Holidays, Holy Days and Resolutions

Happy New Year! What brave new worlds lie ahead for you in 2014?IMG_8206

We have just come back from a fabulous holiday around the central and east part of SA. December was a whirlwind of activities and explorations. We enjoyed a mini-week at a reserve called the Pilanesberg where game sightings were abundant and our family was able to spend some quality time together. IMG_7692 IMG_7762 IMG_7770 IMG_7772 IMG_7805 IMG_7832Then Christmas was spent braaiing (outdoor BBQ meals), playing in pools and visiting with friends. It was a blur as we returned from the Pilanesberg on the 22 and then had to finish getting ready for Christmas. We began a new tradition this year with the children making their gifts for each other. E found and printed  pictures of characters from a game D likes on the internet. She then painstakingly glued them to cardboard, cut them out and decoupaged them into action figures D could play with. D browsed the internet with me and selected the idea of creating a Horse sock puppet for E. He helped sew buttons on for the eyes and yarn for the hair. It was great practise for his fine motor skills and creativity!IMG_8992 On Christmas Eve the children all acted out the Christmas Story for the adults. They did a very good job with E and her friend C actually creating a script from their bibles that included a portion of the magnificat. E was the angel Gabriel and took her role very seriously. IMG_8109 IMG_8106The boys were sheep and shepherds and although a bit silly they managed to do their part. Boxing day we packed our car and after a delay waiting for AAA to come and give us a boost, we were off to explore the beautiful Drakensberg Mountains. IMG_8214We enjoyed some lovely hiking, gourmet meals, swimming in the Cascades which is a series of natural pools and low waterfalls and capping it off with a night at an historic site from the Anglo-Boer War called Spionkop. This battle is of particular interest as it was a phenomenal failure of the British and a false victory for the Boers. There were also several prominent historical figures present such as; Winston Churchill who was there as a courier and war correspondent, Robert Baden-Powell, a commander, and Mahandas Ghandi who was a stretcher-bearer! (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Spionkop)IMG_8307IMG_8342

We spent our last morning in the mountains at the Kwa Cheetah Breeding Project on the Nambiti Private Game Reserve.(http://www.cheetahinteraction.com) The program director explained that Cheetahs are actually more endangered than rhinos. Sadly they are killed for their beautiful fur and are suffering from encroachment on their natural habitats.IMG_8422

There was also a tame meerkat on the property that named Zulu. She was very friendly (especially to girls) and spent quite a bit of time cuddled up with E and I.IMG_8471

The really funny thing about Zulu though, is that she helped foster a wounded cub in the breeding program. The cub, named Yakira, had been stepped on by her mother when she was 4 days old which broke her shoulder. As Cheetahs rely on their speed and agility to hunt, she could never survive in the wild so the program hand-raised her and she is now their tame mascot. I don’t know if there has or ever will be again a cheetah that behaves like a meerkat but this was definitely a sight to behold! 🙂IMG_8477

She was a very calm animal and although we didn’t let little S wander about on his own, she was purring and enjoyed being petted by the visitors. IMG_8480

From the rainy, cool mountain heights in the “Berg”as it is affectionately called, we drove around the edge of Lesotho and descended 1600m to the Indian Ocean. IMG_8519We spent 4 wonderful days with dear friends in Ballito playing at the beach, trying local cuisine and most importantly reconnecting with these special people. We celebrated the New Year with them, eating, laughing, swimming and dancing the night and the old year away. IMG_8546It was a poignant moment at midnight to be with these treasured friends from our past singing Auld Lang Syne together and welcoming the promise of a new year.IMG_8545We reluctantly repacked our car to head out on the final leg of our journey. Our destination was Hluehluwe/ St. Lucia, the oldest game reserve in SA, located in the northern Natal, also called Zululand. Unfortunately, Hluehluwe was a bit of a bust with mediocre accommodation, expensive park fees, and difficult terrain for game spotting. Our final day at St. Lucia, however, was incredible. We signed up for an all- day safari that included game drive through the wetlands, snorkelling at Cape Vidal and finished with a Hippo and Croc boat cruise in the estuary. It was a truly epic day and redeemed our frustrating time at Hluehluwe. St. Lucia is a laid back holiday village filled with B&Bs, self-catering cottages/ apartments and restaurants. It is also a world heritage site with an estuary and inland lake that stretches for 350km and is home to literally thousands of Nile Crocodiles and Hippos. (http://www.isimangaliso.com/index.php) The governments of  SA, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe(?) have agreed to create a new protected corridor by 2020 extending from ISimangaliso Park north to Mozambique and Zimbabwe which will allow indigenous animals to migrate from the dry savannah to the coastal regions and back again. It’s inspiring to hear the pride in the rangers voices as they talk about this ambitious project and I can’t help but be proud of the African people for showing this commitment to protecting their beautiful land and animals!

Painted Reed Frogs:IMG_8614 Giant KingfisherIMG_8685  SnorkelingIMG_8646 IMG_8672 Can you spot the crocs?IMG_8987IMG_8828These are hippo teeth!IMG_8824A gorgeous tropical sunset.IMG_8906My final day in St. Lucia started with a walking bird safari at the crack of dawn. We have all developed an interest in birding since being here and are amazed at the diversity and beauty of the birds we have seen. This is a Southern Red Bishop Weaver:IMG_8239Blue-Cheeked Bee-EaterIMG_8978Brimstone CanaryIMG_8990We are now settling back into our house and routine and are moving boldly forward into whatever the new year brings. We have resolved as a family to keeping better track of our working time and to be more mindful of the way we speak to each other. We also intend to be more disciplined in our health routines and achieve a better lifestyle in the coming year.

Do you make resolutions? What is your greatest success story?

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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!

 

Feeding the world through a small Farmer’s Market!

Finally the Farmer’s Market is here and we are finishing up our products and labelling for the sale! From making and packaging our home-made granola,

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to creating labels for our custom felt creations! It was fully integrated learning this week.IMG_2497

Modelling their choices and planning for everyone to wear their headbands at the sale.IMG_2498

Finally the day arrived with some light rain and occasional downpours. Our spirits were not dampened by the weather though as we were so excited to see it all come together after months of planning and creating! Throughout the year we have focussed on global poverty issues with our children and in partnership with Food for the Hungry, we are planning to donate 100% of our  profits to support various  FH projects around the world.IMG_2591 IMG_2593 IMG_2595 IMG_2597

Almost as exciting as the market was the actual presentation of our funds at the FH office! We met the office staff and found out which countries FH is currently working in.

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We learned about their child sponsorship program and how little it takes to feed a child in the developing world.IMG_2736

The children were given prayer cards for the different projects so that they can continue to support FH in prayer and to be mindful of the work still to be done.IMG_2744

We watched a video of a welcome ceremony in Burundi and the graduation of a school project in Uganda!IMG_2756

We met Mr. H, the director of FH Canda…IMG_2759

… and E was a ready and confident spokesperson for our group in explaining to Mr. H why were were touring his office and what we had done to fundraise for their organization!IMG_2761

Ms. M had thoughtfuully created a shopping list with the kids using the FH gift catalogue and an interactive, sticker voting system. The children were able to present the funds we raised along with their choices of projects to support. Their top choices were building a school, and a surprising choice of latrines.(Perhaps not so surprising though if you look back at our lesson on the Ganges river in India, they were all appalled at the devastating health effects of poor sanitation!)IMG_2762

I am so proud of these kids and the way they have embraced their global community through learning and acts of service!

2012; A Room with a View and Visioneering into 2013

If hindsight is is 20/20 than this is the time of year when we have the picture window view on the past year! However, as the old adage goes, those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it’s mistakes and so with our informed look at the past, we are turning our faces to the future and how we can become our best selves.

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1. Our faith is the centre of who we are and what we want to be. Looking back we have begun to show that in some of our daily activities but this is an area that we want to be at the heart of everything and so for the new year we are committed to deepening, broadening and running full-steam into the realm of belief. We have challenged ourselves to learn at least 33 bible verses by the end of the school year and want to implement a more consistent time of daily devotions. God has blessed E with a desire to know him and it warms my heart to see her poring over the genealogy of Jesus in the book of Matthew or writing songs of praise on the piano. We are so grateful for this spark in her heart and pray that we will be instrumental in fanning it into a full flame that burns brightly and makes her a witness to others.IMG_1937

2. We are a family of unique and creative individuals. I am learning that in our family this means that we need space to figure out our own ideas, opportunities and materialsto explore and sometimes we even need some structure to turn those ideas into realities. In order to more fully develop this aspect of our family, we are significantly decreasing screen time and engaging in more creative time. This means boredom is not an option and free play with less toys and more found objects is now the gold standard in our house.

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3. We strive to be intentional about community. We have joined our learning paths with the wonderful families in our co-op group. This has been a fun-filled journey of discovery and collaboration. We also marked the 1st anniversary at our church home and are finding more connections there as we increase our involvement and profile. Through our neighbourhood we have begun to build relationships with neighbours and new friends from the community centre. Now at the beginning of this new year we are planning a 6 month sojourn in South Africa and are excited about what God will do in our lives there. This idea of community is especially important as we will just be briefly passing through the lives the people we will meet. We desire to be open and joyful in these relationships and hope that this will be a life-changing experience for our whole family.