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Johannesburg, South Africa

January 27th, 2018 No comments

After our three-day vacation/layover in Turkey, we continued on to South Africa. At the airport, we actually had a little bit of a scare that we may not be allowed to board the plane. Children under the age of 18 must have their birth certificate with them when boarding a plane to South Africa and clearing immigration on arrival. Matt and I scrambled to figure out what to do since we were the last ones to board the plane in Turkey and didn’t have any birth certificates with us.

Luckily I married a really smart and tech savvy guy. We have scanned all of our important papers and saved them in an online Dropbox account. So Matt was able to use his phone to get into our account, find the certificates and download them and show them to the gate agents in Istanbul, and then the Immigration Officer in Johannesburg. South Africa has taken this extra measure to try to curb human trafficking. So, with that crisis adverted we were able to meet up with our friends in Johannesburg!

David and Jeana were fabulous hosts to us while we stayed with them for 10 days. We were close friends when we all lived in Manila, and now they had only been in South Africa for about six weeks before we arrived. So Matt found things on TripAdvisor to do and Jeana joined us on most outings since this was now her home.

We also did a three night excursion to the northern border near Botswana with just our family to do a safari. I believe everyone should go on a safari at least once in their life time if possible. It was incredible. (The safari is covered in a separate blog post here)

Day 1

Driving around South Africa (on the left side of the road), we noticed these vans that are crammed with people as their local public transportation. The drivers of these vehicles, don’t follow traffic laws very well.

Our friend Jeana took us to a fun place to look for souvenirs where we could haggle down the price. It reminded us of shopping in Asia.

For lunch we ate at a park and the boys had fun feeding geese.

Both David and Jeana work with the youth in our church and they had their weekly activity on the day that we arrived. Since the activity was about “Snake Antivenom” we told them that we all wanted to attend. This shows about 2/3 of the youth crowd that was present…and notice feet off the floor since there were live (venomous) snakes down there!

That would be a puff adder on the ground of our church floor. Puff Adders are highly venomous! He also brought out a cobra and a python later.

Day 2

We headed out to the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve where we had our first encounter with African wildlife. Zebras, ostriches, antelopes, etc. were roaming around the 1200 hectare of land while we drove to the parking area.

We got to play with some lion cubs that were a couple of months old.

This cub decided to nibble on Matt’s ear!

We also got to play with Bengal white tigers that were a couple of months old too. Blake was more interested in playing in the dirt.

A two year old female cheetah was very docile, but only adults were allowed to enter with her.

We found a pygmy hippo that looked a little strange.

Only one way in and one way out of the “Wonder Cave” that is on the property of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve.

A part of the inside of the Wonder Cave. This is the 3rd largest cave chamber in South Africa.

Matt has his own way of feeding giraffes.

Day 3

We drove out to Pretoria and visited The Ann van Dyk Cheetah Center where we learned more about cheetahs and other animals in South Africa.

After walking around the grounds and seeing many different cheetahs, we got inside this vehicle and explored more of the center.

Meet Darth Kittius – an African Serval.

African Caracal

This Egyptian vulture and other vultures that help to keep our world healthy and clean.

Wild dogs that hunt in packs and eat ferociously. I was glad that we learned how cool wild dogs were before we went on our safari and saw some in the wild.

And we saw some cheetahs eating.

To end the tour we got a photo with this older cheetah that doesn’t mind children. All of the other cheetahs we saw were eye-balling and stalking 2 year old Blake behind their cages.

The Cheetah Center told us about a Monkey Sanctuary that was just a few miles down the road and we were all glad that we stopped and were able to have some monkey encounters.

Many spider monkeys were there. These are the monkeys from the movie “Night at the Museum”.

Right away this little guy came up to us and Blake thought it was pretty cool.

The monkey probably wanted to take Blake’s medical bracelet, but Blake said that he just wanted to hold his hand.

Monkey looking for any valuables that might be in pockets. If you react because something is really important to you, the monkeys will run away with that item. If you just keep your cool and act like you don’t care, the monkeys know it isn’t important or valuable and then they don’t want it.

Mason got to scratch this big guy that came by to say hello to us

We crossed a couple of these bridges at the Monkey Sanctuary.

And before we left we saw this momma monkey carrying its young on her back. The daddy monkey didn’t like that we were near and was making all sorts of noise

Day 4

We did a day tour of Johannesburg. The first stop was the National Football Stadium. Opening and Closing ceremonies of the Soccer World Cup 2010 were held here.

Government homes in Soweto – where Nelson Mandela used to live.

We visited the Hector Pieterson Museum and a lot of school kids where there visiting it as well. Hector Pieterson was a 12 year old school boy who was one of the first killed on June 16, 1976 by the apartheid police.

We got to visit Kliptown which is a slum village, but there are good people there trying to bring the kids out of poverty through education programs such as the Kliptown Youth Program.

Graduates from KYP. Through education they are making their future better.

In Kliptown (and probable other areas) a couple of families share port-a-potty. They lock them up so you can only use the one that your family has the key to.

The locals don’t need fancy name brand items to carry their babies. Just a long piece of cloth, like a towel or blanket.

View of Johannesburg

We had lunch at a restaurant between these two silos and the food was really tasty. For the adventurous people, they could also bungee jump between the two silos.

Day 5-7

We went out on six safari rides in this car with this guide at Madikwe which is near the border of South Africa and Botswana. Separate blog post here.

Day 8

Mason learning about the different tribes in South Africa at Lesedi Cultural Village

At Lesedi Cultural Village they have people dressed in traditional attire and share music and/or food from that tribe.

After touring the various villages, we all gathered inside for a music and dance performance that represents all the tribes of South Africa.

The end of our Cultural Night was in this room where we had dinner. The art was very colorful and the food was tasty.

Day 9

We were able to have our wonderful hosts, David & Jeana, accompany us for the day while we went to “Colins Horseback Africa Walking with Lions

We got 2 year old Blake on a horse and he didn’t want to get off.

Our group had its own private guided tour on their property where we saw different animals like zebras, giraffes, waterbucks, and impalas. It was also the best horse riding lesson that I ever had. Our guide was very thorough and patient with all of us.

Because the zebras smell the horses, they don’t think that we are a threat, so we were able to get pretty close to them.

After a nice lunch and a lesson on how to act around lions, we were able to walk with a couple of nine month old lions out in the open.

After walking the nine month old cubs, we got to interact with two month old cubs in an enclosed area.

At the very end of our lion encounter, we were able to meet a one week old lion cub.

Day 10

Jeana volunteers at this school and we were fortunate enough to join her once before we left for the airport. We sang songs and had a great time with the children.

These kids love to sing loudly.

We ran into the missionaries who were across the street from the school. The missionary in the sweater is from Switzerland, so Matt was speaking to him in French.

As we were driving to the airport, we made a quick stop to capture this picture of the LDS Johannesburg temple.

 

We had a great time exploring South Africa and reuniting with our friends. More photos of South Africa here.

 

Istanbul, Turkey

February 4th, 2017 No comments

While living in the Philippines we made some really great friends. One couple works for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and was asked to move to South Africa after serving for three years in the Philippines. They told us that we should come visit them so we said ok. When planning for our trip to South Africa we had a layover for a few hours in Turkey, flying on Turkish Air. For an $40 extra each, we were able to turn the short layover into four nights and basically have two vacations in one. Matt again did his vacation magic and we had a fantastic itinerary. We stayed at the Hilton in Istanbul and the kids loved it. We took full advantage of the indoor swimming pool and the hammam where we had family water fights! We hired Emine Filiz through Viator.com and she put together a great package for us and made our trip enjoyable and memorable.

Day 1

We made it to Turkey and because of a terrorist attack that happened 7 weeks prior, there weren’t many tourists and that meant no long lines!

Making our way to Hagia Sophia

After hundreds of years of people walking on this step, it shows the wear.

Hagia Sophia was first a Christian cathedral. Then a Muslim mosque. And now it is a museum and under renovation.

We got to see Gli, the famous cat that stays at Hagia Sophia

In order to enter The Blue Mosque, the girls had to cover their heads

Just outside The Blue Mosque is the Istanbul Hippodrome where the Obelisk of Theodosius is found.

We got to visit the Topkapi Palace

We ended our first day by visiting the Grand Bazaar where we bought some souvenirs

Day 2

We took a day trip to the city of Ephesus, home of the biblical Ephesians

This is the library in the ancient city of Ephesus

We paid the extra fee to visit the “house on the slopes” where they are uncovering old homes. It also gave us some relief from the sun

We had a fantastic lunch at a home where the family makes traditional Turkish rugs and we got to see the whole process

All of the rugs here are made by hand and takes months to complete

We were able to experience the displaying of rugs and there were many beautiful rugs that we wanted to take home

We visited the house of the Virgin Mary where it is believed that she spent her final years

Our final tourist destination in Ephesus was to the temple of Artemis where not much is left

Day 3

Our last day started by going up the Galata Tower to get a good view of the city and later we took a ferry boat ride to get a different experience to look at the city

Walking around the streets of Istanbul we felt safe and the people were very kind

We came upon this old trolley that still runs

We walked through a spice market and bought us some “Turkish Delights” from this shop owner who thought Kalani looked Turkish

We got to visit the largest cistern in Istanbul

Inside the cistern there are two “medusa head stones

We stopped by a pottery shop and watched a master potter create a vase that he then turned into a water pitcher within minutes

Some of the pottery in the shop glows in the dark since they used some special crushed material in the clay

As we were walking back to the car we walked through a park and the kids had a great time playing and running around

Everyday we would visit the hammam in our hotel and fill up these sinks with warm water and throw bowls of water on each other or ourselves

We had a wonderful experience exploring Istanbul and our tour guide, Emine, was a big reason why we had such a great time.

More photos of Turkey here.

Family Reunion 2016

July 16th, 2016 1 comment

My mom’s side of the family started to plan a reunion about a year ago. At that time we were still living in the Philippines and weren’t certain that we would be back in the states. But, we were able to relocate home and attend this family reunion. The last time that Matt and I attended a family reunion for this side of the family, I had just found out that I was pregnant with Kalani. Now 13 years later we were all able to reunite and the extended family were able to meet Blake for the first time. The reunion was in Utah and this was the first time that our children had been to this state and I think that they all had a great time.

 

Day 1

With the weather being so lovely and no humidity I convinced my siblings and their kids to go for a walk. The kids all loved running around on the grass.

With the weather being so lovely and no humidity I convinced my siblings and their kids to go for a walk a few hours after we landed. The kids all loved running around on the grass and just enjoying each other’s company.

My brother lives only a couple of blocks away from the Provo Temple so I took the opportunity to show our kids that temple and any others that we came across.

My brother lives only a couple of blocks away from the Provo Temple so I took the opportunity to show our kids that temple and any others that we came across. It had been 16 years since I was last at this temple, before serving a mission in El Salvador for our church.

Since we arrived on the 4th of July, it was great to see the kids play with their cousins and use sparklers to celebrate.

Since we arrived on the 4th of July, it was great to see the kids play with their cousins and use sparklers to celebrate.

Day 2

When I knew that we would be in Utah, I started the ball rolling to have a reunion for our church ward family from the Philippines. Not as many people came who said they were going to be there, but it was still fun to meet up with people who we shared time with in the Philippines.

When I knew that we would be in Utah, I started the ball rolling to have a reunion for our church ward family from the Philippines. Not as many people came who said they were going to be there, but it was still fun to meet up with people who we shared time with in the Philippines.

My friend forgot about our Philippines church reunion, but we were able to meet up with her and her boys at a dinosaur museum.

My friend forgot about our Philippines church reunion, but we were able to meet up with her and her boys at a dinosaur museum.

As soon as we got home from the dinosaur museum we went out to dinner with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend.

As soon as we got home from the dinosaur museum we went out to dinner with my sister-in-law and her boyfriend.

We ate ice cream on this Provo temple grounds and enjoy the scenery and company. A few days later we took the kids to this temple also.

We ate ice cream the Provo City Center Temple grounds and enjoy the scenery and company. A few days later we took the kids to this temple also.

Day 3

My sister is going to school to get her license to cut hair. I trusted her to cut my hair a couple of inches.

My sister is going to school to get her license to cut hair. I trusted her to cut my hair a couple of inches before we left for the family reunion.

We stayed at Camelot Resort on the Strawberry River up the Provo Canyon. The kids really enjoyed the view and were excited to see our cousin from Texas already at the resort.

We stayed at Camelot Resort on the Strawberry River up the Provo Canyon. The kids really enjoyed the view and were excited to see our cousin from Texas already at the resort.

One of the first things we did after unpacking was to go on a short hike with any cousins that wanted to join us.

One of the first things we did after unpacking was to go on a short hike with any cousins that wanted to join us.

Day 4

A much bigger group went on a longer hike that ended at an area that over looked our resort.

A much bigger group went on a longer hike that ended at an area that over looked our resort.

The kids enjoyed tubing down the river even if the water was really cold and only about 15 inches deep.

The kids enjoyed tubing down the river even if the water was really cold and only about 15 inches deep.

Day 5

After breakfast was a morning of crafts that my sister planned. Painting rocks that we found on our hike, FruitLoop necklaces, Kool-Aid lip gloss, etc.

After breakfast was a morning of crafts that my sister planned. Painting rocks that we found on our hike, Fruit Loop necklaces, Kool-Aid lip gloss, etc.

We had nearly 30 cousins participating in a Kid-Friendly Olympics that my aunt and I planned.

We had nearly 30 cousins participating in a Kid-Friendly Olympics that my aunt and I planned.

Mason participating in the pool noodle javelin throw

Mason participating in the pool noodle javelin throw.

Kalani racing against her cousin in the pool noodle hurdles.

Kalani racing against her cousin in the pool noodle hurdles.

The finale of our Kid Olympics was to have these two cousins run around with candy glued to their shirt...they were a human pinata and it only lasted about two minutes before the candy was all taken.

The finale of our Kid Olympics was to have these two cousins run around with candy glued to their shirt…they were a human pinata and it only lasted about two minutes before the candy was all taken.

After lunch my aunt and I set up slip-n-slide kickball for anyone who wanted to participate.

After lunch my aunt and I set up slip-n-slide kickball for anyone who wanted to participate.

It was so much fun to play with kids of all ages.

It was so much fun to play with kids of all ages.

After family photos and dinner we had a family talent show. My sister and I performed a song we learned from a church girls camp.

After family photos and dinner we had a family talent show. My sister and I performed a song we learned from a church girls camp.

Day 6

After we packed up and left the resort and grabbed some lunch, we made our way to Salt Lake City to see the temple, walk around Temple Square and meet up with a friend of ours from the Philippines.

After we packed up and left the resort and grabbed some lunch, we made our way to Salt Lake City to see the temple, walk around Temple Square and meet up with a friend of ours from the Philippines.

We befriended Leslie in the Philippines and encouraged her to serve a mission. She returns home the end of this month, so we count it very fortunate that we got a VIP tour of Temple Square with her and her companions. Here we are inside the Tabernacle.

We befriended Leslie in the Philippines and encouraged her to serve a mission. She returns home the end of this month, so we count it very fortunate that we got a VIP tour of Temple Square with her and her companions. Here we are inside the Tabernacle.

More photos of our family reunion adventures in Utah here.

June 2016

July 15th, 2016 No comments

Our month of June was filled with some fun activities. Rather than write a post for each one, I decided to to just write about the highlights of the month.

It rained a lot in Texas and caused a lot of flooding. Luckily we stayed safe.

It rained a lot in Texas and caused a lot of flooding. Luckily we stayed safe.

We attended Houston Exotic Reptile and Pet Show as a family one Saturday.

We attended Houston Exotic Reptile and Pet Show as a family one Saturday.

At the reptile show there was a big dog that Blake liked from a distance. But when we put him down next to the dog, he quickly retreated back to his mom's arms.

At the reptile show there was a big dog that Blake liked from a distance. But when we put him down next to the dog, he quickly retreated back to his mom’s arms.

One of my good friends that I have known since the 1st grade has been in Texas for work. We were able to meet up and spend an afternoon together catching up!

One of my good friends that I have known since the 1st grade has been in Texas for work. We were able to meet up and spend an afternoon together catching up!

Mason loves to bake in the kitchen. One day we made cinnamon rolls together and then delivered them to his church teacher and neighbors.

Mason loves to bake in the kitchen. One day we made cinnamon rolls together and then delivered them to his church teacher and neighbors.

My brother and his partner came to visit us from California for four days and we packed a lot of family time in those days.

We made the 2.5 hour drive to Waco to visit Magnolia Market. We are all fans of the HGTV show "Fixer Upper" and had a wonderful in Waco. With rented Redbox movies for the kids to watch in the car, the drive wasn't that bad.

We made the 2.5 hour drive to Waco to visit Magnolia Market. We are all fans of the HGTV show “Fixer Upper” and had a wonderful time in Waco. With rented Redbox movies for the kids to watch in the car, the drive wasn’t that bad.

After eating lunch at In-N-Out Burger, we stopped at the Dr. Pepper Museum. I have never drank Dr. Pepper, but it was fun and educational to show the kids how things use to be.

After eating lunch at In-N-Out Burger, we stopped at the Dr. Pepper Museum. I have never drank Dr. Pepper, but it was fun and educational to show the kids how things use to be.

Before heading home we stopped at Harp Design Co. where we were fortunate enough to see Clint Harp outside when we arrived.

Before heading home we stopped at Harp Design Co. where we were fortunate enough to see Clint Harp outside when we arrived.

The rain let up and we had beautiful weather for family swim day.

The rain let up and we had beautiful weather for family swim day.

My sister arranged to have us eat dinner at her home and then drive to her friend's home and ride their horses. After all of the kids had a chance to ride the horses, the mommas also got a turn.

My sister arranged to have us eat dinner at her home and then drive to her friend’s home and ride their horses. After all of the kids had a chance to ride the horses, the mommas also got a turn.

Kalani was the first one on a horse and she got the tallest horse.

Kalani was the first one on a horse and she got the tallest horse.

Mason rode a couple of different horses and loved having Casey lead him around.

Mason rode a couple of different horses and loved having Casey lead him around.

Blake was pretty happy with himself for riding a horse. He rode a second time while I was riding a horse as well.

Blake was pretty happy with himself for riding a horse. He rode a second time while I was riding a horse as well.

Blake also had his 2nd birthday in the month of June.

Blake also had his 2nd birthday in the month of June.

Categories: Family Tags: , , , , , , ,

School is out…kind of

June 5th, 2016 No comments

This past school year was different for our family. We started the first semester of school attending a private school in the Philippines. The second semester we were back in the states and I was homeschooling the kids again. Life is never easy and things don’t go as you plan, but life continues and we adapt. Still, I think that our kids had an enjoyable school year and are enjoying not having to wake up at 6am every morning now.

1st semester

6th grade Classroom Without Walls activity.

6th grade Classroom Without Walls activity.

Kalani in math class.

Kalani in math class.

Kalani's group project on creating a new society.

Kalani’s group project on creating a new society.

Mason with his 9th grade buddy.

Mason with his 9th grade buddy.

Math games with a parent and classmates for Mason.

Math games with a parent and classmates for Mason.

Mason's 1st grade class.

Mason’s 1st grade class.

2nd semester

We visited the ER and learned about sprains, splints, and how to use crutches.

We visited the ER and learned about sprains, splints, and how to use crutches.

Home Economics class and cake decorating skills.

Home Economics class and cake decorating skills.

Attending the temple monthly with other homeschool friends.

Attending the temple monthly with other homeschool friends.

Playing volleyball

Playing volleyball

Going to reptile shows.

Going to reptile shows.

Visiting the Natural Science Museum.

Visiting the Natural Science Museum.

Visiting the zoo

Visiting the zoo.

Homeschool activities

Homeschool activities

Participating in theater plays with other homeschool kids.

Participating in theater plays with other homeschool kids.

Spending time with family and creating memories.

Spending time with family and creating memories.

Now that summer is here our kids still have to keep up with their reading and math skills. And if they get too bored there is always a paper that they can write or math sheets they can do. But, we also plan on swimming and playing with cousins during the summer. These children of ours are only young for a short time and I am glad that I get to spend most of my days with them watching them learn and grow.