Thursday, January 26, 2012

Pear Tree Point Beach, 1961

I happen to work with a lot of talented people. You'd think having a full-time job – and in today's world that means more than a 40-hour work week – wouldn't afford people the time to have a full-time hobby, or should I say, alternate career. But I've found that not to be true, over the 20 plus years I've worked for this company. Maybe it's because it's a publishing company, where most of the people are creative by nature. I know some very successful painters, photographers, authors, singers, musicians, and even stand-up comedians, who spend their days discussing line item budgets and corrected page counts. This blog post is about one of them.

Ann Gorbett, who can be found just down the hall in the design department of my company, is an award-winning artist who works in oil, specifically using the palette knife as her medium. She has a blog too, appropriately called Ann Gorbett Palette Knife Painting. I encourage you to check it out and see what else she has done, as this is just a small sample. She also does paintings on commission – if you're looking for that perfect gift for someone.

A couple weeks ago I posted a couple of photos on Facebook showing how one of my parent's 50-year old photos can be transformed using color correction in Photoshop. The photo below is the uncorrected scan of a slide from 1961 that had seen much better days. (Unfortunately, many of the slides I'm finding are in this lovely shade of pink, and not all of them are easy to fix.)

This is the corrected image, using a few filters and other adjustments. I think it really turned out pretty well. Ann thought so too, and asked permission to paint it. I love the painting, and so does my brother Bob (Robert), on the left. I am amazed by such talent. Thanks, Ann!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Admiral and the Artist

We once met an admiral and artist
 in a wild, African, desert place.
And a finer couple there isn't.
Bear with us while we present our case.

The admiral is a strong and distinguished man
with a gentle but commanding style.
He came to the desert from the business world,
with experience and an engaging smile.

But the natives were tough in this new desert town.
Their ways much different from his own.
Profits and margins were not natural to them,
so that sometimes he felt quite alone.

But persistence and patience and going with the wind
were part of the admiral's way.
And of course sailing was his one great passion
that helped manage the stresses of the day.

The artist, his wife, was also strong,
with charm, great wit, and smile too.
But hers was a passion for water colors,
and not necessarily the admiral's crew.

Her gardening skills were really quite apparent:
the "artist's touch" at work in every bed.
In fact, the garden was her canvas
for expressing the patterns of color in her head.

She was also a great help to the community,
an easer volunteer for so many events.
Her hard work was a welcome addition,
not to mention her good common sense.

Together they were really quite amazing.
They sought adventure in everything they tried.
From close encounters of the lion kind,
to getting lost in the sun til they fried.

On that one the admiral's still shaking his head
cuz at sea his sense of direction's a gift.
But get he and the artist on land for awhile,
and they'll end up hopelessly adrift.

But seriously though, they are a great duo.
We wish they could join us to the west.
Cuz their good humor, style, and friendship
will most certainly and assuredly be missed.

We hope they'll come and visit us
in our new home in another desert realm.
And let's hope that they find their way safely.
Anything's possible with the admiral and the artist at the helm.

~The Miles family, Gaborone, November, 1991

Monday, January 16, 2012

Life in Botswana: Safari, October 1991

Another excerpt from my parent's memoirs, Life in Botswana:

Two days after Sarah left, we drove to Nata and Kasane (Chobe) where we left our car and flew to our favorite camp, Selinda, which has only three two-person tents. Selinda is an outpost near where the Kwando River, coming down from Angola and Namibia, makes a sharp left turn and becomes the Linyanti & Chobe Rivers. We stayed here four days, for our last visit. We saw a pride of 18 lions the first day, and groups of them on subsequent days. 

One day we saw two lionesses stalking several warthogs, charging them, chasing them past both sides of our open Land Cruiser, but failing to catch any. In addition to the lion we saw a cheetah, hippo, including a pool of 50 near the camp, elephant, zebra, impala, red lechwe, wildebeest, many tsessebe, two kinds of jackal, porcupine, crocodiles, genet cat, civet cat, water buck, spring hares, giraffe, bat-eared foxes, African wildcats, a deadly black mamba snake, two types of mongoose, hyena, a honey badger,bush babies (night apes), scrub hares, warthogs and an aardwolf. From this experience we would now recommend October as the best month to visit northern Botswana. 

The birds are spectacular at Selinda at any time of year. After our evening game rides we would take hot showers in roofless reed enclosures open to the stars above - a feast for the senses. Just-after-dawn game rides with cool, fragrant, moist air, sounds of awakening birds, and the lazy pace of the animals or the evening rides with their spectacular sunsets and, after dark, the glittering eyes of a hundred impala or of one cat, frozen by the lights from our vehicle - these are sights that will remain with us always.

Flying back to Kasane, we were met and taken to our car. We then set out for Namibia and the Caprivi Strip. We crossed the Chobe River at Ngoma Bridge and drove to Katima Mulilo, a small town on the Zambezi River across from Zambia, and stayed at a nice lodge. The next morning, after buying petrol and some groceries, we drove westward about 300 km (200 km gravel) to Popa Falls, a delightful National Parks camp on the Okavango River, where we stayed the night. The next day we drove 200 km more on gravel, then 200 more to Namutoni Lodge at Etosha National Park. The lodge was once an old German fort.

We were in Etosha six days and loved every bit of it. So much so that after leaving Botswana next month we will visit Etosha again. We saw hundreds and hundreds of springbok, zebra, wildebeest and gemsbok (oryx). We saw also ostrich, spotted hyena, giraffe, steenbuck, kudu, red hartebeest; two male lions lying under a bush; black-faced impala and Damara dik-dik; and birds of all kinds, including Kori bustard, korhan, francolin, vultures and marabou stork. The many different pans and waterholes at Etosha , especially the vast Etosha Pan itself, were beautiful in a way hard to describe. As you probably are aware, a pan is a former lake bed or pond which is now rarely filled with water. The edges of a pan resemble shorelines, a gently sloping sandy beach leading up to ground-hugging plants of subtle shades which nevertheless contrast vividly with the white of the pan. The pan itself is absolutely flat and devoid of plant life. Animals, even in great numbers, are dwarfed by the large pans at Etosha. Incredible views!



There are also forest and scrub areas in Etosha. While traveling from one camp to another in the park we suddenly found ourselves in the middle of a herd of elephant, called a breeding herd because it consists of female and baby elephants only. Nancy was driving and she rapidly drove backward to get out of the way of an enormous elephant walking down the middle of the road straight at us, flapping her ears in anger. Reverse is not Nancy's best gear but weaving in wide S curves, slalom-like, she got us out of danger. At Okaukuejo camp, which has a water hole lit up at night, we saw many groups of elephant arrive for drinking and bathing, and it was interesting to see the "pecking order" which they have. A high point was the sight of seven black rhinoceros coming to drink. The next morning a lioness crouched nearby, watching the water hole, and every animal stayed away.

We then started our drive home, all on paved roads, southward to Windhoek and Keetmanshoop, then across into South Africa to Upington, then to Kuruman to visit the Moffat Mission again briefly. At the Kuruman "Eye", a large spring, we met an American couple our age, wearing leather jackets and riding a 1100cc Honda motorcycle. They are from Minnesota and were touring to see for themselves what is happening in South Africa. We returned to Gaborone in the morning.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Life in Botswana: Sarah's Second Trip

Another excerpt from my parent's memoirs, Life in Botswana:

This entry recounts my second trip to Africa, when my parents and I traveled to eastern Botswana and South Africa, in October, 1991. Even though the movement to end apartheid in South Africa began in 1990, it wasn't until the African National Congress won the multi-racial democratic election in 1994 before the political climate in this country began to improve significantly. We drove all over South Africa and I was struck by how friendly everyone was and also how much the people we met wanted to know about America. The exchange rate with the rand was very favorable to us so we traveled first class, as my father would say. There is less text in this post, so this is more of a photo essay – and again these are my photos!

Sarah arrived on the first weekend in October, which was another four-day holiday for Ed. Mashatu Lodge in Tuli Block had a weekend special for Botswana residents so with Sarah and our good friends the Kelleys we flew there for three nights, staying in tents. 

I got my own tent.

With my very own tree shower (with hot water!).

We saw two lionesses with cubs, a cheetah with four large cubs, elephant, warthog, impala, kudu, jackal, hyena, bush baby, aardvark, two genet cats, eland, steenbok, duiker, spring hare, wildebeest and zebra. 

As we were driving back to our tents at sunset our driver got word on his radio of a leopard spotting. We drove there, met three other vehicles, and watched a big, unperturbed, and bored leopard lying down, looking at us. We were happy that Sarah was finally able to see cats! The next morning, from a hide adjacent to a water hole near the camp Ed was able to get good, close video shots of skittish impala and quelea birds, which fly in flocks like locusts.

The night we returned we attended the large party which the President of Botswana gives every year. The next day was laundry day, and the day following the three of us drove into South Africa to Kimberley, where the Big Hole is located - the spot where diamonds were first discovered in southern Africa. 

Besides looking at the deep hole, which is half full of water, we toured the group of very interesting vintage (1890) shops and houses which adjoined it. We walked around town and visited the Africana Library, where we saw the Moffat press, the first printing press used south of the Sahara. We were shown a first edition of the first Bible to be printed in an African language (Setswana), printed on the Moffat press. We also saw first editions of books which travelers to northern Botswana and Zimbabwe had written 1810 to 1830.

We drove to Johannesburg's Jan Smuts Airport, stayed the night and early the next morning flew to Capetown on a special package arrangement. We rented a car, stayed seven nights at a good hotel at Sea Point, showed Sarah the Cape of Good Hope (where we saw six whales close to shore), the Kirstenbosch Gardens, and Groot Constantia, which was the first estate in southern Africa, and where wine was first produced. 

We spent one whole day walking atop Table Mountain and another day at the Waterfront, a big new development in the dock area with glitzy shops, restaurants, bars, jazz and boat rides. We took a tour of the harbor and saw seals and a number of freighters, including a tanker whose bow had been torn off in a collision and had been towed carefully into port. The last day we drove north up the coast and saw two wildflower preserves. After seeing Sarah off to Rio, we flew to Johannesburg and drove home.