Saturday, March 31, 2007

A Lovely Weekend

Well, the BBC got it right! Yesterday was pretty-much a write-off. It rained pretty much all day to some extent or other. The winds picked-up overnight, however, and the storms passed into the midnight. The morning today dawned cold, windy and bright.

I had a nice bike ride, there was a bit of trouble with the winds blowing me about, but I managed to keep on the bike. I did a bit of work in the garden and around The Villa this afternoon and will be heading over to East Molesey this afternoon with Saga to meet-up with my mates down at pub.

It is such a lovely afternoon that I am glad that I had a chance to spend some quality time with Saga at home.

I hope that wherever you are today, you've had a great day!

Don Bergquist - 31 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Friday, March 30, 2007

Waiting For Virgin (Again)

Have I mentioned how much I loathe and despise Virgin Media? After lying to me about why my appointment was cancelled last week, and then making me go through massive frustrating hoops just to pay the bill, I waited again today for them to come out and tell me why the cable was wonky.

The technician came out and took a look at the box and said that the problem was the signal was too strong getting to the cable box and that the box was confused by the strength of the signal. What a bullshit answer! If they were my cable company I'd dump them now. I've done so for less provocation!

I hope that wherever you are today, the day is stress-free…
(…and you're not having to deal with Virgin Media!)

Don Bergquist - 30 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, March 29, 2007

The Rains Return

A bit of a speed bump has occurred in the weather this week. Last night it turned cold and wet again. This morning it was pouring when I got up to head into the office.

I refer to it as a speed bump because if the BBC is to be believed, the weather is to be gorgeous this weekend! This is supposed to blow through sometime tonight or tomorrow. I've curtailed my bike ride for the day to just the essential because of the weather.

I hope that wherever you are today, the weather is cooperating with your plans!

Don Bergquist - 29 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Kristen

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Another Fine Spring Day!

It is another fine spring day in Southwestern London! The mornings are getting warmer and brighter, the evenings are getting longer and lighter and the daffodils are going like gangbusters!

When I got out of the office for the evening last night, I took off and rode my short-circuit around the tow-path up to Kingston then across to Surbiton and back down to The Villa. What a lovely evening to ride!

Saga and I had a quiet evening at home. I petted the dog, and read a while and then, when 21:00 came along, I watched the newest episode of the BBC series: Life On Mars. (Anyone who hasn't seen it, I highly recommend it… it is half cop show, half science fiction, half psychological thriller.)

This morning, is a lovely morning again. I have decided to head into the office via the long route (a reverse of last night's ride home - only in reverse) so I guess I had best get out there and go!

I hope that wherever you are today, you'll have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 28 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to by cousin, Shawn

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A Lovely Morning!

It's a lovely morning here in Thames Ditton!

I love it in the spring when the time changes and we start getting late night light! It is only march and already the twilight doesn’t end until nearly 20:00. When (if) I need to return home, I'll miss that (and other things) about my time in London.

Last evening after work, I took a nice, long bike ride around the area. The temperatures were still a bit on the cool side so I just shed my heavy coat but left a couple layers on and went for a ride still in my business clothes. I first went down to West Molesey to return a bike pump that my friends down there lent me last week and then went off to Hampton, Richmond, and Kingston on a nice, two-hour ride. I got home around seven and made a quick dinner of pasta and sauce and did a bit of writing.

This morning, the day is dawning nice a clear! It looks like it will be a good day to try and get out for a ride at lunch.

I hope wherever you are today, you have a beautiful day too!

Don Bergquist - 27 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Monday, March 26, 2007

History Lesson

This morning, as I was getting prepared for my day, the minister delivering Prayer for the Day on BBC Radio quoted a poem by Steve Turner. I'd never heard this poem before but I felt it fitting for the kind of day I was likely to have:

History Lesson
Steve Turner

History repeats itself.
Has to.
No-one listens.

I say this because, once again, there is a load of work on my desk that didn't get resolved by the time I left for the week which is now critical. Why didn't it get done? Well, when it hits my desk an hour before I leave for the week what can be done?

As always, on a Monday, I'll wrap this up, leave for the office early and get throgh what I can. What more is there to be done?

I hope wherever you are today, you'll have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 26 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

History Lesson

This morning, as I was getting prepared for my day, the minister delivering Prayer for the Day on BBC Radio quoted a poem by Steve Turner. I'd never heard this poem before but I felt it fitting for the kind of day I was likely to have:

History Lesson
Steve Turner

History repeats itself.
Has to.
No-one listens.

I say this because, once again, there is a load of work on my desk that didn't get resolved by the time I left for the week which is now critical. Why didn't it get done? Well, when it hits my desk an hour before I leave for the week what can be done?

As always, on a Monday, I'll wrap this up, leave for the office early and get throgh what I can. What more is there to be done?

I hope wherever you are today, you'll have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 26 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Spring Forward

The weekend revelries were certainly draining! I drained glasses at pubs all over Thames Ditton, Long Ditton, Surbiton, East Molesey and Hampton Court this weekend!

This morning, having lost an hour to the annual change to British Summer Time, I decided to stay abed until the obnoxiously late hour of 10:30. When I decided it was no longer for me to stay in slug mode any longer, I arose, showered, got dressed for the day and headed down to the lounge.

I've been working on my taxes since around 11:00 and thank the lord, a friend of mine just called and asked me to come over and help him install his computer!

For the first time ever, that I can recall, I am avoiding doing my taxes. I usually enjoy doing my taxes. The difference is that this year, I have to do them twice. That's right, twice! I have to do them once for the IRS and once for The Crown.

Ah, well! Phil wants his printer installed I am outta here!

I hope that wherever you are today, you have something to do that you enjoy doing!

Don Bergquist - 25 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my nephew, Nicholas

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Virgin Media Sucks!

At the risk of repeating myself I really detest Virgin Media!

The cable at the house used to be ntl but they got bought-out by Virgin Media. Since then we've had nothing but problems. The system suddenly re-arranges itself for no apparent reason, channels changing their position on the box and then changing back when we complain. (They claim that they didn't do anything to cause this to happen.)

Today was the last straw! I've been working from home all day hoping that the cable engineer would be coming out to fix the box which has been acting up for the past month. He was supposed to be here some time between 08:00 and 13:00. The problem is that by 14:30 he has still not shown-up. Why?

That was my question when I called in. They informed me that they had decided to cancel my appointment (without telling me) because the cable bill had not been paid. Problem is that it has been paid. We have been paying it by automatic debit of a company credit card since it was set-up and the car has been billed each month. They, however, show the account two months in arrears, so, without so much as a word to me, after having scheduled this appointment only a day ago, the decided to cancel the appointment and just let me sit and wait.

God, what tossers! I hate Virgin Media!

I hope that wherever you are today, you don't have to deal with Virgin Media!

Don Bergquist - 24 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Friday, March 23, 2007

Pub Crawl

The development team from the office here in Thames Ditton has decided to go on a pub crawl this evening. I'm looking forward to it. There are a couple pubs on the itinerary that are not ones that I have ever been to before.

We're starting at the George and Dragon and then working our way east along the river into Kingston, turning south into Surbiton and ending with a curry at The Red Rose. It should be a good evening!

I hope wherever you are today, you have an evening to look forward to!

Don Bergquist - 23 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A View from Abroad

Is it just me or is the political campaign season starting unusually early this year? My god! We've already got the field of candidates for the presidency lying about each other on the news and being quoted over here.

I really prefer the method they have over here where the entire campaign lasts perhaps three months! I like politics and all, but would prefer that the mudslinging be confined to a small compact time span. At least when the campaign is compact, it forces the candidates to talk about what they want to do. Issues are forced to the forefront.

Oh well, at least we're citizens and not subjects to the whims of a monarch. (We're citizens who are subject to the whims of a wanker who thinks he's a monarch.)

I hope wherever you are today, you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist - 22 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Where Does the Time Go?

It seems that we were just toasting the arrival of the New Year and now it is already time to celebrate the vernal equinox. It is pretty cool to pay attention to the shadow clock on my desk and watch the solar terminator go slowly from the peak to the trough of a sine wave on the Mercator Projection map of the world. Today, there are two terminators. Both running vertically across the map. I suppose had I looked at it at the right time, there would have been only one and half the map would have been lit, the other half dark
The days have been getting noticeably longer for a while now here in London. I am no longer riding to work in the dark each morning. The sun rises around 06:00 and, unless it is raining - or really overcast, I don't even turn-on my lights to ride to the office any longer. Pretty soon it will be late night rides home from the pub without lights!

Oh, I know, I will soon be complaining about how warm it is here and how there is no air-conditioning here, but the long days almost make-up for it all. Now if I could only do something about the allergies!

I hope that wherever you are today, you have a great equinox!

Don Bergquist - 21 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Winter Returns!

Okay, I guess the weathercasters are looking at this as a "better late than never" scenario.

Yesterday as I was on my lunchtime bike ride, the weather changed. Literally that quickly! When I left the office it was cool and sunny. I stopped off at the Villa for a brief bite to eat and a couple minutes playing with Saga and then headed off to ride around the river course that I ride at lunchtime. I had to add a trip down to West Molesey to collect the mail for a friend who is out of town. This was what caught-me-up.

Heading west through Hampton Court the skies suddenly blackened. As I crossed the river back into Surrey the skies started spitting down a light drizzle. By the time I reached Beauchamp road I was in the midst of a full-scale sleet storm.

I collected the mail and headed back to the office as quickly as I could. It was miserable riding. This morning the skies were pouring down a mixture of rain and snow. I've been sitting in the lounge at The Villa checking my email since 05:30 and waiting for a break so I don't have to ride to the office while it is pissing down a freezing drizzle. As soon as there is even the slightest break in the rain I am headed into the office.

The rain is falling, the temperatures are hovering around freezing, the sun is (presumably) rising behind the clouds. I think Saga has the right idea. She's snoozing curled-up in front of the radiator.

I hope wherever you are today, you're warm, comfortable, and snoozing when you want to!

Don Bergquist - 20 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my Step-Sister, Jo

Happy Birthday to my uncle, Gene

Monday, March 19, 2007

Monday, Monday

Virgin Media Bites! I am suffering news withdrawal. First they decided to pull my two of my news channels because the supplier raised the rate that they are charged for carrying it. This weekend, my cable stopped working all-together.

Saga was being ornery as I tried to get her outside for a walk this morning so I was late to work.

The wind kept blowing rain into my eyes.

Grrr! Oh well, It'll soon be Tuesday!

I hope that wherever you are today, you're having a good morning!

Don Bergquist - 19 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Frost Lake Retrofit

I haven't updated my web page in a long time. No, I mean an embarrassingly long time!

So, since it is a bit chilly out (not really the wintry blast promised, but it is really windy), I decided to head onto the web and update my portion of Frost Lake. It is harder than I had thought it would be!

I do not have the original source code so I have to start over. I tired to import the site into FrontPage, but the resulting site was not what I actually wanted. Some of the links don't work, some of my buttons are missing… it needs a major overhaul. So, if you head to Frost Lake Photography today, it will not look right!

Don't bother going today. I'll let you know when it is updated.

I hope that wherever you are today, your projects that you're involved are going well.

Don Bergquist - 18 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Winter Returns?

Every Newscast that I have seen in the past week said that winder would be returning. Yeah, Right!

You couldn’t tell it from the beautiful, sunlit day that I rode through this morning. The sun is shining; it is warm out and the winds, while gusting occasionally to an uncomfortable level, they are averaging to a pretty calm level. This belies the predictions that are made for the weekend that we'll be having snow by the end of the week.

The wilderness is absolutely lovely! The fields of daffodils, for the moment, are large swathes of yellow and white. I love this time of year! I wore a tee-shirt and shorts with sandals for my ride. I was wearing jeans and a light jacket earlier when I went to the store but it was warm enough out that I got uncomfortably warm.

My ride took me up to New Malden, then over to Richmond, down around bushy park and into the wilderness where I took a break. The wilderness is lovely this time of year! There are always flowers there in the spring that I hadn't noticed before; like these bluebells that were growing along the margin of a field of daffodils.

On the way home, I decided to stop in at The King's Arms. They have a new crest and signage now that they are re-opened as a hotel. Their planter boxes are now brimming with flowers and it is lovely this morning.

By the time I returned home, I'd had a lovely thirty-mile ride. The day continues to be lovely but I have things that must be done here at home, so I suppose I should get to it!

Wherever you are today, I hope your day is starting off with a bang!

Don Bergquist - 17 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy Birthday to my friend, Amy

Friday, March 16, 2007

Another Lovely Day!

I am sitting in the lounge at The Villa; the garden door open allowing in the chill morning air, Saga staring at me wondering if I am at the computer hiding food behind the monitor. It is truly a lovely day! Which is odd because as recently as last night's 19:00 newscast on BBC was calling for today to be an overcast, cold and miserable day! They even said the "S" word last night on the preview for the weekend.

With the spring coming on strong and the sunrise getting earlier every morning, day is bright even though it is not yet 06:00. I am soon going to have to sleep with the shades, shutters and curtains drawn if I want to sleep past 04:00. (Not that I sleep long past then as a habit. Having a nice lie-in for me is not getting out of bed until after seven!)

Saga has decided that I've had quite enough time with whatever is so damn interesting to me over here at the computer. She has come over to investigate. Poor thing that I have nothing to offer. Ah well, I'm wasting daylight! I need to get on my bike and head into the office. It's still early enough that I can take the long ride in and get a few extra miles in for the week!

I hope wherever you are this morning, its dawning bright and clear!

Don Bergquist - 16 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Guarding The Home Front

When I left for the office this morning, Saga was on sentry duty. It is so funny! The minute I leave she take-up post on the stairs on the first floor watching out the window to see if there is anything going on outside she should know about.

She's a great guard dog! She lets us know when there are cars stopped too long in front of the villa. (Especially if they are carrying any kind of animals - dogs, cats, etc.) She definitely lets us know when the neighbors walk their dogs past!

Every once in a while, one of my colleagues here in the office will let me know "Hey, We saw Saga on guard duty today!" occasionally I'll go out at lunch with a friend from the office. As we drive past the villa, we se the little white head with the black ears watchfully posted at the first floor window. I can work easy assured that Saga is holding down the fort!

I hope wherever you are today, you feel safe and secure in your surroundings.

Don Bergquist - 15 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Michelle

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Ann

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Beautiful Day

Gee! The weather today is almost perfect!

If it were only a degree-or-two warmer it would be perfect. The sky could have a couple more clouds in it (just to lend some photographic interest to the field of unbroken blue) and perhaps the winds could be slightly calmer. Okay, I guess by "today is almost perfect" I meant to say "Hey! At least it isn't raining!"

At lunchtime I rode home via Kingston (around through Hampton Court Palace and then to the villa) and had lunch with my dog. Saga was glad to see that Daddy had come home to play with her and to toss her a tidbit here and there.

It is a lovely day! I have the French doors open to the back garden and have just mowed the grass so it smells fresh and spring-like! But all good things must come to an end so I guess I should say "goodbye" to Saga and head back into the office.

I hope that wherever you are today, you're having an beautiful day and wouldn't want to change a thing.

Don Bergquist - 14 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Justin

Happy Birthday to by godson (and nephew), Zachary

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Springtime In London

The weather has been unusually mild. Apparently springtime has come to London. The back garden is lush and green and really needed to be mown so when I headed home to lunch, I cut the lawn.

I took a nice bicycle ride at lunch. Ah! What a short time it is that the weather where is perfect. Soon, the weather will be unbearable. Springtime: That idyllic few days sandwiched between the cold, rainy days of winter and the sweltering days of summer! Don't blink! You'll miss it!

I hope that wherever you are today, your day is lovely!

Don Bergquist - 13 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Monday, March 12, 2007

Back Into The Swing Of Things

I wish I had known that Virgin Atlantic was planning on using about a thousand layers of cling film "for my security and protection" when I checked my bags back in South Africa. One of the first rules of travel that I learned was that it is a good idea to dress for your destination when you leave for the airport.

The problem is that I left for the airport from MNET and then after a day where I knew I would be walking between the two campuses they have (that are about two blocks apart). This when it was 32 degrees out… (Celsius - that's about 90 Fahrenheit) I arrived at the airport wearing what I had worn to the client's that morning; jeans, sandals and an aloha shirt.

Planning ahead Friday morning, I packed a warm, long-sleeve shirt, the sweatshirt I had worn to the airport a couple weeks earlier, and a pair of closed shoes in the large, outside pocket of my case. Seeing it in twenty pounds of saran wrap made it apparent that I was not getting into it until I got a knife.

The driver, seeing me come off the plane looking more like I was arriving in Honolulu than in London, welcomed me back and asked where I had been. Luckily, it was fairly warm. I added a light jacket to the outfit when I got home to ride over to East Molesey to get Saga. She jumped at me and gave me tons of loving.

Saturday night, I went to the pub with Terry and Angie for beers and then out for a curry. Sunday was pretty much a quiet day with Saga at home; she and I assuring each other that neither was going anywhere. She followed me to the laundry room every time I went down to do another load.

Today, it is back to the office and back to the job. Ah! Normalcy has been restored!

I hope wherever you are today, you've had a great weekend!

Don Bergquist - 12 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Thanks And Credit Where It Is Due

I need to take a moment and answer the one most frequent question I get when I travel: "Who is taking care of Saga?"

I have to say that I have some really good friends. I have no idea how I got so lucky! When the trip to South Africa came up and I had to go (almost immediately) I asked if Terry and Angie would mind watching Saga. They said that they would be happy to watch her. My colleague here from Denver also offered to watch her.

Terry and Angie took over from Tony when it turned-out that he was working ungodly long hours. Thanks to all three of you for making it possible for me to do my job and take this last minute trip I was asked to take. Saga was well cared for, she looks great. The only thing that even lets me know that she is happy to see me back is the fact that she keeps a close eye on me now that I am home. She doesn’t want me out of her sight (lest I pack my bags and leave again).

It is nice to have such great friends that I know I can count on! I thank my friends for all they do for me and I know that Saga does too!

I hope that wherever you are today, you have friends you can count on!

Don Bergquist - 11 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Saturday, March 10, 2007

All Is Forgiven!

Daddy's home! Oh my god! Daddy's Home!!! I though that he was gone forever. I was so mad at him when he went away. Why did he leave me alone?

These people who have been taking care of me are nice and all! They have let me sleep on their couch and they pet me and feed me. They have a cool house with stairs and lots of places for me to explore. They have a cool yard that has lots of interesting smells and they have foxes that I can bark at.

They even have a really interesting stuff to explore in the next yard. (I wonder why they will not allow me to go over and explore it. It looks so interesting!) But I miss Daddy when he is a way!


I hope that wherever you are today, you're with the people that you love!

Saga Bergquist - 10 March 2007 - Thames Ditton, Surrey, UK

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Rebecca

Friday, March 09, 2007

Leaving South Africa

Well, my time in South Africa is at an end. It has been a good trip. Sure, there were long hours and hard work, but the trip was a good one. The clients, I think are satisfied (if not exactly happy) with the work we've done here and I can call this trip a success.

I tried to write this morning, but there was no time, what between getting packed, checked-out and getting ready to get into the client's office. This would have been much easier if the driver had shown-up this morning but something got crossed and he never showed. This evening, however, he took me to the airport and deposited me in time for me to get checked-in for the flight back to London.

It has been an uneventful night. No surprise here - I have no chance that I am going to get to sleep! I wish I were like the people around me! They are all asleep soundly. The video system is not working properly. I got about half-way through Casino Royale when it went-out. I guess I'll have to rent the DVD when I get home to see how it ends.

I hope that wherever you are tonight, you're able to sleep soundly!

Don Bergquist - 09 March 2007 - Somewhere over Africa, Virgin Atlantic Flight VS602

Thursday, March 08, 2007


Petroleum prices here went-up by 25c per liter last evening. It was the big news and I heard about it all day long. Every newscast had the admonition that you should run out and buy all the petrol your car could hold before the taxes went into affect. I guess that this is a big rise (in terms of percentage it is nearly a 10% rise) but still I have a hard time thinking of it as being a lot of money. Its about 4 cents. (two pence)

Everyone here (it seems) who can own a car does. There is no public transportation to speak of; I've seen nothing that looks like a public bus. There are, however, mini-busses; twelve passenger vans crammed to bursting at the seems. One was full of school children (all decked out in their uniforms) singing and dancing in their seats. What a riot. I haven’t quite worked-out how it works, how you know which one is going where and what you would pay when you get onto one of these, but when I asked, I was told that I shouldn't get on one; the tend to be in poor states of repair and dangerous.

I cannot say that the cars the hotel have been calling for us have been any better! The one that came for the last few days was is need of repair. Badly in need of repair! I'm no expert on cars, but even I knew that this car needed work! The steering wheel squeaked and hissed as it was turned. The rear wheels made ominous metallic grinding sign a they turned. The seat belts were held together by duct tape. (Even in South Africa: Duct Tape holds the world together!)

For the last two days , the client has sent their driver to collect us. The driver is a really nice person and the car is in good repair! I wish I had mentioned to the client earlier what the cars the hotel was dredging up were like!

Most of the cars in the lot at the client are tiny by American standards; heck, they're pretty small by British standards. They're small but at least the insides are comfortable. We've gone to lunch (and dinner) with the client a few times over the past two weeks and even the back seat of these cars is comfortable to two large Americans. Why can't we have more good small cars in the US?

I hope that wherever you are today, I hope you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist - 08 March 2007 - Randberg, Gauteng, South Africa

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Driving in South Africa

Driving in South Africa (not that I have done all that much driving) reminds me of driving in London. You face may of the same challenges; you have to learn to drive on the "wrong side" of the car (the right side) and the "wrong side" of the road (the left side). You are also faced with the challenge of driving on roads that are badly in need of maintenance.

Many of the roads we drove had shoulders that were either badly eroded or nonexistent. In places, even the road itself could be seen to have been eroded; the edges crumbled and large potholes forming. These weren't little side-roads either, these were major routes that had 100 KPH speed limits.
Many of the street vendors set-up stands by the side of the road to sell their various wares. This is such a prevalent practice that you often see signs like the one below posted to keep the shoulders of the road clear. Often-as-not, these signs are used by the vendors to post their signs advertising their wares or to anchor their tarps to.
Everywhere there are street vendors. I don't mean jus the people standing on the side streets, setting-up their carts and tables selling stuff, I mean people standing in the street selling practically anything you can think of; plastic coat hangars, large novelty tennis balls, cell phone car adapters, costume jewelry, cold drinks, anything!

There are probably laws against driving on the shoulders (where they exist) but the behavior of the drivers who use the road make that doubtful. "Drive wherever you can!" seems to be the only law in play. And the signs that are posted along the roadside tell you ting you need to know such as the sign we passed (in the Magalieserg Mountains while driving back from Sun City) which warned: !Warning! Hijack Area Ahead 1 km.

Anyone who has ever heard the story about my being mugged will know that this is exactly the kind of sign that would have been helpful that night in Kansas City. I wonder, however, how effective this sign can be. How do they know where the carjackers are working? Are they licensed and allowed to hijack cars in only one area?

I'm sure the carjackers will not pay any more attention to those signs and stay in the hijack area than the street vendors do to the signs you see everywhere telling them not to set-out there wares at the roadside. This sign was posted in the middle of a row of about twenty vendors selling fruit, biltong, plastic hangars, African art, crafts, sunglasses and lots of other things.

There area really, other than that, only a few things you need to know to successfully drive in South Africa. For one, you should, apparently, not pay any attention to the other drivers; especially if you are in the middle of a soccer crowd. We weren't told why… we were just told that this was a good thing to keep in mind. Another thing to keep in mind is that they call those automated traffic signals "robots." They are even marked on maps that way. Don't go looking for Gort. You won't see him. (I was a little let down by this. I was all prepared to say "Klatu barata nictu."

Ah well, I guess, as the Rolling Stones said: you can't always get what you want.

I hope that wherever you are today, you're having a great day!

Don Bergquist - 07 March 2007 - Randberg, Gauteng, South Africa

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Quart or Two

In a trivia quiz I take every day (when I have regular access to the Internet, that is) there was a recent question, fitting question really asking about the reason there are twelve verses to the national anthem of South Africa. The reason? There are twelve official languages in South Africa. Think of how hard it is to communicate in the states where we have one official (and another - Spanish - that may as well be official in many areas) language.

I have to assume that this is the reason the police officer in North-West the other night didn't understand the concept that I was lost and wanted to go to Randberg. I guess also that is what made the desk clerk this morning look at me strangely.

"I'm sorry I don't know this word. What is corderdu?"

"I want a car arranged to pick-up my colleague and me at a quarter-to." I repeated. "We need to go to MNET."

"Quart or two?" he said slowly looking puzzled.

"Eight forty-five." I explained. "Can we please have a car to deliver us to MNET at eight forty-five."

"Yes." He said. "You, eh… you're going to MNET. When?"

"Thirty minutes." I replied. "We're going into breakfast. We want the car just now*. We'll want to leave around a quarter-to-nine."

"Okay." He replied. "I will have a car for you now."

I went into breakfast not knowing if or when I would have a car. The car arrived about fifteen minutes later. We finished breakfast and headed into the client. We were early.

I hope that wherever you are today, you're having no communication issues!

Don Bergquist - 06 March 2007 - Randberg, Gauteng, South Africa

Greetings from South Africa!

Monday, March 05, 2007

More Adventures in the North-West Province

As the crow flies, Sun City is probably about 75 or 80 kilometers from Randberg. Unfortunately neither Mark nor I are crows. (Do they even have crows in South Africa? I've seen very few birds here period, and none of those have been large, black ones.)
After the time we spent at Sun City, the casino, racing on the lake, and visiting a crocodile farm, Mark and I set-out for Randberg around an hour before sunset. I had wanted to be back at the hotel before it as full-on dark; we'd been warned about being out and about at night.

It all seemed to be going so well. We made it onto Route 510 and down to the R24 and were well in the way to the Magaliseberg mountain range when the first snag to my plan occurred. A huge traffic jam in Rutenburg caused us to lose over an hour just getting into the township. The jam was caused by the traffic leaving a football pitch after an Orlando Pirates game. (I've looked it up, there is an Orlando in South Africa. It is in the Soweto township.) We were stuck in traffic for about two hours until we were past lake Olifantsnek.

By the time it became clear that we weren't going to make it to Randberg in time to have dinner at any of the restaurants near the hotel, we started looking for a place to stop for dinner.

We got back into the Gauteng province around 21:00 and still had seen no place that looked like a potential place to eat. The next major snag came as along shortly thereafter when I made a slight miscalculation in scale when changing from one map to another.

I should have turned east onto the N14 to head toward Pretoria (and Jo'Burg) rather than turning right (west) and heading toward Ventersdorp. With the full-on dark around us and the intermittent rain, we thought we were keeping the lights of Johannesburg to our left so we thought we where on the map that we were following. Unfortunately, there was no sign of anything out the car windows that was represented on the map. It was just after we had decided to back-track and look for and try driving toward Pretoria that we had the third (and last) impediment to returning to or hotel.

"What the hell was that?" I said as there was a really loud "BANG!" from the rear of the car.

"I don't know. I think we've had a blow-out! I have very little control of the car." Said Mark, slowing the car as he did. We pulled over and checked and yes, we had a flat in the left-rear of the car.

In the dark, in the middle of nowhere, in an unknown location, in a cell phone dead zone, in the middle of South Africa is a bad place to have a disabled car!" Didn't we pass a gas station or something a couple kilometers back?" I asked. "This thing is supposed to have Run-Flat tires… let's try and get to somewhere lit and change the tire there."

The lights turned-out to be a police station. Mark pulled-up under a lamp and I went in to get directions. Yes, we had made the wrong turning. Of course the woman in the station didn't know that. First she pointed at a place on the map that I thought that I had thought we were in. I asked if she was sure about that and she said yes.

"So, we're in Gauteng province and if we turn right we'll get to Johannesburg?"

"Go that way." She said, pointing west.

"So this is Gauteng?" I asked again.

"No, no, man! You in North-West." She replied. (indicating that going the way she had just indicated would take us away from, not toward our hotel. By dint of ignoring her directions we were soon back in Randberg and at our hotel around 23:00. The entire 100 KM trip took us only five ours to complete.

I hope that wherever you are today, your day has gone smoothly!

Don Bergquist - 05 March 2007 - Randberg, Gauteng, South Africa

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Adventures in the North-West Province

What a lovely morning! I awoke early, the sun rising over the hill outside my window waking me well before the alarm went off. I have to admit, it was only partly the sun, it was also partly the excitement of the plan for the day.

Up until this morning, my entire time in South Africa had been spent in the Gauteng province. This morning, after packing, walking around the grounds of the Apricot Hill Guest Cottages and B & B to take some pictures and having a lovely breakfast, Mark and I set off into the North-West province to head into Pilanesberg.

The drive was uneventful and eye-opening at the same time. Driving past diamond and platinum mines sprinkled in among the shacks of the people who work those mines was a bit depressing. The decrepit squalor of the area, the corrugated tin shacks pressed in tight against each other belie the wealth that is being pulled out of the ground such a short distance away. At every intersection street vendors (beggars?) approached the car asking to sell us sodas, asking for contributions to support their rugby or football clubs.

Around 09:00 we arrived at Pilanesberg. The park is lovely! I have to comment on how much the area looks like the area around southern Colorado/northern New Mexico and into the Panhandle of Texas. The area has similar craggy hills and low, dry/arid terrain. They are also equally bereft of lions, tigers, giraffes, and elephants!

Granted, we where there a bit late in the day, but the park was a bit of a disappointment. I'll grant that the disappointment is almost entirely due to my failure to get us to the park before sun-up. The heat of the day had already started to build so the animals were off hiding as we were touring the park. The only animal that we saw whilst actually in the park was this one Kudu.

Should the opportunity return and I get the chance to return to South Africa, I'll plan on staying at Sun City and get to the park around Sunrise. As it was, we saw more wildlife in the restaurant we ate lunch in than we did in the park.

This grass snake went skittering through the restaurant and one of the Game Wardens (having lunch at the next table) caught it and put it out in the lawn before the restaurant. There was also a bird that flew through, but it flew off before I could grab my camera. Adding to the abundance of animals at the restaurant (far out-stripping those actually in the park) was this troop of monkeys we passed in the parking lot of the restaurant as we were headed out for Sun City.

On the way into Sun City we passed these animals grazing along the perimeter of the park. The Zebras were not shy but the other animals (whatever they are) kept to hiding in the underbrush. We also passed

Sun City was fun too! We cruised through the casino (were I broke even) and explored the entertainment complex before heading to the water-world complex to race in mini-racing boats around the lake.

The big adventure of the day is yet to come, but that will have to wait until tomorrow.

I hope that wherever you are today, your weekend has been an adventure!

Don Bergquist - 04 March 2007 - Randberg, Gauteng, South Africa

Happy Purim

Saturday, March 03, 2007

The Cradle of Humankind

It's nearly midnight and I am writing my blog this evening from the cradle of humanity. It is a bit mind-boggling to thing that where I sleep tonight humans have been sleeping for eons; longer then any place on the planet!

Not the Bed and Breakfast, of course, I mean the area. This area of Gauteng is referred to as The Cradle of Humankind. According to the information at the interpretive center at Maropeng, more and older fossils of our ancestors have been found here than anywhere on Earth.

Maropeng visitor and conference center was an interesting experience. They have a number of exhibits discussing the development of the continents as they currently stand through the actions of plate tectonics and the development of Homo Sapiens as the predominant intelligent life form through our development and use of intelligence, language, and tools. It was interesting.

My colleague and I made the short drive up here to Muldersdrift (about 45 minutes from Randberg) early this afternoon and checked into the B & B we're staying in. We then consulted with the owner and the maps and set our itinerary. A short drive through the area and a visit to Maropeng, some touristy activities (we raced each other on a go-cart track), and an attempt at a little shopping.

I say "attempt" because we were not aware of the incredibly restrictive labor laws here that make it necessary for most stores here to close by 16:00 on Saturdays. We arrived at (what appeared t be) a major mall at around five and discovered that every store was, in fact, already closed. We later learned that labor and benefits laws make it cost prohibitive to stay open later on weekends.

This evening we had a wonderful meal t a lovely restaurant off-the-beaten track called The Post and Rail. I will say this: they love their chutney here! My steak came sitting on a bed of cranberry chutney even though there was no mention of it on the menu. No problem. I scraped it to the side of the plate and enjoyed the otherwise excellent steak! And at the depreciation of the rand, the entire meal cost us about ten pounds sterling or about $20.00!

I should, right now be at a party in Hampton Court at the King's Arms. I am missing Angie's Party, But I purchased a gin single yesterday at a bottle store and have a can of tonic so I'm bout to mix it up, head out to se if the clouds have broken so I can see the eclipse, toast Angie's Birthday and then head off to bed.

It's been a long day and tomorrow is another big day! We're headed up to Pilanesberg National Park and Sun City.

I hope that wherever you are today, you're enjoying your weekend!

Don Bergquist - 03 March 2007 - Muldersdrift, Gauteng, South Africa

Happy Birthday to my friend, Angie

Friday, March 02, 2007

Weekend Plans

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time you're probably ducking for cover and yelling "No! You crazy idiot! Don't make plans!" And you're probably right to do so, but my colleague and I made weekend plans.

Since whenever I make plans, they go horribly awry, I should learn. But I am only human and as Dave Barry points out in The Only Travel Guide You'll Ever Need by Dave Barry "Mankind is far to stupid to be put off tourism by a few million years of bad travel experiences!"

Mark, my colleague from the states and I started the day by getting our hair sprayed. It's a Cancer Awareness day here in South Africa. Everywhere there are businesses offering to shave heads for people who want to show solidarity with Cancer Survivors. For those not willing to go bald, there is the option to spray your head with obnoxious colors.

I opted for the later as it has taken me far too long to get my hair to a length I actually like. Besides, head shaving reminds me too much of the short, short, short (!) haircuts mom used to give us boys each week when we were kids, so nah! I don't think so!

MNET (my client here in South Africa) was doing this at the location I am working at so Mark and I volunteered. Mark originally said he was going to get scalped. But opted for this lovely skunk coloration instead! I sat down wanting a few gray streaks (I've been gray before, I can be gray again) but no! The woman spraying me said "Trust me!"

What could I do? She was a client! I trusted. I got this chic silver coloration with the hot pink fringe around the bottom. Oh and of course, I got the hot pink MNET "m" sprayed on the back.

Anyway, during lunch, Mark and I decided on the Cradle of Humankind as our target for our one weekend in South Africa so tomorrow morning, we'll be getting a car delivered to our hotel and we're striking out to go north to Muldersrift. From there we will explore the area where the oldest evidence of human activity has been found.

Exactly what we'll do, I don't even want to plan. I would like to see an wildlife refuge, but again, I'm not crazy enough to advertise all my plans. I do learn you see! I know what happens when I make plans!

For now, all I am willing to say, is that I think this weekend will be one to blog about!

I hope that wherever you are today, you're making big plans for your weekend!

Don Bergquist - 02 March 2007 - Randberg, South Africa

Happy Birthday to my cousin, Dale

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Too Busy To Write Today

I am sorry to do this so recently into a new location, but I have been really busy at the client site and will be again today. It is a hot and muggy day in South Africa. The sun has just come up and it is already 25 degrees (Celsius) according to the weather on the television.

The people I have been dealing with here are all very nice. I have been made to feel right at home. (Okay, yes! I mean they think I talk funny and they laugh at some of the things that I say because the idioms I use mean different things here.)

I've been putting in long hours at MNET and hopefully getting a lot of stuff accomplished. The people at the hotel have been nice enough too. Too bad that the hotel itself is not what I am used to. For one thing, there is no internet access from my room. There is also only spotty internet coverage in the lobby where they insist you have to go to get online.

My telephone in my room works only periodically; and at that, only for incoming calls. There is no pool, and the restaurant only opens for breakfast two hours a day.

Oh well. I should really save this and get to the office. There is a lot to do today. My colleague from the states and I are going to meet for breakfast and then head to the client's office. I have no idea when I am going to get a chance to upload my journal entries, but hopefully I can get online tonight.

I hope that wherever you are today, you have a great day!

Don Bergquist - 01 March 2007 - Randberg, South Africa