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27 November 2014-
Today is Thanksgiving in the USA and I'M ACTUALLY POSTING THIS ON THE CORRECT DAY...the Gods must be indeed crazy.
Anyway, I just wanted to wish all my friends and family- living all over the world- a fun and fulfilling Thanksgiving!
What is Thanksgiving?
(fyi- I'm referring to the American Thanksgiving...other nations celebrate their own version)
Well, you can look up the history of Thanksgiving on Wikipedia or Google. (no, wait...you can't use Google in China....sigh. Welcome to my world.)
I can tell you the reason why some of celebrate it today .... it's our way of saying "thank you" for all the blessings we've gone through over the past year. Sometimes we need reminding about all the wonderful things/people/events that are a part of our lives. We need reminding to be grateful and thankful. Thanksgiving is one way in which some Americans remember to say "thank you" for all your blessings.....all before dive bombing into a huuuuuuge turkey dinner which will cause you to go into a food induced coma. (I exaggerate...or maybe not!)
Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green bean casserole, sweet potato casserole, bread rolls, pumpkin pie, apple pie, fruit salad with schmoo...and...the list keeps going....mmmmmmm......fooooood...
Anyhoo...I'm grateful for my best friend & partner (in not crime), Mark, who is really always there for me. I'm grateful to my daughters, Annika and Ava who remind me on a daily basis about the joys and wonders of growing up. I'm thankful to our family who has been so very kind of supportive of us. I'm thankful for our friends living around the world- both new and old. I'm grateful to all the teachers out there. I'm very grateful for having a roof over our heads, plenty of food to fill our tummies, and having all our true needs met. I'm also grateful for the tremendous opportunity we have about learning a new culture and language. I'm extremely grateful to having the ability to visit new places around the world. I'm still amazed (sometimes) that we really DID move to China. We really DO live here. These are just a few of things I'm grateful and thankful for....(there are many more).
What are you thankful for?
6 August 2014 -
Michigan's Adventure + My Family = near mania.
Okay, I kid.
But seriously...my family (as does Aunt Beth's family) LOOOOOOOOOOVES going to Michigan's Adventure. It's just this summer, with only barely three weeks in the USA, we only get one chance to go.
So...here we are! Mark is also here with us (flew in from China)....
Roller coasters, anyone??? (umm... I might sit out on a few of the rides)
High flying Ava and me:
It's off to the water park for more rides. Catch ya later! I gotta go catch up with my family....they do love this park!
Welcome to Michigan! ......We're ready to play! And visit family! And play some more!
(and boy howdy, do these kids KNOW how to play!)
The kiddos finished swimming:
Lily created a new sign for their forest village. I think she created this using a magnifying glass and the sun (to burn the words into the piece of wood). Lily's a crafty one (if you hadn't already guessed...maybe she takes after an aunt (wink, wink)):
The sign from the previous summer. I think it says "Main Street ->" and "Jay Walk Drive <-":
Bonnie was NOT happy about sitting still for the photo!!!
So...that was Round #1 of MI photos.
23 July 2014 -
We had ...what?....about 48 hours on the ground in China before we turned around and went right back to Beijing to jump on yet another plane....this time we're bound for the USA!
While I LOVE flying I just can't believe we're going to get on another super long flight.
Guess what though??? Mark surprised us by upgrading our seats to business class!!!!!!
19 July 2014 -
Here's to our glorious last morning in the Pilanesberg area. We're heading back to Debbie and Croydon's house today and early tomorrow morning we're flying back to Beijing. Has it seriously been two weeks already? Wow! I'm so sad that we have to leave...
Croydon mentioned that there was a waterfall or something close to our lodging that we could try and visit before head off back to Jo-burg. Getting to this location was a wee bit bumpier than a normal drive (down a sandy, dirt "road"). But..wow! Just Wow! Check out this pretty location:
We're back in Johannesburg. Debbie, Fransie and I are heading into the city for some last minute souvenir shopping and seeing a different part of Johannesburg. We're at a beautiful shopping center right next to this famous statue (this is Nelson Mandela Square in Sandton):
I would have loved to have my photo taken with Mr. Mandela but we were short on time.
Do you know what's super stinky??? I did NOT get a photo with Fransie!!!! How on Earth did I not get a photo with her???? Darn it! We also ate a small dinner at Mugg & Bean (I wasn't hungry but I did enjoy being there). Fransie took us for a drive into parts of Jo-burg I wouldn't have gone to on my own but it was really neat to see something new. She also explained how some people in this particular area live...it's very community oriented.
Ah, did I mention that Croydon was watching the kids for us???? THANK YOU, Croydon!!!!
Sigh. All good things must come to an end...it's time for us to head back home to China.
Check in= ugh. Too early to be thinking clearly about flying. However, somehow (with our friend's help, of course!) we're here and checked in.
This Etihad Airlines flight from Johannesburg to Abu Dhabi was geared towards kids. I've never been on a flight like this one - they had an airline attendant solely for the kids! At one point during the flight she came around with paper and asked that the girls participate on a "drawing competition" on board. Both girls drew pictures based on our recent adventures in South Africa. What an awesome idea to keep kids happy and occupied!
That airline attendant requested that all the kids who participated in the drawing competition stay behind ...because the captain and the crew wanted to meet them! The girls got to see the cockpit and talk briefly to the flight crew.
THANK YOU Etihad Airlines for making an otherwise boring flight into something extra special that the girls will remember for a long time to come.
18 July 2014 -
One glorious sunrise:
Once we entered through the gate= Time to Keep Your Eyes Wide Open! There could be animals...anywhere. And everywhere.
So... far there aren't many animals. Croydon asked the drivers of a passing vehicle for any unusual animal sightings. Turns out, a pride of lions took down a baby giraffe not too far from our location. Let's go find the lions!
As you might have guessed, we're not the only ones that want to see these lions (lionnesses). Croydon is jockeying for a position to view them but not everyone is acting very courtesously. At one point while we were waiting for a closer look we saw a kid sticking out his head from one of the vehicles ahead of us. Yikes! That kid was very fortunate that the lions already had full tummies as otherwise he might have been lunch!!!
While I would have loved to continue watching these lions eating and chilling out - we've got other places and animals to see!
I did end up buying a Pilanesberg Map & Guide Book - to help us identify all the animals we're seeing at the gift shop.
At two different points during our drive we saw elephants. The first time it was too far away to get an acceptable photos which is a bummer as about three or four elephants (with one baby elephant) shooed away two rhinos.
The second time we saw elephants was just ahead of our vehicle. Best to stay faaaaaarrrr away from them. Wow! Can those animals move fast or what! They just passed in front of our car and they're now nearly out of viewing range! That was FAST!
Well, I would call that a successful day!
Time to head back to our lodgings for the night.
A view from the road- unfinished houses waiting for their owners:
The sun is setting and we've got two fires lit in two different fireplaces (in front of our cabin). Croydon and his dad are getting ready grill up a bunch of meat that we bought the previous day. We're going to have a proper braai!!! (South African BBQ). Debbie and I are working on getting the veggies prepared....the grocery store did most of the work for us. :-)
The kids have been in our cabin and they claim there is a strange, fluttering noise inside our cabin. Uh oh. I walked in and sure enough there is SOMETHING in our room! Debbie- without any fear at all- walked into our cabin with a plastic bag and captured the culprit...A BAT!!! (there are a couple of gaps in the roof/ceiling). Want to see it???
Debbie is my hero!!! Thank you for capturing this little beasty. Now the girls and I can sleep well...knowing that the bat is gone.
WHAT A DAY!!! I don't know about you but I'm exhausted! It's been yet another day filled with so many wonders I never thought I'd get to see in my life. Thank you Debbie and Croydon (and Croydon's parents) for a wonderful and fun day.
PS. The girls are already begging to go back to South Africa. Apparently the bat didn't scare them away!!! LOL.
17 July 2014-
Today we're packing up from our friend's house and heading toward Pilanesberg. You'll just have to wait and see what's in Pilanesberg!!!!
Here's Debbie's lovely welcoming garden (she's a big time gardener):
On the open highway...I spotted several people standing along side the road. They're waiting for a taxi. These taxis aren't what the kind of taxi we usually think of - they're minivans- and they apparently rule the road!
We made a quick stop at Croydon's sister's house. I'm sorry but I didn't take any photos there. We dropped off Croydon's motorcyle and we picked up Croydon's parents who will be joining us on our trip to Pilanesberg.
After our brief stop we did a quick shopping trip for a BBQ dinner...after all, we're in South Africa - so we should do a braai dinner, right???
Pretty awesome, isn't it? Very rustic and utilitarian...I do love it!
Debbie tells us that we should load back up into the vehicle...there's some place very special we have to go to tonight.
The location is extremely close to our lodgings- it's a...let's see, what to call it? A breeding facility for animals to be sent overseas (as in zoos). What kinds of animals???
Our hostess here, Yolande, helps to raise the animals (I think only big cats). She's more like the cats' mother. She took us around so that we could get a closer view of some of the animals they have here at this facility.
We got to meet and pet toddler lions. They're fiestier than what I'd expected! They're exactly like a toddler - they like to bite and play (they don't mean to hurt or harm). However, they play a little harsher than what we're comfortable with. They like to jump, bite, and claw (and hence we're holding tight on to the kids):
Those are Croydon's parents in the photo above.
Lion fur, by the way, was quite rough and course. I was expecting it to be softer (like the caracal's soft fur). Will it get softer with time??? Don't know. I'm not about to pet an adult lion to find out!!!!
Ava ate her yummy piece of cake. Yes, it was good.
It was a glorious day filled with all sorts of new adventures. South Africa does not fail to impress!
16 July 2014-
We're heading back to Jo-burg today but we still have a few hours in Cape Town to check out another site.
Several people recommended that we go check out the Kirstenbosch National Botanical Gardens....well....why the heck not??? Let's go!
Before we go here's one last look at Table Mountain- as seen from our B&B in Stellenbosch:
After our quick and uneventful flight back to Jo-burg we're ready to jump into Debbie's van and head back to their house. However, there's a slight hiccup in this plan as the van won't start!!! We think the battery is dead. Croydon did manage to get one of the parking lot security guards to come over with his battery charging gear but it's not working. Darn!
The sun is slowly starting to set and it's cooling down quickly. Thankfully, Debbie managed to get in touch with her very good friend Fransie- who came to our rescue in her brand new Jeep. Yay for Fransie!!!! Thank you! Croydon stayed behind with the van and waited for a friend to help him get it started again. Hooray for friends!!!!!!
15 July 2014-
Yep...it's been SEVERAL months since we took our trip to South Africa trip but I am DETERMINED to finish posting photos from this trip.
Today we're heading out to Robben Island - the island is home to the famous prison where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for nearly two decades.
We need to be at the boat early this morning so we're heading to Cape Town (from our B&B in Stellenbosch) extra early to grab breakfast at a cafe close to the marina. Yesterday we made enquiries as to where we had to go to get on the boat shuttle.
Table Mountain this morning: (still lovely)
Well, so getting to the shuttle boat was a little more confusing than what we'd anticipated. It was NOT where folks said it would be the previous day. We had to make a mad dash across the marina to a different location to get on board. Mercifully we made it!
There's nothing quite like riding a boat and the breeze blowing across your face. So refreshing and invigorating! (just ask Ava!)
16 November 2014 -
Good morning! We got to sleep in this morning- wow! What a luxury!
We discovered at the breakfast bar that you can order foods, such as won ton soup. Yummy!!!!
The pandas we saw yesterday were the real reason we came to Chengdu. However, we do know there are other things to see here. The front desk helpers at our hotel gave us suggestions on what we could see today and we've narrowed it down to two locations: Jinli (walking street lined with shops) and Wenshu Yuan Monastery (which is only a five minute walk away from here).
We took a taxi to Jinli (short cab ride through a Chinese city that looks similar to the many Chinese cities we've seen). Jinli is next to a temple (it costs 60RMB per person to get in...at the moment I don't think I'm for viewing it). However, check out these interesting looking walking area with shops and restaurants: