Vluit, Vluit my Storie is Uit

I feel like I should end this blog off properly. I have some photos from the US which still need posting but they’re all of Vicky and Christina’s time there. Christina said she would cover those in her blog ‘Christina Novoa’ – check that out here https://christinanovoa.wordpress.com/

Thank you for your reads and your comments. It was a wonderful eleven months in the US and it was a pleasure sharing it with y’all.

Vluit, vluit my storie is uit


Christina Turns One! (One Week to be Precise)

Today Christina is one week old! Vicky had her appointment for a C-section on 20 March and a check-up one week before on 13 March in the morning. There’s a six hour time difference, so when I woke up I saw a whatsapp message “Hey engel xxx change of plans meisiekind km vandag”
O wow! was an appropriate response!
While Vicky got ready her dad went home to get her things and my mom got ready to go to the hospital. And then 17h11 South African time Vicky gave birth to Christina! She weighed 2.5 kg and was 43 cm long (or 5.5 pounds and 16.9 inches for y’all stuck with the imperial system).
Pictures! Vicky with our little Christina just after she gave birth.
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And my mom with Vicky and Christina.
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A proud grandpa.
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Grandma Estie posted this beautiful picture of Vicky and Christina. We couldn’t be there in person but we were there in spirit and thought and prayer!
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Christina and my first photo together 🙂
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My mom was there with Vicky and she recounted the story of Christina’s birth. The operation room was so full of equipment that my mom could hardly move! Vicky had an epidural (which removes the sensation from the waist down) and there is a dividing curtain between her face and the operation. My mom had the courage to look over the curtain while a nurse took some photos. Christina was quickly wrapped up and had a little beanie on her head to keep her warm in the cold room.
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She did not look very impressed to be out of her comfy womb! The paediatrician checked her over and then gave Christina to … my mom! I guess that it’s force of habit, and my mom immediately put Christina with Vicky, but Vicky told me afterwards that she was a little frustrated by this. It is ironic that it is how I got my name when I was born! – my mom had tried finding a name for me for several months but whenever she asked my dad what names he liked he feigned interest and suggested Filomeno, adding that I’m her child and she should choose. On the day of my birth she had not yet chosen, but when the doctor gave me to my father first he said “hallo Hendrik” … my mom was furious!
The nurse then took Christina to her grandfather Douglas. My mom says that grandpa had tears in his eyes but maybe it was just a dusty breeze. Her blood sugar was a little low, so Christina got an injection and then my mom fed her while Vicky got cleaned and ready. My mom and the nurses were surprised by how quickly she slurped up all her food – our little hungry monkey.
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And all of this happened while I was preparing food for our cuisine night! So in between facetime calls, Shanan, Steve, Neven and I were preparing 6 dishes for Neven and myself in Shanan and Steve’s house! Everything turned out well, both at the hospital and at the War College.
Vicky and Christina went home on Tuesday 17 March. Here are my favourite photos from the last week:
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We have received such beautiful messages and wonderful gifts from everyone. I have three gifts next to my bed so that when I go to sleep I have a little something to remind me of Vicky and Christina. Little pink shoes from Danielle and Mauricio, a silver rattle from Myrna and Dion and a picture book from Patty. I was reading the book last night and I got a little tear or two in my eye 🙂
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Today I saw the message that I had on our calendar:
Vicky gee geboorte 😃+😁+😍 #AllesGaanOKWees #AllesGaanGreatWees #😘 #ILoveYou
Jip, alles het great uitgedraai! I am so happy to be a father and have such a wonderful and beautiful wife! Thank you so much for everything and for our little bundle of joy Christina.

Gulf Coast FSP part 1 Texas

06-19 WX Providence
How is this for timing. We left Rhode Island on Saturday morning 7 February and returned on Monday 16 February. While we enjoyed the more than pleasant Texas and Florida weather, RI had seven days of snow! Some guys wives’ were at home shovelling snow while we were out having mojitos.

Thanks for the great photo Hector …

Saturday 07 February; sitting on the plane I only had one thing on my mind: cowboy boots. I have tried a lot to find cowboy boots in South Africa but to no avail, and I needed to fit them first as I have no idea what to look for or what size I should get – cowboy boots also have widths, for men that is B, D, EE and EW.

We landed, bussed into Houston, checked-in and I was immediately out the door on my way to Cavender’s Boot City. There were three within 15 minutes cab ride from the hotel, which I would think is kinda weird, but in the US there is a Starbucks coffee on nearly every block. In some places you can see the next Starbucks from the one you’re in.

Anyhoo, I tried several boots on, but the first I tried on I knew were the ones I wanted. I bought four things: my boots of course with a matching belt, a purse for Vicky and little cowgirl boots for Christina.

Danielle and Mauricio coincidentally bought this little dress for Christina also. She’s gonna look too cute!
My boots looked really good; discreet when standing up but flashy when sitting down.

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I was really fortunate in Houston to find a good place for coffee – I would be less fortunate in Key West and Miami. Not only did Argentina Café have good coffee, but they had alfajores! They are Uruguayan and Argentinean maizena biscuits with dulce de leche and coconut. Amazing! I had 2 good ones in NY when I was there with Vicky and those were the first I had in 7 years! Last time was on the Argentinean Frigate Libertad.  I would struggle finding them again in Florida.

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I am really chuffed with my purchase. This was on Sunday in the hotel lobby. We had a brief by Professor Ed Hirs from the University of Houston on energy production and consumption in the USA and afterwards we went to a cemetery to do some community service and help clean up there. Some of us were involved in knocking an old fence down. Someone broke one of our two hammers, so we resorted to using bricks and karate kicks. It was really hard work, but I had a lot of fun doing it and got quite a good workout.

Thanks for the great Rebecca.
This is a group of us the grave of a Buffalo Soldier; an African-American soldier during WWI. Taking photos into the sun: squints all round!

Monday we visited the BP America headquarters in Houston and NASA – as in “Houston, we have a problem”
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA – the actual control room for Apollo 11, which is now a display room.

NASA was amazing. We were in an observation room while they were conducting operations with the international space station.
Each desk has an assignment; the middle row far right desk is called Pluto – these are the number crunchers. Our guide called these guys the ‘Geek Squad’… wow: these guys are the geeks of the geek world! haha

The International Space Station (ISS) is quite an interesting concept. Firstly, it is huge:
It is also a combined project: Japan, the European Union, the US and Russia each have a module and then there is also the Canada-Arm which is used for all the work outside. There will always be at least 1 US astronaut and 2 Russian cosmonauts, the reason being that the Russians fly all the Soyuz vehicles to the ISS. The Soyuz are also the escape pods and carry three persons, so there are always 2 Russian cosmonauts onboard to pilot the escape pods.
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Inside the Soyuz capsule.

All the US astronauts speak Russian but English is the operating language onboard. They told us that there is hardly ever any disagreement between the astronauts, scientists and mission controllers because they are all there for the same reason – space and science. The problems are all between the politicians.

Houston houses two models of the US section of the ISS. European astronauts train mainly at Houston. Russia has models of their space station modules also and the crews exchange occasionally.

One model is an exact replica of the outside and is housed in a pool:
My photos didn’t do the pool justice, so I borrowed these tow from i.space and esa.int Space for Europe.
ISS-Pool 2

The ISS sees between 15 and 16 sunrises and sunsets each day! NASA is working on an upgrade to the pool facility to be able to completely darken the room in order to simulate the regular sunsets in space.

The second model is from the inside. Both models are 1:1 replicas. The pool model is exact on the outside but empty inside and conversely the second model is an exact replica inside but just a frame outside.

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We spoke a bit of the rigours and absolute lack of boredom of space work with astronauts Chris Cassidy (a Navy Seal) and Megan McArthur (an oceanographer). Their day is very strictly controlled from earth. They have a progress bar displayed onscreen for their work and of they go to the bathroom they fall behind! They said that the are really kept busy: Monday to Friday are long work days with very little free time, Saturdays are half days and Sundays are off which they use to speak with their families and read. Chris did a 6 months stint on the ISS, but later this year a crew of 6 will be the guinea pigs for 12 month deployments!

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Just mucking about. Check the nice boots on the right.

The next day we were off to Key West.

More Snow, More Sleet and More Black Ice

In January the snow was great – beautiful and fluffy. Now its getting old – slippery, cold and harsh. The day after a snow fall is still beautiful; it feels like walking through clouds its so soft. But its a lot of work.

Sunday night, 22 February, my downstairs neighbour noticed that the aluminium water trays below my balcony had opened due to ice and snow build-up.
You can see that in the top left. Top right is my next door neighbour’s, who’s tray fell right out. Lynn managed to clear the tray and he put it back in place while I shovelled snow for an hour upstairs and poured salt and hot water into the trays. The salt lowers the water’s freezing point: pure water freezes at 0 C (lets not get technical about it), a 10 % saline solution freezes at -6 and 20 % freezes at -16.

Snow is expensive stuff for the city – it just doesn’t go away. You can see all over the city where it has been ploughed up against sign posts and fences and just pushed them over. Melting snow also runs into cracks in the roads and even underneath them, freezing and thus damaging the roads.

2 days later it snowed again!
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On the right you can see how water condensation in my bedroom (from the humidifier) ran down the sliding door window and then froze the door snake onto the metal.

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It snowed through the night and I cleared it the next day.

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The beautiful morning after the snow. On the right you can see the snow on the roads already turning brown-grey. That was while I was waiting for Meshari to pick me up for school. That’s a pretty cold 5-10 minutes!

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I had to look twice – that is snow on top of the storefront awnings! Perfectly formed.

At Vickers’ Liquors I get South African Pinotage to give as a gift when I get invited to someone’s house. Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa’s signature variety; the Pinotage grape was bred in SA in 1925 and is a cross between pinot noir and hermitage (cinsaut – pronounced san-soh; French…).

Snow, Sleet and Black Ice

Snow is a lotta fun at the beginning:
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That first snow is so soft and fluffy. In my post ‘Blizzard of 2015’ you can see me jumping into a big pile of it – it feels fantastic. But then it starts melting a little. First the bottom layer melts making slushy ice which quickly turns brown-grey on sidewalks and in the road, but then that bottom layer freezes again overnight; on the road this is called black ice because it is such a thin layer that you can’t see it and it looks like the same colour as the road. This thin film of ice removes all traction from the road – and sidewalks – I know ‘cos I’ve fallen once! Check this funny skit on black ice: Key & Peele – Black Ice.

00 a Ice
First the sloshy stuff, then the ground freezes over. This was the first week of February when the temperature still rose above 0, if only ever so slightly.

You can see the sun shining right? Don’t be fooled, it doesn’t even warm you. The only thing the sun causes are icicles:
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The first two photos are of Merle’s apartment in Boston and the last two are in Newport. See how the flag is frozen too with icicles forming at its bottom (if you click on the image you will open a larger version of it). An estimated 15 people die per year in the USA from icicles falling on their heads – eish.

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This truck looked too funny not to photograph – looks like its making a delivery! The ice sculptures really looked beautiful in the sunlight (again, only ornamental sunlight).

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I took these photos crossing the bridge on base. On the left is the shore in various stages of being frozen. The main part of the ice blanket was like slush puppy – in the photo it looks frozen, as it did if you looked quickly, but it was actually moving as the waves moved into it; it looked really cool. The middle photo is of frozen ground; rock solid and very slippery. On the right is just some artistic attempt.

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This is the same bridge, but looking at the opposite side. The sea is not frozen but it had a layer of snow on it, so in the photo is looks like land just beyond the bridge.

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Cake ice – the surface froze, then melted apart and froze again in some parts.

These are some photos from Merle of Boston Harbour:
00 e Boston Hawe

Its funny how everything slows down in the snow. I have to walk really slowly to make sure of where I am walking, and then also short-cuts are out of the question: you walk where the snow has been cleared. I’ve had snow dump into my boots because I tried walking through/over an uncleared sidewalk; that really ruins the rest of your day.

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The view from my front door.

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I swept my porch after this and then I wanted to shake the snow off the floor mat. I tapped it against a post and it cracked – frozen solid!

Vicky Christina Hendrik

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Vicky is 33 weeks pregnant this week! It is really difficult being apart like this, but it is with a lot of excitement that we look forward to meeting our little Christina.

I love seeing how she is growing in the scan photos that Vicky sends me.
2D scan on 27 January. I like those little cheeks and the double fist pump on the right!

Quick break; I got something in my eye and need to go wash it out 😉

3D scan 02 February. I’m not really a big fan of 3D scans, but they are really cute when its your baby, so y’all will have to indulge me here. I hope she doesn’t end up biting her cuticles – I gotta get rid of that habit before Christina sees me doing it!

While in Texas Danielle and Mauricio got Christina this little dress the same day that I bought these little boots! Whata coinkydink!
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We’re all very eager to meet our little cowgirl 🙂

So’s I can add a photo of myself, here’s a very cold Skype call.
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And lastly, Vicky’s cute little stomach.

Blizzard of 2015

'Historic' storm prepares to slam Northeast; airlines cancel flights

On Sunday 26 January we were all aware of the coming Winter Storm Juno. The US Weather Service had issued warnings and everyone was out getting their bread and milk. “Impossible and life threatening driving conditions” were predicted for Tuesday 27 January, so class was cancelled. Well, actually, everything got shifted to the right, but right now, I’m off and looking out the window planning a walk in the snow and the wind.

Firstly, what is a blizzard: it is “a severe snowstorm characterised by strong sustained winds of at least 56 km/h (35 mph) and lasting for a prolonged period of time, typically 3 hours or more;” thank you Wikipedia. And that is what we had. The dangerous part of a blizzard is the wind. It blows power lines over, blows snow around and would also make driving “impossible …”

Monday 26th

We had class on Monday, and during our meeting we were told that the school would be closed for the next two days. I organised a shelter on Sunday already; 22 Bateman Ave, Shanan and Steve’s house. They have a gas stove and gas heating, so if the electricity went out we could keep warm. Well, more importantly, we could still make tee.

The City of Newport set up a warming centre in town for people whose electricity goes out. I guess that I understand the need for gas and oil heating better now. As people were texting this information to each other I was having a condescending chuckle, but of course, I was the wuss that had seeked out a shelter on Sunday already.

Monday evening was uneventful. We watched some Netflix and waited for the storm to come. Snow started falling at noon already but it was still very little. By that evening it started picking up. There was about a foot of snow on the ground by the time that we turned in to sleep. Mercifully, the power remained on during the night (the power actually remained on during the storm).

Tuesday 27th

During the middle watch (midnight – 4am) we had the worst of the blizzard with the heaviest snowfall and winds in excess of 56 km/h. We took barley for a walk at 10 with a wind chill of -19C.

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Getting ready for our walk.

Shanan, Steve and I dressed in multiple layers (I had 3 pairs of socks on because gumboots freeze after 15 minutes in the snow) but Barley was having the time of his life in nothing but his birthday suit!

This guy would have his work cut out once the blizzard stops. On the right is Steve and Shanan’s house with their cars outside. Shanan’s car would be covered in snow up to its side mirrors by the end of the blizzard.

We started playing a game of Monopoly that afternoon, but that game takes sooo long that we went for another walk as a break

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Flopping down in the backyard. The snow is so soft, it feels like a feather bed. The snow there was over 3 feet high against the fence.
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There was a break in the wind so we shovelled the sidewalk clear. If you keep shovelling it make it easier to see the sidewalk and less work once the storm stops. Besides, you must shovel your sidewalk within 4 hours after daybreak or after the storm stops or you get fined!

Barley was enjoying this snow as much as we were:
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This was, by the way, the first time that I had played monopoly until someone won. Usually everyone just gives up, but Shanan thoroughly beat us.

The State of Rhode Island imposed a travel ban for Tuesday.  They still cleared the roads though for emergency services to be able to move around. The police can fine you if you are found driving without a good reason. An example of a good reason would be Ran and Osman whose wives’ due dates were both on Tuesday!

Photos from 9gag and ABC News
NY City also had a travel ban; above left is 10th Ave emptier than its been in a long time. Some areas were hit worse than others; right is Nantucket Island.

Photos by Matt Ellsworth
Later were heard about the USS Providence that was severely damages in Newport Harbour.

Wednesday 28th

Earning my keep (totally posed). Thereafter Steve and I helped the neighbour get her car out of her driveway and then I was off for my walk home.

Snow blowers make clearing sidewalks easy, but digging cars out is another story – and the most snow is underneath the car.

Some sidewalks are easier to clear than others.


Come rain or snow, beer gets delivered.

I walked straight to Empire where I am now writing this blog. I was both surprised and happy to find them open. While working here I got news that Osman and Deniz’s baby was born this morning, and both mom and daughter are in good health.

The blizzard was nowhere near as epic or as “historically crippling” as the news predicted, or should I say, as the sensationalist media predicted. But there is a lot of snow on the ground. The parking lot at my apartment has over 4 feet of snow! – that’s piled up from ploughing but it’s impressive nonetheless. We have a maximum of 2C predicted over the next 10 days and sporadic snowfall, so this snow is going nowhere.

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The ugly side of snow; brown-grey slush puppy on the roads.

I had a good laugh at myself when I took my umbrella out walking. The snow is so light that it comes from all directions and an umbrella is absolutely useless.

It is amazing how cities function in the cold. They have to plough snow, so that costs money, and then salt gets spread everywhere. The salt melts the snow, absorbs some water and provides grip but it also damages the roads and buildings very badly. And Rhode Island has it easy; Minneapolis for example has snow and -30C for about 4 months.

Oh, I only saw 1 vehicle with chains on its wheels. I did see some a-holes driving too fast and sliding all over the place, so I was very careful when walking around.