Aug 5, 2013

Soul food, or the lack thereof

Because of getting stranded in London (see the post London cabby), my trip to Madrid last month was not off to the best start. It consisted of rushing up and down 8 escalators, through 2 airport terminals, 2 shuttle stops, immigration, customs, a 15-minute taxi ride, conference registration, and another 10-minute walk through the expo center in 90 degrees weather to get to the conference room where I was scheduled to present, exactly 74 minutes after my flight touched down on Spanish soil. I had about 10 minutes left to catch my breath, as well as attempt to fight back the outbreak of sweat from the previous 64 minutes.

Although not my best presentation on record, given the circumstances it went reasonably well, and with this out of the way I could start off fresh. I had been in Madrid once before, in 1992 while on Interrail through Spain and Portugal with two cousins. At the time it was a blistering 110 degrees, and our college budget allowed for a one night campsite stay only. This time around, I had two nights in a comfortable hotel with air-conditioning, and decided to try to experience some of the city's soul, rather than continue rushing as I had done through the airport. And what better way than to wander around and taste the local soul food, tapas.

I spent the first evening with a philosophically inclined Canadian radiologist, whom I met at a similar conference two years ago. His inclination makes for an entertaining evening, with soulful discussions about cultural differences between Canada, Europe and the U.S., the art of living and working, and the meaning of life (as Douglas Adams readers know, the meaning of life is "42", and I happen to be 42 years old). The restaurant, Ten Con Ten, served delicious dishes, but more Italian with a twist than Spanish tapas.

The second night was spent with a co-worker at a tapas bar on famous Playa Mayor. Its fame has turned the square into a tourist trap, and its tapas into something deep-fried and unrecognizable. 

With one morning left in the Spanish capital, I had one more opportunity to savor some of its soul food. Someone in Illinois had recommended the tapas bar Vi Cool, by heavily laureated two-michelin star Sergi Arola of El Bulli fame. GABROEN had recently seen the documentary about that culinary liquid nitrogen lab north of Barcelona, dubbed the best restaurant in the world. It showed the six months process that the El Bulli crew followed to create the menus for the other six months of the year. Although genius, the technical precision and military discipline seemed to come at a double hefty price: first, the sum of money one had to cough up to dine there, and second, the crazy culinary creations were devoid of soul. So when considering a soulful final lunch spot, I did not have high hopes of finding a memorable one in Vi Cool. I ended up there nevertheless, and am happy to report there was no liquid nitrogen or dry ice involved with its tapas menu. It was a modern twist on classical dishes, it was fun, and it was actually pretty good.

Spain is drowning in a deep recession, its touristy tapas are drowning in deep-fried grease, but Vi Cool and Ten Con Ten are symbols of Madrilean resilience and creativity, of modern twists to a classical city, perhaps of a new soul emerging. I sincerely hope they find their way out of the mess they're in.

Aug 3, 2013

London cabby

Several years ago I saw a documentary about taxi drivers in London, in which they were explaining that it takes about 2 years of memorizing all of the city's street names and a hefty exam to obtain a license. I wish I thought of that when getting stranded at City Airport in the city's Eastern Docklands last month, due to another strike by those lovely contrôleurs trafic aérien francais. I received multiple messages to check the status of my flight with the airport and airline before heading out; like most flights that had to fly over France, my British Airways flight to Madrid was delayed from 6:30 to 10:15pm. Rather than waiting in an overly crowded terminal, I decided to have a comfortable dinner at the nearby mod design hotel I had stayed the night before.

I got to the airport at about 8 pm, still a good 2 hours before the new departure time, so no line at the BA check-in desk. The attendant however looked at me stunned, with big eyes, and uttered I should go and talk to her manager. Not a hopeful sign. Completely unaware of any wrong-doing on my part I walked over to the manager on the other side of the pretty tiny terminal building. She asked me, in upper lip stiff British, and in a classic example of customer service, why I had dared not to show up at the original check-in time 3 hours earlier, just like the other 93 passengers who she had just stuffed in a bus off to an airport I had never even heard of.
The manager and I exchanged more words, not all as polite as what the Brits are known for. To cut a long story short, there was no way for me to get to Madrid that evening, and I was scheduled to present at a conference the next morning at 11:15am. My best bet to get there in time was a flight the next morning at 6:15am out of Heathrow Airport, at the exact opposite side of town. I had 3 options to get there: 90 mins by public transport, or 70 mins by either a metered taxi or flat-rate limo. That was the point in time I should have thought of the taxi license requirements, but anyone should know how to get to Heathrow, right? So instead, in an effort to be a good steward of my boss' travel budget, I opted for the flat rate limo. He took me straight through the rainy city, along the banks of the Thames and all the major sights. I am thinking to myself: This is much better than being passenger # 94 on a bus to nowhere for a diverted aircraft that may not show up at all. But my story did not end here...........

While driving by the Tower, Big Ben, and Westminster Abbey, I was trying to get a Heathrow hotel room. However, thanks to those lovely contrôleurs trafic aérien francais, all nearby hotels were fully booked by fellow stranded passengers. My best bet was a hotel 9 miles west, and the limo driver smelled money - his flat rate was to Heathrow only, so he would have to charge me for the additional 9 miles. Being stranded, this time in the back of a limo, I had little choice but to let my efforts to be financially conscious go by the wayside. So on we go, passing Heathrow airport for the last 9-mile stretch. The limo driver had programmed the hotel's address in his GPS, but after about 15 minutes racing on the interstate I started to wander whether this guy was deliberately taking a detour to lay claim to still more of my cash.

So I looked up where we were using my iPhone's GPS, which was on 9% battery power remaining, and started interrogating this guy. He assured me he knew where he was going, but still 20 minutes later we were close to getting stuck on a tiny road in England's countryside, and he admitted he was utterly lost. It was still raining and now also dark, so he tossed his GPS and we navigated on my iPhone, now with only 5% battery power left. This limo driver was not only lost, but not geographically gifted nor a good listener. I am not known for a short-fused personality, but this was a combustible mix even for me. I had to revert to switching my phone on and off to save power, and I got us to the right street just before it completely died. It had taken 2 hours and 40 minutes to get here, and I had 4 hours left before my 4:15am wake up call for the next taxi, to take me to my early morning Heathrow flight.  Once again this was not a licensed cabby, but this time the 9-mile stretch took us 15 minutes in stead of 90.........

Jul 13, 2013

Fort Sheridan

For the last 2.5 years, GABROEN have lived in the so-called tower barracks in the Town of Fort Sheridan. The fort was an actual army base for over 100 years, and was named after Philip Sheridan, a celebrated Union cavalry general during the American civil war. He was a colorful character to say the least, with a personal quest to get National Park protection to Yellowstone's buffalos, but at the same time he applauded white hunters trespassing on indian lands and killing 4 million bison. He is also known for being a 'great' indian fighter; supposedly, when told by the Comanche chief "me good injun", he responded "all good indians I know are dead". This made it into history as "the only good indian is a dead indian", which may not be exactly what Ol' Phil meant, but I think you get the picture of this guy.
He actually was in Chicago at the time of the Great Fire, and was put in charge when the mayor installed martial orders in the fire's aftermath. To thank him for his services, the newly installed fort was named after him, as well as the lakeside road from downtown Chicago to the fort. To this day, there's a bronze statue of Ol' Phil on his horse Rienzi along Sheridan Road in downtown Chicago, by the same sculptor that designed the four presidents' busts at Mount Rushmore, and another one on the fort's former parade ground - now our front yard.

Interestingly, Fort Sheridan was never close to a battlefield, nor to any border
with enemy nations or tribes to the West or North. The only reason for its creation was that a few guys that made it big in Chicago's industry where moving out of the stinking city to more comfortable mansions and villas on the Northshore, and they were getting a little nervous with the labor unrests of the 1880s. They requested a garrison from the federal government to protect their valuable estates, who initially refused - I'm sure it had more pressing things on its mind at the time. To get their way, the Chicago commerce club ended up donating the prime real estate along the lake to the army.

Most of the fort's 90 or so historic buildings were built in the 1880s and 90s, including the iconic tower which at the time was the tallest building in the Chicago area. Not for long, as competing architecture firms figured out a way to build skyscrapers on Chicago's marshy soil. The garrison was actually deployed to quench the 1894 Pullman strike, but within 10 years of its existence the fort became a major training and rehabilitation facility for the Spanish American War and in particular World War II, processing a staggering 500,000 soldiers for military service in the early 1940s. So again, the federal government had more pressing things to care about than the mansions in affluent neighbor towns Lake Forest and Highland Park.
Most of the fort was closed in 1993, but there still is an active reserve base to our South and to our North. Part of the lands were used for housing employees of the Great Lakes Naval Base further north, but all historical buildings, including barracks, officer homes, kitchens, jail, veterinary office, mess hall and fire station, were turned into residential area.


One of our neighbors, now 85, grew up in this area and returned to live in the fort 15 years ago. He vividly remembers the bustling activity during World War II, and told us about the encampments where German prisoners of war were held. This lot is once again designated as "prime lakefront property", but the housing market bust has not helped in finding interested buyers. In contrast to the German POWs, who were locked up in camps, the Italian POWs were put in apartments in the next door village of Highwood. They supposedly did not require incarceration, as they had no desire to return to their homeland, and to this day Highwood still is a very thriving Italian-American community.

Our 85-year old neighbor Narrin also recalled shooting practice in the indoor range on the top floor of the tower barracks, what is now our bedroom; you can still see the original opening in the exposed brick wall on Jeroen's side of the bed, now closed up with almost exactly matching masonry work. The historic bricks were all made locally out of the local bluffs, and they show over 100 years of wear and tear, but some holes in our bedroom wall seem to originate from a stray practice bullet. The history and character of this place makes it unique in the northern suburbs, and that's what was appealing to GABROEN. We visit friends who live in the old kitchen unit, had a christmas party in the old bakery, do an evening dog walk by the tower, officers' mess hall and fire station. We walk along the parade ground and beautiful officer homes, we hike on trails that used to be the airstrip but are now restored as original prairie land with abundant wildflowers, and we sleep in a former shooting range.

After so many years in the fort, Narrin is moving out next week. He's going to an assisted living home in Lake Forest - we heard it was his grand wish to one day call zip code 60045 home. It's a step up, numerically, from where we are at 60035. But I guess for him it's a big step up on the aristocratic ladder to finally move in with the truly affluent, the rich benefactors who created Fort Sheridan in the first place. We hope you enjoy it, Narrin

Jul 10, 2013

Extreme weather

As they say, everything is bigger in America. Typically that saying is referring to manmade things, but after moving here GABROEN realized it also applies to nature, and the weather. Tornadoes, hurricanes, snow storms, all indicate the US climate produces more extreme weather than what GABROEN has encountered in Western Europe. And that's not only a matter of perception - statistics show that the U.S. holds many weatherly world records:

- most snowfall in one year: 95 feet (Mt Baker, Washington)
- heaviest rainfall in one hour: 12 inches (Holt, Missouri), which is about a third of the average annual precipitation in notoriously wet places like London or Amsterdam
- largest hailstone: 8 inch in diameter (Vivian, South Dakota) - imagine getting that on your car
- hottest temperature: 134 F, or 57 C (Death Valley, California) - back in 1913, and the local mercury came eerily close at this record's centennial last week.

Supposedly this all has to do with geography - the US is uniquely situated about halfway between the equator and the pole, in between two oceans, and without east-west mountain ranges. This creates a continuous collision between dry, cold arctic air and moist, warm air from the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Pacific, a recipe for everything from arctic blizzards to the 10,000 or so severe thunderstorms and 1000 (or 80-90% of the world's) tornadoes each year.

Northern Illinois is not part of tornado alley, but being perched against Lake Michigan we do seem to be at a summer storm cul-de-sac. Most of the storm systems that wreak havoc further southwest migrate up to us and create spectacular skies (see last year's post Local warming), perhaps because they hit cooler air over the lake.

This year's first visitor frequented our climatic cul-de-sac about two months ago, dumping almost 10 inches of rain (see the post Crazy weather), and since then we have seen a pretty continuous flow of storms come through. Much to the dismay of the fragile petunia flowers on our deck, and a particular Mexican hairless dog. Fortunately, her senior ears make her pretty much oblivious to all but the heaviest thunder striking very close-by, but she still appreciates being walked appropriately timed in between storms, so she's the only one watering the plants.

We had another spectacular system come through a few days ago, with dramatic skies of grey and fiery tones and a tiny rainbow as extra splash of color.

Jul 2, 2013

The right to bare heads

I was always puzzled by the fact that in most states one is required to wear a helmet when riding a bicycle, but can leave one's helmet home when taking one's Harley on a 70 miles per hour cruise on the interstate. I wondered whether this has something to do with the free-spiritness of motorbikes, with not wanting to be told or restricted in any way by the government. Similar to the gun debate - perhaps NRA stands for the National Riders Association? I have not studied all constitutional amendments in detail, but I would not be in the least bit surprised if the famous Second Amendment not only talks about the popular right to bear arms, but also includes the right to bare heads. 

All of that said, I did encounter an unexpected reason to wear a bicycle helmet yesterday. I was going to the office along the local bike path, enjoying the nice morning sun, a little lake breeze and plenty of wildlife. A deer, six rabbits, two chipmunks, red robins, barn swallows and plenty of pretty redwinged blackbirds. The latter were singing and gurgling their little hearts out, with so much enthousiasm that they spread their tails wide in order not to fall of the electric wires. I had forgotten my helmet, so rode bare headed, which is actually a better way to enjoy the gentle lake breeze. However, I rode bare headed straight into  a Hitchcock movie, when one of those pretty redwinged buggers attacked. It hovered over my head, scratching my skull with its tiny talons!  Not a good day to forget one's helmet. 

I was certainly aware that these little buggers were not as pretty as they look; on another bike path a couple of miles south there are traffic sings warning for these attacks during breeding season. But this breeding season, apparently the redwinged blackbirds are extending their territory northbound. Or perhaps they share that same American free-spiritness; they are leaving the path with the traffic signs, as they see that as the government interfering with their lives and with their rights to bare heads, to attack bare heads that is. 

Jun 9, 2013

Tokyo (2)

My first time in Japan, back in 2003, I traveled to the southern island of Okinawa, of which one-third is a US naval base since world war II. Naively, I assumed that would mean that the other two-thirds of the island would speak English as well, but I could not have been more mistaken. At the time I stayed in a hotel called 'niyuu ichi seiki', and it took me some time to figure out ahead of my trip that that's Japanese for '21st century'. Again naively, I took that as a sign of modernity. When I finally arrived late in the evening, after a 90 minute taxi ride in pitch darkness, I was a little disappointed.

This hotel was way past its heydays even decades prior to the 21st century. At the front desk they literally spoke one word of English, 'yes'. I could hardly open the door to my room because the carpet was dangerously curling upwards. And once inside, it smelled like the carpet had absorbed years of food odors, which may be correlated to the curling up. The room interior reminded me of a set of The Thunderbirds, the 1960s sci-fi tv series with clumsily moving puppets. It probably was what a Japanese designer, back in the 1960s, and on a small budget, thought today was going to look like. The room was half smelly curly carpet, and half a large polyester structure of a non-descriptive color. That structure contained both the bed, the shower, a tiny ledge with an alarm clock an another tiny ledge with a black-and-white TV set. The bed was too short to fit me even diagonally, and strategic use of the tiny ledges, putting my head next to the alarm clock and feet next to the TV set still did not make for a comfortable night.

I was on Okinawa for a conference. It was held at a nice venue that had recently hosted the G8, but it had only one, fully booked, hotel close by. The 21st century was quite a way out, literally speaking a 45 minute shuttle ride, but also figuratively speaking. Admittedly, this is the place with the longest life expectancy in the world, so perhaps that gives Okinawans a different perspective on keeping up with time. Every evening was a testimony to that, and a test to the patience of all Westerners present. Per Japanese tradition, we all had to solemnly listen to a lot of Japanese speeches before we could attack the sushi buffet. Every night, the buffet was hosted by a different authority, like the Okinawa governor, the local prefect, the minister of health, the mayor. And every host was associated with a lot of protocol and an hur worth of speeches, which seemed to last forever if you're hungry, jet-lagged and don't understand a single word. Well, actually I did understand a single word: campai, Japanese for cheers. After the second night it became clear that 'campai' was like 'amen' in these protocols, followed by drinking whatever alcoholic beverage you happened to have in your hand.

So this time around, on my trip last month to Tokyo and our company's corporate office, I was weary to hear they were hosting another welcome reception 'in the good Japanese tradition' for us visitors. However, this time around the speech was in English, and given by an American. So 3 minutes of high energy sales pitch, with only one traditional piece to it; it again ended with 'CAMPAI'. 

Also this time around, my Tokyo hotel was of the 21st century, with beds I fitted in, no smelly carpets, and swank interior design. Nothing got lost in translation here. 

It featured 5 restaurants, and a nice view on Tokyo's Midtown. 

May 31, 2013

Message from the gods

Gabriella's birthday was two weeks ago, and she received a twin message from the gods. Personally delivered by Hermes, the Greek stud with little wings on his shoes. Her first gift is becoming an annual classic: her mom gets her a scarf from Parisian fashion house Hermes. That's quite a process actually, going to the local store in downtown Chicago, and exposing yourself to oddly unsocial personnel who are reluctant to showcase the scarves as if they are the queen's crown jewels. Not uncommon for these high end fashion houses, I guess that's intended to be their interpretation of "exclusivity". Nonetheless, Hermes makes beautiful scarves, and Gabriella got a particularly awesome one with black, lime green, fuchsia, bright pink patterns.

The second message was already on notice when we were in Holland last month. During that trip, we visited our favorite art gallery, an old farm in the countryside only a few miles away from the southern border with Belgium. It's also close to Breda, the city where Gabri spent most of her young years, and where her mom still lives. At the gallery Jeroen got Gabriella's birthday present, a picture by Dutch artist Margriet Smulders. Margriet Smulders is a photographer who takes her inspiration from stills by the 16th and 17th century Dutch masters, and attempts to reproduce the colors and vibe of those iconic paintings of flowers and fruits. For GABROEN that creates a link to our roots and history, but the piece is turning out to be more multidimensional to us, and it's evolving even after the decision to buy it.
Interestingly, we both fell in love with it for a number of reasons, some of which only came to bare after we bought it. It is a Ciba chrome print of 13 dye containing polyester layers, which is no longer used because it is too labor intensive, but is as vibrant as nature itself. It has lavender in it, the flower and herb forever associated to our sister-in-law Marjolein, who we buried just two days before by leaving beautifully fragrant lavender twines on her coffin. It has a reflection of clouds and blue skies in it, reminding us of the valuable lessons we learned last month, of celebrating the beauty of life, of the little cloud from which we're sure Marjolein is watching us. And we only found out its title after we bought it. It's called "Hermes". No kidding. It's colorful, powerful, inspiring. Just like the birthday girl.

May 29, 2013

Tokyo (1) - Sushi and sashimi

A three-day trip to the largest urban area of the world. With over 13 million people in the city proper, and almost 36 million people in Greater Tokyo, this is a massive town. It is the true concrete jungle, with roads winding over canals and under railroads, pressed between grey buildings of all, mostly not too pretty, shapes and styles. Add on top a mumble jumble of billboards and led-screens and you get a cacophony of screaming color and movement. What does not turn all of this into a sensory overload is that the city is squeaky clean, and the vast majority of the thousands and thousands of people on the streets dress the same: the men in dark suit and white dress shirt, and the women in either dark suit and white dress shirt, or in earth tones.

Although there are people everywhere, and there are so many of them, it doesn't feel like a human anthill. No one bumps into each other, and there is universal respect for personal space. For a bystander, the society seems very well organized, friendly, safe, and utterly incomprehensible.
The reason for my trip was 1.5 days of meetings at our Japan office, so that left 1.5 days for sightseeing. This was also my first time crossing the international dateline, and that makes for an interesting experience. Although it was a 13 hour flight, getting on a plane on Sunday morning and getting off on Monday late afternoon is a bit confusing. But in particular the return flight made the concept of time utterly surreal; after a 12 hour flight you arrive earlier than you left.

So somewhat confused and at a loss what time and day it was, I kicked off my stay Monday with an excellent sushi dinner prepared right in front of you - incredibly fresh fish makes you realize what we're missing out on with the US or European imitations.

The swank Grand Hyatt hotel I stayed at is in Roppongi Hills, a new high-end shopping and residential development with many expats. Definitely not lost in translation like Bill Murray in the Park Hyatt, but it does feel very un-western nonetheless.

Waking up jetlagged and early, I ventured to the Tsukiji fish market during morning rush hour. The market is the largest in the world and is at its most hectic from 5 to 9AM, with delivery guys on mopeds, electric carts, bicycles or hand-trolleys swarming in and out of the massive market halls to haul the most exotic types of fish to the local restaurants or to trucks standing by for delivery further out. This is so busy that they don't want strolling tourists to enter before 9AM, but you can enjoyably wait it out over a sushi breakfast nearby. Thinking that yesterday's dinner was fresh, breakfast was still swimming in the ocean just 4 to 6 hours before landing in your bentobox, and the shrimp were actually still alive on the breakfast counter. Marvelous mackerel, sumptuous squid, terrific tuna. And uni, aka sea urchin.

For someone who typically eats crunchy granola, I didn't think I would ever have sea urchin for breakfast, and the one time I had an uni hand roll for dinner in the US made me a little wary this time around. That said, tthis time around it tasted much better, but anything that draws slimy threads between your chopsticks and your mouth will not be my favorite...... Other than that, this massive concrete jungle is a foodie's heaven.

May 7, 2013

Trix week

Last week was Trix week, of Trix going and Trix coming. The Trix going was our good old Queen Beatrix of The Kingdom of The Netherlands. She abdicated her throne on April 30th, which was the national 'all Dutch go nuts' Queen's Day for the last 71 years. She vacated her seat to her eldest son Willem Alexander, who just became the first king in over 120 years, and with that Queen's Day is now becoming King's Day. April 30 was actually the birthday of Juliana, the Queen Mother, or I guess we would now have to call her the King Granny. When Beatrix became queen in 1980, she did not change the date of Queen's Day to her own birthday, January 31. Although a little kid, I do remember her announcement at the time that this was 'in honor of her beloved mother'. Her mother indeed was very beloved, but now that i'm older i'm pretty sure the main reason was the weather. Late April is much more amenable to the typical outdoor festivities than late January. Coincidentally, Willem's birthday is very close to his granny's, April 27th, and starting next year King's Day will be 3 days earlier than Queen's Day.

With the new king also comes a new queen. Queen Maxima, a blonde Argentinian girl who's spontaneity and exotic flair stole the hearts of the Dutch people. So Argentina is on a role in 2013: after the historic election of a pope, they now have their very first queen as well. I'm sure the whole country is wishing to complete the trinity with a title in next year's world cup soccer, even sweeter as it will be hosed by nemesis Brazil...........

Speaking of soccer, GABROEN likes to listen a Dutch radio show hosted by an iconic soccer and sports commentator slash music fan. The radio show has nothing to do with sports; this guy is just playing records he likes, but he provides commentary in pretty much the same way he does sports. One record we heard some 3 months back was from Trixie Whitley, an up and coming singer-songwriter from Brooklyn and Belgium, daughter of jazz rock guitarist Chris Whitley. To our pleasant surprise, she came to play in nearby Evanston last week - so she was the coming Trix.

After a surprisingly strong opening act by the frontman of Echorev (never heard of), up came a skinny blond which looked passionate and possessed. She put on an intense show, playing her heart, voice and guitars out. Each guitar was out of tune every time she ploinged and plunked its snares through another emotional song. Her voice was hoarse before she even started, but that didn't prevent her from leaving her soul on stage. Its hoarseness actually gave her performance a more tantalizing, almost haunted feel to it. But the real magic entered the intimate nightclub venue every time she got behind the piano. Powerful stuff can be produced by a skinny girl with a voice blown to pieces. Just watch the video of Pieces

Trix week - a historic week all around.

Apr 28, 2013

Crazy weather

As GABROEN posted last week (see the post Floodgates), it felt as if someone up in the heavens was pouring his/her/its heart out - I guess the gender of that someone is a matter of religion, belief system or personal preference. Anyway, we got over 4 inches of rain in about 16 hours, strangely but fittingly coinciding with the last 16 hours of Marjolein's life. That amount of downpour was too much to handle for the surroundings, and we got major flooding.

We came back on Thursday from a second trip to the homelands in two weeks, and there still were some flooded areas, but most of the water had drained and saturated the dried out soil around here. Since GABROEN's return, the weather has been pretty nice. Spring has reluctantly sprung upon us. Not that the trees have any leaves yet. But there is a certain balminess in the air, and daffodils and hyacinths as the first spring flowers. But the most obvious sign of spring: we have lake effect fog. Every spring, when the land is warming up but Lake Michigan still is cold as hell, we have days of dense fog for about a 1-mile stretch along the lakefront. So lakeside living does have its downsides. The weather around here is crazy, but not boring.

Apr 26, 2013

Someone is getting some sun

I don't think many people know this, but our fifteen-and-a-half (writing it out in full is only fitting for such a respectable age) year old Mexican Hairless has a last name. Actually, she also has a first name; Ruba is just her given name, given by GABROEN when we got her, now fifteen-and-a-half year ago, as we didn't picture ourselves calling her by that pedigree name: Girassol Gonzalez.

I'll first explain how we got from Girassol to Ruba. When we got her as an 8 week old little gremlin, now fifteen-and-a-half years ago (repeating this so often is only fitting for such a respectable age), the little hair she had on her head was as orange reddish as a carrot. Girassol, Spanish for sunflower, just didn't seem right. She was a redhead, a red dog, which would be 'rode hond' in Dutch. Oddly, 'rode hond' is also the Dutch name for rubella, one of the childhood diseases characterized by red spots. The origin of the name 'rode hond' has nothing to do with dogs whatsoever; it is derived from the old Dutch 'huin' meaning impurity or blemish. Apparently there was an old English word 'hun' with the same meaning. Anyway, we liked the reference to 'red dog', but thought that naming a puppy after a childhood disease, in particular a puppy that looks like a gremlin with many pimples and zits, is a bit awkward. So we ended up abbreviating 'rubella' to make it sound friendlier, e voila: Ruba. Certainly has a better ring to it than Girassol.

Her pedigree last name, Gonzalez, turned out more fitting than we thought fifteen-and-a-half years ago. Reminiscent of her fellow Mexican cousin, the cartoon mouse Speedy, Ruba turned out to be surprisingly fast. Now that she is fifteen-and-a-half, she lost most of her speed. She hasn't lost her love for sunbathing, and moves around the house with the turning sunlight. So perhaps Girassol wasn't such a bad name after all. Also, she hasn't lost her pigmentation, and still tans incredibly fast. So fast, that even the little winter sun in Illinois apparently has some effects on her. We only realized that when we took her shirt off. At her respectable age, she has outgrown her gremlin looks. Instead, she now looks like a Tour de France cyclist.

Apr 18, 2013


The Dutch are renowned for their water management and their down-to-earth nature in claiming land from the sea, aptly summarized in the proverb "God created the world, but the Dutch created The Netherlands". However, the severe thunderstorms that are dumping inches of rain on us today are a bit much even for a Dutchman to cope with.

It almost seems as if the flood gates of the heavens were opened yesterday over Northern Illinois, and that someone up there is pouring his or her heart out. The weather is fitting for our mood, as GABROEN received the sad news that our dear sister-in-law Marjolein passed away today. That news is a bit much to cope with as well; it feels as if the floodgates to our hearts and souls have opened up also.

Sweet dreams, dear sister.

Apr 10, 2013

The big C is a B

I believe it was ubercowboy John Wayne who first coined the phrase "the Big C" when he was battling cancer, perhaps making reference to the rival sports club from his college town. In his classical way, he stated in a press conference that he "licked the big C". Well, I would argue that the Big C is a B. B as in bitch. GABROEN received the shocking news on Saturday that our oldest sister in law is diagnosed with cancer, the big C, the B, whatever you want to coin it, and that it is incurable. We are in The Netherlands to be with our family in these difficult times, which turn out to also be very valuable times.

Our sister in law is brave, sweet, loving, in need of loving, all at the same time. She needs care and caring, but is also sending tons of loving to her loved ones, first and foremost to my big brother and their 4 kids. It is beautiful to witness and be a part of.

Today we learned the diagnosis is a recurring melanoma, and the prognosis is bad. But at the same time we are glad to be here, on the same emotional roller coaster ride with our loved ones. On the roller coaster, our sister in law sits in the front cart, and we join her and support her, going wherever the disease and the emotions are taking us. Roller coasters always have this compelling and thrilling name. I think we'll name this one "The Big B". Keep on riding it, sweet Marjolein, and know we have your back.

A bitchy melanoma cell (

Apr 6, 2013

Rusty Gold

After all the walking on our first day in San Francisco, we planned to take it a little slow on Sunday. The weather was not really enticing for another 7 mile walk either, so we headed to The Presidio and iconic Golden Gate instead. Everyone has seen the bridge, or at least pictures of it, so there's not much I can write here to add to that visual. However, actually being there is very different from looking at a picture, because of the other senses contributing to the experience. From a distance, such as from Baker Beach on the Pacific Ocean, the bridge is as beautiful and sleek as ever. But if you actually cross the 1 mile bridge on foot, it's a whole different play. You are walking right next to a 6-lane highway, providing a sensory overload that's worse than an evening in a discotheque. Also, what I thought was a muted warm red color turned out to be a browny rusty hue up close. So is it worth walking the Golden Gate Bridge? For the view on the city, bay and Alcatraz: yes. To see the dolphins hunting fish a couple hundred feet below: definitely. Just be sure to bring ear plugs.

Apr 5, 2013


Sore calfs and painful knees from all the walking through the city during the weekend made us take it down a notch on Monday. So while the ladies hit the local salon in Potrero Hill for a mani-pedi, the gents did SF's Museum of Modern Art. The building seemed to be an odd mix between a contemporary white and airy space and an ancient sarcophage with black and dark gray granite. It's closing for renovation through the next 3 years, during which they are adding hypermodern metallic floors on top of the building, so we'll see what smorgasbord that will turn out to be.

We explored the exhibit of Garry Winogrand, an American photographer known for his candid and spontaneous street photography that broke with the orderly rigid optimistic mainstream of the 1950s and 60s. Beautiful work of an immensely prolific artist; he left over 2500 undeveloped rolls of film and almost 300,000 unedited images at his death. His style is easy, which seemed so easy to imitate with an iPhone camera. Not the case, to my disappointment. As a consolation, the museum bar served chocolate cakes with figurines copied from a famous Winogrand picture, and lost all spontaneity and candidness in the process as well. That said, the Winogrand cake looked a lot more appealing than the Rothko toast or Mondriaan lemon cake.

Unfortunately we were not around to see the girls stroll back up the steep Potrero Hill on flipflops, nails freshly colored and no doubt shiny in the Spring sun. That would be a topic worthy of a Winogrand inspired street shot, spontaneous or not.

G. Winogrand's beautiful shot on Rodeo Drive

Mar 31, 2013

Easter light

I may be a nerdy languophile, but on this Easter morning I was wondering why today is called Easter. English and German seem to be the anomaly here, as most European languages use a name derived from the Hebrew pesach (the Jewish holiday of passover, commemorating that the 10th plague passed over the homes of the Jewish people enslaved in ancient Egypt), such as 'pasen' in Dutch.

So it's not because the wise men came from the East - that's another holiday. Apparently 'Easter' is derived from Eostre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of dawn. Not sure if Eostre and East have the same origin, but it seems to make sense to name a dawn goddess after the east, rather than something like Norstre, Weostre, or Sudostre. Although less biblical in origin, GABROEN could certainly see some logic behind the name Easter as we woke up to a stunning sunrise over the San Francisco Bay. Good morning, Miss Eostre. We're happy to see you.

Cool collective

What do you get when you put together a vibrafone player from Albany NY, a bassist from New Zealand, pianist from Venezuela, trombonist from Philly, two saxophonists from Puerto Rico, a Tel Aviv trumpetist and a drummer from. ? Well, GABROEN found out Saturday night that that makes a pretty cool collective. The SF Jazz Collective that is, and they played a four night home game at the brand new, beautiful small scale SF Jazz Center. Since the Collective started in 2004, they pay tribute annually to a jazz master. This year it was Chick Corea, and each member of the Collective created his own rendition of a Corea song. Highlights of the evening: the venue, "Home is" by the Tel Aviv trompettist and "Space circus" by the tenor saxophonist. Lowlights of the night: drink service took longer than the intermission time, and someone in front of us setting off a ferocious hydrogen sulfide stinker. Despite these, a great evening. They used this night for recording their 2013 live album. - can't wait for it to come out.........

Mar 30, 2013

San Fran smitten

GABROEN is spending Easter weekend in San Francisco, at the new Potrero Hill patch of our friends Joanne and Jeff. They moved in just a mere 2 weeks ago, but had a nice guest bedroom ready for us. On Saturday we walked our callosities off from the neat farmer's market at the Ferry Building, up and down Telegraph Hill, up and down Nob Hill, and up and down a couple of other hills.
Twelve thousand steps, or 7 miles later, we ended at Hayes' Valley for well-deserved lunch and ice cream. The Smitten ice cream was a new concept, sold out of a refurbished shipping container and made to order right on the spot using liquid nitrogen. They have 4 ice making machines named Kelvin, so can make 4 different flavors each day. We ended up choosing pure chocolate, blood orange and mint-chocolate chip. And surprisingly, the mint was awesomely minty and fresh. Pretty cool stuff, that smitten ice cream.

Mar 27, 2013

More beacons

I'll just continue blogging about Spring signals, in case there are some weather gods that happen to follow GABROEN. Although temperatures are still far from balmy, the red robins and red-winged blackbirds have returned from the South and most Canadian geese have left for the North. And since 2 weeks, the finches are tsjirping, the blackbirds are gurgling, the starlings are copying. So at least it sounds different from hardcore Winter. We're supposed to get up to 50 Fahrenheit on Saturday, but back down to the 30s on Monday. A little different from the same time last year (see posts from that time by clicking Macro Spring or More craziness)

GABROEN figured, if Spring doesn't come naturally, we just go ahead and buy it. As in buying a bunch of tulips from Holland at our local Trader Joe's, or daffodils from who knows where at our local supermarket. Color splash!

Mar 26, 2013

Beacon of hope

Although dark snow clouds still are accumulating over Lake Michigan, today was the last day for this winter season's parking ordinance for snow removal at our front door. Also, today the sun worked her magic and wiggled her rays through the dark cloud cover. Look how warm and radiant the late afternoon light is, as a beacon of hope. Hope that winter is over, finito, gone, finished, done for the year. If someone would be so kind to notify the weather gods as well, we should be good to go.

Mar 24, 2013


it becomes very obvious from the "Picasso and Chicago" exhibit at the Art Institute (see yesterday's post Pablo Chicago) that Picasso was inspired by bulls. Whether as a symbol of Spain is his political anti-Franco sketches, as a mythical minotaur with a muscular male body with bull's head and tail just a little too high on his lower back, or as a powerful and passionate beast that overcomes the female matador in his genius pencil drawings, the bull is present throughout his life's work.
The bull also descended on the Art Institute. Next to many minotaurs and bulls in sketches, drawings, book illustrations and paintings, this was the first time GABROEN saw the famous series of eleven bull drawings. These eleven evolve from a realistic spanish beast through cubism and abstraction to a mere few lines, drawn without hesitation.

I was lucky to be accompanied at the exhibit and in life by a Taurus. I am not big on astrology, so am not really familiar with the traits the stars attribute to her. Obviously, by picturing a bull, I can come up with some on my own, just like Picasso did when he drew the impressive animal without hesitating: passionate, headstrong, beautiful.

Yep, sounds like my Taura. Here she is, descending from the Art Institute.

Mar 23, 2013

Pablo Chicago

The Chicago Art Institute has a large exhibit about Picasso this spring, to celebrate the centennial of the Armor show, the first time works of Pablo were on display in the United States. Pablo never visited Chicago, but GABROEN found out today that there is a special bond between the city and the artist. Both the Art Institute and local collectors have built up quite an oeuvre of Picasso's work, and Chicago embraced his modern style when establishing itself as a modern art&architecture city.

Today, another brisk but sunny Spring day, GABROEN checked out the "Picasso and Chicago" exhibit. It was very crowded, but we got in early enough to not have to stand in line to enter the exhibit rooms in the huge Art Institute. Many works were on display that we had never seen elsewhere, and there were hundreds of drawings, paintings, prints and ceramics. This guy was immensely prolific (see also the earlier post on visiting the Picasso Museum in Barcelona last April - click Pablo y Gabroen in El Born), and the exhibit spanned from 1901 to 1967.

He stated that "a picture is the sum of its destructions", and he must have meant that in both figurative and literal sense. Now that we have more sophisticated ways to analyze paintings and drawings, we continue to learn novel things about his work, including that he painted over paintings. The curators suggest that he intentionally covered up a painting of a vase of flowers with a woman's bust, or a woman and child with an old guitar player, but it sounded a little far-fetched and art historian mumbo-jumbo. Perhaps he just didn't like the first painting, or he was running low on canvases. In one case it was clearly a matter of not liking the original: in his famous Woman with child on the beach, he had initially added a man. He shortened the piece by cutting off half the man, and repainting the other half. No one knew, until he donated the cut off half.

If you happen to be in the neighborhood, do check out the exhibit. It is definitely worth the visit, although a little messy and disorganized. And while you're at it, enjoy lunch at the museum's Terzo Piano restaurant. As the name implies, it's on the third (and top) floor, and has windows all around to soak up some Spring sunshine as well as excellent downtown views. A pleasant Saturday indeed.

Mar 21, 2013

Double U as in utterly unreliable

I guess the Friday geese were not so trustworthy after all, so perhaps they flew in a double U formation as to say 'utterly unreliable' in forecasting that spring is about to spring on us. Or i have missed them turning their formation in reverse and fly southbound like a big M. Either way, we got hit by another cold spell, and it is a bloody cold one with wind chills around 0 Fahrenheit or -17 Celsius. At least the sun is out, so it looks nice from the comfort of a heated home.

Our Mexican hairless Ruba is wearing two hooded sweaters and a jacket, but for obvious reasons her almost 16 year old bum still is exposed to the frigid winds when we take her out. Nonetheless, she refuses to use the potty pad we got her in the spare bathroom. She will sit on the pad, but with a look on her face like "all these years you made me do my thing outside, and now you come up with this fake grass thing? Forget it". Well, have it your way, Missy. She is incredibly quick for her age, running back inside to park her bum in the sun. Life's not so bad, just the 45 seconds she's out there three times a day.

Mar 15, 2013

Double V

This morning I saw a flock of Canadian geese, not in their typical V formation, but in a W. Which reminded me: if the letter 'W' looks like two Vs, why the heck is it called a double U? Anyway, more important than the shape of their flock formation was the actual direction it was headed. They were flying northbound. NORTHBOUND! Back to Canada, back to Spring!

I have much more confidence in the forecasting powers of the obnoxious geese than the local weathermen and -women, so seeing the double V up in the sky made my Friday. Maybe the shape of the flock formation was important after all. I bet (or like to think) the geese were flying in that formation as to say:

W for Well, it's about time.

or :

W for Wowee, spring is around the corner!


W for We just read Forbes' listing of most miserable cities to flock to.

Or perhaps it was just a matter of two Captains Goose in one flock, and both wanted to be up front. I don't blame them - as they say: if you're in the lead you see where you're going; if you're not in the lead, you only see a$#holes.

Regardless, I trust this flock's forecast that spring is coming. Even when the weatherhumans are saying it will snow again tonight and Monday.

Mar 6, 2013

Number 9

I'm not sure if you heard, but Lake County Illinois made it to number 9 on the Forbes 2013 'Most Miserable Cities to Live'. Despite being one of the richest counties in the US, the reasons quoted by Forbes are the plummeting housing prices, high property tax, long commuting times and lousy weather. Somewhat ironically, I learned about this at an offsite meeting for my work on Friday, when we were discussing why we're having a hard time recruiting talent to our company. 

Somewhat more ironically, coming home from Friday's offsite meeting, I found the local newspaper 'The North Shore Weekend' in the mail, which had an aerial picture of the area on its cover page with the headline 'Best Reasons to Live on the North Shore'.

The aerial picture indeed is appealing - a wooded area along the lakefront, on a nice bright summer day, with Chicago's skyline glistening in the distance. No lousy weather, no traffic jams, no foreclosed homes. The best reasons quoted are the three C's: the North Shore towns abound with culture, community and charm. Granted, only the Northern half of the North Shore is in Lake County, but I guess this paper has a different publisher than Forbes Magazine. Even more so, the southern half of the North Shore shares its county with the city of Chicago, which made it to number 4 on Forbes' list for mainly the very same reasons Lake County made it to the 9th spot. Next to Chicago's ranking, the greater Chicago metropolitan area actually turned out to be a 2013 hotspot for Forbes misery: Rockford IL at #3, Lake County to Chicago's north at #9, Milwaukee WI at #14 and Gary IN at the southside at #19.

The North Shore Weekend does list the least and most expensive house currently on the market in the area: Highland Park tops the list with a 21 million dollar mansion - not sure if that price has plummeted as well, but we do know that the property tax for a prospective buyer will be more than the income of an average household.


So what's going on here? How come a national magazine's opinion is so different from a local one's? It's probably a matter of perspective, or mere opinion, but it still is interesting that Forbes decided to

  1. add a suburban county to its list of most miserable cities, and 
  2. rank that rich suburb as more miserable than places like Gary IN and Youngstown OH, generally seen as pretty rundown, or the most impoverished city of all: Camden NJ. 

It's also interesting to chat with the locals around here; when they ask where our accent is from, the next question almost always is "so why did you end up here?" Our answer? "Work", which ironically does not start with a C.


Mar 5, 2013

Rocky Saturn

Although Chicago is known for pretty harsh winters, Illinois comes in at a modest 36th place on the list of US states with deepest snow cover ever recorded: 41 inches measured in 1900 and 1979. In comparison, the deepest snow cover in the US was exactly 11 times the Illinois record: a whopping 451 inches measured on the western slopes of California's Sierra Nevada.

This year, Chicago actually set a record with 335 days without measurable snow on the ground, shattering the previous record of 280 days. It started snowing very late in the season, but winter storm Rocky that blanketed parts of Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas a week ago arrived in our area last Tuesday. It steadily snowed for almost 24 hours, and we got about 10 inches on the ground. It started as heavy wet snow, also dubbed "heart-attack" snow because of unintended consequences for people underestimating the weight of shoveling this stuff. It did create interesting sculptures though, with the snow sticking like plaster.

The snow shovelers could finally put their toys to good use - they were starting to look out of place, driving around uselessly for 3 months with their huge snow ploughs mounted on their trucks and SUVs.

Meteorologically, spring kicked in on Friday. But today we were hit by Saturn (who comes up with these names for winter storm systems anyway?), and we have another 8 inches on top of the 6 or so inch left from Rocky last week. Saturn again brought late-season heart-attack snow, and put our hopes for warmer weather in the fridge for now. On the flip side, the North Shore turned magically white, and the snow plowers are happily reinstating their position, perhaps not as King Winter, but at least as Princes of Spring.

Mar 2, 2013

Birthday weekend

Monday was my official birthday, and my mom reminds me every year that 2:10pm local time is my official birthhour. So I set my alarm for 7:10am Chicago time, to ring in the new year. It turned out to be a continuation of the celebration, as my sweet love decided to turn the whole weekend into a Friday night through Monday new year's eve party. What better way to start off the weekend than coming home on Friday to a decorated house, to a lovely and exotic home-cooked dinner, and a first present waiting to be unwrapped: a beautifully decorated tagine (a terracotta pot with cone-shaped lid, traditionally from Northern Africa to cook stews using very little water). The evening was topped off with festive cupcakes and sipping tawny port at our local wine bar; while snow flurries continue to whiten and brighten up the world outside, this weekend is promising to be good!

Saturday we took the first of a series of dance lessons, both ballroom and latin. We had done one beginner's class a couple of years ago in Atlanta, but have not continued since. So our skills were a bit rusty, to say the least, not to mention my Dutch hips, which do not have the genetic disposition to collaborate with moves that flow so easily out of my dance partner. Not only is she blessed with Caribbean curves, she has the latin vibe to back these up with some serious swing. Luckily we did not only practice salsa and rumba, but also the waltz and tango, which seem a little more amenable to my gene pool. But most importantly, GABROEN had a lot of fun, our newfound teacher was very nice, and we signed up for continued education.......
To continue the celebration, Saturday dinner was at Chicago's much loved AVEC restaurant.

AVEC is a communal style restaurant, where all dishes are meant to be shared. The youngsters sitting next to us took that to the next level with communal use of social media. They were texting and posting to shared friends' Facebook timelines, so they could see one another's digital scribbles. They did have conversations, like "Oh, that's funny. I love what you like wrote on her wall. I'm gonna like that now." Boy, that does make you feel like 41, going on to 42. The food was a beautiful mix of warm mediterranean flavors with comforting spices, the wine a robust complement, and the company was lovely. 

Sunday turned out to be one of these nice bright and brisk winter days, perfect for a walk along Lake Michigan. The shoreline was all frozen up, with the floating ice making eery sounds. 

Speaking of eery sounds: more gifts were given - vinyl records to stack up my very recently started collection. GABROEN bought a nice stereo and turntable in November, and is rediscovering the warmth of vinyl and the comfort of jazz records. Gabriella discovered a local record store with owner Steve who loves to let you try things and help you find new stuff. This time Bill Evans, Pat Metheny, Oscar Peterson and Glover Washington Jr.  We're certainly discovering new stuff. Some of it is a little too experimental, or a little too eery, but Steve is fine with exchanging anything you want.

Sunday dinner was with NanC and Jerry, who had consulted Steve as well for more vinyl gifts: Lee Ritenour, Sadao Watanabe, and the biggest surprise: Gino Vannelli. Not as camp as I expected, although I don't think the open shirt and exposed bush has any acoustic value.

And all of this was still hours before Monday, 7:10am. Too bad I don't have an alarm where you can customize the sound, because then I could have Gino ring in my birthday. Instead, we will wake up to a somewhat metallic imitation of waves, not unlike the sound of Lake Michigan.

Jan 27, 2013

Safari (3)

After completing the Big 5 when we saw the male leopard on our 3rd day in Phinda (see the post Safari (2)), ranger Devon came up with another idea. This guy was never short of entertaining stories, had so many interesting facts and experiences to share, could whistle the song of more or less each bird on the reserve, and used an app on his blackberry to produce calls that would trigger a bird to respond. He loved his job, and was always up for another idea. This time, on our 4th afternoon game drive, we would go to the south once more, for another try to track down elephants, and on our last morning do a walking safari on the border of the northern savannah.

And then there was Zac, our tracker. We already were utterly impressed with his skills tracking the leopard or spotting cheetahs from far away, but on our trip to the south is where he again came into play. Although we could all figure out that freshly looking and smelling elephant dung on the road is a sign that elephants must be in the neighborhood, this guy spotted elephants over a mile away with bare eyes, while bumping around on his stool on the hood of the landcruiser. We still had a hard time seeing them through binoculars with the car standing still!
The next trick up Zac's khaki sleeve: predict where elephants move to.  Driving through the rocky terrain it probably took us 5 minutes to get to the spot where we had seen them from a mile away. They were nowhere to be seen, and seemed to have vanished in thin air to us amateur Crocodile Dundees in the back of the jeep. Back in Addo Elephant National Park (see South Africa - Land of weavers) we had already been amazed to see that it took these giants only 2 seconds to disappear out of sight, not leaving a single trace noticeable to us. But Zac could trace back exactly how and where they had moved, and we got a prime sighting of a group of 9 beauties.

On the way back to the lodge, about an hour drive, we bumped into another lion hunt. This time another pride of lions, hunting a large group of female wildebeest. But one young male in the pride was too playful and spoiled the hunt for his mom. He didn't really care, and instead started teasing his sister. Scaring the heck out of her by sneaking up on her from behind, they got into a playful fight. That's when you realize they are big cats - they play like kittens, except they are about 25 times bigger and heavier. Imagine 200 pounds of lean muscle with paws the size of a human head hitting his little sis........
After 4 days of amazing game viewing, it was time to leave. But not until our last morning drive and walking safari. We all had our wish list checked off, but when Devon asked if there was anything we would still like to see, Gabriella was quick to say "honey badger". Devon smirked "yeah, right", and took us on a walking tour through bushland. This time he did load his gun (that's a heavy thing to carry around, by the way), and no one was allowed to talk so we would not chase off any small wildlife or scare any big ones into attack. If we wanted to get Devon's attention, we had to click our fingers.

All were confused when Jeroen started clicking like a madman, until everyone saw running straight at us from around a bush: a honey badger! No kidding! Devon was ecstatic, making victory dances: this was the third time he ever saw one on over 30 years of safari, the first time on over a 1000 walking safaris, and the first time in plain daylight. Gabri was a little more down-to-earth by responding: "You just have to wish hard enough for it". Don't you love her? Well, I do..... And the honey badger? When he saw us he stopped dead in his tracks, paused to consider whether he was gonna give a s#!t, then turned around and ran off.
Devon, still excited like a little kid, also had a trick up his khaki sleeve. Walking up front, he guided us to the last sighting in this beautiful safari paradise. A green-white checkered picnic table, with Zac's hot chocolate and amarula waiting for us.

Man, it's hard to leave this place. Maybe I should have followed by childhood dream of becoming a ranger after all. Nonetheless, a couple of dreams came true in GABROEN's 4 days in Phinda.

GABROEN on behalf of Jeroen