This year has been a particularly busy and full one, with a number of enjoyable highlights.
Sarah turned 9 this year, and celebrated by having a group of friends sleep over for a pyjama party. She achieved 'overall academic excellence' at school, and enjoyed taking part in the Randburg Eisteddfod events for creative dance, poetry, a creative advert, and sight reading (for which she was very proud to receive a Diploma). She also entered a national Rose Photography competition, and won first and third prizes (with the photographs printed on this card) in the category for photographers under 10 years old.
David celebrated his 12th birthday this year by having a 'Teen Mystery' dinner party that was enthusiastically enjoyed by him and his friends. He had a year filled with sport. Apart from the usual soccer, cricket, athletics, swimming, cross-country, and tennis, he also started playing roller hockey. In between, he did also manage to do some interesting schoolwork - early in the year he produced a fascinating project (that eventually involved all of us) on the history of his family tree. We were able to find information dating back to 1750, and covered 1820 Settlers, the Johannesburg gold rush, a Scotland Yard detective, and the Battle of Delville Wood in World War I. David also managed to achieve his goal of being awarded academic colours at the end of the year. He also entered the national Mathematics Challenge competition, and he a friend won first place in the doubles category for his age group in the Johannesburg area.
Debbie's year started not too enjoyably, with a few sessions in hospital, for the removal of her gall bladder, and a hysterectomy. However, she has recovered fully, and was able to enjoy the rest of the year a lot more. She has remained involved with Lifeline this year, particularly with the facilitation of training courses for new counsellors, as well as doing some corporate training. Deb also helped with the running of an Alpha course at the Valley Vineyard church that we attend. She also did some repainting and re-furnishing of our lounge and her study / family room. At the moment she is busy preparing for her final BA Honours (Psychology) exams which she writes in January. It's quite a struggle to be studying at this time of year, and we are all looking forward to it coming to an end.
Our border collie, Bardy, is now fourteen years old, but is still keeping quite well, although he has a bit of stiffness in his back legs, and doesn't see or hear as well as he used to. The children also have two hamsters and a guinea pig.
We have done a few interesting hikes this year, starting off in January at King's Kloof in Rant-En-Dal, Krugersdorp where the children enjoyed sliding down a waterfall-river-rockslide. In September we walked around the Tswaing meteor crater (fairly near to Pretoria) - a quite impressive impact crater about 1 km across, with a salt pan at the base. This crater, at 220 000 years of age, is one of the youngest and best-preserved bowl-shaped meteorite impact craters in the world. November saw us exploring Kranskloof in the Magaliesberg - hiking, swimming in rock pools, and doing some rock climbing and abseiling. Other enjoyable outings during the year included listening to Tessa Ziegler's classical guitar music at the botanical gardens on an early Spring afternoon. I also took David to watch an international soccer match between South Africa and France at Ellis Park. We also spent almost a week in April at a friend's holiday home adjoining the beach at Elysium on the south coast of Kwazulu Natal (a working holiday for me, doing a lot of programming work with two colleagues) - a very enjoyable and productive time.
My work at Mintek has gone quite well this year, although the rest of the organization has been through quite a few changes (new board, new president / CEO, new general manager; some restructuring and early retirements and retrenchments). I was involved in developing a more efficient and environmentally-friendly process for platinum smelting that was patented at the beginning of the year. We are hoping to demonstrate this on a large scale, starting in 2001. I have also continued with my work on thermodynamic and thermal / CFD modelling of furnaces. I have also been enjoying digital photography (for work as well as pleasure), and even managed to attend a photographic congress in September. This included speakers of the calibre of Frans Lanting (the most published wildlife photographer in National Geographic), as well as Peter Magubane and Alf Khumalo (who took us on a photographic outing around Soweto). Outside of work, I have also been involved in a missions team at church, although we missed a trip to Botswana as it clashed with our own trip to Malawi.
Our holiday to Malawi in June/July was undoubtedly the highlight of our year. We used our carefully-saved frequent-flyer airmiles to get a flight to Lilongwe, and then used various forms of local transport to get around (a hired car that lasted only a few hours; a couple of small vans; the back of an open bakkie together with piles of bananas, bottles, a chicken, and many people; a boat; dugout canoes; and a minibus). We lived in our tent, and had some wonderful adventures (not all pre-planned!). We met some truly wonderful and helpful people in the remote town of Balaka, who went out of their way to help us on our journey. The Nkopola campsite on Lake Malawi was very lovely, and we truly enjoyed snorkelling and looking at the multi-coloured cichlid fish at Otter Point at Cape Maclear. We spent time in local villages watching people carving curios, and seeing cashew nuts being grown. On Zomba Plateau, we camped at the Chawe forestry campsite amid the fragrant smell of cedar firewood. There we explored magnificent forests, rivers, waterfalls, and even the legendary Chingwe's Hole formation. Our new friends from Balaka took us from there, by minibus, to Elephant Marsh in the remote south of the country. After a day's ride over very rough potholed roads, seeing no other tourists en route, we were taken out in dugout canoes on the marsh by expert local ornithologists - another unforgettable experience. Mount Mulanje in the west of the country was our last spectacular destination - a huge granite dome that rises from the plains to a height of over 3000 m, the highest point in Central Africa.
We are now looking forward to a quiet holiday season at home, and hope that all of you have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year.
Rodney, Debbie, David, and Sarah