How do you respond to changing seasons? We are experiencing change in many seasons right now; the weather in SA is shifting from summer to autumn, our family is preparing to return to life in Canada and our children are changing and growing in so many ways. I have to admit, I’m not always good at change. I love going new places, meeting new people and having new experiences… within a controlled, predictable and generally reliable context. For example going on a holiday to the beach, staying in a nice hotel and eating great food is always a fun change. However, I know I will come back to my known life at the end of the holiday. As we begin our transition out of SA back to CA, I am faced with the great unknown again. I have to say good-bye to the wonderful friends we’ve made, the beautiful country and the warm sunny climate. I am excited to return to family and friends but also nervous about re-entry into our life there. The kid’s friends will have new social dynamics, my friends will have their own routines and we will be coming back to rainy days and a big house to clean. First world problems entirely, but this blog is where I share our joys and struggles and we are at a bittersweet time right now caught between changing worlds.
We are always ready to go out and enjoy the local fauna and flora. This is a local Cheetah breeding project. We went on a tour of the Cheetah enclosures and listened to the tour guide tell us about Cheetah breeding habits and what factors most seem to determine their survival and ability to thrive in the wild. The beautiful King Cheetah is a rare recessive genetic colour pattern. We found out that the reason they are so rare is twofold; first of all they only occur when a mating pair each carry the recessive gene, and secondly this pattern does not actually camouflage as well with the landscape so consequently they are usually unable to hunt as well or are more easily spotted by other predators such as hyaenas.To compare the two here is a typical cheetah colour pattern.D has been taking tennis lessons much to his delight.He loves the activity and even more, loves his friends K and C who are in the same class. We made our monthly rounds of the zoo for E’s honey badgers program. It was a cold rainy day this week so we spent a bit of time hiding under the umbrellas at the cafe… …with hot chocolate of course!Despite the rain the animals were out and about and we had some great viewing of animals we don’t always see on sunny days.E’s s group stayed mostly indoors learning about bats and doing more paper-based tasks.E practised her reading aloud with some story time for the younger kids.Our beautiful sweet potato vine is finally living outdoors in a pot.This is the jungle gym at our house and in all this rain we have to get out and play whenever the sun comes out for a few minutes.
We have been so blessed in our time here in SA. We’ve connected with a vibrant and diverse homeschooling community with many social learning opportunities as well as just making great friends. We did an art co-op with another family this week. Who doesn’t love to play with finger paint?? Tying into our pioneer/voortrekker theme we have been working on an multidicipinary project; a paper quilt using symmetry, geometry colour, pattern and line. I explained to the children that pioneers were very frugal and because they couldn’t always buy new things they learned to make most items for themselves. They used small scraps of fabric to make quilts out of whatever they had. The use of pattern was a way to beautify their simple, rustic homes and express their own creativity. It also gave them an activity to fill their time during long evenings or days indoors during winter. We went to our last homeschool skating time 😦 One of the highlights at skating is hot chips with lots of tomato sauce or as we would say in Canada; fries smothered in ketchup! Ending our week we had a joint dinner with two families who have been dear friends to us here. Between our families we represent, British SA, Afrikaans SA, Italy, England and of course Canada. The 3 musketeers! And what dinner party would be complete without Kareoke? C rocked out the Afrikaans alt/country beat! Sweet A singing a beautiful rendition of Norah Jones Me pretending to a be an 80s rock star with Summer of 69, LOL!A mother-daughter moment with Abba! These times together have been rich. full of laughter, heart sharing, growing and simply sharing our lives together. This morning we slept in after the late night last night and I watched E and her dad cuddle at the breakfast table with a full heart. This life I have is so good! How can I measure the value of these days? The answer is that I simply can’t, these moments are priceless. Today is Sunday and I am counting the 1000+ gifts in my life and feeling profoundly grateful. Change will happen and we will adjust and choose gratitude wherever we find ourselves.
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.
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.With 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 🙂
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? 🙂
E and her friend C posing for the camera
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!
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).
Inside the casino: We 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.)
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.
A Blesbok AntelopeThis 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.
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. The 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 🙂
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!
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.
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”.
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.
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.
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.
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. One 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!
Life here is starting to get hectic as we plug in with so many great opportunities around us! E and I did Christmas shopping on Monday to send a parcel with our friend who was flying to the US this week. It was fun to pick out special items for our family and to be done the majority of my Christmas shopping at such an early stage! 🙂
One of the many things this group does is participate in the care of the animals and so with the proper safety precautions, (the keepers put the animals into the locked section of their enclosures), E was able to make a fruit/bamboo kebab for the baboons then the kids were allowed into the enclosure to hide the food for the baboons to find.
And this is why the baboons needed to be locked up before the kids were allowed in, check out the canines on this big boy!!! The baboon below is the dominant male in the Hamydras baboon troop. We learned that the male Chacma or Cape baboons actually have longer canines than a lion, YIKES!!! E had a great time connecting with her new friends from ice-skating and seeing the zoo. She listened to a presentation on owls and was able to observe a Southern White-faced Scops owl close up then followed up with a short research assignment about South African owls. (For more info check out this website: http://www.owlpages.com/owls.php?genus=Ptilopsis&species=granti )
E also joined the sports program at a Christian school around the corner from our house. She will be swimming and playing tennis 4 days a week for the school terms that we are here for. She enjoys it immensely and the pool has a lovely baby pool where the kiddos can splash about after lessons. We are continuing with our math and language programs in the mornings but our science and socials has really been exploring our new environment.
We wrapped up our week with a trip to another homeschooler gathering at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens. It was a beautiful day with new families to meet. What fun is it to explore a garden without getting dirty in the process?
Another week has flown by and I wonder if we’ll actually get to everything on our bucket list in the next 6 months! We started off the week with plenty of fun. We went to an American themed restaurant called The Spur, with ribs and hamburgers on the menu and a huge outdoor playground. It was funny to me that this “American” style place was unlike anything I’ve ever been to in the US or Canada! There was a distinct African flavour though in the birthday song that was sung many times through the afternoon, the staff would gather with a large drum, plenty of rhythmic clapping and a birthday song in Zulu!
We did some science in the backyard with an interactive experiment in the states of matter. We had some fabulous powder that when mixed with warm water set into a very firm jelly mixture after only 5 mins.
The kids loved the sensory play and we talked about liquids, solids and gasses as we played. They also hypothesized how much water they could add to change the consistency then tested said hypothesis to find the perfect results!
This week we marked D’s first full week in a local nursery school. The system is a bit different here than in Canada. They don’t really have kindergarten in the primary schools but children attend nursery schools for 3 or 4 years before they enter primary school. D is really enjoying it, however we did find out that he seems a bit behind the other children in his fine motor skills. This was not surprising to me as he has always been more of a gross motor kid, however, the interesting thing in SA is that there is a much broader scope of early intervention in these things here than in Canada. It has been suggested that he might benefit from Occupational Therapy, something I would never consider at home given the stigma associated and the general practise of OT, PT and ST being allocated for children with more pronounced limitations. I had an interesting discussion with my friend on the cultural and political nature of these differences and how in a state-funded healthcare system these stigmas are useful to limit funding to profound need. SA has a private/ public system and these supportive health practises are generally paid privately so the onus is on the parents to take full advantage of the various professional services that may benefit their child. Consequently I am pondering an assessment for both E and D to see what improvements could be achieved.
This week was also the week that homeschooling began in earnest and E is doing some review work in math and digging into a new spelling book with grammar and punctuation lessons. Her first unit came on the heels of our trip to the bushveld and is all about camping!
E and I were able to drop in on a home-school social gathering at an ice-rink. It is somewhat ironic that as Canadians who live in the most moderate climate in Canada we rarely go skating. Now as visitors to South Africa, in spring no less, we are brushing up on our ice-skating technique! We made some lovely new friends and were invited to some other events next week that we’re looking forward to sharing with you then. (apologies for the lousy phone pics!)
To wrap up our week we decided to be very Canadian and thank our SA hosts and their extended family by preparing them a traditional CA Thanksgiving dinner. I have to say that cooking a turkey on the braii and eating outside on the patio in the warm spring evening was a delightful change from the traditional Canadian experience!
This past week began with a dramatic medical incident, I was preparing lunch for myself and 6 children and neatly cut off the tip of my finger with a new knife. I spent Monday afternoon getting my fingertip reattached and witnessing the surgical talents of my new friend who is a typical SA GP. It is healing beautifully and we are beginning to learn our way in this place we currently call home.
We are living in an affluent suburb of Johannesburg and enjoying making new friends and deepening our friendship with our South African hosts. Our residence is lovely and we have a great mall nearby and all the conveniences of home at our fingertips.We were using a KIA van last week that was rented to us by a friend but it had an oil leak and is in the garage so we’ve had to adjust to driving this instead 🙂 Driving on the other side of the road is beginning to feel more natural and those right turns are getting a bit less scary.
However, there is another side of South Africa and we are not blind to it. We have seen the poor on street corners and lying under the shade in the parks. We have learned to live with an awareness of the dangers around us and to be suspicious of anyone who would try to approach our car or home. We have learned how to enter a driveway safely and which neighbourhoods to avoid driving through. The children have had a greater number of bad dreams as their little sub-concsious minds wrestle with the realities of these dangers. We have to tell them constantly that they must not roll down the windows, they must never open the gate, they must never leave our sight in a public place and they must never tell anyone details about themselves. We have had to explain that there are robbers who would steal our belongings and robbers who steal children. It is sad to tear away the thin veil of their innocence but essential for their own safety that they understand! My wonderful husband had the opportunity to attend a big rugby match on Saturday between the SA Springboks and the NZ All Blacks. It was a great game with an old rivalry creating intense energy between players and fans alike. The hubs enjoyed it thoroughly but then the other side of Africa asserts itself. As they were driving home they made a wrong turn and accidentally drove through a neighbourhood colloquially called Death Valley. J said there was a recent shooting victim laying on the road and police attending the scene. They kept driving and got out onto the main highway as quickly as they could. Monday we heard that our new domestic helper was ill and would be unable to come in this week, this morning we were shocked and greatly saddened to find out that she has passed away. There is no word yet as to what kind of illness took her life so suddenly. She was only 28 years old and leaves behind 2 children! As my dear friend shared the terrible news with me she looked at me with great sadness in her eyes and said, “this is Africa”.
And so I write about my learning journey with the kids last week. The curriculum calls it Health and Career: injury prevention and personal safety, Social Studies: communities, and global economics, Math: money, comparing quantities and addition and subtraction. We call it “life in Africa” and the sad reality of 2 less humans in the world this week. RIP Anna and the nameless others whose lives are snuffed out too early.