Tuesday, September 30, 2008

London, England

Our layover on the way home was in London, England. Chris's aunt and cousin met us at the airport and we all took "the tube" into the city. We walked around for about 5 hours saw Buckingham Palace, took a pic with a royal guard member, saw Big Ben, Parliament House, and just a bunch of stuff. We even went on a little boat tour which was very fun, the tour guide had a good sense-of-humor. I made sure to grab some fish & chips while I was there - so good!

Sorry my camera died so Chris took most the pictures that day!

Krugger Park, South Africa

So after Swaziland we drove north back into South Africa and headed to Krugger Park. We stayed at a backpackers near the Crocodile River. Friday we went on a guided tour through the part - it has been experiencing a bit of a drought the past two years and they're heading out of winter down there so we stayed near the rivers and water features to see the most animals as possible.

We were mostly looking to see the Big 5 - these are the five most dangerous animals to hunt, which is how they got their title. They are the Elephant, Rhino, Buffalo (cape usually), Lion, & Leopard/Cheetah - these last ones are similar and usually are by themselves so pretty difficult to see but we were hopeful.

First thing we saw these Rhinos - right off the road it was awesome, then after about two minutes the one facing us stood up, turned around, and laid back down so both of their butts were toward us - it was pretty funny! And 1/5 on the Big Five!

Then we headed down to the hippo pool where we were actually allowed to get out of the car - THE #1 rule that we had to promise not to do, but we were accompanied by an armed guard. I guess hippos are actually the number 1 killer of people (apparently they are a lot faster than they look and also very protective).

Throughout the day we saw lots of animals here are some of my favorites.

The next day we drove our own car into the park and drove near a different river for half of the day - we saw more animals and even some Hyenas, this little guy actually came out to the road and was running around everywhere - they are pretty sick looking animals but I liked this one.
So we saw the Elephant, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, and Lion - the cheetah/leopard we could never find but since we saw this hyena I'm going to say we saw 4.5 out of the Big Five!

Moya Centre, Swaziland

Josh had previously made a contact with this woman named Jane who runs an amazing center here in Swaziland. Her home is here and she has dedicated her time to really making a difference in her own community. When we met her I can just tell that she is always working hard and is constantly going, the first time we pulled up she was going to try to track down some kids that had run away.

A few of the ways she helps is by setting up gardens for the community. One is by the center itself and they use it as an educational garden and have a learning session with members of the community to come and learn how to grow different herbs and vegetables that they can manage. The center has also planted a large garden for one of the schools in the community so that they can feed the children and any extra produce they send home to their families.

Chris playing with the kids in the preschool - so shy around us at first but oh so precious!

Another big focus of theirs is working with child-headed households so children who's parents have passed away and left them alone or children who had been intrusted to their grandparents that have also died leaving them with no idea where their parents are. We were able to use $300 US to buy 15 packages of food for these type of household. The money went such a long way we bought (10 lbs bags of maize[corn], 5 lbs of rice and beans, sugar, salt, soup mix, oil, and some suckers) This totally loaded up the back of the Kia and Chris had some stuff falling on him as we made the drive - but it was completely worth it and I know Jane will make great use of the food.

While we were there we were also able to meet Nafumto - a 18 yr. old girl who is very smart. She want to go onto more schooling to find a good job but her family is experiencing great trials right now. Her mother, herself, a younger brother and sister had no place to live, so their grandma took them in. Unfortunately she recently passed away and they once again need a place to call home so that she can continue her schooling and soon provide for her family. She is so smart and will achieve great things.
Nafumto a girl with amazing potential and she deserves better!

As we asked her what will happen after the month of mourning they are allowed and where they will live she just looked at us and said "I don't know." Well it just broke my heart and Kaiizen committed that we will help to raise the $3500 US it will take to build them a two room house with a small cooking shelter out back so that Nafumto can go to school and then provide for her family without the stress of looking for someplace to live. If you would like to help at all please contact me and all donations will go to this family in need.

Swaziland Tour

This was one of the best days we toured a rural chiefdom on the other side of the valley. Our tour guide Richard took us out to this area and we got on the ATV's and started along the roads. On our way down we saw a group of men skinning and butchering a cow (usually this is only for celebrations) and sorry Josh and Chris have more pictures my camera died this day - plus I felt awkward taking a photo of this but I'm glad Josh didn't.

Our first stop was at this local store that sells a few different items and of course soda and actually there is a little building next door that grinds up corn for people in the area at a small cost (the business man is definitely benefiting more though), anyway we met this little girl named Dolly - whe is 13 years old and slightly mentally handicapped but she can stay by the store keep the chickens out of the bags of cornmeal and when some women need to go into town she actually watches there children and shares a soda with them. She was playing with Josh and they were just being so funny - so I snapped a picture.

We then continued and visited different houses - next up was Evelyn she is such an amazing lady always working to tend her crops or animals, make her own ropes, thatch a roof, etc. This is where we had lunch which was taking a half an avacado, mixing it up with a little salt, pepper, and mayo and spreading it on a roll. She gave us a tour of her house the cooking hut, showed us how she hand grinds the corn with the stones. It was awesome and she is just so cute we were really grateful for her sharing a bit of her life with us.

We traveled to two other houses that day one family searches the mountains for these crystal rocks and sells them for 5 Rand = about 10 cents so we were able to purchase a few of those. Then we stopped by another house that grows quite a bit for their family. They have herbs, maize (corn), avacado, papaya trees and much more. Overall this day was awesome because we really got an overall feel for how the families in the rurual areas live.


Unfortunately we had to trade in the VW because it was having a hard time starting and we didn't want to take it across the border to Swaziland so after we picked up a Kia Picanto we were off. The drive was pretty, I always love driving through new countries and it usually makes me appreciate the beauty of my own country that I usually don't take the time to notice.

Trading in the old car for the new one, but it worked just fine for what we needed! Poor Josh!

However on the way there we passed a orange truck that had tipped over and people everywhere were carrying oranges by the basket or wheelbarrow full back to their homes.

Also at various times we had cows, goats, or monkey's running across the highway so we had to be careful - there were signs warning us about free-roaming livestock and signs that said "Danger High Crime Area -Do Not Stop!"

In Swaziland we stayed between the cities of Mbabane (the capital I believe) and Manzini. This valley is actually a little touristy with a golf course and their are a few royal residents here too [The Kingdom of Swaziland is ruled currently by a 40 yr old king and I believe he has 13 wifes and celebrating his birthday had just got a brand new X6 BMW or something]. We actually stayed at the Milwane Nature Reserve at this backpacker lodge. We opted for the huts which were great and every night they fed us (I think I ate Impala and some kind of Boar at one point).

We overlooked a beautiful valley and mostly the animals were impala, zebras, warthogs, etc so we were able to take a little walk down to the Hippo and Crocodile ponds - don't worry we didn't get too close and just about everybody warns the tourists that Hippos actually are the #1 killer of people I guess in Africa. This place was great though and I really enjoyed our time here.

This is the most colorful lizard I've ever seen and he was just chillin on some tree by the lodge!

Soweto, South Africa

Our second day we took a tour of Soweto (South West Township) just outside of Johannesburg. It's actually quite well-known place, home once of Nelson Mandela & Desmund Tutu [both men have been awarded the nobel peace price and they actually live on the same street].

Our tour guides Steve & Janet!

On our tour we were able to view neighborhoods that clearly depicted the separation of not only whites and blacks, but upper class blacks, lower class blacks, and mixed races. It was very interesting (for lack of a better word) and it was also crazy to see how the government has started working to cover up some of these places with two story colorful homes - just in time for the 2010 world cup of soccer that they are hosting.

This was a nicer house for sure - although this man apparently does do a lot to help out the community and give back by using landscaping to almost create parks.

Typical "matchbox" house a family can rent-to-own from the government, it only is two rooms!

Both of these pictures show how they are trying to hide some of the old housing.

We also stopped on the road to view one of the squatter's camps and although we did not go in (which I was actually glad - it was just too invasive) it is by far some of the poorest conditions I've ever seen people actually living in.

Debri on the roof helpf to keep it attached when strong winds come!

Our tour continued to a museum there depicting many events in the abolishment of aparteid, emphasizing mostly a protest march of students for the removal of the Africaans language (70% Dutch, 20% German, 10% mixed languages) in their classes. These originally peaceful march turned violent when police officers felt threatened and some even opened fire into the crowds. One boy who died that day named Hector Petersen is who the museum is named after and the weeks following this event were choatic and filled with many more deaths. This event actually recieved a lot of coverage worldwide and was an ignitor of the fight for equal rights among the black population in South Africa.
This event was captured by a photographer, Hector age 13 died that day - the boy who picked his body up to carry him home eventually ran away and was never seen again - and Hector's sister Annette lives in Soweto today and we actually met her at the museum while we were there, hard to remember that the history of this country is still so recent and most of the people that will be recorded for history are still alive today. Thanks to a lot of courage South Africa is working to really achieve it's potential!

Johannesburg, South Africa

We flew into Joburg at 7am (in the last 3 nights I have now only slept 8 hours) we make it through customs and Josh negotiates his way into a Volkswagon Chico rental car and we leave the airport at 9am. We drive around find our accomadations but our check in time isn't until 1pm so we head to the grocery store to get a snack.

Josh just sooooo happy about this car!

Great time to take my Malaria medication on an empty stomach - fast forward 20 min with my head in a garbage can throwing it all up (took it with food from then on out)! By 11am we are falling asleep in the car in the parking lot so we head back to the lodge to see if our rooms are by any chance ready - they are and I'm so happy.

Simba the dog at our accomadations!

My dad always told me to stay up till 9pm at least the night you fly in, but there was no way my eyes were going to hold up so I decided a little nap won't hurt. 6 hours later I wake up and it's almost dark again - oops! But it was ok I was so tired that I fell asleep again about midnight!