A glimpse into life a world away

Driving in SA is always a bit of an adventure. First of all there is wrapping your head around driving on the “other” side of the road, then there are the taxis and lorries, predictably unpredictable, and once you get sort of used to all that you have the constant parade of “bakkies” full of people in the box and people everywhere selling, or trying to sell you something.IMG_2664 IMG_2665

The adjustments of coming from Canada to Africa are not unpleasant though. As we arrived here at the beginning of spring we have been humbled by the abundant beauty of this place.IMG_2678Jacaranda trees in bloom – a stunning sight!IMG_2679Inexpensive and tasty cappuccino in the morning sun with my sweeties.IMG_2682And the blessing of homeschooling throughout it all! We’ve  been doing lots of art as we lost power for 3 days and had a wicked virus going through everybody. Art was a quiet activity to pass the days and find ways to keep moving ahead with school without electronic support.IMG_6649IMG_6651IMG_6648E has become the resident story time gal when the moms and dads are preoccupied with other tasks. They love to curl up in different corners of the house with a pile of books.IMG_6653 IMG_6654 IMG_6655D has been challenged at school to work on his puzzle skills. He is taking it quite seriously and is continually trying to do more complex puzzles than previously mastered.IMG_6656And as we got into our art vibe we decided to start planning ahead towards advent. I went to my favourite source of inspiration, pinterest, and combined a few different ideas to come up with this cheap and cheerful advent calendar:

Step one: Take a 24 egg flat egg carton. IMG_66862) Number the depressions 1-25IMG_6687 3) measure corresponding squares on an 11×14 piece of and plan a design.IMG_66904) We worked on a couple of art objectives such as using and creating shades of a colour and staying in a cool or warm palette. Silhouette style figures and then pastel technique; rubbing pastels to get a solid coverage and blending for effect. Finally, we sealed the picture with a fabric paint sealer but you could use modge podge or even white glue.IMG_66915) Last you can decide what to put in your calendar. Fill up your slots and then glue, or tape the whole thing closed. I used a cereal box to edge mine and tidy it all up.IMG_6693In and out of arting we have been working away at spelling, reading, math and science. As the children here are preparing for the end of the school year we are prepping for the end of term 1. It will be our first report card meeting by Skype/ Facetime and will require some good planning to accommodate everyone’s schedules and the 10 hour time difference. We are enjoying our life here and feeling so blessed to be in this adventure!

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Work and Play in the RSA

It is really amazing how we have been able to plug in to various programs going on in our neighbourhood! We are right around the corner from a Christian school which is supportive of homeschooling. They have a set fee for allowing homeschool kids to participate in extra-curricular activities. E has joined the sports program and gets swimming and tennis lessons 4 days a week.IMG_6184

On Tuesday we had the great pleasure of a fantastic tea and luncheon with dear friends that we met in Canada but  have since moved back here to SA. They were so hospitable and really rolled out the red carpet for us. It was so nice to sit and talk and talk and talk…! I hope C’s ears didn’t wear out as I think I did most of the talking! The boys have grown so much since the last time we saw them that the kids didn’t really recognize each other. They took a bit longer to reconnect but in the end they had a great time.IMG_6158IMG_6159With mixed feelings we participated in a “Hallelujah” party at the school. Mixed feelings because it is sort of sad to see how much American culture pervades the world and how Halloween is creeping in everywhere. We were glad to participate in the community aspect of the event and of course the kids are always happy when there is candy being handed out! As we didn’t expect to have Halloween here we didn’t have any costume stuff. The boys were happy to wear their new hooded towels though 🙂

D is a superheroIMG_6189

E wanted to be more creative and had the original idea of our family of 5 each wearing a mask and going as the “Big 5” the South African grouping of the top big African animals: Lion, Elephant, Rhino, Leopard and Cape Buffalo. Since the boys wanted to wear their towels she went ahead as the … can you guess? 🙂IMG_6192

S is a pirate of course!IMG_6200

E and her friend C posing for the camera

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Daddy got into the act dressing as … a tourist!IMG_6207

And I joined in with a very simple costume for my part of the big 5. My mom loves rhinos because they are a great example of persrverance in the face of opposition, so this one’s for you mom!IMG_6212

We bought a beautiful Alphabet book featuring African animals for each letter and a kid -friendly recipe.Photo on 2013-11-05 at 7.45 AM

The kids really enjoy reading this book and wanted to start in on the recipes this week so we made:IMG_6221 IMG_6222We also made Buffalo bruschetta and are planning some Giraffe giggles as well 🙂

E is really enjoying reading and writing and was so pleased to get a letter from a friend back home that she went straight to her room and spent an hour writing a long reply!Photo on 2013-11-05 at 8.27 AM

She is making good progress with her Singapore Math 2A book working on place value which we started this week. I had a bit of a panic working on 2 digit subtraction with her a couple of weeks ago and thought we needed to back way up in our learning to review place value. She spent some time doing Math iXL and seems to be up to speed again for the moment. Whew! It is also really helpful that the local currency, the Rand is converts approximately 10 rand to 1 Canadian dollar. I often ask Eva to convert when we are buying groceries and sundries then discuss if it is more or less than we pay at home. Imported items tend to be quite expensive here. For example to buy a box of Cheerios might cost R89 for a 400g box. At home the same box of Cheerios might be $4 or less on sale. It is a great jumping off point for understanding global commerce and learning to buy locally.

We bought an app on the recommendation of a friend called “dragon box” but although it’s supposed to be a great math app we can’t really figure it out. Anybody out there wanna clue us in?

In our spelling and grammar book she has been working on identifying proper and common nouns and using correct pronouns.

D is trying to learn to print the lower case letters as his nursery school is quite particular about the children learning lower case first. He is also working on his pencil grip and training his observational skills in sketching.

When the weekend arrives Daddy is free and so we get to explore! It is funny that when we put on our tourist hats we start discovering  things around the area that our friends who were born here have never seen. I think it is exactly the nature of being a tourist that makes us want to get out and see as much as we can. We have fewer social demands on our time so are more free to go out and do things with just our nuclear family. This weekend we went to a miniature Las  Vegas called Montecasino and enjoyed the feeling of an Italian village and the Bird Gardens. First stop, the Rainbow Lorikeets (from Australia).

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These are a couple of glossy starlings again, i think you can see their fantastic colouring much better here.IMG_6355

Inside the casino:IMG_6374 IMG_6379We had a fabulous supper at a restaurant chain called The Meat Company where J and I ordered Kudu steaks!  (below is a picture of a kudu taken in our first week here in the Limpopo province.)IMG_5321

On Sunday we attended a second time at a new church that is part of an organization called Church of the Nations. It was Orphan Sunday and we found out that the church is closely involved/ administrates? an orphanage on the same street. They always have scones and coffee after the service (the real reason we go 🙂  we sat down at a table full of kids and one adorable little boy sat on my lap for the whole time. We realized at the end of the coffee time that they were all children from the orphanage and were humbled by their simple joy and grace in living life without a family.

After church we rested then decided to go out for a hike at a new nature reserve. The animals at this reserve were a bit more exciting to us Canucks.

WIldebeest

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Zebra

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A Blesbok AntelopeIMG_6423This is an unhappy S with ants in his pants! He is always fascinated by the hordes of ants scurrying around their anthills and consequently usually gets a few running up his legs as well.IMG_6436

Then further along the trail we met this fellow rambler.IMG_6444 IMG_6452

Every hike should end with swinging on somebody else’s arms!IMG_6463

In total we walked about 5km. D is still working on his stamina and at the end of the day he was tired but happy with the outing. IMG_6471The weather is getting warmer as we move from spring to summer and we’re planning some bigger outings in December. Hope to get some beach pics before too long 🙂

Finding Our Way

First to apologize for the delay on this post. It turns out my computer doesn’t like the number of pictures I’ve been taking and forcing it to store, as a result I have been negotiating with the mac-no-brain and trying to troubleshoot the problem. 🙂

This week was full of fun and learning. E and D are getting the swing of how things work  in Africa. D has begun to adopt the accent and E is determined to learn Afrikaans! It is fun watching them adapt to their new environment and accept the differences from what they’re used to.

It helps that we have this lovely pool around the corner from our house!

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And D loves playball, a mixed sports group that he participates in after nursery school once a week.IMG_2618

Then there are the trips to the shopping centres, restaurants and general fun out and abouting that we get to do.IMG_2658

I think it would be difficult for them not to enjoy themselves given the glorious weather and fantastic people here. We have tried to prioritize weekends for some family time and broader exploration so on Saturday we went for a hike at a nearby nature reserve. We saw some kind of bok (deer), and many colourful birds. This is a glossy starling. IMG_6090

They had an interactive model of the solar system showing the scale of the different planets and here the kids are enjoying climbing into the “sun”. IMG_6095
The anthills are always facinating as they are so huge! We often see both the closed and open variety and we had a good discussion of which animals would likely be in the area that would eat ants. They have pangolins ,(http://www.krugerpark.co.za/africa_pangolin.html), and aardvarks, (http://www.diffen.com/difference/Aardvark_vs_Anteater), here so it is fun to try and identify spoor and discuss the possibilities.

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jWe primarily chose this site to explore because of its proximity but once there discovered that it was also the original site of the first gold strike in SA. Now that’s a whole pile of history and social issues that we haven’t gotten into with the kids yet!!! This country has such an intricately woven tapestry of stories and we hope to at least learn with our children to identify the different threads and try and understand how the past of this place deeply affects the present. IMG_6114

We are fortunate to be here, and even more so to be here as Canadians with our strange accent that causes people to ask us where we are from constantly. We are spared the tensions that others who are born here experience daily as they struggle with ever-changing political and economic system. To have dark skin may be an advantage in the professional world, however, many black South Africans are still trapped in the endless cycle of poverty, overcrowding, poor education and violence while white South Africans largely enjoy a higher standard of living. This is of course tied to history and geo-politics of the 20th century. E and I are beginning a  research project to learn more about Apartheid and what actually happened. We have the opportunity of collecting primary research through interviews and museums and we want to genuinely understand the emotional climate that we find ourselves in.IMG_6123

South Africans, black and white alike, share some amazing values that are demonstrated by the meerkats. These meerkats (sorry I just cant get enough of these guys :), have amazing family ties and community relationships. The adults are all extremely protective of their young and despite their small size they can defend themselves against deadly snakes and larger predators by using their god-given abilities and working together. IMG_6148One of the strongest first impressions I had of South African culture is the way it values children. I was struck by how many terms of endearments people used with their children and how rarely I heard a parent rebuke their child. If the child was acting inappropriately the parents were often firm but gentle and constantly reaffirmed the child’s value even as they corrected them. I have to admit that I am not a patient parent and so I was really convicted as I saw this patience and acceptance of children here. I have so much hope for this country that a collection of people who value their children and can show so much kindness to these little ones, can somehow find a way to show kindness to each other as adults too!