As I write this, we are in Chicago O’Hare after flying from Nelspruit to Johannesburg to Frankfurt. We just said our goodbyes to my sister’s family, and we will board for Portland in a bit. Just a couple of last images from our time in South Africa…this has been a moment in time that I will forever cherish!
Our sunrise game drive was a great success! It again started slowly, but after about 1.5 hours of searching, Phillip found a large herd of water buffalo! That completed our Big Five sightings: elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, and buffalo. Even better, he found a mother cheetah and her three cubs off in the distance (too far for my iPhone to capture). Then he got word of a leopard in a tree, so we saw that too. It was a spectacular morning in The Kruger!
We will soon begin our long journey home. As usual, it is quite bittersweet to leave this special place. I treasure all of the moments spent here as a family exploring the beauty that is South Africa.
Friday was our last day in Cape Town. We awoke to fog, which was rather disappointing since today was the only opportunity for the family to take the cableway up Table Mountain. We crossed our fingers and said a few prayers that the sky would clear.
Reed finished his peace psychology seminar with the students while the family went to the waterfront. We rode the Cape Wheel and browsed the artisan shops. After lunch, we took the hop-on/hop-off bus for a few stops, and then we met up with everyone at the District Six Museum. It is too much to put into words as I blog at this late hour…I encourage you to read about District Six. It is an important story to know.
We said our good-byes to the students, which was quite bittersweet. I am so thankful for a “successful” program and meaningful experience, but it is a special moment in time that we will never share again. I value each person and their journey here, and I am grateful that they invested so much in this.
The family hopped back on the bus and ascended Table Mountain to the lower station. Thankfully, the skies had cleared by now, and it was a unique day to go to the upper station. There was a low bank of clouds over the Atlantic on the “back side” of the mountain. It was stunning. We enjoyed our time and got a lot of nice photos of the spectacular views.
We intended to hop back on the bus, but it didn’t have a scheduled stop for awhile. Instead, we Ubered to Camps Bay for dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. We enjoyed some American fare and 80s/90s music videos to mark our last night in Cape Town.
It is time for The Kruger tomorrow…I can hardly wait. Journey mercies to the students as they transition back home.
Our party of 16 had a wonderful Thursday excursion around Cape Point. We drove through Hout Bay, along the rugged Atlantic coast, and down to the Cape of Good Hope. We went to the Point and ascended to its top. Some chose the hiking option while others of us rode the funicular. At the top, we marveled at the views and took a LOT of pictures!
Next we drove to the water and it’s famous sign. We walked on the rocky shore, and some brave ones did a little rock climbing that made me quite nervous! I was relieved when we were all back on the bus, heading to our lunch stop in Simon’s Town. At lunch, Ernesto surprised Reed with a bottle of wine he bought for him way back on our first full day in Cape Town. The name seemed fitting for the male Professor Mueller – “Stubborn Man.” 😉
After lunch, it was time to go to Boulders Beach Penguin Colony. The famous “jack-ass penguins” were quite adorable and entertaining. We had fun watching their behaviors and taking LOTS of pictures (again). We had a little time for souvenirs, coffee, and ice cream before heading back to the city. It was a great day at the Point and with the penguins!
It’s hard to believe that tomorrow is the last day of the Concordia program. We’ve learned so much, made new friends, and are forever changed. I am grateful for the time here!
P.S. One of our students celebrated her 21st birthday today. Happy birthday, Mo! 🙂
I am happy to report that the family is here, and we are already enjoying our time together! They arrived around 2:30, and William swiftly got us to our “sustainable giving home.” It was a beautiful, warm day so they got a good view of Table Mountain on the way. William thought we should go directly to the cableway, but the timing was not right after two days of flying!
There was a little time to settle in and shower before heading to Gold Restaurant, where we learned to play the djembe, tried 14 different foods from around the African continent, and enjoyed lots of singing and entertainment (including face painting for all!).
It is late now and all are trying to sleep. Tomorrow if the weather holds we will visit Robben Island!
Today I woke early and headed to the airport to fetch my parents. They arrived on time and had a fairy easy journey from Iowa (via Chicago). They commented on how it takes about the same amount of time to fly to Dublin as it does to drive to Indianapolis (which my dad had just done for our nephew’s AAU basketball tournament), and it is a whole lot easier than flying to South Africa! Perspective can be a helpful tool!
We stowed their luggage at their Trinity City Hotel as their room wasn’t yet ready (it was only about 9:30) and we headed to our apartment. The kids and Reed were glad to see them, and we visited for awhile over morning beverages. Then my folks, Abbie, and I headed out to catch the big green “hop on/hop off” bus tour. I thought it might be a nice way for them to get oriented to Dublin without too much exertion.
We hopped off at Merrion Square and visited Oscar Wilde’s statue, something I had been wanting to do. We hopped back on the next bus and got lucky with witty live commentary. So, rather than hopping off again, we rode most of the rest of the route before meeting Jackson and Reed for lunch. We heard a bit of history, a pinch of humor, and skosh of sarcasm while winding through Dublin. It is a very interesting city with lots of character…there are a few sites I’d like to go back to and hop off to visit.
We lunched again at The Duke and enjoyed sandwiches, soup, and chips (aka fries). My dad had his first (half) pint of Guinness,which I think he enjoyed. We get to tour the Guinness storehouse tomorrow, so it will be fun to learn more about the Guinness family and their legendary black liquid. Then I got my folks settled into their posh hotel room so they could relax and freshen up before Riverdance.
Speaking of which, it was amazing! The dancers and musicians are so incredibly talented, and to see Riverdance in Dublin is beyond compare, in my opinion. The finesse and coordination exhibited is hard to put into words…truly spectacular. The show grew a little long for the kids, and my folks were pretty tired by the end after their super long day, but it was a delightful evening. The students enjoyed it too, and they were headed home after a full day. Here’s hoping everyone – all 10 of us – sleeps well!
Our Monday morning started in a leisurely fashion which was good, as 3/4 of us had trouble falling asleep (Reed did not). The kids and I had lunch in as Reed met his students and Tony for a Book of Kells tour at 11:30 (the rest of us will see it when my folks arrive). When they were done, they came by the apartment and got a quick tour…we want them to feel welcome here (they’ve designated themselves as our other four adopted children, at least for three weeks). 🙂
We all departed to meet up with Tony and our tour guide for the afternoon, Sean Finnegan. (A highlight for me was getting to meet Tracy Dicks, the London-based AIFS staffer who set up both this and the Cape Town program!) Sean is a lovely older gentleman who knows a lot about Dublin. As he works for the tourism office, he promised to tell us no lies while on the tour…he had quite a wit about him and often tried to stump us with questions about his city. 🙂 Our 60-90 minute walking tour ended up being about 150 minutes, and we didn’t even travel much distance! We strolled from Trinity down to St. Stephen’s Green, which is only about 1/2 mile away, and back, stopping frequently to hear about the sites. It was interesting most of the time, but everyone grew tired by the end of it. The kids (all six!) handled it well, and we were proud of them.
We had some time to return “home” in the afternoon before our welcome dinner. We met the students and Tony at the front gate of Trinity and headed toward Temple Bar around 7:00. We were ushered up two sets of stairs to a nicer restaurant setting at Oliver St. John Gogarty’s, which I didn’t expect (I thought it would be more of a pub setting, which the first two floors are). We had a lovely dinner, complete with duck for Hannah, lobster for Jamieson, steak for Kayla and Tony, sole for Jamie, pork loin for Jackson, Irish stew for Reed, fish & chips for Abbie, & veggie lasagna for me. We sat there long enough to make room for dessert, so it was a fun celebratory type of meal. We heard about the students’ home stays, which are going well, along with other things they’ve done to explore the city, both together and separately. They are a really great group of individuals, and we are so glad each one is here with us!
We returned home around 10:00, still fairly awake…it doesn’t get dark here until about that time, so our clocks are a bit shifted. We all slept well (I am writing this Tuesday morning), and are ready for another Dublin day!
We arrived midday Saturday after an easy journey, and our American Institute of Foreign Study (AIFS) guide, Tony Langan, was at the airport to meet us. All but one of our students was on our 10-hour flight from San Francisco, and the other one was waiting with Tony when we arrived. Tony sent the students in one taxi to their home stays, which are in a suburb of Dublin, about a half hour or so from city center. He rode with us in our taxi to settle us into our accommodations at Trinity College, right in the heart of Dublin. We have a nice apartment and feel quite lucky.
Sunday we ventured out for a stroll through the Trinity campus and Temple Bar, a neighborhood of cobbled streets (complete with shops, bars, & LOTS of tourists) for lunch and groceries. The weather is lovely, a mix of sun and clouds and mid-60s. Here’s a recap of what we saw and did…
Just a quick update to let everyone know that we all made it home safe and sound last night. We had some interesting mishaps along the way, but we persisted on and all parties are back at their respective homes. We have lots to think about…to remember…to continue to learn. It was a wonderful adventure, made perfect by sharing it together. We are thankful to God for watching over us, and we pray our sponsored children and their families also feel His protection. Here are just a few pics from our day in Mhlosheni, Swaziland. (We weren’t all together for the visits, so I don’t have those for everyone yet.)
Believe it or not, our first accommodation in Swaziland has wifi connectivity! The two teenagers with us are quite pleased. Okay, so are the two 40-somethings. 🙂 Anyway, I thought I would post a few more people pics for your enjoyment…
We arrived a bit late this afternoon (surprise, surprise), but everything went smoothly with the border crossing, etc. We are staying at the quaint Timbali Lodge in Manzini tonight and then will move on to Milwane Reserve (in traditional beehive huts!) tomorrow night. We had delicious pizzas for dinner (Abbie said they were the best pizzas she’s ever eaten; Connor said they were the best he’s ever eaten in Africa…I think his sense of humor comes from his dad).
Our World Vision partner, Bonginkosi, greeted us as well…it is great to see him again so soon. His smile grew very wide when we presented him with a giant bag of his favorite Skittles. Tomorrow will be a good, long day visiting our sponsored children. I am so looking forward to sharing this together as a family.
I doubt we’ll be online tomorrow night, and then Friday begins our journey home. If I can, I will post pics of us with our sponsored children, but I think it is not very likely. Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photos (they include one of my students, Kelsey, who joined us on safari)!