We've been home for just over a week now and it feels like it's been much longer. While we were away it seemed as if life here should've been on pause until we returned. It was winter (not a typical east coast winter, but a southern Africa winter with cold night and warm days) in Gaborone, and I knew we were coming back to summer, but I was not ready for the crazy heat and humidity we had late last week. I tried to remind myself that I was very glad the weather was milder when we first got back. At least we had a few days to adjust to the weather.
I jumped right back into life here. It's blueberry season which means buying a 20 lb box (no, I don't go and pick my own!) or two, washing, laying them out to dry off and then packing them in freezer boxes so we can enjoy them all winter long.
I hadn't planted summer annuals in our flower pots before leaving in April, so I bought some on Friday and have been planting them over the past few days, with Edwin's help. He really enjoys gardening, so I try to have him help as much as I can. He dumps the plant food in before I put the plant in the ground and then helps to water the flowers too.
Laundry is a constant event here, and I've been hanging most of it outside. It's just too nice to put it in the dryer, but that means it does take me longer to get the laundry dried, folded and put away.
The house is begging to be cleaned, but I haven't gotten around to it yet. I have discovered it is my least favorite chore, although I love having a clean house. Now that I can't easily clean the whole house in one day (which was the case pre-children), I don't clean nearly as often as I used to. Plus, I just got back from almost 2 months of not having to clean my house (thank you, Rebecca!!), so I'm a little out-of-practice.
We've been trying to catch up with friends we haven't seen in a while, there are doctor's appointments coming up and potty training is looming on the horizon as well.
Today has been a day at home - laundry, gardening, mid-morning snack time, reading stories, lunch (and Dan was home for lunch!!), silly games with a toddler and baby and now nap time. I have a few more flowers I'd like to plant and some cookies and milk to eat while I sit and read.
We arrived home Saturday evening after traveling for over 24 hours. We drove from Gaborone to Johannesburg on Friday and then took a 10 and 1/2 hour flight from there to Amsterdam. The flight left at 11:30 pm, so we slept on the plane. We arrived in Amsterdam at 10:30 a.m. (it was 4:30 a.m. on the east coast), had a 2 hour layover and left for the states soon after 12:30. We were in DC at 2:30 pm (although it was 8:30 p.m. in Botswana).
We're definitely experiencing some jet lag. I can tell Elena is mixed up still. She and Edwin are both sleeping well at night, but Elena's napping is off during the day and she seems pretty tired. Edwin has been taking long afternoon naps and is pretty hard to wake up. Both kids are up pretty early in the morning. I figure we'll be back to normal in a few more days. It's really been an easier transition coming home than it was going.
Elena turned 6 months old on Thursday. Where have the past 6 months gone?! I can hardly believe how quickly she's growing. I can't kiss her and snuggle her enough.
We got the unpacking taken care of yesterday, so now I just have some laundry to do. Thankfully, I'd done most of the laundry before we left, so there isn't much. Our little garden exploded while we were away and I hadn't planted any annuals yet, so I'm hoping to spend some time cleaning things up a bit and planting some flowers. Edwin has informed me that I can use his little red (plastic) shovel while he uses the big shovel as well as the two trows. He has it all figured out.
It feels good to be back. And always, after traveling by air, I can't quite comprehend that I'm so far away from where I just was.
After today we'll have just 3 more days here and then we leave Friday night. It will be almost midnight here when we fly, but it'll be supper time on the east coast. If you think of us, say a prayer for safety for us when you sit down to eat.
We spent most of this past weekend at the Khama Rhino Sanctuary. It's about 4 hours north of Gaborone, so we spent a lot of time on the road. We rented a Honda CRV (We think it is 7th vehicle we've driven since arriving in Jo'burg 2 months ago) so that we could drive around in the sanctuary on our own. We were able to watch a bunch of animals, including rhinos, zebras, jackals, guinea fowl, various antelope, a few wildebeast, ostriches and - finally - some giraffes.
Edwin enjoyed seeing the animals but he also enjoyed the freedom to sit on my lap in the CRV and not have to stay buckled in his car seat. And Elena, well, she was happy as long as she had her pacifier and could sleep and eat when she wanted to.
We slept in a chalet overnight, and boy, was it COLD. Not only do the chalets not have insulation, the gables on the front and back are just open screens, so all the cold air could come right in. The roof was also dried grass. We'd brought along some additional comforters and I'm really glad we did. We were able to make sure the kids had enough covers and we had extra too.
We had decided to eat supper at the restaurant just a short walk away from our chalet and then we were going to build a fire outside afterwards. Edwin was all excited at the prospect, and I kind of thought of this as a pseudo camping trip.
I walked back to the chalet before Edwin and Dan because Elena was really hungry and as I got closer, I realized there were a number of vehicles and a bunch of men right outside our chalet, sitting around a campfire, drinking, and cooking meat on the outdoor grill. WHAT??!! This wasn't a public picnic area - we'd reserved the chalet and the fire pit and outdoor grill went along with the chalet.
I just decided to just go into the chalet since I saw it was all men (there happened to be one woman but I hadn't seen her originally - an American - from what Dan said later). I thought I'd let Dan handle the situation.
I sat on one of the beds inside and nursed Elena. The group right outside was loud, and all I could think was "what in the world are they doing here?! Surely they saw our CRV (it was right out front - there was no way they could miss it!) and realized people are staying here! Here we thought we were going to have a relaxing night!" I tried to stay calm while nursing Elena.
Dan and Edwin came back soon, and Dan went out to talk to the guys. They didn't offer to leave, they just said they didn't think anyone was staying here, so they thought they'd use the grill and fire pit. Dan then went to talk to some of the staff at the restaurant and they came back with him to talk to the picnickers.
The short story is, they packed up their things and left after we clearly said we wanted them to. In some ways I felt mean that we made them leave, but I also felt like our space and privacy had been totally disregarded and invaded. They went on their way, and we were then able to relax and have the quiet evening we'd been looking forward to.
Edwin was excited about the fire and he ran around a bit until we decided he'd stayed up long enough past bedtime. We made special "campfire milk" that consisted of warm milk with some sugar mixed in. I made one for Edwin, and then he wanted to make one for me and Dan.
After both kids were in bed, we were able to sit by the fire and look at the stars. I must say, I don't think I've ever seen the stars so clearly. Because there wasn't much unnatural light, we could see the stars and the milkey way so clearly, and the sky seemed huge.
It made me feel small and vulnerable. Just a tiny speck on a huge planet.
Today's parting photos: the view in the backseat (for about 2 minutes) during our return trip to Gabs.
There's a small nature reserve just outside of Gaborone called Mokolodi Nature Reserve. It used to be a farm, apparently, but the land was donated to the nearby town of Mokolodi and is now open to the public. It boasts an education center, self-catering chalets, camp sites and a restaurant. You can take a 2 hour game drive in the morning or late afternoon, and a few weeks ago we did the morning game drive and then ate lunch at the Mokolodi restaurant. Many of the game drives, or safaris, that one could do in Botswana and South Africa do not allow children. We opted to forgo one of those this time around and just go to some local, smaller-scale places. It was great for us, and Edwin seemed to enjoy bouncing around in the back of a truck for a couple hours. We went again this past Friday afternoon, but I'll post those pictures later. Here are just a few from our first trip.
I wore Elena in the Moby while on the truck. There are no seat belts and the ride is really bumpy, so it was safer to wear her than to try and keep a hold of her carseat on the truck. Climbing in and out was a bit precarious, but I didn't have any trouble.
We saw a bunch of ostriches.
The males are dark like this one, while the females are brown.
Can you see the doe?
We drove to the top of a hill and had a snack break. This was the view.
This part of Botswana is mostly flat,
but then you will see random hills jutting up here and there.
Botswana's national animal.
Also the name of their soccer team.
We didn't get to see the giraffes that live on this nature reserve, unfortunately.
But we saw a lot of warthogs, impala, wildebeast and heartbeast.
We saw a variety of birds as well.
After the ride, we ate lunch at the restaurant.
Here you can see Edwin getting ready to enjoy his pitcher of ketchup.
It's not uncommon for a restaurant to have a playground right next to it. It's a brilliant idea.
While we sat, chatted and waited for our food, Edwin could run around on the playground as opposed to having to be entertained at the table. We've been to a number of restaurants (none of them fast-food) that have playgrounds right next to the outdoor tables. While we were in South Africa, we even ate at a place that had an indoor play area where the kids could watch a movie on a large screen, play video games, ride some small kiddie rides, jump in something like a moon bouncer and make their own pizza. There were some adults in there specifically to watch the kids and help them make the pizzas. Dan made the comment that such places wouldn't work in the US because we're just to quick to file a lawsuit. Too bad. We have all enjoyed the presence of a playground next to the tables.
I think I said I was going to post some pictures of the house we're staying in here in Gabs. Finally getting around to it. Above you see the front door. The dried, drooping plants on the porch roof are an experiment (not ours). I think they'd look great if they went the whole way across and were fresh.
Just left of the front door. You can's see it on this picture, but the garage door is now nice and clean (a fun activity Edwin and I did together one morning) and the garage is a bit emptier since I took half a dozen bags of paper, plastic, bottles and boxes to be recycled. You can see there are some brightly colored outdoor toys. Edwin's been making use of those most days.
Here's the view when standing near the garage door. You can see the motorized gate connected to brick and cement block walls. The walls surround the plot and they're topped by and electric fence. There is an alarm connected to the fence. It went off the other day. Apparently a lizard touched one of the wires. That was the end of the lizard. Soon after the alarm went off, some one from the security company came to check things out. So we know the system works. Walls and gates and electric fences are the norm around here. It was the same in South Africa (even more so!) and also in parts of Swaziland.
This is a view to around the side of the garage. Those tires are basically little raised beds for growing vegetables. There's another one (not pictured) that has some basil growing in it. A gardener comes a couple times a week for a few hours to water the plants. It's the dry season here, so we haven't seen any rain since we've been here.
And further around the to the back of the house. The second door from the right is the kitchen door.
There is a small house behind our house. A young woman who is volunteering for a year at a local clinic lives there. The small house contains a bathroom and very small bedroom. We share the kitchen with her.
You can see there is a lot of gravel and dirt around here. Edwin loves the space to run around. And because it's all walled in, he can't go too far. Being in the city, and in a mostly enclosed space, I'm not really worried about snakes being outside, so I'm happy to open the doors and let Edwin explore and play and dig in the dirt to his heart's content. I think returning to our home with a tiny back yard is going to be quite a shock for Edwin.
Welcome to our blog! This is a venue for sharing some of our photos, reflections and updates on our lives. We created this blog because of our trip to Zambia in early 2009, but it will continue beyond our two months in southern Africa. Have a look around and feel free to send us your comments.