Tuesday, December 23, 2008
So back to why we went to Eesterust, which is located about 45+ minutes outside of Pretoria (for the record, it takes Maria and Victor about 2 hours to reach our house by taxi and bus. YIKES.). My coworkers, Heidi and Bryan, have had Maria working in their home for the past two years. Last year, Heidi and Bryan went to Eesterust and brought Christmas to the orphans in the community. There were about 20+ people there and they gathered in someone's house to celebrate the holiday. Maria asked Will and I if we would like to celebrate with them this year and we said absolutely. We consider Maria and Victor to be our South African family so we definitely wanted to celebrate the holidays with them.
A couple weeks ago, Heidi and I went to the South African version of Sam's and loaded up on staples such as flour, maize meal, rice, beans, cooking oil, tea, sugar, and salt and got a couple pull-aparts and soccer balls. We made 40 bags consisting of these items - 35 of them going to the children and 5 going to some women that are battling HIV and aren't doing very well on the medicine. Dyad, another coworker of mine, wanted to participate as well so he bought some art supplies for the kids. We divvied up the loot and brought it with us to Eesterust.
We were SHOCKED when we arrived! There were two huge carnival tents filled with what I think had to be at least 150 people, if not 200. We came in and everyone cheered! We sat down in the front and Maria called us all up to the microphone to say something to the crowd while she translated. We all got tears in our eyes as we thanked this wonderful community for allowing us to be a part of their family during the holidays since we were all so far away from ours. Maria mentioned that it was our first Christmas as a married couple, which resulted in an immediate "AY-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI-YI!" victory cheer from the grandmas and next thing I know, Will and I were swept up into a wedding celebration song with all the grandmas dancing around us. FUN.
After speeches, we got all the gifts together, Will donned a santa hat and gave them out to the kids. Most of the grandmas accepted the presents on behalf of the children, which was so sweet. The kids loved their pull aparts, which came with paper hats that they put on (see picture below). We served food to the group - I thought the line would never end! I scooped up rice and pap (like sticky grits) and just sweated in the 100+ degree heat as I got a facial from the steaming rice. Then it was time for the jumping castle. I have never seen so many kids descend on a jumping castle before! It was so funny. We passed out coke and fanta - you would have thought we were passing out $100 bills or something the way the kids went crazy for this stuff! And then we just played with the kids. The little girls were so cute. I tried to teach them the electric slide, which, without music, is pretty funny, but we just laughed and giggled the whole time. They loved playing with my sunglasses and checking out my freckles (which they found out, don't wipe off).
All in all, we had an amazing time and can't wait to return to spend time with these wonderful people. The grandmas are hilarious and the kids are so much fun. Its amazing to see how little they have and how happy they are.
Maria is in the process of setting up a formal orphanage for all the children. Right now, she is in the process of buying the land. Once its purchased, Will, Heidi, Bryan, and I will go back to help build and paint the orphanage. I took so many pictures on Saturday that I am going to get some 8x10 copies to frame to hang in the orphange once its ready as a surprise to Maria. I can't wait to see this dream of Maria's realized and want to help as much as I can.
So, in sum, if this a cause you'd like to help with, please let me know. Look at the faces below and the area where they live. They could use so much, whether its stopping at the dollar store and getting little toys or school supplies to give to the kids, to go to Kroger and buy a box of ramen noodles to send over, to buy gloves/hats/socks that are bound to go on clearance soon to send during the winter time so they can keep warm during the night, to write letters to individual kids to let them know that there are people thinking of them and loving them from very far away, or to even make a small donation to give to Maria to help her purchase the space and the supplies she'll need to build the orpanage... there are so many ways you can help this beautiful community. Just let me know.
Its Christmas knickerknocker and we're going to make sausage balls. Hopefully they will turn out as yummy as my parents and Will's parents... wish us luck! We pick up Christy and Steph from Jo'burg tomorrow and plan to launch into cookie baking mode, complete with Christmas music and movies. We've been invited to a Christmas Eve party at the Australian high commission - its a party for all of us who are still in country and not with our families - should be fun! Christmas Day we plan to wake up, open gifts, eat breakfast, and then head to Jo'burg to spend time at Child Haven, where Christy and Steph have been during the month of December (see those cute kiddies by going to "neema.imani.penda" listed in our favorite links at the right of this post!).
Its surreal to not be with our families and to be in crazy hot weather at Christmas (so hot we've been in our pool every day!), but we feel really blessed this holiday to be with people we care about and to be serving others. We miss everyone so much and hope that you all have a wonderful holiday.
*NOTE: Hmmm. For some reason its not letting me upload photos! I will figure it out and post them in a new post as soon as I can!*
Monday, December 15, 2008
Papa John's garlic sauce.
Yes, that's right. GARLIC SAUCE. The one that comes in the corner of box next to the little pepperocini. For some reason, while I would L-O-V-E to have some Papa John's pizza, I really really want that little thing of sauce. Its weird what you want when you can't have it.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Sunday, November 30, 2008
It also means December is almost here! I've already started my addiction to Christmas music (p.s. Harry Connick Jr. and Tony Bennett both have new Christmas CDs out this year which are FANTASTIC!). We're getting our house painted tomorrow (no more cream walls!) and once the paint is dry, we will put up our Christmas decorations. I can't wait! Will has agreed to be Father Christmas for when we go visit our housekeeper's town. We're going to give gifts to the orphans she takes care of there. We're excited about it. It also means I need to get started on my Christmas cards...
Thanksgiving went super well. Will made the best turkey on our Big Green Egg - it was amazing! We had traditional cornbread dressing, mac & cheese, and green beans for sides (we realized no mashed potatoes, but oh well!). Steph made a derby pie and I attempted a pumpkin swirl cheesecake, which came out a-mazing if I do say so myself. All in all, it was a low-key Thanksgiving and we were thankful to spend our first Thanksgiving as a married couple with family and friends.
On a side note, have I mentioned the pumpkins here are white and the sweet potatoes are purple on the outside and white inside? Weird!
Last night was the Marine Ball here in Pretoria. We had so much fun getting dressed up and dancing the night away! Pictures soon...
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
As I boarded the plane and patted the plane my "for good luck" two times on the right side (so what, its my thing), I wondered, "How many times have I flown?" And I realized, I may have traveled a lot. Whether it be a flight to D.C., NYC, Florida, Alaska, California, Texas, Wyoming, Egypt, Tanzania, Zambia, or South Africa (to name a few), I've flown more times than I can count. And this, my friends, was the first time I've ever flown for business and managed to pack everything (including a laptop!) in my carry-on suitcase. Wooohooo.
I'm here to speak at a Youth Prevention conference, which I have always thought is an interesting name for a conference. They mean HIV prevention in youth, yet it sounds a lot more like they want to prevent youth in the first place. Anyway.
I'm staying somewhere completely different than the V&A. Let me just say that everything about this place makes me crave the V&A. I may be on the beach, but the view from my room is of another building, I sleep in a twin bed in an extremely boring beige room, I'm at least 10km away from actual Cape Town (i.e. I'm in the middle of nowhere on the beach), and there is sand on the desk where I sit my laptop. I had to pay for my internet and did I mention everything in this hotel is beige??? The only good thing about this trip is finally being a good sister and taking a picture with "flat Christopher" on behalf of my sister's students' project (like Flat Stanley).
Yes, that's me holding up flat Christopher to the back drop of Table Mountain and Lion's Head. And yes, its very windy in Cape Town, in case I never mentioned it before.
Luckily, Katherine and Heidi, two of my friends from work, are here this week for training so I went out to dinner with them both nights. Last night we went to Andiamo at Cape Quarter and had a fab time and tonight we went to Caveau Wine Bar and Deli for some before dinner drinks and apps (WONDERFUL!) and the 95 Keerom for dinner. Everything is "small plates" and I had fabulous porcini mushroom linguine, canneloni, and creme brulee with fresh berries. Yum. Yum. YUM.
That's really it from here. Just wanted to log the most recent trip to Cape Town, albeit short, but good.
And what would a Cape Town post be without a fantabulous picture from the top of Table Mountain of Mr. Will and myself? Here we are, enjoying fabulous J.C. Le Roux champagne at sunset on the top of Table Mountain, Everyone should take the opportunity to enjoy the view from this mountain as you will see other fabulous craggy mountains, oceans, and a glittering city below.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
So here's my Cape Town weekend re-cap:
On Friday night, I met up with Will and we had a drink on the V&A waterfront, where it was chilly but fun to sit outside and watch the boats come in to dock. Afterwards, we went to the Whisky Festival, which was really fun. It was all types of whisky - blended, single malt scotch, Jack Daniels, and even Bailey's. Will stumbled across at least two new single malt scotch brands that he really liked (BenRiach and one more...) and I tried quite a few single malts, only finding a few that I could say "That's nice" after a very small sip. At the end of the evening, I walked out with a big bottle of Bailey's (a gift to the ladies in attendance) and Will and I decided to eat Italian on the waterfront.
Saturday we woke up and enjoyed the extensive breakfast included in the hotel rate. It is a-mazing. It is a huge breakfast buffet of fruits (raspberries - yum!), pastries, deli meats (SALAMI!), cereals, and all sorts of juices (strawberry! mango! guava! pineapple!). In addition to the buffet, you order off the menu so you can get eggs, omelettes, french toast, etc. Every morning I got a fried egg with bacon and potatoes (my fave breakfast), which meant if I ate late enough, there was no need to eat lunch. Good planning, huh?
Beth and Adam were also in Cape Town for the Marine ball so on Saturday and Sunday we spent time with them. We were all set to go on a whale watching tour, but due to the extreme windy weather and the whales leaving Cape Town, we decided to skip it in favor of the wineries in Franschhoek. We visited 4 wineries (Chamonix, Dieu Donne, Grande Provence, and Franschhoek Cellar) with the most expensive tasting costing $2.50/person.
Franschhoek Cellar: Our first visit. An amazing space and nice tasting room. The most expensive at R25/person (about $2.50) for 6 wines (3 white, 3 red). All the wines in the tasting room were on sale for about R10 ($1!) and the most expensive being R50 ($5). Unfortunately, we weren't big fans of the wine and didn't buy anything here except a magnet.
Per their recommendation, we went to Chamonix next, which is a great rustic wine farm with fantastic wines. Their tasting was R20/person for 5 wines, but they were all very very good.
Per their recommendation, we went up the road to Dieu Donne, which was amazing. Here it was R10/person for 5 wines and the cheese plate for 4 people was R120 ($12) so each of us enjoyed wine and cheese for the low price of $4/person. The wine was great, but the cheese was incredible. The platter had swiss, cheddar, feta, and mozzarella along with strawberries, tomatoes, cucumber, and other veggies. It also had two amazing cheeses - a soft farm cheese made with berries and then this AMAZING spring onion cream cheese that was heaven on earth. I'd drive back there just for the cheese. The best part about this winery is that you sit outside among these amazing mountains and its just so beautiful.
Per their recommendation, we made our last stop at Grande Provence, which is AMAZING. It reminded me a lot of Napa in terms of how the wine tasting room was set up and their food pairing. It was truly gourmet. Again, the tasting plus food pairing was R50/person and it was amazing stuff to eat with the wine. I loved it here. We bought enough wine to have it shipped back to Pretoria. We will definitely return here, potentially to stay a weekend to spend more time in wine country.
That evening, we attempted to go to Table Mountain, only to find gale force winds at the top (pics of that excursion soon). Instead, we went to Lion's Head and watched the sunset over the ocean. We then went to the beach and took some more windy pics.
For dinner, we attempted a place on the beach, but screaming babies and black colored tuna in the sushi made for a hasty departure. We then used one of my grantee's recommendations and went to Tank in Cape Quarter for amazing sushi. We really liked Cape Quarter as its this courtyard set up underneath this huge tree so you can sit outside and enjoy dinner under the stars but not along a busy street. The sushi was similar to what we'd have in the states. I'll admit it wasn't the best sushi I've ever had, but I liked the variety of the sushi rolls which you don't really find here. Plus it was fresh fish, which is sometimes hard to find in sushi places. Plus our total bill came out to $60, which for starters and about 8 rolls of sushi, is pretty incredible.
On Sunday, we decided on a late brunch and then walked down to the water front to do a speed boat tour along the coast of Cape Town. It was so fun, plus we saw dolphins, penguins, and seals in addition to getting an amazing view of Cape Town at 70mph. Afterwards, we hung out on the waterfront where a fun Irish festival was going on. Irish music, irish wolfhounds, irish dancers - what's not to love?
That evening, we decided to go to Table Mountain at sunset, which to our surprise, is a buy one-get one free event so it only cost Will and I $14 for a cable car trip up the mountain. At the top, we enjoyed champagne while watching the sunset. So incredibly beautiful - I can't wait to share pics! We also saw a guy wearing an Atlanta Braves jacket, which then resulted in us meeting a whole group of people from Atlanta. I asked if anyone had a Chick-fil-a chik'n biscuit in their pocket, but no one did. Boo. Ironically, these people attend the same church as Christy and Steph - what a small world! Anyway, Table Mountain at sunset is an absolute must. I just could not believe how amazing the view is from up there!
Afterwards, we headed back to Cape Quarter to eat at Andiamo, a great little outdoor italian restaurant. I got soup and spaghetti with meatballs and I must say - it was delicious! I have yet to have spaghetti and meatballs (or meat sauce for that matter) that was similar to what I'd get in the states and this was spot-on perfect. We'll be back. The best part? All 4 of us had soup and a main course plus wine and the total bill - with tip! - was $40. WOW. $10/person for an amazing dinner.
I must point out there is a Tapas place in Cape Quarter that has a spanish style menu so we may head back there to try their guacamole, nachos, and other spanish style food (chorizo! yum!).
All in all, I gotta say - Cape Town is amazing! It is so relaxing there plus I feel safer there than I do here in Pretoria (although I feel pretty safe in Pretoria). It seems less expensive than Pretoria too. I love the variety of activities and the beauty of the town and surrounding region. If I could move there, I would in a heartbeat.
When we come back, I think I will prefer to stay on the waterfront, especially in fall/winter, just because I felt like it was centrally located with plenty to do there without needing a car. Plus cabs were readily available and the hotel we stayed in was so nice and included a breakfast so good, you could take away the cost of breakfast and lunch from your budget. We're staying more downtown during the New Year, but now we know our way around town a bit and know that you can spend a great day entirely at the waterfront.
P.S. Domestic flights in South Africa don't have the crazy liquid rules, which means I carried my wine purchase onto the plane with me, no problem!
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Monday, November 3, 2008
Saturday was a very disappointing and sad day for a Georgia fan.
Sunday Will and I hosted a birthday brunch for our friend Beth. Will figured out how to make breakfast sausage (this incorporated having spices sent to us from my parents plus Will placing a special order with the butcher for ground pork) and I must say - it was AMAZING. And it made the best breakfast casserole! We had such a fun time celebrating Beth and having yummy mimosas.
On Sunday afternoon, we drove to Magliesburg to combat my dislike of heights by doing a zip line tour! I was really scared at first and on my first time across, my gear was too tight and it hurt. I also lost my glove which resulted in me saying "helpmehelpmehelpme" as I pulled myself barehand on the steel cable. NOT FUN and resulted in surprisingly, only two blisters. By the third zip line, I finally was able to look around and enjoy my ride across as opposed to just being in absolute fear of not making it to the other end. Unfortunately, on the 6th ride across, I was sent too soon and faced with the choice of either knocking my husband off the platform on the side of the mountain or just myself crashing into said platform, I chose the latter, resulting in a massive bloody knot on my leg. Yuck. Overall, I had a great time and would do it again, just because I know I can. I love it when I do something I think I'm scared of and then do it anyway.
I leave in the morning for Cape Town and can't wait! More news from there soon...
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
I've been really busy at work and at home lately so I apologize for the lack of updates. In great news, I can report that my sister-in-law Stephanie and our friend Christy have joined us in South Africa after spending three months in Tanzania at a baby hospital (see their story here). It is so nice to have family and friends here! We've really enjoyed their company.
Friday night we had a cookout to introduce Steph and Christy to our friends here. Ostrich burgers, guacamole, baked fries (in a cast iron skillet - works like a charm!), and other yummyness abounded. We enjoyed watching Steph's video of her rafting the "whitey mighty Nile" in Uganda - she rafted class 4 and 5 rapids! Crazy! But its an amazing video and the commentary is hi-larious.
Sunday we visited a new church, which I am really excited about. Hooray for Sunday evening services! Its a presbyterian church, but its def. not PCUSA. Regardless, we really liked the music, the message, and the people at the church. They were very welcoming and it felt like we made instant friends. They even gave us the names of other churches to try out, just to get a good fill of what the church community is like in this town. I am looking forward to returning soon.
Last night we had girls night! 8 of us met up at Cappucino's for dinner and then went to see Mamma Mia!, which I LOVED. Although I gotta admit, Pierce Brosnan is not the best singer ever... I couldn't really watch him without laughing. But all in all, GREAT movie.
Saturday we've found a place to watch UGA vs. Florida - WOOHOO!
Next week I go to Cape Town for work, which I am really excited about. I am meeting with lots of partners there so it will be fantastic to finally meet them! I will be gone for a week and on through the weekend and am really looking forward to seeing the town as everyone loves Cape Town!
Thanksgiving update: We've had some preliminary discussions pertaining to our Thanksgiving day wishlist. I got my November Real Simple yesterday and am so intrigued by this, I just bought pumpkin spice and pumpkin through net grocer (although I wonder - is the gelatin necessary?). I'm not sure if we'll be able to find a turkey or not, but let's hope!
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Beautiful fishing hole in the mountains!
*please note that while it was kind of you to think that the author of this post was too busy with the camera to catch a fish like her hubs, it turns out all she was good at catching on this very windy day was algae and weeds. Ew. But to make myself feel better, here's proof I can catch a big fish, on a fly rod no less! (okay, so I caught a whitefish when we were fishing for trout, but still... it counts to me!)
Trying out "sunset" mode on my cameraWill loves poured cement sinks (that's our welcome drink on the counter) Furry dead things cover the floors at every turn
Bedroom (with furry thing on the other side of the bed). Our room was really huge - I don't know why I didn't take more pics. It had a walk-in closet, mini-fridge, a window you could sit in and look out into your backyard, and as noted, a massive bathroom. VERY NICE, but it should be noted, while there was a fireplace, there was no A/C (but there was a fan, thank goodness!).
Waterbuck (these are ladies which is why they have no horns). Apparently they smell really bad and the other animals don't like to be around them. They also have a bullseye on their rear. Sad, huh?The main entrance to Dawson's
Friday, October 17, 2008
Trout lodge pics coming soon...
***Just for my future reference, MTBeds listed the deal as $275/night per person for the luxury beach villa and $325/night per person for the infinity beach villa until October 31. Now the deal is $425/person for the luxury beach villa and $475 for the infinity until December 2 (2/12/08). Interesting....
Sunday, October 12, 2008
Random note: Yesterday I decided I wanted to get a pair of chocolate mary jane crocs to wear while I work in the yard. We found a pair at a sporting store and I tried them on and was ready to get them until I looked at the price tag...
$60! For CROCS?!? Aren't they, at the absolute most, $30/pair back home?
It is so weird what is expensive here and what isn't!
Saturday, October 11, 2008
Our back patio with the Big Green Egg.
Our office, where I'm sitting right now. Not the hugest room, but we like it.