Friday, June 16, 2017

Where has the time gone?

Six years ago we arrived in this country with you, our 6 year old boy and 4 year old girl. During our first week, we celebrated your birthdays; Ty-ty turning 7 and Jori turning 5. Our blonde haired, blue eyed babes, getting older, but still so little and sweet.

This kid.

Just like brother.
And now today, we suddenly have a teenager in the house. Tyson Alan we are celebrating you turning 13 today. Where has the time gone? No really, where has the time gone? How did you go from this little 7 year old boy to a young man? 

Today I watched you dance in front of a crowd of children and adults from our neighborhood. There was a time not so long ago that you would not have dared to put yourself out there, but lately your brave side is shining through. Whether it is dancing or putting out a fire with your mama. You know, a fire that you told me was going to get out of control, but mother knows best, right?

Our "little" garbage fire burned half the field!
You were so scared, yelling "We are going to die" as I yelled at you to get more towels to beat the flames. "We have to call someone, mom. We cannot do this ourselves." Oh buddy, you were so right. Thank God for our neighbor, Lameck, who ran out with some buckets and took on one side of the fire by himself while you and I beat the flames around the electrical pole with wet pieces of Nala's bedding. You were scared, but you did. not. give. up. You didn't. You fought through your fear and you stepped up and stamped out that fire.

This boy! Smart and Brave!
Sweet sissy. Turning 11 in 2 days; following after your big brother as you do in so many ways. Yet you are also becoming Miss Independent. You have spent more of your life in South Africa than you did in the US, and you are definitely our American-African girl.

This is your first year being at school alone and you have handled it like a pro. It wasn't easy for you as you have come to depend on your big brother more than you like to let on, but we see you there, shining your own bright light each day as your head off to school. 

Fierce and Funny
You have what some might call "personality plus". You are entering the moody pre-teen stage, which scares this mama too much, but your sweetness and spunk are what shine brightest. Your pjs have a hood with ears and you love to wear it around and call yourself "The Living Teddy Bear". The Living Teddy Bear loves hugs. And cuddles. And kisses. And lots of them!

I'm The Living Teddy Bear and I like Warm Hugs
As we get ready to head back the US for only the 2nd time in 6 years, I find myself thinking about the two of you and wondering who you would be if we hadn't moved here, but I don't think about it too much because I love who you are. Brave and Kind. Fiery and Sweet. I hope you will look out for each other no matter what continent we are on. You are spectacular on your own, but even better together. 

Brother and Sister. Best Friends Forever. 

Friday, June 9, 2017

Almost time.

It is Friday night, June 9. We are flying to the states in less than 2 weeks. Time is flying and it shows no sign of slowing down. The stomach flu is over, or at least we are hoping it is. Darin had a resurgence on Saturday night, but we think it was actually a case of food poisoning. Our dead mouse count is up to 6 as the kids found an already deceased rodent behind a kitchen cupboard last week. The other mice are thwarting our best efforts to kill them, eating crackers, cheese and peanut butter off of the trap without actually snapping the trap on themselves. Clever little buggers.

We are dealing with a lot of stuff right now, including a lot of pain in my family with the death of my nephews' dad earlier this week. It is hard to be away from family, but I am so thankful that this is the year we are heading home for a visit. It is time to just be together with those we love, away from the hustle and bustle here in South Africa.

We are looking forward to seeing family and friends, but there is also a lot of anxiety. Darin seems to be the most worry free, but that is his nature. I am recalling our last visit home and how some things did not go as expected and I worry that those awkward moments will happen again. The kids are showing their anxiety in different ways, with Tyson asking a million and one questions about all the things and Jori becoming quite sullen and moody; or maybe that is just her preteen hormones at work.

On the 16th Tyson will be turning 13 and on the 18th Jori will be 11. Where has the time gone? We will be celebrating on the 17th at Butterfly. I will provide cake, as Jori has requested, and will be asking friends to help with the rest, as even the cake making has me feeling a bit overwhelmed at this point. I'll do it for my girl though!

The 11th marks 6 years since we flew to South Africa on this grand adventure. There have been a lot of ups and downs in our lives and in our work. We came for 3 years initially, planning to be here for 5, and now year 6 is almost in the books. We don't know what God has in store for us, but we are choosing to trust and go forward day by day.

We look forward to seeing many of you soon.

Friday, June 2, 2017

And then it was June

These last few weeks have been hard. Now, we all have hard in our lives and some hard is like mind- blowingly painful and some is just the every day kind of stuff that piles up and buries a body under its weight. What is hard for one person might seem like a cakewalk to someone else. This is some of the physical, real life hard we've been dealing with. I might get around to posting some of the emotional/mental hard, but not sure if I can emotionally/mentally deal with it, so wait and see!

We still have mice. Yep. We've killed three (the bag'em and drown'em method) and thought that was the end of it, but we were wrong. Those who are left behind are brazen; running past us while we watch TV, chewing away at things behind kitchen cupboards while we peer at them with a flashlight; and they poop a lot. It's everywhere. It is gross. When mixed with their urine, it is messy and sticky.

**Update: 2 more mice have been caught and killed since I started this post. I repeat, 2 more mice have been caught and killed.**

We have had the stomach flu. Tyson went down first on Thursday night, but he recovered quickly.  Then we had Amo over on Saturday night and it was puke and poop-a-geddon. All over the sofa, multiple blankets and a few changes of clothing. It also got on Darin's face (don't ask), which led to him getting sick on Sunday night and feeling miserable until Tuesday. In between Amo and Darin, our washing machine broke, with a load of poo and puke covered clothes inside. While Darin was out buying a new washer, while feeling like crud himself, Tyson and I drained and carried out the old washer, finding lots of mouse turd treasures in the laundry room. Such a treat. I went to a meeting on Tuesday and ended up with such a bad case of the chills that I was shaking and had blue lips. It was sudden and strange, but I drove home and went right to bed. I've had a bit of a headache and some head cold symptoms, but no tummy troubles (yet). Wednesday after school Jori said her tummy hurt and sure enough, she was hanging over a bowl the rest of the night.

So in the wee hours of Thursday morning, Jori is on the sofa and we are in bed and the phone wakes us up just after 1. It's Amo's mom calling to say that Amo is having a seizure. While we are talking the seizure stops so we say we'll call back and check how she is in 10 minutes. Darin calls back and all is well. Then at 1:45, another call, another seizure. This one seems worse, so Darin heads out to act as hospital transport and support. At the hospital the seizure was controlled with meds and Amo's vitals all came back to normal, but she was admitted for observation. The hospital is never a great option for Amo as she doesn't receive proper care when she is there. Some of the nurses expect her to "act her age" and it is hard to get people to understand the severity of her disability and what she can and cannot do. Darin dropped Annah of to catch a bit of sleep at home (there are no beds for moms at the hospital, they sleep on the floor on whatever blankets they bring from home) and he made it back home and came to bed at 6.

Thursday was just a quiet sort of day, but heavy. Jori was on curled up on the couch, Tyson was busy with school work and wood working in the garage, Darin slept late after being gone all night. It was June 1. JUNE!!!! There is so much to get done before leaving South Africa and so much to prepare for heading to America. We visited Amo at the hospital and she was tired, but looking good. Hopefully everything will go well  and she will be discharged on Friday, but having her be in the hospital again just reminds us how fragile her little life is. We also know that her family is perfectly able to handle things on their own, but they are like family to us and you want to be around to help your family.

It is now Friday, June 2. Jori is back at school, Tyson is complaining that it is Friday and he shouldn't have to do any school work. Darin and I hope to get some stuff cleared out at the new Distribution Centre (DC). Yeah, I forgot to mention that over the last 2 weeks we've moved out of our old office/distribution space and moved to a better location in Hammanskraal. It is something we are happy about, but moving takes a lot of effort.

Afternoon now and I have been out most of the day. We did some quick work at the DC, and then I chased people around by phone and in my car to get paperwork from them that was due today at 2. Frustrating to say the least. I also made some deliveries of porridge and also a gas stove to one of the centres. The Take Action truck has been out of commission for over a month and our cars have both been getting a lot of extra use. We hope to upgrade our gray car when we get back as we need something higher off the ground. The roads to most of our centres are terrible and after 6 years of hard driving and dirt roads going to Tshepo ya Bana and now around town, the time is coming for an upgrade (we hope!!) After driving around I went back to the DC to leave our car for the driver to use, Darin picked me up and we went to the hospital. Amo was discharged at 3. So we took her and her mom home, then made it back to our place. I did a little computer work, then it was back out to pick up our car and now I am back at the computer.

Tomorrow night our kids have a sleepover at church. They both invited friends along. We will have Amo overnight as her family is expanding their house. Super exciting for them, but lots of work and mess and drafty spaces until it is finished, so we get some more time with Mozie Pozie! Family Frenzy after church on Sunday and then it all starts over again on Monday morning.

So we are over here, tired, sore, but still standing.

Monday, May 15, 2017

In his own words: What my mom and dad do, by Tyson Fey

Hello everybody,

My name is Tyson. I am going to tell you about what I do and see when I go out with my mom and dad to centers. First I will tell you a little about myself. I used to go to a school called Bethesda which is not that far away from where we live now. My family and I have moved twice since we moved to South Africa I am 12 turning 13 on June 16. I am doing home-school, I mostly do school on the computer, but sometimes go out with my parents to do stuff with them.

 I think my mom and dad have a very important roll in “Take Action.” My mom goes out and does surveys of the centers. My dad does “Busetsa” stuff like finances. “Busetsa” is a wood working place that is a great place that you can get gifts or other nice things. I have 3 friends that live on the property of “Busetsa,” the property is called “Butterfly.” If you are wondering what that weird word means, it means to take back or renew. My dad also does the Woolies and pick and pay food, which are stores that give us, “Take Action” their waste food. I some times go out with my dad to go out and get that food.

I also sometimes go out with my mom to the centers that she goes out to. Once I bumped my forehead on a latch of a gate when I was out with my mom at one of the centers that she went to. Then one of the leaders patched it up because it was bleeding.

When I go out with my mom I see some cute little kids that always love it when I come. At some of the centers the kids call me “aboetie Tyson,” which means “brother Tyson.” I just have to smile when I hear them say it. I always play with the kids in any way that I can. They always love it.  I think it is interesting, because of how the kids always know what I am doing when I play with them. I explain it to them then they get it!

When I go to the stores with my dad I love it, especially because I am with him. When we get to the stores we have to unload the food into the back of our car. Then we take it back to our distribution centre. After that we go home. The centers then come on certain days and so do the families. But some days we get donations of toys and or movies or clothes. Then after that I and my mom go to sort those donations.

But now we have a driver that goes to get the food, and a lady that sorts the stuff. I and my dad go to get the food when the driver can not or he gets a holiday. As for the lady we do the same for her.

At our distribution centre there are 2 sides; one is for the food the other is for the donations. But we have to move out of both sides because of issues. We have found a good sized house that will suit our every need. It has great security, good sized rooms, a perfect outside and many more things. 

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Rats and Mice and My Good Intentions

Do you know what my life is full of right now? Rodents and good intentions.

The rodents are irritating. Mice of all sizes including tiny kangaroo mice and rats have invaded our house. First we saw their poop and crackers with rodent sized bites taken out of them. Then we started to find piles of dog food around the house. Now we are seeing the rodents themselves. They are quite at home here; popping behind the TV stand while we sit and watch Little House on the Prairie with the kids, no more hiding out until night time to appear. Oh no, not our little friends. We put down piles of poison. PILES. It all disappears, and still the mice and rats are just here.

So cute, right?
It is gross. I am annoyed when I lay in my bed at night and hear the rustling of rodents in my kitchen and even in my bedroom. Sadly, I have kind of reached the point where I am like "Meh, we've got rodents in the house. Whatev".

The good intentions are also irritating. There are things I want to do, ought to do, am supposed to be doing, and they just aren't all happening. I said I would blog more. Ha ha. I even wrote a big post way back in February about my big plan to do more with my passion for children with disabilities. Guess what? I've basically done nothing. I want to, or rather I wanted to. Now I am finding myself at the "Meh, I met with one person since February about children with disabilities. Whatev", point and I feel frustrated with my attitude, but also kind of apathetic. It's a little bit of "What do I really have to offer", along with a pinch of "It's too much work" and a heaping dash of "Seriously, I have no time and am choosing a new passion: Books". So for all of you who wrote such kind words after my last post, I am sorry. I am just a person with good intentions. And rats.

I had been doing a bang up job of making meals for my family, but I am tired of that! Planning and preparing and remembering to get groceries... who has time for that? If I have milk and cereal in the house that is a win! The one thing I have successfully made multiple times over the last 2 weeks is sweet potato casserole. Lots of butter, cream if you have it or milk, loads of brown sugar, some cinnamon and a pinch of salt. It's all to taste. No recipe. Marshmallows on top are a must. Jori will not eat this, which makes the rest of us happy. Jori really doesn't like a whole lot of what I make, which means my intentions of having calm, peaceful dinners often go out the window as I tell her to just SIT UP AND EAT in a voice that is neither calm nor peaceful.

I have had several people ask me how Tyson and I are doing with home schooling. Honestly, I kind of love it. We had such a hard year last year. Tyson really struggled socially at school and the homework battles we dealt with in the afternoon were so stressful. So I am enjoying having my boy close to home. He is funny and engaging and creative. However I intended to be a bit more of a teacher and it isn't happening. I don't think this is all bad as he is learning and growing and enjoying time with friends and building all sorts of creations out of wood, but I am not always very present. I am busy. I get cranky. I am not always engaged. I check out and don't always have time or make time to dig deeper into the things that interest him. I think "I can do more. I will do more!" and then life happens.

And my precious, non-sweet potato eating girl? She is growing up. 10 years old going on 16. I had every intention of being MORE INTENTIONAL with her. Of nurturing her spirit and getting to know her as a young lady. I wanted to go on little dates and spend time talking with her. We do snuggle in bed most mornings, but then we get up and the attitude kicks in. Let me just say, I think I was cut out to be a mom of boys. The eye rolling and sassing and stomping off...Lord help me, but my first reaction is usually anger. Her full name gets used a lot. She tells me I am not nice and that I listen to Tyson and not her and I tend to answer her with sarcasm. The struggle is real folks. I love my girl, but I am so scared for the next few years. Is she going to hate me? Are my reactions going to make her think I don't love her? If I am completely honest, there is a part of me that just wants to keep her home during the day as well so that I have more time to learn about who she is and what she is thinking. It is hard to fit all of that into the afternoon along with homework and meal prep (when it happens).

Intentions to exercise. Nope, didn't happen. Intentions to read my Bible, pray every day? Help. Intentions to be more patient and respectful to my husband? I'd rather yell and get my own way. Intentions to love those around me? Seriously, working with people is HARD!!!!!

So, that is my life, in all of its rodent filled glory. I at least have a plan for supper tonight, but am hoping someone else has intentions of doing the dishes.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Doing Something

If you have read my last few posts, you will remember when I talked about 2017 being a year of new things, one of which was my desire to finally take my passion for children with disabilities and do something more than just talking about it. So far this year I have observed a therapy program in Madagascar , met with some therapists at Jubilee Hospital and delivered a letter requesting meeting space to the CEO of the hospital. I am still waiting for a reply on that. Today I stepped a bit deeper into things and visited Ntuthuko Stimulation Centre in Soshanguve, which was less than 45 minutes from our house.

I didn't take many pictures, so please check out their website (link above) to see what is happening there. What I did do was meet with Christinah, a physiotherapist who founded Ntuthuko almost 4 years ago, along with my friend Debbie from Abba's Pride and Annah, Amo's mama. Christinah is working at a hospital, a good job that allows her to provide for her family. However, she saw so many children coming in for therapy who were in need of quality care. She talked with mothers and fathers and grannies who were doing their best to care for their children, but also needed to work to provide for the rest of their family, including their disabled child. Many of these caregivers would leave their children at a local day care centre, which was not equipped to care for a disabled child.

Christinah decided to begin training local women, women who were unemployed and looking for purpose and seeing the training as a benefit in and of itself. When the centre officially opened in May 2013, there was one child in care for the first 3 months. This allowed the caregivers to have a more hands on learning experience. Christinah did the training during her "off" hours, while holding down a full time job on the other side of town and also having family responsibilities. She did this because she wanted to provide "special care to kids with special needs".

There are now 19 children at the centre, split into classes based on their level of need, learning ability and activity level. They are in groups of 3 and 4 with ONE caregiver assigned to each group. This was amazing to me, because it is so necessary to have a small ratio of children to caregivers, but when I imagined starting up a centre, I never really thought it would be possible as the need is so great and the workers seem to be so few, but Ntuthuko is doing it. The children were lovely. I could move in next door to the centre tomorrow and happily spend every day over there with them. The types of special needs varied from Cerebral Palsy to Autism, Down Syndrome to Hydrocephalus.

For me, this meeting was mind changing. My heart and passion are the same, but I see that there is a better way to go about bringing something like Ntuthuko to the children and families in Hammanskraal. This way was made more clear when Christinah said "my plan is that once I have this centre running optimally, I am going to expand to Hammanskraal, KwaMhlanga and further out". We didn't sign on the dotted line and make a big official plan, but my goal is to support Christinah in what she is doing now in Soshanguve, by linking her to resources and people to better Ntuthuko and allow Christinah to start satellite centres in this other areas. This is ultimately a much better way forward than me trying to "reinvent the wheel".

I am so glad I was at this meeting with my friend Debbie. She knows me, she knows my heart, and she will encourage me as I seek to move forward in whatever way God directs. I am also so glad Annah was there. When I say there are no options in Hammanskraal, I am not telling the full truth, because there is one care centre that I took Annah and Amo to several years ago. When we walked out Annah said "Please Auntie J, don't ever make me leave Amo here". That about sums up that centre. Today when Annah walked out of the office and saw the rooms where the kids were being cared for; how bright and colorful and clean everything was, how kind and gentle the staff was, how happy and well cared for the children were, she was like "I want to bring Amo now". However, this isn't a possibility as distance and travel time would make it almost impossible for someone who does not have their own vehicle.

So, for now, with Debbie encouraging me and Annah helping me, we are going to track statistical information on the special needs children who are currently receiving services at Jubilee Hospital as these are the children who would eventually attend a centre in Hammanskraal. We are also going to start a support group for parents/caregivers of disabled children. This is so important as these men and women are struggling and, while Darin and I can offer Annah support, we are not walking in her shoes. These parents need each other to lean on and also to come together and speak up for their children. Christinah has also offered to come and do a training with a group of mothers so that they can be providing daily interventions for their children at home, not just a few stretching exercises a couple times a day, but ways to stimulate and aid in the development of each child.

This is all super, super exciting for me and also super overwhelming. I still have my own responsibilities with my family and Take Action, not to mention a trip back to the US in about 4 months, but I want to be open to where God is leading. I want to walk with Him and not run ahead or lag behind. He is the one who has given me this desire and I want to use it to bring glory to Him.

If you are interested in knowing more about Christinah or how you can help support her centre, please go to the website link above or contact me at

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Madagascar 2017

Let's just say that by calling this post Madagascar 2017, I am hoping to someday have a post called Madagascar 2018 or 2020. We had a fantastic time in Madagascar! It was nothing like we expected, but everything we could have hoped for.

There were three main purposes for this trip:

1. Darin is taking on a new role with his distribution of water filters.  He is now working with Business Connect out of Grandville, MI as their SEAD, Southern and Eastern Africa Director. He will be responsible for setting up and mentoring new distributors in 21 countries in those regions of Africa.  This trip was his first visit to another country in that capacity. Before he was given the opportunity for this new position, he had already made contact with someone who he hoped would become a distributor in Madagascar, Fitah, a graduate of Calvin College who my dad introduced to Darin via email a couple years ago.

Fitah had arranged around 12 meetings ahead of our arrival with various NGO and governmental offices dealing with water related issues. Needless to say, Darin was very busy. We were happy to meet Fitah's wife and young daughter at dinner one evening and Darin is really excited about the potential to bring clean water to the people of Madagascar with Fitah's hard work and enthusiasm driving the process.

2. I was hoping to connect with Growing the Nations Therapy Programme to see what they are doing in Madagascar and what skills, knowledge and programs could be transferred over to South Africa. Remember in my last post I stated my desire to see more programs and resources become available for disabled children in the Hammanskraal area? (and I have been working on that, but am also waiting for other people to respond right now, so nothing new to report!) This visit to Madagascar provided me with several opportunities to see how one person can make a huge difference by just getting out and using the skills and talents God has given her. Now, I am not an occupational therapist like Anri-Louise is, so I cannot look at the road map of what she did and is doing in Madagascar and follow it as my own. However, I was so inspired by the time we spent with her and her team!

We slept over at the GTN guest house on Friday night and went out with Anri-Louise to a clinic that is held twice a month on Saturday morning. We were put right to work! First we went to the GTN offices and loaded up the bakkie with all sorts of supplies, and then headed to the hospital to unload. 

Then Anri-Louise and Angela started seeing clients, while James assisted. Darin and I sat back and took lots of pictures and videos.

We were both so impressed with how well run everything was. This clinic draws people from a large area and some come once a month, some twice, some more sporadically. Some of the clients seen today were there for the first time, some hadn't been for a long time and others were regulars. There was a lot of paperwork in order to chart progress and track results and to provide info as the same child isn't always seen by the same therapist. Everyone did a great job of including the parents and other family members and educating them in such a loving way. I even was given the opportunity to help out with a few cases, which I enjoyed so much!

I might not be a qualified OT or PT, but I do have a knowledge base to work from after time spent learning from Miss Bridget and working with Miss O and Amo! 

After the clinic, Fitah picked us up and drove us to our apartment. Darin had found us a great place on Airbnb. It was in a pretty central location in Antananarivo, the capital city, which is where most of Darin's meetings would take place. There was just so much color everywhere we looked.

After Darin and Fitah made their plan for the week, we were left on our own to get groceries. We soon realized our apartment was near the top of the hill and the things we needed, like food, were much closer to the bottom.

After the long walk, we were ready to chill. Darin had some work to do and I had a chance to read. It was so relaxing.

On Sunday, Fitah came to get us for church. It was a great service at Fiangonana Tana City Centre Analakely church that met above a Shoprite Grocery Store. The message was in Malagasy, but we had a translator who kept us in the loop. The church has a ministry to street children and hopes to work with Anri-Louise to learn how to better work with these children who have missed out on so many developmental and educational learning opportunities. We walked back to our apartment after church and found ourselves once again at the bottom of the hill and at the bottom of a large series of stairs. 

After climbing the stairs, we took a taxi to our apartment because we are getting old and we were also carrying a few bags of groceries. The rest of the day was spent exploring a bit farther up the hill, and then walking down the hill and getting very lost as we tried to find a place to eat. 

Can I just tell you how much I love my main man, 'cause I do. We spent a lot of time talking about the dreams we had when we first made our plans to move to South Africa, and how a lot of those plans involved travel. Then, a lot of things happened that derailed our plans and made some of our dreams seem almost impossible, yet here we were, together in Madagascar! God is so good, and I believe that God honors those who are faithful to Him and who follow His plans. He has redeemed what was so devastating to us all those years ago and brought us to something so much more amazing. 

Monday was my day. Darin left early for meetings and I slept in and read and slowly got ready for my day. Then I went and had a fantastically relaxing massage. It lasted for almost 2 hours and was just what my body was needing. Then I found a chocolate shop and bought some chocolate before finding a cab to take me back to the apartment where I took a nap. Darin was still gone, so I went out to dinner by myself. I enjoyed lovely views and delicious food and Darin finally met up with me just before I finished my meal. 

Tuesday Darin was again busy with meetings, so I met up with James from GTN and headed out in a bus (similar to our South African taxis) to a program for the elderly. I sat and visited with dear old ladies who assumed I spoke French, gave neck rubs and back massages to the masses, led some of the group in stretches and ate a lot of food.

On Wednesday I met up with James again, only this time I took the bus by myself. I made it to the GTN offices and helped to mark developmental tests for a few hours. I actually found it super interesting to see how some children could complete the tasks and others couldn't, but the ways that they "couldn't" were different and showed something about that particular child's development. Wednesday night, Fitah and his wife and daughter picked us up and we enjoyed eating Chinese together. 

3. Darin and I had decided that since he had to go to Madagascar for business and I really wanted to see what Anri-Louise was doing, that we should celebrate our 15 year anniversary (December 22) in Madagascar as well. While the whole week was amazing for both of us, Darin planned something special for us as well. 

On Thursday morning, Darin and I packed up and headed out to Andasibe, where there were some rain forests and lemurs! First, we sat in a lot of traffic. Our driver, Rija, was awesome though and he just kept moving us forward.

Soon the road opened up and we were really on our way. The distance between Tana and Andasibe is around 160 km, but it took over 4 hours to get there because of traffic, and road conditions, including a lot of twists and turns.

We did make it to our cottage though and were soon surrounded by the beautiful views and the calling of the Indri lemurs.

Thursday night we went out on a night walk with our guide, Jean-Claude "not Van Damme". He was a funny guy and had tons of knowledge about the plants, animals, insects and reptiles in the area. We saw a few lemurs, which were too hard to photograph in the dark, lots of insects moths, tree frogs and chameleons. Jean-Claude had taken his friend along and this guy was an expert at spotting chameleons. Up on a tree branch, no problem. Down low to the ground, he'd still spot it! After a great walk, we made plans to meet up with Jean-Claude again the next day. 

We headed off just after 7 for our walk in the rain forest. We had realized earlier on Thursday that while Andasibe had a lot of amazing things going for it, it did not have any ATMs and none of the restaurants, lodges or tour guides accepted anything other than cash. This meant that we had to ride 45 twisty and turny minutes back to the nearest ATM, or make do with the cash we had. We decided to make do, which meant we weren't able to go into the large national forest, but would instead be touring a smaller secondary forest. While we were a bit worried that we would miss out on seeing things, our fears were soon allayed. We saw a lemur, tree frog, giant beetle, ground snake and much more soon after we started our walk. We also saw chameleons and geckos. 

Then we heard the Indri calling out to each other and soon after, we actually saw them. These pictures in NO WAY do justice to how cool they were to see. They did not call to each other while we were standing close, no matter how hard our guide tried! They did, however, jump from tree to tree, then sit with long legs out, and pull leaves off the tree for a snack. 

After our walk, it was time to say goodbye to Jean-Claude. Then we decided to share lunch so that we would have enough to each have zebu steak for dinner. Of course, there was no zebu available, so I had spaghetti bolognaise for the 3rd meal in a row (it was good!) and Darin had chicken curry. We had enough money left over for a bottle of water and a tip for our waitress, but no money left for breakfast. Thankfully, we had met a kind couple from Sweden earlier in the day and they had given us two granola bars.

We left early on Saturday morning as traffic to the city might cause us to miss our flight if we didn't. We did have time to stop and get some more cash though. I treated Rija to coffee and fried donuts at a roadside stand. Darin totally missed out. 

We made it to the airport with time to grab a quick bite to eat. I had time to read while Darin caught up on some work. On our flight, we sat next to a professor from the US who had identified a previously unknown species of lemur about 30 years ago. How cool is that! And she runs a huge research facility in Madagascar that has issues with... water! So Darin took her details and our trip ended up coming full circle. 

The three main purposes for the trip were all fulfilled. Darin is really excited about working with Fitah, I learned a lot from my time with Growing the Nations, and Darin and I celebrated being married for 15 years. Time ALL well spent.