Thursday, June 26, 2014

Another Fall in SA...

 We got back from East Africa and hit the ground running... it's been a VERY busy fall! Sasha unpacked her bag and then immediately re-packed for a 2 night bush camp with her class! She was actually away the day of her birthday but came home that night so we got to see her on the big day. 10 years old!!
The day she got back we headed to the Mall with 2 good friends to (FINALLY! She said...) get her ears pierced. Somehow my extremely needle-phobic child was able to get through this with nary a flinch. Hmmm....
 We celebrated with some frozen yogurt...
 Teddy achieved his yellow belt in Judo. Great job Ted!
Then it was time for some birthday parties! Sasha and her new buds from Herzl had a pamper party with mani's and hair styles...
 ...and chocolate fondue instead of cake! No complaints here....
 Ted and friends had a massive 2 hour paint ball session with full riot gear. I was exhausted just watching them!
 Those are some happy, sweaty boys!
The Ironman came through PE again and Jeff got to do the run for NOV in the corporate version. It was fun coming out to cheer him on!
 And the kids and Dad did the Glow run!
 We had a CRAZY Easter weekend that probably warrants it's own blog post entitled "weekend disaster" but we did get 2 really great mountain bike rides out of it and that was kinda the point...
 Early morning Tent Selfie with my 3 babies...
 Lovin' it!
 This guy is a mountain biking CHAMP! He's starting to tackle some technical elements and is getting really good a tough climbs!
 Although I'm not sure who likes mtn biking more.... Ted or Roxy:
 We have had a frequent visitor to our yard... can't figure out where he's from or where he goes but he keeps coming back!
 And we've gotten to do some rides right here in town:
"Roxy I know you're excited about mtn biking but I'm pretty sure Dad is gonna need to sit there...."
 We had 3 weeks off from school during Easter and finally I got to PET A CHEETAH!! He purred like crazy. It was awesome... I want that sound on speakers all around me while I sleep....
 And we've had some WACKY weather lately. The kind of days where it's raining on one side of the street and sunny on the other. It creates some pretty awesome rainbows and the ones here seem to form an entire arch. They seem so vibrant and so close that we are always tempted to try to see where they hit the ground so we can find that pot of gold....
 The expats got to represent at this year's Potjie competition. Our table layout featured Defiant!
There were sack races. Little did they know that I'm like a professional sack racer. South Africans got SCHOOLED! bwahaaaa.....
 And, we won!!! How crazy is that?
 But then, tragedy... Roxy got hit by a car! I thought she was a goner. Grabbed her fast, got her to the vet and stabilized..
Poor thing has a fractured pelvis. She is on bed-rest for 2 weeks and then 4 weeks of being "calm and quiet". Of course now that we are at that 2 week mark she is trying to jump out the windows and is OVER being calm. She always seems to have a kid or a cat keeping her company in her bed though.... and we are so thankful that she appears to be on the road to a full recovery.
 Ted's class had an African fashion show. They sewed their own skirts and everything. I was pretty darned impressed!
So that's all the news that fit to print here on Team Stolasz. We are headed to the USA TOMORROW for 4 weeks!!! Soooo excited to see you all and just be home for a bit. Can't wait!!!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

East Africa... all the rest of it

 The rest of the trip happened at lightening speed! In Serengeti National Park we woke up to some very fresh Monkeys on our balconies! Then we headed out for a day-long game drive. We saw Lions in trees!
 And we saw these tired Lions taking a nap with a nice Zebra friend they had made. Awww....
 And we spotted yet another Leopard! This guy was hanging out in plain sight and we watched him for about 2 hours because after this shot was taken a troop of baboons climbed the tree and the Leopard had to fight them off! Apparently Leopards and Baboons are mortal enemies...
Then the baboons suddenly fled the tree because this HUGE herd of Elephants came through and baboons hate Elephants. Elephants to the rescue! The Leopard lived to fight another day...
 We watched the great herds frolic around a watering hole...
 And saw some new herd members! If you look closely you will see that this young wildebeest still has his umbilical cord!
 The next day we drove west. On the far side of Serengeti National park we passed this kopjie (rock outcrop) that was the inspiration for Pride Rock in the Disney movie "The Lion King".
 Then we drove to Old Duvai Gorge where Louis and Mary Leakey found the Lucy skeleton and many other pre-historic remains. Cool stuff!
 Overlooking the gorge:
 That afternoon we arrived at Ngorongoro crater and got an amazing view of this natural wonder before the mist came in.
 The next day we toured all around the crater and saw more gorgeous animals including many babies. The animals in the crater never have to migrate and live in an Eden-like setting all year round. Lucky ducks!
 Finally saw a Rhino! That's it for the big 5!
 Hey stinker! What have you got there?!?
 We are not photography buffs but we DID know to take more than one camera on safari. We had a great high-res Canon G16 and an older Canon Powershot XS50 and I got a cool zoom lens for my iphone. Jeff took care of long-range shots and I grabbed the close-ups and I think we got some great pictures. But our camera arsenal was VASTLY inferior to those around us. It's like we showed up to paint the Sistine Chapel with crayons. Here's one of my fav pics of the trip... totally outgunned! My backpack was way lighter though....
On our evening back at the resort I stood on the stone wall at the crater's edge to take a final picture. I put down my stuff, including my tasty banana and this punk ran right up to me and STOLE my banana!
 The next day we drove to Lake Manyara National Park and stayed at this cool Lodge overlooking the rift valley. LMNP has herd animals and such but they have TONS of primates. We had a blast watching many different kinds of monkeys and baboons. This one troop was HUGE and we watched them for over an hour. They were eating some kind of pod on the ground and while some ate others played, groomed, fought, shagged, you name it. They chased each other, got into fights and were just incredibly entertaining. This picture does not do it justice. There were a gabillion baboons  as far as the eye could see 360° around us!
 This is what this guy thought about being observed. Ladies and Gents.... may I present the BEST safari pic of the entire trip:
 Mamma and baby:
 We also finally saw the legendary Baobab trees!
 After 10 days of moving, driving and getting up at the crack of dawn to see animals we were ready to put our bags down somewhere for a few days and stay there. It was off to Zanzibar for a few days of relaxing and sleeping IN! To get there we had to take this tiny, sketchy plane. These 3 loved it of course....
We checked into our hotel, which was right on the beach and got very busy doing nothing!
The first night there the hotel put on this amazing buffet dinner out on the tidal flat. It was all timed perfectly to match the tides... I don't know how the staff was able to set up the entire thing, feed us all and then take it all back down again before the ocean came in but somehow they did. It was pretty cool.
 One of the many fish/seafood stations:
 We also went on a spice tour and saw many of the spices we love to eat growing. It was neat to see which spices are part of the root, leaf, flower, bark or pod! Yep, we're pretty special:
 And the guards for our resort were Masaai warriors! They were there to keep "beach people" from annoying the guests with endless things to buy, offers of transport ect.
That didn't stop us from throwing in our lot with "Captain Alex". He was able to take us on excursions for way less money and with much less safety than the hotel. He was also the stinkiest Zanzibarian we met in a country of VERY stinky people. Seriously. And he works on the beach. I really considered "accidentally" knocking him overboard just to wash him off. But then I figured that 1.) maybe he smelled so bad because he didn't know how to swim and pushing him overboard might kill him and THEN I would end up in a Tanzanian jail cell with even smellier people which would be bad or 2.) He would grab ME to prevent himself from falling overboard and then I would smell like captain Alex. I decided to just sit upwind.
 Heading out for a snorkel:
 We found some AMAZING starfish!
 The day after that Captain Alex took us down the coast to his motor boat. This involved us being with him in an enclosed vehicle and the less said about that the better. But we did get there without being Trafficked (yay!) and got a ride out to an AMAZING reef where we used some truly sketchy snorkeling equipment to explore all morning. And on the way back we had some high seas and we didn't capsize. Considering there were no life jackets aboard to speak of it was an epic win and we all thought the expedition was a resounding success as we all got back to the hotel alive.
 After 4 nights on the beach we headed to Stone Town. It was hot and the kids were tired so we got a babysitter from the hotel and Jeff and I got to head out and explore Stone Town on our own. It was amazing. One of the coolest old cities we have gotten to explore. We stopped for very strong and spicy Zanzibarian coffee, and explored the Spice Market:
 But mostly we just walked around, taking in the maze-like streets of the city....
 ....and checking out all the intricately carved old doors:
 Later we grabbed the kids and headed to the Stone Town night market. You grab a plate and just start buying seafood a la carte from all these vendors. We thought this would be another great opportunity to enhance our immune systems so we went for it.
 We picked this guy!
 To the delight of the kids and I and the horror of Jeff (who thinks that cats are Dir-ty) there were hundreds of feral cats all around the night market. They were very well-behaved and a group of them would settle in patiently in front of anyone that seemed to be eating.
 Our little gang of cats:
 For dessert we had fruit of every size, type and color!
The next day we took a ferry to Dar Es Salaam hoping to find another old city as cool as stone town but Dar was a kind of a slimy pit. If you're ever thinking of stopping there, don't. We had less than a day there though, (thank goodness) and got up at 3am for a traffic-free drive to the airport to head back to the lavish civilization of South Africa! It was a pretty amazing trip, and one we will always remember.