Tuesday, September 30, 2014

It Is Always Rainy in Shanghai

We arrived in Shanghai at night, the best time to view the city skyline. Hot and steamy, the lights bounced off of the ceiling in the sky with the intensity of the sun at dusk.

The sky has been grey ever since. It has rained every day since we arrived. Encouraging acquaintances say that the rain is not usual.  This is not encouraging, it is in fact easier to face normal than abnormal. My pant legs and shoes are soaked each day on the walk to school. Pants are unbearable when the rain stops and the heat and humidity increase.

We had our new Consulate contacts over for sun downers shortly after our stuff arrived. The Berry Box was a hit, our balcony was perfect, except for the sky. Sundowners in Shanghai are now to be call greydowners.

Chinese women do nothing for my self-esteem.  Their hair is lovely straight, black, and shiny. Figures and posture are perfect. My hair is a mess. Gone are the good hair days of the semi-arid environment. Tall, awkward, frizzy haired, glasses sliding down my nose from the constant oil slick caused by heat and humidity, and I have emotionally returned to middle school.

Trying to get internet installed after any move is a challenge, now try doing it in a language that you don’t understand. Good at charades I was able to explain the issue to the three people brought in resolve the problem. Mandarin is difficult, super-hard, to be exact. Shanghainese is flat, without tones, which is handy, but speakers sound like they are always angry and shouting.

The written language is no easier. I had the mistaken assumption coming to Shanghai that English would be everywhere and if not English, then pinion. Yeah, that is not the case. When the pickles froze in the fridge I thought to simply turn up the temperature, but wait... it is all in Chinese. Which dial is for the freezer, which is the fridge? Which way is hot and which is cold? Damn characters everywhere!

In a bizarre twist, I am the shortest American woman in town. My whole world is upside down. But I found the Carrefour and bought a pair of wellies and a new phone. Mastered a couple of braids for daily wear. Learned basic mandarin for taxi drivers. Dropped the kids at school and hoped for the best.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Hunting Zebra in South Africa

The story of the zebra often comes up in conversation. Hunting is not considered one of the three deadly conversations, but is more controversial. Everyone kind of wants to know about hunting in southern Africa, but very few people want the details. You won't get the Henry Morton Stanley version here. It is just not something I can explain, I am not an adequate writer. In truth, the depth of the story changes on my relationship with the person listening, though I never exaggerate the shooting distance. No hunter ever would. 

For those who are looking to hunt African game, there are many venues. Whether you are looking for the colonial African experience, bragging rights, or your own room decor, there is a place for you in South Africa. A bit embarrassing to declare, that I myself upon entering Africa had a bit of the colonialist view. This view came from the limited history taught in school and books that I had read. Though my view changed during my two years there, there were still some boxes deep in my brain that needed to be checked to complete the experience. 

Friends had developed a relationship with a hunter near Kimberly, Roelof Foerie. Roelof patiently put up with the constant changes to the hunting party, billing issues, and other nonsense from us Americans. He provided the equipment, location, and accommodation for the trip. It was a memorable experience made better with his expert knowledge. 

Over two days the group walked or trucked the grasslands tracking animals on the list: zebra, blesbock, and impala. Our group of three was broken apart, paired with expert hunters and trackers. The hours of wandering the tall grasses in the hot sun provided intimate teaching sessions on the behavior and environment of these and other animals. 

We chased the massive herd of zebra for a while. The herd heard or maybe smelled us coming and charged away. Only those that have experience with herds of animals can appreciate the feeling of their pounding hooves vibrating up through your feet. Or if you have seen The Lion King, you may get the idea. 

Why not brag if you have the right? I was the first to get my prize that weekend and also a big, celebratory kiss from Roelof as the first woman ever to successfully hunt.  Roelof was as proud as I was. See his site for more information.

The experience provided a deep freeze packed full of meat: ribs, sausage, loins, steaks, legs, everything you can imagine and a lot you don’t want to. I surely could not imagine what was inside those three coolers the first time I opened them. My ambitious, but ultimately failed attempts at butchering and curing were laughable. Picture me in my apron, wrapped in plastic holding my best kitchen knife while surrounded by three animals worth of meat in the garage. Oh yeah, this is not going to happen.

Good thing I am a better cook. The zebra steak, braised, was lovely served with a deep, chocolaty wine. I made it a couple of ways, but don’t remember them all. I should have taken more pictures.

The rug was a challenge. Getting it done in time for the move was an issue. Paying for it was another. The exchange of money was an issue in South Africa and Lesotho. I had to time my deposits with trips to OR Tambo because there were no branch offices for his bank in Ladybrand and the Lesotho branches do no talk to their South African counterparts. Ultimately, everything worked out the week before packout.

Only a few people thought I would be able to pull the trigger and I wasn't so sure myself. The still unnamed zebra mare lies on the floor by my desk. A little conversation piece for when parties are slow. She provides a topic when I need to crow about my cooking or prowess with a gun and a good laugh when I think of my hunting mates that weekend. "Oh, it is on!"

Pretty big rug. Not sure if the face mask was a good idea, but I like the mane.  Now where to put her?  Don't want a lot of foot traffic or wine spills damaging the hair.