This past year has been a very busy one for all of us - including work, school, HeartWork, and other activities. We haven't travelled very much, and have mostly stayed home to get things done. However, we were able to find time for many enjoyable moments in the midst of the busyness.
Deb's birthday in February was celebrated with a surprise tea at the Lindfield Victorian House Museum in Auckland Park. The tour was charmingly hosted by the lady who lives in the old house and who has assembled a remarkable collection of Victorian artefacts. The delicious cakes and savouries served for tea were baked in the original oven of the house.
For me, the early part of the year was focused on the 'Southern African Pyrometallurgy 2006 International Conference' that I put together. This was quite a highlight for me. The conference took place from 5-8 March 2006 at Glenburn Lodge, in the Cradle of Humankind world heritage area (about 40 km from Johannesburg), and was attended by about 180 pyrometallurgists from twelve countries (Australia, Botswana, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Luxembourg, Norway, South Africa, USA, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). There is a particular significance to the choice of location, in that the Swartkrans area close to the Sterkfontein Caves is the site of the earliest evidence of the deliberate controlled use of fire by human beings (about 1.3 million years ago), and this is obviously a necessary precursor to pyrometallurgy. Papers were obtained from a wide variety of pyrometallurgical plants in Southern Africa, and the conference proceedings (in book and CD form) will provide useful reference information for some time to come. The plant descriptions have also been published on the www.pyrometallurgy.co.za website, where they can be updated as and when required, with the eventual goal of having a description of every smelter in the region. The post-conference industrial tours included visits to the world's three largest platinum smelters. Apart from the technical content, the conference's social activities included an unforgfettable early morning hot-air balloon ride, and evening visits to the world-renowned Sterkfontein Caves and the Wonder Cave. The conference dinner was held at the newly opened Maropeng Centre.
In addition to the pyrometallurgy conference, I have also been extensively involved with a range of other activities for the Southern African Institute of Mining and Metallurgy (SAIMM) this year. I am a member of the SAIMM Council, on the Editorial Board for the SAIMM Journal, the vice-chairman of the Metallurgy Technical Programme Committee, and the chairman of the IT Committee, so you can imagine that I have been pretty busy in this area. I have also assisted the organising committees of a few other conferences (including the Platinum conference at Sun City that I attended in October). At Mintek, I don't think we have ever been busier, mainly attributed to the commodities boom as a result of the phenomenal growth in China. I have continued working on the ConRoast process for the platinum industry, and am excited to see how much interest it is now starting to attract. A company called Independence Platinum is funding a major development programme, investigating the feasibility of building a smelter using this technology. I have also worked on a smelter expansion study for one of the large platinum producers. The long-term smelting project we have been busy with at Mintek has now treated over 24 000 tons of feed material over the past two and a half years, and it looks promising that this is set to continue. We have also done some slag-cleaning testwork for a company in Botswana, as well as the preparation for an autocatatlyst smelting campaign. My job has grown to include a lot of marketing work with clients, and we've had a number of interesting overseas visitors during the year, including from the University of Aachen and a battery recycling company in Switzerland. In October, I had the pleasant surprise of receiving a Mintek Apex award for the slag-cleaning work that led to the installation of the Chambishi furnace in Zambia a few years ago.
In April, we were invited by the Bezemer family to spend a part of the school holidays with them in their family holiday home in Plettenberg Bay. The house is just across the road from one of the main beaches, so we were able to do lots of swimming in the sea, as well as many walks on the sandy beach. Harry and I did some wonderfully energetic hikes around Robberg nature reserve and Kranshoek, enjoying some stunning natural scenery. The rest of the family joined us for some walks in the Knysna Forest. We also explored Knysna, and went driving over the spectacular Prince Alfred's Pass. We had a very lovely holiday.
During June and July, we undertook some long-awaited major work on our house. We re-tiled the kitchen and one of the bathrooms, re-painted the roof and the walls inside and outside. There was also some plumbing work to be done, as well as the replacement of the stove, dishwasher, and some light fittings, as well as a (long) bed for David. We even got to replace our threadbare carpets towards the end of the year. As a result, the house is now a lot more pleasant to live in.
On 11 September, many people around the world commemorated the anniversary of a very significant event that involved about 3000 people (9/11). However, there was very little commentary about the 100th anniversary of another event in Johannesburg that arguably had an even greater effect on world history. Mahatma Gandhi's passive resistance movement (known as Satyagraha or 'truth force') was founded on 11 September 1906 at a meeting of more than 3000 people at the Empire Theatre (then at the corner of Commissioner and Ferreira streets) that was set up to protest against the Transvaal Asiatic Law Amendment Ordinance that required Indians to carry passes, forced segregation of living and working, and disallowed new immigration (even for returning soldiers after the Anglo-Boer War). Those assembled resolved to go to prison rather than to submit to a degrading law. The philosophy of passive resistance promotes "non-violent, non-cooperation which calls for self-sacrifice and willingness to undergo suffering without resorting to violence no matter what the provocation". This was a radical alternative to violence, that inspired major changes in India. Martin Luther King employed this same approach to bring about political changes in the USA, as did various South African people like Nelson Mandela. South Africa celebrates Heritage Day on 24 September, and one of the activities on that day was a Historical Tour of Johannesburg Gandhi sites, led by Eric Itzkin who has written a book on Gandhi. It was fascinating to visit places in Troyeville, Newtown, and the city centre where Gandhi lived and worked at various times, as well as the Old Fort prison in Braamfontein where Gandhi was incarcerated (as were people like Nelson Mandela later).
Some other enjoyable activities we enjoyed during the year included a visit to the Adler museum where two very famous fossils (Mrs Ples and the Taung Child) were on public display simultaneously, I think for the first time ever. We also enjoyed visiting the Standard Bank Gallery for the Picasso exhibition, and also the Gerard Sekoto exhibition later in the year. The Market Theatre also put on a play about the story of Gerard Sekoto that was very enjoyable. Sarah and I went to a function at the Goethe Institute where they screened a thought-provoking film about Helen Joseph called 'If this be treason' and also had a discussion with Cedric Sundstrom who produced the film. It was fascinating hearing his perspective on the film. One of the memorable scenes was of Helen Joseph standing in the courtroom (in the Pretoria Synagogue of all places) filmed from a very low angle (emphasising the power of her statement as well as showing off the beautiful stained glass in the ceiling). Apparently another main reason for this choice of camera angle was that it avoided the need for extras in the courtroom, because the film was shot on a very tight budget! I also enjoyed attending the MyADSL Broadband (computer) conference with David, as well as the iWeek conference organised by ISPA (the Internet Service Providers Association) and ISOC-ZA (the South African branch of the Internet Society, which I belong to).
Another real highlight of the year for me was celebrating a 30-year reunion of my 1976 matric class from Germiston High School. About five years ago, I started collecting information on as many of my schoolfriends as possible, and put together a website www.amethyst.co.za/GHS1976/ that contains at least some information for about two thirds of the group. This made it relatively easy to contact people and to set up a date when we could meet. The current school principal kindly opened up the school for us on a Sunday afternoon at the end of October. Over refreshments, he told us how the school was getting on, and what changes have taken place. It was very encouraging to see the school in such good shape and to hear that things are going well. There are currently about 1200 pupils at the school (compared to about 1500 back in 1976). We were able to walk around the school and reminisce, and have a look at the new school museum. Later in the day, most people moved across to the Harvard Cafe at the Rand Airport just across the road, and conversation flowed until late in the evening. The reunion was an amazing occasion. It seemed quite incongruous to be together with a group of people who had been apart for such a long time, and yet it seemed strangely familiar and comfortable to talk about shared memories from three decades ago. It was great to have people visiting from Australia, Kenya, and Switzerland, in addition to those from South Africa. All told, there were 71 people who attended the reunion (28 of whom were part of the class, and 8 teachers were also included). There were about 174 people in the class of 1976, and they have scattered themselves over at least 14 countries that I am aware of. Since the official reunion, there have been a few more informal smaller get-togethers, and it has been great to see so many people again.
Debbie's work with people in prison (HeartWork) has grown tremendously this year. For the first time, she and her team have run a course in the men's prison, in addition to the two courses for women that were held this year. They have also worked with the families of people in prison, as well as with a few people that have come out of prison. This re-integration work is vitally important, as many ex-prisoners find great difficulty in getting employment, yet have to look after families in many cases. Our church has been incredibly supportive of Deb's work. In April, Deb was able to visit her mother, Renet, in Cape Town for a few days. Deb also had to go into hospital herself in September for some abdominal surgery and to have an abscess drained.
David enjoyed the last of his schooldays this year. His rugby team performed very well once again, and we were able to watch quite a few of the matches. There seemed to be an lot of parties and celebrations during the year. David accompanied Eileen Bezemer to her matric dance in April, and she accompanied him to his in May. David got his driving licence (now that he is 18 years old) in October and he is very pleased at being able to drive himself around now. He spent a few days at Umhlanga on the coast (along with most other matriculants in the country I think), to celebrate the end of school. David's matric exams went well, and he got his results three days ago (including distinctions for maths, English, computer studies, and geography). He is planning to study electrical (information) engineering at Wits University in 2007 (and we are very proud that he has managed to earn enough points to get his first year of tuition paid by the university). David has a particular interest in computers, and has developed some useful skills in building websites. He has developed an excellent general knowledge, is very self-assured, and has quite a sense of humour.
Sarah is growing into a very compassionate, graceful, and lovely young lady that is quite a force to be reckoned with. She turned 15 in April, and celebrated her birthday walking in the Knysna forest. She has done very well in Grade 9 this year, getting distinctions in eight of her subjects and collecting an award for particular excellence in maths, English, biology, and visual art. Sarah also took part in the Maths Olympiad and got as far as the second round. She has also enjoyed playing netball again this year, and went on a class tour to Entabeni. Sarah has a lovely sizeable group of friends that she likes to spend time with, mostly one at a time though, and she has often had sleepovers with some of them. She reads a lot and enjoys creative artwork, playing with her pets, and thinking about deep and meaningful things.
Sarah - 15 years old, with Debbie
Sarah with some friends - Bridget Mayne and Brett Liebenberg
During the December school holidays, we stayed at home and visited friends, some of whom we haven't seen for far too long. I took some time off work, and enjoyed being able to go running most mornings with our border collie Kayla (now five years old). We spent Christmas day at Lynne's house, together with my Mom and some of her friends, as well as the Dold family. Now that 2006 is almost at an end, we are looking forward to 2007 and the changes that it will bring. We hope that 2007 will be a wonderful year for all of you as well.
Rodney, Debbie, David, and Sarah