Gardening and Wildfires
It’s been a restful, contemplative summer in Oregon working in my garden with deer, wild turkeys, annoying yellow jackets, and a stray Gothic-looking black cat. Sadly, dry and windy conditions combined with record-breaking heat resulted in raging wildfires all around us.
The massive Carr Fire near the California / Oregon border created terrifying “fire tornadoes“. They occur when a fire acquires “vertical vorticity and forms a whirl”. Fire tornadoes can “grow to gargantuan size with winds of over 90 mph”.
The Carr Fire ignited in late July. A month later, after “torching more than 200,000 acres,” it’s about 90 percent contained! Smoke from fires in Oregon, California, Washington, and nearby Colorado and Canada creates a surreal aura, bringing an eerie atmospheric haze, poor air quality, and vivid sunrises and sunsets.
Next Long Trip
I’ve started getting into the specifics of my next travel adventure. No matter what, this time I’m traveling with one piece of luggage!
Like in 2017, I’ll begin in Europe and eventually make my way back to South Africa. I decided to start in Berlin – a new city for me. I’ve studied Berlin’s East and West boroughs and have a few leads for rental apartments in well-located areas near attractions and transportation – Mitte, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg, and Neukölln. Rents are reasonable, and the apartments look comfortable.
Return to South Africa
I’m apprehensive about violence in many parts of Africa – Congo, Mali, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, et al. Although I’ve never experienced violence during my travels in Africa, six cities in South Africa – Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth, Pietermaritzburg, Rustenburg, and Johannesburg – made the top ten list of the most dangerous cities on the African continent. Xenophobic related violence in South Africa is disturbing. Here in the US, we clearly have our own problems and brand of political tension, civil unrest, violence, and a vast chasm between “left versus right” ideologies…
Thankfully Day Zero in Cape Town’s drought is now pushed out beyond 2019, but the government’s move toward land expropriation without compensation is a concern. More than two decades after the end of apartheid, land ownership remains a “highly emotive” subject for South Africans – that may be an understatement. According to the ruling ANC government, white people own 72 percent of private land, black people 4 percent, and other ethnic groups 24 percent.
Land expropriation is said to be “the most pressing social issue in the country”. However, some think high crime, corruption, and the “triple-time-bomb of poverty, unemployment, and inequality” are the issues keeping South Africans awake at night.
The ANC-led government and members of the militant, aggressive Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) party differ in their approach to land expropriation. The EFF – founded in 2013 and led by outspoken Julius Sello Malema – is a self-proclaimed “radical leftist, anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist movement that draws inspiration from the broad Marxist-Leninist tradition”.
The Democratic Alliance (DA) – the ANC’s official opposition and second largest political party – accuses both the ANC and EFF of “misleading the public on land expropriation”. They claim to have the best land-reform plan. DA leader Mmusi Maimane says, “there can be no new dawn for South Africa until the ANC is out of power“.
My extended South African visa expires in 2020 – a regular entry (tourist) visa issued at the airport is good for 90 days. I haven’t decided whether to pursue the rigorous renewal process. The “retirement visa” has allowed me to make long trips (up to five years) to explore and better understand South Africa. I especially enjoy the Western Cape, hiking Table Mountain, volunteer work with young children, and vibrant Cape Town – a special and dear place to me. South Africa is a strikingly beautiful but complex and sometimes difficult country that can’t possibly be understood without spending extended time there.
During this period of rapid change, the National Development Plan (NDP) is the country’s detailed proposal addressing key issues for uniting South Africans.The lofty NDP goals to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality are to be implemented by 2030. What little I know of the NDP, it seems overwhelming, but I’m digressing – back to Berlin…
The NDP’s goal is to “unite South Africans, unleash the energies of its citizens, grow an inclusive economy, build capabilities, and enable the state and leaders to work together to solve complex problems”…
Berlin This Fall
I plan to arrive in Berlin in September. Their fall weather is much like Oregon’s with cool but mild temperatures. When winter comes and it starts getting really cold, I’ll move south – not sure where yet. I’m considering exploring new places versus returning to more familiar areas. New countries of interest include Romania and Albania, but Italy and Spain also have moderate winter climates.
I’m looking for a three-month rental apartment in the Berlin-Mitte borough, the central section of former East Berlin. “Before the war and division of the city, Mitte was the center of Berlin. It’s regained its former pre-eminence to such an extent that many visitors never see the western side of the city.”
Mitte is the oldest and most historic part of Berlin with many cultural attractions and “ever-expanding restaurant, club, and arts scenes”.
I’m excited to attend theater performances and the Berlin opera! Berlin is teeming with performing arts theaters, cabarets, and clubs. The Staatsoper Unter den Linden, Berlin’s main opera house, and the Komische Oper, the third largest, are both in Mitte. Berlin’s Philharmonic Season begins in late September. Other major attractions in the area include Gendarmenmarkt, a neoclassical square, Berliner Dom (Berlin Cathedral), and Museumsinsel (Museum Island) with five major museums. Frivolous activities that top my list are – mingling with locals, hanging out in cafés, overnight side trips, and exploring less-traveled backstreets.
- Weihnachtszauber at the Gendarmenmarkt
- Berliner Weihnachtszeit at Roten Rathaus
- Wintertraum am Alexa
- Winterwelt am Potsdamer Platz
- Weihnachtsmarkt am Gedächtniskirche
I don’t speak German but am learning key phrases and pronunciation rules hoping I don’t butcher the language too much. During past travels in Germany, English was spoken everywhere. Mehr später…