Sunday, May 27, 2012

New Pictures

Things have been a little quiet around here the last few days. After a very fun day at the Rhino and Lion Park on Tuesday, Tyson and I both ended up with the stomach flu on Wednesday and Thursday. Darin was gone a good part of the day on Thursday, so we were so thankful that Grandma Karen was around to take care of things around the house! On Friday we went to Mama Cathrine's for a bit and then went out for Roman's Pizza at Jubilee Mall. Israel said it tasted like Pizza Ranch, which is a pretty big compliment! Today we went to church with Mama Joye in Hammanskraal and then went out to dinner at Tamboti Lodge. Tomorrow morning we are heading out to the Haartbeespoort Dam and Chameleon Village to do some shopping. 

In other news, we uploaded A LOT of pictures from April and May into our Picasa albums. There is a link at the top of the blog, so go check them out!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Recap of the last few days

On Friday, we woke up, the kids swam in the freezing water, the adults packed up our stuff, got in the car, and made our way back home by around 4 in the afternoon. Darin, Karen and Israel headed right across the road to see the kids. On Saturday we did a lot of laundry, spent some more time across the road and just recovered from our busy week!

On Sunday we went to Eastside for church, grabbed McDonalds for lunch, then went to another church for a meeting regarding Mama Cathrine. We thought the meeting would last about an hour, but it ended up lasting quite a bit longer than that. Thank goodness for Grandma Karen and a big playground! We got home and spent some more time across the road with the kids.

On Monday, we had another quiet day. I spent the morning across the road by myself, and then Karen and I went back for a few hours in the afternoon/evening. From what I've been told, the kids played, watched movies and played some more. Very thankful for a husband who knows how to run a house, cook dinner and doesn't think of watching the kids as "babysitting"!

On Tuesday, we got ready, packed a lunch and headed off to the Rhino and Lion Park! When my dad was here, we went to the Lion Park, so this was the same, but different. Just like at the Lion Park, there were large enclosures to drive through that had brown lions, white lions, cheetahs and wild dogs. However, the enclosures at the Lion Park were much smaller, which made it easier to spot the animals inside. At the R & L Park, we had to really work hard to spot the animals. We first drove through the brown lion enclosure and saw nothing. Then we drove through the wild dog enclosure and saw a lot of vultures picking meat off of a ribcage, but no wild dogs. We couldn't drive through the white lion enclosure because the whole pride had decided to take a nap right in front of the gate, which meant the gate couldn't be opened to let us in. We did get to see these beautiful creatures as they slept and occasionally raised their massive heads, but it was hard to take pictures from our car through the fence. We went into the cheetah enclosure and were all feeling a little frustrated, but then Darin spotted a lone cheetah taking a nap on the side of the dirt road we were driving on. We were able to take a lot of nice pictures and see the cheetah up close. We were feeling really pleased with ourselves til we drove out and the attendant told us there were 18 cheetahs in the enclosure : )

While we were in with the cheetahs, we saw a brown lion on the other side of the fence, so we asked if we could drive back through the enclosure to try and see them up close. We were allowed to, but because of a very rocky road we couldn't get any closer to the lions. We also went back through the wild dog enclosure and finally found 2 dogs tucked back into a corner that did get up and walk around for a bit. The attendant told us there were 11 adult dogs and 8 pups, so the rest must have been sleeping.

After leaving the predator enclosures, we experienced another big difference between the two parks. The Rhino and Lion Park was FULL of other game. There were herds of buffalo, black and blue wildebeest, elands, sable antelope, roan, springbok, warthogs, rhino and more. Even though we have seen a lot of these animals in the wild, it was nice to see them up close. We took our time driving around and taking pictures, but then we were starting to get hungry, so we decided to take a break and eat our picnic lunch.

We were soon introduced to another difference between the two parks. While there were no giraffes to feed, there were several marabou storks roaming around the property that provided a lot of entertainment. We had taken our kids to the Rhino and Lion Park in 2008 and Tyson had been bit by a marabou stork, so we already had a history with these slightly creepy looking birds. While the adults got the food set out, the kids skulked around and got one of the birds to follow them. Then the kids would get a bit nervous and realize the bird was a little too close for comfort. It's the simple things in life that are often the most entertaining!

After lunch we decided to check out the rest of the park. We saw different cats, including a serval and a bush cat, which looked just like the house cat we watched in December and April. We also saw some baby crocodiles, lots of snakes and some other creepy crawlies. Next we entered the animal crèche and it was time to choose which animal we wanted to go in and pet; white lions, white tigers, or brown lions. I was voting for the white tigers, but the lady said they were lazy and would not wake up even if we were petting them, so we decided on the brown lions, which were the smallest. There was a white lion in the enclosure with them, which was like a little bonus for us.

The lions were so cute and cuddly, although there was one feisty little beast in there. It kept trying to bite whoever was petting it, but the guide said it was only playing and wouldn't hurt us. I finally took a chance and let it bite me and he was right! The time with the babies went really fast and soon we had to move on. The R & L Park does have a lot more big cats than the Lion Park has, so we were able to see leopards, clouded leopards, jaguars, and white tigers. We also saw some different birds, a hyena and a few other random animals. Then it was time to go!

Now it is Wednesday. The kids are all outside playing Uno with Grandma Karen and I'm making mac and cheese for lunch. Tonight we plan to go to Tamboti for dinner. We hope to upload some more pictures of our time together soon, but we are a little low on internet now, so stay tuned!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Kruger Park, part 2

Thursday morning: We headed back to Kruger today. We decided not to force ourselves to get up before the sun and started our day at a more leisurely pace. We made pancakes for breakfast, had coffee, and the kids played outside for a bit before we packed up the car and headed out around 9:30. We started our day a little farther north at the Paul Kruger Gate. Before even going through the gate we saw a huge herd of buffalo. This was the first time we had ever seen them in the wild, so our day was off to a great start. We saw a few lone elephants, impala and baboons. Then we hit a dry spell. We were hoping to make it to the Orpen Dam for lunch, but the kids were getting more and more hungry and thirsty, so we made plans to stop sooner. Unfortunately, many of the places we wanted to stop at had Do Not Enter signs posted, so we had to keep on driving. We finally stopped around 12:30 at Tshokwane, which was only half closed. We tried to eat a fast lunch, but the kids were overly interested in throwing crumbs to the flock of Starlings that were hopping around their feet. We finally got on the road again and decided to go past the dam and stop there on our drive back. We had big plans to visit a tree and wanted to keep moving.

Thursday afternoon: After filling our stomachs, we were all a bit less on edge. It had been quite a while since we saw any game, including impalas, so we were eager to see what lay ahead. We were not disappointed! Just like our first visit to Kruger on Tuesday, it seemed like our best game viewing happened after lunch. We saw a large herd of buffalo grazing near a riverbed. Then Jori saw a large group of giraffe. We stopped and watched them eating on both sides of the road.

We drove just a bit farther and saw a lot of cars stopped on the side of the road near a watering hole. Even if the cars wouldn’t have been there, we would have stopped for ourselves. The place was just teeming with game. There were huge herds of zebra, waterbuck, a large buffalo lying under a tree, a rhino, giraffe, and warthogs chasing each other. Those were just some of the animals outside of the water. In the water we saw hippos poking their noses and ears out of the water and then Israel spotted something floating in the water. It looked like a stick, but we soon realized it was a crocodile. We all were following it as it moved closer to shore and then it climbed out of the water to sun itself! Amazing. This was the most game we had ever seen in one place. We finally drove off, but made plans to stop at Mazithi again.

We drove on and saw a huge herd of elephants off to the right. Then we glanced off to the left and saw a little family of three chomping on some grass. We sat for a bit and then they crossed the road in front of us. It is always fun seeing baby animals. We drove on a bit more and came to another watering hole. We saw more hippo, zebra and baboons. We had to keep moving though as we were eager to see a tree.

Finally, we made it. After hours of driving we were at the southernmost Baobab tree. The Baobab is a very African tree. The legend has it that the Baobab was the vainest tree and thought it was better than all the other trees. So the gods decided it needed to be taught a lesson. They uprooted the Baobab, turned it upside down, and stuck it back in the ground. Now the tree is the ugliest and appears to have roots growing where branches and leaves should be. The tree really was amazing to see. Its trunk is just huge and the root-like branches just give it such a unique look. We are happy that we can now say we’ve seen a real African Baobab.

Now it was time to make our way back out of the park. It was after 3 and we had to be out of the gate by 5:30. We drove back past the two watering holes. The hippos and crocodile were still there. A lot of the other game had already gone away. We swung into the Orpen Dam and got out of the car to stretch our legs and go to the viewing area. We could hear the hippos before we saw them. They were so loud. The kids were more interested in trying to catch a lizard. Time was ticking away, so we drank some juice, grabbed some snacks from the back of the car and headed off again. We made a wrong turn, which was taking us deeper into Kruger instead of closer to a gate, so we turned around and started off again.

We saw some more zebra, a few giraffes and some more baboons, including some moms with babies on their backs. We saw more cars stopped on the side of the road, so we slowly pulled up to where they were to see what they were looking at. At first we had no idea, but then Darin saw a HUGE snake on the road. One of the other drivers told us that it was a black mamba and it had just been dropped from the sky by a bird that was sitting in a tree. Another driver told us the bird was a Bataleur and showed us right where it was sitting. We would have loved to sit around to see the bird fly back down to reclaim its dinner, but time was ticking away, so we kept moving.

We hadn’t gone far when we saw another herd of elephants. This one was coming down to a river for a drink. There were a lot of babies and smaller elephants laying down and reaching their trunks into the water because the edge was so steep. We stuck around long enough to see the babies get up and walk away with their mothers.

We had promised the kids they could have a treat, so we made a quick pit stop at Skukuza Camp. We all hustled and were back in the car within 15 minutes. (Thanks Miss Susie for making our pit stop possible!) It was now 4:45 and we had less than an hour to get out of the park. Darin really wanted to make it to the Phabeni Gate so we’d be a bit closer to our cottage. We hadn’t gone far when we saw more cars stopped along the road. We pulled over and asked one of the game rangers what they were seeing. He said a leopard had just recently crossed the road and had gone into the brush on the other side. If only we had been faster getting our ice cream, we might have seen it!

It was getting a lot darker and there were more animals crossing the road. We had to really watch out for impala and zebra as they were right on the side of the road. We saw a few more smaller groups of elephants, including a few that were banging their tusks together. We kept on driving and made it out of the gate with 2 minutes to spare. The kids were all pretty tired out by this time. We had a half hour drive to get back to our cottage and by the time we made it back it was totally dark. We gave the kids a quick shower, made them quesadillas, and then it was time for bed.

We are so glad for the wonderful day we had at Kruger. Tomorrow we’ll be packing up and heading back to Hammanskraal. As great as this time away has been, we are ready to be back home!

Zip Lines and the Shangaan

Wednesday morning/early afternoon: We started out a little later this morning and headed out around 8 instead of before 6, which was a bit more manageable. We headed towards the Blyde River area, which should sound familiar as we were in the same area with my parents back in October. Our first stop was the Pinnacle. I was just as unenthusiastic about my kids standing near a ledge with no railing as I was the last time we were there.

We piled back in the car and headed to God’s Window. It was about 30 degrees cooler than it had been in October, which gave us all a bit more energy to keep going up the stairs until we reached the rainforest. It was well worth the walk! The whole landscape changed as we kept walking higher and the trees and greenery were lusher. The kids had a fun time climbing on rocks and walking over wooden foot bridges. The view from the top was amazing!

We hiked back down, piled in the car again and headed to Bourke’s Luck Potholes. This is a great place to visit with kids. Tyson, Jori and Israel kept busy trying to catch water bugs and looking for gold in the pools of water. Both boys got pretty wet, so we stripped Tyson down and had him run around in his undies in an effort to dry his clothes out. Karen found a flat rock and took a little rest in the sun. We walked out over a different bridge than we had come in on and the views were just incredible. We went out to the picnic area and had some lunch then did a little browsing in the crafters area. It was after noon by now and we had a big night planned, so we headed out for our cottage, but first we had one more stop to make…

Wednesday Afternoon: We drove through Graskop on the way back to our cottage, which is where we stayed with my mom and dad. In addition to our former lodgings being located there, Graskop is also home to the Big Swing and Zip Line. Tyson was very eager to go on the zip line and re-conquer his fear and Jori was hoping that she’d be big enough to take her own zip across the gorge this time around. As their mother, I was less than eager for either of my babies to be hanging over a deep ravine with only some straps and buckles holding them on to a piece of cable.

We walked out to the launching area and the man in charge said Jori was big enough. Grandma Karen told both kids she would pay for their zip line ride as part of their birthday presents, so it was settled. Tyson went first and Mr. No Fear got harnessed up and had run off the platform almost without our being aware that he was going. Once again he gave his zip line experience a huge thumbs up. Israel was next. He was a little nervous, but determined to take part in a big adventure. He ran off the platform and was soon waving at us from over the gorge. He came back saying “That was so easy. Why would anyone be afraid of that!” Little Jori was next. I kept telling Darin to make sure the guy was pulling her harness tight enough. She was all smiles and happy to pose for pictures. Jori was so small and light that the guy had to hold her up to get her hooked up to the cable and she couldn’t really run off, but was kind of just carried away, off the platform and over the ravine. I could hardly stand to watch her, but she was waving and smiling and having a load of fun. She came back full of grins. All three kids were begging to go again, but one time for each was about all that Grandma Karen and I could handle!

We headed back to our cottage for some downtime. Karen and I both slept and Darin tried getting the kids to rest, but they ended up outside playing, but not for long…

Wednesday Late Afternoon/Evening: We headed out for a 20 minute drive to the Shangana Cultural Village. This was something we had been planning for a couple months and had only told the kids about the day before. The Shangaan are a local tribe/people group and they have a cultural center where they do dancing, singing and prepare a traditional meal. We arrived a little before 5, and soon were eating our appetizers; sweet corn on the cob, peanuts, impala and Mopani worms. Darin, Karen and I all tried the worm. It was not the best thing I’ve ever eaten, but if I was hungry I would eat it again, but I’d have to be pretty hungry! We then headed down to the kraal, which is a fenced in area of huts, of the chief. We met the chief, learned how to say a few words in Shangaan, and heard about traditional tribal life.

Next we headed to a larger kraal for the singing and dancing. It was so fun to watch. There was a group of young people dressed in traditional outfits. They sang and danced to act out the history of the Shangaan people. The chief was sitting in a “throne” watching the performance. During one of the dances they came down and pulled people from the audience. Tyson and Jori both went out. It was fun to watch them try to copy the moves. Jori was especially into it. We also did some drumming and singing as a group.

Then we split into groups for the meal. We sat on a stone bench without a table and the meal was served family style. The chief was in our group and Jori went over and sat by him for a while. She just really liked the chief. The girl who was serving us our meal asked if Jori wanted to be his 3rd wife : ) She said no. The food was SO good. We had chicken, potatoes and carrots in one pot, cabbage and carrots in another, pap, samp with peanuts, pumpkin, homemade bread and green salad. It was all just so good. Even the kids were pretty good about trying different things. For dessert they served apple and banana chunks on a skewer.

We finished eating, then headed back to our seats to watch the end of the program. The dancing was a lot faster paced now and there were some younger boys who were dancing as well. One was really chubby and he did not seem to know any of the routines. He’d just look at the other people and try to follow what they were doing, but was also a few moves behind. We soon found out why he was part of the performance, because they had him dance on his own and he was hilarious! If you’ve seen little African kids really get down, you will be able to picture it, but if not, you’d better hope Darin can get a video uploaded sometime soon.

It was a long night and we didn’t get back to our cottage til after 8. The kids went straight to bed and fell asleep right away. Tomorrow we plan to head back out to Kruger, but we plan to get a later start and then stay in the park til closer to dusk. We’ll be back tomorrow to let you know how it goes!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Lion, Lion, Lion versus Cheetah

I am not sure where my kids heard that little Lion/Cheetah song, but I often find it running through my head. Today as we drove through Kruger Park it was going through my head more often than usual, but I’ll get to that later.

Monday: We left our house just after 9, which was right on schedule. Squeezing 6 people and luggage into our 5 seater car was not as difficult as we thought. We stopped at a gas station for a picnic lunch. The gas station had a lot behind it with rhino, buffalo, eland, emus and ostriches. It was a nice little bonus. Grandma Karen started up a conversation with another American and it turns out that she and her husband live in Pretoria and have been going to the same church that volunteers with Mama Cathrine. It is such a small world!

We drove up to Sabaan Lodge, near Hazyview, yesterday afternoon. We are surrounded by a banana plantation, which is kind of a nice extra. There is a big play area and pool for the kids and our cottage is clean and plenty big for the 6 of us. We got a 4th night free with our booking, which makes Sabaan even more desirable : ) Yesterday the grownups unpacked while the kids found loads of mud to play in. That was not so fun to clean up and after strict warnings we hope to not have to deal with that mess again! We had an early night as we planned to get a super early start on Tuesday morning.

Tuesday: We woke up at 5 and amazingly none of us were super sleepy, including the kids. We quickly got ready and ate some breakfast and then hit the road before 6. We made it to the Phabeni Gate by 6:15 and after waiting in line, we entered Kruger Park around 6:30. We had heard from several people that we had to get in early to see lots of animals. We did not find this to be the case. We drove in and saw some impala. We did see elephants quite early on as well, which were truly amazing, but then it was like the animals just disappeared. We would drive and drive and drive and see a few more impala and then drive some more and see more impala. We did see elephants a couple times as well, but no zebra, no wildebeest, no warthog, no ostrich, no giraffe, and no cats. Just trees, poop, and impala. Darin, Karen and I were ok with this, but the kids were definitely getting restless.

Eventually, we saw one rhino. Then we saw a few more impala and elephants. We saw some vervet monkeys playing in a tree, a couple kudu, and a group of dwarf mongoose. It was just after 10 and we had been driving around for over 3 hours. We went to Skukuzu camp to stretch our legs and decided to just have an early lunch or boerwors and hamburgers. There were a lot of monkeys around and the kids were very entertained by all their antics. After filling up our bellies we were ready to go again. We decided to let the kids play with the iPods and DS and that made them happy and quiet, which made the adults happy as well.

We hadn’t been driving long when we saw some cars stopped. At first we couldn’t tell what they were looking at, but then we saw several giraffe eating off the trees. There were also some zebra nearby, which were nice to see as we hadn’t seen any up to this point. We stayed and watched the giraffe for a while then headed off again. We saw more elephants and a dead chameleon, which was a highlight for the kids.
Then we saw a car stopped through some trees on a side road and decided to go check out what they were seeing. As soon as we got near the car, Darin said “It’s lions”, which was very exciting, but then he said “No, it’s cheetahs”, which was even MORE exciting as we have never seen cheetahs in the wild. There were two cheetahs just sitting under a small tree. They sat so straight and tall and we took lots of pictures. Then they lay down in the grass and if we hadn’t seen them sitting we would not have even known they were there. Another car pulled onto the side road and we waved them over to see what we were enjoying. We sat for a bit longer, then decided to drive a bit further down the road. We hadn’t gone far when Karen said “They’re walking towards the road” so we swung the car back around and saw the two cheetahs walking across the dirt road. They both stopped in the middle of the road, then walked off into the tall grass. It was just an amazing thing to see.

The cheetah sighting invigorated us all and we were excited to be driving again. We saw a giraffe with a strange growth on its knee, a family of three kudu, more impala and elephant. We stopped off for some ice cream and were told that some lions and buffalo had just been spotted on the road we were planning to be driving on next. We did not have to go long and we came upon a group of 8 lions lounging under a tree. They were so close to the road, which made it easy to see them. There were a lot of other cars stopped as well, so after taking a lot of pictures, we headed off in search of the buffalo. We kept our eyes peeled, but we never did see them. We did come across one last group on elephants, which included a baby, and we saw the horns of a buffalo laying on the ground, but other than some more impala, that was it.

We got back to our cottage around 4 and the kids ran off to swim and play. Darin made us pizza burgers for dinner and then we watched an episode of Minute to Win It. We plan to head back into Kruger on Thursday, but will be driving farther North. We hope to make it to the southernmost Baobab tree. If we do, we’ll be sure to post a picture! 

Monday, May 14, 2012

Don't forget...

If you want to send the kids a birthday card, make sure you use the right postage! I'm told that it is currently 98 cents to send mail from the US to South Africa. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

The Birthdays are Coming! The Birthdays are Coming!

June is quickly approaching and we will soon have an 8 and 6 year old in the house! Last year our kids were blessed by an outpouring of birthday greetings from family and friends that we had collected and brought with us to South Africa. This year I am a little off my game and forgot to do some advanced planning. Darin's mom is here now, so it's too late to have people send cards to her to pack up and bring along. Instead, I am going to ask that if anyone wants to bring a little birthday joy to a special birthday girl and boy (I just had to make it rhyme) would you please be so kind as to send a card/s directly to us in South Africa? 

The kids birthdays are on June 16 (Tyson) and June 18 (Jori), so to make sure the cards get here in time it would be best to send them within the next week or so. Our mailing address is as follows:

Tyson and/or Jori Fey
c/o The Hardings
PO Box 2642
Hammanskraal 0400
South Africa

Thanks for your help! 

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Welcome to our guests and kid reports

Last night we picked up Darin's mom and brother from the airport. We were so excited to see Grandma Karen and Israel walk through the sliding doors. Tyson ran and jumped right into Grandma Karen's arms and then he and Israel held hands all the way out to our car. Jori turned into a total chatterbox and was pointing out "amazing" things and acting like a total goofball. It was an interesting ride home. We let the kids stay up a lot later than usual, until Jori was crying and Tyson's eyes were red with tiredness. The rest of us were talking til 10, and then it was time for bed. Karen and Israel are still in bed (it's only 7:20, and I'd be in bed too if my kids knew how to shut doors quietly!) and we hope that they both slept well last night and are ready for fun on this sunny Thursday.

Here are the reports the kids wrote about Mystic Monkeys. Enjoy! 

Tyson's report

We saw all different kinds of monkeys one kind eats bats. We saw chimps they were wild but now there in Mystic Monkeys.  One poked a stick through the fence that same one danced weird.

There were 3 kids scared of the tigers. There were lions that were far away in the shade. A cheetah followed us. There was a grasshopper on the tigers fence.

We had a picnic lunch. We had sandwiches and bananas and yogurt that was all of our lunch. It was a lot for me and the kids I bet and my sister Jori I bet again.

Then we went home but first we went to the orphanage across the road. My dad drove our car and uncle Martin drove the other car. Then when we got back to the orphanage we played with kids. 

Jori's report

I went to mystic Monkeys with the kids ackros the rood. It took 30 minits to get ther. We saw linos and tigers first. Next we saw munkez. Thred we saw chetuz. We saw babownz. We stade 4 owrez. We left in the morning. It was fun I love it. 

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Another creature filled week

Some weeks around here seem to revolve around mammals, reptiles and insects more than others. This was one of those weeks.

We’ve been seeing the giraffe around here again. On Saturday, Darin and I went out to turn off the water pump and there was a huge giraffe standing just outside of the fence, silently staring down at us. We just stood there looking up at him, then watched him walk off. He took up a location between some trees, but from our bedroom window we had the perfect view of him. He just stayed in that one place for about 30 minutes, standing tall, sometimes looking right towards us and otherwise focusing on something out of our line of sight. We went on a game drive earlier in the week and saw a baby waterbuck. It was our first time seeing such a little one! We also saw this big guy standing right on the road we were planning to drive down. We just stuck the car in neutral, rolled a safe distance forward and watched until he went into the tall grass.

On Thursday, we headed off to Mystic Monkeys with our family, 8 kids from across the road and 2 volunteers. I had talked with one of the former volunteers about a trip we had taken to Mystic Monkeys with a group of kids from TYB in 2008 and she was kind enough to leave behind some money when she left so we could take a new group of little ones on an adventure. We loaded up 10 kids, 4 adults, a wheelchair, a stroller and a picnic lunch and finally got on the road around 8:45, which was only about 15 minutes later than our planned departure time. We got to Mystic Monkeys, made sure everyone used the toilet, then our guide started our tour. The first stop was to see the tigers and lions. These big cats were a hit with most of the kids, but there were 4 who were a little intimidated by the large size and strange noises coming from these animals.

Next we were introduced to a wide variety of monkeys and a few other animals, including lemurs, meerkats and blue duikers. At the lemur cage, the kids all sang “We like to move it, move it” from the movie Madagascar.

It was a good thing we had 4 adults along as we had 2 kids who preferred to be carried the whole time, one in a wheelchair that was difficult to maneuver on the stone path and one in a stroller who needed to be pushed. That left 4 kids between the ages of 2 and 4 who needed to go on several potty breaks and our own 2 kids to deal with. For the most part, the kids were good about keeping their fingers out of the monkey cages, but there were a couple who needed several reminders. One little one decided he wanted to eat leaves like the monkeys were doing, so we had to keep a careful eye on his as well! We saw 2 beautiful cheetahs who thought the small children walking in front of them looked like tasty little treats. They kept an eye on them and when we moved on, they followed us until we were out of their line of vision.

The last cage that we visited housed 2 older chimpanzees. One of the chimps found a long stick and was trying to poke the kids through the bars of its enclosure. The guide told me that a family had come to the park a while back and had tried to go on a tour without a guide, which is a big no-no. Their baby ended up getting poked in the face with a stick by this chimp, which was an unfortunate way to learn the importance of obeying the rules. Thankfully all the kids we were with were quick to listen when the guide said “move” and no one was poked.

Today is Sunday and our animal adventures have continued. First, we caught a large lizard that has been trying to make himself at home in our thatch. Tyson saw him go under the gas tank that provides hot water in our bathroom, so he and Darin managed to flush it out using a stick and caught it in a bucket. After bringing it across the road for the kids to look at, we drove farther down the road and let him go. We hope he does NOT find his way back to us.

The other animal adventure involves our old nemesis, the hornbill. When we were here in 2008, the hornbills often woke us up by flying into a large window in the hot tub room, causing Tyson to proclaim a deep dislike for the long-billed birds. He had made his peace with the hornbills this year as they had given up their window crashing ways…until today. There are two large hornbills that have been crashing into the window over, and over and over again. The kids decided it was their duty to keep these birds away. Here they are on hornbill duty.

We have not declared war on the hornbill yet, but if they start crashing into the window at sunrise and waking us up, we will have to take action!

We are so thankful for all the creature adventures we have out here in our corner of the world! 

Friday, May 4, 2012

Sax-y and I know it

Last night we went to cell at the Strecker's house. They will be moving back to Austria in June, and are busy packing up and giving things away. Tyson and I were already in the car when Jori and Darin finally came out. Jori had on a little jacket that her friend Aliya had outgrown. We hadn't gone too far down the road when Jori said "This coat feels a little saxy." Darin and I looked at each other and then asked her to repeat herself. "It feels a little saxy", she said again. I asked her what "saxy" meant and she said "You know, it's kind of like it feels jealous". I asked if she meant that other people would feel jealous of her wearing it, but she said "No, it just feels jealous".

Tyson then chimed in "She means sexy", which we already knew, but having her describe something as "saxy" and "jealous" was much more entertaining.

She just went and put her new jacket on and I asked her if she could show me how she feels in it and she did a bunch of little poses; hand on hip, one leg jutting forward, a quick spin and then she was looking at me over her shoulder. I asked if those were saxy poses and she said "Yes, this is saxy." Unfortunately Darin has the camera right now, so I can't get a picture of her. I am just hoping she will be willing to pose again when he is home.

As you can see, she was more than willing to pose again. We're not sure where she got these poses from, as neither Darin or myself go around practicing saxy moves, but she's picked them up somewhere. I did tell her that her daddy and mommy would rather have her just do silly poses and dances and not worry about being saxy. If the way she whipped her head around at me as she danced off is any indication, I'm not sure she took my message to heart. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Two Terrific Reports from Two Terrific Kids

Does that title show how biased I am towards my children? Well, I am and I will freely admit it. They may drive me nuts and occasionally make me want to pull my hair out, but they also amaze me each day with their creativity, imagination and love of life. They also make me laugh about a million times a day, which is the icing on the cake. In my mind, they are pretty awesome. Here are some reports that will give a little glimpse of that awesomeness!

Tyson's report

I went to another O.M. thing they talk about countrys which were Thailand, Nepal, Albania, Japan and Sudan. I went with 3 of my friends Caden, Ben and Beau.

They had a war in Sudan. If people are Christian in Sudan they get thrown into jail or get killed.

 Their was a tsunami last year in Japan. In Japan there are wrestlers that are funny because they show the 2 sides of their butts. Pray for the Christians there aren't many.

In Nepal they pray to 33,000,000 gods. And they put a red dot on my forehead.

Pray for Thailand pray that God will strengthen the church of Thailand. I (Tyson) got an ice cream sandwich it was an actual sandwich with ice cream in it.

In Albania I got grape juice and sugar sweets. If you say babies are beautiful it's the curse.  In Albania they put garlic over the sick.

I liked going with friends.   

Jori's report

This is a reporet all aboot me. I like being me bekuz I can do my bird noowis (noise). I can ride a bike with to weels. I have two dols that are my favrit. Their nams are charity and Niesi. I can run fast I can fli. I live in Salth Afreka I liyk swimming I can help akros the rowd I can hold babeys I can play with Tyson I can wosh the car with my Dad I help Amos wrek (work) I luve afreku I luve me my mom thenks I am kooll but not lik a rokstra (rock star).

*I actually think she's cooler than a rock star and her brother is right up there with her!                                                                                                                     

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Fritter Fry

I'm adding something new to the list of things I've done once and don't plan to do again; fry banana fritters in oil. I think I'll be sticking to baked goods from now on and leave the frying to the professionals. I had some bananas that needed to be used up and my original plan was to make banana bread. Instead I took out my handy Wycliffe cookbook and saw a recipe for banana fritters and I thought, "Those sound good". Note to self-learn to stick to your original plans, especially when you are hungry and just want a sweet treat to eat.

Making the batter was easy enough. I even whipped egg whites for the first time ever and folded them into the rest of the batter. Go me. I put my oil on to heat up and I tested a little bit of batter and it all seemed ready. Being a frying novice, I didn't know how long the fritters had to stay in, so I was trying to judge it by the color. That proved to be my downfall. I fried up all the fritters and they were looking so lovely laying there on the brown paper bag I had laid out to absorb any excess oil. I even rolled them in cinnamon and sugar.

I told the kids to take a little break from school so we could have a tasty treat. We took our fritters outside and dug in. The outside was beautiful and crispy. However, the inside of the fritters was another matter completely. Uncooked batter was starting to pool out of the hole we had just bitten into our individual treats. I took the kids half eaten fritters away from them, went back inside and broke the cooling fritters in half. They were all still full of batter.

Rather than let the whole experiment go to waste, I heated the oil back up, split all the fritters in half and refried them. The cinnamon sugar topping that I had so loving rolled each fritter in made my oil turn a bit black, so the recooked fritters are a little darker than I would have liked them, but at least they are cooked through. In my refrying haste, I also splashed a little oil on my shirt, which I wear at least once or twice a week, so I'm a little bummed about that as I'm pretty sure oil will not be easy to get out.

I'm planning to try my hand at making scones in the next week, so hopefully that venture will be a little more straightforward.

Build Them a Home Progress Report #3

Wow, wow, wow!!! We are only $50 away from reaching our goal!! Thank you to everyone who gave over the past week. The house is really taki...