Friday, June 28, 2013


While Kyle's been helping with internet and Paypal and visiting the recycled paper facility, I've spent my time in the candle and jewelry making area at SHAPE.  I'm learning how they do things, who does what jobs and how to wrap a paper bead. But even more I've learned how to be thankful, how to be humble and how to be happy.

The tools used to make paper beads are inexpensive and simple - scissors, ruler, glue, toothpicks and varnish. The materials are all free - card stock, magazines, old newspaper and recycled paper. The necklace design is simple but the colors of the recycled boxes all curled up "do the work for you" so to speak. I love the riot of colors! 

Samara varnishes beads and helps make candles despite the fact that she has no use of her left hand.  

So when I've come home in the evenings I've been using the same materials and playing with design ideas. I think it might sound strange but the limitation is actually freeing.

With a small frig and  limited storage space, a walk to nearby shops is an almost daily event that usually yields a bounty of materials.  I found the ceramic pieces below embedded in the dirt road. One spot in particular is a treasure trove - maybe it was a dump spot at one time. I'm hoping to work out some sort of bezels.

The green pitted plastic bead was found at the south end of the island which sits near the top of the South Atlanic Gyre,  a swirl of currents that trap trash and particularly plastic debris. We hope to muck about there again next week. I like the idea of putting together a piece of jewelry with items totally gathered from one spot.  

The sunsets from our porch are amazing! 

Good night from the South Atlantic. 
Have a good weekend wherever you are! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013


Yesterday was our first day really helping out at SHAPE. Their facility is an old primary (elementary) school. They have a break room, classroom, big open studio spaces, a kitchen attached to (a room that will eventually become) a cafe and a large separate building for all of their textile work (flax, aloe and wool) and agricultural supplies.

SHAPE at the old Sandy Bay primary school

We met the other employees and the clients and it was a great time of sharing ideas. Basically SHAPE provides job training, life-skills training and a safe, fun and loving day time place for disable people, teenagers and adults, while their full time caregivers are at work.

Although they produce a number of handcrafted items, they are not self supporting and as a non-profit depend on grants and other funds to continuing function and growing. As more funds become available they hope to provide more and more services to more people.

They've had an Etsy shop for a while now but due to a banking/Paypal mix up they were not receiving payments. So my husband worked diligently for about 4 hours and finally solved their problem - with a power cut and internet going down in the middle of it all. If you're on Etsy they'd love it if you would favorite their shop and I'll post here again when we start getting items listed.

View looking out from SHAPE - what a view.
Thanks for reading from so far away!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

The backstory

So here's a little history...

Saint Helena is a 47 square mile island, the remnants of a very dead volcano,  located 1200 miles from Namibia and 1800 miles from Brazil in the middle of the South Atlantic. Although technically in the subtropics at 16 degrees south of the equator, the SE Trade Winds give it a subtropical temperate climate with varying micro-climates.  From a historic standpoint, it was discover by Portuguese sailors in 1502, settled by the British in 1659, captured briefly by the Dutch in 1673, recaptured by the British and administered by the East India Co. until 1834 and is now a British Overseas Territory. This is the island "prison" where Napoleon died. 

We first came here June - August 2008 when Kyle was awarded a grant to do photo documentary work. It was a very difficult but amazing experience and although I spent a fair amount of time longing for home, I stood on the deck of the ship on the day we left, not being able to bear the thought of never coming back. 

So here we are again, now "on our own dime". We hope to be able to lend our time, our knowledge and support to people here. 

Here's a video of our drive into the capital "city" of Jamestown. (There should be a little sound attached. We'll see - I've never done this. )

Thursday, June 20, 2013

And the next day...

June 17

Today was a true, true treasure. Its the Queen's Birthday, an official British holiday, and we were invited by our very first Saint Helenian friend, Colin, to a braai (cook-out) with his extended family/friends at Sandy Bay, the black sand beach in the crater of an extinct volcano at the south end of the island.

A fire was built and 8 or 9 kinds of meat (blood sausage among them and, yes really, I tried it) accompanied a variety of salads, followed by a “sweet” course (pineapples, fruit crumbles/cobblers served with custard made on site). And just when we thought the eating was over, there was tea and dessert. Always tea.

Nothing like a braai with an ancient fortification as a backdrop. 

The rain held off and we had a wonderful day exchanging stories and learning about each other. I was asked "why are Americans so concerned with having semi-automatic weapons?" Hmm...good question.

One of the families at the braai is actually from Tristan da Cunha, the most remote part of this Overseas Territory with a population of 280 and located sort of between the Falklands and Cape Town.

Tomorrow more laundry and into town to get to the Arts and Crafts Centre! 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Its been a rollercoaster ride

Please bear with my bad spelling and poor grammar as I try to get you updated. The first 10 days of our trip were really up and down. Most posts will not be this long and will have more photos but we are currently without internet so I am just keeping a log of daily events that I am now able to post at a wifi hotspot. Hopefully by June 19 we'll have the internet connected at our house.

June 5 – 8
Our flight to Cape Town was long and tiring but otherwise uneventful. The Dolphin Beach Hotel just north of Cape Town proper was the perfect place to recover. The gorgeous beach held giant shells and sea sponges and the dining room has a postcard worthy view of Table Mountain.

June 8 – 12
Aboard ship...
The RMS Saint Helena is currently the only way on and off the island (other than private yacht). Hard to believe since the island is 2200 miles from Cape Town, 1200 miles from Namibia and 1800 miles from Brazil. Its part of a long line of island born out of the mid-Atlantic Ridge including Tristan da Cuhna, Ascension and the Azores. The RMS transports everything – people,the majority of the food, cars,washing machines, pet goldfish...
A newly installed stabilizer sensor had to be tested so for the first 15 -20 minutes out of port the ship rolled (side to side motion) really bad making it difficult to stand much less walk. Then the sensors switched on, stabilizers deployed and things got a little better. (One of the crew told us that had the cargo boxes been stacked any higher, their weight could have taken us right over.) Seas continued to be a bit rough and we were seasick for the first 24 hrs. After that we felt increasingly better. We had C deck cabins with NO window so each 7' x 10' space (that included a bathroom) definitely felt cramped. We spent very little time in them other than to sleep preferring the open deck.
Kyle had printed photos from our first trip so we were able to give a Saint Helenian woman, headed home for the first time in 8 years, a photo of her grandmother and great aunt both of whom had recently passed away. She now lives in the U.K. and had missed both of their funerals so this really touched her. The last night on board there was a BBQ out on deck, the Captain sat with us for dinner and we participated as a team in a game of skittles. So far so good!

June 13
We arrived at the island several hours ahead of schedule, the seas were calm and we were able to disembark right after an early breakfast, We were greeted by friends we had met here the last time and the new Baptist pastor and his wife whom we only know via email. But it was wonderful and we felt comfortable and excited and really happy to be ashore.
Now this is where things started to go downhill.

The house we had rented was not exactly what we had expected. The steep driveway leading off the main road is not paved and due to current heavy rains is a muddy, slippery mess that we were fortunate to have managed without a 4 wheel drive. Kyle's was concerned that it was going to get harder and harder to negotiate the road so we felt like we needed to try to find somewhere else to stay. This was really unsettling for us – what if there were no other houses available?

June 14
We spent most of the next day back and forth with the tourist office trying to find another place to rent. By 2:30 it seemed we had found a more suitable house. Its closer to Jamestown, the largest town on the island, closer to SHAPE's paper pulp facility, small but efficient with gravel/paved roads and a sea view. The houses are much closer together and we had wanted to be in the country but it seemed a better choice. The former landlord was very gracious, let us out of our lease and we agreed to pay for just two days. We re-packed what we had unpacked, moved our things and went out for dinner.
No sooner were we home and settling down for bed when tenants right CLOSE behind us (workers from off island) started blaring music, yelling, cars ishowing up with more people...
This went on until about 1am. Kyle and I had not had a truly good night's sleep since we left home and we were beginning to feel like we had made a wrong decision in coming back. This time it should be easier, right? I was ready to come home.
Sam on our front porch looking out toward the northwest.
June 15
The landlord came first thing in the morning, was very sympathetic, insisted that they would address the noise issue and moved us into all she had left, a flat one building farther away from the noisy tenants. Three days on the island – third house on the island. I needed to “land” somewhere!

We were finally able to do laundry although we are reticent to completely unpack, not knowing what tonight will bring. And we watched the RMS leave the harbor, headed for Ascension.

Lolly, our connection at SHAPE, popped in to greet us and had a lead on another rental at Sea View (better location but it didn't work out) and to remind us about a SHAPE event the next day.

We went to see Graeme and Hazel Beckett and talked for about 2 hrs. straight and it was good to have friendly conversation peppered with laughter. We were concerned about being a bit uncomfortable since the last time we were in the Baptist Manse was the day of the rockfall in 2008 but it didn't really bother us.

Its now 8:30pm and so far our neighborhood is quiet.

June 16
Thank God – a good night sleep! Quiet except for the wind and rain, which we rather like. We got up this morning and set about getting the house in order. We got some stains out of clothing, arranged furniture and all had a shower for the first time in how many days? Not sure but we are feeling a lot better.

The car did not cooperate when it was time to leave for SHAPE fundraiser – a soap box car derby. But this is a place where people really help you out and the guy would rented us the car gave us a ride to town and said he would meet us later with an alternate form of transport (it ended up being his own truck). The derby was fun, we cheered for the car held together by duck tape, we checked out SHAPE's craft booth and we are really excited about what they are producing - I can't wait to post more about them! Then we had goat curry and wahoo bites, burgers and “chips” and attended church at 6pm followed by tea...and most things are followed by tea here. I am usually a coffee drinker but have come to enjoy Rooibos, or red, tea, and mostly the event of tea, the slowly down, the taking time. Did we Americans throw away a whole way of thinking when we tossed that tea into Boston Harbor?

I'll post sometime later this week! Thanks for reading!

Friday, June 7, 2013

You are here

Two vans, one train, two planes, three take-offs, three landings, one bus, one taxi, three countries, another hemisphere and twenty-nine hours and we've made it to Cape Town South Africa! Staying very well hydrated, adjusting our watches to SA time immediately upon boarding the first plane - and no doubt prayer - kept us almost jet lag free. We got up today at about 9:30am and ate a very hearty breakfast right in our hotel dining room that overlooks Table Mountain.

We are right on the beach and spent the afternoon picking up huge bivalves (twice the size of a man's hand) interesting rocks and sea sponges.

Tomorrow we board the RMS Saint Helena, head back north through the South Atlantic and I won't be able to blog again until we reach the island on June 13.