Sunday, May 15, 2011

I left my heart in Africa...

Our time in Africa has come to an end, and although Arizona will always be home, it was very difficult to leave and a part of me will always remain there. It is difficult to feel sorry for myself as I know that I am blessed beyond measure to have had the opportunity to live in that beautiful country, nevertheless  I still felt there was so much I could do there and I HOPE that I have a chance to go back someday...

Now that we are home it's fun to be back in the familiar surrounded by our family and friends. As I compare my life here with my life in SA there are definitely things I miss as well as some things I don't! This probably isn't a complete list, here is what I have come up with so far. . .

Things I will MISS most about South Africa:
* The abundant amount of time I have had to focus on being a wife and mother.
* Our incredible new friends and the beautiful, friendly people we met on a daily basis!
* The amazing kids at Aurora Primary School! I will be praying daily that they receive the happiness and blessings they deserve  and I can't wait to witness (from afar) their success and achievements...
* Visiting some of the most beautiful places in the world, i.e. Capetown, The Garden Route, Kruger, Drakensburgs, Vic Falls, Zambezi and Chobe to name a few.
* Seeing lions, elephants, giraffes and zebras roaming outside of cages!
* Shopping malls on nearly every corner!
* Holding sweet, innocent, perfect babies! If they would let me adopt in this country they would all be coming back with me!
* Terrance, my arch nemesis who became my friend and who has forced me to get strong and fit, if I could get him a Visa he would be coming back with me too!
* Tea time with biscuits!
* The pancakes with strawberries and mascarpone at Home Bru, the salads and freezos at Tashas and the filet at Farenheit's!
* Receiving the whitest most perfect smiles I have ever seen!
* Watching children laugh and play without tv’s, videogames or store bought toys! It’s amazing how creative these children are...
* The incredible service I receive everywhere I go!
* Gas attendants...not nearly as painful to stop for gas when you just have to roll down your window!
* Pretty, my hard working friend and house cleaner! If I could get her a Visa she would be coming back with me too!
* Watching mother’s walk around with babies on their backs and women balancing things on their heads.
* My sewing machine…not because it’s fancy just because I have time to use it!
* The best lightening and thunder storms ever!
* Flowers so cheap, Trent brought them home to me weekly!
* Living in the largest man-made garden in the world! During the Spring and Summer it is sooooo GREEN here!
* Kid friendly and cheap fine dining! What a concept... fancy restaurants with play lands in the back...brilliant!
* Woolworth's!

Things I won’t miss about South Africa:
* The unequal human development.
* Really slow Internet!
* Seeing barbed wire and electric fencing around every single building and house.
* The terrible attempt at Mexican food
* Driving among the world's worst drivers
* Never finding what I need at the grocery store, and having a clerk look at me like I’m speaking Greek when I ask for something.
* No Target.
* Not having A/C or central heating
*Sketchy law providers
* Sales attempts at every stop light (except for the guys with the knock off Louis Vuittons on William Nicol Ave).
* Carrying groceries up three flights of stairs and the insanely high altitude that makes it nearly impossible not to hyperventilate by the time I get up them!
* The Pollution! (vehicle emission testing and recycling programs would be a great start Joburg!).
* The Afrikaans language...sorry but it's just not a pretty sounding language.
* Waking up at 5:30 a.m. everyday to the world's most annoying bird.

I know it will be a quick and easy transition back to our old life and while in some ways that is comforting it is also disconcerting! Living in SA was a life changing expeirence and we learned so much about life, blessings and happiness during our time there. While it is my intention to be forever changed by those lessons I am aware that memories and feelings tend to ebb and flow over time due to new experiences and surroundings. It will be a busy and interesting couple of years as we settle in to a new house, school and jobs. After I finally finish school, the sky's the limit and only Heaven knows where we will end up next...

Monday, May 9, 2011


PhotobucketAfter a quick and easy trip across the border we arrived in Kasane, Botswana better known as the location of Chobe National Park. We stayed at the amazing Chobe Safari Lodge located right on the Chobe River. It was a beautiful setting and our room was incredible! With all the time we had to sit around in Zimbabwe we did not want to waste one second and just an hour after we arrived we were off on our first game drive. Immediately upon entering this massive reserve (11,700 sq. kilometers) we spotted elephants but the guide knowing that we would see herds of elephants throughout our drive barely even stopped for a second to view them! Chobe has one of the largest concentrations of animals of any game reserve in Africa, so needless to say, there were animals everywhere we looked! We had great close encounters with the elephants, lion, buffalo, impala, crocs, hippos, baboons, warthogs, jackals, kudu  and many more. The lion in particular were an exciting encounter as we first came upon two small cubs who were crying, clearly looking for their mother. As we drove a bit further we found the mother and realized quickly that we were actually parked between her and her cubs…not the greatest place to be! We obviously backed up, and were able to witness the sweet reunion of mother and babies! One of our other too close encounters was with a very angry cocky teenage male elephant! When we came upon their herd the kids excitedly yelled out “Elephants, Elephants”, the young male was not to pleased with the noise and wanting to show us who was boss began trumpeting and stomping the ground and flapping his ears. He came so close to our truck that I was convinced he was going to hit us! The guide didn’t seem to concerned and just stayed parked, I guess it was his way of telling the elephant we were actually the ones in charge! An elephant on the other side of our truck joined in with the trumpeting and ear flapping too! It was a thrilling but terrifying sight and my heart did not stop pounding until the elephants gave up and went on their way!PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket
PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketOne of the greatest parts about the Chobe National Park, is the Chobe River runs right along it, allowing for game drives by boat! There is nothing cooler than coming upon a herd of elephant drinking and playing in the water! Seeing one or two elephants is amazing enough, but watching a huge herd near water is the BEST! Especially, as many of the elephants recently had babies! We watched the elephants for a long time and I took over 150 pictures . . .I had to capture every moment, it was just so awesome! We saw a lot of animals during this drive, but the elephants were definitely one of the favorites. My second favorite was a group of giraffe.  I had never seen a giraffe drink water before and I really never thought about how they go about doing it, so watching this tall giraffe shimmy out in to a tri-pod in order for his head to get close enough for a drink was one of my favorite sights to date! He only stayed drinking for a few minutes as I imagine it’s not the most comfortable position to be in and then after a bit of a rest shimmied back down! HILARIOUS!PhotobucketPhotobucket
PhotobucketWe have met a lot of great people at all of the places that we have been, and actually exchanged details with some of them, but during our stay in Chobe we met a family that we truly bonded with and we will most definitely keep in touch! Strangely enough, there was a bit of a language barrier as they are French, and while the parents spoke fairly good English, the kids spoke barely any! It was so incredible to watch Aiden and Anna playing with OcĂ©ane and Dylan, become instant BFF’s, laughing and getting along so well when they couldn’t understand each other at all! Although, the parents Pascal and Valerie are originally from France, they have been living in the Congo for 10+ years, and unlike our western life in South Africa it is very primitive in the Congo and sounds interesting! Of course, I am already planning our trip to go there to stay with them! Of all of our great experiences of traveling and the things we have seen, my fondest memory is going to be all the people we have met from all over the world. I can only hope that Aiden and Anna will be more open minded and loving because of it!Photobucket
PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketBecause we planned to go fishing again, Trent allowed me to choose one activity that I really wanted to do and therefore, I was able to convince him to travel to a small fishing village in Namibia for a tour! The Chobe River divides Botswana and Namibia so it was just a quick ride by boat over to this country. After a short 1 km walk down a dirt path we arrived at the village. A Namibian guide shared a ton of information with us about the village, their culture and customs. It was FASCINATING! One of the sad but true facts, is that there are more women than men living in this village as many of the men are fisherman (one of the only ways to make a living) and it is all too common to be killed by hippos while fishing in the river! The hippos actually knock over their canoes, and it is very difficult to escape. I guess I knew how dangerous hippos were, but I was still shocked that they are involved in so many deaths. We were also able to go inside one of their little homes (which is made out of a mud like concrete substance they get from termite mounds).  Inside the little courtyard, was the kitchen,  a fire burning with two cast iron pots, and a tub and bucket in one corner that serves as their bath. It was a school holiday when we visited so the children were there, but typically they walk quite a distance to a school located in the center of this small island at the top of the country. After a tour around the village we were able to shop through some of the crafts made by the women in the village, including hand woven baskets and beaded jewelry. I was more than happy to buy from them as this is one of their only other sources of income. The entire tour was only about 2 hours but it was a very valuable and eye opening experience for all of us! PhotobucketPhotobucket
PhotobucketA few hours after our Namibian Village walk, we went fishing on the Chobe River with the same guide.  The guide warned us that it may not be the best fishing, as the river was at it’s highest, but within just 20 minutes Aiden caught the first fish of the day a huge, approximately 5kg Tiger fish! Aiden hooked the fish but because of the shear size of the fish Trent reeled it in! It was a great redemption for Trent after some big ones got away from him in the Zambezi.  We had a few other bites between us after Aiden’s catch, but didn’t hook anything again, until right before we were getting ready to finish. We had moved to a new location and not 1 second after the guide cast my line for me, I hooked something! I was so surprised to have caught something so quickly that the guide had to yell at me a few times, “you have something, REEL, REEL” I tried and tried with all my might to pull in the fish, and even though I was exhausted I refused to give up! The guide knew I was tiring out and encouraged Trent to take over for me! Thank goodness he did, because when he pulled it into the boat we were blown away by its size, 7.5 kg, probably one of the biggest Tiger in the Chobe presently! When the guide gave it to me to hold for a picture I couldn’t even lift it up! It was soooo COOL! The guide was very pleased to have dinner for a few days and we were thrilled to have such a good fishing day!

I thought having such an amazing trip right before leaving this continent was going to be a good way for me to get my fill of Africa and then I would be more content to go home, however, it only made it worse! I realize how much there is to see and do here and I am so sad to leave it all behind! My mother asked if it was harder to leave Hawaii or South Africa, and although, it was nearly impossible to leave the great friends we made in Hawaii and the beaches, of course, now I feel like I am leaving an entire culture and continent behind! If I knew I was going to come back, it may make it a bit easier but we never know where we will be next! I LOVE Africa and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been able to come here and see so much of the Southern part of it! Now I just need to find a way to come back and see the rest!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Vic Falls

I did not take this picture... Just wanted to show you a full view!
One of the "must see" sights of Southern Africa is Victoria Falls, spanning over a mile wide it is the largest curtain of water in the world. It drops into the Zambezi river, which is the 4th largest river in Africa. We were fortunate enough to have an opportunity to see this in person. We flew from Johannesburg to Livingston, Zambia and then took a shuttle over the border to Zimbabwe where we stayed for 3 nights.

When we landed in Zambia my initial reaction was "Now this is Africa"! The airport is tiny, and located in a rural area surrounded by dry bush and sparse trees. This was a very different expeirence then landing in Johannesburg which is a huge metropolitan area. The drive to Zimbabwe took approximately 45 minutes and it was interesting to drive through Livingston, as this is a very small town, with very old colonial style one story buildings... no mega shopping malls here! In order to cross over to Zimbabwe we needed to get a visa and that in itself was an ordeal. We stood in line for almost 2 hours outside in the blazing heat. Not only was there only one person working there, she had to hand write out the information for every Visa!! Everyone was a bit grumpy and the kids were thirsty and tired so it was a great relief when we finally arrived at our hotel, The Kingdom.

The following morning we walked through town a bit and then over to the falls. Just as in South Africa there were people trying to sell us souvenirs, including Zimbabwe currency (due to over inflation this currency is worthless and they are using the US dollar now). While I have experienced high pressure sells in SA, it was nothing compared to what we experienced in Zimbabwe. You can say no 300 times and they will still follow you around convincing you to buy from them. This was also our first expeirence with the African barter system and they seemed to prefer payment in the form of our shoes, hats and clothes! It was very bothersome and annoying and made it very uncomfortable to walk around. I will say however, as annoying as they are, they are very friendly and helpful. One of the younger boys showed us some elephants along the way and gave us information about the town and the falls. There are many Zimbabwean people living in SA, due to government issues, and I have always found them to be the friendliest people I have ever met, which actually makes it even harder to say no!

PhotobucketPhotobucketWhen we arrived at the falls, I rented a raincoat, as we were forewarned that we would get very wet, and Trent and the kids wore their swimsuits (or swim costumes as they call it here)! You can hear the falls and see the spray from the falls for miles, so you can imagine what it is like up close and personal. The park that you walk through is a beautiful rainforest, because of all the water coming off the falls, and it reminded us of Hawaii. We just so happened to be at the falls when the water level was the highest, which made for a spectacular but very wet sight! My raincoat didn't help much, and by the end we were all drenched!

There are a lot of activities you can do in this area, such as bungee jumping, zip lining, river rafting as well as elephant back safaris and walking with lions. Because of this we planned to be here for 3 days to get in as much as possible. What we didn't know was that everything is crazy expensive. Each activity is more than $100.00 per person and many of the activities would not allow children under 15. We had done so many of these things in South Africa that we didn't feel like we were missing anything, we were just kind of bummed that we booked so many days here. Unless, you plan to participate in all the activities, one or two nights in this area is plenty.

PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucketBesides the falls, one thing we had to do was take a ride on the Zambezi, so we decided to go fishing, something Aiden has been begging to do. Anna was not thrilled and it took a lot of convincing for her to come along! We had a great guide and captain (who also doubled as our chef) and being on the river was surreal. It is a massive and beautiful sight! Not 2 minutes after we left the dock we ran into a crocodile and there were also hippos near the banks! So when the guide and Trent jumped out a little farther down the river to bait fish, I was a little nervous for them! After about 30 minutes it was time to get back in the boat as there were some crocs coming in their direction! We were a little worried that we would catch anything as it was the day after a pretty good rain. But within just a few minutes of casting, Aiden hooked the first fish of the day! It was a tiger fish, a predator with very sharp teeth! This fish is only found in the Zambezi, Chobe and Congo it was a great fish to catch for Aiden's first fishing expeirence! Just a bit later Anna caught her first fish, another tiger! Trent hooked a couple of large tigers too, but it can be a tricky fish to bring into the boat and they both got away! Just before we were getting ready to finish up Anna caught not only the biggest fish of the day, but an abnormally large one for it's species (not sure the name of it, but the guide was really excited and called it a trophy fish)! It was a very fun and exciting morning to say the least!

We spent the rest of our time there at the pool, which the kids loved, but of course I was itching to get out there and see more! Unfortunately, we didn't have a car and anything I wanted to see was quite a drive. I didn't have to much time to be disappointed however, because the next day we were off to Botswana...