Access-A-Hut's Blog

November 30, 2011

Disappearing soap

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 10:45 pm

I really don’t need my room cleaned, but they keep on insisting.  I got away for the first couple of days by telling the maids “Violetta” and “Beatrice” (I am sure these are not their real names) that it would just be our secret.  But Lynn, the B&B owner, sussed it out, and every time I leave, they run in to clean.  Which is annoying, but can not be helped.  However, my soap kept disappearing.  I have a rash from the states, and I needed this soap.  I brought 4 tiny sample bars to last the 7 weeks, so I could not afford to have one go missing.  When the second one went missing, I was thinking of telling Lynn… And then I found them-all neatly stacked in a soap dispenser about 6 feet off the ground.   Oh the ordinary things we take for granted!  I think I will have to rig up something.


November 29, 2011

Pictures from MaJe’s birthday party

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 8:45 am
Singing the Fox and the goose

Singing the fox went out on a summer's night--MaJe's favorite

the kids in tee shirts

New uniforms for the Jerusalem Orphanage

November 28, 2011

Shacks and tiny tiny houses

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I still need to figure out my camera, but I took lots and lots of snaps on the tour today of tiny houses. And these are not a lifestyle choice. The aparheid government just went into neighborhoods in the 1960s and moved everyone out so they were in either colored, indian, black, or white areas only. They compensated the whites, but the blacks are still waiting for their money–the tour guide says his family had been forced out and had been promised payment–but they are still waiting.

The worst of the shacks are in “informal settlements” a euphemism. These are put up with anything possible and have an illegal central tap for water. Very very poor area. Pretty amazing poverty. It looked something like this.

November 27, 2011

That bird outside the window is doing the conga.

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 12:40 pm

Thank you Kelley for figuring this out for me!  It was driving me nuts.  Yes, it is the do-dah, do-dah, do-DAH of a congo line.  You can see the basic rhythym on the 42ncd second of this video.

Now at least I know what ear mime this bird ticks off in my head.  And at least it is a happy dance.  Still, the noise is a bit much.  But worth the sunlight.  At this point, almost anything is worth the sunlight!


P.S. This was the sound of my love’s happy dance–which she did when she ate Zewdi’s ethiopian restaurant or was particularly happy with something.  And thus, maybe I will just think now–oh–that is MaJe. She is happy because we are travelling now.  Yes, that does help.

Now if anyone could tell me what the bird IS…

November 26, 2011

Most amazing experience of my life…

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 1:48 pm
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I was planning a birthday party for MaJe, my love. She had never had birthday parties as a kid, and so to make up for it, we had started throwing a kids birthday party for her every Saturday after Thanksgiving. And then last year we had a nice little party with the nieces. But this year, I was going to South Africa!!! So, I looked on the websites to see if anyone could help me throw a party in Port Elizabeth. And there was Calabash Tours on the web.  Wow, the internet is a wonderful thing.

So I emailed them back in July when I was planning this trip, telling them I wanted to pay for a party for my love, and to find me 5 – 10 kids. They found an orphanage that magically swelled to 15 kids. (Note to self–SELF!!! How could you think that the number would STAY at 15??? ) Yep. Self miscalculated and was a few presents short.  But that was ok, as I had some extra stuff I was going to give them… ok ok back to the fabulistic order of narration…

Anyway,  I had a great time these last 6 months planning the party.  And it got more and more elaborate. I got Hank, an engineer friend of mine, to make two backpack stoves out of tin cans.  Then I got the equipment needed to make more (tin snips, sanding paper, gloves, can opener).  And then all the kids had a plastic school pouch with teddy bear, a postcard of Colorado, a pencil, some candy, a tiny party game, stickers, and a toothbrush inside.  And then I got a coloring book with hidden objects, an alphabet card game, a long candy snake, toothpaste, and more stuff.  And that was just what I brought.  I gave money to buy presents here, and they bought tee shirts for all the kids (so the kids feel like they belong).  And bags of candy, and and and… A plethora of wealth.

The tour bus (driver and tour guide) were a bit late, but that was ok.  We rushed about the hardware store getting the aforementioned and heretofore referred to tin snips and stuff.  So that was fun.  Then we drove out there. The area is pretty much like it shows on tv–tin shacks with cardboard roofs, but then also tiny houses in dirt yards.  Many of the houses had solar collectors for hot water–the government had put them on the  houses.  Those that didn’t have the solar collectors were abandoned, apparently.

(We interrupt this story for a current story–I’m making dinner as I didn’t eat much there and the electricity keeps going in and out–making spaghetti on an electric stove the like of which I have never seen before, and wondering if it is because of the stove that the electricity keeps flashing on…  I have to keep going to the light switch to figure out that the line means on and the circle means off.)

Anyway, the Jerusalem Center for the Orphans was a three room house, with one large  classroom.  We all gathered in there, and immediately I was back to my childhood!  The Master of Ceremonies, the preacher, the gospel singing, the kids singing–I grew up splitting weekends and my stepmother was active in a tiny black baptist/AME church.  And I could have been right there.  Now I see where the rhythyms come from, and they are eerily similar!

It was truly amazing.  Then we had a photographer and a videographer and all sorts of people and they all came out.  And then the kids got in lines and I hugged each one. Then they lined up again by age and we played pin the tail on the goose and then the kids lined up again and got their bags of candy and then again and got their tee-shirts and again for their teddy bears and packets.  And each time we had to be photographed–those kids should be movie stars by now.

(The connection I brought for my camera is wrong, so I am NOT posting photos.  Even though in this day of social media, –like Alice, we think there is no use in a post without any pictures in it. )

Then we had food, and I tried to eat some, but I have been a bit queasy (which is why I am fixing spaghetti for myself, go figure).  I think it was their version of american food–fried chicken, salad, and yellow rice…

And then more loud music.  I remembered a trick from my childhood and raised my arms above my head and pressed the backs of my elbows to my ears and moved with the music.  No one gets too offended if you do that.  And I took my pain meds.  But… ouch.

Oh, I must weave another thread into the story–I deliberately did NOT mention MaJe’s gender.  Although she was militant about our marraige and same sex rights and all of that, I decided not to clutter up an already cluttered scene.  (Apparently, they think I am a crazy foreigner, because no one else has thrown a birthday party in PE township before).   But the Glatsteins said, Shalom Bayit.  For the sake of peace in the house, for the sake of domestic harmony, if you don’t have to bring it up, why do it?  And as I talked to the kids about why this crazy woman was in their house giving them stuff, I said “my love” and I was pretty careful.  But earlier, when I got picked up and we were going around, I kept saying “Sh…um… my love..” I am a really rotten lousy liar.  Boy, you do not want me on that bank heist. So the tour guide knew.  But she kept it quiet.  And on the way back, she said that South Africa was pretty hip now and very understanding.  Nonetheless, the pastor and his wife (Mama Vinqi who runs the place) were definitely old school AME, and I did not want to push it.

It was truly an amazing experience.  All those kids (from 3 to 14, but most seemed to   be preschool and all seemed to be about the same 3 feet tall) had lost their parents to AIDS.  They went through the same grief and despair that I have been through with MaJe.  And on top of that, they are left vulnerable and alone.  And yet, they live. They love. Their eyes shine with willingness to be on the qui vivre, to welcome new things.  My love wrote on one of the pages of Chronic Biology our favorite quote from Edgar Lee Masters:

It takes life to love life.

I have been wallowing in my despair, and I do not have the life to love life.  Yet, those kids, with absolutely nothing at all, have that spark of life.

Musings on culture

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 2:55 am

In Japan, wages are steep and labor was short (at least when I was there in the golden years of the late 80s).  So everything was automated.  Most train stations were left unattended, and you bought your ticket and then dropped it in a basket on the way out.  (Yes, sometimes I got the cheaper ticket, but mostly that was from confusion. Sometimes I got the more expensive ticket, too.) No Japanese person would dream of cheating the system, and gaijin (outside people) were too few to bother about.

I went to the grocery store last night, and it was just the opposite. They actually had someone JUST to weigh the fruit and produce! Then they had human clerks at ALL of the checkout lines.  I asked Lynn, the B&B owner, why they had not started self-checkouts.  She looked at me oddly.  “Because the whole store would be just gone,” she said.  Ahh.  I said. ok.

So…we have:

  •  Japan,  a culture with everyone knowing their place and being in a heirarchy–and those buraku in Japan not a native group recently overthrown, but a part of the same race and culture.  And here labor is expensive, culture is the same, and you can have entire stations and stores automated because you trust the people.
  • The states, with a constant melting pot, an older history of imported slavery and native genocide.  We can go halfway, having a trust but verify check out stand, and still be wary of crime.  And here labor is expensive, cultures differ, and you automate because the lower level of pilferage is cheaper than labor.
  • South Africa, with a very recent past of apartheid and near-slavery, economic genocide of the natives, and a great deal of current poverty.  And here, it is easier to hire three people to do the job, because the scales and machines are much more expensive than the labor.

Just thinkin….

rough night

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 2:40 am
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Well, the b&B had a group of young men handing out “lollies” as a promotion for their company.  But the company refused to pay the b&b (and so the owner was wrapped up in that, plus her car was broken, so I did not get out to get the cell phone).  So there was a huge row.  The company paid up, and the men celebrated. Outside my window.  And you know how I am about sound.


Sound is world wide. you can not get rid of it.  I still think longingly of pushing knitting needles through my ears, but the audiologists say that won’t help.

November 25, 2011

Now I completely understand african music

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 10:19 am

There is a bird here that calls “do, da, dah, do, dah”–in exactly the same cadence and tone as the bump.  And two of them will harmonize, one taking the descant (or do I mean descent?)   So the basic beat of all african music and most hip hop is this bird. Weird.

Open letter to south africa airlines

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I am a handicapped person travelling alone. Being abandoned and having to crawl on the floor in the New York Kennedy airport greatly overshadows the otherwise kind, efficient, and professional courtesy I received from South African Airlines. This problem could be completely eliminated if you would institute a handicapped passenger waiting area in New York (and other areas that do not have one), as you have done in Johannesberg. Could you band together with other airlines to help ensure that no one else has to crawl to get to a restroom or even their flight? Thank you.


While I can walk some, I have a condition where I dislocate joints very easily. I dislocated my right knee while going through security at Denver International Airport. Thus, I was already in pain starting out on my long journey from Denver, Colorado to Johannesberg, South Africa. When I got to New York, I had to go through security again. I explained my condition, but TSA staff there did not listen, and they promptly dislocated my right hip. Now I was basically incapable of walking at all. The wheelchair attendant, according to SA policy, left me at the empty gate 2 1/2 hours before my flight, with no wheelchair and no way to move from my seat. (Please note that I do realize that I need extra care and attention in security, and thus I deliberately booked enough time between flights.)

I was ok, until I had to go to the restroom desperately. I yelled over to a couple waiting in the next area. Luckily, they did not think I was insane, and they immediately went to find someone in charge. That person said that SA policy is to abandon disabled people at the gate, without a wheelchair or any way to move from their seat. However, they said that just in this one emergency, they would recall a wheelchair so I could go to the restroom.

I waited, in increasing agony and distress, for a half an hour, but no one showed up. My dilemma–do I soil the only clothes I have on the inside –and thus wallow in my misery and soil for a 15 hour flight–or do I make my clothes filthy on the outside by crawling on the ground to the restroom, which was only 200 feet away? Not willing to make other passengers suffer, I asked the couple to watch my bags and started crawling. As the floor tile was slick, I dislocated my right shoulder while moving my body one painful arm length at a time. I was half way there when the wheelchair attendant showed up–about an hour after my first frantic call for help. Now I was in the middle of the hallway, with no way to get into the chair. We grabbed a box and I hauled myself up, dislocating my right elbow in the process. Finally, success. I made it to the bathroom and the inside of my clothes were clean for the flight.

Thus, by the time I got to the Jo-berg flight, I had a dislocated knee, hip, shoulder, and elbow on my right side. This made the 15-hour flight almost unbearably painful.

However, Thulani Slamini and Emmanual Tryane of Swiss port (073-466-8515) met me at the Jo-berg airport. They saw how exhausted and how much pain I was in. They did not abandon me, but they stayed with me to make sure I actually got on the correct shuttle to the hotel. They made it possible for me to recover–without their help, I would have collapsed and been vulnerable to any kind of crime. Please thank them profusely and sincerely. They did note that they were not supposed to stay with someone that long. Please understand that their doing so may well have saved me from a prolonged hospital stay and indeed, may well have saved my life. They deserve a special commendation for their initiative and clear thinking–and their humanity.

Moreover, the next day I continued my journey to Port Elizabeth. Grace left her post and helped me to the handicapped waiting area, where I got help and I was able to wait for my flight in comfort and in close and accessible proximity to a restroom. Please thank her as well. (Grace, last name unknown, manning the premier class ticket line November 23, 2011 at 7:30 am).

Leaving someone abandoned at an airport gate may be your policy, but it is truly unconscionable. Please work with other airlines at other airports to institute a handicapped waiting room for ALL flights at all airports. Thus, we can check in electronically, the airlines know we are there, and we can meet basic human needs. You can even charge an extra fee for this–I’ll gladly pay it!

Deena Larsen

South africa, the next day

Filed under: Uncategorized — by accessahut @ 1:59 am
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Ok ok ok. Apparently I am too intense. I’ve just gotten here and been told to chill. There are about 5 people doing a job that should take half a person!! ? I, too, am bewildered and piscivorous. Salmon is pronounced “saaal-mon” but only by the lower classes. Apparently, apartheid is evident from the voice itself–a certain accent over the phone means a very different thing here.

odd, odd, oddsbodkins.

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