Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Pet School Pics

The folks in America need to jump onto the doggy daycare bandwagon here in the UK. Ollie goes two mornings every week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays, plus he gets groomed there. And when I'm out of town and the husband is far away at work in the city, I'm able to go online into Ollie's account and add services, like extra half days. It's truly a win-win for pet owners that work. Or those like me that want their dog to be able to socialise in a safe environment, off-leash, since he's an only dog at home. 

Here are some pics that have been posted to Ollie's account for us to see over the past couple weeks. It's cute that a doggy friend got included in one of them.

Zimbabwe, Day 2

On our first full day in South Africa, we hit the Jo'burg airport for a mid-day flight to Victoria Falls. Upon arrival, we were met at the airport by our Vic Falls excursion guide, Nkue. He was very friendly and welcoming. He and his associate drove us and fellow safari-ers, some friends from Texas, to the Victoria Falls Safari Lodge. After checking in and getting shown to our rooms, we went out onto the balcony and noticed this welcome wagon - warthogs!

We were taking our preventative malaria pills, but I was glad to see our rooms had mosquito nets. Plus some skeeter spray in the bathroom, which I figured was part of the turndown service every evening - a good spray to kill off any of the little bloodsuckers. By the end of our Vic Falls portion of the safari, I had a total of 27 bites on the tops of my feet and ankles, but I didn't get them in our lodge room. In the pic below, you can see eight visible bites I had obviously been scratching. Itchy, itchy, itchy!

After a bit of a rest, we were driven to a neighbouring lodge on the Zambezi River, upstream of the falls, where we took a two hour sunset boat tour. It was just the nine of us in our two family party, plus two other friendly women, so we had plenty of room to spread out and manoeuvre around the boat for some great pics. We saw quite a few crocs and hippos, plus lots of other tourist boats along the way doing the same thing we were. The momma and baby hippo hanging out in the water beneath the bushes were probably my favourite.

When we returned to the dock, there were some local people singing, dancing and spewing fire. Back at our lodge, we had a lovely meal that included warthog, crocodile and impala. What you see on game drives is what they serve you for meals.

I thought the watering hole was a nice touch provided at our lodge. Below is a pic of it during the day as seen looking across the pool area. I appreciated the fact that there were at least four different view decks/heights to see the surrounding countryside. Then at night, the perimeter lights turned on and the watering hole took on an almost magical quality as elephants and other animals wandered up to get a drink.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

South Africa, Day 1

The last big whole family trip we took, all four of us, was a couple years ago, so we were overdue. We joined forces with the husband's good work friend and his family for a fabulous trip to South Africa to kick off summer vacation. 

The college coed flew into town a couple days before we left since we needed to visit a travel clinic in London for typhoid shots and anti-malaria pills. We began our trip on a Saturday evening, departing from Heathrow one hour later than scheduled (after 10 pm) for the 10.5 hour flight to Johannesburg.

Upon arrival at Tambo airport, after we cleared the border process that included a thermal scan of our faces that checks for fever, we took the shuttle to our hotel. It turned out to be this whole complex that was all interconnected and eerily similar to Las Vegas. Caesar's Palace in Vegas, only this was Cicero's Palace in Joburg. Fountains, a blue sky painted ceiling, Italian themed everything. It was a hoot. Slots, anyone?

After about 3-4 hrs of sleep for each of us on the airplane, we hit the touring trail with our safari buddy family. First on the list was a visit to the Sterkfontein caves, about a 25 mile drive from Joburg's city centre  This system of caves is a UNESCO site because paleoanthropologists discovered hominid and animal bones that are over 3 million years old. A part of the Cradle of Humankind, we also visited the nearby museum that is mostly underground. There was this low rent four elements water ride at the bottom of the structure. Seven separate college degrees amongst the four adults and we still couldn't figure out the importance such an odd ride played in the overall design of this museum.

I couldn't help but notice how winter in the southern hemisphere reminded me of the same season in the Texas hill country. Rolling hills, scrubby brush, dry grass. 

We were taken aback by the beautiful flowers blooming in the parking lot - so vibrant. And some sort of weaving bird's nest hanging from a tree. That's not something I'd expect to find back home in Texas.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Typhoid Thursday

The first day of summer vacation for the new 10th grader and first day back in the UK for the college coed found me rolling them out of bed this morning to catch the commuter train into London. Since we're headed to Africa on safari, we had to get typhoid jabs (Brit speak for shots), as well as a course of anti-malaria pills for each of us. After our appointment, they trekked a couple blocks to the Thames for some selfies with the London Eye and Big Ben/Parliament in the background. Then they had lunch at some cool restaurant named Ping Pong before hotfooting it home to take passport style photos for travel visas. What a kick off to the lazy days of summer!

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

I ♥︎♥︎♥︎ Technology

Back in the lovely little Texas town where I was a teacher, it was time for the annual high school commencement ceremony. I discovered it would be live-streamed from the football stadium and since there was nothing much on my to-do list for 4:00 pm, England time, I decided to watch. I popped some popcorn, cracked open a diet soda and had a wonderful little stroll down memory lane, recognising almost 30 of my former fifth grade students. The valedictorian was a very studious 11 yr old in my homeroom class back in the day. And now they're all off to college. Time sure does fly when you're old.

Friday, June 3, 2016

School's (Almost) Out

I'm not sure why, but the spring semester seemed to occur in half the time as the fall semester. This Friday is reading day, and then the 9th grader wraps up freshman year with exams Monday to Wednesday. Her college coed sister finished her Maymester class and will arrive here in England on Wednesday. We'll spend the next few days scuttling around taking care of things on our to do list - a trip to the travel clinic for typhoid shots and a round of preventative malaria pills. Then those typically hideous passport style photos to be used for visas at the border.

I already got some travel money from the very convenient exchange location in our local supermarket. That's over £1000 worth of South African Rand to be used for things like museum entrance fees, food and tips. It seems the safari lodge and hunting experience is all about tipping. Reminds me of cruising, where you're expected to dole out cash to everybody that serves you. It seems that on a hunting and photo safari, that's a lotta folks schlepping, driving, guiding, serving, etc.

I know the almost sophomore doesn't want to even contemplate this, but I already ordered her required English novel summer reading and printed out the requisite guiding questions for the essay once it's finished. I'm evil helpful like that. With the way our summer plans have evolved, it looks like she probably won't be reading the book until a couple weeks before school begins. Meh, at least it will still be fresh in her mind. Part of me is glad she's getting to read modern lit since the language is typically more straightforward. However, I'm also a tad disappointed she won't be reading a classic. Maybe they're saving the flowery old confusing novels for the school year.

There's nothing much else going on here, otherwise. The weather warmed up for a bit and we enjoyed lots of sun, but it has been cooler and overcast all week. That's how summer seems to go here in England, the weather cycling between the two. We'll be in shorts for a while, with the windows thrown open and all of the floor fans running. Then we'll cool off, unplug the fans and throw on a hoodie and leggings. So long as we don't have an extended heat wave, I'll be glad to spend a chunk of my summer here in the UK. 

Poor Ollie still resembles a naked mole rat. I think it's his face I find most disconcerting, such a different expression than what I'm accustomed to seeing. Without the fur, he looks either mad or sad to me. Mourning his lost coat or pissed that we had him groomed, maybe? 

In the pic below you'll see him lounging on his older sister - she rolls her eyes when I call him her little brother - and hiding beneath my desk while Lidiya the cleaning lady was running the vacuum. He's such a big baby when it comes to sounds. The clang of a pot and pan has him hustling out of the kitchen. That has become my tool of choice for getting his stubborn little doggy butt back into the house when he's in the back garden barking his fool head off. For a while just waving the broom at him worked, but it lost its power for some reason. So now I clang a pot and pan and thus he is easily shooed back into the sunroom's french doors. I'm sure any of our Brit neighbours witnessing this little spectacle think I'm nuts. You can take the redneck outta Texas, but you'll never completely rid her of her redneck ways.