Monday, November 5, 2012

Hurrican Sandy -October 2012

HURRICAN  SANDY- October 2012.
New Amsterdam on the southern tip  of Manhattan Island
The Dutch founded  New Amsterdam  in the 17th century as a Dutch Colonial settlement on the southern tip of Manhattan Island and it served as the capital of New Netherlands.

 New Amsterdam - The settlement around the castle.
Similar to the castle in Cape Town South Africa.
It was named New York in 1667 on honor of the Duke of York ( later King James ll of England)  when British forces seized control of Manhattan along with the rest for the Dutch Colony.
The Dutch took one look at the island and realized that it was on sea level and it will  be prone to flooding just as some cities in the Netherlands were.Even the name of their  country meant " low laying land". Their cities were protected by dikes built to keep the water out, and they used windmills to pump the water from  the polders  (land saved from the sea)  back into the ocean.

Dutch Windmills
Perhaps the Dutch  did not stay long enough to plan how to protect  their new city from flooding, before the British took over.Some of the older homes in Greenwich Village still has the front door entrance to the house on the second floor. In case of flooding one could still enter the house even if the lower floor was flooded. So the people of New York were  well aware of the danger of flooding.
Greenwich Village houses.
This week - November 28 October 2012- the town fathers of New York wished they had the foresight to build dikes or levies that would have protected the City of New York from Hurricane Sandy.
If one looks at the map of New York City with Long Island to the right- the part in red is where the hurricane hit .The island of Manhattan is where the two red lines split .On the left ,the red line goes up into the Hudson River, and the right one goes  into the Long Island Sound.
As a storm Sandy was not that frightening where we are located. We had some spats of very intense  high winds but it lasted for a short time . Five minutes later  another strong wind came but as soon as one wanted to panic- it was over. We had some rain but nothing to worry about or that flooded the garden at the back. On 14 street the front of a 4 story apartment house was torn off by they high winds, but nobody got hurt.
My apartment is in a in a brownstone, located  in Greenwich Village, about  quarter way up the island of Manhattan that was built in 1845.It looks out onto the back garden where there are several Chinese Maples trees , 30 feet higher than the five story brownstone. The must have been planted soon after the house was built. My biggest fear was that the wind would knock on of them onto the houses that surrounds the backyard. Nothing like this happened......Where did all the devastation then come form?
The hurricane came up the coast with the New Jersey shore on its left. The coast of Long Island formed a funnel that pushed all the water from the Atlantic into the harbor of New York .Not only was it high tide, but we had a full moon as well. A hurricane, high tide and a full moon all joined to push a 14 feet high wave of water into the harbor  and the low laying areas surrounding it.
Staten Island, New Jersey, Brooklyn and the Island of Manhattan.
Tunnels and subways flooded
South Ferry Subway station
Battery tunnel.

9/11 Memorial being flooded

Lower East Side
When the salt water hit the low laying parts of Wall Street on the southern part of Manhattan it flooded the tunnels and subways. Transformers (located in basements- how smart is that? ) started to explode and the transformer on 14 street -that blew up 7 years ago  and left this neighborhood without any power for 24 hours -blew up once again an dumped darkness, silence and gloom on us all .
14th Street Explosion. 
I looked for candles and matches and found a flashlight that I kept handy . I also taped the windows with duck tape, earlier in the day - just in case. I did prepare and bought  some canned food and water but that was it.We are located rather far from the waters edge so I knew we were safe- unless a Tsunami wave hit us.
My neighbor Barbara and Tim downstairs got together and we had our meal around the table at candlelight...... very nice and romantic. It was if the brownstone came to life and remembered days of a more peaceful and bygone era. How bad could it be ? We had no TV, Internet , phones or radio. We were sure that by tomorrow morning, when we get up, all will be fine as the power would come up during the night and the heat would kick in and the warm water heater will have hot water ready for the early morning showers-and all will be fine. We woke up in the dark and the cold. The power did not come on.
Sixth Avenue- Avenue of the Americas.
It was Tuesday morning and I tried to call my partner Marion to tell her I would go into the office to see what was going on there. No cellphone or land line connections. I started walking up the Avenue of the Americas .It looked like a war zone. No traffic lights, no cars no people ,no lights. Further up past 25th street I could see some traffic lights and lights  in the buildings . I walked 17 blocks to work in midtown near Time Square.
Flooded subway
As the subways were closed ,so the only people on the streets were tourist trying to find a coffee shop open , sauntering along aimlessly. There was nothing open and nothing to do Even Macy's was closed. It was raining softly and it was very dreary out , cold with some winds now and then. The worse of the storm was over.
The Island of Manhattan black out- Hudson River to the left East River to the right.
At first they did not want to let me into our office building but I insisted as the door man knew me.
At the office it was almost normal ,but I was one of a few other in a 28 floor building. Nobody on our floor was there. The doorman said they might shut the power off there as well ,but he would come and fetch me if that happened. He told me not to get in the elevators but call them when I was coming down. I could call Marion from work and she told me they had power in Brooklyn Height but no elevators were working.
Times Square almost deserted .Our office is down the road on the right hand side behind the big black and white photograph of a man's head
At around 4:00 pm  started on my way back and as it was getting dark soon I wanted to be home by then. By this time I had walked two miles that day , and even while it was cold, I did work up a sweat and was itching all over .I had like a lick and a promise cleansing that morning but could not wash my hair or shower.....I did shave with cold water trying "to keep up appearances."
Barbara mentioned that the water was not ice cold the night before when she went to bed. I thought I can try and see if there might be enough water just to have a quick rinse. To my greatest joy we had warm water! I jumped into that shower and had the most wonderful shower that I can remember. I had forgotten that the we have a gas boiler for hot water and also gas stoves. I am no cook, and my microwave stands on my stove, but at least we could boil water and have a shower.
I blessed Salome for her insight as well as Liz that reminded me that there should be hot water!
Barbara and Tim came over again and we had a good time talking around candlelight but after they left there was a long night ahead with no music ,no heat, no phone, no Internet, no TV  and I started to read and read and read.I read two books -and many magazines during this time. At last it was 10:00 pm and I could go to bed. In the morning I waited for it to get light before I got up and had my warm shower to warm me up. The apartment was freezing and I was not thrilled. The bed was warm enough but getting out of it was horrible. It reminded me of my days as a kid when we lived in Bloemfontein .Houses were never heated in South Africa so we were tough when it came to the cold, but after living in America where we heat is mandatory for survival- I have become very spoilt.
A very tall apartment block that they were building on 57st  near the Carnegie Hall had a crane hanging from it that toppled over during the night. They had roped  off block after  block around it ,scared that if the wind loosens it, it might fly through the air and hit somebody .They also had to evacuate all the tenants in building around it. This building was in the news a few weeks ago when the penthouse  apartment sold for $90 million. Only on top of a hurricane will this happen in NYC ........As they say "Only in America". Slowly but surely the days got easier .Marion got back to work and we had one of the dressmakers come in to finish two gowns that had to go out by Friday. It took her three hours to get to work that usually takes her 40 minutes on a normal day. I had heat Internet and phones at work so life was normal. What got to me where the long nights with nothing to do but read.
Once I was home I was told not to move around the neighborhood at night as there were strange people lurking around the blacked out neighborhoods. The first night they caught two guys opposite the street in a building trying to see if any apartment doors were open. After 5:30 pm we were  trapped inside. Our neighborhood was also deserted as some of the apartment buildings had their water tanks on the roof and needed to pump the water up there. When there were no water to be had the tenants moved out to stay with family or friends. It became very claustrophobic after a few days.
 The only way to get home was to walk, as taxis were having  problems getting gas. At one gas station in Queen a guy pulled a gun when somebody jumped the line. A car with a diplomatic license plate almost got bashed in when the driver tried to jump the line....people were getting very irate.
What we were going through was nothing .There were people that lost their lives and everything they owned.  I had to count my blessings. At least I had warm water and a roof over my head at night. Many people tried to move into hotels and when they could find a room they were overcharged. Some hotels even doubled their rates.
At 4:45 am on the fifth night of no power, I was woken by a light shining into my eyes.
It was the bedside light that was on. It was so good to be back in the 21 century.
Never will I take a television, radio or a warm bath for granted again. It was great spending the first day back having light and entertainment. It did not take much to get Greenwich Village rolling again. By the same evening stores were open and running although all the frozen foods were off the racks . We will have to wait for that a couple of more days.

New Yorkers are tough. Monday morning the trains were packed once again. There they were reading their Kindles or newspapers -or taking a nap as if nothing has happened. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11 not much can rattle their nerves.
Tomorrow we must vote for a new President -or keep the one we have. On Wednesday New York is expecting another North Eastern storm .............Life goes on.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Being born an Afrikaner - or Boer - in South Africa.


Boer War Map.

This is how  Sir ARTHUR CONAN DOYLE -the author of "Sherlock Holmes" -described the Boer Warriors during the Boer War.
"Take a community of Dutchmen of the type of those who defended
themselves for fifty years against all the power of Spain at a time
when Spain was the greatest power in the world. Intermix with them
a strain of those inflexible French Huguenots who gave up home and
fortune and left their country for ever at the time of the
revocation of the Edict of Nantes. The product must obviously be
one of the most rugged, virile, unconquerable races ever seen upon
earth. Take this formidable people and train them for seven
generations in constant warfare against savage men and ferocious
beasts, in circumstances under which no weakling could survive,
place them so that they acquire exceptional skill with weapons and
in horsemanship, give them a country which is eminently suited to
the tactics of the huntsman, the marksman, and the rider. Then,
finally, put a finer temper upon their military qualities by a dour
fatalistic Old Testament religion and an ardent and consuming
patriotism. Combine all these qualities and all these impulses in
one individual, and you have the modern Boer-or Afrikaner -the most formidable
antagonist who ever crossed the path of Imperial Britain. Our
military history has largely consisted in our conflicts with
France, but Napoleon and all his veterans have never treated us so
roughly as these hard-bitten farmers with their ancient theology
and their inconveniently modern rifles".

Boer Guerrilla fighters during the Boer War.

 New York  2013

I was born in South Africa  as an Afrikaner or "Boer" .
Today there are about 3.3 million Afrikaners in the world. 
My father was from German stock and my mother from  Dutch background.
My Schickerling  ancestor arrived in South Africa in 1773. My mother's  De Beer ancestor arrived even earlier at the Cape of Good Hope -in 1699.
We spoke Afrikaans at home that was a language that developed from Dutch, German and Malay.
We went to the Dutch Reformed Church and  were very proud of our heritage. We were a big family and I had a lot of uncles aunts and cousins from both sides.

Johannesburg - South Africa
The word "Boer" means farmer and most of the Afrikaners were farmers and lived in the country. My father was in business for himself so we grew up in Johannesburg the "city of gold". All his brothers were farmers. My mother grew up in a town so her brothers were in business .We experienced both farm and city life because of this. We attended  Afrikaans medium schools but we were taught English as well as German and Latin .I was born in a suburb that had a lot of English speaking South Africans living there, so I grew up speaking both languages. My parents had a few English speaking friends but mostly we mixed with other Afrikaners .Later we moved to a mostly Afrikaans neighborhood and I spoke English less .My music teacher, Mrs Perkins, was English and when we went to the store we had to speak  English, as many shops were run by immigrants who could not speak Afrikaans.
  We were proud to be Afrikaners and very proud of our European heritage. We were the white tribe of Africa but had very little connection with Africa. Our interests were very Eurocentric and we were taught European languages and culture.

Johannesburg Symphony Orchestra

The SABC or  South African Broadcasting Corporation's Afrikaans station played opera and symphonic music and radio theater on Friday evenings was a big event. Works of Afrikaans and European authors were performed by Afrikaans actors that became house hold names. Opera and Theater was sponsored by the State in all the four provinces of South Africa. Afrikaans business men like Anton Rupert  en Jan Marais started to establish new companies like Rembrandt and Trust Bank , and became important players in South African business community that was dominated by Jewish and English speaking South Africans.  According to his biography, Rupert's business career spanned over sixty years. He started his global empire with a personal investment of just ₤10 in 1941   and was named on the Forbes  list of 500 wealthiest families worldwide. 1988 he formed Richemont that  owns such luxury brands as  Cartier, Alfred Dunhill, Piaget en Montblanc . At the time of his death in 2006 his assets were estimated at $1.7 billion.

Cape Town -South Africa

"Boer Family on Sunday Evening"
1885 sketch by German artist Heinrich Egersdörfer. 

It has been a hard long road for the Afrikaners since they arrived on the southern point of South Africa in 1652 . The colony started out as a half way house for the Dutch ships on their way to Asia to stop off and pick up fresh water and food. In 1806 it became a British Colony .The Boers wanted freedom from British rule and moved north into Africa and established the Orange Free State and the Transvaal .They were left in peace until gold and diamonds were discovered and all of a sudden Britain became very interested in these two barren Boer Republics.

 Boer War

Britain declared war on the Boer Republics .This resulted in the BOER  WAR of 1899-1902.
The atrocities of this war is well know and in 1902 the Boers lost the war against the British Realm and the British took over the gold and diamond mines of South Africa.

My paternal grandfather was in the concentration camp of the Orange River with his mother and siblings .On my mothers side of the family, my grandmother's family  was sent to Portugal by the Mozambique Government when the British asked for the Boers , who fled to Lourenco Marques, to be handed over.
 After the war Afrikaans Nationalism was outlawed by the British Govement.If my grandparent's generation spoke Afrikaans at school a sign with DONKEY written on it, was hung around their necks and they had to stand in the corner and wear the sign for the day.

In 1910 the Union of South Africa was established  but it was still dominated by the British.
 In 1948 the Nationalist Party won the election and for the first time in almost 50 years and  the Afrikaner  was in control of its destiny once again since the Boer War .Afrikaans became one of the official languages of the country. The most unfortunate fall out of all this was that the Africans living in South Africa were forgotten and left out .Contrary to the believe that Africans were  hated in South Africa, they were very much part of the multicultural community in South Africa but the Nationalist Government concentrated on getting the rights of the Afrikaners established once again.
 We as Europeans, lived in Africa as a minority and had very little in common with the African culture. The Africans lived  according to their own culture and customs in Africa.
It was very foreign to us as Eurocentric people ,but the African culture was not hated, it was just very different from ours.Certain apartheid laws that were  first instituted by the British Government to save the white tribe of Africa- were reinforced during this time .

Wikipedia -Apartheid laws.

"Although apartheid as a comprehensive legislative project truly began after the National Party came into power in 1948, many of these statutes were preceded by the laws of the previous British and Afrikaner administrations in South Africa's provinces. An early example is the Glen Grey Act  , passed in 1894 in Cape Colony, and which had the effect of diminishing the land rights of Africans in scheduled areas"


South Africa is home to nine different African tribes that speak nine different languages.
 Dr. Verwoerd's idea for South Africa was to divide the country into separate states - or  homelands- like  Europe .The canton system in Switzerland worked with Italian, French and German Swiss living apart but together. India  was also  separated into India and Pakistan for Hindus and Muslims to live in their own states. This "separation of South Africa" was perceived by the world - and specially America who had their own racial problems -as racism, and it was very much opposed .

Apartheid had to end and in 1994 President  F.W. de Klerk negotiated with Nelson Mandela and the ANC. In an election Nelson Mandela became the first African President of South Africa.

President Nelson Mandela

The ANC has been in power sine 1994 in South Africa  ,almost 19 years now.
After President Mandela, Thabo Mbeki became  President and now Jacob Zuma is the President of South Africa.

Unfortunately the white tribe of Africa is in danger  after being there for more that 300 years.
It has become apartheid all over again- even if their minority rights are protected by the South Africa Constitution. The Afrikaner- or Boer- has been vilified  as Nazis and racists.
 America used South Africa to redirect the focus of their own racial problems .It became a matter of "Look how bad those white South Africans are -we Americans are not that bad."
When I arrived in the USA in 1983 people would leave a  dinner party when they found out I was a South African .I was insulted in stores  and bars when some Americans  heard I was from South Africa. We were made out as the  lowest of low . America has not given America back to the Native Americans and  neither has Australians given their country back to the Aborigine. The European South Africans that has been in Africa  for just as long-but they did just that. The pay back for this has been that more that 3,000 farmers have being murdered on their  farms .The South African Government is turning a blind eye to this problem .It  has been brought up at the World Court in The Hague, but so far no much has been done .The whole issue has been ignored in the American press. Will the Afrikaner survive this onslaught?



President Paul Kruger -President of the Transvaal during the Boer War .
The Gold Kruger Rand is named after him.

Last European -and first African Presidents of South Africa .  
President P.W  de Klerk + President Nelson Mandela.

Jan Smuts
 Prime Minister of South Africa and one of the founders of the United Nations

Dr. Christiaan Barnard
Performed the first heart transplant at the Groote Schuur Hospital Cape Town in 1967

Dr. Anton Rupert
Business. Dunhill + Cartier

Retief Goosen ( with Ernie Else) 
International Golfers

Charlize Theron
 Oscar winning actress

Embeth Davidz -Actress.

Candice Swanepoel -
International model.

 Behati  Prinsloo- 
 International Model 


International Opera Stars;-

Mimi Coertse-Vienna State Opera

Johan Botha ( Tenor) + Renee Fleming - Metropolitan Opera

Deon van der Walt- (Tenor)

Marita Napier- Soprano - La Scala

Elza van den Heever. Soprano. Metropolitan Opera

Kobie van Rensburg. Tenor. Metropolitan Opera

 Emma Renzi - Soprano - La Scala

Gerard Korsten - Conductor


Sir Laurens van der Post
Confident of Prince Charles and godfather to Prince William

Pierneef- Artist



Cecil John Rhodes- Statesman


Harry Oppenheimer-Anglo American and De Beer

Sol Kerzner- International Business

Charlene- Princess of Monaco


Mark Shuttelworth- First South African in space 

Arch Bishop Desmond Tutu

Gary Player -International Golfer

Lucky Dube- Musician 

Athol Fugard- Author

Nadine Gordimer-Author

Alan Patton-Author

Alice Krige-Actress

Pretty Yende. Soprano -Metropolitan Opera

Elizabeth Connell -Soprano

 Colin Lee -Tenor

Amanda Eschelaz - Soprano

Ernie Else -International Golfer

Janet Suzman- Actress

Miriam Makeba- Singer

Olive Schreiner- Author

Oscar Pistorius -Disabled Athlete

Dave Matthew- Musician

Roger Federer- South Africa mother.

Johnny Clegg- Musician

William Kentridge-Artist

Juliet Prowse- Hollywood Actress/Dancer

Hugh Masekela -Musician

Vladimir Trechikoff- Artist

Elon Musk CEO of Tesla.