Orange You Glad?

IMG_4917Hello!

With the change of seasons in the southern hemisphere, we are transitioning from Winter into Spring.  Some sparse green grass blades are pushing up through the soil, leaves are budding on trees, and color is seeping slowly back into a rather brown and beige-hued world we’ve known during the dry season. The temperatures are warming, and the ritual commences of taking coffee and binoculars outside in the early morning to watch the returning birds.

In Mbabane, August also brings gorgeous plump and heavy oranges in droves. One of my favorite colors, and fruits, is orange. This time of year, oranges are piled high in the backs of trucks and fill market stalls. I’ve been scooping up loads of them to bring home for eating and squeezing into juice. Our little boy knows how to peel them, and he likes taking a deep breath of the fragrant orange peel and says, “nice!”

I love the scent of oranges, too.

And today, I ate a tea cake made with real orange juice that was delicious, and the creativity in the cooking was my muse to start a new art project.

Do you have a creative muse or a morning ritual?

Wishing you days full of color and light.

Cheers,

Tracy

 

 

 

 

 

 

Africa Burning and Nature Treasure Hunts

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Mbabane Mountain Fires at Night

The arrival of winter in Swaziland has brought dry, strong winds, brown mountainsides, and the beginning of “burning,” a winter tradition of setting fire to the fields, leaves, and brush to promote regrowth, get rid of trash, and decrease crime. (It gets dark early this season, and people walking get mugged (or worse) from criminals hiding in tall grasses, so I’m told). They even burn right along side the highway, flames licking the sides of the road,  billowing smoke thick like fog.

It’s an eerie, but beautiful sight to see hills glowing orange at night, red-orange sparks flying up into the sky.  But the smoke…. oh, the smoke. It fills our house, our nose, burns our throat and eyes. If someone will teach me a real rain dance, I will happily partake. Dust and soot is on everything, and ashes blow in clumps up to doors and window screens.

Fires get out of control quickly with the whipping breeze. Amazingly, the fire trucks have no water, but rather, firefighters use what look like rubber rakes to stomp out the flames. It’s actually quite effective, but some houses in town have been burned to the ground, an understood risk this time of year.

It has become a hobby for our toddler to look for fires and point them out, and he likes to say, “look! fire! ‘moke!”  On the bright side, there is gorgeous sun that brings warm days. When the smoke subsides, we venture out to finger paint or treasure hunt in nature for shapes, patterns, colors, bugs, baby tomatoes, and camouflaged animals. And to find our shadows and wave hello.

Here’s to finding inspiration where you can, and less fires for all of us,

Tracy

To Market, To Market…And Stay on the Left!

Sawubona (hello in SiSwati)

After feeling cabin fever at home for weeks in Mbabane without a car while awaiting paperwork to buy one, we finally tracked down a rental car company, so I’ve been exploring!  Sitting on the right, driving on the left, and shifting gears with my left hand has proven to be an exercise in concentration. Add in the free-roaming cows and pedestrians who loiter in the middle of the roads and highways, and you have a driving challenge, I tell you!

There are so many wonderful markets, from vegetable stalls to arts and crafts, hand-woven baskets, and blown glass. Here are a few recent finds:

Elephant painting by local artist, Pia Smith.

IMG_1410 The Swazi Candle Factory is well known in South Africa for their intricate designs. The tables outside of the shop were full of beautiful hand-made carvings and batiks

The path to Yebo Art Gallery, a new favorite creative spot to visit:

A peacock showing off near Ngwenya Glass, Swaziland’s premiere glass-blowing boutique

Local table decor to spruce up our very beige dining room (flowers are from our yard): IMG_2834The stone carving below is by an artist named Moses, who explained how the “Big Five” are emerging out of a tree.  The baskets were made by a woman named Patricia, who has a fierce love of America and our President, (whose portrait was worn proudly on her skirt, perhaps not in the most reverent place).

and lastly, a home-cooked meal made with all locally-sourced ingredients. The avocados here are especially abundant and delicious.

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Until next time, enjoy the ride, no matter the mode of transportation…

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Sala kahle,

    Starry

Our African Adventure: Hello Swaziland!

taking in the viewHello! Sorry for the long hiatus in blogging.  Moving overseas has been an  all-encompassing event. I am so grateful to be back online with internet, which is a life-line of communication in a new place that feels very, very far away.

Our belongings in Virginia were carefully divided into “storage” and “ship” piles. Feeling a bit displaced in our own home,  we watched as our life in boxes was loaded into crates on moving trucks. Ready or not, may the adventures begin!

Our evening arrival to O.R. Tambo airport (named for a former President)  in Johannesburg made it too late to cross the border from South Africa into Swaziland before the checkpoint closed.  We didn’t mind having to spend the night at the airport hotel after a 22-hour travel day with our sweet toddler.  We were all jet-lagged and weary, but we made it!

We were slightly confused upon check-in at the hotel. It seemed they were offering us a kitty cat to borrow for the night for the baby, until we realized a “kiddie cot, ” was a crib, which came with its own tiny, fluffy duvet and high-thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. I’ll take a kiddie cot, too, please.

The next day, we had a hearty breakfast and set out on the path to our new city, Mbabane.  However, getting out of the airport parking lot was a challenge.  Our car was towing a small trailer, and the car made it under the exit barrier, but the trailer did NOT, so my husband and our driver unhooked the trailer and pulled it by hand out of the parking garage. Whew!  The four-hour drive was beautiful. Our mountainous new home seemed to welcome us with warm, sunny skies and stunning views.

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 A few of the first impressions of Africa:

the hand-woven doll ornaments on Christmas trees at the airport

the kindness that radiates from South African smiles

lavender-hued Jacaranda trees

deep red earth

houses with corrugated tin roofs

laundry hanging out to dry

the large number of hitchhikers on the road

huge, open blonde fields dotted with clusters of trees

a hazy, diffused pinkish-yellow light on the horizon

 lantern-like bird nests with openings at the bottom

IMG_2716So many new discoveries to explore. Hello, Swaziland. We look forward to getting to know you.

-Starry