Tuesday, August 7, 2007

mom memories

I’m sitting in one of our offices just waiting…waiting for the internet to get connected, waiting for the meeting to start, waiting for all of this to get done so I can finally go home and relax, sit in my little room and enjoy not moving around, just sit quietly and read. And of course unpack and settle back in.

My vacation with my mom was amazing. It started off with the ACTS retreat (I’ll save my thoughts on that for another time) and then a delayed driving start out of Durban. After the car was delivered late and we finally got on the road, I thought we were going the wrong way but only figured out it was the right direction after turning around and feeling flustered. This set the pace for the entire road trip. I don’t think we made it to one place without having to double back at least once because we missed the turn we needed. Swaziland was the worst for signage and even the maps that are given out at the border posts are incorrect. But we always ended up where we needed to be and despite those minor mishaps, we had a really great time.

Something I learned about my mom – she’s not the best navigator in the world.
Something my mom learned about me – I get very cranky when I am hungry (& lost)!

None of this made much of a difference, in the end we had a great time and saw some pretty amazing stuff. We had a few unexpected stops that uncovered treasures and beauty we would have missed otherwise. When we didn’t make it Swaziland that first day, we decided to stop in St. Lucia. We were told be careful when out at night, not because of the crime but because of the hippos, crocodiles and leopards. Before driving directly to Swaziland, we started off the next morning with a walk along a huge beach that had waves crashing and fisherman on the shore hoping for a lucky day.

Swaziland was filled with shopping: the main stops for us were Guava Gallery that had some beautiful silver jewelry, the Swazi candle factory and a Ngwenya glass factory. Lots of fun souvenirs! We shopped so long one morning that we didn’t quite drive as far as I anticipated, so we had another unexpected stop in Sabie. We didn’t see much of the town or the area but we found this wonderful little restaurant called The Wild Fig Tree that was advertised in our books and we pleasantly discovered there was a B&B as well – perfect for the last minute stop. A sassy old bird ran the B&B and she had lots of stories about everything. The restaurant was a perfect setting for me and my mom to just sit down, relax and chat for hours. We did just that and we even ended the night with a shot of Amarula, the local tasty liquor, on the house. It didn’t take much and my mom was hooked on the stuff!

We did a bit of site seeing, tried to see God’s window but it was fogged in (the curtains were still drawn) but the weather was fine at the Potholes and 3 Rondavuls and my mom loved it. Finally we made it to my village. My mom was a champ and actually spent 2 nights in my little house. I showed her around to the different centres, offices, she met tons of people and by 3 pm, we were both exhausted! I only let her have a short nap because then it was time to meet all of my friends in the village. I loved sharing her with my friends and they were so excited to meet her.

My organization had a new volunteer arrive just as we did, Corinna, so she was part of the driving around that day. And it worked out that she was able to come to Kruger National Park with us for the weekend. Tanya came as well, so we loaded everyone up in the car and headed out for a fun adventurous weekend filled with lots of wild animals and one semi-tame. First thing I did was take mom and Corinna to meet Jessica the hippo – they LOVED her! She’s a beautiful creature and it’s absolutely amazing that you can get so close to a hippo and pet her even. After that we made our way into the park. We stopped to look at watering hole by the main road where we saw tons of baboons and hippos and then we realized that there was a White Rhino out there as well. After hiding in the bushes he decided to come and show himself off to everyone – it was great to see. After that we had to rush to get in the camp gate by 5:30 otherwise we wouldn’t be let in but we made it no problem. The next day we left early, 6:15 am, and saw tons of animals throughout the day. At one point we were surrounded by giraffes walking across the road in front of us and behind us. Another moment we were surrounded by elephants, at least 20 including some baby ones. As we tried to drive on, this huge, old one with gigantic tusks was just parked in the road, staring at us. We had to wait 15 minutes before he decided to slowly saunter away. It was beautiful. We saw hippos playing, more elephants drinking from a water hole, beautiful exotic birds, water buffalo, tons of impala and kudu and of course baboons. At first I made everyone roll their windows up when we spotted baboons but then I realized that people don’t actually feed them here in the park, so they weren’t going to come after us or any cookies we had in the car. There was one moment when we were also surrounded by baboons. There must have been at least 50 just running around the road and back and forth between the trees. It was beautiful. And there were even little bitty baby baboons!

By the end of the day we were bummed that we hadn’t seen lions but a couple gentlemen we had run into earlier in the day (by the way, they had the largest camera lenz I have ever seen in my entire life – if I was with you I would demonstrate and show you just how big it was) said that there were 2 lions kills close to the road going out of the park. We had plans to leave early so the next morning we were 9th in line to get out of the camp at 6 am. After a bit of driving we came to the area where there was a buffalo carcass and 2 male lions gnawing on the thing. We sat and watched for a long time and then a 3rd male popped up. It was amazing. We knew there was another kill up ahead so we decided to tear ourselves away and drive on. Soon after we came up to a group of cars clearly looking at something but we couldn’t see anything. Slowly we inched up and not 25 feet off the road is a giraffe carcass – with a lot of meat still on it. We just saw the carcass and nothing else and then finally we realized there was a lioness chomping on the rump. We stayed and watched and eventually 7 more lions came out of hiding and made their way to the giraffe. It was amazing to see and it was so close to us. We stayed for an hour before we decided we needed to head out of the park and continue on with the day. As soon as we left the park, I was on a mission to get us back to town so we could eat and my mom and I could make our way to Johannesburg – still a 5 hour drive away. I was going 120 km/hr (I don’t know the mile equivalent but it was pretty fast especially after only driving 30 km/hr in the park) and cruising when Tanya yells out “STOP”. I slammed on the brakes and she could barely get out that she saw a cheetah on the side of the road. I reversed and finally we saw what she did, a cheetah behind the fence slowly moving away from us – I kept reversing to follow it and then we saw it meet up with 2 more cheetahs. What an amazing site and a good end to the weekend!

My mom and I finally made it Johannesburg, the last stop on her trip, by 7 that night. We were able to relax and have dinner with Leigh and Sue and the kids. The next day was shopping and then we had tickets to see The Lion King production. I have always loved that show and when we had the big family get together to see it in San Antonio in March 2005, that was a memorable weekend – the last time my family got together before I was off to Africa. So when I heard that the show was here, I had to get tickets for me and my mom. The show was beautiful and had lots of South African touches. Another stressful time getting to the theatre but then we forgot all about it and just enjoyed the singing and dancing and magic. The rest of the time in Joburg was shopping and visiting with friends until I had to leave Thursday morning. Phedišang was taking a group of high school girls to volunteer for the weekend at the centres in Limpopo and so I had to leave. I left my mom in the care of Leigh and my friend Laura took her out that day to a market and a nice lunch. It was hard to leave her but I was glad that my South African family was so willing to take care of her.

My time with my mom was amazing. I loved every minute of it and wouldn’t trade those 3 weeks for anything. There is so much that I just don’t have enough space to mention like driving for 11 hours around kruger park with very little food, the beautiful resort we stayed at in Swaziland that had thatched roof bungalows, the gigantic wire fish I bought for my room, the gas cap getting stuck and the attendant not knowing what to do about it (or me!), the endless number of times we felt like we were lost and of course all the small moments that me and my mom will be able to cherish together, just me and her.

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