Monthly Archives: July 2011

Mlilwane

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On Saturday we took a trip to Mlilwane. It is a smaller game park where you can drive and walk around and look for animals and birds. There is a place you can stop and eat and all around they have fires going if you want to bring food to cook out. It was really neat. You can visit for the day or they also have little huts you can rent and stay the night. There are bikes to rent and horses to take rides and explore. It is the neatest little place…although it is not that little! If I had the opportunity, I would spend a weekend there in one of the huts and the day exploring or reading in a beautiful, exotic and peaceful place. (My 10 year anniversary is coming up soon…hint, hint Brad).

You have to remember this is not a zoo! There is no guarantee what you will see. It all has to be just the right timing. All the animals live in the wild in their natural habitat. While visiting we saw many animals I had never seen before and some I had never heard of before. Impala were what we saw the most. They were usually in big herds. They were mostly graceful and slow, but a few times we did see them get startled and run off. One even came right up to Ellianna as we were walking to see if she had something to eat. Yes, they are wild, but I guess that one was friendly. Others we say were warthogs, blesbok, nyala, and antelope.

The place to eat is by the water. As we arrived in the area the first thing we saw was two big (duh) Hippos just sitting out sunning. It was a beautiful day and they just laid there as we watched. We saw one get up, but it just turned to a different position and flopped back down again. I’m sure everyone is up to date on their Hippo knowledge, but if you have forgotten, Hippos are very dangerous. They kill a lot of people each year.

After getting a bite to eat (and seeing some Monkeys go into the kitchen and swing around from the trees)we walked to explore another area. There is a play area and a pool (have you ever seen Warthogs poolside?) and the girls enjoyed a chance to swing. The area we are in surrounded by mountains. It is beautiful all over! As we walked to the edge to look over and down, we saw a herd of Zebra. Here they call them Zebra (with a short e sound). Say it out loud, it’s fun. In all we counted about 17. They were very close to us, even a baby with its mother. Brad and Ellianna walked down the hillside to see how close they could get and the Zebra did not even move. They were standing just a couple yards away from them. Here they would use meters, not yard, but I don’t have a good concept of how big that is yet. Yes, I learned that in school, but it’s been a while. So, after hanging with the Zebra for a while and taking some pictures, they walked back up. I was standing at the top enjoying the view of the mountains and blue sky filled with clouds, wishing I had the camera to take a picture of Brad and Ellianna standing among the Zebras. So, when they came back up we got Brad’s mom to take our picture. That kind of sighting and especially that close in not something that is common for a place like that we hear. It was pretty amazing!

We also saw a Crocodile out sunning on a small island. As we were taking a closer look (from the car) we noticed on the other side of the water where there were woods two more huge Crocodiles were out sunning and there happened to be two people that were out hiking that had come upon them. We had binoculars to help us get a better look. But, that was not good enough. We decided to go Crocodile hunting and go through the woods to take a closer look. Yes, I was a little worried! Mom, I know you probably would not approve of me taking your grandkids through the woods to find the Crocodiles. However we made it out alive so don’t worry. We found them and right as we approached them one got up and started walking…as I started back peddling. I was holding the youngest child… I think it would have eaten Brad first since he was closest. We got some pictures and then made it back to our car.

We had a really fun time and were thankful to get to see some things we had never seen before. We hope to go to Kruger while we are here so I guess this just gives us a small taste of whats to come!

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Chasing a Cow from the Tree of Life

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On Saturday, we have no set schedule and so we plan to find some fun adventures to experience Swaziland when we can. Today, we decided to head out to Milwane Nature Reserve not too far away. More on that part of our day (including some pictures) later today.

Our trip began this morning with a drive through the “Tree of Life Project”—the macadamia nut orchard right outside our house. We’ve been taking walks through the orchard in the afternoons just before it gets dark. It’s been fun. But today was our first time to go all the way to the end—and we did it in the van together.

The orchard is operated by African Christian College in an effort to provide revenue for the college and its work. This is a long-term effort and a lot of work. The campus is basically at the top of a tall hill on the edge of the mountains, so the orchard goes down the hill…and down the hill…and then back up the next hill. We cannot see it all from campus. There are over 14,000 macadamia trees there—it’s a forest. Each tree is accounted for, numbered, and has its own irrigation spigot and must be pruned and kept from insects. This is quite an operation and requires a great deal of care, work and focus. There are full-time staff members of ACC that work on the orchard and students also work there in the afternoons and all-day on Wednesdays (and some on the weekends).

Another challenge is keeping animals out of the orchard. It’s surrounded by a barb-wire fence, but the cows can go right through them. (Not because there are large spaces, but they don’t mind the work of climbing through. That would be interesting to watch).

On our drive today, at the very bottom of the orchard, Caroline spotted a cow in the orchard. Looks like it has been there for a while (maybe a few days). So we tried to chase it out with the van (not by harming it or touching), but it wouldn’t go the right way. So dad and I got out to shepherd it out of the orchard. This meant basically chasing the cow back up to the top while keeping it out of the orchard along the way. Dad followed behind it and I ran alongside trying to keep it from running into the orchard (we had it “cornered” against the fence to walk back up). We were hot and tired after running back up (while the girls drove up behind us) and got it out onto the road, only to have it race back in while the van pulled out of the orchard. At this point, a worker van pulled up and so we had a little help to chase it back out again. Quite an adventure (to which the girls got some laughs).

Not a lot of pictures capturing the fun—I had the camera and couldn’t stop running long enough to take one until we reached the top! So here’s a little picture of the cow in the road and another of it stopping for a drink in the irrigation tank.

London Bridge is falling down!

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(Almost) ten years ago, Rachael and I began saving “found money” for a future trip to Europe. Since we had a ten-hour layover at London-Heath Row on our way, we decided to turn in our found pennies and nickels (and occasional quarters) and use it, after all, we were going to be in Europe. After our coins went through the coin counter—and took out the game tokens that had been mixed in—we had $101 (it was going to be a while before we were going to make it to Europe—or we would need to spend more time more often walking the Sonic parking lot for change).

We decided to use our layover and “found money” for a two and half hour bus tour of London. With some worried friends and family (did we have enough time for this?), we decided to try it out. And it was great—no hitches. The girls had slept some on our overnight flight and so we headed straight for the Tube, got our pass, got on for an hour, walked two blocks to the bus tour, were first on the bus (so we got the front row, top of the open top, double-decker), and rode for a couple of hours, picked up a quick meal and got back on the Tube for an hour and then on to the airport about 2-3 hours before our next overnight flight to Johannesburg.

While in London, we saw the major (touristy) places—Buckingham Palace (from the side), Tower Bridge, Tower of London, Trafalgar Square, the marble arch, Piccadilly Circus, the royal infantry walking down the street, 10 Downing Street, Westminster Abbey, London Bridge, the London Eye, Big Ben, Parliament, and the homes of Margaret Thatcher, Andrew Lloyd Weber (her next door neighbor), Elton John, JK Rowling (including her Land Rover), and the former home of Herman Melville. There was much more and we had a good time. It was a great way to spend a ten hour layover—at least a much better way than in an airport. We were tired, but it was worth it.

I’m putting up three, small samples of our London pictures, too—from our phone’s camera on the bus. And yes, Emily, it was Rachael’s dream come true!

New posts ahead…

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We realize we haven’t posted anything since we got here. We think of it often, but don’t sit down to do it. But we want to and plan to do better. Internet usage is charged by the usage, fairly slow, and rather inconvenient…but we want to remember and share our experiences.

It’s been a week and we’ve seen, heard, experienced and learned a lot. We’ve been to church, to lunch in Manzini, Chapel every day and I’ve taught a week of my Ethics class. We’ve met students, other visitors and had a great time with family. We’ve been on walks through the nut orchard, learned a little Siswati (local language) and other customs.

Until then, Sala Kahle (y’all stay well)

Aside

We arrived at our home for the next 10 weeks at African Christian College at 3:00 p.m. today (Swazi time). That’s 8:00 a.m. in Abilene time. Meaning we traveled 45 hours total—from our house in Abilene to my parent’s house in Swaziland.

All three girls were great the entire trip—no meltdowns, no arguments, no fussing, just fun. We’re all completely exhausted (I held Annie’s head up while she was getting her hair dried tonight because she feel asleep).

And we had fun…new adventures on long flights, a open-air double decker bus tour of London during our layover and an introduction to new friends, new rooms—and  a beautiful 14,000 tree macadamia orchard out our bedroom windows.

More to come soon!

We made it!

On our way!

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We’ve packed up the van and are leaving Abilene to begin our trip! We’ll find a good Mexican restaurant in Arlington, pick up Rachael’s cousin Matt who will take us to the airport and be gone! Thanks for your well wishes and help!

All our bags are packed…

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Well, they're almost packed.

One chant that has kept us going through the record Abilene heat this summer is — we’re going to Africa soon. Today has been a celebration of “it’s our last full day of summer!” And realizing that’s pretty unique. You don’t normally have a true “last day” of summer– it just fades into fall. But at this time tomorrow, we’ll be aboard a British Airways flight to London (where it will still be summer, of course) and then to southern Africa, where the high this week is 72. Nice.

Naturally, we’re ignoring the warnings of “there’s no heat” and its in the 30s at night and in the morning, so be prepared to be cold, not a perfect 72 all day– that will only last a few short hours in the mid-afternoon. Regardless, we’re excited about beating the heat.

And we’re excited about the adventure before us. Our biggest worry and fear is the first 40 hours of the trip. Our flight leaves DFW airport at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday. We’ll arrive at our “home” in Swaziland 40 hours later– a 9 hour plane flight, 10 hour layover, 11 hour plane flight, and 5 hour drive to Swaziland from Johannesburg.

Please keep us in your prayers. We’ll be in touch when we awake!