-Natal.  The total combined power output/capacity of the three floating Liquefied Natural Gas Turbine, or Powerships, projects appointed as Preferred Bidders under the Risk Mitigation Power Producer Procurement Programme (RMIPPP).  More potential corruption. 

On May 7, 2021, Eskom, the South African power utility, said it had suspended a senior manager in its coal procurement division after an investigation revealed corruption in its coal supply chain.  The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) found the senior manager was in control of a bank account with a balance of nearly R12m (US$ 830,000).  It followed a whistle-blower tip-off that prompted Eskom into a preliminary investigation.  The funds had been deposited by some of Eskom’s suppliers in the coal division, the utility said in an announcement on Friday.  To be clear, this is the tip of the iceberg.  The corruption runs deep within the utility.

The Institute for Security Studies in South Africa stated, “In 2011 the former head of the Special Investigation Unit, Willie Hofmeyer, reported before parliament that between R25 billion (US$ 1.7 billion) and R30 billion (US$2 billion) was lost to the government procurement budget each year due to this type of fraud.  Moreover, there is evidence that incidents of corruption are increasing.  A report by Edward Nathan Sonnenbergs (Africa’s largest law firm) based on documented fraud and malfeasance cases presented to parliament and contained in Public Service Commission reports found that the amount involved increased from R130 million (US$9 million) in 2006/07 to over R1 billion (US$70 million) in 2011/12.  So there is evidence that the heart of the problem lies in the lack of accountability for maladministration and corruption.  Corruption Watch states that this problem starts with President Zuma – while there are various efforts by the government to tackle corruption, “these actions were countered by the continuing impunity on the part of those who were politically and financially powerful.”  In particular, it was explained that the “Gupta wedding saga and ongoing fiasco surrounding the President Zuma’s private Nkandla residence are indicators in the past year of impunity in operation.” Little symbolizes the nature of our public sector corruption challenge better than the scandal of R215 million (US$ 17 million) of public money being diverted away from the public good to upgrade President Jacob Zuma’s private homestead.  President Zuma is not solely responsible for all corruption in the public sector, but he certainly has impeded any progress that could have been made in this regard.  In addition to his shady dealings with people like convicted fraudster Shabir Shaik, he has repeatedly appointed people of low ethical standards to key positions in the cabinet and the criminal justice system.  As a result, citizens are less trusting of their national leaders.  It is reflected in the recently released 2013 South African Reconciliation Barometer survey undertaken by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR).  The survey revealed that since 2012 there had been a 10,8% decrease in citizens’ confidence in the national government.  There has also been a 13% increase in the proportion of citizens who feel that government does not care about “people like them.” The sad reality can partly explain that some in the ruling elite have jettisoned principles for political power. 

The Washington Post reported “South African president Cyril Ramaphosa has intensified the country’s anti-corruption drive with the suspension of his African National Congress (ANC) party’s secretary-general, who is facing corruption charges in court.  The decision made this week to suspend Ace Magashule and implement a policy that forces leaders charged with corruption to resign is largely seen as a victory for Ramaphosa against his political rivals.  Magashule is facing corruption and fraud charges for allegedly benefitting from an R255 million (over $18 million) contract to eradicate asbestos houses in the Free State province when he was a premier of the province.” 

Pieter-Louis Myburgh wrote a book “Gangster State: Unravelling Ace Magashule’s Web of Capture.”  The book was written before Ace moved to an executive position within the ANC.  The corruption never stops–it is too lucrative for the chosen few.

The reality is that after many years, I can enumerate many policies that have impacted business in South Africa to favor the ANC.  I will use one to illustrate a situation.  South Africa has a BEE (Black Economic Empowerment) policy that encourages businesses to integrate black people into the workspace, upskill and mentor, and support black businesses.  A great principle in theory but abused in practice.  I had dealings with a successful family-run automotive dealership.  The ANC government insisted that the family donate for free a portion of their business to a black man.  Refusing to dilute the family’s decades of blood, sweat, and tears, they sold the business.  One result of the BEE policy in general, and treatment of whites by the ANC, is that since 1995 at least 800,000 have left the country.  We left in an earlier wave.  Can the nation afford this brain drain?

The nonprofit organization, Chandler Institute of Governance (CIG), has published its inaugural good government index, measuring the effectiveness of governments in 104 countries globally.  The index takes a non-ideological and non-partisan view of governance.  The index does not prioritize any form of government over another by focusing on state capabilities and performance.  South Africa was ranked 70th on the list, behind other Sub-Saharan countries such as Mauritius (30th), Rwanda (53rd), and Botswana (57th).  Some of the critical areas where South Africa is falling behind the rest of the world include the Ability to attract investments; International trade; Education; Health; Personal safety; Income equality; Social mobility; Non-discrimination; The macroeconomic environment.

Couriers must stop delivering packages under 1kg in South Africa – Post Office.  The S.A. Post Office (SAPO) and the Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA) want to stop private courier companies from delivering packages under 1kg in South Africa.  It is one of the main talking points which emerged from a recent Gauteng High Court case between PostNet and ICASA.  SAPO employs over 16,480 people and operates more than 1,400 postal outlets throughout the country.  PostNet was founded in 1994 when there was an urgent need in South Africa for an operation that could deliver a range of efficient business solutions.  The South African Post Office is in the process of permanently closing 130 branches across the country.  The figure was confirmed by Post Office CEO Nomkhita Mona during a briefing to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Communications on May 26, 2021.  This comes after the Post Office was declared commercially insolvent, with its 2019/2020 financial results showing it had incurred losses of more than R1.7 billion (US$ 120 million), while its liabilities exceeded assets by R1.5 billion (US$107 million). Today, PostNet is S.A.’s largest privately owned counter network in the document and parcel industry, trading across 400 owner-managed retail stores.  PostNet serves more than 70,000 “walk-in” customers per day, countrywide. There are five product types within PostNet; Courier, Copy & Print, Digital, Stationery, and Mailboxes.  The reality is that PostNet offers a reliable service with a guarantee for mail and packages to arrive at their destination. 

Murders in South Africa remain high, with a 1.4% increase in 2019/20, to 21,325 reported cases.  It works out to 58 people murdered in the country every day, at a rate of 35.8 people per 100,000 population.  South Africa has one of the highest rates of rape in the world, with some 65,000 rapes and other sexual assaults reported for the year ending in March 2012, or 127.6 per 100,000 people in the country.  South Africa has a high record of carjacking when compared with other industrialized countries.  Cash-in-transit (CIT) heists have at times reached epidemic proportions in South Africa.  From 1994 to 2020, South Africa experienced 13,000 farm attacks, during which 2,000 commercial farmers were killed besides others who were injured or wounded. “AfriForum’s research reports 63 farm murders in 2020, as opposed to 45 farm murders in 2019,” said Andrea Muller, a researcher at AfriForum. 

The U.S. Department of State carries warnings on their travel website for South Africa.  Do not travel to South Africa due to COVID-19.  Exercise increased caution in South Africa due to crime and civil unrest.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Level 4 Travel Health Notice for South Africa due to COVID-19, indicating a very high level of COVID-19 in the country.  Violent crime, such as armed robbery, rape, carjacking, mugging, and “smash-and-grab” attacks on vehicles, is common.  There is a higher risk of violent crime in the central business districts of major cities after dark.  Demonstrations, protests, and strikes occur frequently.  These can develop quickly without prior notification, often interrupting traffic, transportation, and other services; such events can turn violent.  Additional detailed information is published at this site.

Conclusion

My problem is that I love the beauty of South Africa, the people with dear family members and friends, its lifestyle, and the weather.  On the other hand, I’m not fond of the country’s insecurity and that one must always be on your guard.  When I rent a vehicle, I pay all insurance options, including liability insurance, to ensure that if I get hijacked, the car broken into, or the vehicle gets stolen or damaged, I will not need to pay excess damage.  Despite all I have written, I will continue to visit, and possibly on an annual basis, especially when COVID-19 is history in South Africa.  That said, I am not prepared to risk an investment in an apartment in the Cape Town area, one that could accommodate our children and granddaughters.  I did not even mention the ANC goal of land expropriation without compensation—should that ultimately become law. 

There are no additional conditions for foreigners purchasing property in S.A.  The only pre-requisite is that the money must be brought into South Africa through the South African Reserve Bank.  The foreign national will receive a Deal Certificate as proof if he or she ever sells and wants to repatriate the money out of the country.  When purchasing property, the purchaser pays the legal fees and the government transfer duty (approximately 8% of purchase price).  The seller pays the agent’s commission.  There is a contract.  Once the seller accepts the buyer’s offer, it is a binding contract.  South Africans pay monthly rates and taxes to the local municipality, approximately 6% of the municipal valuation.  One may rent out a property, subject to income tax.  However, some gated estates do not allow short-term rentals for security reasons.  I have done my homework.  Should anyone convince me to make the investment and perceive that the security situation has improved, I might pull the trigger.  Quite frankly, the “snowbirds” in our part of the world escape our winters to Florida or Arizona.  If all things were equal, why not Cape Town?

If my son or daughter wishes to travel to South Africa with their daughters, I will encourage them to visit.  However, it would be my preference to accompany them to ensure their safety since I believe I have significantly more experience of risks involved.  I would never venture out driving at night on the R300 in Cape Town, a road that experiences several protests.

From within the United States of America, I see political developments as a pendulum swing.  After four horrible years with Trump doing all he could to destroy the U.S., I have complete faith in President Joe Biden, Vice-President Kamala Harris, the Democrats, and any reasonable non-racist non-bigoted Republicans who will put America first.  We will overcome.

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Marriott Ocean Pointe, Singer Island, Florida, Vacation March 2021

With trepidation, we planned to stay at our timeshare at Marriott Ocean Pointe, Palm Beach Shores, on Singer Island, Florida, for a portion of February and March 2021.

With trepidation, we planned to stay at our timeshare at Marriott Ocean Pointe, Palm Beach Shores, on Singer Island, Florida, for a portion of February and March 2021.  Our reluctance and hesitation were solely due to our concern for contracting COVID.  Reviewing videos Marriott had on their website describing their commitment to their guest’s safety, we decided to take a break from the cold of Wisconsin to enjoy the warmer weather in the Sunshine State. 

One year earlier, in March 2020, we vacationed in Cape Town, South Africa.  Our trip was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  We endured a dramatic return to the U.S.  You can read about that harrowing adventure here:  Our lives were upended for the balance of the year.  We longed for a change back to normal everyday life.

Since we planned to visit Marriott Ocean Pointe for two weeks, we elected to drive to Florida, a one-way distance of 1,400 miles (2,250 km).  The strategy to save on airfare and car rental, with transportation services somewhat risky to use during this pandemic.  With 524,141 COVID-19 deaths at month-end February 2021, why take risks?  We religiously wore masks during the past year, kept our social distance, used hand sanitizers, washed our hands frequently, did not have close contact with our son, daughter, and granddaughters.  Our only means of communication have been through Facetime.  Our groceries have been bought online with curbside pickup.  With those considerations, we elected to stay at additional Marriott hotels breaking up our one-way 24-hour drive, selecting Atlanta Marriott Northwest at Galleria in Georgia, and Marriott Courtyard, Lafayette, in Indiana.

All being well; next year, in March 2022, we will stay at the Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club in Oahu, Hawaii.  It will be a return trip, and you can read about our prior fun time here: (Update September 2021–we canceled this trip, again due to the ongoing COVID pandemic).

We invested in a timeshare with Marriott, Singer Island Beach Resort, in 1999.  Our motivation is to escape the cold of Wisconsin enjoying the warmth of Florida.  This year while at home, two days before our trip, we endured minus 18 Celsius (zero Fahrenheit) weather, and with the wind chill, it felt like minus 22 C (-7 F).  Without adequate protection, ten minutes outside results in frostbite.  That said, we bundle up and head out for our daily 40-minute walks to get our desperately needed exercise. 

Meanwhile, West Palm Beach, Florida is 28 C (82 F) and feels like 30 C (86 F)!  A 50-degree swing in Celsius, or 93-Fahrenheit!  The polar vortex with extreme cold covered the United States and Canada from February 2nd to 17th, 2021, and resulted in 100 million homes losing power.  It registered the coldest records varying from 10 to 100 years depending on geographical location.

When we travel to our timeshare for one week, we fly, rent a car, and rotate our vacation with Robyn or Sean and their respective spouses and daughters.  On those occasions, we reserve the double apartment.  The large unit for their family of four, while we use the interleading smaller lock-off.  On this occasion, we visit for two weeks without our children and granddaughters and drive the 1,400 miles (2,250 kilometers), a trip taking a total of 24 hours.

We bought a timeshare in the platinum (high) season, where optionally in week one, we use the smaller lock-off room with bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, with all the essentials we require.  The second week we move into a larger adjoining unit with a washing machine, dryer, lounge with sleeper couches, and more comfortable accommodation.  Our timeshare has a side ocean view.  The resort comprises five high-rise buildings with 192 total apartments.  We usually request a high floor in an 18-story building, but with the COVID-19 virus a reality, we asked for a low floor to avoid using the elevators as an added safety precaution.  There were 92 stairway steps to get to our fourth-floor unit.

Each timeshare unit comes with every amenity that one expects from a luxury resort.  The units are air-conditioned, with cable TV, internet, hairdryers, microwave, pots and pans, cutlery and crockery, a refrigerator with an ice maker, toaster, coffee maker, and a list too long to enumerate every necessity provided.  They thoughtfully provide trash cans and a recycle bin.  Barbeque grills are available outside each building.  There is a Tiki Bar in the pool area, providing liquid refreshments and meals.  You can relax at a firepit or in a heated spa pool.  A grocery store is on the premises with essentials you may have forgotten to bring or need to augment.  An exercise room and Spa are available, together with an option of three swimming pools, a kiddie’s pool, a Whirlpool Spa, and a splash pool, a few feet from the ocean.  The beach area provides deck chairs for comfortable sun tanning or reading.  Children are catered for with an activity center, arts and craft activities, and babysitting.  Want sport?  There is a putting green, tennis court, volleyball court, and miniature golf available.  Our comfort is assured.

One hugely enjoyable feature is the hot water feeding the bathroom and kitchen—provided on demand.  The reality in America is businesses do not want to be sued.  The water temperature is controlled not to scald yourself, offering a selection between warm and warmer.

The resort is located near many attractions.  There is a zoo, science museum, wildlife sanctuary, and a short drive to a lion country safari.  An international airport is located in Fort Lauderdale, an hour’s drive, with a local airport 15 minutes away.  The facility caters for meetings and weddings.  Why stay at a resort hotel to work?  If that is not sufficient to impress you, underground parking is available.

Marriott’s Ocean Pointe is located on Singer Island, a peninsula on the Palm Beach Shores’ Atlantic coast.  Singer Island was named after Palm Beach developer Paris Singer, a Singer Sewing Machine magnate Isaac Singer’s son.  Singer Island has parks, marinas, hiking, and bike paths, and 4.7 miles (7.6 km) of white sand beach considered one of the top five beaches in Palm Beach County.  Singer Island is 3 miles (4.8 km) from North Palm Beach, 5.4 miles (8.7 km) from West Palm Beach (home to Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Largo), 5.4 miles (8.7 km) from Palm Beach Gardens, 6.2 miles (10.0 km) from Juno Beach, and 10.6 miles (17.1 km) from Jupiter.  Linda and I walk the beach, but mainly along the road.  One sad observation is that we see a few homeless people living under the bridges benefitting from the magnificent weather.

There is a fascinating history about Singer Island to read here:

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Before 7:00 am (Central Time), we left the condominium and arrived at the Marriott Hotel in Atlanta at 8:30 pm (Eastern Time, or 9:30 Central).  Naturally, the 12:30 hour day was long but fortunately uneventful for the most part. Linda road shotgun.  Reviewing the Weather Channel and Google Maps, Linda provided a running commentary along the way via her iPhone.  Linda alerted me to speed traps, where accidents along the way would delay us by 15 or 30 minutes and where we would encounter severe weather conditions.  Fortunately, none of that came to pass.  It was fascinating that, driving from home to just before we arrived at Chattanooga, Tennessee, 700 miles (1100 km), the land was covered in snow.  To that point, the temperature was below freezing.  On Wednesday night before we left, our daughter Robyn had warned us to leave early morning or later in the morning to avoid the rush hour traffic around Chicago, a 90-minute drive from our home.  As luck would have it, due to COVID-19, the traffic was relatively light for Chicago.

During the time I ran my business, I traveled extensively across the Midwest.  Fortunately, I know the roads well.  Setting my GPS in the car, before we started our journey, the GPS recommended I use the shortest route to Indianapolis, Indiana, and drive through the center of Chicago.  Experience taught me that was a big mistake, and dutifully the GPS declared “recalculating” as I used the ring road around the Windy City. The GPS added 3 minutes to my arrival time in Atlanta.  I did have one regret after several hours of driving.  It never occurred to me to pack windshield washer fluid.  The road conditions with snow and ice showers were challenging enough to empty the car’s washer fluid reservoir.

Our journey on this first day took us from Wisconsin through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, to Georgia.  The massive storms brought devastation to many parts of the country, especially Texas, where millions of customers lost power.  Residents were warned to boil their water, a challenge without electricity.  Greg Abbott, Republican Texas Governor, incorrectly blamed the reusable energy for the power failure, especially the wind turbines that stopped functioning because they got coated with ice.  The reality is that to save money, they elected not to add function to the turbines that would have prevented the ice buildup, admittedly a rare occurrence in Texas.  A condition that previously occurred in 2011.  The presence of wind turbines in Indiana, on both sides of the Interstate, is awe-inspiring.  The state generates 1,897 MW of electricity through 1,096 turbines. It yields 4.82% of the in-state electricity production.  Indiana is ranked 12th in the nation for wind power.  I am sure we see one hundred turbines as we speed south through the state.  At the U.S. research station in Antarctica, annual temperatures average zero degrees Fahrenheit but often drop much lower. There, near the United States McMurdo Station, a few wind turbines can provide enough electricity to power 100 American homes and avoid burning over 120,000 gallons (450,000 liters) of diesel fuel each year.  What a difference a bit of planning makes, and willingness to spend a few extra dollars to winterize essential equipment.  If they can do it in Antarctica, why not Texas?

We made two stops on the way to Atlanta.  Both to refuel the car and an opportunity to stretch our legs. Our first stop was in Columbus, Indiana. We wanted to stop in at Starbucks for coffee and a treat.  We were greeted with a sign at the door to say that bathrooms were not available, so we promptly turned around and shopped at Culver’s.  The greater shock was the Shell gas station.  The driveway was ankle-deep in snow and slush that they had not bothered to clear, making refueling the vehicle an unpleasant experience.  Our second stop at a Chevron in Guild, Tennessee, was less eventful.

Protea, the national flower of South African, the name for the South African cricket team, and Protea Hotel Group, a member of the U.S. Marriott Hotel and Resorts group.

My Subaru is five years old.  It has covered 32,000 miles (50,000 km) and has not been driven for more than two hours at a stretch in the past two years.  I found it fascinating that the longer I went, the more willing the vehicle seemed to run.  The Subaru was fully loaded with luggage and food for our two-week vacation, being reluctant to make purchases with the pandemic still claiming one life in the U.S. every minute.  Generally, the car was running at about 2,000 RPM (revolutions per minute) and very occasionally would need a burst to 3,000 RPM.  Our Subaru is redlined at 6,000 through 8,000 RPM, and we never needed to push the vehicle that hard.  Our alternate strategy could have been to fly to Fort Lauderdale and rent a vehicle.  That will have been a more expensive option, and with COVID, we would not have enjoyed a full occupancy flight.  Sadly, half the nation still follows Trump’s concept that the virus is a hoax and refuses to wear masks or take necessary precautions. 

We have been faithful to Marriott for many years.  I joined while running my business, calling for a significant amount of travel.  We trust their pledge that the rooms have been sterilized before our arrival.  It helps that I had both my Pfizer vaccinations, and Linda received her first dose.  Linda received her second shot after our return home. 

Atlanta Marriott Northwest at Galleria made careful arrangements for guests to stay safe during this pandemic. Our room was located on the eleventh floor.  To access an elevator, guests had to stand six feet apart. Only one family was allowed in the elevator at a time, or if there were two people, who were not related, they could use the elevator but stand in opposite corners.  Guests always had to wear face coverings. One strange additional cost was to park outside netting the hotel an additional income of $12. Where could we have left the car for free?

I need to include a negative comment.  Our biggest disappointment is the condition of some interstates.  I know that we live in a climate with tremendous weather variations, from extremely hot to extremely cold.  Consequently, we encounter numerous potholes as we drive.  If I did not believe that much of the situation exists because of budget cuts, I may be more understanding.  Honestly, it is like living in a third-world country. I have traveled extensively in South Africa, and their national roads, the equivalent of our interstates, are in near perfect condition.  Wisconsin is rated 38th in the nation for the quality of its roads.  Speaking from experience, the suburban streets are in worse shape by comparison with major arterial routes.  Ratings for the states we traveled, where one is best, and 50 the worst, Illinois (28), Indiana (33), Kentucky (5), Tennessee (7), Georgia (26), and Florida (40).

Another observation from today’s drive was comparing the number of automobiles to 18-wheeler trucks.  On the open roads, between large cities, the ratio appears to be a 50/50 split. In the big cities, with their large proportion of commuter traffic, cars outnumber trucks. In our experience, it was smarter to stop at rest stops where the bathrooms were cleaner than going into town to refuel the car and use their bathrooms that were not always the most hygienic.

Mindful of the long day’s drive and not wishing to make any bathroom breaks, I skipped breakfast.  We had a single slice of wheat bread with an egg, and mayonnaise spread that Linda prepared in the early morning and stored in our cooler.  I supplemented my lunch with an apple and had a banana for dinner.  We bought a bar of dark chocolate at a stop for a treat.

Friday, February 19, 2021

We woke early in the hotel, showered, and picked up a “to-go” breakfast meal in the restaurant served in small plastic containers, one a yogurt and granola, the other fresh-cut fruit.  We made coffee in the bedroom first thing after waking.  By comparison to yesterday, the traffic pattern was quite different.  We saw a large volume of vehicles traveling north in the opposite direction of our travel, in Georgia and Florida.  Cars outnumbered the large 18-wheeler trucks.  We were puzzled if it was holidaymakers returning home.  I can only assume that there was an equal number of vehicles traveling south.  We filled up at a Circle K in Lake City, Florida, before the final drive to our timeshare.

The other big difference on this drive was the absence of potholes.  Linda kept checking for speed traps and weather conditions.  Possibly the most amazing sight was to see blue skies as we approached our timeshare.  To that point, we only encountered cloudy skies.  Then too, on this stretch of the drive, we repeatedly drove through rain showers that did not last long until we experienced the next one.

I said how impressed I was with our car.  I will readily admit that even if Subaru promotes their ergonomically designed seats, after 24 hours of driving, my butt was not sure that this was an accurate comment.

Driving through Palm Beach Shores neighborhood to Marriott Ocean Pointe

We arrived at Marriott Ocean Pointe at 4:00 pm after 10 hours of driving.  We were assigned a room on the second floor of the Sail Fish building with a view of palm trees outside our unit.  Due to COVID, we requested a low floor to minimize our exposure to the virus.  At a stretch, we could see the ocean if we leaned over the balcony.  Then the fun started.

Linda informed me that I was running a fever with an elevated temperature.  I was exhausted, dehydrated, and drained.  I could speculate as to why this happened to me.  Was it a reaction to the second Pfizer vaccination?  I doubt it.  It was more likely the effect of not drinking over the past two days to save my weak bladder so that I did not have to stop on the road every two hours.  Then too I had hardly eaten during the long 24-hour drive.  At any rate, Linda had me crawl into bed and sleep with painkillers for the next 14 hours. 

Postscript (Sunday 21st).  We watched a show on TV explaining one consequence of the vaccination, describing all the effects that I had experienced!  The nurse who administered my second shot stated that most people find the second vaccination has a greater after-effect than the first.  I dismissed her comment.  I appreciate now that she knew what she was advising. To put the timing in perspective, I received my second Pfizer COVID vaccination on Wednesday morning, then drove on Thursday and today (Friday).  Second postscript (Thursday, March 11th).  Linda felt a bit warm after her second Pfizer shot, but it only lasted for a day or two.

Saturday, February 20, 2021

Waking up refreshed and ready to take on the day, we elected to have a quiet day after two days of motoring.  We debated breaking up the return journey between Atlanta and home with a stopover in Lafayette, Indiana, and made another Marriott reservation.  Not bad racking up points with 18 consecutive stays at Marriott.

The day was dedicated to doing as little as possible.  Going for our daily walk was essential, after sitting in the car for two days.  Our initial 50-minute walk to familiar places that we had not seen in five years.  We walked the inlet to watch the yachts and speed boats, followed by sightseeing the shops on the main road.  During this time of COVID, several businesses had closed permanently.  The walk was windy and warm.  Many people were wearing shorts to remind us that we were no longer in the subzero temperatures of Wisconsin.

Lake Worth Inlet offers easy access from the Ocean to the Port of Palm Beach, as well as local marinas.  The Inlet runs into the Intracoastal Waterway which continues north to New Jersey and south to the Florida Keys.  The sand dredged to create the Inlet was used to form Peanut Island.

The balance of the afternoon was spent reading indoors.  Linda did well by bringing food to have breakfast, lunch, and dinner in our room.  At home, we do not have cable TV and enjoyed watching a movie on Showmax.  All in all, a very restful and satisfying day.

Linda and I have been married for 50 years.  We have never installed nor watched television in our bedroom.  This evening we crawled into bed at 7:00 pm and watched TV for three hours—the joys of being on vacation.  The breaking news item was the Boeing 777-200 departing Denver International Airport bound for Hawaii when an engine exploded on takeoff and required an emergency landing back to the airport.  Debris was scattered all over the neighborhood.  What puzzled me was how the plane could land fully loaded with fuel.

Sunday, February 21, 2021

We woke nine hours after a long night’s sleep.  This must be a record—the benefit of sea air.  However, we woke to a warm but very windy day and decided to stay indoors until midday when the wind subsided, and the temperature warmed for our walk.  Linda was delighted to see a rebroadcast of the Australian Open Tennis.  I had planned to watch a TV program on my PC but discovered that it is only available while at home on my Spectrum internet connection.

Linda did long-range planning today.  We will stay at Marriott’s Ko Olina Beach Club 92-161 Waipahe Place, Kapolei, Oahu, Hawaii, 96707, from March 19th, through 26th, 2022.

The day turned out to be unpleasant with the wind, so we stayed in our room all day and dedicated time to reading, writing, and watching TV. Relaxing.

Monday, February 22, 2021

Very Short Rendition. 9 Seconds

We woke to a great day.  Sadly, Linda had to delay our outing due to the time needed to respond to a lengthy legal document.  After lunch, we made it out for a 90-minute walk. Along the way, I took a short video of a street entertainer in very windy conditions that spoiled the sound. 79 F/26 C degrees. 

We had a productive afternoon.  We got the car washed and bought the needed windshield washer fluid that we drained on the trip south.  Suddenly it feels like we are on vacation—totally relaxed and even spent time watching a movie on the Hallmark Channel—a real cheesy G-rated romance movie.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021


Singer Island is one hour walk from the bridge, here in 4 minutes.

The good news to wake to is a warmup that continues for the next week.  Hot enough to start experiencing humidity. We elected to walk 3 miles (5 km) north to the bridge connecting the next island.  The Burnt Bridge, built in 1990, was dedicated to Army Captain Joseph M. Berkson.  Together with the return walk, it lasted 2 hours.  As we walk north, there are dozens of high-rise buildings on the east or seaward side.  There is a single 42-floor high-rise condominium, 43 high-rise buildings between 12 and 28 floors, and a dozen between 5 and 10 stories high.  On the west side are private homes, offices, and small businesses. Mostly the near west side of the peninsula consists of water.  If you are feeling wealthy, you can purchase a 4-bedroom 6-bathroom 7,500 square foot (700 sq meter) ocean view apartment for US$8.5 million. There is little doubt that this is a wealthy community based on the vehicles locals drive.  Many are top-end sport varieties of Mercedes Benz, BMW, Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche, Tesla, Range Rovers, etc.  We saw many people walking, jogging, and some pushing their dogs in a stroller.  Some wore face coverings.  We greet as we pass, reflecting a friendly and relaxed community.

Watching advertisements on TV, one sees the differences compared to our community.  One that fascinated me was to see Alfa Romeo’s advertisement.  Not a motorcar advert we see in Wisconsin, but then a vehicle suited to this wealthy community and its fair weather.

Tropical cyclones have affected Florida in most months of the year, except January through March. Nearly one-third of the cyclones impacted the state in September, and almost three-fourths of the storms ravaged the state between August and October, which coincides with the peak of the hurricane season.  Wind speeds average 130 mph (215 km/h).

Today the news was dominated by Tiger Woods’ accident after he rolled down an embankment in California, ending up in the hospital with broken legs.  We watched the 1991 movie Silence of The Lambs.

Wednesday, February 24, 2021

We woke to a warm day, with a slight possibility of rain.  Our lunchtime walk lasted an hour, covering three miles through the paths that feed the local community meandering between the homes. It is scenic and very peaceful. I noticed that Floridians do not have number plates on the front of their vehicles. We continue our restful vacation. 

This week we are staying in the lock-off portion of our timeshare, the smaller of the two units.  We find the refrigerator tiny.  Appreciate that Linda brought food from home to last us the week to avoid local shopping. 

Thursday, February 25, 2021

We experienced a cool morning for an early walk—the promise of a hot day and hot days to follow.  Our hour-plus morning walk took us through residential areas along Singer Island, with single and double-story homes that can be purchased from $600,000 to over $1 million.  I read in the newspapers that Republicans in Wisconsin Congress do not wear masks, emulating Republicans in the US Congress.  Walking the local streets, I find fewer than half the locals wear masks.

The 30-minute stroll in the afternoon took us through a different neighborhood, including a walk around the Sailfish Marina.  Artists erect tables and structures to sell their wares.  Most popular items included rings, bracelets, necklaces, and amusing bar signs.  What is scary watching local news is the high number of COVID cases and deaths, but with a disregard for face coverings and reluctance to adhere to social distancing, this is not surprising. 

We watched a PBS movie about black churches in America and the history of how white Christians justified their treatment of slaves on biblical grounds.  A situation where whites believe they must dominate other races, and men must control women.  It is a situation that we experienced growing up in apartheid South Africa.  Does it never end?

Friday, February 26, 2021

Today is the big move.  We received a call last night to say that we will be staying in the same building but moving to a higher floor into the bigger room, at our request. We are packed early morning, and I called the front desk to alert them that we are ready to relocate.  The rule at the timeshare is to vacate the room by 10:00 am, and check-in is at 4:00 pm.  They need the time in between to clean the rooms.  They agreed to call me on my cell phone when I could relocate.

Wow, how do you define happiness?  Our new accommodation is magnificent.  I know that we will have a fun week in this big unit.  Acres of space, and what a pleasure after our small room during the past week.  That plus the fact that we are getting laundry done and having a meal at OnTheRocks next to the pool.  We decided to delay eating until late afternoon.  I have not had a hamburger in years.  We ordered one for dinner from OnTheRocks restaurant.  It was delicious.  Eating outside at the restaurant at the timeshare, we were served by Mustafa.  I asked how long he had been in the US, and he told us that he came here from Egypt ten years ago at the time of the Egyptian Revolution in 2011.  Another African, from opposite ends of the continent.

We found the faucet in the bathroom was dripping and had maintenance replace the washer. Growing up in South Africa where water is scarce, I have an aversion to wasting water.  We are so enamored with the lounge suite in this unit that we may replace our furniture at home.  Talk about comfort and quality.

Sadly, I noticed one black family enjoying all that the timeshare has to offer.  My reason for saying “sadly” is that the number of non-whites (Hispanics, Asians, and Blacks) at this resort is few and far between—an impact of racism in the U.S.  However, there is no shortage of so-called “minority groups” working at the resort as cleaners, maintenance personnel, shop, and restaurant servers.

Saturday, February 27, 20201

Waking up in the large unit at our timeshare was a treat and questioning why we had not availed ourselves of the pleasure of this vacation spot every year.  We bought the timeshare 21 years ago.  The arrangement is that we can optionally occupy both the lock-off unit and the main unit.  This is a feature not available at all Marriott timeshares.  Over the many years, we reserved both the units for a week and would alternate inviting Robyn and then Sean and respective families to join us for the week.  On those occasions, we would fly to West Palm Beach and rent a car.  On the rare occasions that we used the lock-off in the first week, and the main unit in the second week, we drove to Florida, as we did on this occasion.  We have not been to this location for five years as we traded this location for Hawaii, the Caribbean, southern California, and other exotic locations.  You can read about our Hawaiian adventure with Robyn and family in December 2018 here. We booked to return to Hawaii in March 2022 with Sean and his family.

Many factors amaze me in this unit.  The water pressure is quite unbelievable.  One must learn to open any faucet carefully so as not to flood the sink or shower.  Hot water is unlimited.  Today we are going for an early morning walk.  One alarming news item today is that COVID cases are on the rise again, after a few weeks of decline, proving that we are becoming more complaisant after a year of taking precautions. 

Our one-hour walk going north again along Singer Island, we follow a path on the west side.  In effect, we are walking on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic.  If we encounter people coming south, we can step into the road if there is no oncoming traffic to maintain our social distancing.  This early morning, a weekend day, we saw a significant increase in the number of walkers, speed walkers, people walking dogs, some pushing their dogs in strollers, joggers, and cyclists.  We faced a cool breeze strong enough to blow Linda’s cap into the road.  Living in the Milwaukee area, home of Harley Davidson, it disturbs me to hear motorcyclists pollute the airwaves with their raucous noise, bouncing off the high-rise buildings.  Near the bridge where we begin the return journey, I saw 14 vehicles parked on the side of the road with a sign clearly stating, “No Parking.” I assume they stop there to get access to the water, some fishing off the bridge. Linda offered the opinion that the people wearing masks are mainly visitors.  Locals are among those who follow a political philosophy that masks infringe on their freedom of expression.  We brought six masks each, and Linda dutifully washes them after each use.  The final observation is that many people were enjoying themselves at the park, most without face-coverings.

Each day at Noon and for the next three hours, we are entertained by a disk jockey.  With our new unit facing south we have a clear view of the pool area and enjoy the loud entertainment.  Later in the week, they lowered the decibels to a more acceptable level.  I will say that the music choice is very modern and not what I might typically listen to on the radio in Wisconsin.  Some music choices are golden oldies.  By this time, we are at the high of the day in terms of temperature.  Today we are at 81 F (27 C).

Sitting on our balcony with a drink and snacks after another walk on the beach is the definition of relaxing. It is wonderful to hear young children frolicking around the pool and giggling with excitement. What a beautiful and restful day.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

My last haircut was on September 27, 2020.  With the ever-present danger of a COVID-19 infection, I elected to stay away from services such as having a haircut.  On Friday, November 13, 2020, with Sean’s wedding, I debated a cut but took a pass on the idea.  In my entire life, I have never had my hair so exceptionally long. A few weeks ago, I cut my bangs because I hate the hair in my eyes.  When we get back home, I plan to visit Kim and have her trim my locks back to something akin to normal. Linda too has her story.  While working, Linda would visit her salon on a four-weekly cycle.  Once retired, she initially changed to a five-week visit and to save money to six weeks.  Linda was scheduled to have a cut on a Monday in early December 2020 but canceled at the last moment and has not returned since.  That week the salon sent out an email to say the three stylists contracted COVID and requested patrons to get tested for the virus.  Today we woke to another pleasant day on Singer Island.

Today is the ninth day at our timeshare. During that time, I have driven my car once to get a car wash to clean off the snow and salt, protecting the underbody and paintwork.  However, that may change tomorrow as we need to purchase food items for the week.  We enjoyed 75-minutes walking on a warm day with a slight breeze covering a little over 4 miles (6.5 km).

To make reservations at Marriott Ocean Pointe requires planning a year in advance.  In our case, we first book the lock-off, then a week later, the main unit.  You have the choice of beginning your stay on a Thursday, Friday, or Saturday.  If you are privileged to own two or more weeks, you can make a reservation 13-months in advance.  Consider the logistics of managing a large complex like this.  This week I saw an 18-wheeler truck from Orlando delivering clean laundry.  After each week’s stay, all the towels, sheets, duvet covers, and wash clothes must be cleaned and replaced with freshly laundered items.  Naturally, I did not appreciate that this was not cleaned on-site, and seeing a very large truck unloading numerous wheeled trolleys put this in perspective for me. Also, there are frequent deliveries from food vendors to replenish the restaurants and stores on-site.

While in the shop on the premises I heard an owner say that they own five weeks at this resort.  We hold one week that optionally we can split into two weeks by staying in the lock-off week one and primary unit week two.  Apart from the initial investment, we pay an annual maintenance fee and Florida state taxes.  A few years ago, when a hurricane did substantial damage to the property, the maintenance fee was higher.  At that time, the sea had risen so high that seawater swept over the boundary walls and brought a large amount of sea sand into the pools that needed to be drained and cleaned out.  At the same time, many roof tiles got blown off and naturally had to be replaced. 

Monday, March 1, 2021

A new day and a new month.  Growing up in South Africa and living in Wisconsin, I had become accustomed to flies during hot weather in South Africa and mosquitoes in Wisconsin.  During this short stay in Florida, we have experienced above-average temperatures, and it occurred to me that here we have an absence of flying insects.  Today the high is 83 F (28 C). These are April temperatures.  The average should be 78 F (25 C).  Frankly, most visitors would retire to their unit and turn on the air conditioning.  Our preference is to open all the doors and enjoy what nature has to offer.  The windows in our timeshare unit are sealed.  Our windows open back home in our condo and are fitted with screens to let the fresh air in and bugs out.

Waking to the sound of the waves rolling into shore is the perfect start to any day.  On our one-hour walk north on Singer Island I saw a very disappointing incident.  In the U.S., the law states that if there is an emergency vehicle in motion, traffic on both sides of the road must pull to the side to allow the emergency vehicle easy access.  The rule does not apply to dual highways.  A fire truck was traveling north, coming from behind us, with his lights lit up like a Christmas tree, but not using his siren because the traffic was relatively light.  A vehicle coming towards us pulled to the side of the road, as required by law.  A Mercedes sports car coming from behind pulled into the middle of the road and flew by the stopped vehicle.  In Florida, vehicles do not have number plates on the front, so reporting this scofflaw is challenging.  The action reflects the attitude of so many Americans who will not have their freedoms impacted by rules and regulations.  It may be why so many locals wear their masks on their arms.  Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis (a Republican and Trump sycophant) will not support COVID restrictions and preventions resulting in Florida recording 31,406 deaths to date.  The state is home to many retired people who tend to be more susceptible to the virus.

Today we did our first, and possibly only, grocery shop at Publix, with Instacart pickup outside the store.  Linda got at least one surprise. In placing an order for bananas, the app asks how many pounds do you want?  Linda responded two.  She only received two bananas. My biggest regret is that I was slow off the mark and forgot to tip the guy who assembled the order and brought it to our vehicle.  I was born curious.  Today, outside our timeshare, I saw a medical emergency vehicle, a fire engine, and a police car.  That was followed a little later by an ambulance who took someone away on a stretcher from our building.  And, naturally, I do not know the finer details.  Linda speculated that this was another COVID case!

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Watching a TV show last night, I believe that I qualify for a mullet.  I have not had my hair cut since late September.  After five months of growth, I decided as soon as we are back home, I will call Kim for a haircut and return to normal.  On Monday, when we arrive, I will see a doctor about the ongoing pain in my wrist, then Linda gets her second Pfizer vaccination, and life returns to normal.  A couple of weeks after Linda has her shot, we can safely visit our children and granddaughters.

Today Linda elected to make us bacon and egg, the first on this trip, and the smell is just so wonderful as it wafts through our unit.  The taste was even better.  Today was a special day out walking.  I bumped into a South African!  We walked to the Blue Heron Bridge but walked around under the bridge to see where people park before going to the beach area on the inlet.  We saw two small yachts that had come to a heartbreaking end.  One was partially submerged.  A fisherman said that it had been lying like that for a few months.  The other was stranded alongside the walkway with stickers saying that it had been abandoned. 

While walking back, planning to walk over the bridge, I saw a couple in the parking area getting out of a Mini Clubman.  Impressed with the vehicle, I said that we drove a Mini many years ago.  The guy responds with “South African.” Turns out he was born in Durban, and recently returned from a visit with his wife to Kruger National Park, home to the very large game preserve.  I said a few words in Afrikaans but said he could not communicate.  Coming from English-speaking Durban, that was no surprise.  He may have left when he was young, but he still had his South African accent.  With COVID still prevalent, I asked how they managed to gain access to the country.  He said he works on ships and his visa allows him access.  He added that they live in Boca Raton.  Try pronouncing that city name!  On the local TV stations, they pronounce it “Boca row tone.” Boca Raton is a 45-minute drive from the timeshare.  On this outing, and seeing the sights under the bridge, we observed five homeless people—what a pitiful existence.

Linda bought a bag of oranges from Publix.  We received Florida grown variety.  It is easy to understand why these oranges are the preferred source of Florida Orange Juice, sweet, juicy, and tasty.  We spend time at the timeshare reading.  You may legitimately question why we do not stay at our condo and read. The big difference is that in Florida we can sit in our shorts and t-shirts in the sun.  There is no way we can do that in Wisconsin during the winter months.

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

I consider myself well organized and systematic.  I take medications and use two pill dispensers marked Sunday through Saturday.  Each week my ritual is to load the appropriate medications using a spreadsheet to guide me with what I take morning or evening.  At home, as a creature of habit, I never forget to take my pills.  However, on vacation, that is another story.  I keep finding the following day that I forgot to take my medication.

On our walk north on Singer Island, there is a boathouse anchored on the inlet.  Attached to a post nearby is a sign that looked intriguing.  After a search, I found the following. “Few people have fought their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and won.  Fane Lozman did it twice.  The Florida city that he has battled since 2006 is going to pay him thousands of dollars in legal fees. Riviera Beach City Council voted Wednesday (February 24, 2021) to approve an $875,000 settlement with Lozman, who began his legal odyssey with a fight over the seizure of his floating home and then claimed a First Amendment violation when he was arrested at a council meeting.” To read the complete account, go here:

One more day, we wake to beautiful weather.  Watching the weather forecast last night, it appears that we will be leaving in time as rain will show up this weekend, beginning Friday as we head out the door for the start of our return journey.  We enjoyed a 90-minute walk around the neighboring homes today in windy conditions, but it is always great to get out and enjoy the scenery.  I remain amazed by the number of expensive vehicles in this community.

The day ended, watching the 1990 movie The Hunt for Red October.

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Today is an interesting day.  The conspiracy group QAnon promised to overthrow Joe Biden as president and install Donald Trump.  The concern is so great that 5,000 military personnel are assembled at the Capitol in Washington, DC.  The House of Representatives sent everyone home yesterday to avoid another January 6, Insurrection from right-wing extremists.  And today is my birthday.  I have lost count of the number of text messages, Facebook entries, emails, and phone calls received.  It is great to be recognized.  The first treat I received today was another fantastic bacon and egg breakfast that Linda prepared for us.

We woke to another perfect day and will celebrate our last day in Florida by going for a long walk.  We will leave for our journey home tomorrow morning, planning to stay over in Atlanta, Georgia, then Saturday to Lafayette, Indiana, and finally home on Sunday.  We decided to add an extra night in a hotel so as not to endure another 13-hour drive in a single leg.  On our 6-mile (10 km) return, walk north to the top of Singer Island for the last time today; we walked into a cool breeze, with the wind off the water but refreshing on the return trip.  I am always fascinated by the impatience of motorists.  Linda and I decided to cross the road at a pedestrian crossing.  With the light in our favor, we walked, only to nearly get run over by a car.  The rule in the US is that you can turn right on red if there is no traffic coming your way.  I guess the law says that it is acceptable to turn on red and forget to look out for pedestrians.  My greatest fear being on the road, especially on our daily walks, is that motorists are distracted by illegally using their smartphones while driving.

On our walk today, Linda made an interesting comment.  First, understand my situation.  In all my life, my hair has never been so long as it is currently.  My last cut was five months ago, in early October 2020.  My only motivation for avoiding a cut was not getting exposed to an additional source where I may get infected with COVID.  Linda said that she is amazed at the number of older men, boasting abnormally long hair, and I assume for the same reason that I have avoided a cut.  For the record, Linda’s hair is longer than she has worn it in decades.  Our next task today is to start packing for an early departure tomorrow.  All in all, this has been a rewarding two weeks, and great to have a change of scenery and a change of pace.  That said, we will be happy to be home in familiar surroundings and will soon be able to visit our children and granddaughters.

As I reflect on this trip, I think about the time before we traveled.  With the prevalence of the COVID-19 virus throughout America, and many states, like Florida, where they do not take the pandemic seriously, we had many debates to decide if it was wise to travel.  Add to the concern we needed to stay over in Atlanta. All facilities were Marriott properties.  Marriott had very reassuring videos on their website affirming to patrons the cleanliness standards that they followed to keep all visitors safe.  I can certainly vouch for the accuracy of their message. It was great to enjoy a change of scenery, even if we did not do what we have done in the past by eating at local restaurants.  We elected to be cautious, bring food with us, and only grocery shop once to supplement ingredients, fruit, and vegetables to eat within our timeshare unit.  It was a positive experience for us.  I am delighted we made this trip.  Next year we return to Hawaii.

As we prepared to leave Florida, an interesting story broke concerning the Republican governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis.  Most Floridians aged 65 and older struggled to receive their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  However, all residents in the ultra-wealthy enclave of Ocean Reef Club, in Key Largo who are major financial contributors to Republicans, including DeSantis, received both their Pfizer vaccinations, well ahead of other Floridians.  They received their shots in early January 2021.  By hand-selecting the communities, DeSantis allows residents to bypass state and local vaccine registration systems and go directly through their community organizations.  The detailed story can be found here:

Friday, March 5, 2021

About 30 years ago, my parents visited us while we were living in Brookfield, Wisconsin.  We all traveled to Disney in Florida, New York City, and back home, making numerous stops along the way. My dad commented that he found it fascinating that he saw trees on the entire journey.  It was not his experience in South Africa.

We left the timeshare by 8:00 am, heading for Atlanta for our first night. The planned duration for this trip was 9 hours 15 minutes.  And yes, we saw trees along the tree-lined Florida Turnpike and all the way home.  We indulged by stopping along the road to purchase a bag of Florida oranges. Weather-wise we started off slightly cool with clear skies, and the further south we drove, the warmer it got. To repeat a comment I made in a blog about our drive to Minocqua, Wisconsin. I set the vehicle cruise control to 70 mph (115 kph), the speed limit on the turnpike. I drive in the slow lane, only moving over to pass 18-wheelers. What fascinates me is seeing motorists driving at 100 mph (160 kph) unafraid of getting a speeding fine. In one instance, I saw a gaggle of five cars, one behind the other, all speeding at 100/160 in unison

On our trip to the timeshare, I did all the driving. Returning home, Linda is sharing the load. We were enjoying significantly better weather than our journey south a fortnight ago.

We had a unique experience at the Florida Turnpike when we stopped to pay the toll. A motorist in front of us wanted to pay by credit card. They only take cash, as we discovered on the journey two weeks ago. The motorist leaned over to his wife to get money; she could not help, so he hopped out of the car and started rummaging through packages in his trunk. I had already taken out a $20 bill, honked my horn at the guy, and showed him my money, motioning for him to come and take the cash. He paid the toll and ran back to me with the change. To my knowledge, this is the first time that I “paid it forward.” 

Just saw a billboard on the side of the road advertising a vasectomy.  Would that inspire anyone to stop and get it done now? 

75-miles of bumper to bumper traffic. Watch the two motorists driving illegally on the right hand shoulder. 41 seconds.

About 70 miles (110 km) outside Atlanta, we hit a traffic jam that resulted in us traveling bumper to bumper at a snail’s pace.  Sometimes we were on a three-lane highway; at other times, a seven-lane highway, all congested.  The reality is that we did not see any accidents or construction work; this is just daily life in the Atlanta region.  The net result was that we arrived at our hotel 75 minutes late.  Picture fighting this traffic daily.  The only other time I encountered traffic, this challenging was driving on the 401 In Los Angeles, California, supposedly even busier than the I-75 we traveled today.  The good news is the hotel is on the north side of Atlanta, so we should not encounter this challenge on a Saturday morning for our onward journey to Fayetteville, Indiana.  Here too, we appreciate driving an automatic vehicle.  Imagine the challenge with a manual or stick shift car.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

When we woke in Singer Island, Florida, I drove wearing shorts and a short-sleeve shirt yesterday morning.  When we arrived in Atlanta, I was freezing as I got out of the car.  I grabbed my warm coat that we bought in Quebec City, Canada, a few years ago.  The drive to Lafayette, Indiana, was significantly more enjoyable with much better weather.  We had sunshine the entire way, somewhat cool in most places, and arrived safely in the afternoon.  The Marriott Courtyard Hotel where we stayed was fully occupied.  One team member said that for months they were running at thirty percent capacity.  In Indiana, they have a “Tractor Fair” and the tractor drivers booked out the hotel.  Also, they were selling toys for children, so we found congestion in the parking area and hotel. 

On the trip to Florida, we drove for two full days.  For this return trip, we elected to go over three days.  Tomorrow morning, we will only have a three-and-a-half-hour drive to get home.  This has turned out to be an expensive trip.  With the need to keep wearing a mask to enter any premises, I removed my mask and lost one hearing aid.  Next week I will need a retest and wait for a new pair.

We traversed many states on this trip: Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, Georgia, and Florida.  Without any doubt, the Interstate Roads in the most deplorable condition were those in Tennessee.  When we crossed the State Line from Tennessee to Kentucky, it was like day and night.  From rough surfaces causing a rumble through our car and pothole-infused roads to smooth sailing in Kentucky.  Bill Lee is the Republican Governor of Tennessee, Andy Beshear, a Democrat, is Governor of Kentucky.  You can reach your conclusion on what is rated as necessary in each state.

Driving close to Indianapolis, Indiana, I saw turnoffs to Brownsburg and Whitestown, two cities 13 miles apart.  I was puzzled by the apparent racist tone of these names. 

This evening we had dinner in our room, primarily due to a crowded hotel, and after watching some TV and reading, we had an early evening getting ready for the last stretch home in the morning.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

One more night in a hotel, last night.  We were up at 6:00 am Eastern Time, equivalent to 5:00 am Central Time, at home.  With only a three-and-a-half-hour drive, we will have a productive day to unpack and get ready for the new week. 

A few interesting observations from the drive.  By the time we got home, we had clocked precisely 1,398.1 miles (2,250.0 km) for the one-way trip from Singer Island to our home. When we drove south, we saw snow-covered fields to Chattanooga, Tennessee.  On the home-bound drive, 19 days later, the first time we saw any measurable snow was in Wisconsin.  The weather forecast suggests a big warmup in the coming week, so that too will melt. 

One shock awaited us this morning.  Our vehicle was parked outside and covered in a layer of ice.  When we ate our breakfast, it took a while to warm the car for the drive home.

During the time I ran my business, I drove to the Chicagoland area almost every week for many years.  Sufficient to say I know these roads well.  However, since retirement, and especially in the past year with COVID keeping us home, I have not driven around Chicago for several years.  When I traveled here, I needed to be cautious with all the road works taking place.  With today’s drive, I was more than amazed and impressed to see the finished product.  The interstates are a pleasure to drive. Most roads have more lanes.  It is fair to say that to drive these roads requires paying a toll.  I can attest that the money has been invested wisely.  Since we were going on a Sunday morning, I did not encounter much traffic, making the journey one of pure joy.  This highlighted the contrast experienced on the Interstates in Tennessee. Then too, Illinois has a Democratic governor J. B. Pritzker. 

In all sincerity, the trip and visit to Marriott Ocean Pointe was a delightful change of scenery, wonderful to enjoy warm weather, participate in long walks, and stay at a magnificent facility.  That said, it was great to be home and to be able to cover the entire journey without incident.  In March 2022, we will enjoy Marriott Ko Olina Beach Club, situated in Oahu, Hawaii.

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Cape Town COVID-19 Adventure

We left the US on March 5, 2020, for a 37-day vacation in South Africa to visit family and friends.

Update: February 4, 2021.  I pondered over the past year the reason we were not sufficiently intelligent to cancel our trip to South Africa due to the COVID-19 pandemic before departing in early March 2020.  On returning to the U.S., I did extensive research documenting pages of information from multiple newspaper and website sources.  I concluded that as regular citizens, we were not informed of the pending danger, mainly because President Donald J. Trump did not want to scare anyone, electing to ignore the threat to keep the stock market resilient and the economy thriving.  Some well informed in Congress were altered to the pending danger, sold some investments ahead of a market crash.  These are a few critical dates. 

  • In late November 2019, coronavirus broke out in Wuhan, China. 
  • On December 31, 2019, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) became aware of cases in China and reported to HHS (Department of Health and Human Services).
  • January 1, 2020.  CDC Director Robert Redfield got informed by a counterpart in China and alerted HHS Secretary Alex Azar, who shared this information with NSC (National Security Council). 
  • Donald Trump was alerted to the situation in his PDF (Presidential Daily Brief) in early January.
  • WHO (World Health Organization) issued a report on January 5, 2020, advising against travel.
  • During the week of January 6, 2020, HHS, CDC, and Dr. Anthony Fauchi, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, met to discuss the situation. 
  • January 18, 2020, Alex Azar addressed the coronavirus outbreak with Trump, who criticized him as an alarmist.
  • January 31, 2020, the White House banned entry for foreign nationals who had traveled to China within the last 14 days.
  • February 11, 2020, the WHO announced the official virus name as COVID-19.
  • February 24, 2020, the U.S. Stock market plummeted over coronavirus fears.
  • February 26, 2020, California announces the first COVID-19 case in the U.S.
  • February 29, 2020, Trump announces travel restrictions involving Iran, Italy, and South Korea.
  • February 29, 2020, reported the first U.S. COVID-19 death in Washington state.
  • March 6, 2020, Trump signs an $8.3 billion emergency spending package to combat coronavirus outbreak.

As you review the above dates, recall that we were somewhat ignorant of the danger of undertaking this trip on March 5, 2020.  Trump was more concerned about a potential market and economic collapse that he saw would impact his reelection bid in November 2020.

Reading Bob Woodward’s book Rage, released September 15, 2020, with 466 pages, covers hundreds of hours of interviews with Donald J. Trump.  He warned Trump in January 2020 that the COVID-19 pandemic could reach the scale of the 1918 Spanish Flu that killed 675,000 Americans.  “In 17 on-the-record interviews with Woodward over seven volatile months—an utterly vivid window into Trump’s mind.  The president provides a self-portrait that is part denial and part combative interchange mixed with surprising moments of doubt as he glimpses the perils in the presidency and what he calls the “dynamite behind every door.”  Below are a few excerpts from Woodward’s best-seller book. 

“A meeting was scheduled with Trump for the morning of March 11, 2020. …. But now the word came from [Jared Kushner that] his father-in-law that he needed immediate help on the mounting Covid-19 crisis. In the Oval Office that morning, there was a consensus among the national security and health officials that they needed to act immediately to close down travel from Europe.

“Treasury Secretary [Steven] Mnuchin was opposed. Travel from Europe was about five times that from China. “This is going to bankrupt everyone,” he said dramatically. “It’s going to destroy the economy.” “What data are you relying on for that?” asked [Dr. Deborah Leah] Birx [Whitehouse Coronavirus Task Force] “You’ve been asking me for my data. What data do you have?” Mnuchin said that was how the economy and markets worked.

“Trump eventually approved the travel restrictions. They would be consistent with his decision on China. Kushner assisted with drafting the prime-time television address that Trump had decided to give that night from the Oval Office. It was only the second of his presidency. A nationally televised evening address gave the speech the stamp of important business.

“That afternoon, the World Health Organization officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic. “This is the most aggressive and comprehensive effort to confront a foreign virus in modern history,” Trump said at 9:00 that evening. “From the beginning of time, nations and people have faced unforeseen challenges, including large-scale and very dangerous health threats,” Trump read. “This is the way it always was and always will be. It only matters how you respond.”

“The president announced he was halting travelers from most European countries for the next 30 days. “Last week, I signed into law an $ 8.3 billion funding bill,” he said. Several hundred times that would soon be required. “The vast majority of Americans: The risk is very, very low,” Trump said. “Wash your hands, clean often-used surfaces, cover your face and mouth if you sneeze or cough, and most of all, if you are sick or not feeling well, stay home.”

“He made no mention of social distancing—staying six feet apart from others—and urged only those who were sick or not feeling well to stay at home. “This is not a financial crisis, this is just a temporary moment of time,” he said reaching to calm the markets. “The virus will not have a chance against us.… Our future remains brighter than anyone can imagine.”

“The speech received poor reviews. Trump seemed depleted on air, not in command of the material. He displayed none of the verve of the spontaneous, engaged true believer of his political rallies. Peggy Noonan wrote the next day in The Wall Street Journal, “The president gave a major Oval Office address Wednesday night aimed at quelling fears; it was generally labeled ‘unsettling.’ ”

“That day, March 11, marked the beginning of a new consciousness in the country. There were over 1,000 cases and 37 deaths in the country. Trump acknowledged he would likely have to cancel his upcoming rallies. Testifying before Congress, Fauci said that testing for the virus was “failing. I mean, let’s admit it.” The distribution of faulty test kits had prevented officials and scientists from getting a clear picture of the number of infections in the crucial early days of the virus’s spread across the U.S.

“By the beginning of March, fewer than 500 tests had been conducted. The Dow Jones fell 10 percent on March 12, prompting The New York Times banner headline: “WORST ROUT FOR WALL STREET SINCE 1987 CRASH.” A giant chart on the front page of The Wall Street Journal showed the surging growth in the Dow from the early days of Obama’s eight-year presidency and the first three years of Trump’s. Then it fell off the cliff, down 20 percent since 2009.”

“I wanted to always play it down,” Trump told Woodward, as I reported earlier in this book.  “I still like playing it down because I don’t want to create a panic.”

Back in Wisconsin, our children, Robyn, and Sean did hit the panic button.  They sent their first text on March 19, 2020.  “State Department travel warning.  Come back to the U.S. or be prepared to stay where you are for an indeterminate amount of time.” 

Currently, (February 3, 2021), we have 26,535,848 COVID-19 cases in the U.S., with 450,435 deaths.  The U.S. accounts for 25% of worldwide cases and deaths, with only 4% of the global population.  When all the election counts were in after November 3, 2020, Joe Biden became the 46th U.S. President with 81,283,098 popular votes against Trump’s 74,222,958 voters.  More critical was Biden’s 306 Electoral Votes versus Trump’s 232.  Tony Fabrizio, Trump’s chief strategist, reported that Trump lost the election because he mishandled the COVID-19 pandemic, based on exit polling.

Trump’s legacy will go down in history as the only president to have been impeached twice.  Without the shield of his presidency, Trump faces several lawsuits, including a charge of rape.  Trump will be recognized for encouraging the Capitol’s insurrection on January 6, 2021, where five people died.  Between November 3, 2020, and January 6, 2021, Trump and his allies filed 62 lawsuits in state and federal courts seeking to overturn election results in states Trump lost.  All but one failed, and it was inconclusive, providing election workers three days to correct a few ballots.  Trump told more than 30,573 lies during his four years in office.  Here you can view lies listed by category. Trump will be remembered for his racist, bigoted, xenophobic leadership, supporting white supremacists, and promoting fake news with his constant Twitter feed totaling 56,571 during his four years in office.

Update September 18, 2021.  If you read my blog about the science behind COVID-19 vaccinations, https://johncbarry.com/covid-19-science-behind-vaccination-development/ you will see that I read three books to inform me about vaccination development. 

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race, by Walter Issacson

A Crack In Creation: Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution by Jennifer A Doudna and Samuel H Sternberg

The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA, by James D. Watson

Now I can add to the above list the next book I read to inform me about the virus in the United States. 

Michael Lewis’ book The Premonition, A Pandemic Story.  I am an avid reader of non-fiction.  Michael’s book stirs every emotion: humor, anger, frustration, sadness, disbelief, incredulity, etc.  It reads like a page-turning James Bond “who done it.”  The book delves into the 1918 flu pandemic, referencing historian John Barry’s book The Great Influenza, about the deadliest plague before COVID-19 and the lessons learned to prevent epidemics in the future. 

What is alarming is the federal bureaucracy with agencies such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and state-run health departments were afraid to provide any guidance or recommendations initially.  What if the advice was incorrect?  Who would get fired?  California was identified as an example for the country to follow in stopping the spread of the virus and likely helped Gavin Newsom not to get recalled as a governor. 

The book identifies knowledgeable and experienced experts while detailing the work they undertook to influence decision-makers.  The Trump administration refused to take a leadership position in controlling the pandemic and handed control to individual states without direction or supervision.  For-profit health organizations were equally incompetent supporting states by striving for outrageous fees, charges, and impossibly long turnaround times for testing as one example. 

As of today (September 18, 2021), we have 668,841 mostly preventable deaths and nearly 42-million COVID-19 cases in the U.S.  The United States did not provide global leadership in controlling the pandemic.  Here is one Michael Lewis quote.  “On March 18, 2020, Park and Patil presented the model’s output to Governor Newsom’s senior advisors.  When we showed them what the model was saying it sucked the air out of the room.  The next day Governor Newsom issued the country’s first statewide stay-at-home order.”  Reading the book increased my admiration for Cyril Ramaphosa’s strategy of shutting down South Africa to stop the spread of the virus. 

Here is a longer and more troubling quote from Michael’s book.

“They watched the U.S. government repatriate Americans from Wuhan on January 29. The first group went to March Air Reserve Base, in Riverside County, California; the second, in early February, to four different places, one of them a National Guard base just outside Omaha, where they remained quarantined for fourteen days. The Omaha National Guard base was a short drive from the Global Center for Health Security, the place charged with treating Americans infected with mysterious new pathogens and run by James Lawler.

“Lawler discovered—and could not quite believe—that the CDC didn’t plan to test any of the new arrivals unless they had a fever. All of the foreigners being shipped home from Wuhan were being tested before they got on the plane, and the CDC felt that was adequate. The Germans and the Australians and the Japanese had tested all of their citizens after they’d flown home from Wuhan and discovered that 1 to 2 percent of them were infected and that many of those had no symptoms: the tests in Wuhan hadn’t identified any of them.

“Lawler called the CDC to ask if he might test the Americans now quarantined down the road from his hospital—if for no reason other than to make sure they didn’t let them loose while they were still shedding the virus. “There was very little data to support the fourteen-day quarantine,” he said. “There are clearly people who have incubation periods of twenty-one days. I thought we needed to know if they were infected when they got here or shedding when they leave.”

“He and his staff had already created their own test, based on the test created by the World Health Organization, and so they didn’t require the CDC’s help, merely its approval. The CDC sent one of its epidemiologists to visit James Lawler. At the end of the meeting, the guy said he needed to check with Atlanta.

“The next day I get this panicked call from him,” said Lawler. “It’s gone all the way up to [CDC director Robert] Redfield. He said, ‘You can’t do it!’ I said, ‘Why?’ He said I would be ‘doing research on imprisoned persons.’ ” Never mind that every single one of the fifty-seven Americans in quarantine wanted to be tested: the CDC forbade it.

“And Lawler never understood the real reason for the CDC’s objections. Did they want to avoid finding cases to avoid displeasing Donald Trump? Were they concerned that, if they tested people without symptoms and they found the virus, they’d make a mockery of their current requirement that only people with symptoms be tested? Were they embarrassed or concerned that someone other than the CDC was doing the testing? If so, then why didn’t they just perform the tests themselves?

“Whatever the reason, fifty-seven Americans spent fourteen days quarantined in Omaha, then left without having any idea of whether they’d been infected, or might still infect others. “There is no way that fifty-seven people from Wuhan were not shedding virus,” said Lawler.”

Now you can listen to the original blog or read on to see some of the photographs and video clips.

Click to hear 50-minute audio of the blog text below or read and enjoy.
See photographs below

Monday, March 23, 2020.  I woke at 6:00 am to a rude awakening!  Checking my iPhone messages, I discovered United Airlines canceled our flights to the United States from Cape Town, South Africa, scheduled to fly on March 26, 2020.  I receive a follow-up message to say they are flying again.  What I did not know then is that this pattern that would repeat several times over.  Let me back up and tell the account coherently.

We left the US on March 5, 2020, for a 37-day vacation in South Africa to visit family and friends.  We planned to return home on Easter Monday, April 13, 2020.  For our trip, we flew Delta Airlines from Milwaukee, Wisconsin; to Detroit, Michigan; on to Amsterdam, the Netherlands; to Cape Town.  In hindsight, had the Trump administration told the American people the truth of the COVID-19 pandemic, we would never have traveled in the first place.  We witnessed our investments plummet.  A select few Republican Congresspeople were informed of the imminent catastrophe, sold their investments, some in the millions of dollars before the public learned of the pending danger.

United Airlines started a seasonal service between Newark, New Jersey, and Cape Town on December 15, 2019, through March 25, 2020.  Travel to South Africa is on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.  Return flights to the US are on Monday, Thursday, Saturday.  The distance of 7,817 miles (12,580 kilometers) is the longest route flown by United.  Flying time to Cape Town is 14 hours, and back to the US, 16 hours.  United operates this route using a Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner with 48 business class seats, 88 Economy Plus, and 116 economy seats.  Frankly, I had no idea that we caught the last flight for the season back to the US until I did my research from home in Wisconsin.  Then too, South Africa went on lockdown at midnight on March 26, 4 hours after our scheduled departure.  Consequently, no other flights could have taken off on the following days.

After Trump stopped flights from Europe, and other countries from flying into the US, the rumors started flying, and fake news prevailed.  Our daughter and son in the US were in a panic after the US State Department issued a proclamation, return to the US immediately, or remain overseas indefinitely.  We sprang into action.  We did not want to be stranded forever in South Africa, lovely as the country is.  We purchased new and additional tickets on United Airlines flying from Cape Town directly to Newark, New Jersey, in the New York area, with a connecting flight to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  For the record, our one-way tickets on United Airlines were more expensive than our return tickets on Delta.  We canceled our return ticket on Delta and should get a credit toward our next flight, but there is no cash refund.

When I woke on March 23 at 6:00 am South African time on Monday morning, it is 11:00 pm Sunday night US Central Time.  The first text from United was sent at 10:43 pm SA time when I am already asleep (3:43 pm Central).  It states that our flights “are canceled due to the unprecedented circumstances.”  At 11:53 pm SA Time (4:53 pm Central), I receive a follow-up text stating the flights are not canceled!!  The follow-on text states that non-US citizens who have visited certain countries will be denied entry to the US.  We may be subjected to 14-days of self-quarantine.  We had planned to follow an isolation recommendation in any event.  We quarantined ourselves in South Africa for the two weeks, ending March 21, and beyond that date until we departed.

When I booked the United flight on March 20, 2020, there were only two seats available in the economy class, and they were not situated next to each other.  I had a decision to make and paid for an upgrade to Economy Plus.  In hindsight, it was a wise decision because there is much more legroom.  If the passenger in front decides to recline their seat, there is sufficient space available to enjoy the trip without a seat backrest in your face.  Our problem is that with this experience, we will never fly the regular economy class again.  I have been a frequent flyer for many years, regularly flying for business and occasionally for pleasure with our family.  I am knowledgeable enough to know that to get an early boarding allocation; I need to obtain our boarding passes 24-hours before take off.  At 8:00 pm, South African time, on Wednesday, March 25, I logged on to the United Airlines website to secure our boarding passes.  It was the start of a 90-minute ordeal.  Let me hasten to add that I retired after 50 years in the computer industry as a developer, designer, educator, trainer, consultant, and salesperson, so technology should not be a challenge for me.  Little did I know.

I keyed in my confirmation number to be informed that the flight had been canceled!  My wife was three hours away in Cape Town, so I made contact with her immediately to alert Linda of our challenge.  Linda contacted my daughter and son, who were both working from home in the US with their respective companies requiring employees to work from home due to COVID-19.  The four of us now worked to figure out if and why the flight was canceled.  I started the process off by attempting to secure my boarding pass.  At some point, I was required to scan my passport with a warning that it will take some time for the system to register the document. 

I again received the message that the flight was canceled.  We had to verify that we had not traveled to a list of countries where we could not get access back to the USA.  My wife scanned her passport into the system, and again we were informed that the flight had been canceled.  Our children in the interim were on the United Airlines website and showed that the plane was flying.  After an hour and a half, the boarding process was complete, and we could print our passes.  My conclusion is that the programming was substandard, and rather than report there were problems with the information we entered, the program reported an erroneous flight cancelation.  To verify that we were not unduly stupid, where we were seated on our flight home, a few passengers near us complained that they, too, got these flight canceled messages.

In the US, we are recommended to arrive at the airport three hours before takeoff for all international flights.  Our flight out of Cape Town was at 8:00 pm.  We arrived at the airport at 3:00 pm, 5 hours before the scheduled departure.  We were surprised by the number of people in line, but the gates had not yet opened to allow us to check our luggage.  Maintaining our social distance, we had interesting conversations with other passengers waiting in line.  The airport itself was a madhouse, especially with passengers flying to the UK.  To pass through the multitude of people to get to our check-in position in itself was a challenge with a large number of people, each in very close proximity to one another. 

The check-in agents arrived about 4 hours before boarding, giving us sufficient time to go through security and passport control.  At 7:15 pm, the boarding process started.  While seated on the plane, at 8:00 pm, the captain advised us that 28 passengers were stuck trying to check their luggage and get through security.  He kept us informed as to how many people were waiting to board the flight.  He was wise enough to hold takeoff until all passengers could board. 

The captain did tell us that part of the holdup was some of the check-in agents had not shown up for work, and that helped slow the process dramatically.  The captain walked through the plane before takeoff to answer questions that the passengers may have.  Once in the air, an hour and fifteen minutes after our scheduled departure time, the captain made up time to arrive in Newark close to the stated arrival time.  He announced the flight crew was volunteers due to COVID-19.  The captain informed us that we would not be processed by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) for temperature checks after deplaning.

Arriving at a near-deserted airport in Newark was another experience.  We arrive at Terminal B.  We proceed through passport control, then had to relocate by train to Terminal C to collect our luggage, pass through customs, and check in our bags for transport to Milwaukee.  Next, take a bus to Terminal A, catch a small regional jet for the two-hour flight to Milwaukee.  We knew we had 90 minutes to complete this process, and we were fortunate to make our flight without delay.  The jet was less than half-filled with passengers.  Probably the most challenging situation was the toilets in the terminal buildings were locked, and I have a weak bladder.

The surprises did not stop yet.  We arrived in Milwaukee at General Mitchell International airport at 10:00 am at a deserted airport.  The shops were closed, and there are no people around.  We make our way to baggage claim, and our three bags are the first on the conveyor.  My son and his girlfriend (Sean and Erica married November 13, 2020–a Friday the 13th) were outside the baggage claim area.  Sean tosses the keys to my wife, making sure there was no close contact and headed off home with his girlfriend.  My next surprise was my drive home.  In thirty-four years we have lived here, I have never seen the roads so quiet.  Once back home, we started the sterilization process, cleaning all our luggage, taking a shower, and doing six loads of laundry washing everything we took to South Africa, including the clean clothing we brought home in our bags.

Friday, March 27, 2020, was the start of our 14-day isolation.  I cannot deny, now, into a few days of this experience, that we have experienced a significant adjustment.  We have arranged to have groceries delivered, and seriously miss our daily 40-minute walk around the neighborhood.  I feel starved of exercise.  Naturally, we miss seeing our children and granddaughters.  Facetiming is not the same.  We are not able to socialize with any of our neighbors in our condominium complex. 

Now that I have reached the end of my account of getting home, I will start at the beginning.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

A friend kindly drove us to the airport in Milwaukee. Our flight to Detroit was only 75-minutes on a regional jet. Delta requested us to be at the airport 3 hours ahead of departure. With Mitchell Airport in Milwaukee being a small airport, this seems an excessive request. The bad news when we finally got to Cape Town was that we discovered the Transport Security Agency had searched my large suitcase, one of three checked bags. They found nothing worth confiscating.  The flight was uneventful. We had a three-hour layover in Detroit and had a meal at PF Chang’s.

I filed a complaint with Delta for not issuing boarding passes with TSA Precheck.  They said it would take a week or more to respond.  TSA (Transport Security Administration) is a government organization responsible for security at the US ports of entry.  Precheck is a program that one can apply for at a cost, where your background is vetted, and when going through security at the airports, they are more lenient in what passengers are asked to do.  We do not have to remove shoes or belts, for example.  More than that, I hold a TSA Global Entry that speeds up the process when returning to the US from overseas travel.  Delta advised that the TSA Precheck is a privilege and not always provided to passengers.  Strange, when I paid $85 for the convenience.

We boarded a flight to Amsterdam. With a flight time of eight and a half hours, I watched the movie Bombshell. It is the story of Fox News and the sexual advances made by Rodger Ailes on female anchors. South African actress Charlize Theron played the part of Megyn Kelly, who sued Rodger. If any of the faithful Trump followers watch this movie, I cannot see how they will vote for Trump again, unless he convinces his base that this movie is all lies and fake news. I watched Judy about the life of Judy Garland. What a short sad life she had, getting manipulated by men wanting to profit off her voice at any cost. Finally, I watched a single episode of the TV series The Neighborhood with a Chinese family living in white suburbia and the racism they faced. And yes, it was a comedy.

The flight to Amsterdam was not full, Linda and I had a spare seat to ourselves.

Friday, March 6, 2020

By the time we crossed the Atlantic, it was early morning In Amsterdam. We did not have much of a layover and boarded a massive Boeing 777 300 for the 12-hour flight to Cape Town. When you arrive at Cape Town International Airport, the passengers are split into locals and foreigners to go through customers and immigration. There were a handful of South Africans, with the majority of us being international passengers. Frankly, with all the bad press South Africa is getting, I am surprised to see any visitors. I read before our departure that tourism is down.  

A few days after our arrival back in the US, Moody’s Investors Service cut South Africa’s credit rating below investment grade, delivering the country a full house of junk assessments as it grapples with a nationwide lockdown to curb the spread of the novel coronavirus. The currency, the Rand, devalued dramatically against the US$, and other global currencies.  South Africa has been in a recession for the past six months.

The Hotel Verdi, which is a stone throw from the airport, listed 11:30 pm and midnight as shuttle pickup times. A taxi driver told us that the 11:30 shuttle had left at 11:20. I called the hotel to complain, and they responded immediately with another shuttle.  I have stayed at this hotel previously and recommend it highly.  Everything from the rooms to the dining facilities is of the best available.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

After a short night’s sleep and a great breakfast, we took the shuttle to the airport to collect our Hertz rental car. Hertz provided us with a Renault Stepwise, a compact small vehicle. We drove to the hotel, loaded our luggage, and I tried to connect my dashcam to one of the two cigarette lighters. Neither worked on this low mileage car, and I was disgusted. The more significant issue was that on two occasions, I tried to close the rear door and ended up cutting myself in two different spots on my face. The rear doors are an above-average height with a sharp edge. From an engineering design point of view, the vehicle is a disaster. Linda bumped her nose on the silly door but did not break her skin.

Hertz exchanged the car for a Volkswagen Polo. I had to change the feed to the dashcam from a cigar lighter to a USB port. So far, it appears that the dashcam did not get the needed electric connection. The Rexing dashcam shows that it is activated when you switch the car on.  When I looked at the camera display, after several day’s driving, it was blank.  I discovered that the SanDisk micro SD card was my problem in that it will not permit multiple over-recordings with the overwrite feature.  I replaced the SIM card with a Kingston product.  The biggest disappointment for me is that I was not able to save videos of drives we went on to add to YouTube and my blog.

On leaving the airport, we drove to a nearby friend’s home to borrow a Taser for our short duration in the Cape. Wally drove me to a nearby shopping center for me to draw rands from the ATM. At a minimum, I needed cash for the tolls on the way to my sister in Montagu. After tea and cookies, we made our way to my other sister, living in the northern suburbs of Cape Town. Linda had never seen their home, and I had not seen the renovations. After another round of tea and snacks, we followed through driving three hours to my sister and brother-in-law’s farm in Montagu. That night we stayed in Cottage 3 on the farm.  Please appreciate that driving in South Africa required me to drive on the left-hand side of the road with a stick shift rental car.

I am the proud owner of three pairs of eyeglasses; one for general use, one for computer use, and sunglasses.  When we arrived in Montagu, unpacked, and set everything in its place, I realized that my “regular” eyeglasses were missing.  A quick call to Hertz verified that I had left it in Renault’s glove compartment/cubbyhole and that they would keep it in a secure place until we retrieved it on our return to Cape Town on Tuesday.

A dozen of us met for a tapas dinner at the BluVines restaurant, including Simon, and wife Yvette (more about them later), Jonathan and Sharon (additional detail to follow), Linda, and me. I wrote about Richard Weilers and his restaurant in a blog, and with the delicious food and waiters who entertain with singing.  You may imagine what a wonderful evening we had.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Eating is essential, so we started the day at Sergio and Cay Fernandes’ Rambling Rose restaurant. Sergio always does an excellent job of making all his patrons feel like royalty, but we are regulars, so we got an even better treatment. Cay’s kitchen skills are unparalleled.  Having Linda and me back in Montagu added to the excitement.  You can read about The Rambling Rose Restaurant in my blog about Montagu. 

Linda, my sister Gail, and I headed off to Gecko Private Reserve in the Little Karoo, owned by Jonathan and Sharon Deal. Driving time is 45 minutes to an hour from Montagu, depending on the speed traveled. Gail was driving a 4X4 vehicle. I have been to Gecko Rock on several occasions, and knowing the corrugated gravel roads; I would never drive a regular car there. Gecko is 4,000 hectares in size.  (10,000 acres, or 15 square miles). New Berlin, Wisconsin, is 37 square miles (95 square kilometers). New Berlin has a population of 40,000. Imagine half of the New Berlin population living on Gecko Rock.

With a few bungalows or cottages on the premises, Gecko can accommodate 50 people.  You should be able to imagine how each unit is positioned so as not to see another soul. The concept is to fully enjoy the mountains, flowers, some wild animals, and nature in general.  The cabin we stayed in, is self-contained with a lounge, kitchen, bedroom, and bathroom.  The quiet is so peaceful and almost deafening in its silence.  I asked Sharon where the water for the cottage is supplied?  It is piped and pumped from the main house, and this is how each cabin gets its water supply.  Please understand this is not a straight line.  It is a mountainous environment.  They live entirely off the grid.  Electricity is supplied from solar panels on the cottage roof, with a battery pack in the kitchen.  The bedroom has large panoramic windows so that you can lie in bed and enjoy the view of the mountains.  Imagine a life without internet access.

Jonathan provides handgun training for certification to own a firearm, a South African legal requirement. Gecko offers hiking, off-road riding, and facilities for conferences for up to 70 people, including a camping site where you can erect your tents.  Meetings focus on self-improvement.  The attendees are required to provide meals.

Sharon provided a late lunch before heading to our cabin, so we did not have to fuss with food. The friendship with Jonathan and Sharon was enjoyable, and we even played a trick on Gail’s husband when he joined us later in the day.  As he arrived at Sharon’s home, we pretended to all be drunk.  It is what friendship is all about.

Jonathan wrote a book entitled Timeless Karoo.  I was so impressed that I wrote a blog about the book. 

Monday, March 9, 2020

Sharon met us early morning at our cabin for 3.5 miles (6 kilometers) walk on the estate, including heading back to their home.  After another meal, Gail drove us to the cabin to collect our belongings, and we headed back to Montagu.

Today’s game plan was to enjoy the Montagu Country Hotel, the only Art Deco hotel in South Africa, and furnished with original period furniture.  The original hotel was built in 1875.  The Art Deco hotel was erected behind the original structure in 1922.  The old structure was demolished, and the hotel was renamed in 1941.  Gert Lubbe purchased the hotel out of bankruptcy in 1966.  Gert passed away a few months ago.  See a separate blog discussing this hotel.

Before heading to the hotel, we spent time watching Simon train horses on Gail and her husband’s farm.  When Linda was growing up, she spent her 6-years during her schooling, riding horses daily.  During that time, she was the proud owner of four horses, one at a time.  One horse was bought from the renowned golfer, Gary Player.  Linda and two close friends would go to the stables after school, groom, feed, and ride their horses.  All of Linda’s horses were older and unlikely to be too energetic for young girls. 

However, how do you go about training a horse to be able to be ridden for any age group?  Gail and her husband have numerous Arabian horses on their farm.  Simon contracted to teach their son and the team of six-horse handlers how to break in a young horse without using any violent methods.  I will not get into more detail now, but there is much information I could share.  I will likely produce a blog about this exciting learning experience.  Simon and his wife Yvette have a horse training business in Johannesburg and spent time with the “horse whisper” guru, Monty Roberts, on several occasions in Salinas, California.

The connection to the Montagu Country Hotel is interesting to understand.  Colene Basson is a charted accountant.  Colene previously worked with Gail and her husband as their accountant.  P-J Basson is the CEO of the hotel.  Colene joined P-J in his business, helping to run the hotel.  After I wrote the blog about Montagu, Gail asked me to write a blog about the Montagu Country Hotel.  I said that it would not be ethical if I had not stayed there, so I made a reservation from the US before going on this trip.  P-J got to hear about our visit and gave us a complimentary upgrade. 

I requested P-J to allow me to interview William, the pianist who played beautifully during our dinner.  You name it, and he played it, including music from Les Misérables, West Side Story, and other well-known favorites.  I was so intrigued by the extensive repertoire that I went to chat with him.  I wanted to see what sheet music he was using.  William told me that he couldn’t read sheet music.  He hears a tune and can play it almost instantly—what a talent.  I want to interview him to learn more about his background and skill.

We enjoyed an excellent sleep in this stylish hotel after dinner in an elegant lounge.  In truth, we did not need to eat again.  The hotel had secure parking for our rental car alongside the hotel. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Yes, we are at it again, with another meal, this time breakfast.  Gail had organized a tea so that Linda and I could meet people we had contact with while writing my Montagu blogs.  Richard Weilers from BluVines Restaurant joined us along with other dignitaries.  I had not met Helen Gooderson, the CEO of the RAD Foundation. Helen explained they take at-risk kids off the street and mentor them with music and arts.  She shared a story about one youngster who had never been out of the Montagu community. 

She arranged for this kid to spend time in Boston, Massachusetts.  Helen explained to this boy what he would experience during this travels and venture.  He could not understand the concept of flying.  He arrived at the airport in Cape Town with his grandmother.  He was concerned when they took his suitcase and saw it disappear on a conveyor belt.  He wanted to know what if on the two 11-hour flights he needed to use the bathroom.  Helen explained the process, and he wanted to know, looking up, where the excrement goes after he flushed.  Since I have crossed the Atlantic at least 100 times, I cannot relate! (Helen subsequently moved to Alford, UK).

After saying goodbye to Gail, we detoured to Hertz in Cape Town to retrieve my glasses.  It is a process that should have taken two minutes.  30-minutes later, we left, eyeglasses in hand.  The agent had to look in many locked cupboards.  With not being able to locate them, he sent a broadcast text to all off duty personnel to request information as to where it was stored.  The process did not provide the information requested.  In desperation, the agent emptied the locker that he first looked in, and after unpacking everything, he found them in the back underneath all the other lost items that were stored there.  Sadly, this did not create an excellent impression of their efficiency.

Linda was anxious to get to her sister and renew her acquaintance with her sister’s daughter and grandson, Alex.  We arrived at her house at lunchtime. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Linda was up very early to take her sister to the hospital.  They left at 5:45 am.  The procedure was a success.  I took 17-month old Alex for a 30-minute walk to give her mother, who was working from home, time to make business calls.

One challenge faced by residents of South Africa is the unreliability of electricity.  The power utility company, ESKOM, cuts power, known as load shedding, done in stages.  Today was a day when the power got cut twice, each for two and a half hour periods—one in the late afternoon, the other during the midnight hours.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

With Linda’s sister in hospital, recovering from her knee replacement surgery, Linda spent the entire day at the hospital.  I spent some time playing with 17-month-old Alex.  As part of my caring for him, I took him for a long walk: me walking, Alex in his pushchair. 

A great curse in sunny South Africa is a corrupt and incompetent government.  Electricity production and distribution are through the bankrupt Eskom, the electrical power utility.  Due to a lack of maintenance, they need to shut the power.  It is complicated; they have various stages; each stage has additional shutdowns in 2.5-hour increments.  Stage 1 and 2 have one shut down for the southern suburb of Tokai in Cape Town, where Linda’s sister lives.  Each suburb or region throughout the country is on a different schedule!  Where my sister lives in Montagu, stage one has no shutdown, and stage 2 is a single shutdown.  Stages go all the way to Stage 8, in Montagu power is cut three times in the day, and the same for Tokai.  How does anyone keep track? 

I have an app EskomSePush on my iPhone that tells you by day and location the status of load shedding, as it is named.  The only silver lining is that we do not live in Zimbabwe where electricity is cut for 16-hours a day.  It only comes on in the very early morning when families need to rise and cook for the day if groceries are available in the shops.

While at Linda’s sister’s house, we do not watch TV.  The only entertainment is to read the news on our iPads if there is available electricity, and therefore Wi-Fi.  One other issue is that when power is cut, it is critically important to unplug all electronic devices.  If left plugged in, when the power comes back on, there is a power surge that burns out electronic device printed circuit boards.  Then too, we read lots of books.

Friday, March 13, 2020

The highlight of the day was my opportunity to attend a dinner with Rondebosch Old Boys.  Several hundred attend this event with 12 from our 1963 graduating year.  It is held at an exclusive Kelvin Grove club in Newlands, a southern suburb of Cape Town, close to where we attended junior and high school.  The fee of R475 ($30) covers the 3-course meal and drinks, wine and beer only.  If you want hard liquor, you pay for it separately.  As a side note, for many years, Rondebosch would not hold the event at this club because, in the early days, Jewish people were not allowed to join this club, or attend functions at this club!  That bigoted policy got rescinded many years ago.

Growing up in racist South Africa with its apartheid policies creates interesting but sad stories.  The newly appointed principal of Rondebosch Preparatory School is a non-white gentleman.  Ian Ryan told of being raised at previously disadvantaged schools, and the struggle to get a good education.  He did say that the most challenging position as a principal that he held was at the previous girl’s junior school.  He said that if you thought teaching boys was a challenge, try teaching girls who tend to be more intense about their studies.

It was the 111th anniversary of our Old Boys’ Union.  Dinner comprised a salad, braised lamb shank for the main course, and Crème Brulee for dessert.  When I returned home, I told Linda that I did not think the lamb was particularly tasty.  She reminded me that I made the same comment after last year’s dinner.  I guess catering for a few hundred patrons is not easy.

Returning to my sister-in-law’s house was challenging.  I only arrived at 11:00 pm.  Linda had stayed up to help me with the garage doors, and to then set all the complicated security alarms.  It is no exaggeration when I say that it is like living in prison, where everyone is extremely fearful of criminals entering your home.  After I parked my low mileage rental car, we went to sleep.  The next morning the domestic informed me that I had left the car lights on overnight.  I had visions of a dead battery, but I dodged a bullet.  The car started and started repeatedly.  After a three-hour drive to Montagu, the battery problem was a distant memory.

The other big news of the day is that Linda brought her sister home from the hospital. 

Saturday, March 14, 2020, and Sunday, March 15, 2020

Nothing much exciting to report—with one exception.  While at the Rondebosch function, a school friend told me that a millionaire was living close to the home where I originally grew up.  Linda and I drove to the neighborhood on Sunday to see what my youthful home looks like 65 years later.  I must stress that we grew up dirt poor, the house we had back then was tiny, a semi-detached house, not something to be proud of, especially while attending a prestigious boys’ school.  It was a rental that my parents moved to at the time I was born.  The change in the neighborhood was alarming.  Every house now looked like a fortress.  Where we initially lived, there was a large sports field across the road, and that location currently consists of multiple homes, all fortified as protection from criminals. 

South Africans live with a siege mentality.  I chatted with one neighbor who told me that there is one elderly lady who has lived in the area all her life.  I could not recall her from my early days.  We drove around the corner to the home my parents built in 1961.  That home has also been fortified by the current owners so that nothing is visible from the street.  As Linda reminded me, the large outer wall is the one my parents had erected.  The entry gate is remote-controlled, and also massively high and new since we lived there.

Monday, March 16, 2020

Today I woke up and carefully packed the small rental car, a Volkswagen Polo, about the size of a Golf.  I needed to detour to my sister Monica and her husband, staying with their son in the northern suburbs of Cape Town.  I had to find space for Monica’s sizeable cool box, three suitcases, and what looked like a 6-months supply of groceries in plastic bags.  Somehow we found space in the small car and set off for Montagu.  Driving in the late morning had its advantages, as there were relatively few large trucks and other traffic on the road.

When you drive through the Huguenot tunnel on the road to the north you pay a toll.  A few months ago, it was R38.25, and now it had been increased to R41.50.  Most people pay cash, while credit cards are accepted, but why don’t they charge a nice round number like R40 or R45.  Why mess with coins?  Several motorists drop the coins on the ground when handed back from the toll operator, and then hop out their car to retrieve the small change.  It causes chaos with irritated motorists also trying to get through the tolls.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

I filled the VW Polo today with petrol/gas at the cost of US$50.  Outrageously expensive for a small car.  My sister Gail fetched our sister Monica and her husband, and then picked me up from the farm, as we headed to a restaurant midway between Montagu and Barrydale along Route 62.  This restaurant is literally in the middle of nowhere on a farm where they produce wine.  Leon, who runs the restaurant, told me the business has been slow since the municipality made him remove all the road signs advertising his place.  We met a British gentleman who is spending a month in Montagu on vacation.  I am guessing he must be in his late 50s.  He started cycling at 5:00 am from Ladismith along Route 62 to Montagu, a distance of 63 kilometers or 40 miles.  Leon, the restaurant owner, told me that a couple stopped at his restaurant while cycling from Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, to South Africa, a distance of 5,240 kilometers or 3,256 miles.  (New York to LA is 2,800 miles).

Wednesday, March 18, 2020, through Wednesday, March 25, 2020

It may not be apparent in what I have written about so far, but for all intents and purposes, Linda and I were in quarantine due to the COVID-19 virus.  After my school function on Friday the 13th, we began a process of isolation.  Linda in her sister’s home, and me in the cottage on my sister’s farm.  We made significant efforts to stay away from people, and in both cases, only interacted with our immediate families.  We clearly understood that being back home, we would need to begin a fourteen-day isolation process all over again.

Before setting off on this vacation, we had several family and friends that we wanted to meet, and in some situations, stay over and visit for a day or two.  None of that happened.  After I wrote my blog about Montagu, I discovered additional sites that I should visit and expand the blog.  That, too, did not occur.  The sad reality is that after our long trip on three aircraft and four large airports teaming with people, we had no assurance that we had not contracted the virus or were carriers that could affect other people.  The responsible action was to practice social distancing.  I am fortunate that I have visited South Africa on numerous occasions, and escaping the cold of Wisconsin for the warmth and sunshine of South Africa, could have been an even more enjoyable experience.

COVID-19

Arriving back home after three weeks in South Africa was a shock to be in a different world in terms of the reality of the Coronavirus, COVID-19. We received email, text, and telephone discussions from local families, friends, and neighbors about the prevailing practice. In one situation, we even had a face-to-face conversation with a friend, three meters/ten feet apart. 

Locally in Wisconsin, people still shop.  Let me use grocery stores as an example.  Seniors typically buy early morning, return home, shower, and launder all the clothing worn to the store.  Some purchase groceries and have goods delivered to your door.  If it is more urgent, people will order and pick up at the supermarkets with purchases brought to your vehicle.  In all cases, the bags or boxes are left at the entrance door on returning home, groceries are removed and sterilized, and packaging trashed.  Naturally, the next step is washing and disinfecting your hands, finally packing the groceries away.  

To put it mildly, when we arrived at the Milwaukee airport, it was like a ghost town.  There was virtually no one there; all the shops were closed.  Our state governor, Tony Evers, has declared all non-essential workers to stay home.  On the drive from the airport to our condo, I could not believe how light the traffic was.  One nearby church had 80 attend a service, afterward, ten tested positive for COVID-19, and 43 are sick.

It is very important for Donald J. Trump that America is the biggest and the best.  We are.  We have more COVID-19 cases than any other country in the world.

In our condo complex, we have a community room and a fitness room.  Both are locked until the virus passes.  

Our strategy to stem the virus was to launder everything that we journeyed with, including all clean clothing.  All suitcases got wiped down and sterilized.  We even washed our shoes. Our children stocked our home with food that should see us through for the next four weeks at a minimum. 

Social distancing is a reality.  People are staying at home and avoiding contact with others.  If you go for a walk and someone is on the pavement on your side of the road, you cross the street so as not to make close contact.  When we went through the security at the airport in Newark, they had an officer continually crying out, “stay at least six feet apart.”  

Our son, Sean, and his wife Erica drove in two cars to the airport.  Sean tossed my car keys to Linda, waved from a distance, and headed home.  If you have not yet got the message, we are taking this pandemic seriously.

The bottom line, if you meet someone today, who has met someone else in the last few days, you may have got yourself infected with a virus that can live for three weeks.  

We had a few unusual financial situations after we returned home.  We needed to cancel our Delta return ticket.  They did not offer us a refund, but we could use a credit on a future flight.  Hertz charged us an additional amount of $48, even if we returned the rental 18 days early.  I queried the charge, and they did not respond but did issue a credit of $47.  The difference was due to the fluctuation and devaluing of the South African Rand. 

If you go to the grocery store and purchase several items, and charge it to your credit card, you do not expect to see an itemized list on your card for bread, milk, apples, tomatoes, etc.  United Airlines listed 12 separate charges, including South Africa Passenger Security Charge $1.30, South Africa Passenger Safety Charge $1.50, US APHIS User Fee $3.96, US Passenger Facility Charge $4.50, September 11th Security Fee $5.60, etc.  I guess if you wish to dispute any of these charges through your credit card company, this may be helpful.  I have never seen this detail on my Delta Airline bill.

As I reflect on our trip, my only disappointment was in not visiting family and friends that I wanted to meet.  Then too, I am sorry that we could not have additional sightseeing opportunities that we planned before our trip.  However, the seriousness of the COVID-19 virus cannot be underestimated, and being responsible and practicing social distancing was and is the sensible option.

Stay safe, one and all.

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Timeless Karoo, Western Cape, South Africa

The Karoo in South Africa’s Western Cape provides some of the most fantastic touring sites and vacation places.

Timeless Karoo, a travelogue book by Jonathan Deal.

As a voracious reader of non-fiction, and consummate writer, I believe that I am qualified to recognize a seminal work when I read one.  That was my reaction in reading Jonathan Deal’s travelogue, “Timeless Karoo.”  In 208 pages, 185 photographs, each picture telling their own story, Jonathan’s journey through five regions of the Karoo in South Africa’s Western Cape, spending time at each of 56 towns and villages is a riveting and highly informative read.

The Karoo in South Africa’s Western Cape Province provides some of the most fantastic touring sites and vacation places.  Steeped in history and offering a variety of scenic and cultural experiences, a travel opportunity not to be missed.

I am guilty as charged of driving from Cape Town to Johannesburg, or Port Elizabeth via the inland route, without stopping at these many places to savor the delights it has to offer, its history, or to meet the locals as Jonathan did.

Jonathan and his wife Sharon took three years to research in detail each town before visiting, and then journeyed to and stayed at each location.  With his background knowledge, he was able to meet the locals in a coffee shop, church or pub to learn more about the local history and customs, discerning their secrets before writing about his experiences.  While at it, Jonathan took magnificent photographs to illustrate for the reader’s enjoyment, thereby making the travel more enjoyable. The result is a page-turning narrative that keeps you engrossed in his findings.  The only warning is that you may want to follow his path of discovery.  It is addictive.

The result is a well-written account of all they saw and experienced, for us to enjoy.  Jonathan covers geography, geology, paleontology, and other topics of interest.  The book is complete with “Don’t Miss These Highlights,” a glossary of terms from Afrikaans to English, publicity associations, and information bureau telephone numbers, with accommodation suggestions from Jonathan’s personal experiences.  A goldmine of valuable information.

Regions covered: Klein Karoo, Hantam & Tankwa Karoo, Great Karoo, Northern & Upper Karoo, and Central Karoo.

Towns covered: Aberdeen, Amalienstein, Barrydale, Beaufort West, Britstown, Calitzdorp, Calvinia, Carnarvon, Colesberg, De Aar, De Rust, Fraserburg, Gamkaskloof (Die Hel), Graaf-Reinet, Hanover, Hopetown, Hutchinson, Ladismith, Laingsburg, Leeu-Gamka, Loxton, Matjiesfontein, Merweville, Middelburg, Middelpos, Montagu, Moordenaarskaroo, Mount Stewart, Murraysburg, Nelspoort, Nieu Bethesda, Niewoudtville, Noupoort, Oudtshoorn, Philipstown, Prieska, Prince Albert, Prince Albert Road, Richmond, Rietbron, Seweweekspoort, Smartt Dam, Steytlerville, Strydenburg, Sutherland, Three Sisters, Touws River, Uniondale, Van Wyksdorp, Victoria West, Vosburg, Wagenaarskraal, Williston, Willwmore, Witteberge, and Zoar.

In my travels, I have read many fact-based informational tour guides.  In Jonathan’s Timeless Karoo, he provides many fascinating anecdotes that help make this book a must-read.  Each page introduces impressive people, each with their own unique story. You get to enjoy many pearls of wisdom from prehistoric times.  Jonathan wrote it to make this book a must-read.  Revel in the geological facts. How has the economy impacted the communities?  What role water played in these communities?  Where in the Karoo will you find prehistoric fossils?

In addition to basic facts, Jonathan provides endless entertaining tales contributed by locals shared on his travels to make this a reverting read.  The data includes historical events.  America has its continental divide, where is there one in the Karoo?  What do you know about the diictodon?  Jonathan recommends scenic detours, what is not to like about that?  Jonathan tells accounts of his forefathers, including his mother.

Where to invest in this book?

I own the hardcover book.  I usually read novels and non-fiction on my Kindle.  I am particularly biased, this is a magnificent book to hold in your hand, now in its third edition, and the hardcover is the way to invest and enjoy this publication.

In South Africa, you can purchase hard copies from Sharon Deal, Sharon@geckorock.co.za or directly from their website www.geckorock.co.za (082) 493-8733

The Rambling Rose Restaurant, 36 Long St, Montagu, 6720, Western Cape (083) 401-4503

The Lord Milner Hotel, Matjiesfontein, 6901 Western Cape (023) 561 3011

Nuveld Motors, Donkin St, Beaufort West, 6970 Western Cape (023) 414 4117

Veldskoen Padstal, N1 Road, De Doorns, 6875 Western Cape (023) 356 2619

South Africa’s Loot: https://www.loot.co.za/product/jonathan-deal-timeless-karoo/hfzh-467-g2a0

Ebooks:

For my American and other international family and friends, this is the only way that you can lay your hands on this work: Amazon (ebook only) https://www.amazon.com/kindle/dp/B01N7612LA/

South Africa’s VitalSource (ebook only) https://www.vitalsource.com/za/products/timeless-karoo-jonathan-deal-v9781775845652

Enjoy your travel experiences.  I trust you discover all the hidden gems.

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Movie Experience, South African romantic movie in Afrikaans with English subtitles

A Uniquely Different Movie Experience. How did it come about that I watched an exceptional movie twice on the same day? A first in a life time experience. On Wednesday,…

A Uniquely Different Movie Experience.

How did it come about that I watched an exceptional movie twice on the same day? A first in a life time experience.

On Wednesday, January 30, 2018 was my mother-in-law’s 91st birthday.  I completed my daily tasks by lunchtime.  What was I going to achieve in the afternoon?  Going for a walk outside was out of the question with subzero temperatures.  Watching TV was plain boring with the selection of soap operas available.  Driving around was a waste of fuel, and quite mindless.  Occasionally I might visit the local mall to walk for exercise and to pass the time.  In reality this is an excuse to see people, and take me away from my solitary confinement of working alone at home.

We have an account with Amazon that entitles us to stream movies to our TV or iPad.  Most movies are included with our account.  Additional movies are available for a nominal fee.  Linda and I have very different tastes in movies.  I am a sucker for romantic movies, a genre that is not at the top of Linda’s viewing list.  Linda normally selects the movies we watch.  Using my iPad, which has far better search capabilities than available on the TV, I found a movie at Amazon running for 1 hour 44 minutes that I thought might be ideal.  I watched it with a broad smile of satisfaction in the afternoon, at home, on our television set.  Just what the doctor ordered on a cold afternoon sitting next to the fireplace.

Linda leaves for work at 7:00 am and normally arrives home after 5:00 pm.  On this day Linda was late because Robyn was stuck at a meeting at work and Linda had to collect the twins from school and take them to Robyn’s home awaiting Robyn or Darin’s return.  Linda arrived home prior to 7:00 pm.

Our regular ritual is to eat dinner followed by watching recorded TV shows including the news, and Ellen.  This allows us to skip through the advertisements.  On this occasion I pleaded my case with Linda to please watch this movie assuring her that there are no bare bosoms, no simulated or actual sex, and no vulgar language.  Linda agreed with my persuasion, and we kicked off the movie.

A couple of moments into the movie I heard Linda groan one of those groans saying in not so many words; “what I have got myself into?”  On the other hand I was smiling like a Cheshire cat fully enjoying watching it all over again.  You really get so much more perspective with a second viewing.  The movie was in Afrikaans and Linda was not too sure that she would accurately follow the storyline.  What surprised Linda is that this movie was not listed as a foreign film on Amazon.  One comment from a viewer at Amazon said she thought this was a Scandinavian movie until she got to the end and saw that it was Afrikaans.  She did complain that the subtitles were in yellow and very difficult to read.  We watch without subtitles.

“Forever”, released in South Africa as “Vir Altyd,” “Childhood friends, Nina and Hugo chose different paths in life.  Years later, Hugo returns to his hometown unbeknownst to him, the day before Nina’s wedding.  Events on the wedding day throw them back together and they embark on a new adventure.”

In reality this movie revolves around the lives of 5 couples of differing ages.  It highlights situations and circumstances of marriage.  I do not plan to be a movie spoiler.  Trust me that this is a feel good, happy ending story.  The scenery in Cape Town (Paarl) and Mauritius is a very big plus.

I have not had the extreme pleasure to see the very attractive leading lady Donnalee Roberts, in any other movies yet, and for women, I guess lead actor Ivan Botha is a handsome guy.  They wrote and co-produced the movie, as well as “Pat Na You Hart (Road to Your Heart).” Read details here.  This is a worthwhile read if you are interested in love and marriage.

Researching is exciting.  Here is what I just learned, Road to Your Heart, a 2014 movie with these two actors is also available at Amazon.  Might this be tonight’s viewing?

Being a consummate romantic, I was curious to see if Donnalee Roberts and Ivan Botha were married in real life.  I did learn that Donnalee married Gerber in 2010, and divorced him in 2013 as a result of his infidelity.  Donnalee and Ivan got engaged in May 2017.

Bottom line: what a fun movie day.  What a unique experience of seeing the same movie twice in one day.  I thought that my mom was crazy to see The Quiet Man seven times.  Mom loves the Irish.

January 31, 2018

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Homeless

I had an interesting encounter yesterday.  The sequel was unpredictable. We live in a condominium complex consisting of three buildings.  Ours is the largest, an L-shaped three story with 52…

I had an interesting encounter yesterday.  The sequel was unpredictable.

We live in a condominium complex consisting of three buildings.  Ours is the largest, an L-shaped three story with 52 units, named Cornerstone at New Berlin’s Residences at City Center.  The heated parking garage is below our building.  We bought our unit ten years ago.  We were of the first owners to move into our building.  I have a home office in the second bedroom adjoining the main bedroom.  I spend time in my office when not working on site at clients.  The workload has been quite quiet during the last few months as I move into my retirement phase.  Consequently I am spending more time than usual in my office.  My daily ritual includes tea at 10:00 am, collecting mail at the mailboxes in our lobby at 11:00 am.  I almost never see other owners walking the corridors.  This place is like a morgue, very quiet.  I am up at 5:30 am and have breakfast after 6:00 am.  I watch the local TV news at noon at which time I eat lunch.  Dinner time is around 6:00 pm with Linda.  I appreciate the routine.

In the spring, summer, and autumn months I go for daily walks.  I have a regular 40 minute route.  Very occasionally for a variation I walk a different path that takes an hour.  Yesterday with the global warming causing extreme weather conditions, we had regular temperatures of 12 below zero, and wind chills 30 below.  I am indifferent if your metric is Fahrenheit or Celsius.  Just understand it was bitterly cold.  Our condo heating unit never seemed to stop running.

Linda leaves for the office at 7:00 am, and returns home at 5:30 pm.  At around 1:30 pm yesterday I started to experience cabin fever.  This occurs when you feel claustrophobia is setting in and you urgently need to get out to see people.  I packed up my reading material and drove the 10 minutes to Brookfield Square Mall.  I park at the back close to the one of the many entrances.  This entry is at the food court, laid out in a large circular arrangement with about 15 food vendors.  Your hunger can be satiated with any of steaks, stir fries, sandwiches, Italian, Chinese, or Mexican cuisine, and salads to name a few.

The food court features about a hundred tables, each with its allocation of chairs.  I sat at a table where I could observe passing foot traffic.  Piped music provides entertainment.  With the bitter cold on this Wednesday afternoon, the mall was not busy.  I ordered a chocolate drink and small tasty cinnamon bun.  Two years ago I had a large kidney stone.  Now removed, I require regular restroom visits.  An hour later I had to take action.

As I approached the men’s room, I noticed a white man ahead of me heading in that direction as well.  I guess he was in his 60s.  He was shuffling his feet.  I slowed my walk so as to not run ahead of him.  I noticed that his shoes where several sizes too big for him.  Had he walked normally he would have fallen out of his shoes.  On closer inspection I saw that his trousers were far too large.  He did not have a belt, and was hanging on to his pants for dear life so that they would not fall down.  His coat was tattered and worn.  After we completed our call of nature, we returned to the food court.  By this time I saw that he had a very full scraggly beard, and an abundance of wild hair, all snow white.  Neither had been cut in several years.  I realized he was a homeless man.

I watched as this man approached the tables where people were eating.  It was apparent that he was begging for money.  The response was the same.  A violent shaking of the head, and I could see each patron mouthing the word “no”.  He circled the court until he approached me.  I asked him what he needed.  He requested money to get a bus ride back to Milwaukee, a 20 minute drive in light traffic, and cash for food.  While we were in the men’s room I noticed another gentleman with a uniform and insignia telling us that he was a bus driver.  In talking to the homeless man, it occurred to me that he may be mentally challenged.  His speech was slow and slurred, but certainly not drunk.  He had not seen a dentist in many years.  I do not normally carry much money.  My wallet contained $53.  I took the two 20’s and one 10, folded it so that the homeless man could not see what I handed him.  He ambled off slowly.  When he thought he was out of my eyesight, he looked at the cash, and headed off to buy food.  I was curious to see if he would return to thank me, but that did not happen.

At 4:15 pm I decided to head home to miss most of the afternoon traffic.  Our bank is a very short walk from our condo, and here I got another surprise.  I went to the drive through ATM.  I discovered that they had new software installed for 2018.  In prior years when I requested cash, it offered to key in any amount, or a quick draw for $20, $40, $50, $70, or $100.  This year it offered $50, $100, $150, $250, and $300.  Last year it issued cash in ten and twenty denominations.  This time in fifty’s.  I took my $100 and went home to face the music.

I waited for Linda to get home, pour some wine, and look relaxed, prior to recounting my experience of the day.  I knew that I would face a barrage of criticism for wasting our hard earned money.  Linda responded: Why did you not take this homeless man to a store, buy him shoes, trousers that fit, and while I was at it, a warm coat?  I never seem to do the right thing.

January 18, 2018

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Road Construction, Montagu, Western Cape, South Africa, comparison to Wisconsin, USA

We all understand that Governor Scott Walker of the State of Wisconsin is running for reelection in 2018.  We also understand that to get re-elected he needs to follow the…

We all understand that Governor Scott Walker of the State of Wisconsin is running for reelection in 2018.  We also understand that to get re-elected he needs to follow the Republican playbook of cutting taxes for the very wealthiest mega donors and large corporations.  We also understand that to pay for those incentives to the very wealthy he needs to slash social programs and cut expenditures for infrastructure programs.

It just boggles my mind that a country like South Africa that is suffering from an economic downturn, with excessive government corruption stealing from the country’s revenue coffers, and experiencing high inflation, can find the funds to attend to necessary improvements to roads, bridges, and rail.  Maybe Scott should visit South Africa to learn what could and should be done to fix our State.  This example for two small towns and national road links from Ashton to Montagu in the Western Cape, South Africa.

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Jacques Pauw, South African Investigative Reporter, Author– President’s Keepers: Those keeping Zuma in power and out of prison, Restaurant Owner

Jacques Pauw, South Africa’s most celebrated investigative author.  The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in power and out of prison.  Jacques’ book released Friday, November 3, 2017, and sold out…

Jacques Pauw, South Africa’s most celebrated investigative author.  The President’s Keepers: Those Keeping Zuma in power and out of prison.  Jacques’ book released Friday, November 3, 2017, and sold out the first print run of 20,000 copies in hours.  The African National Congress (ANC), the ruling government party in South Africa are fighting to have the book banned.  Additional copies are being printed, and bootleg copies are available in PDF format on the internet.  Needless to say, Jacques has had death threats made on his life as he features in numerous TV, radio, and print media interviews.  The ANC is a cANCer to the South African economy.  The book sets out the degree of corruption taking place in the country while destroying the economy to the detriment of the poor masses who blindly and ignorantly supports the corrupt government.

Linda, Wally, and Vicky Emslie and I were fortunate to meet Jacques Pauw briefly at his restaurant the Red Tin Roof in Riebeeck Kasteel in the Western Cape, South Africa on Saturday, November 11, 2017.  Jacques only had a few moments to talk to us as he was on his way to meet his wife Sam Rodgers at the airport.

Investigative journalist Jacques Pauw exposes the darkest secret at the heart of Jacob Zuma’s compromised government: a cancerous cabal that eliminates the president’s enemies and purges the law-enforcement agencies of good men and women. As Zuma fights for his political life following the 2017 Gupta emails leak, this cabal – the president’s keepers – ensures that after years of ruinous rule, he remains in power and out of prison. But is Zuma the puppet master, or their puppet? Journey with Pauw as he explores the shadow mafia state. From KwaZulu-Natal and the Western Cape to the corridors of power in Pretoria and Johannesburg – and even to clandestine meetings in Russia. It’s a trail of lies and spies, cronies, cash and kingmakers as Pauw prises open the web of deceit that surrounds the fourth president of the democratic era.

Jacques Pauw is a South African investigative journalist who was an executive producer of the Special Assignment current affairs programme on SABC. Pauw was a founder member and assistant editor of the anti-apartheid Afrikaans newspaper Vrye Weekblad. He began his television career in 1994, specializing in documentaries around the African continent.

Throughout his journalistic career, Pauw has investigated lethal criminal activities in the underworld of southern Africa and exposed atrocities committed by governments around the African continent. Affairs covered by Pauw’s documentaries include the Rwandan Genocide, the War in Darfur, and the police death squads in South Africa under apartheid.

The book details the creation and functioning of a “shadow mafia state” created by and surrounding President Zuma. It makes a number of serious allegations concerning the South African president such as that he did not pay taxes during his presidency, that he was illegally paid R1 million (US$70,000) a month by a private company whilst president, that he failed to pay back loans and that he has poor financial acumen.

The book also makes a number of accusations concerning associates of the president, such as: that the Gupta family groomed the children of African National Congress (ANC) politicians to gain political influence; that Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma’s 2017 campaign for ANC president is funded by a cigarette company engaged in corruption; and that a significant proportion of people appointed to power by the Zuma administration have been convicted, or have allegations against them, of engaging in criminal activity. It also contains details of the state capture of the South African Revenue Service (SARS) and the wasteful creation of a one billion rand (around US$ 70,000,000) spy agency within the State Security Agency that engaged in widespread corruption.

Within four days of the book’s publication, it was cited in Parliamentary questions directed at the president by the opposition Democratic Alliance. On the 3 November 2017, the State Security Agency issued a cease and desist order to prevent more books being sold, arguing that the book contravened the Intelligence Service Act. SARS also stated that they would investigate initiating criminal charges against the author for publicizing confidential tax records. The actions by the State Security Agency and SARS were criticized as censorship by the civil society organizations the Right2Know Campaign and Corruption Watch as well as by the South African Communist Party. Book stores and publishers refused to obey the cease and desist order arguing that the book was factual and its information was in the public interest.

The threat of censorship caused a spike in sales of the book causing it to sell out of its first print run of 20,000 books within 24 hours of State Security Agency’s cease and desist order as readers sought to get a copy before it possibly being banned, making the book an international bestseller. The resulting shortage of books combined with the public fear of censorship resulted in a digitally pirated version of the book being widely shared in the few days following the cease and desist order. Launch of the book on the evening of Wednesday 8 November 2017 was canceled after a power outage. During the launch, Pauw told attendees that he expected to spend years fighting legal battles.

Following its publication, the author, Jacques Pauw, stated that he had received death threats from anonymous sources.

It was during a wet and wintery morning in Riebeek Kasteel that two middle-aged journalists decided to forego their steady incomes, a Cape Town flat on the ocean and an 1837 country house in the charming village of Riebeek Kasteel to pursue a life-long dream: running their own guest house, restaurant, and bar.

Jacques Pauw and Sam Rogers were amongst the most prominent journalists in South Africa. They have between them won the CNN African Journalist of the Year award four times. Sam has worked for some of the most prolific television networks in places such as Hong Kong and Japan and was the head of E-TV’s crime and investigations documentary unit when she resigned.

Jacques has been a journalist for 30 years and has, amongst others, exposed police death squad commander Eugene de Kock and crisscrossed the African continent in search of child soldiers and warlords. He has received some of the most coveted journalism awards in the world and is the author of five books.

Have these ventures equipped them in any way for the hospitality industry? Not nearly enough, they admit. That’s why Sam scampered off to UCT to do a diploma in the hospitality industry and Jacques lured chef Sonia Cabano to Riebeek Kasteel to help him to set up the kitchen. They have employed some of the best local talents to help them launch Red Tin Roof. For both, this is the ultimate challenge; the greatest adventure of them all.

Jacques home was raided by the Hawks in February 2018, a move seen to attempt to intimidate Jacques.  The Hawks are South Africa’s Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI), which targets organized crime, economic crime, corruption, and other serious crime referred to it by the President or the South African Police Service (SAPS).

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