Tuesday, November 17, 2009

African birds, plants, and garbage

The opening shot is an undershot of an African milkweed here. I neglected to find the botanical name or even get a shot of the milkweek pods, but I like this shot. It’s another way of capturing the African sky… The milkweed does attract butterflies and maybe even the monarch. The sap from the plant is supposedly used to cure warts!

The shots of the birds aren’t mine, but wanted to share my “this morning’s friends.”

I love to feed wild birds so I have something to stare at. I live on the second floor of the hostel here on campus and there are no trees nearby or tall enough to hang a feeder and I don’t want to bother with trying to install one outside my window. So, I’ve taken to scattering fruit and seeds on the window sill in hopes of luring some visitors.

It has taken me two months but EUREKA! I had a lovely African Red-eyed Bulbul (Pycnonotus nigricans) come eye the goods yesterday and this morning, he returned with his mate for a buffet. What fun! When they get more used to me, I’ll try to get some of my own photos. For now, I’ve posted someone else’s. (http://pixdaus.com/pics/12542223562Jf6RMA.jpg) He's the one with a yellow bottom.

I also spied, not at my window sill, but nearby, the lovely, lovely, Southern Red Bishop bird (Euplectes orix). He is so bright red, you can’t miss him. He reminds me of are cardinals back home. (Again, image not mine: http://www.netcore.ca/~peleetom/Red%20Bishop%20male.jpg.)

I spent a fortune on wild bird seed in the States and like the idea of feeding the birds my table scraps and a few seeds. It feels “simpler” and costs a lot less!

The others are of a disjointed cactus that grows here. I like it because it looks like, well, I don’t know what it looks like. A person? A robot? (I don't have the technical info for these right now... Hopefully will later...) I thought the blooms marvelous.

The one green weedish looking plant is a I don’t know what. The little feathers open up to look very similar to our dandelion. I think it is pretty and dainty.

Then we have a shot of my care package from Leila and Kara that I had hoped to post with my “care packages” blog. The package was colourful and fun and full of surprises!

And the last are of my “recycling” issues and are not very pretty.

I have, what are called here, “greening” interests, which means I’m interested in conservation, environmental education, regional flora/fauna, etc.

I’ve checked into recycling here, as many consumables are packaged in recyclable materials: glass, aluminium cans, etc. While there are recycling programs here, they’re not practical for my location: no one would have the resources or ability to transport the recyclables to “market.”

So, what happens to the trash at the college campus? Unfortunately, it is hauled to various locations ON THE CAMPUS GROUNDS and dumped and burned. Or tried to burn, I should say. Aluminum cans, tin cans, anything metal does not burn well. Nor does the glass. I’ve counted at least 30 such dump sites on campus. ON CAMPUS. It is depressing.

I my walking tours of campus, I was thinking of ways to at least recycle the glass bottles, when I came home one day to this enormous new pile of trash: old bricks from a remodelling project here on campus. I am now no longer excited about cleaning up the campus but, of course, don’t want to contribute to the mess either.

I originally thought I could save my own tin cans, aluminium cans, etc., in hopes of having materials to do recycling/art projects with the kids here in school projects. However, I think I have reconsidered my decision, however, as I’m running out of storage room I my oven—and very quickly! :-)

Then I started thinking… If I eat a can of beans a day, that’s 365 cans a year times two; that means I could potential leave 730 cans in my 2-year wake. Yikes!

So, I’ve decided to buy dried beans and cook everyday. I had never thought of canned beans as a convenience food, but, well, they are! It is certainly much more convenient to open a can of beans than cooking dried beans for two hours a day.

Ok, you scientists out there. Which is greener: leaving a tin can-a-day in my wake? Or using 2 hours-a-day worth of electricity to cook dried beans instead? I know they use nuclear-generated power here, but am thinking they rely primarily on coal. (Homework!)
I have some stories to tell, but am feeling tired today. So hopefully I'll have more later. Africa makes me tired. :-)
Btw, my Internet connection here on the college campus is unreliable. So, for my worriers, please don't worry if I get "quiet" for a week or more. The Internet was down here last week, for over a week.
Soon, Karen


  1. Hey Karen, it's Ruand. I'd reckon that the dried beans are a bit more efficient. You have to cook them, but you aren't shipping the dried beans across the country to a canning facility, smelting the ore to make the can, and then shipping the can (now half-filled with fluid, mind you) back across the country.

    South Africa does have a bit of nuclear, but there are only two plants which provide 5% of the electricity here. It is mostly coal aside from that. My grade 9 science textbook says South Africa will run out of coal by 2050 though, so it won't last.

    Overall though, I wouldn't worry about it. Moving here from the US probably reduced your carbon footprint by an order of magnitude or so.

  2. If you soak the beans overnight, they will not take so long to cook. Make sure to rinse them well after you drain the soaking water off. That czre package looks pretty fantastic. What was in it?

  3. Dee: Dr. Bronner's soap was in the package, along with some art and a bead.

    Ruand, thank you for this info. It's good to know about the coal.I had completely overlooked the whole other problem of canning: digging for ore, smelting, etc. Yikes!

    I'm not so much worried about my carbon footprint here: I think the plane ride over and back will indebt me for a couple of lifetimes. I am more worried about leaving a pile of 1,500 + tin cans here on the college campus when I leave!

    So yes, I'm going with the dried beans and am having fun learning to cook with them.