I still spent the morning at university, although that did not go entirely to plan. I had intended to come in, collect the sequencing results of a large number of samples, check my emails, do a little work then backup everything and go home to pack. While did get a bit of each thing done it turned out that the sequencing took quite a bit longer than expected and was manually halted after it had delayed everyone else by about two hours and would’ve still taken more to finish. Once that had been dealt with as best as possible I went home and finished packing for my trip.The rest of the day was taken up with travelling as it is about an 8-9 hour drive from Cape Town. The drive was generally fairly uneventful but did have the occasional note of amusement. For example, and you’ll have to bear with me here because the humour replies on the way things are said, while driving through one of the towns along the way I made a joke that a shop door had a sign saying “toe” on it. I pronounced it like the anatomical feature but the way it was meant on the sign was the Afrikaans word “toe” (sounds like the English “two”) which means closed. To show pronunciation I will put an “e” or “a” in square brackets so you know whether it’s said as in English or Afrikaans. My youngest sister, not understanding the Afrikaans meaning of the word, then asked my dad why the door said “toe [e].” He replied that it was not “toe [e]” but “toe [a]” and that it meant closed. My sister then responded that it couldn’t be “toe [a]” because two in Afrikaans is “twee.” It took a while to eventually explain the humour to her and it became even more amusing when she later said that she’d thought our dad was trying to trick her!
Afrikaans is a relatively young language, spoken mostly in South Africa, that split off from Dutch. The previous South African government promoted Afrikaans so it’s widely understood in South Africa and I believe it’s still possible for Afrikaans and Dutch speakers to converse and understand one another despite using different languages. My father’s side of the family is primarily Afrikaans though he spoke English at home so I had very little exposure other than in school and am not particularly fluent. I can still manage to understand most everyday conversation and even a fair amount of the questions in the Afrikaans version of Trivial Pursuit, which, in English, is probably my favourite board game.It was quite relaxing in Marlow, especially after a hectic week, but it wasn’t too long before I began finding it frustratingly quiet, especially as I was essentially cut off from the internet. That’s not to say it wasn’t enjoyable or that I didn’t accomplish anything. For one thing I finally finished reading Robinson Crusoe, which I had started about six years earlier. For me the book became tedious with its long, complicated sentences, too much harping on about god and providence and dull with just a single character. Perhaps it was the trip and perhaps it happened that in the trip I got to the part where Crusoe meets Friday and the plot starts to move again but the last third or so of the book went far quicker and much more easily than it had before. It was also nice to get a chance to go out walking, something which is far more enjoyable in the country. On the walks we went to see the “kayas” on the riverbank. Essentially they were clubhouses dug into the ground by the students. To me, who never had anything similar at school, it was really interesting. As interesting as they were structurally I doubt they would measure up in terms of comfort as, at best, they had wooden boards for furniture, and often were bare earth. While there I was happy to meet my aunt’s cat, who is a bit bigger than my cats, usually rather dusty and not allowed inside the house. She also had some chickens and two dogs, one of which was rather excitable, but didn’t seem to bother the cat, who was about the same size if not larger than them. There were also other animals around, it being an agricultural school after all, and those included both the standard cows and sheep but also a more unusual group of springbok. We were there in lambing season which meant there were both lambs to see but also a number of dead lambs, I presume stillborn, lying around. Botanically, I got to see one of my favourite types of tree, the acacia, which has extremely long, white thorns and seems quite common in the Karoo. Unfortunately, I can only use acacia as the common name, both because I don’t know exactly what species of acacia they were and because in 2011 the South African trees were renamed to Vachellia at the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Australia and the name acacia given exclusively to the Australian acacias, not happily I might add. Like in my previous trip, I was able to collect a few succulents and we’ll see if they manage to grow at home. I’m not sure, and haven’t tried to find out, what any of them are yet but if anyone knows that could make my life easier when I do decide to look them up.