Tuesday, May 31, 2011

the daily(ish)

Sunset from our little balcony…



Seriously- the best sunsets in the world can be found in Africa.

Monday, May 30, 2011




I was pretty disappointed that we couldn’t  go carry buckets of water in the middle of nowhere, Swaziland this weekend.  We all have preconceptions of what something should be like and well,  Johannesburg, or at least the areas where we live behind the safety of guarded compounds with fancy malls, is just not what I had  thought Africa would be like. I realize that it is 2011 and time, no matter how slowly, is moving forward for most of the world.  It’s just that one of my biggest regrets from our time here in 2009 was that we didn’t delve too much into African culture.  We saw one dance show towards the end of our time here and it only made me more disappointed that we didn’t do more.

I really wanted to get a feel for African Africa- not just the animals, but the people.  Since Swaziland didn’t work out I began researching and found the Lesedi Cultural Center was located just a quick drive from Joburg. 

After the cheese-o-rama cultural center in New Zealand, I was a little wary. But the reviews were glowing and as a last minute decision we decided to stay the night after our cultural tour and dinner.

Lesedi highlights 5 of the many different tribal regions in South Africa.  They have a mini-village built for each of the tribes (built by artisans from those tribes and given modern conveniences like running water, electricity and a real bed) and you get guided around learning about the individual cultures.  Each of the villages also offers accommodations.  We chose to stay in the Zulu village because a. the Zulu’s were badass and b. their beehive huts looked amazing…


The inside was even better…

inside of our zulu hut

Warm and cozy, it smelled like sweet grass inside.  We loved it!

The tour of the villages was very informative and our guide, a Zulu, was beyond knowledgeable about all the tribes, their cultures and their languages.

Everyone was very serious about sharing their culture and there was no hokey-pokey Disney-esque feel about it.  Thank God.




medicine woman

This guy was by far our favorite though…



He just had such a great spirit and was always singing and dancing.  How often do you get to sit on a Zulu’s lap?

After our tour we sat around a fire warming up (it was freezing) and then headed in for the dance show.  Wow.  We were one of 2 families staying the night and there was a group of maybe 8 that had joined for a day tour.  It was such an intimate setting and an awesome feeling to have such talented, passionate people performing almost solely for you.

As I mentioned earlier, we saw a stage show in 2009.  It was great, but this was a million times better.  It was so intense and in your face.  The dancers were so prideful and serious.  At many times I literally felt uncomfortable- like I was intruding on some sort of private ceremony or something.





After the show we had dinner and then nestled down in our little Zulu hut for the night.

Sunday after breakfast we went to a nearby Lion Park to pet some lion cubs…





Um, yeah.  Are you kidding me?!? 

It was so insane to be able to do this.  Just pay for your ticket, stand in a queue and BOOM- you’re in a cage petting baby lions!  How precious are they and **hello** white lion cubs too?!?  I was so excited I thought my head might explode. 

We also got to climb up to a platform to feed giraffes which was very cool…


Jules didn’t want to do it for fear of giraffe slobber, but after I assured her their mouths felt like a soft paintbrush she got on board…


Afterwards we took a little drive around the actual lion park and got to see beautiful lions gnawing down on some grub…



Definitely more of a “zoo” type experience (just substitute tiny cages for big fenced areas) than our game drives, but since wild lions have such a difficult life it was nice to see some fat and healthy ones. 

Lesedi was such a wonderful experience and I mean, come on, we got to pet this guy…


I could not have loved South Africa more this weekend.

Tons of pics from the weekend…

the daily(ish)

I’ve been missing this little monkey more than ever lately…


Each time I’m cooking and drop something on the floor I look down expecting to see her dive-bombing in to scoop it up.

It breaks my heart each and every time.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Thursday, May 26, 2011

the daily(ish)

Okay, so maybe I should have enjoyed Sydney a little bit more…


I miss being outside amongst the masses.  As grateful as I am that we’re staying in the Sandton area, which is a much larger complex that our previous location, I’m already starting to feel the drain of living in a compound.  Maybe I should get a tracksuit and become a mall walker. 

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

the daily(ish)

I’m guessing this place doesn’t have the actual rights to use UGA’s face…


We are not fooled by the ugly hat.

Monday, May 23, 2011



As I may have mentioned, the Wife and I celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary this past Friday.  Although technically,  the actual celebrating didn’t happen until Saturday.  Thanks to a new “rule” about leaving on Friday we weren’t able to fly out until 9:30pm.  This meant we didn’t get into Cape Town and to our hotel until around 1am.  Good times.

We had a leisurely breakfast and made our way out to the wine country on Saturday.  We chose to stay again in Klein Zalze so we could have our celebratory dinner at their amazing Terrior restaurant (will post soon on food blog).

After checking in we drove over to Spier Winery to stalk a cheetah.  Well, not really stalk as much as pet one at the Cheetah Outreach Center. 

What an incredible experience…


His name was Joseph and he was beyond awesome.  I’ll admit I was a little weirded-out when we walked into his area.  He’s big.  He’s a freaking cheetah.  Enough said.  We had to walk behind him and kneel on one leg. This was so we could get up quickly in case he decided to roll over or get up or try to eat our face off.  As soon as I knelt behind him he rose up.  I almost peed my pants, but the whole kneeling on one leg thing worked because I was up in lightening speed.

After he walked over to the shade, which was all he wanted, we both knelt behind him and were able to stroke his side.  He literally purred.  Cheetahs are Africa’s only big cat that purrs.  Again, just incredible…


We later found out we had been hanging with a celeb.  He was in  “King Solomon’s Mine” with Patrick Swayze. 

After our cheetah encounter we took a tour of facilities and saw some of their other rescue animals…

DSC_0538bat eared fox

oh so cute!  i see that snaggle tooth!precious meerkats


Cheetah Outreach is an awesome organization that breeds dogs to save the cheetahs.  Yeah, that’s right- they raise money to breed dogs.  Actually it’s such a cool program.  The cheetahs they have were all born in captivity. They were hand-raised so they can’t be sent back into the wild.  They “work” as ambassadors educating young and old about the plight of their wild family members.  The money they raise is used to breed some kind of huge Turkish sheep dog that when placed as a pup with livestock protects the herd from predators…

  the stud of the dog breeding

Cheetah outreach breeds the dogs and gives them to farmers with the promise that they will not trap or shoot cheetahs or other predators.  Farmers who have the dogs go from losing 1/3 of their livestock to around 2% and best of all- the wild cheetah population is saved from demise. Our guide told us they have been doing it for about 11 years in Botswana and they have actually stabilized their cheetah population and are even seeing some growth.  Win. Win. Win.

The rest of our afternoon and really the rest of our weekend was spent tasting wines, buying wines, shopping at the little craft market, talking about the past 5 years and planning the next 20 all while eating ridiculously fresh and beautifully prepared foods. 


A truly wonderful anniversary weekend with the most amazing person I know…

5th year anniversary dinner

we’re so very blessed.

This weekend we’re thinking of staying at a cultural center not far from Joburg (I’m yearning to learn more about local people and our plans to stay the weekend in a rural Swaziland community to help women carry water and heard cattle fell through- boo) and maybe hitting this lion park place where I hear you can hold white lion cubs.  I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again- full-on animal stalker mode. 

Pics from this weekend…

the daily(ish)

I’ve loved, loved, loved having a kitchen and being able to cook again!



the oven buttons are really throwing me for a loop.

Friday, May 20, 2011

the daily(ish)

We’ve had an onslaught of love and support sent our way today for our anniversary.  Even an awesome card made just for us…


What a great little keepsake of our 5th anniversary in Africa!  Thank you M & A! And for the gorgeous little gift- we love it!

And thank you to all our loved ones that sent us such sweet messages today!  We feel extra loved because of them! 

We’re so blessed to have each other and so lucky to have all you wonderful people in our lives!


1825 days and counting

Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Happy anniversary to us!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

the daily(ish)

We found our guestbook entry from our time in 2009…


Seriously, if you go to South Africa- you have to stay at Utopia in Africa.  So great!

Amnesty Day

In an effort to further delay my trip to the gym this morning, I was thumbing through one of my magazines and came across an article on forgiveness. It was kind of a hokey little article about women forgiving those who trespass against them- you know the whole “frenemy” thing.

I’ve never been great at forgiving or forgetting for that matter. Hello, my name is MAV and I am a total grudge holder. You hurt me, my family or someone I love and I’m pretty much done with you. I like to pretend it’s all about my deep loyalty, but in truth it is a horrible trait. Thankfully, with being a grown-up and all, I haven’t had as much opportunity to show off my awesome grudge-holding skills. We are blessed to have a slew of wonderful people in our lives. After our early twenties the drama seemed to dissipate more and more each year, but there was still some smattered here and there.

So, back to the article.

One thing about it really struck me-it was talking about how forgiveness is really more for yourself than for that other person. I immediately thought of something I heard the brilliant Dr. Joseph Lowry say when he spoke at my school about a million years ago- if you choose to hold a man in a ditch you’re just as tied to that ditch as he is.

Today I’m walking away from the ditch. So those who have wronged me, my family or my friends, those of you who begrudged us our happiness and lashed out in petty jealousy, those who let us down over and over and over, those who didn’t care about my feelings as much as I did yours- I’m no longer on patrol. You’re now free and clear from my grudges.

And so am I.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

the daily(ish)

Aw, sweet Sam from Utopia of Africa…



We were so happy to see him again!  Such a great pup!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

the curse is broken!


The Wife and I fell in love with safari on our last trip to South Africa. We’ve come to learn that we love nature-filled weekends the best and well, safari is pretty much the crème de la crème of outdoorsy trips. In 2009 we did 3 safari weekends and did 7 actual game drives. Game drives are all about seeing the “Big Five”- lions, water buffalo, rhino, elephants and leopards.

Out of those 7 drives, we saw 0 leopards, even though we went to Sabi Sands which is famous for their leopard sightings. I’ll never forget on our last drive in Sabi Sands as we ran over trees and through rivers in our ranger’s valiant attempt to find a leopard for us when Frenchie leaned forward and told me we were “jingled” and would never see one. After we all laughed about being “jingled” we had to agree- maybe we were jinxed.

2 weeks before arriving I started planning our first weekend here. We were going back to Sabi Sands and come hell or high water- I was going to see a leopard!

Someone may have been “jingled” on that first trip, but it wasn’t us because…


Yeah. And she was one of the three that we got to see!

Absolute breathtaking beauty and grace.

She was by far the highlight of my weekend and I seriously got a little teary gazing up at her in the tree as she watched over her cub eating her latest kill.

I mean really? How insanely blessed we were to see this…




We actually saw all of the “Big Five” on our very first drive, although we only got a glimpse of the elephants that night as we kinda ran into them in the dark on our way to dinner. The lights startle them and the last thing you want is a startled elephant coming at you so we literally had mere seconds of them.

I had planned our weekend exactly like like our last time we did Sabi Sands, staying the night at the lovely Utopia in Africa B&B in Nelspruit and even staying at the same game lodge inside the park.

We had a wonderful home-cooked meal at Utopia Friday night…


and left just after breakfast to make it to the lodge in time for our first drive.

I could do game drives every weekend and never tire of them. We had beautiful weather and great animal sightings…







The lodge was full so we got the added treat of having dinner out in the bush at their campsite where we were entertained by some local singers and dancers…DSC04121

and even serenaded by a roaring lion that was a little too close for comfort.

We were up before the sun for our second day of safari where we spotted some of the rare wild dogs, another leopard (!!), another lazy lion and had some nice time with the ellies..






The only animals we hadn’t really seen were some up-close zebras and giraffes. We ended up seeing quite a few of the pretty little disco donkeys on our way out out of the park though…


All in all a perfect weekend to begin our second time in Africa.

This weekend we’re headed to Cape Town and back to the wine country in Stellenbosch, where I hope to get to pet a cheetah. I’m in full-on animal stalker mode right now. Full-on.

Pics from the weekend…

photo credits:

all group shots- JS & MM

fish eagle- my very patient (with animals) Wife