Olá, Lisboa

On Friday morning, the four of us woke up at varying times but all before 4:40 am, which was when we left our house and cat for the airport. Ethan drove us.

Sunrise over California

Sunrise over California

Our first flight was from Eugene to San Francisco. In San Francisco, we went to the United lounge for a few minutes, where I had a banana, a boiled egg with capers, and yogurt with granola and strawberries. (I’m a fast eater.) Soon, we were flying across the United States with lots to do (watch The Martian and do homework) only a Stroopwaffel to eat. (Those are United’s new morning domestic flight snacks. According to Mom, they are gross. I did not eat one.) We finally touched down in Newark at around 6 pm local time. Then came a long and daunting journey: the search for supper.

We hauled our four suitcases and four backpacks through the terminal, looking for the Ben & Jerry’s, the old food court, less expensive macarons–anything, really. In the end, we went to the United lounge for salad, hummus with pita and vegetables, and chocolate-covered graham crackers. For dessert, Mom, Ethan, and I got frozen yogurt from the Red Mango kiosk right by our gate. Immediately after Mom and I finished our yogurt, we boarded the six-hour flight from Newark to Lisbon. The captain left the seatbelt sign on the whole flight, the sunrise was unimpressive (even though it was our second in 18 hours), and breakfast was a hard croissant with jam.

The sexiest paper on Earth, in the bathroom at the Lisbon airport

The sexiest paper on Earth, in the bathroom at the Lisbon airport

Within two hours of landing in Lisbon, we were in our rental car with working mobile phones, maps, and an idea of where to spend our morning and afternoon (we landed around 7 am local time). An hour later, we had gone eight kilometers and finally found a parking spot, after almost colliding with trolleys, parking in a no-parking zone, and struggling with understanding Portuguese. We left our car and walked by a church with a view on our way to Castelo de S. Jorge Monumento Nacional.



Unlike most European castles, this one was not created as a residence. It was built to house military troops in the 11th century. However, it eventually became a residence for the local royals, then became military barracks again in the 1800s. Finally, last century, the castle became a national monument. Now, hundreds of tourists visit the castle daily, and peacocks and pigeons terrify those who choose to eat at the outdoor café. It was at that café that I discovered pink Magnums (reminiscent of our time in Thailand), which would play a role later in the day.

Mom and me at the castle

Mom and me at the castle

After the castle, we went to lunch at a distinctly touristy location. Dad and Ethan shared vegetable spaghetti and a cheese, tomato, and lettuce baguette. Mom and I shared a vegetable salad and cod. Though cod is considered one of Lisbon’s most traditional dishes (especially bacalhau, or salted cod), I did not enjoy the fish. Neither did Mom. But we ate most of it anyway before heading to the Olive Tree House at 3 pm. Mom and Dad went grocery shopping after we had been checked in, while Ethan and I showered. The parents came back with pizza, ice cream (pink and black Magnums!!), shampoo, bread, and chocolate bars–a healthy diet, yes?

Pink and black Magnum bars. Photo: Bing

Pink and black Magnum bars. Photo: Bing

What’s New?

I’m glad you asked.

Since Christmas Eve, we’ve been quite busy. Let’s start at the beginning.

On Wednesday, January 1, we piled into the car for an eleven-hour ride to Schweitzer Ski Resort, where we spent four nights with my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Five of the nine of us skied on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Saturday was by far the best day, as it was sunny and clear. Meanwhile, back in the cabin, my dad cooked all day. On Greek night (Saturday night), he made everything from tzatziki and pita bread to stuffed peppers and white and milk chocolate mousse with dark chocolate ganache, strawberry coulis, and a raspberry on top.

photo 1

It was delicious.

Soon, it was back to school. On January 25, Ethan’s 8th grade class had a talent show/auction fundraiser, and I contributed to both parts. For the cake auction, I baked a dozen chocolate-zucchini cupcakes with cinnamon buttercream. They sold for $60- up $20 from my cookies of 2012. I also asked my friend Charlotte to play the piano while I played the flute. Our song “Let It Go” from Disney’s Frozen won first place.

photo 2


The following week was filled with tests, as it was end-of-semester finals for me. On the last day (Wednesday), I was thrilled when my band teacher asked me to join the school’s symphony, which is the most advanced instrumental group at my school. The next week was nerve-wracking, as I hardly knew anyone in the group and had to sight-read all the music. It’s been over a month-and-a-half since then, however, and I know that I have improved.

Last Friday (March 14, Pi Day) was the start of what I dubbed Music Week. On that day, I got to school early to join the symphony at South Eugene High School to play in a festival. It was our first attempt to qualify for the OSAA State Championships. We didn’t make it, unfortunately, but we had played well and our scores reflected that. Monday had piano lessons (as usual), and on Tuesday Ethan had his guitar lesson (also as usual). I was excited for Wednesday, which was the 12-hour trip to Ashland, Oregon, for the symphony’s second chance at states. We performed sub-par, and we returned home dejected. However, Thursday night’s amazing orchestra/symphony/band/jazz band concert more than made up for it, even though we knew our scores (which we hadn’t yet received) wouldn’t be good.

Then we found out today that we won districts by one point and had automatically qualified for the state championships, which are in May. As the only flute player in the symphony, I am terrified.

But I made a cake!

photo 4

And it was pretty darn good.


An Open Apology

I meant to write a post four days ago (December 20, 2013). I really did. I wanted to point out that we’ve been home a whopping six months. I wanted to remember how a year ago we thought we were tough because we’d passed the halfway mark. I wanted to say how good it is to have a real, 12-foot Noble fir Christmas tree instead of a plastic tree my height.

But I didn’t. And I’m sorry. So I’ll do one now.

We’re at home, not in Cape Town. The view out our dining room window is of our dying grass instead of the promenade and the Atlantic Ocean. We have large presents under (beside, rather) our tree in place of the very small ones last Christmas. The best difference of all, though, is that my grandparents are going to spend Christmas with us.

In the last year, we touched thirteen countries on four continents. In the last six months, we’ve adjusted to “normal” life and lost our tans (that was a big tragedy). We didn’t go camping in the summer (silent rejoicing) but Ethan and I did go to camp. We may not have used our canoe at all but we hiked to multiple lakes.

Cupcakes and gelato have become dietary staples, and pizza drowned in vinegar has become the norm (at least for me).


The second half of the trip was probably more stressful for us, between worrying about jobs and cars and school when we returned, to the Amazon trip, Morocco, and our house in Semur-en-Auxois being flooded.

But who’s to say it wasn’t the better half?




Downtown Bend, Oregon

Downtown Bend, Oregon


Springfield is my home, but I love Bend, Oregon. Two hours’ drive from our house lies the city of Bend, which we visit annually. Usually, this visit falls in the lovely month of October (only the best month), but this time it was in December. We are staying (as usual) in the Seventh Mountain Resort, which features an ice skating rink, multiple pools and hot tubs, a basketball court, a spider web, and wi-fi– saving the best for last.

While these are certainly perks, one of my favorite parts of Bend is Zydeco, a restaurant in downtown that serves amazing food- probably my favorite anywhere (except maybe Taco Bell). It is to die for. I usually get the steelhead, which comes with mashed potatoes, green beans, pearl onions, and plenty of capers. Delicious. So I ordered the steelhead tonight– but it came with red quinoa, asparagus, and more than plenty of capers. The pearl onions were definitely missed, but the dessert more than made up for that: chocolate pot de crème, which is basically a very rich chocolate mousse. Mom and I shared a serving, while somehow Dad and Ethan managed to polish off a jar (that’s how the dessert was served) each. It was rather incredible, really, watching them put away that much food.

We got back to the hotel too late to go swimming, so we retired to our room, which is roomy enough to have separate bedrooms for Ethan and me.

It’s snowy/slushy/icy here, but not more than Springfield: for those of you who may not have noticed, the Willamette Valley was blasted by an Arctic cold front for two weeks, giving us lovely temperatures, ranging, on the average day, from -2 to 22. And yes, that is Fahrenheit. Since it was so dry for most of the time, school wasn’t delayed because there were no icy roads– it was just super cold. Tuesday, December 3, was very exciting because it snowed. At school. Like, in the middle of the day. It snowed about half an inch at our house and stuck until Friday, which had snow predicted.

All my teachers were banking on a snow day, and my friends put spoons under their pillows and wore their pajamas inside-out.

And it must have worked, because on Friday there was no school. When I woke up at 6 am, we had two inches of snow at our house. By four o’clock there were eight inches and counting, and somehow Dad had driven home from the Eugene airport. (Actually, it’s not somehow– it’s four-wheel-drive.)

Saturday, we were four of the very few who braved the roads to church. On Sunday, we ventured into town for a piano recital at Barnes & Noble (featuring, due to weather, ONLY Ethan and me) and necessary shopping. Monday, the schools were once again closed. I went over to a friend’s house, and we walked to my school to pick up band music. There’s hardly any ice, I thought.

Tuesday was another snow day. Friday and Monday were the two snow days for which my school had allowed– Tuesday started filling up our two furlough days. When Wednesday proved hopeless, all I could do was hope that Thursday would be a school day. Also on Wednesday, there was a voluntary band rehearsal to which about twenty of the ninety-nine involved in the concert come this Tuesday showed up.

Thursday there was no school.

I cried.

And then, lo and behold–

There was school today! (Which was a really good thing, because how would they be able to explain keeping school closed in 40-degree (Fahrenheit) weather when their only excuse for school closure was ice on the roads?)

It may have been a Friday schedule, with all of our eight classes meeting forty-four minutes each, but it was school!

And yes, there is a good chance I was the only one of sixteen hundred students who was absolutely thrilled to have school.


Happy Campers

Well, it’s been a considerable time since any of us have written posts. I may as well do the first for August 2013.

Since returning to the US, we have seen no fewer than seven family members, a dozen deer (including five new fawns), and a black bear. The black bear was up in the mountains, and it ran across the road right in front of our car shortly after we found several bear bones on the side of the road. Last week, my parents saw a bobcat and have photographic evidence.

Right now, my cousin and aunt from Texas are visiting. Yesterday we made two types of cupcakes for a grand total of 22: nine apple-almond with cinnamon ganache and thirteen (surprisingly bland) dark chocolate with peppermint frosting and dark chocolate-mint M&Ms. I’ve also made lemon-blueberry cupcakes, chocolate-orange, and chocolate-zucchini (with a to-die-for cinnamon buttercream), and a few days ago we made lavender cupcakes with a whipped cream frosting.

Ethan and I spent last week at camp and had a very good time. It only rained once and then for only ten minutes on Friday morning. Ethan managed to get a very bad sunburn while wakeboarding, but for all my playing basketball in the sun I came away tan as ever. The only bad thing about camp was that, the day after we left, One Direction’s new single came out and the third in line for the throne was born in the UK. Those Brits. Couldn’t wait for us to get back.

We haven’t gotten poison oak yet, which is rather surprising considering our rather cross-country hike three days ago and the little rainy excursion we went on yesterday.

But I’m okay with that.

Poison oak isn’t necessary.


Back to Normal?

I’m not sure if we’re technically ‘back to normal’ yet. It is a normal Oregon summer, though: rainy in June, with hope for sun in July and August. Naturally, it was quite warm until school got out.

We’ve unpacked and unpacked and unpacked some more. As a result, we have piles of things to take to Goodwill and to sell at a used bookstore. Also, my room is completely unpacked, and only a few items remain in my suitcase.

Mom is just outside my room, in the hall, putting away boxes and boxes of Christmas lights, ornaments, and decorations. And she calls–


What Shall We Do Today?

What shall we do today?

Oh, let’s unpack!

And unpack.

And unpack.

And unpack some more.


Last night it was too late to post, as we had done a lot of unpacking to make the house livable, but right now it’s a bright, sunny, Friday afternoon in Oregon. Dishes, linens, and clothes have been completely brought down from upstairs (I think). We came home yesterday afternoon after stopping by Costco, our grandparents’ house, and Safeway to piles of mail, Amazon boxes, and our own belongings. Everything’s still totally disorganized, but I think that everything will start to settle down by next week.


Party in the USA

Call the press, someone: I have found a way to comfortably sit in Economy class on an airplane.

It only works if you’re small, flexible, and comfortable on airplanes. It involves sitting with your legs crossed and your head down on one knee. In this way, I slept well for a grand total of three hours on our two flights today. So I was awake for… drum roll… twenty-five hours today. We are deadxhausted.

Our first flight, from Athens to Frankfurt, was only about three hours. We were shocked when we were not put through another security clearance to get on our USA-bound flight from gate Z25. We finally got to the gate after a surprisingly lengthy bus ride and going up several flights of stairs. If you look at our passports, we didn’t visit Greece and Switzerland: we got our passports stamped in Portugal (since we entered the European part of the airport to get food), in Morocco, and then entering France. We only got another stamp leaving Germany.


The flight was super super long, but we were wide awake when we landed and got through Immigration and our luggage was in our hands. It doesn’t look like we lost anything on that leg of our trip.

We got our Avis rental car and drove south to Kelso, WA, where Dad got a sim chip at an AT&T store for his phone. Then Ethan, the luggage, and I were dropped off at Aunt Linda and Uncle Scott’s house while Mom and Dad left in the Chrysler to buy a car in Sandy, OR. They returned at around 8 pm, about five hours later. Ethan and I played Acquire with Uncle Scott, with four-month-old Guide Dog for the Blind puppy-in-training Navajo looking on.

Supper was, as we had hoped, hot dogs with brownies and Uncle Scott’s potato salad. Tomorrow morning we’ll be having American French toast.

It’s so good to be back in the US of A.


No Fun Allowed

Just nineteen minutes into tomorrow marks the 31,536,000th second, the 525,600th minute, the 8,760th hour, the 52nd week, the 12th month, and the first year away from our house. That’s over 31-and-a-half million seconds. And I still can’t believe it.

My first of two posts on June 18, 2012, began, ‘Today we leave the house. Tomorrow we go to the airport. Wednesday we fly.’  So, if I were to write this thirteen hours ago: today we go to the airport. Tomorrow we fly. Thursday we reenter the house.

In those thirteen hours, we have flown for less than an hour across the Aegean Sea on Aegean Airlines, which actually served drinks and peanuts. I don’t know when I last was served a drink and peanuts—no more, no less—on a flight. I think that may have been back in 2009 or 2010.

At the airport, we got our luggage and took the long, long hike across the narrow, quiet street to our hotel. Ethan and I went swimming in the pool on the 9th floor, which is also a spa. Mom went with us. On our arrival, a woman greeted us with a smile and “No jumping and no diving.”

I had brought the goggles up, and we took turns throwing them into the pool and timing how long it took the other to find them. Dad came by, and we had him hide the goggles. It took me nine seconds to raise them above my head, but Ethan grabbed them from me and claimed victory.

As soon as Dad left to check in at the airport, one of the women who works at the spa came by and said, very quietly, that Ethan and I needed to be quieter. I heard her.

I got out and dried off. It’s no fun swimming when you can’t make noise and can’t jump in or anything.



Supper was at the airport at The Olive Tree. Mom and I shared a starter Greek salad (which was still quite sizeable) and a large plate of penne with chicken and sundried tomatoes. It was very good.

Over dinner, Dad and I phrased tomorrow these three ways:

  1. It will be a 34-hour day what with the time zone change.
  2. We’re already in bed (it’s 7:44 pm)—tomorrow (in Pacific Coast time), we’ll be awake from 5:30 pm to about 9:30 pm. Eep.
  3. In Athens time, we’ll be awake from 3:30 am to 7:30 am, on two different days. Eep again.


Triple Threat

We only have three days left on our trip—one in Crete, one in Athens, and one in an airplane and Washington. In honor of this, here are my three favorite places on this trip:

1: Crete has been good to us. So good, in fact, that I am rather reluctant to leave—this seems odd since home is at the other end of this 12-hour journey. No matter; I’ll just stay on Crete and enjoy the summer warmth and the pool that comes with it. Not. I would enjoy staying just for the food, though. Especially the tzatziki, chocolate-coated baklava, grape leaf rolls, lemon chicken with chips and zucchini at Taverna Fantastico, and the chocolate cakes.


1: Yes, this is a second number 1. I would count Crete and South Africa as a tie. While similar in some ways (warm, with nice people and good food), there are so many differences. For example, we knew South Africans, such as Oom Dennis and Tannie Marietjie (and their dogs Dinky and Griet). Dad, Mom, and Ethan had already been to the country before and thus knew what it was like. Also, we got extremely lucky, seeing seven cheetahs, three leopards, ten African wild dogs, an African wild cat, two honey badgers, a handful of rhinos, a Cape cobra, both black and white, plenty of lions, ostriches, and spotted hyenas, and more than enough black-faced impala, springbok, gemsbok, elephant, kudu, and giraffe to go around. And everyone knows that Cape Town is the best city in the world.


3: Thailand gets the bronze medal in this competition. Like South Africa and Crete, Thailand was certainly memorable for its warmth. It also had Buotong Waterfall, Thai food (green curry and sweet-and-sour curry and banana pancakes, oh my!), six amazing pools, MBK Mall, Jatujak Market (can’t forget my cheap sandals, which have somehow lasted until now), tiger-petting, and elephant riding. Yes, Thailand is certainly a very good (and inexpensive) country. Plus, Thai Airlines is part of the Star Alliance and has really good food and magazines in their airport lounges.


E&E Electric Eels

Today being our last full day in Crete, we naturally spent it packing our suitcases and duffle bag (yes, we are adding another bag). We polished off yesterday’s chocolate cake, and after two rehearsals Ethan and I performed our whole E&E Electric Eels routine. It came off, for the most part, without a hitch. It had lots of flips, tricks, and English-accented commentary.

Dinner was at Taverna Fantastico, which is where we ate supper way back on May 25, our second Cretan day (and our first restaurant-made Cretan meal). We’ve eaten there twice since and have enjoyed the view, good food, and cute rabbits each time. Tonight one of the rabbits was missing.

Did you know that a traditional Cretan dish is rabbit stew?


Bye-Bye Beach

Today was our last beach day. I have mixed feelings about this. (Well, not really.)

I’m not a beach person. The sunscreen I have to wear is sticky, the water is too cold to swim, the sand is to… well… sandy, it’s too windy to keep an umbrella up and a towel down, and it’s hot as anything.

So it was with some relief that I pulled on my striped dress and purple flip-flops, grabbed my green bag, and headed back to the car. Today being our last beach day also means that we’re nearing the end of our time in Crete, Greece, and abroad.


Ethan and I swam in the pool after eating slices of chocolate cake with our parents, since today was Fathers’ Day. For supper we went to Zisi. It’s a really good thing we’re leaving soon so we don’t have to return there because the food is mediocre, the tzatziki is probably the worst I’ve ever had (although all the other places have had really good tzatziki), and the service is atrocious. Our waitron knocked over our bottle of water when he could have easily stopped it, and he served raki even after Dad refused.


Costas on the Coast

To keep out from under Thalia’s feet as she cleaned our villa today, we escaped to the seashore and talked about Ethan’s social life. It was a long drive for just that one entertaining conversation and salty breeze, but we had to do something and couldn’t find anything better.

Back home, at 2 pm I jumped (well, sort of slid) into the pool and doggy-paddled laps to avoid getting my hair wet. Ethan joined me at around the fourth lap.

After we got out, Mom decided she wanted to swim, so Ethan and I read on the sidelines as she muttered, “It’s so cold! But it’s warmer than I’ve ever had it.”

For dinner we returned to Costas’s coast-side restaurant. We got a record-breaking eight dishes: tzatziki, garlic bread, grape leaf rolls, Greek salad, grilled peppers, zucchini balls, stuffed tomatoes, and chicken fillet. In my opinion, the chicken surpassed even the tzatziki in excellence since the sauce was delicious and the mushrooms were well-cooked.

We stopped for ice cream (chocolate and mint for Mom, strawberry for Ethan, chocolate cookie for Dad, and pistachio for me) on the way back to our car. Technically, it wasn’t on the way back. We took a really out-of-the-way detour. Anyway, we left Rethymno city limits in the dark and got on the E75 towards home.


Compare & Contrast

June 14, 2012: Title: School’s Almost Out!

Content: For our mother, at least… Today is her last teaching day, Friday is a grading day, and then… no school for more than a year! Well, she has to homeschool us, but still… I don’t think we’re as bad as those high-schoolers. Ciao!

June 14, 2013: Title: Trip’s Almost Done!

Content: As far as our plans are concerned… We can only hope that today is our sixth-to-last-day abroad, Tuesday is our last day on Crete, and Wednesday is our first day in the USA, and then… nothing big for more than a month! Well, there’s all the typical summer stuff, but still… I don’t think things will be as hectic as they are now (*ahem* today was a beach day). Ciao!

A Week Worth Wanting

With only one week left on our trip (if there isn’t a strike at the Athens airport), here is my Week Worth Wanting list of seven things for Europe (France, Switzerland, and Greece).

  1. THE PASTRIES. In all three countries we’ve visited, the pastries have been to die for. From the chocolate chip twists in Semur-en-Auxois to the chocolate-coated baklava in Rethymno, and everything in between (including pain au chocolat, giant cinnamon rolls, apple pastries, Chocolate Kiss Brownies, chocolate porcupines, and a giant pretzel), we’ve enjoyed just about every mouthful of pastry that we’ve swallowed.
  2. THE ENGLISH-SPEAKING-NESS. Although the language barrier proved almost too much in Semur-en-Auxois, in Greece, Switzerland, and Paris we’ve found plenty of people who speak English, the closest language to our vernacular (which is American).
  3. THE HISTORY. Greek civilization goes way, way back—especially when compared to that of the United States. France is also home to many historical sites, and played a role in many key European happenings, including the French Revolution and World War Two. Notre Dame (the Parisian one), the Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe are, in my opinion, the most notable French monuments. The Parthenon and Acropolis, as well as Knossos Palace on Crete, are the famous Greek sites that have been patronized by this family.
  4. THE SCENERY. In Switzerland, we woke up to the sight of Staubbachfall pouring down a cliff every morning and seeing glacier-covered mountains just down the Lauterbrunnen Valley. In Greece, when eating supper in a restaurant, we see beautiful sunsets. And France’s mustard fields are not to be overlooked.
  5. THE CATS. Seriously. In Morocco, the cats were, well, quite mangy- and rabid-looking, but in Europe they all seem quite sane (if not tame). They are very social and don’t mind being petted in the least. Actually, they mind if you don’t pet them.
  6. THE FOOD. France’s food may not have lived up to expectations, but our first night can never be forgotten: we had pizza for the first time in over a month. In Switzerland, the Bombay Chicken Pizza at Hotel Oberland was the best pizza I’ve ever had, barring frozen pizza (seriously) at home. Greece’s food has continued to amaze and fatten us.
  7. THE WIFI. Every place we’ve stayed in Europe has had wi-fi. This, of course, was planned, but you don’t know if it’s actually going to work until you get there. It’s worked in every place so far and will hopefully work on Crete until June 18, the day we fly to Athens.


Au revoir, auf wiedersehen, αντίο, and


Cloudy With a Chance of Grape Leaf Rolls

Nothing much was ‘really’ done today. In reality, quite a lot of work on the computer was completed, and we devoured a lot of grape leaf rolls, olives, and strawberry gummies. But no one calls those ‘real’ work.

The ‘real’ work revolved around finding dinner. Since today was cloudy and cool, we knew that the waterfront restaurant on which we had been planning to visit was a poor choice. We tried heading to Mesi and Faragi, both tavernas, but we could never find them. In the end, we settled on roadside Hovoli. There, we ordered seven (!!!) dishes: tzatziki, Greek salad, grape leaf rolls, stuffed tomatoes, herb pastries, fried zucchini, and the ‘village rooster.’ Although the name acted as a slight deterrent (we were planning on ordering the chicken with okra, but it wasn’t available), I found my piece of the village rooster to be tasty, tender, and mostly boneless.

The highlight of the meal was the petulant cat (even more petulant than two nights ago, on the south side of Crete), who ran to any hands dangling below chair level. It was a very clingy cat and hung around us because all the other guests at the restaurant were oblivious to its needs.


Southside Story

I woke up this morning to the crashing of waves and the coolness of a shower. It was a lot cooler shower than I had yesterday in the same building.

After breakfast (cereal, olive and plain bread [with mocha spread], and apricots), we headed down to the beach for some sun. The water was very high, and Dad, Ethan, and I were walking along the rocks. Mom went around the rocky peninsula, asking, “Why are you going up there?”

Moments later, she was soaked up to her thighs and had her answer.


After several hours of lounging around (the water looked too rough to swim in), we packed up and returned to the north side of Crete. Ethan and I swam in the pool before supper, which was at Thavma. Since ‘THAVMA’ is made up of both Greek and Latin characters, we asked our hostess how to pronounce the name (it’s ‘Thavma’).

Supper was tzatziki, potato balls, chicken with mustard, Greek salad, vegetable pies, and grilled peppers. Ethan was scared of the sheep-like dog (as usual). It was sheep-like because it was white, very calm and patient, and had a thick, wooly coat. In the middle of the day it must be a hot dog.


Only eight days!


Nine Days, Nine Things

In honor of only nine days until we get home, here are nine things (in no particular order) that I’ve loved about Crete:

1. Good food. From tzatziki and chicken to stuffed vine leaves and delicious fro-yo, eating food on Crete has never been a boring, unappetizing experience. I do believe in enjoying eating, and Crete is certainly a place to do that.

2. Frozen yogurt. While it’s already been mentioned above, Yum…me needs a slot of its own. With its multi-colored beanbags and trashcan lids (seriously, I looked. They come in pink, blue, and green), the seating was what drew us in. It’s the delicious strawberry cheesecake fro-yo that kept us as customers.

3. Acqua Park. Although yesterday had a few stressful and scary moments, most of the scariness was a good thing. Who doesn’t love the thrill they get going down a steep waterslide? And everyone knows that the only thing more fun than having fun is having fun while getting wet.

4. Our villa. I love our house. I really do. There’s a view of Crete’s north shore, nearby kids to play soccer (ahem… football) with, and a pool in our own backyard. Plus, there’s three bedrooms– meaning Ethan and I don’t have to share!

5. The southern beaches. The beaches on the northern side are avoided, but almost every-other-day we are on the south side, dipping our deeply-tanned toes in the salty waters.

6. The sun. No, not the son. The sun. With our 20SPF sunscreen that claims to tan and protect in hand, we lounge on the beach for hours. Although it does get uncomfortably hot sometimes, I think we all enjoy heat more than cold.

7. The wi-fi. Cape Town is in my Top 3 Places on This Trip (we spent have of our time in South Africa there), but it didn’t have wi-fi. The biggest blessing of our house is the wi-fi, making it easier to do our posts, upload pictures, and all sorts of mundane tasks that would be even worse using Dad’s phone’s megabytes via a hotspot.

8. The animals. Some would raise their eyebrows at this subject, since Crete isn’t exactly known for its animals. However, there are friendly cats and dogs and, the best part, we saw a snake!!! We saw it about a week ago, but I think I forgot to mention it. I don’t think it was venomous, since the venomous snakes in Crete supposedly lurk in the mountains. Whatever this snake was, it certainly wasn’t shy!

9. The other desserts. Although fro-yo has already been mentioned (as has food in general), nothing can beat a chocolate-dipped piece of gooey baklava. It is absolutely divine. Also, our cake from our favorite bakery was perfect (it was chocolate, of course), and we’re currently enjoying a dozen twist cookies from the same. At many restaurants, dessert for supper is fruit served with raki– namely, referigerated cherries. The cherries on this island are excellent.



You could say I’m homesick. Maybe Paris-sick. Most certainly Cape Town-sick. I miss Cape Town a lot, but I think that’s because Crete is so similar (yet different): good food, nice people, plenty of things to do, and– most significantly, I think– we’re in each place for about a month.

Although the joys and trials of Cape Town, South Africa’s prettiest city, are long past us, we’re still on Crete. Tonight we’re taking a vacation from our vacation (Crete) from our vacation (this year-long trip): we’re spending the night on the south side of the island. After lounging on the beach, we entered our oceanfront two-bedroom apartment. Supper was fish, chicken, tzatziki, French fries (chips), and Greek salad while being splashed by the waves and meowed at by the petulant cat.

It’s only nine days until we get home (eight until the U.S.). Tonight we looked at Google Earth and zoomed in on our home. To my surprise, I’d forgotten how to get there from an all-too-familiar landmark: my school. On school, by the way, Ethan finished today and Mom says she will finish grading our US history essay questions, which will officially make Ethan an eighth grader and me a high-schooler.


Monday Moments

We paid a five-hour visit to Acqua Plus, Crete’s ‘biggest & best’ water park, today.

Dad sat on the sidelines, but Mom risked seven slides, including the three open tubes where you slid down by yourself that were in orange, red, and blue. One was the closed, very warm, teal tube (where you went down without an innertube), and another was one of the orange racing slides, where Ethan and I sat on either side (I won). Ethan and I manipulated her into taking an innertube down one of the Black Holes—the one with more twinkle lights.

“Did you like that?” Ethan asked, grinning, at the bottom.

“No!” was the quick, sharp answer.

So we went on the Crazy River—over and over and over. The ‘crazy’ part is that it has five or six wide slide segments, each about 100 feet long, that end in pools. Sometimes we got stuck in the pools. To my disappointment, I only flipped over once in the pools, and it was an accident. I flipped over in my tube once at the bottom, but that was intentional and only came after many tries.

Mom also floated on the current-less Lazy River, but that doesn’t count as a slide.

I went on all 15 slides possible: the two Black Holes, the three multi-colored slides, an open teal tube and a closed teal tube, the Crazy River, the orange races, and six others. The two yellow slides were between the two teal slides, and one went in a J shape and the other in a S (more or less) shape. The Space Bowl—a.k.a. the Toilet—was a five-second, blue and white closed tube that shot you, at an angle, into the bowl. You went around once or twice and then fell into the hole in the middle—usually headfirst.

The Tsunami was a huge white structure in the shape of a half-pipe. You went down a short, steep chute onto the first part of the ‘wave’. You went down really quickly and then hit the water from each side as it met in the middle, giving you a wedgie. Then up you went on the other side, then back down and up the other side, and up the other side again, and so on and so forth until you reached the mouth of the slide.

The last two slides were the most scary. On the map, the bright blue Kamikazee looks Jumeirah Sceirah-like (that’s the super-steep slide at Wild Wadi in Dubai that I declined to go down. Ethan rode it). However, it’s open and in the shape of the ‘S’ yellow slide, just longer. It’s also very hard to breathe since the spray from your feet hits you square in the face as you speed into the pool below.

The tube slide is very steep too, but you can breathe more easily. It’s only 12 seconds long.

I went on each of these above rides at least twice. Ethan did the same.


To the Average Reader:

Well, we went to another beach today. I don’t remember what it was called, but none of us went swimming. Dad finally found it after hours of driving, and after about two hours on the beach, we (more or less) retraced those hours. At home, Mom, Dad, and I dipped in the pool while Ethan swam.

So… it was a pretty interesting day to us as each thing happened, but to the average reader it sounds like we’re taking it super easy.

(To the average reader: don’t believe it!)


Slow Saturday

After a long period of procrastination, we set out for Kournas Lake, one of Crete’s few freshwater lakes. There were plenty of people paddle-boating, but we declined to try it.

Back home we tanned (shocker, anyone?), read, and looked at well-decorated cupcakes online before supper at Dionysos. There, we ordered six dishes but decided not to get the tzatziki since it was a side with every dish. We got stuffed tomatoes, stuffed vine leaves, stuffed courgette flowers, chicken filet, and Greek salad, plus one orange juice for Mom.


Yum…me Yogurt

Today we used fro-yo as an excuse to vacate the house while it was being cleaned. We also went to a fountain and the cathedral in Rethymno.

I had the strawberry cheesecake, chocolate, and orange flavors, with chocolate sauce, chocolate chips, and strawberries and a tiny bit of the lemon-chocolate sauce (which was nasty). A bunch of teenaged girls next to us were cooing over an iguana on a leash, which was sitting at a table. I don’t know Greek, but I’m sure they were saying “Isn’t it cute??”

Back home, I swam for thirty-five minutes and then read another 4% of Moby Dick, taking me to 30%. For supper Mom cooked pasta and green beans and made a salad—which, as usual, had too little vinegar.


Bye-Bye Baklava

Well, it’s happened again: we’ve finished yet another platter of wonderful, chocolate-coated baklava.


This happened after several hours at Agia Fotini (a beach that we’ve been too before), where we tanned and Dad, Ethan, and I swam. On the home-bound drive, Ethan and I slept. As soon as Dad stopped the car outside our gate so Ethan could open the gate and let the car in, I jumped out with my stuff, tore off my clothes, dropped my bag, and jumped into our pool.

Ethan and I played in the pool for half an hour. I finally did a full twist, which was exciting.

While Dad tanned outside, the rest of us huddled in the house and used our electronics. For supper we went to the cat restaurant. The cats were feeling more dominant and gave us the evil eye(s) as we sat in our chairs with chicken on the table.

After supper, we returned home and, sadly, polished off the baklava. Back to the supermarket!


Schooling and Supper

Today was quite the down day. However, I did one important thing:

With an answer about why Bill Clinton’s impeachment was significant, I finished my schooling for the 2012-2013 school year. That is a great accomplishment, by the way. Thousands of questions were answered (I only got about 2% wrong) and I’m finally, finally done.

But it starts again in September—so soon!


For supper we re-visited Thavma. At the end of the meal, all four of us—yes, including Ethan and me—were offered tiny glasses of raki, the national alcoholic beverage.


Wet ‘n’ Wild

Ethan was the only one of the four of us brave enough to venture into the cold, wavy Libyan Sea today at Agio Pavlos (Saint Paul). The rest of us sat under our new, striped umbrellas on the sand and had our hair swept around by the wind. When we arrived home after a stop at the bakery, Ethan and I went out to the pool and swam. Ethan and I made up a game with our new blue floating bed. The ‘shark’ was on the bed and the ‘minnow’ started in the opposite corner and had the goggles. The goal of the minnow was to get to the opposite corner and back without being tagged by the shark. The shark had to keep all body parts on the floaty except their arms and hands. If they flipped over, the game was paused as the shark returned to an upright position.

After this, I did schoolwork (I only have 40 questions of US history left!) until we left for supper at a waterfront restaurant run by the same people as our villa, which is called Villa Ivi. We ordered seven dishes: tzatziki, vine leaf rolls, grilled pepper, stuffed tomatoes, Greek salad, zucchini balls, and a swordfish steak. This swordfish was much, much better than the one that Dad and I had five years ago in the Caribbean. As Dad said, I don’t really like it when swordfish is served as a shoe (a.k.a. unchewable).

The food was all very good, and the dessert (melon and cherries) was entertaining.



For those of you who don’t know, I love magazines. Today was a good day, then, since we visited the Fortress of Fortezza Rethymnon. There were five magazine chambers, three of which had vaulted roofs and two that were roofless. They were used for storage. Today, they’re places to visit and housing for exhibitions.

The fort was pretty much right on the sea, and the look-outs on each outward-facing corner had a refreshing breeze flowing through them due to the windows.

Once done in the fort, Mom led us along the waterfront through restaurants at which we did not eat. Finally she left us as the three of us got sidetracked in the Euro1Shop, where everything costs one Euro. We didn’t buy anything, since there wasn’t anything worthwhile.

We found Mom and then continued on, passing a very cool-looking restaurant that I had seen before. Mom suggested checking it out, and we discovered it was a fro-yo joint called Yum…me. After sampling the strawberry cheesecake flavor, I was sold on the idea. All told, the four of us bought a whole kilogram of fro-yo that we ate on the brightly colored beanbags out front. I had chocolate and strawberry cheese cake, with chocolate chips, strawberries, three different types of cookies, coconut, and chocolate sauce. Mom chose chocolate, mixed berry, and orange flavors, and so did Ethan. Dad kept it simple with a serving of chocolate.

But it was soooo good. We need to go back!


Beachy Keen

We went to yet another beach today. Well, actually we went to two. First we drove across the island to a taverna, and then walked west among the slippery boulders. We finally got to a beach, but since the tide was up it was invisible underneath the waves. Ethan and I threw pebbles at rocks for half an hour, at which point we walked back to the taverna. Dad said that we had to stay for a while to show the people at the taverna that we were going to the beach, not just making a huge mistake.

We drove three minutes to the east, and then walked on the sandy beach in the same direction. We stayed at this beach for about an hour, with Dad and Ethan jumping in the surf. Afterwards, Ethan and I sat in the shade under some rocks that smelled like something had died recently.

At home, schoolwork was completed before we headed out to dinner at a pizzeria by the bakery. The table at which we ate had white chairs with pink edges and pink seat cushions. The ashtray was blue glass, and the glasses came in orange, green, red, and purple. They even had normal—not red wine—vinegar!

Oh, and the pizza was okay, too.


The Story of Mewmew

I am a cat. I have three orange-and-white friends who also hang out at Taverna Zisi. We live on handouts and hope that we’ll one day land on a fly. Those flies—they really bug me. Today Mewey found a good, slow fly, but it was still too quick.

The most interesting part of my day was when one of the Humans put down her hand and I smelled it. On accident, my whiskers touched the hand. It startled me—contact with a Human!!!—and I ran away. She seemed disappointed, but I can’t let small Human emotions get in my way.

Another highlight was when the same Human dropped her knife onto the patio and fell through a crack to the ground. The filling of the stuffed pepper smelled delicious, and Mewey and I ran towards the smell, hoping for a taste. Mewey was faster and devoured the one grain of rice that remained on the patio.

My day pretty well ended with Mewey, Rrmew, and me play-fighting (claws were sheathed) in the sunset.


Let Them Eat Cake

While we aren’t in France any more, someone still thought that today: me.

After lounging around at the half-off beach (it cost five Euros) and Dad and Ethan swimming in the blue waters, we returned home but stopped by the bakery and supermarket on the way. Our first stop was the bakery, and I chose a beautiful chocolate cake there. Mom also bought some bread and chocolate pastries for breakfast tomorrow. At the supermarket, Ethan stayed in the car with the cake while Mom, Dad, and I went inside and chose, among other things, 20 SPF sunscreen (we only have 30 and 45 right now), cherries, green beans, and peaches.

At home, we lounged around (we did that a lot today!) before heading out to supper at 6:25. We returned to the restaurant on the hill and ordered seven dishes: chicken with zucchini in a lemon sauce, greasy zucchini crisps, tzatziki, chili with egg, Greek salad, vine leaf rolls, and onion pastries. It was delicious, and supper there was a lot easier for me this time because Ethan sat in the chair facing the setting sun.

We returned to our house, and I sliced the cake into five pieces (one half and four eighths) and then served the slices.

Let them eat cake!


Don’t Cry Over Spilt Milk

The proportion of beach time to driving time was rather alarming today, as we spent slightly over an hour on the beach and hours driving around on dirt roads trying to find elusive towns and paved roads.

On the beach at which we lounged, Dad and Ethan bounced in the waves and Mom and I waded. The beach reminded Dad, Ethan, and I of Backwash Beach in Costa Rica because it has small (and quite large) rocks that roll back and forth with the waves and can scratch and squish unsuspecting toes and legs. Also the tide was in, so that probably affected Dad and Ethan’s splashings.

Dad drove our little-car-that-almost-couldn’t around a lot, and we ended up at the beach we visited several days ago. At that point, we turned around and headed home. On the way, Ethan and I remembered things we had done on other two-week spring break trips, such as petting a baby sloth in our backyard in Costa Rica, our volcanically heated pond in our Hawaiian yard, and eating rocket (lettuce leaf) pizza in Pisa.

We made it home, and I set about my algebra final. Now it’s finally finished (several hours later). The only break I took was for supper, which was pizza, green beans, and salad. I had finished pouring extra vinegar on my plate for my pizza and was putting it back down on the table when I knocked over my glass and sent milk onto the table. We had to take off the tablecloth, dry the table, put a new tablecloth back on, and put the whole mess back together before eating was resumed.



Breaking News: Tourist Town Trap Traps Tourists!!

The wind was really blowing this morning, and now, at 8:23 p.m., the wind has subsided but you can’t see the ocean from our house. Our pool was filled with leaves, and it was at least partially refilled with a hose, so it’s probably really, really cold.

Apart from that excitement, our day was rather dull. We visited Lidl and the bakery for food but didn’t check out the restaurant at which we planned on eating until we were back in Rethymno and looking for it. It was on a very touristy street (although Rethymno itself is quite touristy) and the menu had pictures on it. As I learned in Rome three years ago, when menus have pictures all over them the food usually isn’t very good and it is very overpriced.

This would be the exception.

The food was typically Greek—meaning it was delicious (especially the vine leaf rolls stuffed with rice and the fried peppers) and inexpensive. The atmosphere was rather unimpressive, but what could we expect?


Kids in Knossos

After a long (one-hour) drive, we reached Knossos Palace. Knossos Palace is the legendary home of the Minotaur and hot and dry. It was definitely a good thing to hire a guide, and she took us—along with our small English-speaking group—around the palace for an hour-and-a-half.

Anything wooden or painted was fake, placed by the archaeologist Arthur Evans. There is a bust of him at the entrance to the site.

There were five entrances to the palace: one each on the north, south, west, and east sides, and one on the northwest. Among other trivia, we learned that the first toilets were found in the palace. The queen had one in her room. She also had make-up tools, which we didn’t see (they were in a museum). Clay pipes carried water in to and out of the palace. There were forty rivers on Crete, our guide told us, and forests, too, but with the Turks and the Venetians came destruction. Now the forests are long gone. In their place are vineyards, olive groves, fields, and towns.

When our tour was over, we re-circled the site, this time allowing time for pictures. We stopped at the café on our way out and ordered overpriced drinks. This seemed like a lot to bear after the $10-per-gallon petrol earlier in the morning. (Suddenly, $4-per-gallon is looking pretty good.) Mom and Dad chose orange juice, and Ethan and I went for the Tooti Frootis, which had a delicious combination of pineapple, banana, orange, and apple juices (delicious especially since you couldn’t taste the apple).

On the way home we stopped in Heraklion and Mom, Ethan, and I looked at the cathedral, and I found a teal dress I really liked (but couldn’t buy).

Also on the way, we stopped for cherries, a dark chocolate bar, and chocolate-coated baklava at a mini market. In case you want to know, the chocolate-coated baklava is really, really, really good.


Chicken of the Sea

“Ethan! I dare you to swim out to that rock,” I called. “That one—out there!”

Ethan looked up from the shore and saw the black rock that I was pointing to. He gamely started swimming out to where Dad was, but he wasn’t trying very hard and kept being pushed back by the waves. Finally he got to the rock where Dad was, but kept turning back on his long swim out to the big rock because he was worried about jellyfish.

“You know how an iguana is called ‘chicken of the tree’?” I asked. “Well, you’re the chicken of the sea.”

He took offense to this comment and, gathering his pride and his courage, hastened out to the rock and back. Dare done, he sat back on the rocks next to me and enjoyed the warmth on what we nicknamed Jelly Belly Beach—the name was chosen due to the large number of small, round, colorful rocks on the water line that reminded us of one of our favorite snacks.


Schoolwork, Supper, Sports, and Stuff

After schoolwork, supper, and other homey activities, Maria and Bobby, along with their two cousins, ages six and nine, were joined by Ethan and me in the lot next door. We started off playing football. The nine-year-old, Maria, and I were winning 6-3 when someone called a time-out. I took the opportunity to climb the steps behind our pool up to the area above the lot and throw down the footballs that were there.

Maria came with me, and as soon as we were up there the boys started throwing balls at us. It ended when someone threw the star football into the thorny bushes and we couldn’t find it.

While we were all standing around feeling guilty, Maria brought ice cream cones, which were eaten with gusto. Before the cones were finished, a new football game was started with the same teams as before. By the time the game ended with Bobby and Ethan riding on a bike, my team had three goals to the other team’s one. And I scored two goals!!


Food & Fat

All we officially achieved today was letting down our ten-year-old neighbors, Bobby and Maria, by getting home from supper too late to play basketball like we’d promised last night.

On the other hand, supper was excellent: Greek salad (feta, tomato, and cucumber), oven-grilled feta, chicken with a lemon sauce, grilled chicken, zucchini chips, and more, all for less than a meal for one person in Switzerland. On a related note, did you know that Greece has the highest obesity rate of any country in the European Union?


One Cool Pool

“We’re now on Crete, which is good, but that means there’s no more English,” Dad commented as we walked into the bakery. We were in Iraklion, the port city where we had landed and gotten our rental car after showers on the ferry, and we were hungry. The bakery was the perfect place to sate that hunger.

The subtitles of the pastries were in English (Dad was wrong), and I chose a slice of spinach pie and a mini sugar-covered donut. Mom and Ethan also chose mini sugar-covered donuts, but Ethan had a cheesy pastry and Mom had two mini spinach pies and one mini cheese pie. Dad ordered a tomato-and-olive ring and a chocolate-frosted mini donut. We ate in the car our drive to our house.

We were greeted by the owner’s sister-in-law when we arrived. According to the car, it was 23°C (73.4°F). It was much, much cooler than it had been in Athens, and the crystal-clear pool in the backyard didn’t seem so inviting.

Dad napped, and then we were back on the road to get groceries. After driving through Rethymno, Crete’s third-largest city, we settled on the Lidl supermarket in our village called Agia Triada. We bought—along with foodstuff including garlic, frozen ravioli, orange-chocolate cookies, and bell peppers—soap, laundry soap, and the cheapest serviettes we could find: we bought three packages. The available bright colors were tangerine, yellow, pink, green, and dark purple. Guess what? We didn’t get pink! Ethan originally chose tangerine, yellow, and pink, but then he discovered the green and purple. After I vetoed the purple, he selected the green. It went well with neither pink and yellow nor pink and tangerine, so I reluctantly dropped the pink. We used white ones from the bakery for dinner, though, so my pain was not even recognized.


Upon our return, I happily organized the groceries in our kitchen before heading upstairs to my room. Realizing I’d left my Kindle downstairs in the living room, I dashed down to get it. Ethan was lounging on the couch reading, and I asked him why he hadn’t been swimming—he who had seemed so ready to jump into a pool in Athens at the drop of a hat.

“I don’t know” being the standard response to everything, that was as much as I got. But within five minutes, he was out in the pool. I joined him and Dad outside shortly thereafter, while Mom slaved over a hot stove in the kitchen. After lounging in the sun and reading for a few minutes, I eventually gathered my courage and slipped into the cool pool. Ethan was convinced and returned to enjoy the shallow waters. The shadows were getting longer, and before the whole pool was in the shade Ethan had retreated to the concrete and his towel. I stayed in the pool doing backflips until ten minutes before supper, which was salad, green beans, and pasta with tomato sauce and chicken.



*Turns the title into ‘Athens Asterisk,’ because I couldn’t think of any other alliteration for a summary of our time in Greek’s capital city.


We saw the typical tourist things (the Pantheon, the Acropolis, the new Acropolis Museum, the National Archaeology Museum, the hill where Paul the Apostle preached, the hill with an elevator in a tunnel to the top [which we did today], watching the changing of the guard) and we also did some non-typical tourist things, such as eating porcupines, ice cream, and other goodies from our favorite patisserie.

Today we rode the elevator to the top of the hill near our apartment. After an hour at the top, we went back down and bought ice cream and bowls of chocolate mousse and a strawberry-cream dish at the patisserie. We ate it in the park several blocks down the hill. This park was a lot cleaner than that near the metro station.

After playing musical benches and finally getting one in the shade, we sat for a while and reflected on our Athenian adventures. Oh, now I discover some good alliteration!

We’re on an overnight ferry to Crete now—we got in a taxi to the port shortly after we finished in the park.


It’s All Greek to Me: Day Two

Moment of the day: Making it as difficult as possible to answer Ethan’s trivia questions about Lord of the Rings since (a) I had no idea who he was talking about, (b) I was trying to annoy and dissuade him, and (c) I was really enjoying called Mary Adoch (or whatever their name is) a ‘she’ when apparently they’re a guy.

Food of the day: The delicious rice-stuffed tomato for supper!! It tasted a bit like the grape leaf rolls we got from Costco at home—a.k.a. they were delicious.

Treat of the day: My delicious chocolate dessert from our favorite patisserie. It is a chocolate mousse shaped like a dome, with a chocolate coating. It had sliced almonds sticking out of it with two white chocolate chips and one red one: the red one was the nose, the white ones were the eyes, and the almonds were the spines on the porcupine.

Person of the day: The guards outside the parliament building, who wore tights, khaki skirts with their khaki shirts, and red shoes with big black fluff balls on the end. We watched the changing of the guard, which happens every hour on the hour.

Place of the day: The National Archaeology Museum, where we saw statues, statues, and more statues. The most interesting ones (in my opinion) were the ones found in the bottom of the Mediterranean. Many of the statues are partially perfect and partially destroyed. The perfect parts were in the ground below the water. The damaged parts were ruined by microscopic sea creatures.

Disappointment of the day: Finding out that Aly Raisman and Mark Ballas didn’t win Dancing with the Stars and placed fourth—but at least Kellie Pickler and Derek Hough won!


My Life is Ruined: Day Two

Moment of the day: Seeing the tortoise amongst the ruins below the Acropolis with grass hanging out its mouth.

Discovery of the day: It was something of a surprise how easily we found the big bronze plaque commemorating the hill where the Apostle Paul spoke to the Athenians hundreds of years back. It was also a bit surprising how short and slippery the hill was—slippery due to the fact that thousands of people have stepped in the exact same places year after year and worn the rock down.

Food of the day: The delicious green salad (I judge salads based on the dressing, by the way) that accompanied our pizza at dinner.

Treat of the day: My half of Mom’s chocolate baklava left over from last night. It had a chocolate center but was sweet, flaky, and sticky on the outside. Perfection on Earth.

Person of the day: The kind man who scooped our gelato near the Acropolis (Mom and I shared cookie, chocolate, and raspberry flavors). When Dad panicked about his camera—where was it?—he went back to the man and asked if he had seen it. To our relief, he said ‘yes’ and handed Dad the camera, which had been placed behind the counter.

Place of the day: The air-conditioned Acropolis Museum, which has all the statues that remain (except for those in the British Museum). It is where the silver cup given to the winner of the marathon at the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 is currently housed. The race was on the last day of the games in Athens, and the champion was Greek. (I care more about the 2004 Athens Summer Olympics because that’s when American gymnast Carly Patterson was crowned Olympic all-around champion.)

Disappointment of the day: Although this may not technically count, the mouse pastry with a bashed-in face at our most-frequented bakery had not been sold. Also—we weren’t allowed to take pictures inside the Acropolis Museum.


My Life is Ruined: Day One

Moment of the day: We finally achieved victory at Vodafone when (a) we found the store and (b) we got three SIM chips. This occurred while I was playing a candy game on the iPhone 5 and then Fruit Ninja on an iPad.

Discovery of the day: In a thick guidebook on Greece, I learned that Greece consumes the largest amount of cheese per capita, with 25 kilograms (55 pounds) eaten annually. Greece is also the world’s number-three producer of olive oil. 80% of its olive oil is virgin olive oil, compared to Italy’s 45%. However, much of Greece’s best virgin olive oil is exported to Italy, where it’s mixed and then sold as Italian.

Food of the day: Chicken gyros, which is basically chicken wrapped around a stick and turned vertically. It rotates while grilling, and the edges are shaved off to create a serving. The chicken came with tomatoes, onion, pitas, and a white sauce.

Treat of the day: Gelato shortly after leaving the Acropolis. Dad and Ethan each enjoyed chocolate and raspberry flavors, while Mom and I shared a heaping bowl of tart lemon, creamy chocolate, and refreshing pistachio.

Person of the day: The waiter at supper, who was entertaining, spoke English well, and gave us food.

Place of the day: The patisserie we visited yesterday: we bought dessert there (the restaurant where we ate supper was next door). I had a mini vanilla ice cream bar dipped in chocolate and caramel sauces.

Disappointment of the day: The woman at the gate of the Acropolis who had said she would be our tour guide, but that she was waiting for more people, gave up: after all, if you can’t have it a lot, why not have nothing?


It’s All Greek to Me: Day One

Moment of the day: Flying over the expansive and expensive beachside villas with pristine blue swimming pools to the Athens airport.

Discovery of the day: The bakery that sells the yummiest-looking stuff I’ve ever seen (I always say that)—and ice cream!

Food of the day: Soft zucchini patties that accompanied our delicious and filling supper.

Treat of the day: My wonderful ½-slice of chocolate pie from the bakery in the Athens airport. Also, I enjoyed my quarter of the ‘traditional walnut cake’ from the same place. These two items made up half of my breakfast.

Person of the day: The charming receptionist for our apartment building. She just might speak better English than me.

Place of the day: Our flat in the center of Athens on a bougainvillea-lined street.

Disappointment of the day: There is no swimming pool in this apartment building!


Chicken Chow

Now we can add another country to our ever-growing list: Germany.

We’ve been there before, but we were not expecting our GPS to take us through the country on our way to Paris from Lauterbrunnen. So now we can say we’ve been to—counting the U.S. and Portugal—seventeen countries on this trip (Thailand, Laos, India, Australia, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, the UAE, Argentina, Chile, Peru, USA, Portugal, Morocco, France, Switzerland, and Germany). Tomorrow we’ll add yet another, as we wake up super early to fly to Athens, Greece.

After a relatively uneventful but rather stressful drive from Lauterbrunnen to Paris, Dad checked into the Hilton. Then he and Ethan went to Hertz to return our rental car.

In the meantime, I took two backpacks and three bags up the parents’ room on the sixth floor (Ethan and I are just across the hall). The key card was in my coat pocket. It was hot after struggling with the bags in the elevator, so I tossed my coat on the floor and walked out the door.

I made it to the elevator before I realized my mistake.

Downstairs, Mom asked for a new key while I sat anxiously on a black sofa. We took the suitcases and hats up to the room and waited for Dad and Ethan to return. When they finally did, we got in a van to the airport and had supper there. Mom and I shared a chicken salad and chicken penne. Dad ate the chicken penne, and Ethan had a chicken sandwich.

What wimps!


Aborting @ Bort

“Too bad the toboggans are closed,” Mom said mournfully. We were at Pfingstegg, and the toboggan run at the top of the gondola was closed. After riding a ferry around Lake Brienz, we had caught the train up to Grindelwald. We had gotten off at Brienz and, while the boat was stopped for twenty minutes, Dad bought raspberries, sour gummies (ew), and a chocolate bar from the Coop.

In Grindelwald, after taking the gondola up to Pfingstegg, we walked to the gondola up to First (through Bort) and rode to Bort. Ethan and I played on the playground, flipping on the ropes, while Mom played Sudoku on her phone next to Dad on a bench.

We hurried back down and bought postcards at a kiosk near the train station. I was on my way to Die Post when Dad waved me over. Up we went to Kleine Scheidegg. We had the whole three-car train to ourselves. At Kleine Scheidegg, we changed trains and went back down to Lauterbrunnen. On the way home, we stopped at Hotel Oberland for dinner. Ethan and I shared the Bombay Chicken Pizza (as delicious as before—if not better, since I got all the sour cream [Ethan doesn’t like sour cream]) and a green salad. Mom and Dad got a pizza, a salad, and a dish of rosti, traditional Swiss hash browns.


Schoolwork vs. Skiing

Well, I didn’t take my huge math test today. Instead, we went up to Eigergletscher (Eiger Glacier), which is the highest our train tickets take us without any extra charge. It was cold and snowing and, after viewing the white, we stayed inside for twenty minutes waiting for the next train back down the mountain.

We returned to Lauterbrunnen and Dad and I went to the tourist office. There, I was excited to get my hands on a ski map which shows the runs that were open in the 2012-2013 ski season. Looking around in Eigergletscher or Kleine Scheidegg, an Oregonian finds it hard to believe that it’s already May here and the ski season is over.

Oh, well—at least we crossed skiing off our list in Dubai.


Mini-Golf and Mini Market

We were on our way up to Grindelwald on the train after stopping for a short time in Interlaken. Ethan and I were excited at the prospect of playing mini-golf for the first time since Cape Town. Of course, it’s six times as expensive here, but it was still ‘enjoyable.’

After 18 holes with complex contraptions, Mom won with 80 points. Ethan had 108 and I had 107. Oh, that made me proud: it’s rare when I don’t place last in mini-golf.

On the bright side, the notepad on which the scorecard sat was pink, and so was my ball. Ethan had white, and Mom had yellow. The funniest moment was when Ethan, after giving up on a hole and getting the maximum score, decided he’d try it “just to see if you can really do it.”

The ball went straight up the ramp and flying into the net.



Mom insisted on shopping (ew) afterwards, and she and Ethan darted in and out of little tourist shops. In the end, we missed the train up to Kleine Scheidegg by two minutes and had to wait another half hour.

In Kleine Scheidegg, we switched trains to Lauterbrunnen. The car was stuffed with Indian tourists—a slight change after our ride up to Kleine Scheidegg, when we once again had half of the train to ourselves.

We walked home after not shopping in the Coop (the local mini supermarket). We had stood outside the automatic doors, but they hadn’t opened, so we had thought, Must be closed. Although it is odd that the Swiss wouldn’t do something on time (it was 6:17 and the shop closes at 6:30).

As we walked away, a man walked through the automatic doors.

Oh, well. We’re eating a chocolate bar as consolation (and dessert). It has three flavors in the squares: green (disgusting and nasty), orange (yummy), and pink (eat this one!).


Who’s On First?

“Hydrogen, helium, lithium, beryllium, boron, carbon, nitrogen, oxygen… fluorine, neon, lithium—wait, no!” Ethan exclaimed. He was trying to recite the first 50 elements (from hydrogen to tin) on the Periodic Table of the Elements in a short period of time. My record is 19.49 seconds.


We were on our way to Grindelwald from Kleine Scheidegg. After riding the train, we got on the gondola to First. Passing through the Bort stop (we didn’t abort), Ethan exclaimed, “Restez assis!”


“Look at the sign!”—which read ‘Keep your seat.’ (You didn’t have to get out of the gondola at that stop.)

At First, we got off and walked on the snow-lined road to a frozen lake. On the way back, Ethan and I snacked on a lemon-ginger chocolate bar before we were stopped in our tracks by a mini-avalanche. This mini-avalanche was on a mountain across the valley but was still quite loud and obvious.


On our way back down, we stopped at Bort and Ethan and I played on the playground. In Grindelwald, we stopped at the supermarket for groceries such as chocolate bars and chicken.


Fire & Ice

We tried going to the base of Staubbachfall first, but the gate at the bottom of the trail was closed due to it not being summer. So we walked for another hour-and-a-half before getting to Trummelbachfall. After paying the 30-franc (US$30) fee, we were in.

Up the ascensor we went, and we were reminded of Valparaíso. At the top we went up the stairs to chutes 6-10. Trummelbachfall is a series of falls in the mountain. The water on the rocks drips and drops and it’s cold and wet as you stand near the wall to get a better view of the falls.

After viewing chutes 1-5, we wandered back to a picnic table by the creek, where we ate an almond chocolate bar and Dad read us a BBC article on grammar– especially apostrophes.


In Kleine Scheidegg, after riding the train, it was sunny (totally unlike yesterday, when it had been snowing). Ethan instantly ran to the snow and started chucking snowballs at us.

“I don’t know how he does it, but he misses every time,” I noted.

“Ready… aim… FIRE!” Ethan hollered, missing again.

“Seems more like ice to me.”


We caught the 17:31 train back down to Lauterbrunnen, and Ethan hung his jeans over a chair to dry. They were wet after I threw Ethan into the snow.


Swiss Snow

Today was the first time I’ve seen snow fall from the sky in thirteen months. That’s a long time, by the way—the last time was (I believe) 2012 spring break, when we lost our power for two days, our tree house fell down, and Willamette Pass Ski Resort was closed due to too much snow.


Today was better since we still have electricity. We don’t have a tree house, but all the ski resorts were closed due to a lack of snow.

After buying our tickets, we boarded the train up the mountain and rode to where the line ended. It started snowing on the way, and the little boy in the car ahead of us was practically screaming: “Look, Dad! It’s snow! Look, Dad! Look!”

We could get on another train to Jongfraujoch—the Top of Europe (not really)—or we could go to Grindelwald. We chose Grindelwald because there was a mannlichenbahn we wanted to ride in Grund, which was a stop on the line. After walking through the interminable parking lot, we read the sign that said ‘Closed 8 April 31 Mai.’

Back to the train station we went. At Grindelwald, we changed trains and headed down toward Interlaken. At another station, we changed trains to Lauterbrunnen. There we went across the street and bought a lemon-lime Lindt bar (which was gross) and four ‘chocolate kisses’ at the bakery. We ate the chocolate kisses—brownies in a cup—while waiting for the gondola to come down the mountain across from the train station. It finally did, and we rode up.

At the top we got into the train car and rode to Murren, where we stayed for about half an hour. It was snowing and cold, the bakery was closed, and Ethan was in a snowball frenzy. Going back down the hill and Ethan had a snowball in his hood and several in his pockets. I dodged in front of Dad, using him as a shield. Ethan threw one at Dad, and then cried, “I missed!”

I turned around and wham! Ethan’s last snowball hit my hot pink umbrella. I burst out laughing, but now one of the rods on my umbrella is bent. Hopefully it can be fixed…


On the way down Ethan and I played 20 Questions. He almost stumped me with bumblebee hummingbird, and I got him with pygmy shark, ibex, wolverine, and trumpeter swan. I relinquished my hold on the role of ‘chooser’ when he correctly guessed red-and-green macaw.


Spar Swiss Cheese

Holding your breath for 1.8 kilometers would be more impressive if you were walking (or running), but doing it for 1.5 minutes seems pretty impressive to me. Which is good, since I did that. We drove through four or five tunnels after crossing the France-Switzerland border on our way to Lauterbrunnen. Lauterbrunnen means ‘loud fountain’ in German. Although Switzerland has four official languages (Italian, German, French, and Romansh), two languages are primarily spoken in the touristy Lauterbrunnen: English and German.

We arrived in the town at about four in the afternoon after buying groceries from Spar in the town of Interlaken. Along with salad dressing, green beans, lettuce, bread, milk, yogurt, and eggs, I was sure to add Swiss cheese to the basket. Once the organizing was done, we went out on a walk. It wasn’t sunny today, so we couldn’t see anything that beautiful. However, we could still see about six of the seventy-two waterfalls in the valley. The main one is Staubbachfall, which is right behind the town. It is 297 meters (974 feet) in height and was first measured in 1776. Then, it was recorded as being the height of ‘900 Bern shoes’—Bern being the capital of Switzerland.

For supper, we ate dinner while seated on chairs swathed in soft sheep skins at Hotel Oberland (‘top country’ in German). Mom and I shared a green salad with French dressing and the Bombay pizza. The Bombay pizza came with sour cream, a raisin-y chutney, pine nuts, and chicken on top of mozzarella, tomato sauce, and a wonderfully thin crust. It was surprisingly delicious.


Finished in France (For Now) On a Friday

Unless we don’t have our visas to Switzerland (and visas aren’t needed), we’re good to go tomorrow. We get to wake up earlier than usual to drive to Lauterbrunnen.


In the meantime, today was our last Friday in France. It started off the way it normally does: with Ethan going up to the boulangerie and buying a baguette, pain cereal (healthful bread), and braided pastries with lots of chocolate chips. For breakfast, I ate a boiled egg, a pastry, a slice of baguette, and an orange. No one else in the house ate an egg, and Dad and Ethan had pasta from last night’s supper to go with their other carbs.

Mom reviewed me on my math while Ethan read Finding Waldo. In the background, Dad was working on the computer. Eventually I got to work on my last persuasive essay of the year on the computer.

That was pretty much our day—right after that we left for supper at the ice cream place. It was only 4:15 p.m., but we wanted an early supper.

Mom and I shared a chicken tart and a green salad with asparagus, mustard, boiled egg, and tomato. Ethan had the cheese sandwich and Dad had some toast with pesto on it and the same salad as Mom and me. For dessert Mom and Ethan had ice cream, Dad had two creeps, and I had a gaufre.

“What’s a gaufre?” Mom asked.

“It’s a rodent with long teeth that likes to dig holes” was, more or less, all the response she received from Dad and me. When my waffle came and I frowned in disappointment, Mom asked if it was like I expected.

“No,” I said sadly. “It was supposed to be a soft waffle, not a crunchy one.”


Oh, well. Next time!


The Delightful Death March

We walked 12 kilometers (7.5 miles) today around Lac de Pont (Bridge Lake). After arriving at the parking lot, we walked down the beach and across the dam and, under a red bridge, saw the overflow area, which had obviously been used recently.

It only took us three hours and we were going at a fairly slow pace. Ethan talked about Minecraft the whole way, and I, after yammering on about skiing for the first hour, walked ahead of the others.

We didn’t see any animals or anything particularly interesting. It was what we didn’t see that was interesting: where there was supposed to be a bridge and an island, there was just lake.

We also saw a flour mill that had been drowned in the 19th century when the dam was created.

After the walk, we stopped at the Intermarche and bought butter, lettuce, tomatoes, chocolate bars, oranges, cookies, and dryer sheets. We had supper at home again, and I thought everything needed more vinegar.


D-O-W-N D-A-Y– What’s That Spell?

Doing the breakfast dishes—scraping off egg shells and orange peels

Other chores (such as reading Baby Blues) go by

Winning Scrabble—against Mom and then myself

Nagged to do schoolwork—the ‘happy days’ of the 1950s

Dishing up the chocolate cake with crème anglaise

All enjoy the (super yummy) treat

Yesterday the weather was better—it rained today




Biking in Burgundy, or Failing & Falling: A Short How-To

As I sit in this chair typing my post, I’m trying hard not to wince. Despite the fact that this chair has a cushion, it is painful to sit because the bicycle seat on which I sat for seventeen kilometers (about 10.6 miles). We drove to the tourist information center in Montbard only to find it closed for lunch, so we sat on a bench in the sun for an hour.

Riding the yellow bikes along the Burgundy Canal was Ethan’s idea, so he must have enjoyed it the most. I would say the most exciting part of the whole ride was on the way back after we had watched a boat go through a lock.

“You should learn how to mount a bike,” Dad said, and continued by showing me how: stand with your left foot on the left pedal and then swing your right leg over to the right pedal. Easy-peasy… right?

-Some people are rather challenged when it comes to things like this (I am one of them).-

So I stuck my left foot on my left pedal and swung my leg over.

Except I didn’t.

Instead, I hit the back wheel with my foot because I was stressed out because Dad and Ethan were really close and I didn’t want to hit them. So I fell down against my bike and now have a lovely bruise on my leg.

After another failed attempt, I did manage it—although who knows if I can now perform the skill consistently?


Aural Stimulation

Mom convinced us to go on an hour-long walk in the area around Semur-en-Auxois, so we went outside to enjoy the green and the sun and the lowering waters.

After the walk, Mom made supper (pizza, rice and zucchini, broccoli) and at 7:30 we left for Notre Dame de Semur-en-Auxois for the organ concert, which was a fundraiser for the organ in Notre Dame de Paris. We also went to a fundraiser/organ concert for the organ in Notre Dame de Paris itself.

This one was more uncomfortable in the long run since it was twice as long (an hour and a half verses forty-five minutes) and the music was, I think, less interesting. However, it was warmer inside this cathedral.

Ethan was the youngest attendee. Almost everyone else appeared to be older than my parents (and that’s pretty old). Almost everyone also smiled at the organist’s apparent mistake: when playing in the high notes, he randomly hit a lower note, which sounded like a fart.


Barricaded Because of Beyond

Everyone, write this date (May 5, 2013) down: for the first time in over two-and-a-half months, I wore something besides pants and a shirt in public. It was one of my Dijonian dresses, and it was very exciting. For me, at least.

We walked across Pont de las Minimes and into town, where there was supposed to be a farmers’ market. Mom declined to buy anything, so we kept going to a shop where we bought a newspaper. Although news of the flood (the water’s gone down about five feet already) was splashed across the first four pages, Semur-en-Auxois didn’t make any of the pictures—or the article, for that matter.

Oh, well.

After chilling in the house for a while and getting diesel for the car, we walked down the river to a barricade because the road beyond it was in a state of disrepair.

“So much for our walk,” Mom said.

Back at the house, Mom prepared a supper of pizza, salad, and zucchini. None of it had enough vinegar.


An Amazeing Adventure

It was so sunny today that we couldn’t decide what we wanted to do until after noon. That was a good thing, too, since Chateau de Bussy-Rabutin closes at 11 a.m. and re-opens at 2. We arrived in the town at 2:15.

On our survey (“it’ll only take two minutes”) over which we slaved for five minutes after our tour, we said that, overall, the place was satisfactory. It would have been nice to have a speaking guide who spoke English, but the brochure was okay. Ethan and I enjoyed the maze, even though there was only one way. Someone had cut a hole and made a shortcut that cut the time in eight. Ethan and I didn’t notice this until we were done. We went out that way, too.

Also on our survey was the question “What could have made the shop better?” Options included more kids’ products and more books. I added a new box and checked it off.

What did it say?




Foul Weather Friday

There are a lot of tourists on Pont de las Minimes taking pictures of the quickly-rising river. I’m not one of them—I prefer to stay inside and on the top floor. This house on the river is interesting: the kitchen, living room, dining room, master bedroom with ensuite bathroom, and another bathroom are upstairs. Out of the front door and down some stairs is the entrance to the bedroom for Ethan and me, which has its own bathroom.

It also has several inches of water.

Earlier this morning, after schoolwork, Mom made us get our clothes and luggage off the floor in case it flooded. Within an hour, we were back downstairs and packing up all our things. I will be sleeping on the fold-out couch in the living room tonight; Ethan’s thinking the floor looks pretty good. (“I like my mattress hard.”) We went to the grocery store “between evacuations,” as Mom called it, and we bought tortillas, refrigerated pizzas, tomato sauce, pasta, oranges, asparagus, chicken, and some other food.

Mom called it “between evacuations” because after we came back, the property managers (Jackie and Ian) showed up on our doorstep. Dad helped them move the beds and some other pieces of furniture into the storage room. Two police men came by shortly thereafter and, through Jackie, said that there would probably be a siren, and, if we hear it, we are to get into the car with our stuff and drive to the Intermarche. So we packed up everything and stuck it in the car. Dad, Ethan, and I have our backpacks inside right now. If we’re still in the house by morning, we’re unpacking (except Ethan and I will stay upstairs).

In other news, I landed on Ethan’s Coventry Street in Monopoly. He had a hotel on it, and I had £5, plus properties. I don’t think I’ve ever been so happy to lose (a.k.a. be done with the game). I wasn’t quite done, though—Ethan and Mom had me stay as the banker until Ethan’s victory. Later, I played Scrabble: one game with Ethan and one with Mom. I beat both of them, only because of my awesome words ‘quay’ and ‘quilts’ and ‘adze’ and ‘zee.’ Together those earned me about 100 points.


Day de Dijon

Today we visited Dijon of mustard fame. Yes, we did buy mustard. Later we saw it at the supermarket Intermarche and realized how overpriced it was in Dijon. Oh, well—we know for sure that it was Dijonian.

We started our Dijon day off at Notre Dame, which is home to two bells: Jacquemart, which has run since the church was finished in the fourteenth century, and its counterpart: Jacqueline, Jacquelinet, and, finally, Jacquelinette.

After a stop at the tourist office, we continued our stroll towards the garden. On the way, we stopped at the mustard shop and then a patisserie/boulangerie, where Mom and I got pain au chocolat and Ethan chose a guacamole-chicken sandwich. We ate at the park. Shortly after we were done eating, it started raining, so we packed up and headed on to the next cathedral. Outdoors always seems so much warmer after being inside cathedrals.

On our way back to our car, Mom and I dropped by H&M where we actually found some awesome inexpensive clothes. We came out with our wares and headed home. We stopped at the Intermarche in Semur-en-Auxois on the way and had stir-fry for dinner.


Picture Perfect (That’s Me!)

There was no funeral in Notre Dame today, so we went in for forty-five minutes. After

looking at a stained-glass window, I ran to my dad.

“Did you see what that window said?”


I dragged him back to the window and pointed out the truck that read “rican Red Cross” (a.k.a. American Red Cross). The top part of the window showed a French flag and an American flag. Below the window was a plaque which read:

In Memory

Of the dead of the 310th Infantry 78th Division

United States Army who fell in the Great War


And of whom the greater part rest in France

A la Memoire

Des morts du 310th Reciment d’Infanterie 78th Division

De l’Armee Americaine qui tomberent durant

La Grande Guerre en 1917 et 1918

Et dont la plupart reposent en terre Française


On the way home, we stopped at a patisserie and I bought myself the chocolate mousse Louvre. I ate it slowly, savoring every bite, while I read about the Cold War for school. Once that was done, I went back to the living room and sat on the couch in front of the 1,000-piece puzzle. I had filled in all but the largest of the holes earlier, and I had tucked a piece in my pocket so I could definitely put the last piece in. Dad came over and put in a few pieces, and we were eventually left with the one piece missing.

I put it in.


For supper, we went to L’Entract for the third time. We got there at 6:20 p.m. after trying to take a picture like that of the puzzle. They didn’t open for forty minutes. So Mom wandered off to see why all the fire trucks were in the area and I took pictures.

Eryn Leaps Into the Air In Front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Eryn Leaps Into the Air In Front of Notre Dame Cathedral

Ethan Jumps In Semur-en-Auxois

Ethan Jumps In Semur-en-Auxois


Periodic Table of the Elements (Rain)

Today’s weather element: rain.

We were planning on visiting Notre Dame (the church of Semur-en-Auxois) after eating ice cream, but a funeral was in progress. Instead we headed home and Mom, Ethan, and I started a new Monopoly game. We halted the game after an hour so Ethan and I could do our favorite task.

In school, Ethan and I are “enjoying” working out of a workbook on the Periodic Table of the Elements. Besides learning about uses (such as fluorine in toothpaste and erbium in pink glass) and origins of names (Curium was named after Pierre and Marie Curie, Francium was named after France, and Einsteinium was named after Albert Einstein), Ethan and I are also memorizing the Table. Actually, the memorization started in Morocco, and I know from hydrogen up to cadmium (atomic number 48). Ethan only knows up to ruthenium (atomic number 44)—we’re separated by rhodium, palladium, and silver. Ethan’s favorite element is arsenic, naturally, but I prefer oxygen.



We visited the Fontenaye Abbey this morning, where we viewed the areas we couldn’t go (such as most of the area) and admired the fountains.

Once we got home, Mom, Ethan, and I resumed our Monopoly game. It didn’t take long for Ethan to go out after he landed on Mayfair (the British version of Boardwalk) and gave me everything (the cost for rent was 2,000 pounds).

We went back into town shortly thereafter, planning on getting ice cream. The ice-creamery was closed, so we went to a patisserie where I chose a dessert called “Louvre.” It’s shaped like the infamous pyramid and tasted better than the similar chocolate dessert we had in the Louvre. This one had chocolate mousse with a dark chocolate shell. The base was a thin layer of white cake. In the mousse were four delicious raspberries.

Back at the house, after schoolwork, Mom and I continued Monopoly. With my monopolies on one-and-a-half sides of the board, as well as the railways, she knew it was going to be hard. I had one orange, one green, one yellow, and one red card and I wasn’t going to give them to her so she could have more monopolies. Slowly her £8,000 was dropped into my bank account. By the end of the game, which I won (she lost by £12—she needed to pay £2,000 and ended up with £1,988 after mortgaging and selling everything), I had over £23,000.

You want to know my way of winning?

Ending with the most money.


Parisian Paragraph (Plural)

After a week in Paris, we did not, according to TripAdvisor, hit up the top three main attractions, including the Musée d’Orsay (#1) which was very close to our flat. We crossed #4, Pont Alexandre III, once and also paid a visit to #7, the Louvre, and #8, Jardin Luxembourg. Ten and eleven, Saint-Chapelle and Notre Dame, respectively, were visited. Since Notre Dame was just a few minutes’ walk and across the Seine from our apartment, we visited it several times: for an organ concert, free Sunday tour, the chance to go the towers and be like Quasimodo, and at night.

The Eiffel Tower is #15, and we saw it every day and were in its general vicinity four or five times. My favorite part was seeing it at night when it was lit up with blinking white lights. The Seine, #17, was crossed multiple times every day. On our way to the Louvre, we were crossing Pont Neuf (the Ninth Bridge) and were told to hurry along in our crossing because they were filming a movie and we mere peasants were in the way.

We visited numbers 21 through 23: Arc de Triomphe, the towers of Notre Dame, and Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, one of the few (and the only one we found) English bookstores in the city. We visited it on a whim because it was only a few blocks from our house.

In terms of food, our breakfasts were boiled eggs, oranges (sometimes clementines or bananas), Kellogg’s Special K, cheese, baguettes, and some pastry that Ethan would bring home along with the baguette. Snacks were usually high in sugar, such as ice cream and chocolate bars. We had plenty of variety in our suppers, but I think we were all very excited for that of our first night: we had pizza for the first time in a month! (Morocco is not a pizza country.) And there was vinegar! (You probably don’t know, but I love vinegar. And pizza dipped in vinegar is wonderful.) Later, we would enjoy salads at a vegetarian restaurant, two meals from Subway because we had to have a quick supper, another meal of pizza (that wasn’t as good), and mushroom risotto.

Oh, I’m feeling hungry already…


Double Down Days

Today was another down day. There are two interesting bits:

  1. We got real ice cream today! (Chocolate and coconut for me, with some of Ethan’s whipped cream and chocolate sauce.)
  2. The river is several feet deeper today after yesterday’s consistent drizzle.


A Definite Down Day

I had the last doxycycline pill today!

For some reason, we had 4x+1, and since I happen to be the snottiest person right now, I got the one.


In other news, it rained today so we just stayed inside and worked on our puzzle, which is a picture of this town/village. Also, Dad deleted pictures (!!!) and Ethan and I forced ourselves through some schoolwork. I texted the most I’ve ever texted in my life on our little green Nokia phone: it was just things to my parents like ‘Algebra 2 workbook’ and ‘Done with question 44’ and ‘Is everyone else going too?’ and ‘Hey wheat thin.’ (That last part was to Ethan.)


There’s a Boy in the Girls’ Bathroom!

We visited four towns besides Semur-en-Auxois, as well as one special site, today:

  1. Salmaise– This was the biggest town, and we parked by the church. We looked for the patisserie, as advertised on the tourist map, but we didn’t find it. The lavarie, which was a bathing area, was deserted but Ethan and I posed for pictures anyway.
  2. Sources de la Seine– At the source of the Seine River, the French have built a fountain and a concrete grotto. We stood at the top of the first bridge over the little stream while Dad took a picture.
  3. Frôlois– We looked for the chateau at the next little town, and we found it: a large castle-like structure on the hill above. Once at the top, we could hear someone practicing songs on a piano and the bees humming, but we couldn’t admire the view since some people had built houses in the way.
  4. Flavigny-sur-Ozerain– The anise factory in the next little town sold candy, and we were sure to get some. Mom, Ethan, and I took a much-needed stop at the toilettes, which were purple. Then a woman came in and said something quite loudly while gesturing at Ethan: there’s a boy in the girls’ bathroom.
  5. Fouilles d’Alesia– This was not intended to be our last stop, but, because of the late hour, it was. We walked around a Gaul-Roman town, admiring the rather short and deteriorated structures. Ethan and I worked on the activity booklets that we’d been given since we’re just so young.


Supper After (And In) Semur

After a rather rough and early start this morning, we set out to visit the tourism office. There, Mom re-stocked her supply of brochures while Dad asked about restaurants and how to pronounce the name of Semur-en-Auxois. We walked around the town before stopping at a patisserie, where Dad chose one chocolate éclair, one pain au chocolat, one apple pastry, and one raisin pastry. Returning home, we sat around our table on the river eating our goods. Dad eventually got up to feed the ducks, which came up to our feet.

We went back out for the museum, where we saw statues, paintings, lots of rocks, dead snakes, and a human skeleton and where Ethan and I practiced our drawing-the-string-on-a-bow-back skills.

To get to Intermarche, the supermarket, we piled into the car. After 1.5 kilometers, we passed the store and kept going to get a feel for the town. Back inside the Intermarche, I helped Mom buy tomatoes, cheese, kiwi, milk, chocolate, cereal, eggs, oranges, serviettes, and dryer sheets.

For supper, I had ravioli with the special cheese of the region called Époisses. Dad had chicken with the same.


Not Going In-Seine

This morning we vacated our flat near the Seine and Notre Dame, realizing we’d never gone in-Seine.

After picking up our Hertz Ford, Dad maneuvered the car through the Paris traffic before we hit the countryside. We stopped at a gas station after Ethan nearly peed his pants. Along with the necessary business, we also bought… Magnums! Ethan and I had a “new” type of Magnum that was a lot smaller than the normal ones.

At around five p.m. we reached our “cute” little cottage, and, after nesting, we walked around the deserted little town. After several false leads, we found a restaurant that served fish, pizza, salad, and pasta. Dad enjoyed his ravioli, Mom and Ethan shared a salad and pizza, and I loved my salmon filet with rice, a creamy sauce, and lots of lemon.


Sewerman or Eau No!

In case you want to know what the Cusco Disaster smelled like, you can visit Paris’s Sewer Museum. Eau de no!

We were behind a school group of little fifth graders, and we caught up with them in the souvenir shop while they were watching a video: it started with a woman peeking into a drain and saying, in French and English, since they did the video twice, “Oh, no, I dropped my keys! What am I going to do?”

She ran to a phone booth. We expected her to come out as Superman, but the booth was clear and she just called… Sewerman!!!!!

He came and got her car keys for her, and she kissed him. In what genre would you put this film—comedy? Action? Sci-fi? Romance?

Our next stop was the mall around the inverted pyramid near the Louvre. Dad checked up on our Hertz rental before he and Ethan went to chill in the Apple store. Mom and I, meanwhile, paid a visit to the totally amazing store of Pylones—it is awesome! My favorite things were probably the porcupine toothpick holder (you put toothpicks in the holes in the porcupine’s back so it looks more porcupine-ish) and the pink and orange trashcan with a face painted on and plastic fins, like a fish.

We stopped at Jardin de Luxembourg on our way up to the Pantheon, where we saw murals of Joan of Arc and Saint Genevieve and the tombs of Pierre and Marie Curie, Louis Braille, and others.

After supper, we got ice cream at our favorite place, Amorino, and Dad and I shared a grande cup of cinnamon, chocolate Amorino, and banana flavors.


Concierge, Carnavalet, and Crepes, OR Desserts and Death

We actually went to four different tourist places today: Sainte-Chapelle, where we admired the stained-glass windows, the Concierge, where we read the names of over 2,500 French citizens, including the likes of Marie Antoinette and King Louis XVI, who had been killed by the guillotine after spending the night in the Concierge, Musée Carnavalet, where we went on a whim from Baroness Orczy’s I Will Repay, the second book the Scarlet Pimpernel series, and the towers of Notre Dame, where we went all the way to the top and pretended we were Quasimodo.

At Notre Dame, we also learned that the only gargoyles on the towers are the pipes that take the rainwater down from the roof, not all the other animals, which are chimera. One female chimera, who looked like a cat, was eating a stone deer. Yummy.

Speaking of yummy, we were originally going to visit an Italian restaurant for supper, but it was closed. So we went across two bridges to the second island, where we found a little restaurant with a table. So we sat. While we were perusing the menu, a group of four older American ladies came in and sat down next to us.

We ordered the set menu, and by the time we were done with our main courses (chicken curry for Dad and Ethan and mushroom risotto for Mom and me), they hadn’t even finished their salads. Our desserts finally arrived: chocolate-covered crepes for the three of them, and a chocolate cake in cream for me.

“That looks good!” all the ladies exclaimed.

“Yes, it does,” I said, half to myself. Mortifrying.

Everyone started laughing, while I stared at my plate red-faced. Oh, well—it was really, really good. Ethan and I finished quickly, and the ladies looked over and nearly screamed.

“You’re so fast!”



Not Disney’s Notre Dame

At Notre Dame, our English-speaking guide was named Fredérique. She was one of the two English guides. The choice was simple: did you want to go up the bleachers with Fredérique, or did you want to stay on solid ground with the other woman? We chose Fredérique.

At the top of the bleachers, she talked for a long time about Notre Dame’s history. Notre Dame, which means ‘our lady,’ referring to the Virgin Mary, used to be painted in bright colors. During the French Revolution, the kings from the Old Testament, who were portrayed on the front of the building, had their stone heads cut off because the revolutionaries didn’t like kings. Later, twenty brightly painted heads were found under a bank.

On solid ground in front of the giant Gothic doors, Fredérique discussed all the symbolism, such as the square shape of the front of the building representing Creation and the circular window representing eternity, since it has no end or corner. Statues of the prophets, gargoyles, apostles, angels, devils, and saints, as well as Jesus, decorate the front of the cathedral. One of the most interesting was Saint Denis, the first patron saint of Paris. He was an evangelist in 200 A.D., and he was popular, which the Romans in Paris didn’t like. So they killed him, and legend has it that he walked over to his head, picked it up, cleaned it, and then walked over to the spot of a present-day church, where he died “for real.”

Inside the cathedral, Fredérique talked about the architecture while we admired the stained-glass windows. Once we were sufficiently rested, she took us over to a pillar and showed us the workers’ signatures on the stone. In this way, the boss could tell how many pieces of stone a man had shaped and/or affixed in a day.

There were several Joan of Arc statues inside, as well as the Notre Dame. Notre Dame Cathedral was the place where it was decided that Joan of Arc’s reputation should be rehabilitated. It is also the location of the crown of thorns that Jesus wore on the cross. Napoleon gave it back to the church after he was crowned king in the cathedral. It had been M.I.A. because Notre Dame had been used as a temple of the goddess of reason during the French Revolution. Later on, the general public had seemed to have given up on the cathedral until Victor Hugo wrote Hunchback of Notre Dame, which was hugely popular and later made into a Disney movie, which I’ve seen.

2013-04-20_Hunchback of Notre Dame

Hunchback of Notre Dame- Disney version


With Laura and the Louvre

If you’ve read Life of Pi, or watched the new movie, you know that Piscine Patel came from the little French town of Pondicherry. We went to the Indian restaurant Krishna Bhavan for dinner tonight. The waitron who welcomed and served us knows French, Hindi, and English and comes from Pondicherry.

“She’s going in my post,” I told Dad. (She did!)

We toured the Louvre today. It was slightly like déjà vu after the British Museum in London. There were sphinxes, mummies, and multiple sarcophagus, as well as the Italian and Greek nude statues and paintings (the paintings were French, too). The sole mummy we saw was wrapped much better than the ones Dad and I saw in London, though, and we had a guide (the British Laura) to make things slightly more interesting.

Louvre Table-Holders

The Stone Men Who Used to Hold Up a Table (Or Something)

Our tour ended after three hours, and we hunted down the café, where Dad and I shared a chicken sandwich and a chocolate cake modeled after the Louvre Pyramid designed by I. M. Pei, which does not have 666 pieces of glass—it has 673: 603 that are rhombus-shaped and 70 that are triangular.

We walked around some more. I wanted to take a picture by a stone boar we’d seen earlier, which I thought would be representative of the museum since it was rather boar-ing. (Rather—after the tour it got more interesting because we could be on our own and wonder over some of the rather queer paintings and sculptures.) We couldn’t find the boar, so instead I posed next to a piece of stone that had a cow with its tongue sticking out on it.


We & Willamette Are Famous!

After touring the catacombs this morning in between tour groups and piles of bones, we returned home to rest and anticipate ice cream. Shortly thereafter we were on our way to Sacré-Cœur, or the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. We weren’t able to climb to the top—instead, we just got to the bottom of the dome. Oh, well—there was still a good view of the Eiffel Tower.

Back on terra firma, we watched a man kick a soccer ball [football] while standing on a wide post on the staircase. Then he climbed the light post, still kicking the ball, and returned to his original position. After that he took off his vest, then his button-up shirt, and then his long-sleeved undershirt. And then he took off his tank top. That was the part of his act that got the most cheers.

We went to the gardens and fountain across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower. There we took pictures and watched the skateboarders and rollerbladers. We returned to our flat to rest a short while before dinner, which was 15 and 30 centimeter sandwiches from Subway (Sub15 and Sub30). We ate in a park until around 8 p.m., only twenty minutes in, at which point we were kicked out. (The sun sets quite late here.) Dad extracted money from the ATM, and we went back down to the metro to go to the Eiffel Tower.

Sitting in the same gardens as earlier, we all got excited when first the big central fountain went on. We were even more thrilled when the guy with the tripod standing in the dead center moved out of our pictures. After that, the tower was lit up with its golden lights, and then the flashing lights started flashing.

I chose pistachio, coffee, and cinnamon flavors for my ice cream near our flat after the Tower. While waiting for Mom to finish ordering her ice cream, Dad pointed out the sign for one of the flavors:



That’s exciting, since we’re from the Willamette Valley like those raspberries!


The Big Three

Today we were surprisingly busy: we saw Paris’s three key sights in the space of an hour. First, we saw Notre Dame right across the Seine from our flat. Then we went down the elevator that’s in our apartment building to the RATP station. Dad bought the tickets, and we rode the underground train to the Champs-Elysees station.

“You know what’s missing?” Dad asked as we got off the train.

“‘Mind the gap’?” I guessed.


That’s true—of course, we wouldn’t know what avis la vide means if we saw it, but we could guess.

We climbed to the top of our second big monument, the Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile, counting the stairs (259, as my count went) as we went. At the top, we saw our third, final, and most recognizable Paris monument: the Eiffel Tower.

From the top, we saw, apart from the Tower, Notre Dame, the American church, Invalides, and an opera house, among others. Dad took more pictures when we got back to the bottom of the arch. Our next stop was Place de la Concorde, and Dad was thrilled to stand on the Concorde bridge because it reminded him of good, old (well, quite young relatively) USA.

Mom, Ethan, and Dad had ice cream from a man whose family has been making ice cream for three generations (he’s the third). He asked us where we were from, naturally, and Mom replied, “The United States.”

“What part?”


“Oh, really? In Salem?”

I was rather surprised that this man knew anything about Oregon, but he said that some of his relatives live in Rhode Island.

“The smallest state, but the most corrupt—that’s what they say.”


Within two hours, we were standing at the base of the Eiffel Tower, debating whether to take the stairs or the elevator. We chose the elevator and went straight up to the top, where we admired the breath-taking view through the chain-link fence with holes larger than my head but still small enough to dissuade would-be committers of suicide.

Mom and I rode the elevator all the way down, but Dad and Ethan took the stairs from the middle. It took them about half an hour.

We ate supper at a vegetarian restaurant, and I enjoyed palm hearts for the first time in a month. Yes! Then we had ice cream while admiring Notre Dame, the river Seine, and the fire-jugglers. I had my favorite combo: chocolate, banana, and cinnamon. It was the first time I’ve had that combination since Valparaiso, Chile—two-and-a-half months ago. *swoon*


From Fez to France

We woke up (ridiculously early) this morning in balmy Fez, Morocco. On our way out of the medina with our luggage we actually saw a dog. And not just one—three!

Once at the post office, Majid met us and we piled into his van. We arrived at Fez’s small international airport half an hour later. About two hours later, we boarded our Paris-bound flight. After that I don’t remember much, since I slept for most of the flight, but I do remember crossing the Mediterranean.

Now we’re in Europe, where it’s safe to drink tap water and it’s okay to flush toilet paper down the toilet. (I also have some slight knowledge of the French Revolution, thanks to The Scarlet Pimpernel.)

At four p.m. (two in the afternoon by Fassi standards), we were outside our apartment, which is on the Seine about a hundred meters from Notre Dame. Our landlord is Italian, but he spoke in English. Our experience at dinner was totally different: six different languages were spoken: Japanese, Afrikaans, English, Italian, Spanish, and French. On our way home, we stopped at a chocolate shop. Then we stopped to check out the gelateria, which happens to be three stories down from our living room. Yes!


Adeiu, Alami and Africa!

Tomorrow we get to wake up really, really early (what fun) to fly to Paris. So, while we’ll still be in the land of French and escargot, at least we’ll be away from couscous and tagine. You may be interested to know that we didn’t have couscous or tagine today: instead, for supper we went to Café Clock for the ninth and final time. Ethan had falafel (what else?), as did Dad, while Mom enjoyed her plate of tapas and I had a chickpea burger. For dessert, Mom and I split a chocolate soufflé while Ethan devoured his orange-almond cake.


We’ve been in Morocco since March 22—it’s been twenty-four days. A relatively short time (especially compared to South Africa), but I think it was enough. Our landlord, Alami, thinks the opposite and told Dad this morning, while they were out working on mail and Ethan and Mom were at physical torture, that there was plenty we didn’t do. That’s true: while we did just about everything inside the medina, we didn’t do much in Fez outside of it because it would have been too far to walk, and the taxis only legally fit three passengers.

But we got to ride some lovely, cud-chewing camels, so it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?


Tomorrow we get to wake up really, really early (what fun) to fly to Paris. So, while we’ll still be in the land of French and escargot, at least we’ll be away from couscous and tagine. You may be interested to know that we didn’t have couscous or tagine today: instead, for supper we went to Café Clock for the ninth and final time. Ethan had falafel (what else?), as did Dad, while Mom enjoyed her plate of tapas and I had a chickpea burger. For dessert, Mom and I split a chocolate soufflé while Ethan devoured his orange-almond cake.


We’ve been in Morocco since March 22—it’s been twenty-four days. A relatively short time (especially compared to South Africa), but I think it was enough. Our landlord, Alami, thinks the opposite and told Dad this morning, while they were out working on mail and Ethan and Mom were at physical torture, that there was plenty we didn’t do. That’s true: while we did just about everything inside the medina, we didn’t do much in Fez outside of it because it would have been too far to walk, and the taxis only legally fit three passengers.

But we got to ride some lovely, cud-chewing camels, so it all worked out in the end, didn’t it?


Fez in Morocco (Poem Version)

Food includes couscous, and, in the extreme,

Everybody’s favorite—the good old tagine

Zis is the life,” say foreigners here

It is the truth—if you don’t drink beer

Now muezzin is singing—it’s seven o’clock

My brother is thinking ‘Now I wanna rock’

Our dinnertime has come, so we go outside

Ready for some food—more vegetables fried

On time comes our meal. Guess what it is?

Couscous for three—the tagine is his

Chef comes over to break up a fight

Of waitron and waitron… oh, well, good night



Food in Fez Makes Me Ready for France

In a couple days we’ll be in France, which is a good thing since I don’t think I can stand couscous and vegetable tagine (vegetables cooked in a funny-looking pot)all day, every day, much longer.

In other news, we decided to go to Borj Nord today after pancakes and scrambled eggs at Café Clock. Mom decided we would take the shortcut up the hill, so we did. The hill was actually a lot steeper than it looked like from the medina, and Mom was worried we would fall down the cliff into the bus terminal’s trash.

We didn’t.

Instead, we arrived at the front door of Borj Nord, now a museum, at 12:08. We were informed that it closes at noon.


That’s how it goes.


We wandered around, admiring the view and taking pictures and talking about Lake Okeechobee, for a while before we returned to the medina and resumed our normal hiding-from-the-sun-inside-our-house lives until supper, which was—you guessed it!—couscous.


Forty-Four on a Fassi Friday

After Mom and Ethan returned from their appointment with physical torture and the supermarket Marjane, we worked on schoolwork, pictures, and the like—sound familiar? (See yesterday’s post.)

Eventually we went outside, hoping for donuts, but all the donut shops were close because it’s Friday and Morocco is a Muslim country. So back up the hill we trudged. We bought sweets near Thami’s, as well as eggs, oranges, and spicy bread, and returned home.

For supper, we went to Le 44. Mom and I shared salad, carrot soup, and spicy spaghetti. My dessert consisted of seven bites of chocolate cake stolen from Ethan and Mom.


Today in 100 Words

Well, it may be a good thing that we’re not doing much these last few Fassi days since it means that (a) Dad doesn’t take more pictures and (b) he can work on deleting, editing, and uploading the pictures we already have. On the other hand, Ethan and I have more time to do schoolwork—yay.

I did leave the house today: once to buy breakfast food with Mom and once to eat at Thami’s for the fourth time. Mom and I shared the vegetable couscous and vegetable tagine. Now we’re eating dark chocolate and listening to John Denver.


Falafel and Faux Nuts in Fez

I escorted Mom to the clinic this morning, where she received her typical round of torture (this time sans crying). We rode a red taxi back to the house, where Mom started laundry because it was sunny. The cleaning lady arrived at 14:00, and we left to buy a scarf and a lamp. Mom used her newfound bargaining skills to negotiate the scarf’s price down to 100 dirham (still US$10), and we set off down the hill to the lamp shop.

The parental units finally decided on a lamp and a price, and Dad, the shop helper, and I set off to get money from an ATM. I thought we would be going to the one by the donuts, but I was, unfortunately, mistaken. Once we’d bought the lamp, we left it in the care of the shop. We hope we’ll see it in several months, since they’re mailing it to us.

Ethan decided to lead the way to the donuts, and off we went.

“Haven’t I been here before?” I remarked dryly as we arrived back in the coppersmiths’ square, which was next to the shop. Somehow we found our way to the donut street, and Dad decided it was down the street. It was 16:30, and we’d told the cleaning lady we’d be back by 16:00. Mom and I went back home, and Dad and Ethan went downhill.

We passed the donut shop.

“Should I tell them?” Mom asked.


“Well, I think we should, just to be nice.”

“I’m not into this ‘nice’ thing.”

“I’m going to call them anyway. Hello? Yes, we just passed the donut shop. Okay. Bye-bye.”

After we returned safe and sound, Dad and Ethan arrived with four delicious, greasy, sugarcoated donuts.

At about 19:00, we ventured into the streets for supper at Café Clock. Mom, Dad, and I ordered falafel while Ethan chose a cheese sandwich, which he shared with Dad. (He had part of Dad’s falafel, meaning that Ethan’s been to Café Clock for supper four times and has had falafel four times.)


Fine to be Back in Fez

We’re back in Fez!

We arrived after ten hours of driving across Morocco (ugh) in Majid’s van. All eighteen of us at the camp woke up at 5:50 a.m. to watch the sunrise from the top of the dune. By 7, we were back at the hotel. It felt wonderful to have a warm shower.

Ethan and I had breakfast (banana, egg, cheese, bread, orange juice) and then went out to lounge by the pool. We left after Mom and Dad had breakfast.

During the ride, I alternated between sleeping, snacking, staring out the window, and reading Long Walk to Freedom [And an Even Longer Book] by Nelson Mandela.

At about 5:30 p.m., we passed through the little town of Ifrane. Majid calls Ifrane, a university town, the best town in Africa. It was very European, between the German-style architecture and cold springtime weather. (Not as cold as Switzerland, where we’ll be in a month, though—the daytime highs are 10F.) I’m surprised people could stand the cold enough to be out and about in Ifrane’s green, well-manicured parks—but then again, I haven’t been in real cold in eleven months.


The As and the Es

Today we rode for forty minutes (advertised as two hours) to a camp in the desert. We rode on camels—I was on Bob Marley, Mom topped Jimi Hendrix, Dad rode Ali Baba, and Ethan sat upon Shakira. We’d gotten scarves at a shop in town earlier before going to a lake, where eight men set up shop right in front of our car, selling stone camels, wannabe fossils, and other trinkets and baubles.

The man who walked with our camels said that there would be nine guests in the camp, but in the end there were eighteen: four Moroccans, two Frenchwomen, three Spaniards, and nine Americans. The family of five came with three kids: Autumn, 16, Andrew, 14, and Amy, 11. They’ve been living in Naples, Italy, for three years and are currently on spring break. In two months, on June 15, they move to Hawaii.

After supper (rice with eggplant salad and tagine with mystery meat), the five kids climbed the dune. From the top, we could see the lights of the two nearby towns, which made us realize how close we were to civilization.

Eventually, we went back down to where the thirteen adults (plus “musicians”) were listening to the men who walked with our camels play the drums. Shortly thereafter we went to bed in the cold tents.


Swimming Monkeys and Snow Near the Sahara

We’re in the Sahara Desert now, after ten hours of driving. We left Fez with Majid in his van at 6:30 this morning. That meant that the parental units got up at 4:45, while I was aroused an hour later. Breakfast was a quick meal of oranges, boiled eggs, bread, and milk, and afterwards Ethan washed the dishes.

After two stops, we stopped to see what Majid called the “crazy monkeys.” It was freezing cold—literally—and after about ten minutes Majid decided that the monkeys weren’t going to come out because it was too cold.

Of course, shortly after he said that, the monkeys arrived. They’re Barbary macaques, which used to be found in Tunisia, but that population has gone extinct. Now they’re found in only two places: the Atlas Mountains in Algeria and Morocco and Gibraltar. We saw them when we were in Spain about nine years ago. The 300 or so Barbary macaques in Gibraltar were introduced (no one knows quite how—maybe they swam?) and are thriving, while their African counterparts are becoming more endangered by the day. The macaques in Gibraltar make up the only population of primates in Europe that is not caged in.

Up we went til we were at about 6,000 feet. By then, the snow patches were several inches deep. It has been 54 weeks since I’ve last seen real snow—and we were on our way to the desert.


Couscous and Cake

Tonight we’re celebrating Mom’s birthday. (I won’t tell you how old she will be tomorrow.) We get to eat cake and ice cream! This is after a supper of couscous and tagine at Thami’s. We planned on going to Scorpion du Desert, but it was too loud. We’d forgotten that Saturday nights are music nights.

We would have gone to Café Clock, but we went there for breakfast. For a while, there was a leak coming from the floor above us. After our Cusco Catastrophe, we were immediately on edge, but it turns out it was “just water”—not cleaning solution as we had thought.

After breakfast and working on pictures, we went to the Bata Museum which had lots of old clothes and paintings and rugs and locks and keys. It was in a building surrounding a garden. Once we were done there, we left to a larger garden, which was well-maintained. Dad tried to extract money from the ATM next to the man who sells snails, but it wasn’t working, so we went down the street to another one. On the way up, we bought deep-fried, crispy, thin donuts, which were coated in sugar.



Djellaba on Jerry

A djellaba is a Yoda-like robe worn by both men and women while outside in Morocco. Here in Fez, it is not uncommon to see a woman walking down the street in a fuzzy felt djellaba that is black with pink polka dots.

Dad and I went out shopping this morning while Mom and Ethan were at P.T. Dad has been mentioning getting a djellaba, and Mom is against the idea (“Where would you wear it? And when?”), so it seemed like the perfect time.

We walked down the street a ways, looking for a good-looking shop where we could seek shelter from the cold rain. While we were being given the typical spiel by the owner, Dad’s phone rang: Mom and Ethan were back, it was raining, and they didn’t have a key.

They called back a few minutes later: Ethan had a key in his pocket.

Meanwhile, Dad had been convinced to try on a thin cotton djellaba. This one was white, and Dad called it “too see-through.” The next two were thick and woolen and dark, and these were modeled with more enthusiasm.

1300405 23925 MA Fes, djellaba, Jerry

Jerry Models a Cotton Djellaba

We left without buying one, though, with Dad saying, “My wife doesn’t like this, but we’ll think about it.”





Strawberries and Souad

Mom and I took a cooking class at Café Clock today. Our group of seven had Americans and only Americans: two older women traveling together from California whose names were Mary and Katherine, Linda from Tucson, Arizona, whose husband had declined to attend the class (although he came to eat), a man named Mike from Minneapolis, and the two of us. Our leader was Souad, who ran us through the menu. We chose a soup, a salad, and a main course before coming to the desserts.

“Where’s the chocolate?” I asked. Souad, who was sitting next to me, eagerly suggested making chocolate-dipped strawberries along with the date rolls. That was fine with me!

In the market, Souad showed us our chicken B.D. (Before Death) She also showed us some breads, hair conditioner, and herbs before we bought chicken, spicy bread, strawberries, cilantro, fava beans, and peas. Then we retreated to the upstairs kitchen.

Several times while we were cooking, people came through the cinema and up the stairs to where we were, looking for the rooftop tables. Souad always directed them up the stairs. The real way to get to the terrace was just going up the stairs that everyone else used.

We made a lentil soup, smoked eggplant salad, herbed chicken, and sticky date rolls before coming to my part.

Souad poured some vegetable oil in a pot and then added baker’s dark chocolate. I stirred as she placed the strawberries and sesame seeds and almonds next to me. Then, I dipped the strawberries in the chocolate and dropped them on wax paper, sprinkling them with sesame and almond. Eventually, everything was either setting or cooking, so Souad talked about the culture.

The soup was served with couscous bread, the spicy bread, and a scoop of the (now cold) eggplant salad. Along with our (rather tough) chicken, bread was served.

The crowning glory was, of course, the dessert platter. The strawberries were the best.


I Dream of Mice and Men

After Mom and Dad returned from P.T., we eventually we decided we were going to go to a garden. I grabbed my rain and down jackets, umbrella, and shoes and was ready to leave when the rain started pounding on our roof.

So much for that.

Instead, we went to Café Clock where we had lattes and hot chocolate, and Mom and I shared a chocolate pudding soufflé. All of us had the soufflé, actually—Dad, rightfully so, since he paid for it, but Ethan stole his delicious bites away after he’d eaten his slices of orange-almond cake. The soufflé was served with whipped cream this time, not sour cream, which had been served with the soufflé last time.

Back home, I read Of Mice and Men, as well as the poem by Robert Burns that inspired the title (To a Mouse). Supper, which was soup, bread, and strawberries, was eventually announced.

Mom, Dad, and Ethan had chocolate palm-oil ice cream. Mom and I washed the dishes before heading upstairs to watch I Dream of Jeannie.


Tannery and Thami’s

For supper, we ate at Thami’s again. We were enjoying the meal of couscous, tagine, and Moroccan salad (cucumber, tomato, parsley). After a hard day of shopping, we were beat.

Dad only paid for two leather jackets and four table runners, but the bargaining process at the tannery was long. We’d returned to the tannery with the “cute” man and were planning on buying a belt or slippers or something—we were totally against buying a jacket.

When we finally did pay for the jackets, Mom’s red jacket’s sleeves had been altered (which took twice as long as planned) so they weren’t too long. Ethan’s black biker jacket is still a little big on him, but he’ll grow.

At Thami’s, we watched cats climb the tree and jump onto the canopy several times. Eventually, the subject turned to Ethan getting up early.

“I hear it every morning—stomp, stomp, stomp,” Dad said.

“You’re lucky I don’t wear my flip-flops,” Ethan replied, “since then you would hear slap, slap, slap.”

A man came to clear our dishes, since we were done, as I said, “Yeah, I’ll slap you.” I balled my hand up in a fist right as the man cleared my dishes.

Mortified is an understatement.


Needing to Phorget at Physical Torture

80 days to go!


I went with Mom to her Physical Torture today. She cried at several times and at one point begged for me to read to her to take her mind off the pain. I’m not sure she would have been interested in what I was reading—reading about the US’s economy in the 1920s for school isn’t all that interesting.

On our way home, we stopped by Marjane (the local super-sized grocery store) building for haircuts. My hair is now blessedly straight, but as soon as I get under the water of the shower tomorrow, my joy will be gone…

Back at the flat, it was raining. From the time we got home from PT to the time we left for supper, we did just about nothing except schoolwork, push-ups, and working on Crete (that would be Dad).

For supper, I had Thai chicken. Between the ginger and coconut milk, it definitely reminded me of Thailand.


Vomiting in Volubilis

We went on a tour to Meknes, Volubilis, and Moulay Driss. Our driver picked us up at the post office at eight o’clock, and in about an hour we arrived at Meknes. At Meknes, we looked at a mausoleum, strolled through the medina (picking up some chocolaty, pudding-y pastries on the way, and were shown around a building that used to house thousands of horses.

Back on the road, we went to Moulay Driss, the oldest town in Morocco. (Fes is the second-oldest.) Ethan bought some nougat and we tried some. I didn’t really enjoy it, but the locals seem to, since there is a man selling the stuff on every corner.

Volubilis is older than Moulay Driss. It was a Roman town and had lots of mosaics with Venetian tile. The mosaics depicted Roman gods and goddesses, like Venus, as well as the hero Hercules and the four seasons. We had a tour guide at Volubilis who spoke seven languages, including Arabic, French, English, Spanish, and Russian. He told us that the city was built in 70 A.D. and showed us different parts of the ruins, such as the solarium (a.k.a. tanning salon) and caldarium (place to freeze your butt off after you’ve been in the solarium).

He also showed us the room that was for “eating, drinking, and vomiting.” And, no, it wasn’t the dining room.


Follow Your Nose

We sort of slept in this morning, leaving the house at 10:30 for breakfast at Café Clock. Mom and Dad chose pancakes with orange juice. Ethan originally ordered pancakes with Fanta, but changed his mind and selected orange juice. I ordered Berber eggs with orange juice.

Eventually, our orders food arrived. The fruit with the syrup-saturated pancakes today included strawberries, bananas, and kiwi. I had half the Berber eggs and one-and-a-half pancakes. Mom ate the same.

We decided we needed to spend the afternoon (yes, it was after noon) doing something, so we decided to find the wool funduq. Ethan was our leader.

In case you want to know, we didn’t find the funduq. We changed our goal: we were going to the tannery.

“Just follow your nose!” Ethan joked.

“You have to,” I pointed out, “since your nose is on the front of your face.”

So we went around and around, passing cow hooves and camel heads—both were for sale.

We didn’t find the tannery either.

So we went back home towards Bab Boujloud, or the blue gate. Once home, we read while the rain pounded on the roof. We went out to eat supper at Le 44 again. This time, I beat Ethan at mancala.


Gatos on a Gondola

“You took a lot of pictures today?” I asked, trying to keep the surprise out of my voice.

“On our walk,” Dad replied.

“Our walk” is, of course, the tour that I took my family on. (Think: Dad navigated and I just read from the guidebook.) Our walk took us through Fes Jdid, or New Fez. We started at Point 1, which was a long walk from the nearest Medina gate. It was warm (first time in two days), and my down jacket with the guidebook in a pocket was hanging over Mom’s arm to protect her sore, swollen, sensitive hand.

We started the official tour at the palace gates.

“Made in the Andalusian-Moroccan style, this gate was built in the sixties.”


“I don’t know! The book just says ‘sixties!’”


That’s how most of the tour went—me mindlessly quoting the book and Mom asking for more detail.

We ended up at the Moulay Hassan Square, where we interrupted a game of soccer just to get to the center. From the center, we could see Bab Sbâa (Lion Gate) and Bab Sagma, which is named after the pious Amina Sagma. She was buried there in 1737.

Dar Makina forms part of the square’s high walls. It was the weapons factory ordered to be built by Sultan Moulay Hassan I in 1888. The factory was designed by Italian architects. Another Italian part of the square was the gondola, randomly sitting in a corner. Cats (some fat and some not) were huddled around it—trying to keep warm?

As we walked toward Bab Sagma (we’d come in Bab Sbâa) a man, who had been standing by the gate, came towards us, telling it was forbidden. We’re not sure what was forbidden, but he let us out the huge gate anyway.


Dye and Lye

Khalid was our tour guide of the medina today. He started off by telling us a few new facts about our neighborhood before we hit the Bou Inania Madrasa, which was built from 1350 to 1357. The marble came from Italy, the cedar from the Atlas Mountains, and the tile patterns from Spain. In fact, many of the patterns look familiar, as we have a card game from Alhambra, Spain.

It was raining hard, and Ethan and I discovered that our rain jackets aren’t as waterproof as we thought. Because of this, our down jackets underneath were getting wet—not a good thing. Dad bought a pink umbrella for me, which was a relief. Khalid held his blue plaid umbrella high and led the way.

Eventually we came to the university. The university was built by a woman named Fatima using her inheritance. One of its most famous students was the man who introduced zero to Europe. The university is connected to a mosque (also built by Fatima) which is the second-largest mosque in Morocco after the one in Casablanca that we visited at 1,700 square meters.

On we went to the funduq. (“Funduq” is the Arabic word for “caravanserie.” “Serie” means “hotel” in Persian.) This funduq is being used as a place for making rugs, scarves, tablecloths, and such out of cactus silk, cotton, and/or wool.

Our next stop was the tannery, where we looked out the back window onto the pools of dye and lye. The man helping us spoke Arabic, Berber, French, and English. Eventually he moved on from telling us about himself to advertising his goods.

“This is a poof,” he explained, holding up a round piece of leather. “You can fill it to make it a chair. You can fill it with paper, cotton, or money. Yes, this is a Berber bank!”

Mom later described the man as “cute.”


Moroxican Meal

After Mom’s Physical Torture session this morning, the parents returned to find me done with my schoolwork and Ethan in the shower.

Once the shower was done and Ethan had gone back to his room, Mom and I set out to the modern grocery store for groceries—the most important of which was chocolate. Dad has found that there is a definite shortage of chocolate in the medina, and he requested that we bring back enough chocolate to last us a while. We returned with seven bars.

Besides chocolate bars, we also got Mom a shirt, a lighter for our stove, a loaf of bread, jam, butter, palm-oil infused chocolate ice cream, potatoes, mechanical pencils, and two packages of cookies. The world outside the medina is a whole different place—it looks like it’s actually from this century.

Back home, we took our doxy. Two hours later, we polished off the mocha chocolate bar. For supper, we went to Scorpion du Desert, which is right near our house. It’s good that it was nearby, since it’s been raining on-and-off all evening.

Supper included a starter of tapas, which tasted rather Mexican. The rest of the meal, however, tasted quite Moroccan.


Moroccan Impressions of My Country

“Where are you from?”

“The United States.”

“Ohhhh—Barack Obama!”


“You like Africa—he is pure African.”


It’s been a while since we’ve had a conversation like this (about seven months, since this happened on a daily basis in India), and I’d forgotten how entertaining they are. Last night, while eating at Thami’s, our host, upon learning that we were Americans, exclaimed, “Oh, yes, you like Morocco! We were the first to see the U.S. as a country!”

I wasn’t expecting anyone to know that fact—much less bring it up—but they did. We were on our way out to breakfast at Clock Café. Mom and Dad had pancakes saturated in syrup with kiwi and banana and Ethan and I had tomato and scrambled eggs on bread.

Once Ethan’s orange juice was done, we returned to our house so Mom could work on laundry. Later, we ventured out into the medina and went to Bou Inania Medersa, which is a place of learning. We stood in the courtyard, taking pictures of the tiles, while Ethan befriended the two cats who lay in the sun.

Back outside, Ethan and I finally stepped outside of the medina. It was like a whole new world—a whole new modern world, I might add. For our postcards, we bought outrageously expensive stamps before returning to the medina to buy olives, eggs, and sweets for snacks and breakfast.

Supper was at Le 44, which is at number 44 on a little side street. Run by a French woman, it offers a respite from couscous and tagine, which are served by every single restaurant (except this one!).


Victory in Vertical

Our apartment is very vertical: one corner is devoted to the staircase.

On the ground floor is the dining table, which is the only thing in the center of the apartment. Also, there are three little nooks for sitting and relaxing on couches as well as a full bathroom and a kitchen. Up a few feet is a landing that is unused, and then turn a corner and, up three steps, is the exit to my room, which has a balcony that looks into my parents’ room. Their room’s entry is up a few stairs from mine, but the floors are at the same height.

Ethan has the next bedroom, and above that is the roof, which has a washing machine, clothes line, and a key to move the glass from the skylight. Above the room with the laundry machine is a deck, where Ethan laid for a while this morning as Mom and I did laundry.

Mom was actually able to do laundry with her right hand.

Yes, you read that correctly: her cast is off! It took all of this morning, but she and Dad returned finally victorious.

Right now we’re sitting in the ground floor, eating our Moroccan pastries after a dinner of tagine and couscous.


Cash Calamity and Cafe Clock

“I’m sorry, sir, but there’s a problem.”

Where have we heard those words before? Oh, I know! At the Bangkok airport when we didn’t have our Indian visas!

Well, this wasn’t as dramatic:

“Do you have cash?”

“I can’t pay in cash,” Dad replied.

“Okay, let me see what I can do.”

A few minutes later:

“Do you have cash?”

“I can’t pay in cash. I don’t have enough.”

“Okay, I need to make a call…” the woman at the front desk trailed off, grabbing the phone and speaking rapidly in French. Eventually, she asked, “Okay, where’s your credit card?”

That was a relief.

We missed the first tram, but six minutes later another arrived going the same way and we got on it. The red trams have only been working since March, and they look a bit like a bullet train.

We only rode for about five stops before getting off at the train station to catch our 11:15 train to Fez, Morocco.

We caught it with plenty of time to spare. We were relieved to get into the right first class car (the other was at the waaay other end of the train, and you couldn’t walk through the train to get to it).

Eventually, the train chugged past all the green fields and cities (including Morocco’s capital, Rabat) and pulled into its final stop, Fez. We found a man with a sign reading “Jerry” and followed him out to his van, where we put our luggage and ourselves.

We got to our lodgings, and we were shown the local market, where we eventually bought bread, yogurt, cheese, counterfeit Nutella, bananas, oranges, and olives (Ethan’s favorite—not).

Back home, I worked on my French before heading out with Dad to look for Café Clock. We found it and returned for supper: I had a chickpea burger with French fries and a mocha, while Mom had chicken with raisins and almonds and Ethan and Dad shared a plate of tapas and some falafel.


McDonald’s in Morocco

I’m not sure if I should be glad, disappointed, or relieved to say this, but I’ll say it anyway: the first time I ever had a burger at McDonald’s was in Casablanca, Morocco.

I don’t get the McDonald’s hype—I can say that now, too. What’s so good about a tiny burger with a little bit of lettuce and ketchup with a chicken patty between two pieces of soggy bread. Seriously. I don’t.

We had McDonald’s for breakfast. After we searched in vain, we moved on to Hassan II Mosque, the seventh-largest mosque in the world according to Wikipedia and the third-largest according to our English-speaking tour guide. The minaret next to the mosque is, at 689 feet high, the tallest in the world. It is topped by a laser that points toward Mecca. The most ornate door in the mosque also faces towards Mecca. The mosque is right on the Atlantic Ocean, keeping the mosque cool—or, today, quite chilly. At least, the floors were cold against my bare feet. Thankfully there were carpets.

After the mosque, we wandered around until it started raining. Then we got a red taxi back to our hotel. Dad had said that it would be a petit taxi since it was red, but it wasn’t—it was a larger Mercedes. In our first taxi, Ethan had had to scrunch down in the back seat so the police wouldn’t see the back of his head because only three passengers could legally ride in the car.

Back at the hotel, we looked for a place for brunch (it was noon, but we still hadn’t had breakfast). So eventually, reluctantly, we settled on McDonald’s. Mom, Ethan, and I got the chicken burgers described above while Dad got a Chicken Mythic, which was by far the better choice since it had less-squished buns and more content. However, it had cost twice as much as ours, but I would have taken it!

We decided we’d done our tourist thing for the day, so Dad alternately napped and worked on pictures as the rest of us read. For supper, we went to the place that was closed last night. I particularly liked the desserts, which included orange sliced very thinly and sprinkled with cinnamon.


Sleep? What Is That?

LIMA, Peru-

March 21, 2013, 01:16- Eryn is startled from her sleep by the sound of her parents packing and showering

01:33- Eryn and Ethan are forced out of their beds and into their traveling clothes, packing quickly

02:05- The van is packed and ready to head to Lima’s international airport

02:31- Four people, four suitcases, four backpacks, and two hats are unloaded onto the curb at the airport

02:49- Checking in is complete: everything that is needed to get to Casablanca of Humphrey Bogart fame is in the hands of the foursome

03:18- Earbuds are bought so that Eryn can more easily listen to One Direction

04:31- Boarding for our Copa Airlines flight to Panama City begins

04:34- Family is on the aircraft and settled in for flight

05:01- The little Boeing 737-700 takes off


March 21, 2013, 08:34- Touchdown in Panama City. First time north of the equator in three months (last time was in Dubai, UAE)

08:52- At Gate 23. American-style security checkpoint is viewed from afar

09:08- The security checkpoint is cleared, no problem. First time being in a rather large group of Americans for the family (rather uncomfortable)

09:35- Boarding begins

10:05- Plane (once again Boeing 737-700) takes off


March 21, 2013, 16:27- The Boeing (on which was shown Silver Linings Playbook with [most] curse words removed) lands with Manhattan skyline in distance

16:43- Family has successfully cleared one hurdle. Now the luggage must come

17:19- Three suitcases have been recovered by Ethan, and the last one—the father’s—is just around the bend

17:32- Now officially in the U.S.

17:54- Supper is sought in food court after Star Alliance lounge fails to meet expectations

18:03- “The last meal for two days” (pasta, salad, garlic bread, and side) is eaten, along with two heaping bowls of chocolate ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s (the bowls were for all four, not two per person)

19:13- The bookstore is perused. A Lonely Planet USA guide book is scorned: “The only way you can write a USA guide book is by making it 1,200 pages long.” (It contained 1,198 pages.) The book even mentioned the family’s hometown, Eugene, OR—even though the city was barely discussed and was summarized as a hippie town (it is)

19:46- The Boeing 757-200 is boarded. It’s a much nicer plane: the family is in Economy Plus, meaning more leg room and personal screens. The only major problem is that the seats of the younger three members of the family (children and mother) do not lean back because they are directly in front of the emergency exit row

20:15- Take-off. Ethan watches Skyfall while Eryn enjoys the only episode of House available. After drinking doxy, it’s off to bed. Eryn listens to all thirty One Direction songs on the plane (thirteen from Up All Night and seventeen from Take Me Home) as well as “Rolling in the Deep” and “Set Fire to the Rain” by Adele

LISBON, Portugal-

March 22, 2013, 07:11- The pilot makes another loop instead of landing. Reason unknown

07:18- Landed

07:44- Inside the Lisbon airport is the family, and the United Airlines agent is searched for

08:17- The decision to head to the lounge on the other side of customs and immigration is made. So begins the long trek

08:28- No lines, no waiting! The family is in the TAP Portugal lounge eating cake, sandwiches, and vegetables

10:28- Packed up and left the lounge to head back to the international part of the terminal (most other European nations don’t count as “international” due to the EU)

11:43- Boarding begins after some annoying Brits bad-mouth One Direction


March 22, 2013, 14:02- The twelve-seater lands on Moroccan tarmac

14:48- Into the “normal” part of the airport

15:57- Family arrives at suite which originally had two beds. With four it’s quite cramped

17:58- The quest for a supper restaurant begins

18:30- Dinner is ordered

18:57- Dinner (three chicken meals, including kebabs, and one vegetarian meal) arrives

19:46- The bill is paid. “Gracias”—before realization that Moroccans speak French and Arabic hits (this is about the zillionth instance of speaking Spanish instead of French). “Merci!”



South American Summary

After more-or-less three months in South America, we started to get the hang of Spanish and customs. We could go into a heladeria and order ‘dos bolas de chocolate y fresa,’ or go to the supermercado and buy huevos, leche, pizza, lechuga, choclo, chocolate, y pan. When Mr. Gooey in Arequipa told us a bunch of things about Arequipa and Peru in general (such as food, customs, etc.), we found that we already knew a lot of what he was saying.


We started off South America in Buenos Aires, Argentina, after a ridiculously long set of flights from Dubai, UAE. We spent two weeks there, idling in the sun and our apartment. We also enjoyed the new types of ice cream flavors: lemon mousse, raspberry, and chocolate Suizo. In El Bolsón, we devoured ice cream at the rate of kilogram a day in between bites of super-cheesy pizza. Ethan and I befriended Juan, Paz, and the rest of their family, and we spent the evening with them when Mom broke her arm.

After a night in Bariloche, chocolate heaven, we rode a bus for eight hours to Chile and arrived in Valdivia, home of the largest-ever earthquake, at ten p.m. that night. Dad and Ethan got some Chilean pesos in exchange for some American dollars at a Chinese restaurant, and we used those pesos to pay for a taxi to take us to our hostel. The highlight of our time in Valdivia was the fresh-foods market, where you could buy all sorts of wonderful things. Because we didn’t have an apartment or kitchen, we only bought raspberries and blueberries.

Two things stand out for Valparaiso: having to walk up and down our hill multiple times each day to get to and from our flat, and the really good ice cream whose name I can’t remember. It tasted like cinnamon, and it was really good with the cappuccino flavor that was mainly marshmallow fluff.

In San Pedro de Atacama, we went on multiple tours up into the surrounding Andes and Altiplano before heading down to Arica, where, after an insanely long bus ride, we celebrated Ethan’s 12th birthday with a cupcake and presents. The next day we went up to Putre. During our time there, we went on two tours with Barbara, the Alaskan woman, and went up to about 5,000 meters above sea level—the highest point on our trip while standing on the ground. We also got to see some really cute vizcachas, which are related to chinchillas.

Back in Arica, we went to a mummy museum and then arrived about an hour too early at the airport two days later. We landed abruptly on Arequipa’s runway late in the morning, and Mr. Gooey was waiting for us. That weekend was spent enjoying crepes from Crepissimo and touring Mr. Gooey’s workplace. On Monday, we flew to Cusco. When we first landed, I thought, This is an ugly city.

We didn’t stay in the “ugly city” long, though—soon we were on our way to Ollantaytambo. After a night there, we were off to Machu Picchu. Somehow we made it up and down Wayna Picchu, the picturesque mountain in the background of just about every Machu Picchu photo.

After a few nights in Cusco, we were off to the Amazon Basin with Reve (the English-speaking guide), Paltacha (the cook), and a ton of stuff. It was hot and humid and we didn’t see any tapirs, despite going to the tapir clay lick two nights in a row.

On our last night back in Cusco, disaster struck. It began with the shower drain gurgling but ended with the floor of our hostel covered in 2-6 inches of brown stuff from the sewers.

We slept in a different hotel.

The next day we caught a flight to Lima Bean. That was yesterday. Tonight will be very short: our taxi to the airport leaves at 2:05 in the morning.



Lima Bean

We got to Lima at around three in the afternoon after a short flight. We spent last night at another hostel in Cusco. When Dad and I went back to Pantastico to get our laundry, the owner said that our laundry would be ready by this evening. We pointed out that we were leaving Cusco at one in the afternoon, and she handed us our two bags.

In Lima, we got in a taxi and rode for half an hour to our lodgings. After a short while there, we dropped off laundry and went grocery shopping. We decided to eat in our apartment, so we bought ravioli, tomato sauce, green beans, salad, and chocolate ice cream. Dad and I prepared supper, and Ethan eventually washed the dishes. Our salad had lettuce, beet, radish, carrot, tomato, and lots of corn—but no beans, so unfortunately we can’t say we’ve had Lima beans.


Sitting in a Cesspool

We had breakfast this morning at The Meeting Place, where all of us had waffles. Ethan and I had fruit (cantaloupe, pineapple, and banana) waffles while Mom and Dad selected Monkey Business Waffles, which had chocolate sauce and bananas. We were there to drop off our Spot, which kept track of us in the Amazon (just in case of emergencies). We had gotten it from Mr. Gooey back in Arequipa, so we’ve been carrying it around for two weeks or so.

Ethan and I played Scrabble and, even with my wonderful word “queleas” (which are birds we saw in Namibia), I lost. We had a conversation about homeschooling with the owner (Steve). We also petted the friendly cat, Mz. Socks, who doesn’t purr—she just meows.

We returned to the hostel, where we did schoolwork and such for a while. Then we left to get ice cream. Mom and Ethan each had one scoop, but then we went to the bakery associated with the hostel because there was no chocolate ice cream. There, we ordered a grand total of two brownies, one cookie, a slice of apple pie, and a vegetarian empanada. We ate in the plaza, where a woman tried to sell her wares to us.

Back in the hostel, Dad deleted more pictures before we went out to supper at the place where we had supper our first night in Cusco about a week-and-a-half ago. Mom and I shared a bowl of chicken soup and curry with couscous while Dad chose tomato soup and Ethan ordered vegetarian risotto. Ethan was excited to go to the restaurant because he wanted to have his virgin strawberry daiquiri again.

The lights flickered a few times, but we still left after enjoying our complimentary chocolate ice cream (wow, we’ve had a lot of carbs and calories today!). There was thunder—not very loud, but very often. The lightning came quickly, too, and we hurried to get home to avoid the downpour.

It was not to be.

By the time we got to the hostel, my jeans and pants were soaked. Thankfully I had decided to wear my rain jacket to dinner, so my shirt was dry. I grabbed my long john pants and towel after kicking off my shoes. I slipped into the bathroom, slowly dragging the heavy door closed. The shower drain gurgled.

Wow, we must have got a lot of rain. That’s odd. Wait—why is there more sound? Oh, well—it is sleeting outside.

I had just started to get changed when water started coming out of the toilet.

Um, okay. What is going on?!?!?!

I hastily pulled my pants back on and flung the door open.

“Ethan! Ethan! Get your stuff out and up! The toilet is overflowing!”


“Look at that!”

The drain in the bathroom floor, as well as the toilet and shower, was overflowing with brown stuff. I was horrified. We pulled our stuff up onto our beds. It was sickening, but the smell was only overwhelming when you faced the bathroom. Every room on the bottom floor of the hostel was overflowing with brown stuff. It was gross (understatement of all time).

If we had gotten back to the hostel five minutes later, our stuff would have been ruined. If we stay here, we’re going to be sleeping in a cesspool. Right now, we’re standing and sitting in a cesspool. There are at least six inches of water in the common room of this place.

On that cheery note,


The Three Cs

We’re back to cell phone service, chocolate ice cream, and Cusco!


We started out our day at Reve’s dad’s lodge at five in the morning. We loaded up the boat and left at 5:30. At around seven, we had breakfast (kiwi, papaya, and cantaloupe with muesli and strawberry yogurt). Using the tea bag wrappers, Reve taught Ethan and me how to make origami tea-shirts and swans. I was not very good at it.

In about an hour, we arrived at Colorado, where there were five bars of 3G—that’s very good service for being in the middle of nowhere! Reve found us two vans, and all our stuff, Paltacha (the cook. His nickname means avocado), the boat helper (Jonathan), Reve, and the four of us went in them. Down we went down a muddy, bumpy road to another river, where all the stuff came out, into a boat, and across the river. Once across, we met our van driver from last week. He had come with his five-year-old son.

The ride back to Cusco took about seven-and-a-half hours. The highest point was 4,725 meters above sea level. I listened to One Direction pretty much the whole time, except when we stopped for lunch and, as Reve called them, pee-pee breaks.

We’re going to miss Reve. It was good we had someone who spoke English well enough to make us mind our manners. His favorite sayings were “Don’t kill yourself—let the caiman do it for you!” and “Laha muy, Paltacha! Laha muy!” (I’m guessing on the spelling, but “laha muy” means, roughly, ‘Your food is bad but we’ll take it anyway.’ It was a sort of inside joke.) Not in the van were two other important members of our trek: the capitan and his son, who was called Segundo, or the second (he has the same name as his dad, but we don’t know what it is).

So to them we say,


Terrible Tapirs

We woke up early this morning to see the macaws at their clay lick. Usually there is a path to the hide from Rio Madre de Dios, but it was under about six feet of water. So instead we took Amazon Trals Peru through the “little stream.” At least, Reve called it a “little stream.” However, since this is the wet season, the “little stream” was forty feet wide and ten feet deep.

We arrived at the hide at around six in the morning. After several hours, during which we ate pancakes with honey and butter, the forty to fifty macaws finally appeared. Only two macaws ever made to the actual lick. The rest just watched in the trees and eventually flew away when the vulture appeared.

After Ethan didn’t catch any piranhas in the brown Rio Blanco, we had lunch at the lodge, which was made up of: mushroom soup, deep-fried pepper, boiled plantain, cauliflower, beet, carrot, beans, watermelon, and a drink that tasted like cinnamon. A few hours later, we were eating still-warm spaghetti with mushrooms in the hide at the tapir lick, where we had gone against Dad’s best judgment. It was raining, the light was dimming, and we had no chance of seeing tapirs, since they don’t go out in the rain.

So, after only three hours, we slogged back to the lodge in single file: Reve lead, with his high power torch. Next came Ethan, who cared Reve’s umbrella. I came next, trying not to think because it would give me a headache. A pace behind walked Mom, trying to keep her cast dry under her rain jacket. Dad took up the rear, always right behind Mom, sometimes even stepping on her ankles.

We made it home and are, more or less, ready to wake up at five in the morning.


Bugger Them Bugs

The mosquitoes here may seem bad, but we’ve seen worse at lakes, such as Indigo Lake, in the Oregon Cascades. However, we have lost memories of those and complain to all hours about the bugs here.

Besides mosquitoes (which are big and slow here, and not as determined), there are bot flies, which are parasites attached to mosquitoes. We’ll know if we got any bot flies in us in two or three weeks, which is when the itching/pain appears.

There are also “teeny-tiny” bugs which leave red bumps with scabs on the top. Thankfully, these don’t itch, but the sand flies’ bite-spots do. The most common cause of itchy bites here would probably be the sand flies since they’re too small to get. (Also, just waving them away doesn’t work as it does with the mozzies.)

Unfortunately, the DEET lotion we brought with us is, while effective, greasy, sticky, and very, very strong-smelling (it’s not a good smell).


Not Feather Boas

Reve is a good storyteller, despite his first language not being English. Tonight at the supper table (supper, by the way, being eggplant, tomatoes, potato, pumpkin soup, star fruit juice, and not-so-good chocolate flan), he regaled us with stories about jaguars and pumas.

We ate at eight (and I am being alliterate-ish). The reason for the late hour of supper was that we walked to the tapir clay lick at around three in the afternoon, got there at four, and eventually left at seven.

No tapirs appeared.

We did, however, see two small boas (the largest was 1.5 meters), a poison dart frog (black with green stripes), a small, harmless frog, a swimming spider, three bats, and two tailless whip scorpions.

At the tapir clay lick hide, the four of us laid on mattresses while Reve watched and our gum boots dried. They weren’t wet on the inside (thankfully) since the water on the trail wasn’t that deep, and by the time we started the return trip, the water from today’s rain was already a few inches lower.


Monkey Steamed, Monkey Stewed

We saw three kinds of monkeys today: wooly, spider, and squirrel.

The first type—wooly—was next to a troop of squirrel monkeys. We only saw one or two woolies. Reve told us that they (woolies) are the type that throw poop at people (kind of like baboons do. These monkeys also pee on people). We’ve seen four types of Latin American monkeys before (Capuchin, spider, squirrel, and howler—all in Costa Rica). Now we can say we’ve seen five.

Reve told us that people used to hunt the monkeys, but they’re safe in Parque Nacional Manu. The people hunted the monkeys for food—monkey steamed and monkey stewed.

We also saw the squirrel monkeys on our first hike, which was just along the edge of the river. On our second hike, we went to the second lake. There we saw mosquitoes, mosquitoes, and more mosquitoes as we climbed a tower and looked down on the oxbow lake below. It seemed so hot today. There was only a memory of a breeze on the top of the tower, and below it was a very distant memory.


The Countdown Begins

99 days to go til home, sweet home!


In other news, today we wore our gum boots to go riding in a catamaran around a lake and look for caimans. This was after we’d ridden in the boat for five hours, getting to our current lodge.

“I was with some tourist on a night walk,” is how a story that Reve likes to tell begins. “I was wearing my gum boots. We were looking—ooh, aah, things like that—when the tourists say, ‘Look! Look!’ And there was a fer-de-lance between my feet.” He says that’s because the venomous snakes can sense heat, and the gum boots kept his heat in.


At the pond, we saw plenty of caimans. We got very close to one to take its picture, and it only swam away when it decided we were too close for comfort. That was one of two lakes that are near this lodge. The lodge is taken care by native people—one family comes in a month. Besides the natives, we (along with our cook, guide, captain, captain’s son) are the only people in this five million-acre UNESCO World Heritage site.


Sweet Lemons and Soaked Clothes

The thunder kept me awake last night for an hour. It was probably the loudest thunder I’d heard in thirteen years.

We got to sleep in a little bit and left Bambu Lodge at 8 in the morning. We stopped at a town and dropped off two people. Reve also picked up some D batteries for his flashlight, and we got our permit for Manu Park.

We stopped at an orchid garden where we saw some orchids and Reve and Ethan picked some “sweet lemons,” which smelled sour but tasted like nothing. (We think they weren’t ripe yet.)

Down in the town of Atalaya, we waited for a while for our boat. It eventually arrived, and we piled in with all our equipment. Instead of our van driver, we have the boat driver, his son, and the “boat helper.”

About half an hour in, we stopped to switch motors. Reve told us that all boats have to travel with two motors—just in case. Twenty minutes after lunch (fried vegetables and a boiled egg), the rain started coming down. I pulled on my rain coat and was fine, but in another ten minutes Ethan and I had to grab the cushion of the bench in front of us and put it over our knees, while Mom and Dad huddled under a tarp.

We finally got to Hummingbird Lodge, and we went on a walk through the forest, getting attacked by mosquitoes and seeing puma and tapir footprints (but no animals). Reve showed us two big trees (a mahogany and a fig). For supper, we had soup, vegetables, a scoop of potato, and eggplant steak. That was when Reve told us that he owns Hummingbird Lodge with a Californian girl. He paid for 15%, she paid for the other 85%. He’s losing land to Rio Madre de Dios at a rate of about 150 feet a year, so in the off season he’s planning on moving the buildings back.

He took us looking for tarantulas, and we saw four: a female and her baby, a smaller of the same kind, and a small brown one.


Cocaine and Cuy

“Here, we aren’t addicted to cocaine. As children we are told, ‘People who make bombs don’t blow up—they sell bombs. People who make guns don’t shoot themselves—they sell guns. Here, we make cocaine and we sell it.’”

Reve, our English, Spanish, Dutch, and Quechua speaking guide, was explaining uses of coca to us. We were standing in the field of coca at our lodge for the night. The other three uses of coca were to chew, to make tea, and to offer to gods.


We finally arrived at our lodge after eleven hours on the road: from five a.m. to six in the evening. We descended over 2,000 meters, passing waterfalls and mudslides in the little van that could. We had two meals—breakfast and lunch—and a snack of fruit and doxy. Dad saw a feral guinea pig, our only mammal of the day. We saw lots of butterflies, everyone else saw a non-venomous snake, and we all saw a “cock of the rock,” which is the national bird of Peru. Actually, we saw several of these red and black birds, but only one or two were picture-worthy.


Sweet to Be Swiss

We got to make our own chocolate today!

Dad didn’t, but he still gets to enjoy the results, which were 12 little pyramids, 11 Reese’s Pieces-style chocolates, and six chocolate bars. We could choose from twenty-two flavors to stick in our creations at ChocoMuseo, but I only used thirteen: pink marshmallows, sprinkles, coffee beans, Oreos, Peanut M&Ms, nibs (bits of cacao bean), mint, cloves and cinnamon, chili, sea salt, coconut, and quinoa. I could have used coca but decided not to. Some of the women who worked there were making “experimental” chocolate bars: white chocolate bars with coffee beans, coca, chili, or coconut. The museum doesn’t actually sell full-sized white chocolate bars, so they were definitely experimental.

At the beginning of our “lesson,” Manuel took us upstairs (us being Mom, Ethan and I—we were thankfully a small group) and asked us which country was the leading producer of cacao.

“Peru,” someone guessed.


“Ivory Coast,” I said. (I was right, of course.)

“What’s the second-largest producer?” Manuel asked.



“It’s in Africa,” he said.

“Ghana,” I answered. (Right again!)

It was also interesting to learn that, on average, a Swiss eats more than 11 kilograms of chocolate a year, while Americans (on average) eat only 5.3. I can’t wait to get to Switzerland!


Happy Flowers and Plenty of Capers

Sacsaywaman was our destination today (pronounced like “sexy woman”). Well, it was our goal. We didn’t actually make it in because it was 70 soles (about US$30) per person—that wasn’t gonna happen.

So we walked down the hill and up the hill to El Cristo Blanco, the white Christ. You can see the statue at night from Plaza de Armas since it’s lit up like the statue in Rio—it’s not as big, though.

Dad took a lot of pictures (of course) and then we walked down a loooong set of stairs and to our plaza, then on to Pan…tastico! (That’s the name of our B&B.)After a little while, we left for supper at Pachapapa. It was closed, as before, so instead we went to Sara, which is the Quechua word for corn.  All of us had pasta: Ethan had ravioli, Dad selected spaghetti, and Mom and I chose rigatoni. All four had different sauces. Mine was the most flavorful. It’s a good thing I like capers (a lot) because that sauce was very, very caper-y.

I decided not to have ice cream (since we’d already had waffles at The Meeting Place, where I also beat Ethan at Scrabble), but Dad and Ethan decided on chocolate. We ate by the puma fountain, which we’ve passed many, many times.

“There’s a wedding,” Ethan announced.


“A car with flowers on it drove by.”

“How do you know it wasn’t a funeral?”

“They were happy flowers.”


Casts and Couscous

The first half of our day was devoted to (a) learning more about our trip to the Amazon on Monday and (b) trying to get Mom’s cast off. Guess what? It didn’t come off! Instead the doctor told Mom to get it off in two weeks (when we’re in Morocco). While Mom and Dad were working on that, Ethan did schoolwork and I read Code Name Verity, which is an amazing book (I spent most of supper telling Ethan to read it).

Eventually (at around 5 p.m.) we went out for a walk, which ended up with us finding a place for supper called Greens Organic. Mom and I shared a bowl of pumpkin soup and chicken on couscous. It was delicious. So was the (free) dessert: the brownie to compare to all brownies.

On the way home, we stopped at Plaza de Armas to take in the atmosphere. Every Peruvian town/city has a Plaza de Armas—the main square. Dad and Ethan started being embarrassing, so I was relieved when we left the public eye.


The Rain in Peru Falls Mainly On You

“So what does Cusco do—mining? Farming? Manufacturing?”

Solo turistico,” Ronnie replied. We were within a five minute drive of our B&B (Bed & Bakery), and Mom was questioning our driver from Ollantaytambo.

In the morning, we’d been given a tour by Elvis, who met us at Apu Lodge at 8 a.m. He walked us around Ollantaytambo in the rain, telling us about how the Incas moved huge stones (by either having people pull the rocks that were on logs, by sending them down ramps, or by some other way), how you can tell from which town women are by their hats, and how messages were sent from Cusco to Ollantaytambo to Machu Picchu to the coast (on foot in a relay). He also told us how Ollantaytambo got its name: Ollantay is the name of an Incan king, and tambo means lodge. Ollantay hid there from the Spanish, and once the Spanish captured him (and eventually killed him in Cusco), the Incas were defeated.

After our tour, we checked out the ice cream place, which unfortunately had no place to sit. So we took our ice cream to Corazones Café (Heart Café), where Mom and I shared a piece of cake and a bowl of soup and Ethan and Dad split a grilled cheese sandwich while Ethan indulged in a brownie and Dad enjoyed a huge cookie. Yes, it does sound like we went a little bit overboard in the sugar department, but Dad’s excuse is that we climbed Wayna Picchu and walked around in the rain for four hours.


Bird Poop

We made it up Wayna Picchu—and no one knows how.

We also made it down, and Mom thinks that’s more impressive.

Wayna Picchu is the picturesque mountain in all Machu Picchu pictures. It’s on basically every postcard in Aguas Calientes, and most in Peru. It is only about 240 meters higher than the starting point—and there are a lot of stairs. It wasn’t as “scary” as people had made it out to be. True, the steps were slippery and the ten-meter tunnel at the top damp, but even Mom didn’t slip. It was only when we were back on level ground in Machu Picchu that Mom and I tripped.

Once we were back in Machu Picchu, we had to hurry to catch our tour group before it left. We formed 25% of the group, which included three others from our B&B. The tour lasted two hours, and we visited all the highlights: botanical garden, guard house, Templo del Sol, and Templo del Condor. The Condor Temple was the most interesting, since the rocks were shaped like a condor, and we got to walk up through the “stomach” of the condor, making us bird poop.

We ate lunch (squished guacamole sandwiches) after the tour, and then we went back inside to look at the lodging for the nobles. Commoners were, apparently, not allowed at Machu Picchu. How can you tell if you’re a commoner or not? Nobles are born with no moles.


Eventually we rode the bus down the thirteen switchbacks to Aguas Calientes, where I mailed some postcards. At 6:30 p.m. we got on the train to Ollantaytambo, and that’s where we are now.


Escape the Eggs

We’re situated in Aguas Calientes, which is a twenty-five minute drive from Machu Picchu. We rode a train for about two hours this morning, talking to Elena and her husband, who live in Spokane, WA. Elena is from Mexico.

Mostly we talked about our trip, where we’re going, how long it is, what we’re doing for school, and all that stuff.

Everyone was excited to see the start of the Inca Trail, which is four days long and really high and I’m glad we’re not doing it!

In Aguas Calientes, we couldn’t find the man with a sign with our names on it, so we just walked to our hotel after finding it on a map. It was raining, of course, which made it Aguas Frios instead of Aguas Calientes.

After Dad had a lie-about, we walked around the town. Mom and I went into a jewelry shop, and when we exited, Ethan and Dad had disappeared down the Via de Escape alley. Eventually they came back and told us what they’d found: a platform that could hold four people in case of an emergency.

“What would you have to worry about here?” I asked.

“Tsunamis,” Dad replied.

“Yeah, it said something about ‘huevos,’” Ethan added.

“Huevos?” Mom asked. “Do you know what that means?”

“Um, waves?”

“Eggs, Ethan. Eggs.”


Save the Guinea Pigs!

Oh, no. No, no, no, no, no.

How could they hurt the innocent little guinea pigs at a—I shudder to think of it—cuyeria????? (In case you don’t know, cuy is guinea pig in Spanish, so a cuyeria is where you eat guinea pigs.) I knew that guinea pigs were on the Peruvian menu, but I wasn’t expecting to see “CUYERIA” in big, bold letters painted on the side of a building in blood red.

This was on our way out of Cusco. We arrived in Cusco after a short and uneventful flight from Arequipa. From there, Ronnie took us in his Yaris to Apu Lodge. It was about five minutes into this drive that I saw the dreadful word.


We are safe (unlike guinea pigs) in this lodge from the cold and wet of Ollantaytambo. Ollantaytambo is a little village at about 8,000 feet above sea level that is, apparently, a popular American tourist destination, as we learned tonight at supper.

For supper, Dad ordered his usual agua con gas, and Mom, Ethan, and I chose agua sin gas. When our waters arrived, instead of three aguas sin gas and one agua con gas, there were three aguas con gas and one agua sin gas. Mom got lucky and selected the agua sin gas, and Ethan and I had to suffer through our 350 milliliters of nastiness.


A Very Down Day with One Momentous Event

Mr. Gooey left us all alone in Arequipa.

Well, he’s currently in the process of saying good-bye. He’s going home to California, but we still have three-and-a-half months before we can think about home. Anyway, we didn’t really do anything today. Mom, Mr. Gooey, and Ethan went shopping a few times, but I stayed home to do schoolwork while Dad deleted pictures. Eventually, we all left to get ice cream at the local mall, but that didn’t take much time.

An hour later, we left for supper. Mr. Gooey, Ethan, and I had sandwiches (mine was chicken, pineapple, and mayo and very good) and Mom and Dad had salads. Then we came home at 8 pm so Mr. Gooey can catch his flight in an hour or so.


Quakes Killing a Cathedral

Thankfully there were no earthquakes today [that were big and in Arequipa] because we went to Basilica Catedral de Arequipa. It’s famous for having the second floor of one of its two bell towers fall in the 2001 earthquake and cause a hole to be developed in the cathedral’s roof.

Basilica Catedral de Arequipa has been through more than its share of earthquakes. In January, 1583, an earthquake completely destroyed the sillar building. (Sillar is a type of white volcanic rock. It’s like pumice, but denser.) This was forty-three years after the location of the cathedral was decided. In 1590, plans for a second cathedral took shape, but in 1600 the eruption of the Huaynaputina stratovolcano destroyed part of the new brick building. Four years later, an earthquake demolished the remaining structure.

In 1621, assignments were made for the construction of a new cathedral. This was a mere twelve years after the idea had been suggested.

Seven years later, the man assigned to the project—Andrés de Espinoza—died. However, in 1656, the 180-foot-long building was finished. It survived the earthquakes of 1666, 1668, 1687, and 1784 with minor damage.

In 1844, a fire broke out in the summer and destroyed many of the paintings, sculptures, and furniture. Reconstruction was started two weeks later.

Improvements were made to the cathedral between 1845 and 1868, which brought an earthquake that obliterated the two towers and façade arcs. Nothing major happened in the 20th century, and all was peaceful until 2001.

On August 15, 2002, exactly 462 years after the cathedral’s location was established, the finishing touches were put on the restored towers.


We walked on the roof and up to the towers. Ethan and I tried to ring the bells, but we weren’t willing to do it together, and our guide told us that it takes two people to be able to hit the 500-pound clapper against the 5-ton bell.


Food and Fifty Sensors

Mr. Gooey took Ethan and Dad away for most of this morning up to a volcano, where they removed a sensor. Mr. Gooey is in the process of taking down the program, which had about fifty sensors in Peru, from the coast to Lake Titicaca.

They returned at about one, five hours after their departure. Dad napped for a while Mom, Ethan, and Mr. Gooey talked. Eventually we left with Victor, one of Mr. Gooey’s colleagues, and headed to a flour mill on Rio Sabandia in the town of Sabandia. Dad, we believe, turned on one of the wheels. It was raining, and I hid under my umbrella, occasionally sharing. We also looked at the llama, alpacas, bull, chickens, and guinea pigs, which will sadly be food in a couple months (I’m sure). After that Victor drove us to Mr. Gooey’s main building, where a really, really big earthquake happened on the paper with the needle that carved lines into the paper instead of drawing. That was because Victor turned up the sensitivity. The three sheets of white paper with black ink went three different ways: one was for east-west movement, one wrote about up-down movement, and one recorded north-south movement. Each sheet of paper lasts for twenty-four hours. I guess someone will be there at midnight to change out a the three.

We returned to the apartment for a short while then headed out to a nice restaurant for dinner. All of us had chocolate soufflé for dessert and bruschetta and mushrooms for appetizers. For the main course, each of us chose something different. I chose pumpkin ravioli with caramelized walnuts, which was pretty good.


With Mr. Gooey

We’re now with our uncle, the Mr. Richard Gooey (at least that’s how his name is pronounced here, according to him). Mr. Gooey has been kind enough to let us stay in his apartment during our time in Arequipa.

We woke up way too early this morning. I’m actually being serious—we didn’t need to be up for at least an hour-and-a-half. Dad actually took Sky Airlines seriously when he read that you had to be at checked in three hours before an international flight. The counters didn’t even have people behind them until about an hour til we boarded. Ethan and I played Temple Run upstairs for a while, and we eventually made it past the police.

The ride was short but sweet, but had some turbulence and the plane tilted all the way over on its side as we neared Arequipa, which was startling.

We saw Mr. Gooey as we waited in line, but we didn’t actually get to talk to him until about an hour later. The line moved slower than some members of my family.

The apartment has a kitchen, bedroom (maid’s quarters), dining/living room, and bathroom downstairs and three bedrooms and a bathroom upstairs. Mr. Gooey, the parents, and I have bedrooms upstairs. Ethan took the maid’s quarters and was thrilled.

We eventually left for crepes (lunch) after See’s Candy (breakfast) from California. I had the Indiana crepe, which was an Indian curry with pineapple and chicken folded up in a crepe. It was so good! While we were waiting, Ethan and I taught Mr. Gooey how to play Parcheesi. After helping Mr. Gooey finish his dessert, we finished the game. Ethan won, unfortunately.

Eventually it started raining. We were in Monasterio de Santa Catalina at the time. It was (and still is) a convent. However, in the past it was for rich, rich women who brought their servants (and sometimes children, if they were widows) with them. They usually each lived in four-room houses. At the its largest, the convent held 174 women in 80 rooms. The greatest number of people in a house was three. Well, the greatest number of rich women (usually family members). The servants didn’t count.

When we left, we walked around the area, getting Claro (cell phone chips) and looking at nativity scenes in a store, including one with an Eskimo family and a polar bear and her cub, a walrus, and a penguin. That could never happen. Polar bears don’t live in Antarctica, and penguins don’t go to the North Pole.

Because the brochure that Mom was using to cover her cast ripped, we splurged on a two-dollar bright yellow poncho for her and a five-dollar rickety umbrella for the rest of us (namely me). We went on to the grocery store, where we got essential staples such as strawberry jam and Special K.


Chatting About Chile

My time in Chile opened with One Direction singing.

Seriously: we were on the bus from Bariloche to Valdivia and, after twenty minutes in no-man’s-land and of listening to One Direction, we crossed the border, reading the sign that said “Beinvenidos a Chile!

After all the border hassle, we arrived tired and hungry in Valdivia, home of the biggest earthquake ever recorded. We spent a week there, taking a boat through seven rivers and enjoying the fresh food from the market. Next came another overnight bus and then a long wait at the Santiago station, waiting for our van to arrive. It finally did—just with a different driver than expected.

He took us on a tour of Chile’s capital, Santiago, and eventually drove us to Valparaiso. We passed another happy week there, especially enjoying the dogs (Harvard, Yale, and Avery) and cats (Olga, Bassy, Pillar, Azul, Midnight, Pineapple, Mickey… I’m sure I’m forgetting some). After all the delicious ice cream we enjoyed in Plaza Victoria, we didn’t really want to leave. But there we were—up at 3 in the morning so we could get to Santiago in time for our flight to Calama: we just barely made it to the gate on time.

From Calama we rode in a van up to San Pedro de Atacama, where we spent a couple days at 8,000 feet in elevation, admiring the flamingoes and poisonous pools. After another night in Calama, we rode in a bus on Ethan’s 12th birthday to Arica. We had a supper of (not-so-good) pizza after we found that Jalapeno was closed. For dessert, we had really good ice cream, and Ethan opened his presents (shirts, colored pencils, candy, sunglasses case, Parcheesi). The next day we went up 11,500 feet and found ourselves in Putre. We were lucky enough to see four carnivores (all foxes—unfortunately. We were hoping for cats) with Barbara and on our own high in the mountains, higher than the top of Mount Whitney.

Yesterday we drove back down to Arica, and we’ll be here til noon tomorrow, when our Peru-bound flight takes off.

As you can see, our time in Chile has had its ups and its downs, but the best part has been the ice cream.


Night of the Dancing Skeletons

Hello from down low! Yesterday I could’ve said ‘hi from up high,’ but I wasn’t thinking about rhyming then.

We’re about 11,680 feet lower in elevation than we were in Putre this morning. We were actually higher at the vizcacha place than at Putre, but I don’t know how high that was.

At the vizcacha place, our first animal was not a vizcacha or a bird: it was a mouse. A dead mouse, to be exact. A dead mouse hanging from a fox’s mouth, to be totally honest. That was pretty exciting (even though Dad thought it was part of a vizcacha). We followed it with Dad’s camera for a while, but then it disappeared. Dad intended on taking a dip in the hot springs, but he decided there was no good way to dry off. Meanwhile, Mom saw foxes on the hill where we saw the three yesterday.

“Foxes, Ethan! Give me the camera and binoculars,” she exclaimed breathlessly.

“Mom, they’re not foxes.”

“Well, they’re red—”

“Those are vicuñas.”

You can blame it on her age. Well, you could technically blame it on anything: the hill was rather far off, and red blobs moving around could mean just about anything.

We finished the loop, seeing more vicuñas and vizcachas and vertebrae but no more zorros.

We got back to the hotel at 11, just in time to collect our luggage for the ride down to Arica, which claims to be the driest city in the world. On the way, we stopped at a museum and looked at mummified bodies. The air is dry enough here to preserve the bodies almost perfectly.

After chilling a bit in the hostel, we left for supper at a place called T&T. But we should have guessed that it would be closed (what with our luck at Jalapeno). So we wandered around for a while. Finally, leaning against a lamppost, Ethan pointed our attention towards the man with the skeleton puppets.

“Aren’t they cool?” he cried. The man was making the puppets’ mouths open and close when the “music” in the background produced a human voice, and both were “playing” instruments (guitar and drum). At the end of each song, of course, the man walked around with a purple felt hat, asking for money.


Carnivores from the Car

We went to the same place (Cantaverdi) for supper. I had the same meal (salmon with ensalada Nortina [grain, olives, lemon]). Our drive with Barbara wasn’t the same as on Saturday, though.

We actually saw carnivores! Looks like our luck is holding…

We saw twenty-five vizcachas (the chinchilla-like mammals), one guanaco (the same as yesterday), three tarucas (which are otherwise known as north Andean deer), three Andean foxes (cubs), and one rare diademed sandpiper plover. We saw some other birds, too, along with plenty of vicuñas, alpacas, llamas, and cows. Barbara was shocked (shocked!) to see the foxes, but we could tell by the bones littering the hillside that they’d been there a while.

Once our drive was over, we dropped off Barbara at her house and went back to our hotel, where Ethan and I did schoolwork (yuck) and eventually looked at the videos of the fox and cutting off Mom’s cast, among other things (those were the most hilarious).


Pathetic Playgrounds and Other Putre Pleasures

Barbara probably thought we were going to see guanacos yesterday, but we didn’t see a single one. Today we saw a single one, right outside of Putre on our way up to the mountains.

We kept driving til we were at the highest point of our trip: 5,200 meters (if you can believe the sign). Before that, we had looked at a marsh where Dad got his feet all muddy and Ethan and I walked through a pipe. It was slippery in some parts, and my hair got dirty from bracing against the top of the pipe, but now we can say we did it.

We drove down (to about 3,500 meters) where we looked for rheas and foxes and found neither. Instead we found chalky caves in the salmon-colored rock. One of the caves had bones with skin still attached. However, there were only a few bones, so we knew that the puma hadn’t been around recently.

Ethan really wanted us to cross the river in the valley, but we didn’t (thankfully) since Dad didn’t trust the X-Trail. So back up the hills we went. We decided to go to a town called Colpitas. It had about five buildings and eight activities advertised on a sign: bird watching, flora seeing (I guess that’s what the flower means), hiking, picturesque views, a playground, bathrooms, music playing, and old buildings. The playground was rather pathetic: a yellow swing-set structure with two rings and a bar that was way too high for anyone to reach.

While we were in the car, Ethan and I worked on memorizing the Periodic Table of the Elements in the order of atomic number. So far I’m up to zirconium (number 40), while Ethan’s still at krypton (number 36).

On the way home, the dark clouds started to gather. Even though there was thunder and a few drops of rain, the power didn’t go out.


Barbara and Break-Downs

Barbara, the American woman from Alaska, sat shotgun in the X-Trail while Dad drove around on the Altiplano. Well, tried to drive.

After about an hour, Dad stopped to take pictures of the Andes and vicuñas. Barbara, Mom, Ethan, and I waited in the car while Barbara talked about vizcachas, which are closely related to chinchillas. We had seen about five vizcachas on a rocky hill about ten minutes earlier, and Barbara claimed that they were one of her favorite animals.

Dad got back in and turned the key, and we were off.

Except we weren’t.

There was a grating noise and then silence.

The battery was dead—that’s not supposed to happen in a rental car (but Dad already dislikes Europcar).

Lots of semis passed us before a van finally pulled over. It was one of Barbara’s friends from Putre, and he helped Dad start the car. As he left, he said (in Spanish), “Don’t turn it off.”

That meant that one of us had to be babysitting the car at all times, so all six of us couldn’t go down to Lago Chungará at the same time. At Lago Chungará, we saw one Chilean flamingo, lots of giant coots, and some other types of birds, along with the snow-capped mountains. The tallest mountain in Bolivia, just over the border, was hidden by the clouds. Barbara said that the pass between us and the base of the mountain used to be the main Chilean-Bolivian border, but now it’s mined. De-mining efforts are underway, but “no one remembers where the mines are any more.”

On the drive home, we saw llamas, alpacas, and rheas, which were important to me because just two days ago I used the bird to stump Ethan in 20 Questions (I usually win anyway).

Once home, we waited for the thunder to boom, the power to shut off, and the rain to pound on the roof. The first two happened, but, surprisingly, it didn’t rain.


Games & Guanacos

We slept through the alarm again this morning, so Ethan and I got to breakfast a few minutes after eight. We met Barbara, our Alaskan tour guide, there. She drank coffee and talked while Ethan and I munched on crumpets and toast.

After breakfast, Barbara went back to her house near the police station and we got into our car with down jackets, rain jackets, hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, snacks, and cameras for a drive of a few hours. We decided to go to Belen, which is Spanish for ‘Bethlehem.’ After missing the turn, we got onto the road with curvas. We eventually got to the tiny village of Belen, which was quiet in the early afternoon sun.

Ethan and I climbed the short red bell tower, still covered with confetti and streamers from Carnaval two weeks ago. There’s lots of pink confetti in the gutters of Putre, too, especially the “river” that goes down O’Higgins, the main street. Barbara called it a river—it’s really just a large ditch that divides the muddy road into two lanes.

We didn’t stay in Belen long. Soon we were back on the road on the way back to Putre. It started raining, of course (it is the rainy season. However, it’s also nearly freezing and it’s summer). We passed the construction zone, the tank from a semi that fell down the hill, and where we had seen nine or ten guanacos early this morning. Guanacos are one of the largest species of mammal in South America, along with the manatee, tapir, and jaguar. Their only real predator is the puma, which is, unfortunately, rare.

Other animals in the area include three types of flamingoes, vicuñas, foxes, and viscachas, which are similar to chinchillas.

When we got home, Ethan and I did schoolwork and, once again, played Parcheesi.


Arica to Andes

We’re 11,000 feet higher than we were this morning—and it only took three hours of driving for us to go from beach to mountains.

Ethan and I accidentally slept through our alarm this morning, like we did on what we thought would be our last day in Bangkok, Thailand. However, we could still come to Putre, unlike that July morning when we couldn’t get to New Delhi.

We stopped at several viewpoints on the way, but mostly we just sat and drank water to keep off altitude sickness. I’ve had way more water than usual today, as should the rest of my family. Once we got to our hotel in Putre, Ethan and I played Parcheesi (with condors, llamas, alpacas, and vicuñas). He won, unfortunately.

After about two hours, we left for walk in the rain through town. It’s very small, but bigger than I was expecting. I was expecting a small San Pedro de Atacama, but instead it was white (not brown), rainy (not dry), and really, really cold (not warm). We found a place for supper, where Mom and Ethan had vegetable soup and Dad and I had chicken.

So although it sounds like we didn’t do much, our little X-Trail had a huge job.


Ethan’s Getting Old…

Ethan’s birthday is here today

So we all had better say ‘Hurray!’

We rode a bus for eleven hours

And all started off with cold showers

We waited in a bus station

Waiting for some information

About the bus that was going to

Arica, and the desert too

We played Temple Run too long

And I listened to 1D’s song

We each died hundred of times on

Temple Run but kept playing on

In evening light we reached our place

Of destination, hoping for space

In a taxi to Europcar

Where we watched the man go afar

We watched for his counterpart

Who must have decided to depart

While her customers were waiting,

Waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting

Our driver eventually took us out

To our hostel, where we had a bout

With the woman who gave us a key

To room number five-plus-three

In it were only two twin beds

Nowhere for two to put their heads

She went back to the counter and looks

To see if she did it right with the books

Apologetic, she came back

Apparently they seem to lack

Two rooms for a family of four

Ethan and I went knocking on the door

Of number nine, while the parents came up

Then I realized we had nowhere to sup

And that there was only room for two

So there was some more hullabaloo

We finally got a second room

Dad found a place for supper and zoom!

We were out the door and walking

Stopping, seeing it closed and gawking

Gawking at the sign that said,

‘Closed til March 4’ in big red

So off we went, right down the street

Looking for some place to eat

We decided on some pizza

And got it with pig meat- some

Person behind the counter had

Apparently understood them bad

So we all looked forward to the ice

Cream with glad and tired eyes

We took a half liter home with us

Mom bought a muffin in the fuss

We ate the chocolate ice cream

Manjar chips and mango dream

And the banana split til we

Were ready for the birthday he

To open his gifts and watch

The slideshow, made with no botch

By Eryn dearest who sacrificed

Hours of time that were painfully iced

We all got to bed far too late

And wished for morning please to wait

But sun will come how it knows how

And I will say good-night and Ciao!

Fire and Ice (Mostly Ice)

Mom and I went shopping this morning in San Pedro before returning to the hostel and surfing the web, waiting for Dad and Ethan to return from their bike ride.

When they returned, Dad struck up a conversation with the Brazilian man who had gone with us on our tour three days ago. All five of us left on the same van to Calama at 1 pm. The ride across the desert lasted about an hour. We got to the Calama airport, where we found a taxi and rode to our hotel.

Our hotel, which is orange and green, had locked doors, and we waited awhile for someone to arrive behind the counter and buzz us in. Eventually they did, and we were shown our room, which is actually two floors and has two bathrooms.

After lounging around for a while, we walked out to the mall. We found a place for supper called ChoppDog. None of us had any dog: Ethan had the Pollo Supreme, Dad had the Mediterranean salad, and Mom and I each had a Pollo Gourmet. My agua sin gas arrived. Thirsty, I eagerly undid the lid only to be soaked with ice-cold water.

“Well, that would explain it.” Ethan pointed out that most of the water was ice. Our waitress offered us a new bottle, but at a price (and it was frozen, too). So we said gracias, but no gracias, and ate our meal.

We went to the supermarket to get breakfast for our long bus ride tomorrow. We didn’t get anything but ice cream, which we ate in the plaza next to the church. When we got back to our colorful hotel, Ethan went to look at the game room. While he was gone, a woman came and gave us breakfasts for tomorrow: chocolate milk, crackers, cookies, bread, and a cereal bar.

At least there’s chocolate!


Sand and Sunset

We went sandboarding today with six other people. The six were as follows:

  •      A couple from Toronto, Canada, named Ted and Jen
  •      A Spanish-speaking threesome of “chicas” who were Diana, Ogre (at least that’s what I heard), and “Ella.” The name Ella comes from the fact that she was the skinny one of the three, and skinny rhymes with Minnie. Minnie Mouse is at Disneyland, and the first Disney character I thought of was Cinderella
  •      Another woman with a shirt that read “Made With Love,” so she is Olive (because it sounds like I-love. Sort of)

The guide only went down the hill once because of his knees. I went down seven times, and I would say that the first and last times were the best. Ted was definitely the best of our inexperienced little group. Jen was second, Ethan was third, and I don’t know the ranks from then on because Diana, Ogre, and Ella only went down a couple of times, and I don’t remember Olive going down. (Mom and Dad didn’t ride.)

We used wax every-other-ride (so you could call it wax on, wax off). I didn’t really notice a difference, but that was fine with me. I never did get the hang of leaning forward and stopping. Some of my friends snowboard, and I’m really, really glad I ski.

At about eight, we all got back in the van and drove along the road. It was kind of scary seeing the drop-offs that were created by the rain. San Pedro de Atacama normally receives 2 millimeters of precipitation a year (yes, 2). They received 43 millimeters in one day, which is insane by comparison. So there are lots of ruts, wash-outs, and places where the road was.

We drove to a look-out point above Valley of the Moon. We watched sunset from there, drinking jugo de piña and cerveza.

For supper, we had the delicious pizza. While we were standing and waiting, our driver from two days ago- Felipe- drove by and said hola.


Panting in Pukara

The Pukara of Quitor was our destination today. We only reached it after about four kilometers and fourteen hours of dithering.

According to the brochure, it was builit* on a splope of the Cordillera de la Sal. These buildings on Cordillera de la Sal included rooms like kitchens, patios, and roofles estructures.

We were told not to follow the arrows through the ruins but to just go up the path quickly because the area closed in one hour (8 pm). Up we went on the switchbacks. It took longer than we had thought it would. Dad and I zoomed on ahead while Mom and Ethan brought up the rear. It took about forty minutes to reach the top. This time included admiring the views and panting (just not in my case. The panting part, I mean).

At the top we took a few pictures, and Dad pointed out that we could almost see Bolivia. It went around the opposite edge of a caldera on a volcano we could see (according to him), meaning that Chile owns the whole caldera.

We walked down, Mom holding Dad’s hand so she wouldn’t fall and Ethan and I talking about what to do when we get home—a common enough subject.

It’s now 10:20 pm and we’ve finally had supper. My chicken and salad were very good, but my favorite part was the quinoa that Mom and Ethan ordered.

*this spelling (along with splope, roofles, and estructures) was used in the official Chile Turismo Rural brochure


Flora, Fauna, and, Foremost, Flamingoes

We went to yet another lagoon today. Actually, it was just one in a system of lagoons in Parque Nacional Los Flamencos. It was called Laguna Chaxa, and it’s home to three types of flamingoes: Andean flamingoes, Chilean flamingoes, and James’s flamingoes. James’s flamingoes only come down to Chaxa in winter when the lagoons at which they normally stay have frozen.

Andean flamingoes are considered one of the rarest types of flamingoes on Earth. We have no idea which type we saw today—either Chilean or Andean, obviously. Looking at my pictures, I believe we saw both.

Besides flamingoes, we also saw some three lizards and vicuñas. Vicuñas’ wool is very, very expensive, more so than that of the llama and alpaca. (We got to see some wild llamas and two in the back of a store in the town of Toconau, which is also the name of the street on which we’re staying.) Because of poaching, in the 1970s, the numbers of the vicuña were down to 6,000, at which point they were recognized as an endangered species. In both the times of Inca rule and now, vicuñas were protected by law. There are now over 350,000 in Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, with an introduced colony in Ecuador. Peru is home to the most of these mammals.


There were eleven tourists, one driver, and one guide (Felipe) in our van. There was an older couple from London, the three from Australia who we met yesterday (Joy, Gloria, and David), the four of us, and two Brazilians who are, as far as we know, unrelated. The Brazilian man is from Rio de Janeiro and he is staying at our hostel. He speaks English. The woman does not.

After the lagoon, we stopped in a town to place our lunch orders and look at an old church. Then we went higher up into the mountains in the little van that could, passing vicuñas and various types of birds. We eventually stopped at the Miscanti and Miñiques lagoons. Miscanti is the bigger one of the two. Cerro Miscanti and the Miñiques volcano loom in the background. Miscanti was separated from Miñiques when Miñiques the mountain erupted and lava came into the lagoon.

We drove back down the mountains from 12,000 feet to about 9,000 feet where we had lunch. All four of us opted for the vegetarian meal: soup, rice, quinoa, tomato, an omelet, and, for dessert, bananas with jam. Everyone else got all that except for the omelet—some got beef, some got chicken. We talked to the English couple. Her favorite place is Sri Lanka, while he likes Peru.

On the drive home we stopped at the Tropic of Capricorn and took pictures. Now we’re back at the hostel. Ethan’s playing chess with Joy (one of the Australians) while Dad naps and Mom tries to use the iPad.


Salty Seas in the Salar

A lagoon was our destination today. It is in Salar de Atacama. It was about 30% salt, making floating easy and swimming next to impossible (according to Ethan—the rest of us declined to do anything but wade). Towards the bottom of the lagoon is lithium. Salar de Atacama is, in fact, the world’s best (largest and purest) source of lithium. It produces 30% of the world’s lithium carbonate, followed by China.

We rode in a bus there with twenty of our new best friends after a rather uneventful morning. Well, there was one exception: Dad cut part of Mom’s cast off with a table knife.


“When you write your post, make sure the audience knows that he had the doctor’s permission,” Mom told Ethan and I at supper. “Don’t let them think that it was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on my arm.”

“That’s right,” I agreed. “It was rogue Dad with a knife randomly sawing on your arm on doctor’s orders.”

Mom’s doctor in Valdivia gave permission for Dad to cut the cast down to below the elbow as he was worried about elbow movement. This was last resort—he expected there to be a doctor in San Pedro de Atacama with a saw. He was wrong, but several inches of the cast were removed, along with zero bits of flesh.


Once we got home from the lagoon, Ethan rinsed off the salt and Dad asked Pancho, the owner of our hostel, about a place for supper. We went to a pizzeria that, much to Dad’s delight, had thin crust. We ordered two family sized pizzas and a salad. The pizzas were chicken, corn, and red pepper and avocado, palm heart, and mushroom. Both were very good, especially once thoroughly doused with vinegar.


A Sky Plane to San Pedro

We got up way, way too early this morning to not take a shower: there was some maintenance work down the hill and I’m pretty sure they thought that no one in their right mind on Cerro Bellavista would be having a shower at 3:30 a.m.

Our driver came, thankfully, on time and we arrived in Santiago on time to catch our short flight by Sky Airlines to Calama (also in Chile). From there we rode in a van to San Pedro de Atacama, just a few kilometers from Bolivia.

We caught up on some rest at our hostel before looking up things to do and heading out to the town. What do you do here? You go on tours to see nature. And you sleep in hostels, drink coca tea, and eat llama burgers. (We are not going to do that! We know a llama near our house. I am not eating llama.)

We did none of the above. Instead we looked at the clinic (where Mom will visit again tomorrow), ate ice cream, and watched National Geographic in Spanish. It was about crocodiles in Australia—making us think, We’ve been there! One even ate a kangaroo, which would have been pretty awesome. Not for the kangaroo, I mean. For us.

Anyway, we made some reservations for tours and then went out for supper. Dad and I had vegetable soup, salmon, and rice. Mom had salad, chicken, and rice, and Ethan had soup, chicken, and rice. For dessert we all had a spongy square of something lemony.

“It tastes like soap—which makes sense, since it’s a sponge,” I commented. Everyone else enjoyed theirs. (Mine was okay too, once I got used to it.)


Disappointments on a Down Day

Today was our last day in Valparaiso, so guess how we spent it?

Looking for lunch!

Mom chose El Pimentón after hours of lounging around, doing schoolwork, drawing, and typing (and all sorts of other exciting stuff!). Oh, and Dad napped (even more exciting!).

Anyway, this morning was kind of low-key.


On TripAdvisor, someone said that the rush at El Pimentón started at 1 pm. We left at two so as to (hopefully) get there after the rush.

We walked up Rainbow Alley (really called Santa Margarita) and up to Hector Calvo. After a few blocks heading downhill, we turned off onto Chopin (another side alley). Then we turned onto Walker Martinez (another alley), passing Strauss on the way. Finally we got down to Yerbas Buenas. Dad, looking at a map on his phone (which is not exactly correct) said that it was down a few blocks. So we went down and got to a four-way intersection. We decided to go General Mackenna. After about 100 meters or so, Dad realized it was the wrong street. So back we marched up Yerbas Buenas, passing Walker Martinez, Julio Caesar, and, finally, Eden.

“Okay, so you know that intersection back there?” Dad asked.


“Well, we were supposed to take the other street.”

Sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo… back we went down Yerbas Buenas and up Ecuador. It was just one block up. And then we read the sign: (in Spanish) No minors under the age of 18 permitted.


We went down to the plaza where we had the (not very good) raspberry-mint ice cream a few days ago and found a place for lunch. Dad and I shared a salad and spaghetti, and Mom and Ethan had pizza. While we were there, we finally looked up maneki-neko. Maneki-neko are those cats that wave their arms. White symbolizes luck in general, black is for good health, and gold means monetary fortune.

Plaza Victoria was our next destination, and I got my typical cinnamon ice cream. Dad ordered a cup with chocolate, cherimoya, and lucuma. I didn’t really care for the latter two, but the chocolate mixed with the cinnamon was, as always, delicioso.


Pen Names and Puro

Well, it seems like Valparaiso is a pretty good place for “down days.” Today the only touristy thing we did was go to La Sebastiana, the home of Nobel Prize-winning poet Pablo Neruda.

Before that, Dad and Ethan mailed home our box while Mom and I went shopping.

Pablo Neruda was originally the pen name and eventually legal name of Neftali Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose the name after Czech poet Jan Neruda.

We went down to Puro Café, where we ate three sandwiches, one quesadilla, and one baguette along with Dad’s mocha and four 350-milliliter bottles of water. We sat around the table talking for a long time before going to get ice cream. Dad was majorly disappointed in the flavor selection but went ahead with getting the half-liter anyway. He ended up getting coconut, cappuccino, raspberry, and Italian chocolate. I got Cappuccino, and Ethan chose Italian chocolate and raspberry. (Dad had been hoping for cinnamon and orange.)

Apparently Carnaval ended today, which is when we thought it was starting. Oh, well. I guess the people here don’t do much for it anyway.


Sweets and Sandwiches

We walked alllllllll the way over to Ascensor Polanco, which is actually an elevator. First you walk up a hill to get to the bottom. Then you enter a long, damp tunnel and walk to the elevator. It goes up to floors and voila! You’re at a wooden platform with telescopes surrounding a yellow tower. Floor 2 led to a street that we used to go back down the hill and to the post office.

I finally found the church near our house after much exasperation on the part of the rest of my family at my apparent blindness. We couldn’t find out house, but that was expected.

After the post office, where we bought a box, we continued on our way to ice cream at Plaza Victoria. Mom got Italian chocolate in a cone, Ethan got mandarin orange in a cup, Dad got mandarin orange, Italian chocolate, and marshmallow-cappuccino in a cup, and I got marshmallow-cappuccino and banana in a cone. Mom’s cone dripped all down her hand and ruined the napkins, so those were no help to her or me, either, since mine dripped. The people at the ice cream place don’t know how to squish ice cream, apparently.

Dad and I got some more cash at Ripley while Mom went with Ethan to buy juice. Ethan got a cup of orange-raspberry juice that was very, very sour.

For supper, Mom wanted us to go to Color Café, but it was full. After some more looking around in the Concepcion area, we went to La Belle Epoque. There we ordered sandwich: avocado and palm heart for Mom, gouda for Ethan, and avocado and chicken for Dad and me. Thankfully Ascensor Reina Victoria was still open at 10 pm.


What’s Shakin?

Today held the first earthquake of which Ethan and I have been fully aware. It happened while we were standing in the produce department of the grocery store and wondering what to get for supper (it ended up being broccoli and pasta). It was either a 5 or a 5.7—both happened at the same time in about the same place.

We also found out that Chile is the home of three of the top 10 biggest earthquakes ever—including number one, a 9.5. It happened in Valdivia, Chile, where we were just a few days ago, in May 1960. The most recent big one was 8.8 in 2010.


Mother said that it sounds really sad that first we had the brownie course, and right after that we had ice cream. Well, that’s not fully true: I had a few bites of brownie, a bottle of water, and a sandwich. So I deserved my calories. I was not, however, expecting the raspberry-mint sherbet, that was not very good. The orange-chocolate and pepper-chocolate ice creams were good, but there wasn’t enough to go ’round.

From the café on Cerro Concepcion we walked to an ascensor, Reina Victoria, and rode down. It was actually the first time we rode down on an ascensor. The beginning was a little breath-taking, but it was only forty meters long.


Gatos and Great Food

I always thought that dogs howling to the sound of a fire truck’s siren was an urban legend. Well, today I was wrong—someone should write that down; it doesn’t happen very often. It was startling to hear that as I typed away on the computer, Dad napped, and Mom and Ethan read.

After I had been on the computer a while, we left for supper at Espiritu Santo. We tried to eat there last night but they were fully booked, so its English-speaking owner reserved us a table at Amaya and we made reservations for tonight.

There was only one vegetarian dish: a plate with an orange sauce and eight pieces of ravioli. Ethan chose that. Then there were three fish dishes without any other type of meat: two dishes of rockfish and one of Patagonian toothfish, a type of sea bass. Dad chose the last option and enjoyed the warm salad (originally I thought our waitress said “worm salad”) more than the fish itself, which he said was bland. Mom and I chose two separate dishes of rockfish.

Mom’s was a filet on top of mashed potatoes in a pool of a spicy orange sauce. It was spicy as in it had lots of different spices, not as in it was hot and burning. I chose the rockfish filet on a warm salad, but mine was in a lemon sauce, unlike Dad’s, which had a sweet sauce.

Mom’s pineapple juice was good, too, and each of us had a sip while we talked about Yellowstone National Park and what we want from home (things like all the boxes in the tower and Emma won’t fit in my uncle’s suitcase).

We walked home the long way, through the alley, onto Rudolph, then up Ferrari and our own Rainbow Alley (that’s what I’m calling it now, because of the painted stairs). Our friend the “grrr…BARK! BARK! BARK!” dog wasn’t there, sadly. The way he growled before he barked at us two days ago kind of endeared him to me.

Ethan and I did, however, find three of the cats. The fourth one wandered by, and we decided to name them. First was the fat yellow cat: Bassy, short for Basketcase because he spent a lot of time in his basket.

Next came the black cat, who jumped so elegantly onto the next house that I named her Olga, after gymnast Olga Korbut. She was followed by Pillar, the brown, black, and white cat who sat on the pillar, and Mickey, who was the thin yellow cat. Unfortunately, Bassy is the only one who was brave enough to be petted.

“Did it bite you?” Ethan asked as I came up Rainbow Alley.

“No,” I said, “but its mouth started following my hand, so I left.”


San Francisco

Francisco took us on a three-hour walking tour of part of Valparaiso. He met us in our flat at 3 pm and we walked down the rainbow staircase, down the streets, and onto a trolley. Apparently, we rode on the oldest one in the city. We rode it for a few minutes to the port, where we got off and Francisco led us down to the water where he gave us the official introduction to the tour. There were three boats in the water with Canadian flags and similar names: I Love Nikol, I Love Jennifer, and I Love Nikol Teresa. Francisco said that the names and flags were just to make the town feel multicultural.

Valparaiso has many cultures because of the California gold rush of 1849. Valparaiso was a stopping point on the route around the tip of the continent, and it was a wealthy city until the Panama Canal was built. Francisco showed us a hotel built by an Italian the same year as the Canal was finished (1914). The Italians packed up and left, and the building now looks like “a nuclear bomb hit it.”

We crossed the street and went to Guillermo Rivera’s house. He was very rich as he was influential in a war and creating school uniforms.

As we stood next to the square, listening to Francisco talk about the square and monument of Arturo Prat, there was a loud beeping.

“Helado! Helado-lado! Beep! Beep! Helado-lado!” a man called, toting his freezer on a dolly. “Helado!” (That’s a common sound here—almost like “Chai-chai! Chai-chai!” at the train stations in India.)

We went on a funicular and rode up instead of taking the stairs. It is 111 years old and called El Peral. At the top, Francisco explained that if you let street artists paint your house, you can avoid getting graffiti. We then turned onto an alley.

“I wonder why there’s a sidewalk on a pedestrian street,” I said to Dad.

“Can anyone tell me why the sidewalk is a lot higher here?” Francisco asked. Ethan piped up with “Trash!” Francisco beamed. “And what else? There are horses here. And what to horses leave?”

There was a long pause before Dad answered, “Poop.” Francisco seemed proud as he sa9d, “That’s right! But what wouldn’t use the low part?”

“Dogs,” Ethan replied.

“Excellent! You are very bright.”



Leonardo, Leoncio, and Leonardo DiCaprio

The bus was waaay too hot. It was nice and cool in Santiago, though, where we waited for two hours for our no-show driver Leonardo. He did send in his friend Leoncio Carrasco Jaque, though, who took us on a tour of the city for a couple hours before we headed into the countryside and toward Valparaiso.

We learned that the judicial and executive branches of government are located in Chile’s capital, but the legislative branch is in the seaside town of Valparaiso.

On the way out, Leoncio told us that the ninjas (police on motorbikes) and female cops are stricter than the others. After about an hour, we got to a restaurant where Mom had chicken soup, Ethan ate chicken with papas fritas, Leoncio ordered beef with salad, and Dad and I chose chicken with salad (and lots of vinegar!).

It was delicious, but the mora meringue  we had after was too sweet for me.


Valparaiso is very pretty at night. It’s also very hilly, and the door to our apartment is in the middle of a staircase. The stairs are decorated in squares of pink, yellow, green, orange, blue, and white paint. Because of our large lunch, we didn’t have any supper. We did, however, enjoy ice cream in the plaza after getting groceries. Dad had coconut, frambuesa, and Italian chocolate, Mom licked away at her frambuesa cone, Ethan got something else instead of papaya, and I enjoyed my coconut ice cream heartily.

The plaza is a great place to experience the life of Valparaiso in the evening. It may also be a prime Carnaval spot—Carnaval starts in less than a week, and we’ll still be here.


Tights-Rope Walker

It was nice not to be blinded by the lights outside last night or awakened by yowling cats.

We had a leisurely breakfast at the hostel before heading out, knowing we had to have mote con huesillo now or never. We walked along Rio Calle Calle, rounded the corner, and found a vendor selling mote con huesillo. Dad sent Ethan over to buy the drinks. He finally returned, the cups full to overflowing, and we walked over to the steps to sit down so that Mom could handle the spoon. The syrup originally seemed sickly sweet, but the peach juice started to seep into the sugary water, and it tasted better.

When we were done, I noticed that some foolish pedestrian had spit their gum onto the step where my leg was. That was so gross.

We walked farther down the river to a man who was helping kids walk across a two-inch belt of elastic. It was four feet in the air and not very comfortable to fall upon with it between your legs. At least, I’m assuming that. The guy who did that didn’t look very happy.

Ethan did it, and the man who helped him was wearing shorts, a T-shirt, and black tights. So Ethan and I dubbed him The Tights-Rope Walker. Ethan only fell off once, but there is photographic evidence. We walked around aimlessly some more, had pizza on the island, and eventually wandered back to the hostel where we got our luggage before trudging down the street to the bus station where we got on the Tur-Bus. It actually wasn’t late!


All About Eve

Today we woke up really early after a bad night’s sleep. After showers and the same old breakfast, we got in José’s van with Evelyn, who speaks English. Evelyn’s boyfriend is from Croatia. They met on a cruise on which she was a photographer. She’s very well-traveled; Venice and Costa Rica are among her favorite places. (Her list of Countries I’ve Been To would include Montenegro, Spain, Argentina, Panama, Mexico, USA, and Bermuda.) She’s also traveled to Tunisia, as she was on a cruise ship in the Mediterranean.

“It was hot as anything,” Evelyn assured us. “We rode camels. I thought they were nice, but mine tried to bite me.”

Our first stop was an old train bridge that we crossed. Mom, Evelyn, Dad, and I stayed near the edge while Ethan and José walked in the middle where there were empty spaces.

Obviously we survived that “ordeal,” and we continued on to the next bridge. We didn’t cross this one (except in the van), but we did walk down the ravine to the riverbed. It had gotten cool and misty, and I was shivering.

Back in the car, we rode for a few more hours, stopping several times, before getting to Puerto Fuy, where we had lunch. All of us had the same thing: chicken with rice, bread with chancho en piedra (a sauce made with garlic, onion, tomato, chili, and cilantro. Literally, it means “pig in stone”), and Tuttifrutilla juice, which was a mix of plum, apple, and strawberry. José discovered that something was wrong with the AC in the car that presumably had to do with the person who backed into us in a town near the lake. Oh, well. We could live without it.

José drove us to Salta Huilo-Huilo (our original destination) where Ethan was disappointed as there was no place to swim. The falls themselves were impressive, but I liked the two nearby hotels, connected by swinging bridges, better.


The drive home was a long one. The only interruption was when a cow jumped in front of the car and froze like a deer.


A Pretty Poem por Hoy

This morning we did basically nothing (except schoolwork, but that doesn’t count)

Work done, we walked to the tower that served as a prison to one man

Our next stop was a plaza, that we thought was the park we were looking for (it wasn’t). So we had ice cream


Parque Harneker was where we eventually found ourselves. Ethan and I used the playground, flipping and flopping on the bars

Attempts to climb poles were also made (we failed). However, we (ahem… I mean “I”) succeeded at doing sit-ups on the exercise equipment

Running away from the black dog was what we tried to avoid doing, but sometimes I felt like it as we tried to find a way out of the park

Kids ran wild in the arcade at the mall

Supper was at El Rincon Italiano. We chose the Primavera Pizza Familiare, which had palm hearts, green beans, and corn on a wonderfully thin crust. Eventually, it was time to get our laundry and say, to the mall, Ciao!

Mote and Monologues

We did absolutely nothing this morning.

At twelve-thirty, we left for the waterfront, where we saw lots of vendors selling mote con huesillo. Dad looked it up on his phone, and it’s really whole grains with dried peaches cooked in water, sugar, and cinnamon. And here we’d thought people were eating Cornflakes in Coca-Cola.

We eventually got on the Reina Sofia, which we would ride for six hours.

Our table partners were originally a mother, her three-year-old daughter, and her teenaged son. On the way back, the mother’s English-speaking husband took the son’s place and talked to Dad about Valparaiso. The little girl munched on bread rolls while the rest of us ate empanadas (except Dad, who had his ears plugged). A man spoke one long, virtually uninterrupted monologue solo en Español.

A waitron (South African word!) served us drinks, and Mom accidentally chose the alcoholic beverage. The other six of us had Fanta. Our meals were eventually served: large platters of cheese and vegetables, except for the son, who had a plate piled high with shellfish.

Meanwhile, we were cruising up and down seven rivers: Guacamayo, Calle Calle, Cau Cau, Cruces, Tornagaleones, Naguilán, and Valdivia. After about three hours, we got off at Isla de Mancera, where we stayed for forty-five minutes looking at the fort ruins. Our next stop was Puerto de Corral, and we climbed up a hill to the fort, where we watched a staged fight.

Once we got home, Dad tried to negotiate a way out of town with a tour guide before we went to Agridulce for supper. Ethan and I chose sandwiches while Mom and Dad chose salmon. The salmon was delicious and in a small portion. The chicken sandwiches were good, smothered in mayonnaise, and huge. And I had chosen the sandwich because I wanted something small.


#Highlights #and #Hashtags

Highlights of today:

  • Got to really sleep in
  • Walked to the market
  • Bought chocolate
  • Chose which boat company we’ll use tomorrow
  • Purchased cherries and blueberries in the market
  • Death-marched to the mall to buy ice cream
  • Stopped on the way to get ice cream
  • Looked for a tourist information center at the mall
  • Didn’t find one
  • Gladly went back to the hostel
  • Lounged around like lazy bums
  • Got back up
  • Crossed Rio Calle Calle to take pictures of Valdivia
  • Sat on a bench for a long time, watching the seals and birds and boats
  • Decided to walk to a pizza place
  • Pass a bride and groom getting their pictures taken
  • Order pizza, salad, and pasta
  • Dig in
  • Overeat
  • Watch a white limo try to parallel park
  • Watch a white limo fail at parallel parking
  • Pay la quinta
  • Stroll back home, going across the bridge and talking about counterfeit sunglasses.
  • See two different newly-married couples in white cars with horns honking


Life’s a Circus

My day started when Mom and Dad got dressed, ate, and left for the hospital, leaving Ethan and me to get dressed, eat, and do schoolwork, which we did. They eventually returned, saying that the doctor would call or email the results of the scans. So Ethan and I did schoolwork, Mom supervised us, and Dad napped until about 13:30, when we left. It had been raining when Mom and I had taken the laundry to the lavadero, but it was cloudy when all four of us left, and it was sunny when Mom and Ethan left to pick up the laundry at six in the evening.

We walked around the point and into downtown Valdivia. Mom stopped to find out about the boat tours and Ethan disappeared, so Dad and I hung out in the general area where we’d last seen them. After about fifteen minutes, Ethan re-appeared and told us that Mom was at the other end of the fish market. So he left and returned, this time bringing his mother with him.

Dad decided to ask about bus tickets and things to do at the tourist office, and while we were there his phone rang. It was the doctor. He told us to go to the clinic immediately—which we did. Unfortunately, it was only to tell us that the gap was less than one millimeter. So Mom’s not going to have surgery. We walked some more and, after lots of asking around, waited outside a store til it opened at 15:30. Then we went inside. The three of us stood awkwardly to the side while Mom found a bright orange sling that fit her needs. Once that was over, we got chocolate ice cream and ate it in the plaza. While we ate, Mom and Ethan talked about circuses, rodeos, and cowboy boots.

“And cotton candy,” Dad added. “Cotton candy is an essential part of a circus.”

So it was fitting that, not one hour later, Ethan bought blue cotton candy from a man selling it on Rio Calle Calle. We ate it under the blue sky, staring at the blue water and avoiding Ethan’s blue eyes.

Now our tongues are blue.


I Always Knew My Mother Was Cracked

Today a doctor discovered that Mom has a crack in her ulna (the bone next to your radius in your lower arm) and that there’s a T-shaped-crack in her radius. The crack in the ulna is not a problem; he said that it’s common for people to break both. Mom’s right radius is in three parts—one on each side of the T.

We learned this after (finally) getting to a clinic.

Once we had breakfast (carbs and cheese), we strolled down the river, through a fresh food market, to the center of town where Mom and I sat in a plaza while Dad and Ethan looked for ATMs that accepted American cards. No such luck, unfortunately, so we headed to the clinic. Along the way, we found a mall. Dad checked out the ATMs (no success) and Mom found the laundry place we were looking for. We also got water and cappuccino cookies. I pointed out the cookies-and-cream Oreos to Dad.

At the clinic, Ethan and I sat and waited while our parents went from one room to the other with different doctors. We finally waited outside the triage room. Outside was a chart, and we decided that Mom was T5. T1 was needing to be “reanimated”, which would be immediate. T2 was an emergency, and the wait is less than fifteen minutes. If your situation was simply urgent, you could wait up to thirty minutes. Next was “minor urgency,” a.k.a. T4, and the maximum wait claimed to be eighty minutes. For not-urgent situations, two hours was the longest you could wait. That was T5. While we waited, I watched the ladies behind the counter watch soap operas on TV while the sounds of fake crying and babies’ crying filled the room.

Mom eventually got her x-rays, which told the story. On the way home, we passed by a restaurant called Guacamole. After chilling in the apartment and returning to the clinic to discuss the x-rays, we ate there.

The invalid may or may not have surgery tomorrow. If she does have the surgery, then she will not have to have a cast, which would be great. On the other hand, there has to be a 2-millimeter gap between the main section of the radius and the part that the tendons aren’t holding in place for her to have a surgery.


American-Sniffing Dogs

We’re now in Chile!

Our Andesmar bus arrived in Valdivia two hours later than planned, so we skipped supper, had a few pieces of Bariloche chocolate, and headed straight to our hostel and bed.


Yesterday morning after breakfast we decided to spend our last Argentinean pesos on chocolate (yay!). After that we dropped Mom and Ethan off at the bus station. Dad and I returned the clunky Fiat at a car-wash place. We found a taxi and rode back to the bus station.

We had to wait an hour for our bus to arrive. We were in seats 4, 5, 7, and 8 on the bottom level, which was empty except for us and an older lady who spoke German and Spanish. On the bright side, Afrikaans is close to German, and my dad is pretty good at that language.

After a couple hours, we got to the Argentinean border. We got our passports stamped and our luggage sniffed, and we were through—sort of. There were kilometers of road between the two countries, meaning that I’ve now officially listened to One Direction in no country. We finally got to the other side, where we got our passports stamped and our luggage sniffed. My suitcase was pulled out, but once it became obvious that it was mine, everyone avoided eye contact. Coincidentally, the suitcases of the other three Americans on our bus were also pulled out.

We were eventually told to get back on the bus. We all found a box of carbs on our seat.

Hours later, we finally pulled into Valdivia. Thankfully, there was a Chinese restaurant that exchanged dollars into Chilean pesos. We piled into a taxi and rode off into the night.


Lazy Luna

Luna was, apparently, the third visitor to our cabaña this morning. According to Mary Lou, Paz and Juan came by around seven to say good-bye. (Ethan and I were still asleep at seven, and our parents didn’t notice them.) Fortunately, Mary Lou came by after breakfast to say her own good-byes and give us the email addresses for Paz and Juan. At some point during the conversation, Luna slunk out of our house. Dad thinks she’s pregnant—she really is a skinny kitty except for her belly.

Mary Lou told us that Paz’s family is from Buenos Aires Province, and her dad is a veterinarian. Of course, Mom then had to say how our cousin is in veterinary school and all that. The family had left early to go on a seven-hour hike. We did a shorter hike—it was about 200 meters, actually, to a creek up near a glacier in the mountains surrounding Lago Mascardi. We also saw the Black Glacier, which is really just a glacier covered in a layer of dirt. These were the first glaciers Ethan and I’ve seen that I can remember. Mom went on to tell us a story about blue ice, how when she and Dad were in Alaska, they went on a plane ride around a glacier, took lots of pictures, and then got home and discovered that the blue part doesn’t show up on film.

The road system in that section of Parque Nacional Lago Nahuel Huapi is somewhat confusing: at the end, eight kilometers are both ways. There is also a section at the beginning, about twenty kilometers, which is both ways. After a corner, it’s one way. Starting at four, you could drive back from the glaciers to the park entrance/exit. We left after a meal of sandwiches and salad.

When we drove into town, we found part of a hill on fire. It seems like fire has been an awful lot of places lately: melting down the ends of the bracelets Paz and I made, burning down a club in Brazil and killing 231 people, inviting rebellion in Catching Fire

We’re now comfortably installed in Villa Sofia, eating delicious chocolate ice cream from Rapa Nui.


–[untitled post]–

Today was definitely a down day. Mom and Dad only went to take the laundry to the service while I made breakfast and Ethan showered. After that I made more bracelets with Paz while Ethan and Juan Cruz worked on the bow, Luna (the cat) napped, Mom and Dad read, Lucas followed his mother and baby brother Jose around, and Mary Lou made lunch. I was invited to stay for the meal, and Ethan lurked long enough to join in. It was chicken, salad, carrot and corn, and pasta. For dessert we enjoyed homemade raspberry ice cream.

Paz and I went back to making bracelets while the grown-ups talked. After all the adults, Lucas, and Jose went away for the siesta, Ethan and Juan continued working on their bow and Paz and I decided to take a quick dip in the (very cold) pool.

The family eventually left for Lago Puelo. We’ll have supper at Pizza Uno, where three of us ate while Mom was at the clinic.


ABC: Azul, Beaches, Cookies

We hiked along Rio Azul again, but this time it was official. We walked for about twenty minutes threw on a road through a field of blackberries before hitting the actual trail that went along the river. Lots of people were swimming out from the rocks in the deeper, narrower sections. After about forty more minutes, we got to a nice grassy area with an adjoining beach.

“Let’s go to the bridge, then eat the cookies, then come here,” Dad said.

“No!” I protested. “Let’s go to the bridge, then come here, then eat the cookies.”

It was decided. We walked along the edge of a private campground to a gate, where a group of whitewater rafters entered the river.

“I want to do that!” I exclaimed. Of course, we don’t know what company that was, and searching the Internet seems futile.

Anyway, we continued on to the bridge that was “Maximum 1 Persona”. Ethan went first, followed by me, then Dad. Mom abstained because she was worried she’d lose her balance with one arm in a cast. The bridge had wooden slats as the floor with a couple of inches between each. Once on the other side, we had to wait because apparently we started a trend. After all the people had come over, a couple crossed back, followed by the three of us. We walked back to our cookie beach, but it was taken. Oh, well. We plopped down on a log overlooking the water anyway, munching on cookies and watching Ethan throw rocks.

By the time we got back to the car, it was six. We stopped at the grocery store on the way home for peas, pasta, tomato sauce, and a pair of blue underwear for Ethan. (He had been hoping for hot pink—he only chose any because it was brightly colored.) Juan, Paz, and the rest are all at Paz’s uncle’s house.


Azul y Helado

Today was more of a Down Day than yesterday. We didn’t leave until about three in the afternoon. Before then, I made breakfast and made more bracelets with Paz while Ethan played with Juan Cruz and Lucas. Felipe, Manuel, and their mom left this morning, but there was another little boy today. Inez was also there, and she threw her stuffed animal into a tree. She climbed in to get it down, with Paz and me braiding serenely below. Paz’s dad was trying to learn the name of the animal.

“How do you say… an animal that lives in the ocean and on land?”

I had seen the stuffed seal and offered the name. He shook his head. “No, it goes arr, arr. Arr, arr,” he demonstrated, hands clasped in front of him. “Seal,” I repeated. Ethan grabbed the stuffed animal, which was on the ground, and, pointing to it, announced, “Seal.”

Paz’s dad agreed, and that was solved. Eventually the family had lunch, and Ethan and I went back up to our cabaña. We eventually left, stopping first at the laundry to get our clean clothes and then at Mitski for ice cream. Ethan said that Super Sambayón was really good, with “chocolate and nuts and stuff”, so we ordered it along with Frambuesa a la Crema, Chocolate Mitski, and Banana Split. We drove to Rio Azul and walked a little ways before eating on a bench.

The Sambayón was awful. Ethan was gracious, however, and ate most of it. Banana Split had chunks of chocolate in it, and the banana part was good, too. Frambuesa a la Crema was just typical raspberry ice cream, but the Chocolate Mitski was wonderful. It had chunks of white chocolate and almonds in it—muy delicioso. We walked farther up Rio Azul and down to the rocky shore. As we threw stones and dipped our feet in the river’s chilly waters, we saw first a kayaker and then three rafts brave the (not very impressive) rapids. They got wet, by the way.


Sales and Sweet Dinosaurs

Because of Mom’s injury, today was sort of a down day. We slept in til ten, which seemed waaay to early, and Ethan and I had to make breakfast. Once that was over, I washed the dishes and we finally headed out.

Our first stop was the laundry place, where Mom and Ethan dropped off a basket of our clothes. Then came the bank, the clinic (for the x-rays), and the grocery store, where we bought breakfast foods and a scarf that is now Mom’s sling. We drove home and stayed there for about two hours as Dad dealt with the insurance company and I did schoolwork and made more bracelets like the ones that Paz, Mary Lou’s granddaughter, makes. We eventually left for Lago Puelo after a slight delay. On the way, we bought ice cream from Saurios Heladeria Artesenal, whose mascot is a swimming purple dinosaur. Dad and I chose the flavors—four in the kilo container. The woman who scooped our ice cream weighed the tub: 1.005 kilos.

The .005 extra is for the tub’s weight. It’s now become standard that they get really close in weight: at Sumo in BA, our ¾ kilo weighed .755 kilos, and in Bariloche, someone’s quarter-kilo tub weighed .250.

We eventually got to the beach of the choppy Lago Puelo, where we devoured the Black Jungle, Boysenberry, Semi-Bitter Chocolate, and Saurios Chocolate. It was delicious. Ethan went for a walk afterwards, and came running back to us: “They’re here!”

They, of course, means Juan, Paz, and co. Ethan changed into his swimsuit so he could go out on the raft with ten-year-old Juan, and I made bracelets with twelve-year-old Paz. Inez, who was with Paz when I first met her, and her family also came. All of Paz’s immediate family—mother, father, and three brothers, Juan, Lucas, and baby Jose—were there. Lucas went around with Paz’s bracelets and sold them for ten pesos apiece. During the time I was there, Paz earned eighty pesos. Ten of those pesos were brought in by a blue bracelet I made.


Lion of the Andes

I slept in (again) and then had my typical breakfast of cereal, egg, banana, and toast. After that we just did schoolwork and deleted pictures and napped until about 1:15, when Dad decided it was time to go on the hike up Cerro Piltriquitron.

It was a long and dusty hike up 350 meters, where we met an older couple from Colorado who had just gone to Antarctica by boat. They said it was beautiful, but the boat ride was very rough. In all the questions they asked about our trip, they never asked the Number One Question: What are you doing for school? They even asked a whopping total of seven questions before it turned into a normal conversation.

“You’re the first Americans we’ve seen in a week,” she said.

“Sorry to spoil the run for you,” my dad replied.

We continued on up, passing the garden of carved trees that we skipped. At the top we admired the view before Mom and Ethan each got Fantas, Dad and I chose water, and I ordered a pizza. Ethan was sent away from our bench, but when I was on my last piece of pizza, Mom and Dad tried to convince me to give Ethan a piece. “I’m not moving from this bench or advertising,” I said, thinking that if he wanted it, he would come get it.

But I had pity on him.

“Okay, who wants a piece of pizza?” I asked loudly. “I do, I do!” Ethan cried. He came and stood in front of me. “I do too,” Dad added.

“Okay, Ethan,” I announced clearly. “Do not touch this piece of pizza that is sitting, unguarded, on my lap. I am now admiring the view.” I turned my face towards the rocks, but apparently he had ignored me so I repeated myself. As I watched his reflection on Mom’s sunglasses, I saw him grab a piece. Once we were done eating, we befriended the bearded yellow cat that hid among the lupine. It was a sweet cat, and I got a picture of it yawning.

“I got a picture of it yawning!” I exclaimed. “It’s almost as good as a lion in Kruger!”

“Lion of the Andes,” Dad said. “That’ll be the title of my post tonight,” I decided.

We started down the hill. Dad, Ethan, and I went on ahead, talking about science subjects. We were starting in on pH levels when we heard a cry: “Help! Help!” We looked back up and saw Mom sitting in the dirt. Ethan and I raced back up the hill.

“I fell, and I think my wrist is broken. It’s swelling fast,” she choked out. Dad helped her up. Some people tried to help us, but they didn’t speak English and we didn’t speak Spanish.

The walk down seemed to take a lot less time than it did going up. Mom held her wrist to her chest, and Ethan and I followed a ways behind. “Finally!” Ethan crowed. We were to the parking lot. Mom and Ethan went to the car while Dad and I went to the view. I took out my camera and—it wasn’t there. “Oh, no,” I whispered. Then, louder, “I lost my camera!”

The ride down to the pavement was excruciatingly long. Ethan and Dad tried to keep the mood light (failing for the most part). Finally we got to the pavement. After a wrong turn, we got to the hospital. We shuffled into the waiting room, Ethan and I leaning against a wall, Mom taking a chair, and Dad knocking on the doors and asking, “Ingles?”

Someone came and called them away. Dad kept us up-to-date by texting us on Mom’s phone. She needed a specialist since the ends of the bone, her radius, overlapped, so she was taken in ambulance there (so they wouldn’t have to remove the IV) while the three of us followed in a car. By then, the doctors had given her drugs, so she was fine. Dad, Ethan, and I had pizza and a salad at Pizza Uno before we returned. At that point, Dad found out that she would be out of surgery in 30-40 minutes as it was about to start, so he drove Ethan and me home, where we are now.

Mom and Dad eventually came home around midnight, Mom’s arm encased in plaster, after Ethan and I had spent two hours down with Paz, Juan, and the three little boys.


Dulces and Death Marches

We ate a whole kilogram of ice cream today.

The flavors were orange-chocolate, blackberry, and bitter chocolate. Dad and Ethan are about to set in on another half-kilo with raspberry and chocolate with dulce de leche. This was after we got home from a hike up to the top of Cerro Amigos, looking down from several viewpoints, a walk along the Rio Azul, and a trek to and from Cascada Escondida.

Oops… I just had two spoons’ worth of the new ice cream that we got from Los Lupulos, the restaurant where we had pizza and a salad of lettuce, carrot, beets, palm heart, boiled egg, and tomato. My pizza was, of course, drowned in vinegar. Once we were done eating, Mom and Ethan went off to play foosball while Dad and I talked about gravity, photons, and the bending of the universe. Mom returned to the table after another boy came to play foosball.

We walked back to our Fiat and then drove to the Cabañas. Juan, Paz, and the rest have returned from the lake, and the pool is halfway filled.



We finally, finally had waffles for the first time since Chiang Mai, Thailand. Frozen strawberries, chocolate ice cream, and whipped cream adorned mine as we ate above the Mitski chocolate shop in El Bolson. This was after we walked through the craft market and bought bread and pastries at the bakery.

A rectangular pool was put up here at Cerro Amigos, and Ethan played soccer with the owners’ grandkids. Mother also got us to do some schoolwork today, which we’d been avoiding for the past few days.

Dad commented on how odd it is to be in the chocolate capital of the Southern Hemisphere, and here we are, eating Swiss chocolate that we bought in Dubai.


Strays and Stamps

We drove alllllllllllllll the way from Bariloche to El Bolson today. It wasn’t that far, actually, only about 130 kilometers. It took a long time because we had several stops. First, we rode a ski chairlift up Cerro Campanario to the top, where we had a good view of Lago Nahuel Huapi Parque Nacional and San Carlos de Bariloche. Ethan bought some postcards but decided not to buy stamps at the moment because it cost forty pesos (about six dollars) for one postcard stamp. The postcards cost five pesos each.

Ethan and I tried to befriend the small cats. There was one at the bottom of the chairlift and one at the top. There were also lots of stray dogs, but there are those everywhere.

Our next stop was Lago Moreno, where Ethan went swimming and Mom and I went wading. I had meant to jump from rock to rock with my shoes on, but my left foot slipped and I decided to hop back to shore. Ethan got my sandals from the car.

We took the scenic loop, passing (apparently) one of the best hotels in the world. Then we drove to El Bolson. Part of the road was blocked off by police, so we took the straighter shortcut. As we drove through the Andes in our bright red Fiat Siena, we munched on cookies, crackers, and hard candies. We finally got to El Bolson, and after some difficulties managed to find our accommodations. There is an empty pool here and lots of thirsty mosquitoes.


Chocolate & Chow & Chocolate Chow

We are now in Bariloche!

After a 21-hour bus ride, 1,569 kilometers, and lots of carbs, we made it. We used the Via Bariloche bus service, and the food was, well, awful. Breakfast was toast, bread, two croissants, and a muffin. I only had the croissants and bread, along with a banana we’d brought. For supper, they served pasta, flan, dulce de leche, rice, some type of meat, and cheese. Since we’d had supper already—take-out from Habibi Cocina Arabe that took faaaar to long to get yesterday—we were full. Supper was an Arabic salad, vegetables, falafel, and rice.

As our lunch today, we had chocolate ice cream and truffles. Sounds delicious, right? It was!

We had to walk all the way down the hill again to pizza after seeing that the Afghan-restaurant-that-was-Argentinean-cuisine-not-Afghan was too expensive for our taste. First we stopped by a market, where I bought the hat of my dreams which I will use for skiing at Willamette Pass when we get home.

Speaking of which, it’s open and the slopes are beckoning with seven feet of snow at the top! I wish I could go, but at least I got to ski in Dubai.

Anyway, the pizza was really cheesy, as Argentinean pizza typically is, but the salad and jugo de naranja were good as usual.


Starbucks and Subte

Wafles Sur wasn’t open today either, so we settled for Starbucks. Ethan selected a grande Café Mocha with an Espresso Brownie, Mom decided on a Chocolate Crème, Dad chose a grande Mocha Frappuccino, and I ordered an alto Mocha Frappuccino with a Cheesecake de Frambuesa. We sat at the only four-chair table not taken in the upstairs half. Ethan and I reviewed our trip so far while Dad worked with the internet on the iPad and Mom sat there. The cheesecake and brownie were rather bland, but we all enjoyed our drinks except Ethan, who would have preferred a cooler drink.

Eventually Mom and I left for the Farmacity and Dad and Ethan went to Plaza Dorrego to find better wi-fi (which is offered by the city of Buenos Aires). After three blocks, we realized that we had forgotten money. So we trudged back. I was rather reluctant—there was a man who looked “mentally unstable” in army fatigues with a gun.

We lived, obviously, and Dad gave us two hundred Argentine pesos while Mom and Ethan watched the tango dancers—the first we’ve seen, actually. Once the dancers stopped, Mom and I went on our way. The walk to the pharmacy took about twenty minutes. We bought shampoo and other things we needed, and I convinced Mom to take the subte home. We were at the Bolivar station on Linea E. Mom bought the two tickets at five pesos (about one dollar) total, and we went down the stairs.

We got off at the second stop, Independencia, and walked to Linea C. The C train (heading to Constitucion, not Retiro) finally came and we went one stop to San Juan. As we walked along Humberto Primo towards our building, Mom said, “I wonder if they’ll be impressed with us going on the subte.”

I don’t think they were.

“Encouraged” is Dad’s word. “Surprised” is Ethan’s.


Pets, Pollo, and Perón

“I could name our cat Harry, or Harriet if it’s a girl,” I said. We were at the Origen Café (again) and I had finished my Pita Pollo. Dad was still eating his chicken, Mom had given up on her Vegetarian Wok, and Ethan had eaten half his Caprese Pizza. Ethan and I were talking about pets.

“What if you’re still not obsessed with them?” he asked, meaning One Direction. Dad looked over at Ethan. “Them? Harry has multiple personalities now? Harry and Shavy?” I groaned. Everyone else laughed, and Mom said, “That’s something you don’t need to put in your post, Eryn.”

“What if I want to?”

“I will!” Ethan announced.

“Harry will be insulted,” I protested.

“It would be great if he was reading our website, but he’s not,” Mom pointed out.

You don’t know that, I thought. “Wouldn’t it be really great if he saw it? He would find out about it because I posted it!” Ethan went on. “Eryn would have to give me all the credit!”

Well, I don’t think Ethan wrote about that, so it’ll be all my fault if Harry sees himself on our website.

We woke up this morning hungry and expectant for waffles but guess what? Wafles Sur was closed! So we’ll try tomorrow… and the next day… and the next. I do hope it opens.

After our great disappointment to our great expectations, we wandered over to the Independencia subte station where we rode to San Martin Plaza. We walked from there up Santa Fe Avenue to Avenida 9 de Julio, which, at twenty lanes, is the widest boulevard in the world. And the Argentineans even drive on the right (and correct) side of the road!

We continued up Santa Fe to Libertad, where we got some more pesos. Pictures and video clips from a train crash were being shown on the TV.

We walked to a subte station, going into two pet stores where I saw a chinchilla dust bath, a Yorkie puppy, and some ferrets. Once we got to the other end of our subte ride, we looked at the cats in the botanical garden before walking on to Museo Evita, which was mostly in Spanish. Despite that, I think we left knowing more about Eva Perón, who died of cancer at thirty-three.


Talk and TV

Line of Duty was the only TV that any of our family was able to watch. Dad and Ethan watched it—with Spanish subtitles—after supper. The internet is down, so you won’t be reading this until at least the fifteenth of January.

Today we woke up about an hour earlier than usual to have breakfast (egg, orange, cereal, toast, milk) before catching the subte from San Juan on Line C to Retiro, also on Line C. We walked for about fifteen minutes from there to where the Sturla ferries leave for Tigre. Dad bought the tickets for the ten o’clock departure and we sat in the chairs and waited until about 9:55, at which point we boarded the boat.

We sat in the back, on benches in the shade, with an English-speaking mother who looked way too old to be wearing short shorts and her daughters, an older Latin American couple, and some others. Right inside the door were the galley and the toilets, and after that were the rows of seats. The female narrator of our tour was defended her status very strongly: “I am not a porteña. That is what people think when I go overseas: they say, ‘Where are you from?’ I say, ‘Argentina.’ They say, ‘Oh, you are an arrogant porteña.’ When I travel in Argentine, people say, ‘Where are you from?’ ‘Buenos Aires.’ ‘Oh, you are an arrogant porteña.’ That is not true. I live in Buenos Aires province, not Buenos Aires city.”

We rode through the delta, munching on cookies and declining the offer of coffee. We saw the supermercado boat, and the taxi boats, and the boats with water-skiers behind them. After two hours (more or less), we arrived in Tigre. Ethan really wanted to go canoeing and to the amusement park, but instead we crossed the water and began the search for a restaurant. We finally stopped at Marie Lujan, where Dad ordered a Mediterranean salad, Mom chose a chicken Caesar salad, Ethan chose a Caprese salad, and I asked for a salad with cucumber, tomatoes, and, most importantly, lechuga.

At least I thought lettuce was pretty important. Apparently the cook didn’t, as I originally got a bowl with cucumber and tomato and nothing else in it. Dad originally received a salad with shrimp. Everything was straightened out, though, and I enjoyed my food and the slice of palm heart Dad gave to me. I especially liked the sauce for the bread. Delicioso.

To get home, we rode the tourist bus, two trains, and the subte. For supper we had pasta, fruit, cherry tomatoes, and ice cream (peach, Swiss chocolate, and Sumo chocolate) that Dad and I had gotten from Sumo while Mom and Ethan ogled the giant motorized skateboard.



Last of the Grocery Store Visits


I’m currently reading a book called Last of the Mohicans. I’ve been reading it since November. Since then, I’ve read about twenty other books. I’m 77% through Last of the Mohicans, though, so I’ll be sure to write when I finish.

Just today I finished books 99 through 101 on my Kindle. The ninety-ninth book I finished on my Kindle was about the Navajo code talkers in WWII. The hundredth book wasn’t really read on my Kindle—I read the paperback version a week ago. The 101st book was called My Louisiana Sky. That was part of my homework, which also included science.

We lounged around in the flat (again!) after visiting the Manzana de las Luces, which was not all it was said to be, the Florida Street market, and Café Tortoni. At Café Tortoni, Mom, Ethan, and Dad ordered juice and I selected a chocolate milk shake. Dad also got a biscuit. Café Tortoni occupies the spot formerly held by the Scottish Temple, or Templo Escocés.

On the way back home, we went shopping for eggs, vegetables, pasta, bread, and orange juice. We go grocery shopping basically every day.


French Fries in Italian Restaurants

We found another ice cream place! It’s called Sumo, and we got a quarter kilogram. Half is raspberry mousse and the other half is a really good chocolate flavor. That was after tasty supper of arroz con pollo, made by the Colombian woman who runs the restaurant next door. Thankfully some English-speaking Colombian tourists translated the verbal menu for us. Mom had thought that the restaurant was Italian because of the red and green decorations.

When we got our food, it was a pile of orange rice in the middle with a dob of ketchup on top and some yellowish brown things surrounding it.

“What’s this?” Ethan asked. “The chicken?” We all stared at him. Dad broke the silence. “Chicken? That’s a French fry.”

Today was a down day, so the only thing we did was go to the market in Plaza Dorrego. We all got fresh-squeezed orange juice, which will help Mom with her cold.

Anyway, I need to go. Everyone is watching old TV shows, like Hee Haw, without me.


Bon Appetit

Today’s menu several different courses and meals, starting with the breakfast and ending with the supper.

Appetizer of Breakfast

One boiled egg
Half of one orange

Entrée of Breakfast


Side of Breakfast

Toast with jam and butter

Appetizer of Lunch

To increase your appetite, the chef has prepared a lovely walk for you from your dining table to the nearest Ecological Reserve. The drinks course is fresh-squeezed orange juice, made right in front of you.

Entrée of Lunch

On your way back to the dining table, you are obliged to stop at the local Dylan ice cream shop, where you may select two of sixty different flavors. A favorite combination is Mousse de Naranja and Mousse de Chocolate.

Side of Lunch

You will need to rehydrate after your 5.6 kilometer walk, so you should be sure to drink plenty of water. Cherry tomatoes are also to be enjoyed.

Appetizer of Supper

This is a meal that needs no introduction.

Entrée of Supper

Pizza is to be served tonight—extra cheesy (not particularly good cheese) with olives, garlic, and tomatoes. The crust is very thick.

Side of Supper

Chocolate biscuits may be enjoyed around the dining table.

We hope you enjoyed your food today.


Sales and Starbucks


The crypt next door to Evita's in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is for sale.

The crypt next door to Evita’s in the Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is for sale.


In case you’re interested, there is space available next to the Duartes’ mausoleum, which includes the brother, two of three sisters, mother, and body of former First Lady Eva Peron. I’ve provided contact information above.

Walking between the granite walls reminded me of walking through a street in BsAs—all doors, doors, doors with hardly any windows. Everything comes right up to the sidewalk—no set-back entrances (except for our apartment building).

We got to the Recoleta Cemetery after a joy ride in an old subway car on Linea A, a quick bite of ice cream, a long walk to the Floralis Genérica, some refreshments at Starbucks, and a quick view of the old cloisters. It was my first time as a real customer at Starbucks—and I got a bottle of water. Mom got a sour Raspberry Smoothie, Ethan ordered a Chocolate Crème, and Dad selected a Mocha Frappuccino and a chocolate cookie. When our orders were served, Ethan’s drink tasted coffee-y and Dad’s tasted very sweet and chocolaty. Turns out they had botched the orders, which were written on the side of the cup. So Dad complained and the problem was solved. I liked the Chocolate Crème a lot.

Floralis Genérica is a huge metal flower that opens at eight in the morning and closes at sunset. If strong winds blow, it also closes. The flower stays open on four nights of the year: the nights of May 25, September 21, December 24, and December 31. After we had seen seven cats in the cemetery, we started the long journey home.

There are 40,000 taxis in the city of Buenos Aires. Sadly we didn’t use one to get home: we walked for twenty minutes, got on Line D, switched to Line C, and then walked out from underground and home. Well, Dad and Ethan went home. Mom and I went to the supermercado for milk, bread, and soup ingredients. When we came back I unlocked the door and heard a clanking sound. I thought I’d dropped something. Turns out it was the other pair of keys, which were stuck in the door. Dad and Ethan were nowhere to be found.

We found them. Ethan’s hair is shorter.

Also, before we left this morning I watched the new “Kiss You” music video! (Which is by One Direction, naturally.)


Holas & Helado

We returned to Plaza de Mayo today where we walked around Casa Rosada, famous for its pink color and Eva Peron’s balcony speech, and into the Museo del Bicentenario. There we walked from Argentina’s founding to Eva Peron’s death to a bloody headscarf from a Madre of Plaza de Mayo to current Argentine president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s election in 2007. On the opposite wall were paintings by various local artists.

Our next stop was the Metropolitan Cathedral. On our way back home, we saw a protest in the street. The street was blocked off by police motorbikes, and policemen in bulletproof vests were standing nearby, ready for action. We’ve seen plenty of policemen and police cars as we live close to a police station. That police station is near the helado shop Dylan, which is where we had our sweets course. I enjoyed a mix of chocolate mousse and banana split ice creams after our several-kilometer walk through the sun, during which Dad and I talked about graffiti and the dripping of the air conditioners on apartments.

Ethan and I had to do schoolwork once we got home. Dad took a nap while Mom did stuff on the computer. Mom and Ethan eventually went to the supermercado for milk, butter, and tomatoes. I chose a place for supper called La Covacha de Chicho on the street fifty feet away called Chacabuco. It was closed. Next we tried El Refuerzo, also on Chacabuco. It was a bar. We were going to try the place right next door to our flat but instead we chose a restaurant between the police station and Dylan. Dad and I had the chicken breast with “dissected” tomatoes (they were actually sundried—it was lost in the translation) and olives, Ethan had marinated chicken cubes with carrots, and Mom had an omelet.


What Doesn’t Make the Buses Beautiful

I do not want to ride the yellow tourist bus(es) ever again. Ever. I know it’s wonderful to be able to do it here in Argentina—an option most people don’t receive—but it’s not very enjoyable to sit on a sticky seat beneath the blistering sun in the oppressive heat of a summer day in Buenos Aires listening to the unvaried music and a nasal voice bore you with information about where you’re going and what you’re seeing.

There are twenty-six stops on the route. We stepped out at the last stop before the salida, or exit. It was wonderful to finally get rid of the spongy black headphones and feel the zephyr toy with our hair as we walked down the avenue to the same place where we got money yesterday. Mom, Ethan, and I sat in the same chairs as Dad got the pesos we needed. That was followed by a visit to the Libertad Café where I selected a scrumptious salad while the other three shared a Napolitana Pizza.

Our stroll to the omnibus station was 1.6 kilometers. Once there Dad got our tickets for our future ride to Bariloche, Argentina, and then we piled into a taxi for the drive home, which was four kilometers. Our sweets course for lunch was taken at Dylan, an ice cream shop with a whopping sixty flavors. I had chocolate and frambuesa, but my favorite part was when “What Makes You Beautiful” (by One Direction, of course!) played.


Death Marching in the City

We woke up late this morning so we didn’t get out of the flat until after 9:30, which didn’t go over particularly well. We walked to Plaza de Mayo, up to the Obelisk, and to the intersection of Santa Fe and Libertad streets. We got some cash there and then walked back through Plaza Libertad. Dad walked around the outside looking for chips for the phones while Mom, Ethan, and I walked diagonally through the middle.

We walked back home the way we came, passing Teatro Colón, Casa Rosada, and the Metropolitan Cathedral. We also stopped at Stop 0 on the tourist bus route to get more information. After more walking, we got home around three in the afternoon. We walked at least eight kilometers today—no small feat for someone wearing Toms.

Ethan and I did schoolwork (science, US history, and math) until supper, which consisted of ravioli and squash. I started reading See You at Harry’s, which, sadly, is not about Harry Styles.

“We’re going on a walk,” Ethan announced just as it started raining. We walked down to a bakery where we bought a Brownie Coronada, or crowned brownie. It was delicious.


Bright ‘n’ Early in BA

I got to sleep in this morning! It’s also nice to have a room of my own. Before you judge me, remember that I haven’t had a room to myself in about forty days. It’s also a nice room because the sheets are pink and the curtain has butterflies on it. All three bedrooms are upstairs and so are the two bathrooms. Ethan has a small bed with brown, red, and blue sheets, and Mom and Dad have an en-suite bathroom. There’s a bathroom between Ethan’s room and the little utility area, which is behind a locked door on a balcony beside my room. Only Ethan has a balcony in his bedroom.

Downstairs is the living area complete with a kitchen, balcony, half-bath, TV, dining area, couch, washing machine, and Argentina and Buenos Aires guidebooks. We are in the San Telmo neighborhood of BA. La Boca, Barracas, Constitucion, Monserrat, and Puerto Madero are its neighbors.

After we were finally done waking up and having breakfast and all that good stuff, it was about 1 pm. Dad worked on the getting working phones, Mom napped, Ethan read, and I added, subtracted, multiplied, and divided away. Dad finally got the phones working (a huge relief), and Sergio, the man who watches the apartment and lives in Number 13 (we’re in Number 2), fixed the hot water heater.

We walked down to Peru Street to the Origen Café for supper. We all had sandwiches and water. It was surprisingly easy to read the menu even if it was in Spanish. Words like “pan” and “ensalada” and “agua” are pretty easy to figure out.

Once supper was over, we walked down to Balcarce Street past Plaza Dorrego and back up to our flat. It’s good to be eating Tim-Tams from South Africa in the capital of Argentina.


(Almost) Done in Dubai

The United Arab Emirates like to be the “-est.” That means that they like to have the biggest, tallest, bestest stuff on Earth. They have one of the largest malls, Dubai Mall. Emirates (the airlines) have the largest order, 90, for Airbus A380s. They have the tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, the largest dancing fountain, and the only seven-star hotel, and also the fourth-tallest hotel, on the planet (that would be the Burj al Arab).

Before that, though, we went to the Jumeirah Mosque. Our tour guide had moved to UAE with her Muslim husband from England. She became a Muslim and now makes jokes to the tourists. When she was demonstrating how close they stand when they pray, she talked about how men and women don’t mix.

“How hard would it be to focus with two strange men rubbing against you on either side?” she asked. “Unless, of course, it was George Clooney.”

We rode in a taxi to the Dubai Mall. It was our first non-Pakistani driver: he was from Afghanistan. The general opinion of our former taxi drivers seems to be that Dubai is a place to make a living but it’s not home.

Our time in Dubai ends tomorrow when we embark on a 30-hour plane ride to Argentina. The general air of Dubaians is “It’s good here if you’re rich. It’s a fun place to be and it’s great but it’s very artificial.”


Wild Wadi Ways

I only went to six of the eleven attractions at Wild Wadi Waterpark, but I had fun nonetheless. My first ride was Burj Surj, which I did with Ethan. It was no lines, no waiting, which was pretty awesome as it was already 11:00, one hour after opening time.

In Burj Surj, we got flushed down to “toilets” in a round inner tube with a plastic bottom that hit the first bump hard. Then we decided to go on Tantrum Alley, where we only had to wait about five minutes. Tantrum Alley was by far the better water slide with three different tornadoes, where you go up and down the rounded walls, getting splashed and soaked on the way. Next we went hunting for Mom. We finally found her getting on White Water Wadi, and we called her name, but she didn’t hear us. So Ethan went knee-boarding on the Wipeout Flowrider while I went looking for the exit of White Water Wadi. It was actually the entrance, but I didn’t have to figure that out—I eventually found the other 75% of my family.

Ethan and I then took Mom on Tantrum Alley, convincing her by saying things like, “Yeah, this is the better one. This is a good one for you. Burj Surj is bad. No, this just has the tornadoes, not the toilet bowls.” I thought she was going to cry by the look on her face as we flew down the slide, but she didn’t. I hadn’t noticed it before, but the first drop leads to a tornado. I knew that, but I didn’t realize there was a two-foot high wall. I didn’t realize it was that short.

After Tantrum Alley, we went back up to Burj Surj, then I went twice on White Water Wadi. We found Ethan again at the Riptide Flowrider, which is where you get lessons. When he was done, Mom, Ethan, and I went on the Flood River Flyer, which ends up in the same places as White Water Wadi. Our meal there of pizza, ice cream, and hot chocolate was good. Ethan went on the super-fast Jumeirah Sceirah. I declined the invitation.

We then re-rode several rides, floated on the Lazy River, swam in Breaker’s Bay, and finally piled into a taxi to go back to the Hilton. After freshening up, we went across the street to a Lebanese restaurant for a light supper.


Skiing, Skidding, and (Not Enough) Sleeping

Yesterday we started off our day hoping to go up Table Mountain after two days of it being closed. Lots of other people had the same idea, apparently, as by the time we got there at 9 a.m. (one hour or so after opening time) police were directing traffic and the line of cars stretched from the lower station to Kloof Nek Road. We gave up and drove up towards Lion’s Head to the Visitors’ Centre, where we turned around and headed back down to Kloof Nek. We waited for the traffic officer, Munde, to give us a sign to go forward, which he eventually did. We went and were going to do a sort-of-U-turn when BANG!!!

Out of nowhere comes a man named John and his little blue car. One of his tires burst in the collision. Our bumper was damaged, making our scratch from a shopping cart disappear. We were so close to not having to pay any extra on the Hertz car (we didn’t get insurance). Five hours.

Later at the airport, Dad took care of the Hertz business while Mom, Ethan, and I lounged inside the terminal. Eventually we checked in (no visa problems here!), went through security, ate salads at Mugg & Bean, browsed the books at Exclusive Books, and finally boarded our flight to Johannesburg. It was relatively uneventful. We landed on the Oliver R. Tambo International Airport tarmac at approximately 8:30 p.m. In the line for Immigration we eavesdropped on the British and Australian people’s conversation before officially leaving South Africa for the second time this trip.

Our flight to Dubai was about eight hours long. I watched four episodes of Modern Family and part of Brave. Sleep, staring out the window at the sand, lights, and sunrise, and eating are included in those eight hours as well. Oh, and I also watched a 45-minute One Direction video!

We got through the Dubai airport with now real issues except lack of sleep. All of us piled in a taxi and we rode for about twenty minutes before arriving at our Hilton. There we waited for two hours before both of our rooms were ready. After showers we met in the lobby and caught a bus to the Mall of the Emirates. We had a quick supper of sandwich-like things at a restaurant before Ethan and I hit the slopes at Ski Dubai. My only complaint is that I didn’t get gloves and my fingers are still swollen. I think it’s silly that they called any of the runs a black, claiming that they have the only indoor black run in the world. There’s a sign saying “Experts Only.”

Well, then.

I guess that proves it.

I’m an expert.


Cape Chaos

Today was our last full day in Cape Town. Tomorrow we fly to Johannesburg at five o’clock, continuing on to Dubai. We spent it lounging around, enjoying our warm showers, this morning and then revisiting the Company’s Garden, Signal Hill, and Gelato Mania, which was closed. The line up to Signal Hill was long and painful.

“Why are we doing this?” I griped. “For one last look,” Dad replied. “You’ll never forget this,” Mom added.

We walked around the top of the hill one last time and then drove down. This was after our visit to the Company’s Garden, where Ethan fed lots of pigeons. We then tried Gelato Mania before heading home for supper, where Mom fed us sweet-and-sour rice and vegetables with oranges. We then stood out on the Promenade and watched our last Cape Town sunset.

Now we have to fully pack.



Two Thousand and Twelve Terrors

How was our day?

Table Mountain disappointed us once again this morning. We read the national park’s website and it was cold, the winds were gale force, and there was zero visibility. So we did schoolwork and read things like Last of the Mohicans until the maid came to clean the house (she always does on Monday). So we went mini-golfing. The orange course, the one we most wanted to go on, was closed, so we went on the blue for the third time. I lost, of course, but Mom, Ethan, and I each got a hole-in-one.

After that we tried going to Charly’s Bakery and Queen of Tarts for some sweet treats, but we finally settled with Gelato Mania. It was good, of course. Dad dropped us off at the library on the way home. First we had to look in Clicks. There was a birds’ nest with two fuzzy chicks on top of the Clicks sign.

The library had, unbeknownst to us, closed an hour earlier and we were stuck walking home. We stopped by the exercise station and ignored the rules (“No children under 15 years may use this equipment”) before walking the rest of the way home. There we found our water heater finally being replaced (today was our second day without showers). Later two men came and replaced the laundry machines. After that we drove to Yindee’s for another good supper.

And how was our year?

Most of us Earthians will live to see 2013. The world didn’t end on December 21, where the Mayan calendar ended.


Table Mountain Trauma

Table Mountain’s website is very disappointing: at 6 o’clock, we looked online. The conditions at the top? Mild temperature, good visibility, medium wind. By the time we got there, it was cold temperature, zero visibility, and high winds.

How disappointing.


When we woke up this morning, we had to do without showers because none of us were big fans of cold showers. We had a typical breakfast (cereal, eggs, cheese, fruit, and toast) and then hung around the house until about nine. Then we went on a drive near Hout Bay on the Chapman’s Peak Drive.

We stopped at a mall at the end, where Mom, Ethan, and I got ice cream at Fruit & Veg City after Ethan bought a notebook at Pick North Pay. We then drove home around Table Mountain. After supper, we tried to go up to Table Mountain, but you already read how that turned out.


Why Yes, We Do Like Chocolate

The service at the Plumstead church was better than last time, and when we left we had several people ask us from whence we came (as usual). We said that we were from the United States since most non-Americans don’t know where Oregon is. One man, however, remembered us from last time and he talked about Oregon and Uganda and missionary work with Dad and Ethan while Mom talked about our trip with another man.

We returned home and I worked on Power Point while Ethan and Mom read and Dad napped. Around four we decided to walk to Gelato Mania. We walked through Green Point Park, which is having the Chariot Festival tonight, and across the eight-lane street before arriving. I ordered a scoop of Choccomania, Dad got a scoop each of Choccomania and Chocolate Brownie, Mom got a scoop of Chocolate Brownie in a cone, and Ethan got a scoop of Chocolate Hazelnut. It was so good.

We walked back through the park and, once home, Mom started making supper. Then she noticed the water on the bathroom floor. Turns out that the water heater has a leak (or something like that) and we won’t be having warm showers tomorrow. A plumber and a man who works at the agency who manages the flat, Jason, came and they got the water cleaned up while Ethan and I ate our supper of green beans, potato soup, and patties.


Coffee, Cuts, and Cinnamon

Today was filled with haircuts (my hair looks straight now!!!) and sending souvenirs home. We’re just hoping that all three boxes make it to Oregon as there are three undeclared items that are also probably not allowed: two porcupine quills and one warthog tusks.

Both were taken from around Koster: Oom Dennis gave Ethan the tusk and we found the quills while on a walk around Oom Dennis’s old property. Some of the other things in the boxes include books that have been read by Mom, Ethan, and me, clothes from our camel trek in India, a shirt that I brought, the tie Dad got for Christmas, the bowl Ethan gave Mom for Christmas, and the guineafowl dessert bowls that Mom bought at the V&A. Most of it is fragile.

Between our haircuts and home, we met the male half of our troop at Mugg & Bean where I ordered a Mexicocoa and Mom got a Café Mocha. Dad had ordered the Mexicocoa earlier, as Ethan had the mocha. They were also sharing a banana chocolate waffle. My Mexicocoa came with whipped cream, chocolate chips, a cinnamon stick, and whole lot of nasty texture. (I didn’t really care for it.) Ethan wanted to try my cinnamon stick, so I gave it to him. “Ethan, I don’t really think you should—” Mom started. I motioned her to stop. Ethan bit it and, with extreme self-control, asked Mom for a sip of her mocha. I asked what he thought; he said it was disgusting.

We already knew that.


A Change of Genes

We went to the mall today to get haircuts and new jeans. Obviously the hair salon was fully booked til 3:50 pm, and we weren’t going to be hanging out in the mall until then just for a haircut. So Mom and I went hunting for a new pair of jeans for me, but Edgars and Woolworths—the only stores that have jeans for girls my age—don’t seem to have any brains when designing jeans. At all.

So we found Dad and Ethan. Mom bought some jeans for Ethan and then made an appointment for our haircuts tomorrow. She also bought food at Pick n Pay. We returned home, and Mom took a walk to find a box for shipping things home. She visited CNA, where employees gave her a reference to a little shop up the street. She went there and found birthday candles, pink serviettes, and a box.

She dragged Ethan, Dad, and I up there and Dad paid for the box. We then had ice cream at the Venezia Ice Cream Parlour. I had Pineapple. It wasn’t very good.

For supper we had leftover chicken from Christmas, vegetables, salad, and some of my golden syrup cake which isn’t half bad drowned in a chocolate sauce.



We watched Ethan paraglide down from Lion’s Head today after we watched and waited. Ethan and I got to sleep in til nine am. By then the police had found the little drowned girl’s body.

After Ethan landed, we had ice cream at Gelato Mania. I had a scoop of Chocolate Brownies and a scoop of Pino Penguino, which was hazelnut with a layer of Nutella on top. For supper we ate at a Cape Malay restaurant in a part of town with purple, pink, green, orange, and blue houses. We all had tasty chicken dishes of some sort.


Happy Holiday

Today was, as I’m sure you well know, Christmas. Ethan and I opened our stockings before breakfast. We each got candy, a pair of socks, and a puzzle book. I also got pink nail polish. After a breakfast of peach scones, eggs, cereal, and pineapple, we opened the twenty-two presents under the tree. Since we decided not to buy name tags, Ethan and I selected each selected two random presents under the tree. If there were no objections, Ethan gave one to Mom and one to me while I gave one to him and Dad.

My favorite present was first (and the world’s smallest present): a picture of me with Dad’s attempt at drawing the cover of Take Me Home on the back. One Direction’s second album’s music was on the computer. YAY!!!! Anyway, besides that I got a necklace, headbands, a Modern Family book, and a crossword puzzle book. I gave Ethan a chocolate bar, 32 rand so he could take someone mini-golfing, and F in Exams, a hilarious book with real test questions and real stupid answers. For Mom I got a dark chocolate bar, a little gold bar of chocolate, and a blue necklace. Dad received candy canes, an orange chocolate bar, and Don’t Look Behind You from me.

We tried to have a “traditional” Christmas dinner. Instead of turkey we had chicken, along with green beans, cranberry salad, and sweet potatoes with pecans and raisins. Later we had pumpkin pie with Grapetizer.

The whirring of helicopter blades reached us as we ate our pie. As we took our walk along the Promenade, we found that an eight-year-old girl had drowned and now they were looking for her body.

At 9 pm we Skyped my mother’s side of the family in California. When asked what we had for lunch, I replied, “We had sweet potatoes, green beans, cranberry salad, and chicken instead of turkey.”

“They’re not vegetarian?!” my cousin asked off-screen.



Merry Christmas Eve!

We’re cooking food and producing presents by the second. I made a cake today. It was supposed to be chocolate but ended up tasting more like golden syrup (total sugar) of which we used 250ml. The Afrikaans recipe called for 250ml strooisuiker, which was interpreted as sugar syrup, which is really stroopsuiker (suiker means sugar). So we put a bunch of the golden syrup in and only realized our mistake when the cake and cupcakes were in the oven and I looked up the translation of strooisuiker on Mom’s phone: castor sugar, which is superfine sugar.

Once everything was out of the oven, we sprinkled on cinnamon and soaked it in a sauce made from sugar, butter, cocoa, cream, and cinnamon. The golden syrup made the cakes very absorbent and, in an hour, the sauce was absorbed. We added more to serve. I think we all enjoyed my cinnamon cakes, but I liked the ones Hannetjie (from Barchan Dunes) made much more.

We went on a walk on the Promenade after supper and saw the pretty rainbow, sunset, and pink clouds.

The present count is 21.


Time on the Table Top

Today we returned to Table Mountain. There was no tablecloth while we were up there, which was a relief. (It made it uncomfortably warm, though.) We saw no wildlife except for birds, butterflies, and painted yellow klipspringers to mark the trail. Oh, and people.

We also saw a fire on another hill, which Mom reported to the manager. Within minutes helicopters were out pouring water on the fire while we licked at our soft-serve chocolate ice cream. It turns out that she wasn’t the hero and that the rangers had already sent out helicopters and fire trucks and that there was another fire, too.

The fog on Cape Town finally cleared. It had come sometime during the night and the foghorn in the Green Point Lighthouse had started. A man asked us if an island he saw in the bay was Robben Island. He lived in Joburg but had lived in Port Elizabeth—a few hours’ drive from here—for a while. He had never been to Cape Town before. That’s like you and I not going to the one of the biggest, prettiest city in our state. For you Oregonians, that would probably be Salem or Eugene.

We came back to our flat, ate mini chocolate cakes, and Mom and Dad went to Pick n Pay to buy food for Christmas while Ethan and I did schoolwork at home. Once they returned, Ethan made a reservation at Posticino, one of the best pizza places in Cape Town (we agree!), for 6 pm. Well, would you look at the time! 5:36!

Before I go, though, Ethan’s getting veeeeery excited about the amount of presents under our tree (sixteen) and the fact that “tomorrow we can say that tomorrow is Christmas!”


Yum @ Yindoo’s

After church at Mowbray, which was almost exclusively black except for the organist and her husband (and us and some visiting women) and where the sermon was about the end of the world, we returned to our flat in Mouille Point and “putsed” for a while—reading, playing Solitaire, napping.

Mom and Ethan thought we were going to go up Table Mountain even though Dad had told me minutes before that we were going to get ice cream—which we did, of course. We went to the Venezia Ice Cream Parlour, which is said to be one of the best ice cream places in Cape Town. We’d already been there, so we knew that we preferred Gelato Mania (one of the other Top 10).

Mom got a sugar cone with Oreo, Dad got a cup with Tiramisu and Chocolate, Ethan got a sugar cone with After Eight and Chocolate, and I got a sugar cone with Cookies & Cream. Ethan’s After Eight was surprisingly good.

We walked back home along the promenade. At home I made dinner reservations at Yindoo’s Authentic Thai Cuisine Restaurant. At Yindoo’s, we had a bunch of starters plus green curry and sweet-and-sour vegetables. It was probably the best sweet-and-sour I’ve had outside Thailand.


Cupcake Craze

We got cupcakes today!!! We got eight, actually: four at Hmmmm and four at Charly’s Bakery. My favorite looking ones were from Charly’s: a pink monster with eyes on a vanilla cake, a red velvet cupcake with a rose petal, a chocolate cake with a Blizzard-like white hat and eyes, and a plain-schmain chocolate cupcake. From Hmmmm we got to carrot cake mini-cakes and two chocolate mini-cakes. We ate the Charly’s cupcakes today: Ethan had half of each of the chocolate ones, Mom had half of the white frosted chocolate and half of the red velvet, Dad had half the monster and half the other eyeballed cupcake, and I had half the monster and half the red velvet.

For supper we were going to go to the top of Table Mountain and watch the sunset but the lines were too long so we went to Signal Hill instead. There was a rug over the harbor but no tablecloth over Table Mountain. It was cool since you could see the city’s lights through the clouds. Now, because the lighthouse’s light may not be visible to ships at sea, the foghorn blows every thirty seconds.

That can be our lullaby tonight.


Half-Way Day!!! :D

Today, in honor of the half-way mark, we climbed Lion’s Head. Well, that wasn’t really in honor of, but we did it anyway.

So far we’ve visited seven countries in six months. My favorite place so far has been Thailand, but Upington—with its croc-free Orange River and good food—is a close second. Early next year we’ll head north to Dubai for a week then cross the Atlantic to spend three months in Argentina, Chile, and Peru. We’ll then fly back across the ocean to Morocco, where we’ll spend a month, followed by France, Switzerland, and Greece.

In Thailand, we got up close and personal with tigers and elephants. We enjoyed mochas in Bangkok and fried bananas at Doi Suthep, with green and sweet-and-sour curries in between. Then we experienced the Drama of the Indian Visas, which saw us fleeing Thailand as our visas there were about to expire. We chose Laos, just across the Mekong from rural eastern Thailand, and rode in the jumbos, ate ice cream at Swensen’s, and took a hike to a waterfall in the jungle.

We returned to Bangkok to pick up our visas really quickly before hopping on a plane to India. Because we were a week late, we didn’t spend much time in New Delhi—it was only a few hours before we rode a train to Agra, where we saw the Taj Mahal. Soon after we visited Jaipur, where we watched the Olympics, Jodhpur, where we visited a village and schools, and Jaisalmer, the fortress city and our starting point for a camel trek.

We returned to New Delhi and flew to Sydney two days later, where we spent a week freezing. We warmed up in Darwin before heading south to Tennant Creek, Alice Springs, and eventually Ayers Rock. From the rock we flew to Perth, drove up to Gnaraloo, then drove back down to Perth before jetting off to Johannesburg.

We drove up to Gaborone and eventually ended up in Namibia. In Etosha we saw a leopard and many, many elephants. We were in Swakopmund for my birthday, after which we made our way to Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park where we saw our first cheetah and yet another leopard. We then visited Upington, where Ethan learned to waterski. After a night at Witsand, we visited Oom Dennis, Tannie Marietjie, Griet, and Dinky.

We finally made it to Kruger where we saw two leopards, six cheetahs, a bunch of lions, and many more elephants. Working our way down the coast, we jumped on the trampoline at The Haven, saw penguins at Boulders, and visited the southernmost point in Africa.

We’re now in Cape Town where we’ll be celebrating Christmas in five days. We’re also imagining our snowy home…


Riding in Ratanga

“Turn your wheels! Turn your wheels! Turn! Other way! Other way! More! More! More! Use both hands! Other way!”

That’s what Dad and I are listening to as Mom and Ethan bump each other with sparking cars. That’s also what the woman who runs the bumper cars for little kids is saying. We’re at Ratanga Junction near the Canal Walk mall. So far I’ve been on four rides (five times total) plus the bumper cars. The first ride was the Bushwacker, which all of us but Dad rode.

Next we walked to Monkey Falls, but I didn’t want to get wet and Dad’s not a fan of roller coasters. So Mom and Ethan went. Later I went with both of them and screamed for the first time in years. I dragged Ethan into a log again.

After Mom and Ethan got wet, we strolled over to the Cobra where Ethan got in line and we sat in the shade. We waited for half an hour listening to Adele, Katy Perry, Beyonce, and, yes!!!, One Direction.

He finally got his turn and we headed toward the Diamond Devil, which Ethan and I rode. We decided to get soaked in Crocodile Gorge. There are real crocs in a pond, with a sign:

Danger! Crocodiles

6     7 people eaten

Afterwards, we had ice cream. That was when we decided to return to Monkey Falls. One Direction played “Live While We’re Young” while we stood in line.

Oh, here come Mom and Ethan now.


A Heart-to-Heart Talk

Groote Schuur is not pronounced “grote shur.” It is pronounced gru-uteh sku-ur. It means “big barn” in Afrikaans. (The g is pronounced like in gemsbok.) We visited the hospital today for a heart transplant… museum tour. As you should know, Dr. Christiaan Barnard was the first person ever to perform a successful human-to-human heart transplant. The patient had diabetes and was terminally ill—they were also white and it was apartheid, so they fit the bill in that respect.

Mrs. Washkansky drove home from the hospital on December 2, 1967, tired. She had just visited her husband, Louis, and she knew he was in safe hands. The wailing of sirens alerted her to a crash on the side of the road, and she, being a sensitive woman, averted her eyes. It was just too late, though—she saw the bodies of two women lying in the road near the bakery. A caramel cake was scattered across the pavement.

The women were Denise and Myrtle Darvall. They had been visiting some friends for tea and had decided that a cake would make a lovely addition. Denise and Myrtle crossed the street from their car and emerged from the bakery minutes later, caramel cake in hand. They looked both ways before gingerly stepping onto the road. Then Denise was flying across the street. Her mother fell to the ground, killed instantly by the drunk driver, who didn’t see them. Denise hit the wheel cap of a car across the street—the car that she had just been riding in.

She was just twenty-four and her life looked just about done. Her brain was severely injured and her skull damaged. An ambulance rushed her to the Groote Schuur Hospital, where she was received in the resuscitation room. She breathed sporadically and her pupils were dilated. Doctors pronounced her brain dead. But her heart was beating soundly. Dr. Barnard knew it was his chance, and he took it, asking her father, Mr. Edward Darvall, if he could use the girl’s heart for a human-to-human heart transplant—an experiment.

Mr. Darvall could have said no. He could have refused—but he didn’t. He let his only daughter’s still-beating heart be put in the chest of an old man who would die anyway.

And it worked.

For eighteen days.

Louis Washkansky eventually died from pneumonia because his body was weakened from the Immunosuppressant drugs he was on. It was a life well lived, though. The next patient lived eighteen months, and the longest surviving heart transplant patient was South African who, more than thirty years later, is still alive and well.


Massive Mesa

We finally went to the top of Table Mountain, one of the new seven wonders of the natural world, today. Some of the other seven include the Amazon, a waterfall in South America, Komodo Island, a bay in Vietnam, and an island in South Korea.

We got in the queue at 7:15 this morning. Ethan and I hunkered down and read our books—he read Under the Blood-Red Sun while I finished Lost in the Barrens. When we had each turned the last page, we switched. We were on the first cable car up at 8:05. The whole ride is only supposed to take four minutes, and everyone who’s near a window gets a 360-degree view as the car spins throughout the ride.

Once at the top we looked down at Cape Town and then walked for about an hour to the tallest point on Table Mountain, Maclear’s Beacon. Ethan and I added a stone to the top of the post on top of the cairn, making the mountain an inch taller than it used to be. We hung out there for a while before the tablecloth started coming in. It came on fast: as soon as Devil’s Peak was covered, we started seeing clouds and feeling a chill. Ethan found a klipspringer, the first for all of us, but we could only really see its silhouette because of the clouds.

We eventually returned to the station. Ethan and I searched for good Magnums in the café, but they only had Almond, Classic, and Biscotti. I like Biscotti, but Dad doesn’t really. So instead we ate the mint Tim-Tams in the backpack Ethan carried. We decided to leave the mountain at about one because it was really cold with the wind and clouds and you could only occasionally see Cape Town through the clouds.

The ride down on the Visa-branded, protea-spotted cable car was uneventful. We saw several people abseiling down the cliffs. At the bottom we stopped a minute to thaw, and soon we were sweating and sunburnt (technically we were sunburnt before the tablecloth came in, but whatever). No more people could go up to the top except the staff.

Dad didn’t really want to leave so soon.


A Caroling Concert

The Cathedral Church of St. George the Martyr is in need of a new roof, so volunteers and the children’s choir put together a series of programs called Raise the Roof. It was directed by Mr. Richard Cock, and the audience joined in singing eight of the seventeen songs.

Our director introduced the organist, who played three solos, saying, “You haven’t seen him yet but you will soon—that sounds like a spiritual verse, doesn’t it?” The organist played two songs that were in my parents’ wedding. The last song the choir sang was “Jingle Bells,” with the audience yelling “hi!” and ringing their keys along with the song. The dean thanked everyone necessary to thank, including the St. George’s ambulance for the lady who fainted in the choir.

We walked back to our car in the evening warmth and drove to the V&A Waterfront for supper. We went to the Waterfront earlier to leave for Robben Island where we took a bus tour of the whole island and a walking tour with Sparks, an ex-political prisoner from the island, of the maximum security prison which held political prisoners only. The security dogs had bigger lodgings than the prisoners.


I Had a Great Idea For a Title, But I Forgot What It Was

Today we went to church in a little town called Plumstead. It really is tiny—because we didn’t want to go through an intersection on Main Road, we turned right ahead of time. We drove down the street 500 meters and passed through Plumstead, which we had only just entered on the highway.

After church, we went home where we read and sorted pictures. Two hours later, we walked down the street to Gelato’s at Newport, where Ethan got chocolate fudge and Oreo ice cream, Mom got chocolate fudge in a cone, and Dad and I both got Bar One and chocolate fudge. The ice cream wasn’t so eager to melt this time as it was last time, so we walked a ways down the Promenade before coming to rest on a bench. Ethan tried to get wet from the waves.

“Why do you have water dripping out of the front of your pants?” Dad asked. Ethan blushed: “It’s not on the front of my pants!” (it was).

We returned home and I looked online for supper. We ended up going to Jewel of India, nicknamed Cruel to India by reviewers and Drool of India by Dad. We ordered three mains, plain rice, a platter with some samosas and things like that, and garlic naan, just like we did in India. The naan, samosas &co., and sauces were good, and so were the paneer (dish with cheese) and chicken curry. The aloo gobi (potato and cauliflower) had some weird spice in it, making it rather unenjoyable.

We drove home from the V&A after Ethan had checked the hours of Mugg & Bean, home to the Mexicocoa and Caribbean mocha (it has coconut). We went for a walk on the Promenade, called Dad’s dad, and returned to our warm apartment.


I Hope We’ll Have Good Weather

Our original destination for today was Robben Island, but that didn’t work out well so we headed to the Castle of Good Hope instead. It took thirteen years (from 1666 to 1679) for the Dutch East India Company to build the five-pointed fortress. The original fortress was made of mud and timber, but this building, restored in the 1980s, is made of stone and will last a good while.

During the Second Boer War, part of the area was used as a prison, complete with a torture chamber. There were three options of torture (usually consecutively): whipping you with a cat o’ nine tails from forty to 120 times, hanging you upside down with a hook for an hour and then dropping you on your head (a little girl finally understood: “So this is where bungee jumping was invented!”), and confinement in a small room with nineteen of your closest friends and no food, water, medical treatment, or light for twenty-four hours before being hanged or sent to Robben Island for hard labor. There was no chance to defend yourself, so if you were accused you were doomed.

Thunderstorms were predicted for today. We saw not a drop of precipitation. The sunset was beautiful as we saw it from the V&A because there were lots of clouds. We went to a Christmas concert where we held candles after 8 pm and heard an apparently popular South African singer named Jimmy Nevis, whose most popular song is “Elephant Shoes”. He chose the name because when apparently when you mouth ‘elephant shoes’ it looks like ‘I love you.’


A Box and Blue Stingrays

We spent another day at the V&A Waterfront, but this time it was in the Two Oceans Aquarium. We walked through the Atlantic and Indian Ocean displays and the tank with the sign “Nemos”. There were huge eels and little octopi, white jellyfish and pink seahorses, rockhopper penguins and tree frogs. Quite a mix, I suppose. We saw the feeding of the African penguins at 2:30. They were fed dead fish from a bucket. The oystercatcher hanging around found a fish on the ground and poked the eyes out. Once the fish could no longer see, the bird ate parts of the fish after rinsing them in seawater.

By three, we were sitting on the steps in front of the I&J Predator Display. Our presenter, Yvonne, talked about preserving fish, etc. (She really did say “etc.” a lot.) She also introduced the little five-year-old green turtle Cannelloni, who had gotten on the wrong side of a shark’s teeth before during feeding time. So she was put in a cage with blacked out walls. The ragged tooth sharks circled the yellowtail tuna and blue stingrays, never eating. Yvonne said, “These sharks are too small to eat you whole or take chunks out of you.” “Aw,” murmured the disappointed little girl in front of me.

Once we got home, we opened our box from home-home. There were books for school, notebooks, presents from relatives, a Lego magazine for Ethan, three magazines for me, and candy canes from our renters. Thank you to everyone who donated stuff to make the box overflow!


Movie Madness

When Ethan gets back home, he wants to read Lord of the Rings. He was inspired while watching The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure this afternoon. It started out with an old Bilbo Baggins writing to Frodo, his nephew, and ended with the same Bilbo, but younger, saying, “I do believe the worst is behind us.” It’s the first part of Bilbo’s three-part story based on The Hobbit. It was good, even though the whole time after the goblins, I was thinking, Put on your ring! Put on your ring!
We spent the whole day in the Victoria Wharf Shopping Centre. First we walked around looking for a place to drink mochas with wi-fi. Try as we did, we never found that place. So, after leaving Spur, Dad returned to the car, Ethan wandered off by himself, and Mom and I looked at the various stores on the first floor. Eventually, we came out of Edgars, where we found Ethan waiting for us. He and I bid adieu to Mom and went down to the ground floor, where I discovered a Clicks. Inside, I found my Twisted Pink nail polish, but it cost a whopping fifty rand (about US$5.50). I saved my money for later.
Ethan and I split up, and I headed to Exclusive Books, where I browsed the bookshelves, looking for, and finally finding, a certain book. I also learned that the bookstore has The Far Side books. It also had 50 People Who Stuffed Up South Africa, which is the partner of 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans, part of our homework curriculum (courtesy of Dad).
By 12:55, I was at the Nu-Movie cinemas where we watched the movie. Afterwards, Mom went shopping at Pick n Pay and Dad, Ethan, and I had ice cream at Love Revenge Cappuccino. Each had two of tiramisu, crème brulee, and Nutella.

Gorgeous Gardens

Today we went to the Rhodes Memorial and the Kirstenbosch Gardens. At the memorial, we found a four-fingered handprint, which Ethan and I tried to figure out.

At the gardens, we walked around smelling, touching, and looking at the plants. Dad pointed out the Skeleton Gorge. At one point, Dad and Ethan saw a black mamba or a mole snake—they’re not sure which. After walking around for a while, we rested under a tree. Ethan played with a bug, Dad napped, and Mom did Sudoku on her phone. We eventually moved on, and the two people who had been watching us immediately moved in.

We walked down a path for a little bit and stopped by a bench. “I’m tired already,” Dad said. He and Ethan finally got up though, and Dad randomly hugged me. “Cool!” Ethan exclaimed. “Can I hug Eryn too?” I gave him a death glare, and Mom burst out laughing.

We would’ve had ice cream at the tea room, but Dad has personal issues with places that don’t let you bring computers in. So we drove back home and walked down the street to Gelato’s at Newport. Then we returned to clean off the fast-melting chocolate ice cream. Ethan and I did schoolwork before we headed out to dinner at Newport, the restaurant right next to Gelato’s. Dad had pasta, Mom and Ethan had salads, and I had the sweet and sour chicken with rice. The stuff in Thailand was better.

Now Dad’s eating the Turkish Delight Tim-Tams (Mom and I hate Turkish Delight), Mom’s once again doing Sudoku, Ethan’s reading Artemis Fowl: Lost Colony, and I’m writing and anxiously waiting for our renters to Skype us.


Many Mini Marvels (Isn’t it Marvelous??)

I won at mini-golf again!

Of course, you know what that means. The winner averaged 3 points per hole, with 54 total. In second place, we had 69 points, followed by a close third with seventy. I got seventy-four. In the first half, I actually beat the 3rd placer. But obviously that was not a permanent thing.

We played after spending late morning and early afternoon in the center of town, looking at the Country’s Gardens, the castle, the cathedral, and the Green Market Square, where we looked at the necklaces, paintings, and shark skulls. We decided not to tour the castle today and opted instead to get ice cream: chocolate chip for Dad, mango-strawberry and chocolate chip for Mom, walnut coffee and chocolate chip for Ethan, and mango-strawberry and chocolate almond for me. We also got flowers—a king protea, ten pink roses, and some other flowers—for our flat.


Deaf at Dinner

After doing nothing for half the day except baking (and eating) muffins, walking down to Clicks, forgetting the credit card, freaking out, and poring over 2011 editions of Reader’s Digest, we drove down to the very full V&A Waterfront. Instead of heading over to the Victoria Wharf Shopping Center, we stepped in to the craft market. We got ice cream (chocolate and peanut butter) next door at the food warehouse, all the while having our ears blasted out by the annual Red Bull Flugtag, which is, according to the website, “where self-taught pilots meet homemade aircrafts.” I don’t really know what happened, but the Angry Birds placed second and Bull’s Eye placed first.

And the music was really really loud—I mean eardrum-busting. We got to listen to it some more during supper, which was pizza, caprese, and chicken salad. Mom and Ethan went to Pick n Pay while Dad paid the bill. Then we went to the Reader’s Warehouse (or something like that), where we looked at the unorganized uninteresting books, including Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. We bought nothing.


Got Blue?

We went to the Helderberg church today and saw several people that Dad knew back when he worked there. Since tomorrow is graduation (it’s usually towards the end of October when the high schoolers can help out, but the new head changed everything), the church was packed. First four rows were for the graduands. Or, as the sign said, First four rows is reserved for graduands. Dad said that the service was a nice mix—familiar order but definitely African.

After church and meeting Dad’s old (literally) acquaintances, we took doxy (our malaria medicine) and headed to a Thai restaurant for lunch. Alas, Thai food in South Africa is not the same as Thai food in Thailand. The green curry didn’t have the little (or medium, either) eggplants in it that we’d grown accustomed to in Thailand, and the restaurant boasted a “masala curry.” In case you didn’t know, masala is a type of delicious desert tea in India. (It may also be a Thai curry, but it’s curiously named.)

We drove back to Cape Town from Somerset West and, after Dad had taken a nap, we went for a walk. I was wearing my blue shorts, blue button-up shirt, blue flip-flops, and I still have blue nail polish. And my eyes are blue.


Putt-Putt Police

Mom, Ethan, and I went on the “more easy” mini golf course (the other option was plain old “easy”) today. None of us beat the Junior’s or Men’s record of the day—41—and none of us beat the Women’s—48—either. Mom earned 57 points, Ethan was second with 66, and I won (by getting the most points, of course) with 83. My worst two holes—numbers 14 and 3—were cut short by our 10-hit limit (thank goodness).

Ethan was the only one to hit a hole-in-one—coincidentally on #14, which, as you should recall, I bombed. Mom got 5, making our average for that hole 5.33. My best holes were 12, 13, and 17. I scored 2 on each of those. On 12, each earned a 2. For 13, I actually received the fewest points while Ethan got 3 and Mom got 4. On 17, Mom and I got 2 while Ethan got 3. Mom’s best holes were 1, 8, 12, and 17. Her average for the first nine was three.

Her worst holes were 3, 14, and 16—she got 5 on each. Ethan’s best hole was 14 (getting the only hole-in-one) while his worst was 3, where he got 8. (Yeah, 3 was not our best hole…)

Ethan was sometimes a little too flexible about how far away his black golf ball was from the edge of the course, so I—the honorary Putt-Putt Police—“helped” him place it in the correct position.


Fotographic Fun

We didn’t really do anything spectacularly interesting today, but we did extend our stay in South Africa to January 2 after learning that our visas would expire December 20th. So we applied for extensions and finished paying after three hours in and two visits to the Home Office. In between those two visits, I made brownies. When they were cut, there were twelve.

Now there’s none. (They were very good, if I may say so myself, even if they were from a Pillsbury mix.)

We stopped at Signal Hill on the way home, where we finished off the brownies, read more (in my case, 50 Flippen Brilliant South Africans, including the likes of Chad le Clos, Nelson Mandela, and Winston Churchill, an honorary addition), and finally left to stroll on the Promenade. Ethan and I played Escape on the playground, but he accused me of cheating (liar!) because he couldn’t cross the monkey bars.

He went to check the times and prices for the putt-putt place down the street. Meanwhile, I was photographed by the guy wearing a blue shirt. He was part of a photo shoot but apparently had gotten bored and was taking a picture of anything and everything—including me standing dead still at the edge of the Promenade, staring at the water, and once in a while looking back for Ethan.

The brother in question finally returned, told us all we needed to know, and we returned to our flat.


Come to Cape Town!

We finally arrived in Cape Town, tourist (and legislative) capital of South Africa. We also visited the most-visited attraction in all of Africa… and you thought it was the pyramids! It’s the V & A Waterfront. All my friends know about the Egyptian pyramids; none, until now, know about the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront in Cape Town, South Africa. The area has hundreds of shops and restaurants, the Two Oceans Aquarium, and, yes, a harbor.

After checking out that, we finally went to our oceanfront flat, on Mouille Point. It’s near a pool, playground, picnic area, and putt-putt course. We’re near the Green Point lighthouse, which didn’t prevent a shipwreck on July 1, 1966, during a winter storm. Speaking of winter, there are snowflakes on the light poles. And I’m sure that Santa still comes from the North Pole, not the South, even though it’s much, much closer.

After nesting and my heart being broken because there’s no wi-fi (a.k.a. no Skype with home), we returned to the mall where we first had supper at San Marco and then went grocery shopping at “Pick North Pay” as Karen (our GPS) likes to call Pick n Pay. By nine, we were finally out of there. (What a relief.)


Pretty Little Penguins

I think Bella, my stuffed penguin from home, is much cuter than the African penguins we saw on the beach at Simonstown today. We drove from our B&B in Somerset West to our original accommodations, where we had a breakfast of toast, fruit, cheese, chocolate muffins, and orange juice. We said good-bye and, after I downloaded Grace, Gold, and Glory on my Kindle, were on our way.

After several traffic delays, we arrived at Boulders Beach in Simonstown, where we saw lots of the African penguins. From there we entered Table Mountain National Park. We drove to the Buffelsfontein Visitors’ Centre, where we got our keys and a map. We then drove to the death march start near the original Cape Point lighthouse. It was too high, making it hard to see with fog and mist, so the new lighthouse is down about 150 meters or so.

We walked up the hill, envying the people riding on the Flying Dutchman tram, all the way to the lighthouse. We then went a little farther out on the point, as far as us mere mortals are allowed to go. (We also saw three tourists illegally pass that point.) We climbed back up to the lighthouse and went to the gift shop, where Ethan bought a bottle of seawater. We slowly slowly returned to our car, stopping at almost every viewpoint along the way.

We then went to the southwesternmost point of Africa, the Cape of Good Hope. We took a picture, examined a dead bird, and then went on to Olifantsbos Cottage, where we’re staying the night. Ethan and I constructed a fort against the side of a boulder on the beach made of rocks, sticks, and boards washed up on the beach. Ethan’s worried the tide, which comes right up to the bushes, will wash it away.

We had pasta and zucchini for supper, after which we went out to the beach for a sunset walk. We heard the baboons on the hill calling to each other as Ethan and I showed the parental units the fort. Ethan wanted to race to Dad, but I didn’t want to. “Why don’t you race?” he demanded. “Because this is a non-racist country,” I replied sarcastically. In the end, I did race… and won, of course!

The little bugs on the sand drove us insane… and away from the beach, so we retreated to the cottage where we enjoyed a Cadbury bar.


In the Land of Lady Gaga

We’re now in the same country as Lady Gaga after five-and-a-half months of (totally distant, as opposed to just distant) separation.

We’re also in the same town as Andre Joubert and his wife, Rebecca. Mr. Joubert taught with stuffed animals (like snakes and road kill) at Helderberg College when Dad did, back in 1980. (See? My dad is still alive after Noah’s flood!) After chatting to Mrs. Joubert- the president’s secretary- we walked over to their house, where we found Mr. Joubert. We exchanged snake stories, including my dead puff adder from yesterday, and then he pulled out a large plastic container, undid the hole, and invited me over to see. “Cool,” I said. In the background, Mom said, “Was that a good cool or a bad cool?”

He showed them the item, too, and Mom just said “Oh.” She was probably relieved that the big fat puff adder wasn’t rearing up to bite us. Instead it just flicked its tongue and gave us the evil eye. After talking about puff adders some more, we left to our accommodations here in Somerset West. For supper, we ate at Spur, whose subtitle is “Steak Ranch.” We didn’t have steak, though. Ethan had a chicken burger with Appletizer, Dad had a Greek salad with a thick chocolate malt, Mom had a chicken wrap with a chocolate shake, and I had the same wrap with a mango shake. For starters, we had “Mexican nachos.” Dad said that Spur (which is Indian themed, each restaurant having a different name—we ate at Sunset Bay) is the South African version of what they think is an American restaurant, like Red Robin. They were pretty close, actually, right down to the Oreo shakes and falling-apart-too-easily wraps.

Dad let me have his “cherry on top” [of his malt], saying, “It’s an albino.” It was a marshmallow.


Bitey Fishes and Rusty Mushrooms

We slept in til eight today, so we had a late breakfast and, by default, a late start. We decided to visit the lighthouse first and then do the death march in the afternoon. Before climbing to the top of the lighthouse, though, we stopped by the Meisho Maru (sure sounds like mushroom!) wreck where Ethan climbed and I petted fishes (although they tried to bite me in return).

At the red-and-white striped lighthouse, we climbed as high as we could go. The museum was closed, but Ethan and I entertained ourselves with 20 Questions until Dad—who dislikes 20 Questions—told us to stop. I got black rhino correctly, but Ethan couldn’t get tsessebe, oribi, or Cape turtle dove. (The tsessebe and oribi are both types of antelope that live in South Africa.)

We returned to our chalet and then headed out on our “blue” death march—our other options were the 10.2-kilometer yellow death march or the 4.2-kilometer red death march. Thankfully, we chose the blue, which is only three kilometers. After crossing the road, we saw a sign that read

Archaeological and Historical Site

Strictly No Entry

Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted

Ethan freaked out and refused to move and “break the law.” We finally made him go, and when we went down a fynbos-covered dune, I found a dead puff adder. It was squished for some reason, but I picked it up and it is sitting ten feet away from me right now in our chalet. Ethan refused to touch it.

We went to the blowholes, which don’t really blow, and finally passed the lagoon and reception before returning to Chalet 2. After much searching, I decided that we would just have to wing it for supper. We enjoyed pasta and fish at SeaGulls’, where I called a friend from home.


No More “Nice Knysna”

We finally left “nice Knysna” today after saying good-bye to our landlord, Silvia, and packing all our stuff. It was a relatively short drive (five hours) to Cape Agulhas, the southernmost point of Africa. (Not, however, the southernmost point on our trip. We’ll be experiencing that in South America.)

After a quick stop at Fruit & Veg City for fresh veggies, milk, and koeksisters, a South African sort of sugary greasy donut, we passed only two car accidents while the GPS directed us to the national park. Once there, we got photographed next to the plaque where the southernmost point of Africa is. Then we got back in our car and drove to Cottage 2, where we’ll be staying for two nights.

We took a walk down to the beach, where we found small fish, starfish, and sea anemone skeletons. We also saw lots of dead bluebottle jellyfish. For supper, Mom served green beans and a vegetable stew on rice, finished with a (delicious) coconut-cashew Cadbury bar.


Going in One Direction >>>

Bunny bunny!! (That’s what I say as opposed to Rabbit rabbit [on the first day of the month]) We’re all being directional over here in RSA, ever since Mom said that Harry was “not very cute.” (And I was referring to Niall!) I have made it a goal to listen to One Direction in every country we visit, and, so far, I have! We heard “What Makes You Beautiful” at the Terminal 21 mall in Bangkok and walking down the street to dinner in Vientiane, Laos.

Right before takeoff, I listened to WMYB on the tarmac in New Delhi. In Australia, I heard WMYB (seem familiar?) while waiting to exit the aircraft in Darwin. In Botswana, I watched “Live While We’re Young” in Gaborone at the suggestion of a friend. In Namibia, we heard them singing WMYB (again!) at a mall in Windhoek, and I watched them perform WMYB on the Ellen Show and their official “Little Things” video at the Haven.

Today Dad was checking to see if our wi-fi worked, so he entered a word in Bing. Up popped an article where David Beckham insulted One Direction. Upon further investigation, it was discovered that that was a tabloid lie. (Whew. I was starting to hate him) Furthermore, One Direction defended Beckham on a Twitter fight with Piers Morgan.

Just in case you didn’t know.

Also, just in case you didn’t know, One Direction is a English-Irish boy band made up of Harry Edward Styles, Zayn Jawaad Malik, Niall James Horan (the lone Irishman), Liam James Payne, and Louis William Tomlinson.


…Where Thousands of Butts Have Gone Before

We first went to Oudtshoorn to check out the Highgate Ostrich Farm, but it was inexplicably closed. So we went to the Safari ostrich farm, where Mom, Ethan, and I rode ostriches while Dad took pictures (he’s already ridden twice before). Then we went back through Oudtshoorn to the Cango Caves, one of the Seven Wonders of Southern Africa.

We decided to do the 90-minute Adventure Tour verses the hour-long Standard Tour. That was probably our best choice because the path was very boring (except for the Bushman setting with a leopard in the background) up until the Standard Tour entered and the Adventure Tour began. “Watch out for the animals in here. We have crocodiles, snakes, and bats, so be careful,” our guide, Christopher, warned. Mom started freaking out when he laughed. “Okay, there are no crocodiles or snakes, but there are bats.”

First up is Jacob’s Alley- 172 steps- followed by King Solomon’s Mines. From there, we went up a steep metal ladder to the Lumbago Walk. Ethan and I were glad to be right behind Christopher. If we had been behind all the slow adults, we would not have enjoyed ourselves as much. The Lumbago Walk is basically a low area that ends up in the Crystal Palace and up to the Tunnel of Love. The Tunnel of Love is named because it “gives you a loving squeeze.” Ethan and I were fine, but some of the other members (possibly including our parents) were squished. Following being squished, we passed through the Banqueting Hall and the Devil’s Workshop before hitting the Devil’s Chimney. Ethan went first, followed by me, Mom, Dad, and the rest of our group.

The Devil’s Chimney is a ten-foot-long, two-feet-wide upward crawl. Mom had a hard time, but the rest of us came out fine. Then we slid on our hands and knees through the Postbox, meeting up with Christopher, who had taken the easy way round. We then walked to the Coffin, went in this time, and followed the cave (including the Tunnel of Love) back out.

My title today comes from when we were sliding down into the Ice Chamber, leading up to the Coffin. The rock was worn smooth because so many people had stood/sat/slid in the exact same places over the years, thus causing my quote that became my title.


Raining Cats & Birds

The Tenikwa Center turned out to be a flop. Even though the pictures used for advertisement purposes showed people getting up close and personal with the cats, we were never allowed to touch them. Our guide was asked the question “Where are cheetahs found in South Africa?” and couldn’t answer. They didn’t even have any black-footed cats, which are so cute! They did have marabou storks, meerkats, blue cranes, ducks, cheetahs, a leopard, caracals, African wild cats, and servals.

At Birds of Eden, we saw not only of the many types of birds but also the golden-handed tamarins, a primate species native to South and Central America, and a blue duiker, a tiny antelope that has been known to eat rodents. My favorite bird was probably the Galah cockatoo, which was our first and last bird sighting. It was the same one and hung out around the door area.

We then went on a hike to see another groot boom (big tree)in the forest. After that we returned to Knysna exhausted, esurient, and dying for a Cadbury bar.


We’ve Been Decapitated!


That’s a lie. If anything, we have been re-headed today after we went to the Knysna Heads for the view. After walking around on the East Head, we had our first real mochas since Chiang Mai, Thailand. They were delicious and came with (delicious) biscotti. We drove around a little bit more than headed over to Thesen Island to look at the Sirocco’s and Tapas restaurants. We decided that Tapas looked better, so we’ll (hopefully) be returning tomorrow night.
Ethan and I flipped, swung, and rode giraffes,  zebras, and lions with braided manes at the nearby playground. We checked out the multimillion-rand real estate and then hopped over to Clicks, where I agonized over which color of nail polish I should get once mine runs out (I narrowed it down to Violet Voltage and Twisted Pink). We returned to Haus Knysna after going the length of Rio Street. Mom made a supper of stir-fry for us after Silvia- our current landlord- stopped by to see how we were faring.
We’re doing well.

Bouncy Bridges

We’re going on forced death marches each day we spend in Knysna. Today our appointed death march was very short, though: 959 meters. That was at the Garden of Eden. We didn’t see any mammals (other than people) there. We did see mammals (rock dassies) at the mouth of the Storms River. We walked a kilometer each way to a suspension bridge that crossed the river. There were even baby dassies, but I didn’t see those. I was too intent on getting back to the car.
Ethan and I stayed on the bridges a total of five minutes waiting for the people to leave the pictures that Dad was trying to take. We held on to the cables, and I ended up with lots of dry salt on my hands—not a very nice feeling.
The suspension bridge was the second today. The other was over the Storms River too, but it was an arch, and cars could go on it. Legend has it that the man who oversaw all the construction (the engineer only came down from Italy for the laying of the arch) said that he would commit suicide if the arches didn’t come together perfectly. When they were lowered together, there was a half-meter gap. He dramatically jumped off the bridge, but a “private investigator” discovered that he lived and directed the repair.
Engineers also discovered that the center of gravity on the arch was a half-meter off center. Oops.

Unhappy at The Haven

Ethan was very sad to have to say good-bye to Sophia and Josi this morning… not. Josi didn’t even show up, and we only saw Sophia after breakfast when she showed off her aerials on the trampoline. Ethan probably was sad to say good-bye to Rocky, Socks, Teddy, Strider, Alto, the horses’ handler, Dayne, and the dog, Rambo.

We weren’t sad to leave the hubbub of the Christmas-party-holding company of forty who ate a lot of meat, bread, and croissants at breakfast. Our favorite village health researcher, Steena, had breakfast after we left. Last night she ate with Dayne. Matthew, the cook, walked by after taking our drinks orders (two still waters, one Appletizer, and one Red Grapetizer) and said, “Aren’t you part of the staff?” Dayne nodded and said, “Yeah, you can arrest me later.”

The staff table was mainly empty last night. Only Sharmane, the girls’ teacher, and Brandon ate while we were there. Sophia and Josi must have been kicked out because of the party.

We also said good-bye to Ashley, the other cook who made the lettuce-and-apple soup, at breakfast. He seemed surprised that we were already leaving for Knysna. We’re not already in Knysna, though. It’s six o’clock and we’ve been on the road since nine. Our GPS (aka the voice of the Australian Karen) predicts our arrival to be in three hours. That’s twelve hours of driving for only 470 miles (750 kilometers). That’s because we spent two hours (only forty kilometers, or twenty-five miles) on bad Transkei roads this morning.


All Fun & Games

Today after a total freak-out as we crossed the supposedly shark-infested Mbashe River, Josi and Sophia roped Ethan and me into playing Dot Dot, Statues, and Wolfie, Wolfie.

Dot Dot was the last game we played. It is the hardest to explain: one person was the ‘caller,’ and they chose what the subject was. It could be anything from types of fishes to colors. The people on the other end (usually Josi, Ethan, and me) would form a huddle and choose, say, their colors. In that case, Josi chose pink, Ethan chose black, and I chose orange. Then one person would tell Sophia all three, and she would choose one and call it out. She and that person would run to where the other stood, yell “Dot dot!”, and try to be the first to return to their place, once again yelling “Dot dot!” The winner was the next caller.

Statues is much simpler. One person is it. The others are at some point behind It. They try to be the first to touch it and say “Question mark!” But there’s a catch. (There always is.) When It hears anyone, they turn around. The runners have to become like statues. If It sees anyone move, that person has to return to the starting point.

Wolfie, Wolfie involves the three people who aren’t the wolf saying “Wolfie, Wolfie, what time is it?” The wolf can say anything from one o’clock to twelve o’clock. The others have to go as many steps as hours. The goal is to reach the wolf first and become the next wolf. However, the wolf could also say that it’s dinnertime, in which case the wolf tries to tag one of the runners before they make it back to their spot.

This sounds like it was all fun, but after a while two screaming hyper little girls can get on your nerves. Thankfully, Mom showed up and rescued us.


A Poem for Your Pupils

Two little girls screaming and playing

Horses trotting, galloping, and neighing

Ethan’s so excited to be here

He was thrilled with some horses to steer

Ashley makes us really good food

Visitors don’t want meals to conclude

Everyone says it’s always alright

Now they say it’s time for ‘good-night’


Thankful that the Day is Finally Over

After a long, grueling death march to the waterfall, Ethan and I played Monopoly (it’s the South African version, so instead of railroads it has international airports in Durban, Cape Town, Bloemfontein, and Johannesburg, instead of waterworks it has ‘water board,’ instead of just English it has both English and Afrikaans, and instead of dollars it uses rand in denominations of 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, and 50000).

Earlier on the trampoline, I had watched Ethan jump while Josi, the five-year-old girl who lives here, talked to me. She informed me that Sophia is seven, when their birthdays were, and that she’s homeschooled. She also told me a joke:

There was a family on a plane that was going to crash. The parents and pilot were worried they were going to die, so they talked about what they wanted to do most. “I wish I could have my baby,” the pregnant mother said. “I wish I could be a dad again,” said the dad. “I wish I could fly more planes,” said the pilot. Then the mom, dad, and pilot got in the parachutes (there were only three) and jumped out of the plane, leaving the four-year-old son up in the air. When the mom and dad got home, they found the boy in his room, watching TV. They asked him how he got there, and he said, “Me no stupid, me no dumb, me hang onto Daddy’s bum. When he go toot, I go zoom! And that’s how I get home so soon.”

Now Ethan and I returned to the trampoline, soon to be joined by Sophia. She told us the horses’ names (Socks, Elter, Teddy, Rocky, and Strider) and that Socks was sore and couldn’t be ridden because he had an operation a few days ago. She asked, “Are our horses boys or girls?” I asked if they were both. “Just guess!” she said. Ethan answered, “They’re all boys.”

“How’d you know?” Sophia asked. Ethan smiled. “I read it on the website.” Sophia groaned. “Why’d my mom have to put it there? It’s broken! Are you mad?” This last part was to Ethan, because he was starting to go down the slide on the play structure. (Sophia had told him before that it was broken.) After some more Monopoly, we went back out, this time with the intent to play table tennis. The table wasn’t down there, so we told Sylvia at the front desk. She said she would have Dayne and Brandon take it in.

So Sophia, Ethan, and I played Clue and Scrabble. No one won Clue because, well, we all accused incorrectly. I was winning Scrabble when we stopped with 121 points. Sophia had 78 and Ethan had 77 (although Sophia only got that many because I helped her). Then we went back out to the trampoline and jumped some more. Josi came and joined us. We stayed like that until it started getting dark.


A Safe Haven

Ethan is SO excited: we’re finally at the famed Haven. Apparently it was his favorite place when he was in South Africa back in 2009 with Dad. There is a pool, golf course, trampoline, table tennis set, and beach here, along with many types of animals including white rhinos (which are still hunted in this national park) and zebra. The male zebra, Zebbie, who was hanging out with the horses three-and-a-half years ago,was shot on account of his “amorous escapades” with the horses and donkeys here. So Ethan was a little disappointed that they hadn’t trained Zebbie to be ridden.  We had a supper of lettuce and apple soup, bread, pumpkin, potato, spinach, rice, and a bread-and-butter bread pudding with custard. Yes, I did say “lettuce and apple soup.” To be totally honest with you, I would not advise it to you unless you  love creamed spinach from Safeway. But the dessert was delicious, and we left totally stuffed.


Some R&R

After our long and grueling hike yesterday, we need some rest and relaxation. We got to sleep in and have a late (9 a.m.) breakfast. We left to give the laundry to the laundry company.

Then we went to Falcon Ridge, home to raptors of the world. We saw a peregrine falcon (Squawk), a spotted eagle owl (Hooter), an African fish eagle, two kites, two Harris hawks, and a Wahlberg’s eagle named Hugo. Ethan held Squawk and Hooter. During the sister Harris hawks’ demonstration, all four dogs stayed well away. Allison, one of the bird handlers, said that even the youngest dog, Kaecee, had learned to stay away from these raptors because they had both ridden on his back at one point.

At the next place, we got to touch and hold a tailless whip scorpion, an alligator, a leopard gecko, an African pygmy hedgehog, several types of snakes, and a tarantula. The owner (we’ll call him Rick) had a black mamba, but obviously we didn’t get to cuddle with her. He also had puff adders, and he decided that Dad hadn’t seen a puff adder yesterday; he’d seen a berg adder.

Rick even had a diamond-back rattlesnake and a California king snake! He said that rattlesnakes and puff adders are popular pets in South Africa. He also said that there are some snakes who give live birth. This includes the puff adder.

So today we got to see some Raptors & Reptiles.


In Egypt…

The Sphinx, our first and original destination, was all but ignored when we were in front of it. Once above, though, we sat on the Sphinx’s head and ate snacks. Ethan and I played 20 Questions, and it was a baboon. We saw two later on the hike after passing Breakfast Stream and a kilometer or so of trail. We went down a steep hill for about two hours. Mom’s knees couldn’t take it, so she had to use a stick.

Dad was lucky enough to see a puff adder. He told Mom about it, and she freaked out.


Drakensberg Down Day

Today was a ‘Down Day,’ which means we did schoolwork, sorted pictures, and surfed the web until 13:00.We left for the Spar (a grocery store) in Winterton and to look at Cathedral Peak. We didn’t enter the Drakensberg UNESCO World Heritage Site, one of seven in the world to be chosen as a World Heritage Site for three reasons (in this case, geology, vegetation, and archaeology), because we weren’t wearing hiking shoes and it was four o’clock.

So we drove back to our house, stopping occasionally to look at birds, and working on a newspaper crossword brought from home.


Dinner & Dialogue

“Ah, he’s your tour guide,” Lee said. Ethan was explaining where we were going on our trip to the German couple at the table next to us. We were dining on pasta, chicken, and fish (not each for everyone!) at Mistyque restaurant. The German couple—I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. Smith—went on holiday for six weeks every year. Their favorite places in South Africa are Kruger and the area around it.

As Mr. Smith and Dad were talking, Ethan and I were predicting that our “life story” (going around the world for a year) would come out. We didn’t know that it would, in fact, be Ethan who would reveal this deep, dark secret of ours. Actually, Mrs. Smith asked, “So, are you on a world tour?” To which Ethan enthusiastically replied, “Yes!” He listed off all the countries, much to my chagrin (I love to be the one to list the fourteen countries), ending in, “So maybe we’ll get to Greece, but with all the unrest right now, it’s hard to tell.”

The Smiths have traveled extensively, visiting places including Cuba, South Africa (of course), Turkey, Chile, and Spain. We swapped travel stories throughout dinner, but finally had to leave, using the excuse of “getting the kiddies to bed.”

When we were checking out, Lee talked to us more about what we were doing, why, etc. He said that Ethan was big for eleven (ha) and that, if we had had any Steelers gear, he would have given us dinner just for that. Turns out he’s a big Penn State and Florida fan after working in Pennsylvania. He told us that Oregon was playing Stanford tonight. If it’s the Ducks, I’m cheering for Oregon. If it’s the Beavers… maybe not.


Calling Cameras in Kruger

Today we left Kruger. While in the park, we feasted our eyes, ears, and noses on the park. We saw lots of animals, we heard the bird calls, screaming cicadas, groaning hippos, and roaring lions, and we smelled the flowers (the park was in full bloom from the recent rains) and dead hippo. The primary point, though, was the animal life. We saw more of any animal than in any of the other parks, excepting gemsbok and springbok, which we didn’t see, and giraffes (in Etosha we saw 91; we saw only 75 in Kruger).

Here is my total:

2,781 black-faced impala
564 African elephants
483 blue wildbeeste
419 zebra
94 Cape buffalo
75 giraffes
67 Nile crocodiles
59 hippos
48 waterbuck
27 lions
13 white rhinos
11 bushbuck
10 spotted hyenas
8 African wild dogs
8 nyala
7 scrub hares
6 cheetahs
2 small-spotted genets
2 honey badgers
2 leopards
1 large-spotted genet
1 Sharpe’s grysbok
1 black-backed jackal

Beyond these, we also saw baboons, vervet monkeys, leopard tortoises, banded mongoose, a duiker, three steenbok, ground agamas, and, apart from the many types of birds including the Southern ground hornbill, Marabou stork, pied kingfisher, Egyptian goose, helmeted guineafowl, and Verreaux eagle-owl, my very favorite animal sighting: a puff adder.


Sorry at Sunset

Tonight we saw a caracal! And a leopard! And a serval! And a civet!

Not. We did see a sunset (good, since it was a sunset drive), impala, zebra, blue wildbeeste, waterbuck, hippos, the dead hippo with the dozens of Nile crocodiles, scrub hares, and birds, but we didn’t see any carnivores. We saw a leopard tortoise, which Cecilia, our driver, told us was one of the Little Five, whose names mimic those of the Big Five: leopard tortoise, ant lion, rhino’s horn beetle, buffalo weaver, and elephant shrew.

Cecilia seemed genuinely sorry that we didn’t see anything interesting after waiting an extra fifteen minutes for the last two people to arrive. We were heading out the gate when someone pointed them out.

Before the drive, Ethan and I had swam in the pool, seen many of the bushbucks who live in Letaba Camp, and watched a crested barbet gobble up a mopane worm.


Animated Animal Sightings

“Ooh, look, some of those impala are preggie,” Mom said.

Preggie?” I asked.



Ethan laughed. We were driving from Letaba rest camp after resting (it is a rest camp, after all!) up after our tiresome drives this morning. We got up at 3:30 to go on a morning drive, and we saw eight lions, thirteen elephants, twenty-three giraffes, a small-spotted genet, and a Sharpe’s grysbok. We returned to bungalow 117 and had breakfast before finally leaving Olifants.

The drive was about forty kilometers, and we saw Cape buffalo, elephants, hippos, crocodiles, elephants, wildebeeste, zebra, impala, giraffes, waterbuck, a male bushbuck, and lots of different types of birds. The next drive was when we saw the pregnant impala. We also saw a new animal for Kruger: banded mongoose.

When we drove up after I shouted “Stop!”, they ran up to the car, mouths wide open. These squeazels (as we’ve dubbed them- a cross between squirrels and weasels) were bigger than any we’d ever seen before. Just as I rolled down my window to take a picture, they retreated into the shade. After many repeats of this, we discovered that it was a raptor of some sort that was scaring the mongoose back and forth. We left after having taken lots of pictures.

On the bridge over the Letaba River where you could get out, we saw baboons, waterbuck, birds (of course!), and a couple who told us about crocodiles trying to get at a dead, bloated hippo. So after we were done on the bridge, we followed them and saw the hippo. There was another live hippo next to it, and we were told that sometimes the crocs tried to eat it, too.


Lots & Lots of Olifants

Today we saw over one hundred elephants in all different places. The first sighting was on the tarred road at a dam. One herd of elephants had just finished playing in the water, and we stayed and watched the next herd move in. The hippos in the dam had moved off to one side, as if they were afraid of the elephants (a sensible move, since a full-grown bull elephant could easily squash a hippo). We also saw a marabou stork there. On our morning drive at Lower Sabie, we learned that marabou storks pee on their legs to keep cool.

We continued on to a gravel road, where we came across three separate elephants, plus impala, two steenbok, waterbuck, giraffes, vervet monkeys, and a giant eagle-owl. We drove to part of a river where there was water (!!!) and stopped there, watching a herd of 33+ elephants drink. Mom was worried the whole time that an elephant would take it into its head to knock our car over. (None did.)

We saw some more elephants as we continued on, stopping at a bridge over a river to get out and look at birds. We continued on and arrived at camp around 1 o’clock, where I got to put up three dots on the sighting board: one for Cape buffalo today, one for elephants today, and one for a leopard on our night drive yesterday. We got Magnums (biscotti for Ethan, Mom, and me, and Death by Chocolate for Dad) and sat at the view point.

From there, we could see for miles—excuse me, kilometers. We saw giraffes, impala, hippo heads, waterbuck, zebra, and nineteen elephants. Eighteen of those crossed the river in two separate herds, and one was a lone bull wandering on the far side.

Oh, did I forget to mention what the name of the river was? And our camp?

Olifants, meaning elephants in Afrikaans.


Today We Saw a Leopard…


… tortoise. It was actually moving pretty quickly at the Elephants waterhole, where we did see elephants.
After going back onto the tar road (H2-1), we drove for five minutes before coming to five stopped cars.
“Leopard on the right!” Dad exclaimed.
“Yeah, right,” was the general reaction.
“What are you looking at?” Mom asked. “Uhm, there’s a leopard on each side. One just killed a warthog, I think…” was the helpful answer from a nearby car.
The leopard then crossed the road from left to right, causing some squealing. We backed up to look for the other leopard, but we couldn’t see it. The people in the car overlooking the leopard waved us up and pointed out the leopard to us. It was laying against a rock, with its spots providing good camouflage. We dubbed him Kinky, after his tail.
Suddenly we heard some squealing and turned to see a large, bleeding warthog run away, leaving us wondering why the leopard didn’t just kill it outright.
Kinky didn’t even blink.
Eventually he got up and walked down the road a kilometer before disappearing into the veld.
We continued on to Satara, where Mom, Ethan, and I had supper before all of us went on a night drive with twenty of our new closest friends.
My wish list for the night drive included  caracal, serval, rhino, and lion, because, if we saw the last two, we would have seen all Big Five (elephant, rhino, lion, leopard, Cape buffalo) in one day.
So we started out by seeing… IMPALA!!! (Gasp.) Then we saw a steenbok, some wildebeeste, a giant eagle-owl, and some more impala before coming across our first carnivorous mammal: a small-spotted genet. It was small and in a tree, but we saw it. Our next big animal was a male lion and another lion (but we only saw its eye-shine).
We saw hippos, a bushbuck and her baby, wildebeeste, and impala before I saw a large-spotted genet. (No one else did because I forgot to tell City, our driver, to stop.)
Even with all the racket we were making, we still saw a cat-like figure crossing the road: a leopard.
So I didn’t get to see all Big Five in one day, but seeing two totally unrelated leopards was awesome. We’ve gone to three game parks (Etosha, Kgalagadi, and Kruger) and we’ve seen at least one leopard in every one.


My alarm clock when off at 3:25 this morning. This was, sadly, no accident. We had a morning game drive to catch at four a.m. It would last three hours and we were supposed to see rare animals like leopards, genets, servals, and caracals.

We didn’t see any of those cat-like animals, but we saw three others: lions, hyenas, and cheetahs. The first we saw of these was a spotted hyena, which we saw after a marabou stork, steenbok, and some impala. It was walking towards a family of six cheetahs (a mom and her five cubs). The cubs were a few months old. Martie, our guide, said that the group she took on the morning drive the day before hadn’t seen the cheetahs, so she didn’t mention it to them when she stopped by their car after we saw the two female lions dozing on the road.

They moved off, but it wasn’t because they were intimidated by the two barking African wild dogs. “I don’t know what to say because I’ve never seen anything like this,” Martie said. “Usually wild dogs just move away from lions.”

Later on the tarred H4-2, Martie pointed out a bird and said, “We rangers have funny little things for birds to help us remember their names, like this one. We say it goes, ‘My mother is dead. My father is dead. Everyone is dead dead dead dead.” (“Dead dead dead dead” is the sound the bird makes.)

So our total before 7 o’clock this morning was…

1,000 impala
15 baboons
13 African elephants
08 nyala (“They aren’t usually seen this far south,” Martie said)
06 cheetahs
02 spotted hyenas
02 African wild dogs
02 lionesses
02 African fish eagles
01 bushbuck
01 common duiker
01 brown snake eagle
01 magpie shrike


Lots of Baby Hippos

“Look at it! It’s a baby hippo,” Ethan cried. “Sssh,” Dad hissed. “And what are you talking about? That’s no ‘baby hippo.’”

It wasn’t. It was a warthog, our third one today (and our third in Kruger, too). We saw more when we stopped to look at some vervet monkeys.

Warthogs weren’t our only W-animal today. Guess what it was, please. Walrus? Whale? Warbler?

Think again: wild dog. Officially known as the African wild dog, it was a first for all of us. It was called the ‘wild African dog’ on Fox News when the station reported on a group of the mauling a little boy to death on the USA’s east coast. These six were more docile. There was even a puppy!

Later on we visited the Hippo Pools, where we saw some hippos and a snake coiling around its food. We’re not sure what type of snake it was, though. On the way back up to the Crocodile River Road, we saw a car pulled over and stopped to see what the fuss was about. Turns out there was a smallish pride of lions near the road.

After Hippo Pools we visited the Crocodile Gate camp where used the ablution blocks and bought drinks (yellow fruit juice for Mother, 330 milliliters of Lime & Soda for Ethan, a can of Rock Shandy for Dad, and an ‘Orange Flavoured Drink’ by Fanta for me) and chocolate chip cookies. It was on the road up to Lower Sabie camp that we saw the first baby hippos.

We saw more at the Sunset Dam, where they were all silhouetted. Our plans for watching the movie after supper were dashed because no movie was showing. So now I’m writing instead.


Darth Vader

Since we went to three waterfalls yesterday (Mac Mac, Lisbon, and Berlin), I will mention that we visited those and Bridal Veil Falls this morning before driving to Kruger National Park.

After going through Numbi Gate and Reception, we drove several kilometers to Pretoriouskop, seeing [my first] four waterbuck along the way, plus an impala and several Cape glossy starlings.

After getting another Kruger guide book (the GPS [whose current voice is the Australian Karen] pronounced it “KROO-jer.” It’s pronounced “KROO-ger”), we got back on the road, not knowing that, before arriving at the Berg-en-Dal camp, we would see seven rhinos, eight African elephants (including two little ones who were play-fighting), two honey badgers (which are usually nocturnal), a pride of ten lions made up of three lionesses and their seven cubs, six of which were jumping around (Mom, shockingly, called them “feisty”) playing with someone’s tennis shoe, a mother and her four spotted hyena cubs, and innumerable kudu and springbok.

We arrived at Berg-en-Dal seven minutes before the gate closed. We put our stuff in our chalet and then had supper at the restaurant. For dessert we had chocolate cupcakes after Dad opened his presents (a movie, a pair of rhino, elephant, and lion socks, a South Africa polo shirt, comics from home, and a Cadbury bar). So he is now 52 and a very ou vader. Not Darth Vader, mind you, but ou vader, which means ‘old father’ in Afrikaans.


Diesel’s Dialogue

The people the people the people, people I’ve never seen before! They’re at the door!!! They’re small, which means I can jump up and lick their face. They taste like rain. What? Where are they going??? Back out???

Oh, here they come! (Whew.) I was worried I would never see them again. Oh, no! Where’s my stick?! Who took it?! What? Is it these two new people and the two who came in later? They’re all sitting at a table and—

Oh, look, it’s Alicia Keys on the TV. What? Where’d the TV go? Why is it all dark? Oh, mistress is lighting a candle. The food smells good, but my stick is better. Where is it? I swear I just put it here—

Oh it’s right here on this chair. C’mon. Hey, play with me, Small Non-Person! Please! Oh, please please please play with me. I’m so lonely. Even the men cussing at the bar don’t look at me. Please play with me! I’m so lonely and bor—

The TV is back on! But where is my stick? I put it on the floor! Where is it? Oh, it’s under that other table. Well, big person, don’t think you’ve fooled me! There. Ha! You see, I am smarter than—

Don’t you dare blow on my face Big Person!!!!!!! Here, I’ll blow in yours! How does that feel? Okay, I’m tired now. I’ll just lay right down and take a nap with my stick next to m—

Mmmf yffl… hmm? What’s that? My stick! My precious stick! Where did it go???!!!! Help me, please! I’m looking all around the table but I see no stick, and—

What? You’re leaving? Mistress called me over and I didn’t even get to say good-bye. Well, I’ll say it now:


Out from Oom Dennis’s (and Tannie Mariejtie’s)

Canimambo is a Portuguese-Mozambican restaurant. The three of us had chicken, while Dad ordered a Greek salad.

This came after hours of driving from Oom Dennis’s house to the Wild Forest Inn here near Graskop. We finally left Koster after getting the tire changed, saying good-bye to Tannie Marietjie’s parents, Tannie Marietjie herself, Griet, Dinky, Bessie, and the other dogs, and Oom Dennis, and buying groceries at Choppies. We drove through Pretoria to see the jacaranda trees, which had just passed their prime but were still pretty, and the Union Buildings (government offices).

The weather- thunderstorms and in the 60s- came as a bit of a shock after warm Upington and Koster. It seems like Oregon…


Dog Day

There were seven dogs: Tikki, Bloemie (meaning ‘flower’ in Afrikaans), Bokiche, one Ethan nicknamed “Biggie,” and the other three: a little old dog a year or two younger than the blind and deaf Bokiche, a spotted mutt in the back (I’ll call him Captain), and Biggie’s sister. Biggie and his sister (I’ll call her Rooijana) are the puppies of Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s Bessie and Tannie Marietjie’s brother’s dog (I’ll call him Dennye), making them the siblings of one of Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s other dogs (I’ll call him Max).

Biggie looks almost exactly like Dennye, except Biggie is slightly smaller and is more yellow than gold. Rooijana looks like Bessie and Max; all three are black. Bloemie was the cute Jack Russell terrier. She joined Rooijana and Biggie in licking Ethan’s face dirty. He had, after all, tried to drown himself by attempting to swim across the dam, so it had been clean.

When Oom Dennis and Dad had discovered the front right tire to be a bit flat, we decided to pay Tannie Marietjie’s friends a visit. Who knew that they would have seven dogs?

Tikki and Bloemie fought the most. Well, Bloemie fought Tikki the most. She would grab one of Tikki’s ears and hang on, swinging to and fro. When we arrived, Bokiche’s look-alike disappeared into the house after barking at us. It took us a while to realize Captain’s presence. He never came out to play. Bokiche never really interacted with us, only smelling my hand.

Now Ethan and I want dogs even more…


Dinky’s Daring Day

“Look at that one! It’s getting closer,” Ethan said. He was, of course, referring to a lion at one of Oom Dennis’s friend’s house. The friend just moved in to the house with his wife on Friday. Their granddaughter, Karina, was staying with them for the time. She showed me the mouse and her room.

The main lions we looked at were in a cage with ten, but we only really saw eight. Dinky was with us, and somehow she got out of the truck and ran. The lions instantly perked up and started walking the fence line. Poor Dinky freaked out and cowered under the truck. Oom Dennis picked her up and put her in the back. She is seventeen years old (119 dog years).

What experiences she must have had!


Stuck With Stables

“Do you get stuck often?” Mom asked.

“Yes,” admitted the 8-year-old girl. Her dad had gone to get a tractor and some help, so she, her younger sister, and the four of us were waiting for his return. It had started when we had spotted some zebra and driven forward. Dad had asked, “Is that a warthog hole?” Francois nodded, and we drove around the back to get a better look at the entrance.

And we did, in fact, get closer- much closer- than we had intended. With a ker-chunk and a clunk, we had caved in the warthogs’ lounge. Francois thought that by gunning the engine he could get us out, but the bakkie’s back left tire was firmly stuck, and the front right tire was six inches off the ground.

That was when he left to get help.

We captured the whole affair on camera. By the time we got back in the bakkie, Mom in the front because she can’t handle standing in the bed, we had captured about five minutes’ video and lots of pictures. We also took pictures of the sable, since Francois’ property is, after all, named Sable Hill. I saw my first (and second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth…) sables there. There were also nyala, kudu, red hartebeest, wildebeeste, cows, and, as pets, an ostrich, three meerkats (two adult females and one baby boy that they had just bought today), numerous chickens, a squawking bird, and four dogs.


The Koster Episode

“You must be the family’s clown,” Tannie Marietjie’s mother said. I rolled my eyes.

Him?” (Personally, I think that Dad and I are funnier than him.)

She ignored my comment and kept on talking, telling us about the Koster family—and, yes, we’re staying near Koster. Tannie Marietjie was a Koster, and the town was established by her great-grandfather. On the wall, there were pictures of just about everyone in the Koster family, including a wedding picture of Oom Dennis and Tannie Marietjie.

“It was pure agony,” she was saying. Mrs. Koster was referring to her husband taking her on a drive in his bakkie on a new road on their property. The agony-causer pointed out this road from the top of a hill after he had driven Tannie Marietjie, Ethan, Mom, Dad, and myself up it, followed by Tannie Marietjie’s brother’s dog, two of Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s three dogs (one was named Bessie), and Griet, Tannie Marietjie’s four-year-old Saint Bernard-great Dane.

On our way down, we saw some unnamed antelope bounding away, and Bessie and Griet pursued them. Bessie eventually joined the other two dogs in following the bakkie, but Griet was a long time in coming.

And then we saw her, bounding down the hill, tongue out, feet pounding the dirt, panting. She jumped into the cows’ water trough but didn’t jump into the concrete dam because it was too high.

When we returned to Mr. and Mrs. Koster’s house, she showed us a bird book and fed us ice cream.


Ethan Probably Had a More Interesting Day Than Me, But Here’s What I Did

After having breakfast with Oom Dennis (Tannie Marietjie was gone) and Bucky, the bird, Mom surfed the web and Dad worked with money while I read a book for school. Oom Dennis took Ethan to look at cattle.

Dad searched for better cell reception, but instead he found a grasshopper with bright green and pink wings. It was so pretty!!!

Once Oom Dennis, Ethan, and Dinky (the dog) returned, we had sandwiches and then watched an episode of Poirot. We had watched one episode last night, but Mom had missed it. She saw this one, though.

Five people died.


With the de Klerks

KOSTER, South Africa- “We have arrived!” Ethan told Oom (‘uncle’ in Afrikaans) Dennis. We were told to wait in the Wimpy parking lot. And wait we did… eventually Oom Dennis came and, with Ethan in his bakkie, he showed us the way to his house, which is on his wife’s parents’ property. She came to the house after dark, accompanied by Griet (which means ‘Margaret’ in Afrikaans), who was the big dog that had shied away from me earlier. The little dog, Dinky, was very friendly and very pettable.

Ethan tried to pet Griet, but she was very skittish and seemed uncomfortable around Oom Dennis (indeed, Tannie [‘aunt’ in Afrikaans] Marietjie, Oom Dennis’s wife, said that it had taken Griet a while to get used to her husband). The chill was beginning to get to us, and we moved inside. After showing the pictures of the Cape cobra and its annoying bird friend and the white snake, Oom Dennis deduced that we had seen an adolescent albino python. “I’ll need to think about the bird,” he said.

I set in on my Time magazines while Tannie Marietjie and Mom started supper, which was a squash soup and bread. We talked and talked and talked and talked and talked… and talked. Tannie Marietjie said, “I wish I had asked you earlier to bring me a Hershey’s bar from America, but I wasn’t sure if you’d have room. We’ll have to make another trip to the U.S. so I can taste a Hershey’s bar again. I wonder what they have in those that they don’t have here…?”

I said chocolate, thinking of the ‘chocolate-flavoured sauce’ of last night. Dad pointed out that they most certainly used chocolate in Cadbury bars. (I’m still not done with my Cadbury Bubble bar from my birthday; I’m savoring it.)


Glenda, Grass, and Thick Lattes

Of course, that is the opposite order in which those three things happened. The thick lattes- more like chocolate pudding than the mochas we were expecting- were relished at Choc-O-Latte in Upington before we went to Woolworths and Pick ‘n Pay. Then we drove for 220 kilometers to Witsand (literally, white sand). After stopping at our first set of dunes, we went up a little rocky trail to Uiskykpoint.

On the way, I tripped and tried to grab a rock for balance. Instead, I hit a thorny plant and scraped my wrist on the red rocks. I spent the rest of the hike pulling out stickers. At the top, we looked at the view and took a picture next to one of thirty cloth flowers put up around South Africa. An interesting story…

After dipping in the dirty pool (it was too cool for our tastes) and grabbing a sandboard, we went to the actual witsands. All of us but Mom took off our shoes- an important detail that you’ll need to remember for later.

I was the official photographer of Ethan as he tried to sandboard. He tried three hills before finally finding a good one. He went down this one three times and I went down once. After the last run, he walked through the grass, and I followed.

“Ow!” I cried. A tip of grass had broken off and was embedded in the arch of my foot. After much muttering, I pulled it out and continued on. Little did I know that, at just about the same time, Dad had stepped on a stick and it had gone in deep. It was on his heel, causing pain with every step. In fact, it still does cause him pain.

However, he got some relief when he sat down at the computer on the picnic bench outside. Slowly, steadily, a little steenbok crept up to the little pond and drank. I called her Glenda, and she stayed for about five minutes before returning to the bush. We might have seen her this evening as we drove to the restaurant (where Big Bang Theory and That ’70s Show were playing, making us embarrassed) for ice cream, because we passed springbok, steenbok, and a rabbit on our way there and back.


My Brother, the Toilet

AUGRABIE FALLS, South Africa- A bird pooped on Ethan today.

He was alerted as to the presence of the poo by his mother. “Stupid bird,” he muttered. The rest of us were trying not to laugh too hard. His father smiled and said, “Eryn, now you have a post title: My Brother, the Toilet.” I smiled appreciatively, trying to step on Ethan’s shadow. The day was warm- a pleasant 31 Celsius according to the car- and we had driven 120 kilometers from Upington to the town of Augrabies, then on to the falls (which is a national park).

Augrabies is on the Oranjerivier (Orange River in the vernacular), several kilometers before the river becomes the border between South Africa and Namibia, and finally hitting the Atlantic Ocean. The Orange River starts in Lesotho and passes through Upington. From above, the river is located by following the green trail of vineyards.

My father, remembering the falls from a previous trip, had raved about the orange, yellow, blue, and green lizards doing push-ups. This was not to be seen; they were too busy mating with the brown females of their kind. Of other animals, we saw too many bugs, my father saw a fish, and he and I saw Bart Simpson’s face on the rocks across the river.

After having Heaven ice cream bars, we get back in the car and drive through moving water to get to Oranjekom, Ararat, and Moon Rock. Oranjekom and Ararat are both look-out points, but Moon Rock is a gray, round, smooth rock. The Klipspringer Trail follows the crest of this outcrop, but we didn’t hike all 39.5 kilometers for several reasons, including that parts of the trail were closed because the three-day hike is only open from April to October 15. (Ethan and I were not too disappointed.)

After an hour and a half (or thereabouts), we returned to the guest house and Ethan prepared to waterski. After a supper at Bi-Lo and seeing One Direction on the cover of Seventeen, we returned home to find Bishop, the huge dog, roaming free. Mother was petrified.


The Quest for the Café with Mochas and Free Wi-Fi and for Chocolate Ice Cream

We spent this morning searching for a café that had café mochas and free wi-fi. We didn’t find it. The closest was ChocoLatte, which had mochas (hence the name) but no free Internet. At Coffee 4 U, they didn’t have wi-fi. I asked if they had mochas, and my reply was, “What are those?” I paused and then said, “Kind of like chocolate lattes.” Another pause, this time on her end, and then a nod.

“We have those.”

Well, you can’t really go with that. Another coffee shop, Arabesque (which is the same as one of my piano pieces back home), was closed while the Dried Fruit & Coffee Shop made Mom say, “Calling it a ‘coffee shop’ is a stretch.” This was all after Mom had given our laundry to the service at only 15 (about US$2.00) a kilo.

After returning home for a short while, we went back out and checked Gotti Ice Cream for chocolate ice cream. Everything there is bought in bulk. There were HUGE bags of red, brown, and orange Cheetos-style chips. We walked out, dismayed, and looked at Checkers. It was kind of daunting with all the Christmas banners with gingerbread men, dinosaurs, sock bunnies, and dolls hanging in your face. But we managed to find Kit-Kat King Cones.

Oh, well.

At least I know where, if I had a party for 100 people, to get enough Cheetos.


Swimming (on) Sunday

After shopping at Clicks- the chemist’s- and Game- the Target- and checking out The Pizza Place, we drove home to the guesthouse to wait.

And wait.

And wait…

Some more…

“They’re here! They’re here!” Ethan screeched. It was 4:30, and one man had arrived with the inner tube. An hour and a half later, Ethan and I had been jet-skied (without a life jacket. Gasp!) over to the sand, courtesy of Jay Jay. Besides Peter, Franco, and Carly, there were Carly’s friend (Nicki), Girl Cousin, Guy Cousin, and Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend (a.k.a. Muscle-Boy #2. The daughter of the guesthouse’s owner [her name is Lynda] also has a boyfriend, who we nicknamed Muscle Boy). I was the first one I saw fall off the tube.

Darn. When Girl Cousin, Guy Cousin, Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend, and the driver of the boat came over to “rescue” me, Ethan just randomly fell off the tube. Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend took my place on the tube and rode with Ethan. The boyfriend stayed on the tube. Ethan fell off. That was the one time I got to wave the red flag, which was put in my care once I got on the boat.

When Carly and Nicki went, I was sure one was going to fall off. No such luck. What about Girl Cousin, Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend, and Franco? Nope. What about Girl Cousin’s Boyfriend, Ethan, and Franco? No, once again, even though once they were really really close. Carly tried to waterski, but I wasn’t watching so I don’t know how she did.

For supper, Jasper cooked up some chicken and we had a braai (a.k.a. BBQ). I think I ate too much.


Soaked Saturday

We started out the day by being soaked- in sweat. The Seventh-Day Adventist Church in Upington has a fan, but it was not being used. Ethan was the only boy there, and there were also four or five girls. It was a very small church, with only about a dozen members. The sermon was, thankfully, in English, but just about everything else was in Afrikaans (but they kindly translated it to English for us).

When we arrived back at the Riverfront Guesthouse, there were five kids and their dad and his friend, plus the owner of the guesthouse’s son (Jay Jay), in the water on innertubes, and Jay Jay was on his jet ski. Ethan joined the excitedly, although his original intent was just to ride the jet ski. But then he wanted to waterski, and then he wanted to tube. Well, at least he got to tube with the four boys (including Peter and Franco) and the 12-year-old girl, Carly.

The group then invited me to ride in the boat, but that was too boring for me so I rode on the tube with Ethan. Of course he put me on the more precarious side, so I fell off.  The whole time I was worried about the nonexistent crocodiles thinking my toes were French fries. Then Carly and I went for a ride with Jay Jay on the jet ski. All this was done on the Orange River just outside the guesthouse.

And guess what?? Carly, Peter, Franco, and the rest are coming back tomorrow! Yay!


Foxy Friday

J. was wrong on this day, October 26, Anno Domino 2012. It happened that he and his wife, son, and daughter were taking a morning drive in the Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park on the South African side when they came across a dog-like creature walking, laying down, and then watching while her three pups played around he
J. claimed it was a black-backed jackal, and his family originally agreed. After looking through the binoculars and checking the guide books, it was established that the dog was, in fact, not a black-backed jackal but a Cape fox. This idea was firmly dismissed by J., and his wife accepted this.
Until she didn’t. His wife, S., looked through the binoculars and checked and double-checked the guide books. J.’s children, E. and G., knew that it was a Cape fox. S. knew it was a Cape fox. J. didn’t believe for a long while after S. had finished exclaiming, “[The pups] are
so cute!!”

When we arrived at Waterfront Guest Farm here in Upington, South Africa, we found the once-annual “market” going on. There was food, things to buy, and ice cream. We had chicken and salad, and Ethan and Dad had ice cream. We can still hear the tittering of the girls my age as they talk outside. They were sort of wrestling on the grass, and one ran into the back of my chair. Dad said, “Ethan, they’re flinging themselves at you. Not that they have very good aim, but, still.”

Ethan was blushing.


Thundering Thursday

KGALAGADI TRANSFRONTIER NATL. PARK, South Africa—After the thunder and rain had passed and Mom had crept over to my bed in the middle of the night to look at the waterhole, Dad’s phone alarm went off at 5 am.

We were on the road with all our stuff by 6:37 am after having had breakfast, showers, and packed luggage. We saw the female lion walking up over a hill, but the male lion (this was the mating pair) was nowhere to be seen.

After passing familiar landmarks such as the giraffe carcass, dead eland, and steep turnoff up to a lookout, we finally arrived on new territory. Three kilometers later, we turned onto the Dune Road (South) and drove between the Auob and Nossob Rivers. We saw many secretarybirds and rocks that looked like animals, plus ostriches and a gemsbok, but not much else until we hit the Nossob River valley.

We turned north, away from Twee Rivieren, and drove for 12K before U-turning south. We passed a snake eagle drinking from a natural puddle (!!!) and our first interesting animal of the day: (well, animals) a small pride of lions sitting in the shade. We kept going and found another cat 20 kilometers down the road: a leopard.

It was lying in the fork of a tree. Dad thought it had a kill nearby (he still thinks that, in fact), but we looked and looked and couldn’t find one. We also saw a pretty red slender mongoose there and at a tree later, where a man pointed out the lions sitting in a bush.

We didn’t see these mysterious lions until our evening drive, when we once again saw the leopard. We also saw an eagle trying to catch a Cape cobra for dinner. However, it took too long and the gate was going to close soon. So the other three satisfied themselves by looking at the leopard again, which had changed trees and gave a nice silhouette.


Wet ‘n’ Wild Wednesday

It actually rained today! Real, live  rain fell from the sky in the Kalahari! Maybe this will be the once-in-a-century when the Nossob River floods. It last flooded in 1963, so there’s a chance.

This morning we left the Kalahari Tent Camp at 6 am. By the time we returned for a late breakfast, we had seen an African wild cat, the same two lions mating, a troop of five spotted hyenas, giraffes, and a Cape cobra. That wasn’t the only snake, though! On our evening drive, we saw a white snake. Of course, we don’t know what it is, but, still.

Mom was totally freaking out, but that is to be expected. On that drive we once again saw the two lions, plus some kudu, which are very rare in the park, and lots of black-backed jackals plus a steppe buzzard. We also saw lots of vultures, but couldn’t find the kill that they had found. That was disappointing.

At the waterhole down in the river valley, we thought we saw lions tonight. Sadly, they were just eland, which would have been great in daylight because we’ve only seen about seven or so eland here. But oh, well. There’s always tomorrow.


Triple Tuesday

We have now seen the three big cats of Africa: lion, leopard, and cheetah. We saw two of these (lion and cheetah) today. We saw the cheetah just as we set out this morning from Mata Mata Camp at 7:34 am. It crossed the road and went over the rise to our left. By 7:39 am, when the car behind us pulled up, the cat was gone.

Ethan got to put the black dot up on the magnetic map. I put up two brown dots for the giraffe sightings. So far, we have seen 25% of the giraffes in this park. Eight giraffes (three male and five female) were brought in from Etosha a while back. After being kept in Mata Mata to adapt, they were eventually released into the wild. They now number around forty. We saw ten, including two babies (plus the carcass, but I don’t count that).

Neither of us put up the red dot for the mating lions because it was 6:49 pm and we had to be back in the Kalahari Tent Camp. So today we saw three of the ten animals on the board (the ten are: lions, cheetahs, giraffes, leopards, honey badgers, caracals, African wild cats, spotted hyenas, brown hyenas, and meerkats. I really want to see a caracal because the dot is pink). We also saw a red hartebeest, blue wildebeeste, a herd of springboks with a whole bunch of adorable skinny baby, ostriches plus some ostrich chicks and their parents, black-backed jackals, white-backed vultures, tawny eagles, fork-tailed drongos, gemsbok, and a stick Dad thought was a chameleon.


Mammal Monday

My day started off with being awaken by the alarm flies, which sound like mosquitoes, causing me to hide under my sheet in mortal fear and lose valuable sleep.

When I officially woke up, someone was using the sink incorrectly, causing the water to thunder onto the metal sink. After breakfast, Mom discovered that our lizard friend had died: his head had been squished in the bathroom door, leaving blood all down the edge of the door. It was awful.

Before we entered the park, we had two more reptilian encounters: a Kalahari tent tortoise  was crossing the road, and so was a large snake. The tortoise was small and we had to keep moving it back so we could take pictures. Ethan was holding it in his hand when, all of a sudden, it pooped on him! I was more amused than he was.

The snake reared up next to the car, causing Mom to scream. I think it’s too bad that it didn’t stop so we could take pictures. Dad and Ethan think it was a kind of cobra.

We left Namibia and entered Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park. We’re still not officially in South Africa yet, but in several days we’ll leave the Twee Rivieren camp and be in the RSA.  Today we saw springbok, gemsbok (after all, this park used to be the Kalahari Gemsbok Park), ostriches, white-backed vultures, swallow-tailed bee-eaters, sociable and non-sociable weaver birds, blue wildebeeste, meerkat (I didn’t see these, but everyone else did)’ ground squirrels, eland, black-backed jackals, and a giraffe carcass.

At reception at Mata Mata, there is a metal map of the park with different colored magnets where people have seen meerkats, lions, cheetahs, leopards, brown hyenas, spotted hyenas, African wild cats, giraffes, honey badgers, and caracals. Ethan was thrilled to put up a purple circle in honor of his sighting. There was also a brown circle for the dead giraffe. I wouldn’t have thought at counted as a sighting.


1,001 Namibian Nights

Tomorrow we drive into Kgalagadi, a nature park in Botswana and South Africa. That means we’ll be officially leaving Namibia, but not entering South Africa.

Namibia was our home for 26 nights. We stayed eight places, the longest being in Swakopmund (nine nights). Our shortest stay in one place was at Onguma Bush Camp, right outside of Etosha. We celebrated three major milestones in Namibia: Day 100 (September 28), my thirteenth birthday (October 14), and One-Third of the Way Through (October 20).

We visited two major places of interest: Etosha National Park and Sossusvlei. Cape Cross, where the Cape fur seals are, is also a major landmark. It’s on the Skeleton Coast.

Our first place to stay was Weaver’s Rock. Ethan finally had friends in the form of Dominick and his older brother after being little boy-deprived for three-and-a-quarter months. There were five dogs: Choc, Nala, Lilly, Tasso, and Bonzo. (Those were my favorites, from first to fifth.) The food was good, and our showers, like here at Kalahari Farmstall, were fire-heated.

The next night was spent at on Onguma, a kilometer or so from Etosha, and there I went on my first night game drive. We saw bush babies, kori bustards, a bat-eared fox, springbok, and zebras.

In Etosha we saw the first leopard for any of us. It was promptly a female in the minds of Mom and me. She had killed a kudu and was eating it by the Nuamses waterhole. We also saw 134 elephants, 90 giraffes, 17 lions, 12 rhinos, and five spotted hyenas, along with many, many springbok, black-faced impala, gemsbok, ostriches, kudu, zebras, blue wildebeeste, and red hartebeest. We found one dead snake on the road.

Next we stayed at Dinosaur Tracks Guest Farm (the farm’s official name is Otjihaenamaparero). We visited the tracks multiple times, mainly because of the cell service. The dog, Bella, was sweet but fat.

After stopping at AiAiba and playing with the meerkat, Mitjie, we arrived in chilly Swakopmund. There I had my birthday and we lived in a real house, perfect in every way except for the need of a heater and quieter neighbors.

Two nights ago, we were enjoying the good food and company of Wilheim, Hannetjie, Olf, and the three dogs (Coco, thirteen-year-old Polly, and three-year-old Lucky), and enjoying the not so good company of the cold-shouldered meerkat.

Finally, we stayed at Kalahari Farmstall. This stay was mostly to get near the Kgalagadi border and to rest up for the long, long days ahead. So I need to get some sleep.


Realm of Relaxation

Today and yesterday were boring days, except we celebrated a major milestone today: we’re one third through this trip!

Yesterday we recovered from the grueling energy wasted at Sossusvlei. After sleeping in and having a breakfast of bread, eggs, fruit, tea, and hot chocolate, we lounged around the building, doing schoolwork, reading, imagining flying eggs (don’t ask!), and eating avocado, cheese, and crackers.

In the late afternoon, we got off our butts and hiked up one of the smaller mountains. It took us about an hour and a half both ways, but we often stopped to wait for everyone to catch up, or for Ethan to throw rocks at things and miss. We stopped at the top to admire the view, and Ethan tried to kill a lizard to feed it to the meerkat.

(After all, the best way to one’s heart is through their stomach, right?)

Ethan failed, and we all trooped down the mountain to Wilheim, Hannetjie, and Wilheim’s longtime friend, Olf (he said his name was like wolf, but with no W). They were easily speaking Afrikaans, but when we arrived for a dinner of pizza, something quiche-like, salad, tomatoes, potatoes, and vanilla ice cream with kiwi, all spoke English (which we liked!).

Olf appears to work more at Barchan Dunes than at his job as a doctor in Windhoek. He and Wilheim told jokes, explained Namib-German customs, and made the meal generally delightful.

This morning after breakfast, we set off for Kalahari Farmstall, a farm with geese, cows, goats, and sheep 17 kilometers from the South African border crossing, Mata Mata, into Kgalagadi Transfrontier Park.

We had apple pie for dessert.


Dune Day

Wilheim says that one week, he took guests to Sossusvlei three times. “After that, I was done with Sossusvlei,” he assured us at supper. “But my wife just gave me bad news: I have to take guests there next week.”

We had just finished talking about what we thought of the park. We had gotten up at 4:30 in the morning and gotten back at 5:30 pm. Those thirteen hours had been about 38.5% (five hours) driving, 38.5% climbing the dunes and visiting the vleis, 15% (two hours) eating ice cream and using Internet at Sossus Oasis, and 8% (one hour) exploring Sisriem Canyon.

Once we finally reached the parking lot for the dunes, we got out and walked along the dunes five kilometers to Sossusvlei and the parking lot at the end (we didn’t drive because we don’t have a 4×4). A vlei (pronounced flay) is a marsh, but Deadvlei and Sossusvlei don’t see much water. Deadvlei is more picturesque because it has a lot of dead trees in it and not much else.

By the time we got back in a shuttle bus, we had walked 7 kilometers. We got back in our car, stopped by Dune 45 (Ethan climbed it), and climbed through Sisriem Canyon to a little pond with fish (!!!) in it. We threw rocks in for a while and then got back in the car to get ice cream at Sossus Oasis.

We finally left Sossus Oasis two hours later and eventually got back to Barchan Dunes Retreat. We got all the sand off and had supper with the other guests, Hannetjie, and Wilheim. It was really good (again), ending in another delicious cake, this time chocolate, that attracted two of the three dogs, Coco and Lucky. Coco is big and brown with soft fuzzy hair, while Lucky is one of the black-and-white dogs. Wilheim shared his cake with them, but only after they sat when he told them to and “shook hands” when he told them to.


Falling Flat

We bid good-bye to Swakopmund, the ducks, the male cat, and Nala, the female cat, today.

We took the C14, which www.rtw4four.com listed as the worst road in Namibia. We drove past mountains and river beds, cliffs and grasslands to the sign that said TROPIC OF CAPRICORN. We stopped and took pictures, naturally, and then got back in the car. For being in one of the hottest parts of Namibia, it wasn’t that bad. It was in the seventies and sunny, bringing welcome warmth after  week in chilly Swakopmund.

And then it happened: the near-inevitable sound of a tire hitting a rock wrong. It was the back left tire, and it was killed. It hit another rock, and Dad eased the car off the center of the road. We emptied the trunk, putting the suitcases in the front seats and the 20 liters of water in the middle. Dad got the temporary tire (it had pink stripes on it) from the back and put it on.

Four cars drove by, three passing us and one going the other way. Half the cars stopped, and both were passed us.

We finally got going again and dug into the focaccia bread and read about what to do with Budget in the event of a flat tire. Once in Solitaire, we got a new tire and petrol and continued on our way to Barchan Dunes Retreat. Once there, we were greeted by two dogs nad a meerkat who is scared of people. Wilheim and Hennetjie own the place (although Wilheim jokes that he’s the servant), plus there  are horses and game (zebra, springbok, kudu, gemsbok [oryx]).

Our rooms are 500m from the main building, but it’s no problem.

Hennetjie made supper, and it was delicious: for the appetizer, an asparagus casserole with pickles and grape tomatoes; for the main course, a small side salad and green beans, carrot, and potato wedges; and, for dessert, cake that was sooo good, even though I don’t know what it was, and rooibos tea.


An “Africana” Adventure

Because I had so many Namibian dollars left (each is worth about US$0.13), we needed to go shopping today because, unlike rands, Namibian dollars are useless over the border (rands are pretty much equal to Namibian dollars, so here they’re interchanged. Yesterday I got change back in Namibian coins and a 20-rand note).

We started out going to a shop, but we stopped to look at the people selling “Africana” on the side of the road. They were selling everything from trinkets to baubles to textiles to fabrics. One of my favorite things (though I didn’t buy it) was the hippo with its mouth open. There were many, many carvings of it on the curb.

The man from whom I bought stone giraffes said that his name was Robert, he was from the Caprivi Strip (in the north-east corner of Namibia), and that he had carved the giraffes by hand. In reality, his name probably wasn’t Robert, he probably wasn’t from the Caprivi, and he most definitely didn’t carve the stone because he got all his things from the trailers behind all the other sellers, and the stuff was most likely imported from Zimbabwe.

Ethan bought a kudu leather bracelet and a stone leopard, too, before we moved on, passing a primary school. One of the kids said to Ethan, “Cool hair, dude!” (That’s because he’s gelled his hair up in a spike.)


The Little ATV That Could

NEVER drive this ATV under 16 years of age.

That’s what the ATV that I drove today over the sand dunes said.

Apparently we went so slow that our guide, Gideon, didn’t take us on the whole 90-minute route (but it took us 90 minutes anyways). Halfway through (45 minutes, naturally), we stopped after Ethan and Dad were rescued from the sand.

Gideon took first Ethan, and then me, up the steep dune and around and down and just about every preposition except through. Once we were done, he took Dad, except Dad rode on his own ATV.

We all had blue ATVs because we’re not experienced drivers. Gideon’s, naturally, was red (for experienced riders). I didn’t really want to go fast, but you have to go to get up some steep hills, where the sand loose and deep. But my ATV never got stuck. It could always get over the dunes.


A High Hike

Dune 7 is 388 meters tall and the tallest sand dune in the world. We climbed Dune 7 today.

Of course, it was Walvis Bay’s Dune 7, not Soussusvlei’s, which is the real Dune 7. The one we climbed today was much, much shorter.

The first fifteen feet of the dune were covered in glass shards and bottle caps. After that, it was clean, sparkly sand up to the very tip-top, which only Ethan visited. (Well, there were things like socks and toilet paper strewn across the dune, but other than that it was clean.) The climb was long, and each of us stopped every so often to rest and catch our breath.

At the top, however, if you wanted to catch a breath, you caught that and a lungful of sand. Mom finally finally finally caught up with us at the top and exclaimed, “Whew! What a hike!”

She was the first one to go down, too, after she convinced Dad to give her the car keys so she could get the camera out of the car and take pictures of us coming down the dune. Dad and I jump-walked down like normal people, but Ethan got covered in sand because he rolled.

After we finished teasing my brother about the cute girl in the pink shirt and he finished begging to go quad riding on the dunes, we left for home and stopped only to take pictures of flamingoes. For supper we had cake and ice cream for my 13th birthday.


A Day in the Life…

Of a Cape fur seal living at Cape Cross:

0:13- Hunger overtakes reasoning and I slide down to the water for a midnight snack.

1:01- I’m shamed as my friends discover me in the water without them.

1:34- After some good-natured fighting, we climb back onto shore and fall asleep to the sound of our fellow species bark-bark-barking.

6:27- The sun rises, bringing light back to our little world.

6:30- After some more stretching and scratching, my friends and I maneuver around big bad bulls and piles of females to the Atlantic Ocean.

6:41- We finally arrive in the ocean. The waves are hard, but I love it. A big wave comes and I’m knocked back a meter. (I am, after all, a metric seal, being born and raised in Namibia.)

6:43- We find a big school of fish- breakfast for all!

7:59- The cold isn’t what causes us to drag our wet bodies out of the water; it’s fatigue. After all, we haven’t even slept five hours today!

9:16- After an hour of sleeping, I’m bored. I go stir up trouble in the big meanie’s territory, and he chases me up the sandy hill to the boardwalk where those nasty two-legs are. I hide under the walkway and finally go to sleep.

14:48- That’s more like it! After a good nap, I yawn, and those things the two-legs carry- shutterflies, I call them- start click-clacking. There is one small two-leg with brown hair above me and she aims an especially large shutterfly at me. I hear the two-legs around her call her “Eryn,” but the way they say it- at such a low tone- makes me believe it’s an insult. I see my buddies down on the beach and head toward them, avoiding the bull that sent me up in the first place.

14:55- Friends are finally reunited, and we all go in the ocean and try to find the school of fish that we found this morning. Well, we can’t find it, but we do ride some pretty impressive waves (and look pretty impressive ourselves, if I dare say so myself).

15:26- We’re exhausted and flop down on the rocks. We’re cooled off every 10 seconds or so by the pounding surf.

18:44- The light around me is dimming, and it seeps into my dreams. I’m surrounded by water, deep, dark, and cold, and I know that out there is a shark that wants to eat m-

18:45- I’m jolted into reality by a wave breaking on my face and one of my friends hitting me with a flipper. I lie on my back and observe my fellow animals. Some two-legs up on the boardwalk have covered what are, I think, their faces. I can’t think why- the stench maybe? But we smell like roses!

19:02- The sun finally sets. I splash around in the water a bit and then slowly, tiredly, make my way up the hill, passing skeletons and warm hairy bodies as I go.

19:09- I get my last glimpse of October 13. It was a good day, as days go.


Flamingo Fun


We finally finally finally went to the river to see the flamingoes. We think at there were two types (greater and lesser) because there were the big white birds and the smaller pinker birds.
To get to the mouth of the river (coincidentally, “mund” means mouth, and the river is the Swakop. So “Swakopmund” means “mouth of Swakop”) we had to park at the aquarium and walk past the Tiger Reef Bar and along the beach. We watched the cormorants, seagulls, and blacksmith lapwings wade/dive in the water. The flamingoes spent most of he time with their heads submerged.
There were at least two dead flamingoes at the edge of the river, which has turned into a lake because it doesn’t have enough water to reach the ocean. Apparently a favorite Namibian pastime is racing the water from Windhoek to the ocean along the Swakop river after the first big rains.
We also got to see the flamingoes fly a bit, too, and the undersides of their wings are pinker than their bodies.
After that, we got more groceries, dropped those off at home, played on the playground, and finally had supper at 22° South, which is the restaurant in what used to be the lighthouse-keeper’s house. No one is allowed to go up to the top of the lighthouse because it is still used by Walvis Bay. We couldn’t eat in the building, either, but that was because we hadn’t made reservations.

A Downtown Day

We did another part of the Swakopmund Triangle today: the lighthouse. It is, in fact, a pizza and gelato place (22 Degrees South) that we will visit in the future.

We were going to do another part of the triangle- the river with the flamingoes- but Mom and Dad took too long shopping. So instead we had a Cadbury bar, supper, and walked down to the beach where we found the other end of the crayfish exoskeleton (we found the head yesterday).

We also checked out the Hansa Backerei, where Dad bought two black forest tortes, which were so good. After the seeing what the lighthouse was all about and playing on the playground right beside it, we visited the Kristall Galerie. It’s home to the largest crystal in the world and lots and lots of amethysts. There was also a ‘rock garden,’ where Ethan and I selected polished stones to stick in a small bag.

Then we went to Karakulia Weavers after browsing through the leather shop next door. We saw people making yarn, weaving rugs with things like elephants, footprints, and leopards on them, and making the finished product perfect. Ethan tried to make yarn too, but he wasn’t that good. (Of course, he was better than me, since I didn’t try to.)

We returned home where we did homework and sorted pictures until supper.


Food’s Our Friend

Now that we’re in our own little house, we had to go grocery shopping. Well, we couldn’t find any good fruits or vegetables at the Spar, so after visiting the jetty and river in Swakopmund, we stopped by Food Center- Fruit & Veg City on our way home. They had rows and rows of gummies and Jelly Bellies and dried fruits and nuts and popcorn and chocolates… it all looked delicious. The cheapest thing was sesame seeds, at N$3.99 per 100 grams.

We also looked at the cake and baked goods. I decided that the chocolate mousse cake looks good. We’ll probably be having that on Sunday. There were also US$0.50 brownies! And cookies and breads and pies and cupcakes and all sorts of wonderful things. And all of it was (almost) dirt cheap. So we think we got a good deal.

(Besides the good looking stuff, there were also some disgusting things, like grapefruit [which we had to get] and crème soda milk. Ew.)

Not to say we bought so much ‘junk’ food. We only got a few Tangy Toppers (sour gummies), a handful of Jelly Bellies, a twist, a big flaky cookie, a brownie, and a slice of apple pie. And we’re sharing that between four people. So don’t get the wrong impression! We’re not getting fat.


Mitjie Mouse

Mitjie (pronounced MIC-key) is the name of the meerkat who ‘owns’ AiAiba lodge where the Bushman paintings are. He was lying on the floor next to Cecilia, our waitress, when we arrived. When Ethan squatted down and said, “Hey! Meerkat!” the meerkat ran over with its mouth wide open.

Mom was worried that Mitjie would break skin, giving Dad, Ethan, or I rabies or something, but he never did. His mouth can’t open very wide, and his teeth aren’t very sharp.

Besides a meerkat, which made Dad’s life worth it, we also saw Bushman paintings of giraffes, springbok, kudu, mountains, and people. Once back at the lodge, we ordered ‘lunch:’ a Greek salad, four servings of ice cream, and juice. Dad got grapefruit vitamin-flavored juice, I got apple, Ethan ordered juice with ‘A Touch of Lemon,’ and Mom got orange juice. Dad, Ethan, and I had chocolate ice cream with canned peaches while Mom had plain old vanilla with chocolate sauce.

And then, out of nowhere, Mitjie reappeared! There were three little boys there, two who ran screaming to their mom (one climbed on to the table) and one who tried to approach Mitjie but ran away. Mitjie gave chase, and it was hilarious.

We then drove on another rocky road to the soundtrack of “Oh mercy! Jerry! Whoa!”

We’re now in Swakopmund, which is on the coast. We had pizza, salad, and part of a Cadbury bar for dessert.


A Letter

Dear Danny the Dinosaur,
You left many footprints on hills in what is now Namibia 300 million years ago. Today we went up to the tracks just so we could get Internet connectivity. That seems like a waste of time, but we have no cell reception at the B&B so therefore Dad cannot make a hot spot.

So we went up the hill and checked our emails. While Mom and Dad were checking theirs on the computer, I played Hearts and Sudoku. We then searched for the elusive cat-like footprint in the ground that Mr. Strobel had shown us two days before. We couldn’t find it and finally left the area at 6:12 pm, eighteen minutes before supper was to be. (I’m sure that you, Danny, could have found the print. You might have even eaten the poor mammal!)

After a supper of ‘comfort food,’ as Mom called it, we talked to Mr. Strobel in Afrigermish, which is his mix of Afrikaans, German, and English.

It’s very hard to follow. He ended his end of the conversation with, “You understand?” We all nodded and said yes multiple times just to reassure him. As soon as he had left the room, I turned to Dad and said, “What???”

Now it’s time I finish writing, dear Dinosaur. Have a good night, or, should I say, have a lekker nacht!

Signed, Eryn the Human


A Rocky Road

Not to be confused with Rocky’s road (Rocky is our neighbor), which is paved, smooth, nice, and lovely.

We went on a rocky road from Omaruru back to Dinosaur’s Tracks, to the soundtrack of, “Oh, mercy!!! Oh goodness!!! Hhhhhhhh!!!” (That last bit was Mom breathing in sharply.)

It was worst, probably, when we were talking about SeaWorld and Disneyland and breakfast with the [Disney] characters. Dad said, “That’s where you shove toast into their mouths and they choke!” And he proceeded to demonstrate the choking.

“JERRY!!!” Mom squealed. We were going down a steep hill at 80 kilometers per hour and there was a little river at the bottom of the hill. I grabbed my seatbelt for dear life.

Once we were past it, I announced, “For the record, I just saved the computer.” No one bothered to thank me. Mom just said, “Please go more slowly.” Ethan screeched, “WHEEEEEEEE!!!” Dad stepped on the gas to get up the next hill.

All in all, it was a very entertaining ride that opened with a huge bump and Mother hurting her neck on that bump. Dad asked, “Isn’t it just like a ride at Disneyland?”


A Dino Day

This morning we went up the hill to the dinosaur tracks. We stayed there for about two hours because there was cell reception, so Dad checked his emails.

We then retired to our rooms until five pm, when Mr. Strobel took us up to the tracks and talked in detail about the dinosaurs who made the tracks.

He also told us about all the snakes they get at their house, like the cobra under the china cupboard and the mamba in the dog’s (Bella’s) box. He also told us of a camper who ran screaming with a gun because of a snake. That snake was actually a millipede.

After a delicious supper of chicken schnitzel, potatoes, broccoli, and cauliflower, Mr. and Mrs. Strobel sat down at the table and we talked for about an hour. Mostly we discussed rain and what the animals, trees, and burglars are like back home in Oregon. Mr. Strobel asked us to send him some rain.


An Amount of Animals

The total animal count at Etosha was (approximately) as follows:

881 springbok
379 Burchell’s zebras
132 elephants
84 giraffes
39 ostriches
17 lions (including one cub)
12 black rhinos
5 spotted hyenas
1 leopard
0 cheetahs

Most of these animals were seen at the 20 waterholes (Wolfsnes, Okaukuejo, Chudop, Ngobib, Kalkheuwel, Batia, Springbokfontein, Goas, Nuamses, Moringa, Rietfontein, Charitsaub, Salvadora, Sueda, Aus, Olifantsbad, Gemsbokvlakte, Ombika, Newbrownii, and Okondeka) we visited. Besides the ten species mentioned above, we also saw greater kudu, gemsbok, blue wildebeest, black-backed jackals, black-faced impala, red hartebeest, Damara dik-diks, steenbok, warthogs, and banded mongoose.

We saw many birds besides ostriches, the most common being guineafowl, Gabar goshawks, and francolin. However, we also saw secretarybirds, kori bustards, a Ludwig’s bustard, pale chanting goshawks, cattle egrets, a marabou stork, blacksmith lapwings, doves, double-banded coursers, hornbills, a Verreaux’s eagle owl, an African hoopoe, crows, crimson-breasted shrikes, violet-eared waxbills, and weaver birds. Of reptiles, we saw little lizards in and around camp and, most significantly, a dead snake on the road.


Ways of the Waterholes

We went on two drives today. The first one was in the morning, starting at 6:30. On this drive, we went to four waterholes: Newbrownii, Gemsbokvlakte, Olifantsbad, and Aus. At Newbrownii, we saw kori bustards, gemsbok, guineafowl, springbok, and jackals. At the next stop, Gemsbokvlakte, we saw first a lot of jackals, then a hyena, then vultures, and then the dead zebra.

At Olifantsbad and Aus, we saw red hartebeest, kudu, impala, and more guineafowl. We returned to the camp for breakfast, and then we paid a visit to the Okaukeujo waterhole, where we saw zebra, kudu, wildebeeste, springbok, gemsbok, and 29 elephants.

We returned to the Okaukeujo waterhole after a drive up to Wolfsnes and Okendeka waterholes where we saw lions and a cub, ostriches, and a gemsbok with a curly horn, a birthday call to Mirinda, a dip in the pools, and supper. We all enjoyed our Magnums (Death by Chocolate for Dad and Ethan, Mint for Mom, and Chocolatier Collection: Biscotti for me) and watched 16 giraffes come and go. There were also the typical jackals and a handful of springbok.

One of these antelopes almost died when the lion pounced. In its place died a wildebeest. Mom, Dad, and I snuck off to see how long it would take Ethan to notice our absence. It was a new record: eight minutes. We’re now quenching our thirst with refrigerator-chilled, good-tasting, bottled water.


On Okaukeujo

We could have seen the leopard again today, but we arrived ten minutes too late. We visited the Nuamses waterhole at around 11 am and saw the dead kudu and a hyena hovering over it.

Before Nuamses, however, we’d visited four waterholes.

We left the house at 6:30 am so we could be out the gate as soon as possible. We passed a sign, and Mom said, “Isn’t that where we’re staying tonight? Okaukeujo?”

“Yes, but it’s oh-kah-kwee-oh, not oh-cocky-joe.” We went east to Rietfontein, where we saw a male lion. Then, at Salvadora, we saw birdwatchers drinking their coffee. We scanned the trees for leopards but found none.

At Charitsaub, we saw a group of five lionesses. They were covered in blood, signs of a recent feast. They became alarmed when a hyena walked into the area to share the food, but it realized that it was outnumbered. At the last waterhole on our early morning drive, we saw a lone black-backed jackal.

Back at Halali, we had breakfast and finished packing. We were on the road again by 10:30. We visited Goas, hoping to see a dead gemsbok and lions feasting on it, but all the animals were alive and healthy. Darn.

We had to stop on the road to let a herd of 60 elephants go by, and then we continued on our way to Rietfontein, where we saw only springbok and elephants, Salvadora, where we saw cattle egrets, and Charitsaub, where we saw two of the five lionesses of before. There was also a lone bull elephant.

At the next waterhole, Newbrownii, we watched the elephants, ostriches, zebras, gemsbok, and springbok be “feisty,” as Mom puts it. And then they all ran to the left side of the car. A lion was on the move.

Even though we watched for the better part of an hour, the lion didn’t kill anything, which was disappointing.


A Lazy Leopard or Uno Unicorn

Dad says that she wasn’t that lazy, but how hard is it to move a kudu fifteen feet? I could do it.

Okay, that’s because I stand on two feet, not four, and would pull with my hands, not my teeth.

But on the bright side: we saw a LEOPARD!!!!!!!!!!!!!! She was at the Nuamses waterhole, which is five kilometers off the main road. I was surprised at how few cars were there, although there were six nonetheless. She had just killed a kudu and it was lying dead with its back feet in the water.

She tried pulling it several times to no avail. She eventually bit the kudu’s tail off and ate it. Finally, after an hour, she pulled it behind a clump of twelve-foot trees. Then she walked off, which seems very risky because a lion or a group of hyenas could easily walk in and say, “Hey, I want some kudu!” and then eat it.

We saw four more giraffes and a herd of 23 elephants at the Goas waterhole. We also saw a gemsbok with a broken leg. We returned after seeing the leopard, and, too our great surprise, the gemsbok was still there and alive!

Yesterday we saw a real live unicorn. How awesome is that???


A to Zebra

Between today and yesterday, we have seen no fewer than 27 giraffes and two lions, both adult males. We’ve also seen two bush babies, a whole troop of mongoose, starlings, a few ostriches, and a million trillion each of zebra, springbok, rooibok (a.k.a. impala), gemsbok, and kudu. We saw most of these animals at the Chudop waterhole.

We visited several other waterholes and saw nothing of interest. In between two, we saw two elephants trying to hide in the shade.

Once at Halali Camp, Ethan and I swam and then Dad bought all four of us Magnums.

At the waterhole, we saw two rhinos, a few jackals, and two springbok, plus lots of little birds. We could hear the lions roar but left at around 10:00, before they got to the waterhole.


Day 100!

Only 265 days to go!

Today was another hot day and we spent it hiking up, down, and around the Waterberg Plateau. We went on the Kambazembi Walk first, accidentally, thinking it would bring us to the top. After an hour, we decided it wouldn’t. So we made a 360-degree turn and finally got on the Mountain View trail. Mom kept saying, “I don’t do well with rocks” as the trail was covered in chunks of plateau.

There was a little canyon in the side of the plateau, and that was the way up. To go beyond the lookout, you have to have a special permit. Which we (thankfully) didn’t get. The view was great, grand, and gushingly gorgeous. To get down, we followed the white footprints (not the yellow brick road). Mom and I were worried about territorial baboons attacking us, and we almost choked with terror as a herd of gemsbok (more commonly known as oryx) fled through the bushes.

I commented on how I was relieved, but Dad said, “I wish it had been baboons.” Just then, we reached the road and had to walk up a hill to get to our South African car. As we rounded a corner, we saw- you’ll never guess!- baboons! We only saw three, but Dad reassured us that there is always a group. (That wasn’t very reassuring.)

Walking by the little brick buildings used in the hotel, we saw a group of warthogs, or vlakvark. We finally got in the car, went a little ways on the Francolin Walk (francolin is a type of bird), and then got Magnums at the shop.

Once home, Ethan and I swam in the pool, using the little yellow boat to recreate the Titanic.


Hohenfuls Hike

Today the four of us, with Lilly, climbed to the top of Hohenfuls Mountain. Ethan left a note in the success notebook by the white cross. Not many people have left notes since January 2012, which is when the book started. Ethan said,
Made it to top with Lille, the dog, and family. Beautiful view. Wish you were here. Oh wait- you are!
Ethan, age 11
Oregon, USA

So he spelled Lilly wrong. But he used his best handwriting.

We weren’t officially at the top at the cross; we were just at the end of the spray-painted orange dots. Even when we stopped we weren’t officially at the top.

With all the rocks, you had to watch your step. I fell once, Mom slipped once, and Ethan fell/slipped the most. Lilly was the most sure-footed of all of us. We didn’t see any snakes, which was kind of disappointing. Dad kept saying, “Watch out for snakes,” as if I wasn’t on hyper-alert for the reptiles. I saw one yesterday. Not the whole thing, just the last five inches. For a second I thought it was a lizard, but then I remembered that it was moving in a squiggly motion.


A Dog Day

Tasso, Lilly, Nala, Choc, and Bonzo are the dogs’ official names. Susa, Choc’s mother, was killed by a snake. I suppose that Miro is dead, too.

Tasso is the giant hulk. He is the father of Choc but seems loathe to admit it. Tasso loves the rope and was growling at Alex- the owner- when he tried to take it away. Whenever he’s thirsty, he goes for the nearest water, be it planter, pool, or pond.

Lilly is not who I thought it was. Lilly is the medium-sized black dog. She usually stays out of fights but loves the rope almost as much as Tasso. One of her favorite pastimes seems to be being chased by Nala and Bonzo.

Nala looks like a docile little daschound. That’s just a cover for the demon who comes out against Choc and Bonzo. Her teeth are like little razors. Nala is sweet when you get near her… just as long as the rope isn’t around.

Choc is the daughter of Tasso and the late Susa. She was the only puppy of six who looked like Tasso. She is eight weeks old. Susa died three weeks ago. Choc is short for Chocolate, and she was so named because of her milk-brown coat and floppy dark brown ears. She is, in my opinion, the cutest of the dogs. She is a fierce fighter. Well, she wishes she was. She’s too small to challenge Tasso, Lilly, and Bonzo, but Nala is just her size. Actually, Choc is slightly bigger than Nala. And Nala is full-grown.

Bonzo is the most outgoing of the dogs. He was the one who came to greet us last night as we arrived. He seems the most content with his life and spent this afternoon curled up by the side of the pool. Bonzo play-fights often with Nala (and Choc, too, but she is too small to really count).

I love all five, but Choc has to be my favorite, followed, in order, by Nala, Bonzo, Tasso, and Lilly.


Tons of Traveling or Ze Zany Zoo

In the last week, we have been in four countries, stayed in three, traveled in two continents, and are still on one planet. (The countries are Australia, South Africa, Botswana, and Namibia.)

Just today, we’ve done two: Botswana and Namibia. The border crossing still took a long time, but that was just because it took a long time for Dad to fill out all eight forms.

We got across, took a picture of the sign, and drove for hundreds of kilometers before reaching Weavers Rock Guest Farm. The sun went down and it got dark, and we were very worried about, say, an oryx jumping out in the road and stabbing the people in the front seat as it slid through the windshield. However, we hit nothing. We saw dozens of warthogs, though, plus two rabbits and a little dik-dik, which is a teensy-weensy type of antelope. (A klipspringer is smaller than that, though. It’s about the size of a rabbit and jumps from rock to rock. And yes, it’s an antelope.)

We pulled in to the barking of Bonzo, one of the four dogs. The other dogs are Tasso, Lilly, and Miro. Tasso is the huge black one, I’m assuming that Lilly is the daschound, and Miro is the medium-sized black dog. There’s also a very friendly cat and supposedly two ponies and their foals. It’s like a zoo!


An Overview of Oz

This Oz is not the one Dorothy and Toto visited. No, this Oz is- you guessed it!- Australia. We visited about eight distinct places (Sydney, Darwin, Ambalindum Station, Alice Springs, Ayers Rock, Gnaraloo, Amble Inn, and Perth), and it is fair to say we liked them all. My personal favorite would have to be Darwin of the beaches and warmth, followed closely by Ambalindum Station with Mel, Dave, and Fatso, and Amble Inn, home to Sandy, Millie, Peter, and Mr. Fluff.

Sydney: When we first arrived at the airport in Sydney, we were in for quite a climate shock. It was a frigid 55 degrees (or so) that night as Andre Wu picked us up in his van. After a week in Jaisalmer, India, we were about to freeze. Andre and Sabrina Wu, along with their son Anthony, were our hosts for the week. Sarah, from Germany, was a fellow guest. We lived far away from the city center but the transportation system made it relatively easy to get around. The city didn’t officially end even on our way up to the Blue Mountains.

Darwin: Our limbs warmed up as we landed in Darwin. We had a pretty good apartment that had a pool, and we often watched the sunset from the beach. The entertainment was good, especially watching Brave at Deckchair Cinemas.

Ambalindum Station: I am the Reeder star in Ambalindum Station’s TV commercial. I am in the background as Mel lifts the damper out of the camp stove. We befriended Dave, the gem-collector and cow horn polisher, Fatso, Skinny 1, and Skinny 2, the magpies, and Rex, the director and film crew of the station’s TV ad. We tagged along behind a cattle muster, too, which took forever but provided some interesting experiences.

Alice Springs: Ethan and I braved the chilly depths of the pool at Kathy’s B&B. Once. That was more than enough. Ethan also took a didgeridoo lesson there and was disappointed at the price of an instrument.

Ayers Rock: Now called officially called Uluru, Ayers Rock is a popular tourist destination, even though Ethan doesn’t get why. It was cold there, too, but the bush fire along the highway warmed the car up to 31 degrees Celsius.

Carnarvon: We were only here two nights, but while we were, we murdered pancakes, walked along the beach, and sorted pictures.

Gnaraloo: Snake tracks were everywhere, and, in what Ethan and I dubbed Valley of the Shadow, there were plenty of sheep skeletons. Valley of the Shadow was between the big dunes and the ocean. At Gnaraloo Bay and 3 Mile Camp, Ethan and I made awesome sand creations that got destroyed by the rising tide.

Amble Inn: Ethan and I fell in love with Sandy, Peter, and Mr. Fluff. Millie was harder to like. I never really did. Peter and Mr. Fluff, the adorabubble bunnies, were vicious. At least, Peter was, scratching my arms when I was holding him securely and therefore ruining my tan. I still love him, though. We visited the Pinnacles, Mt. Leseur, and nearby Jurien Bay, where we met two siblings who were named Erin and Ethan.

Perth: In Perth we did nothing that stands out to me except playground-hunt and eat pizza at Hero’s, where there were free slushies and Pac-Man games.


Come Look Inside

I now invite you to turn off your cellular devices and any other noise-making electronics or young children. Cameras are allowed, but using the camera on your smartphone is not.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Chalet #1. There are two rooms. Walking through the front door you’ll see a double bed, and there is a cot to your left and a low mattress to your right. Also on your right, you can see a table with a hat, glasses, and a kettle on it. Beyond the wall the double bed is against are the bathroom and a closet. Now let’s do a U-turn and see what lies outside.

You’re now on the front porch of the plastic-walled raised cabin. To your right is a table, a bench, and an ashtray. That is the living room. On the ground in front of the living area is a tree with weavers’ nests. Return your view to straight ahead. You can see dirt and trees. Now go left and down five stairs. Go straight for about five meters, turn right for five meters more, then turn left and follow the stone-lined path for about 25 meters. Stop! You’re about to hit that table!

Turn right and pass the firepit. You’re now at a low brick wall. Follow the wall to the left to a bench. From this bench, you can see the waterhole that animals like rooibok, springbok, impala, elands, ostriches, wildebeest (or gnus as I like to call them), and many flying birds to visit. Keep going, past the metal crocodile and past the shallow pool. Go up the steps. Take a sharp right.

Oops! You just fell into the pool! Here’s a towel. Dry off and we’ll grab some rooibos tea from the restaurant. That’s right back down these steps and straight across the muddy path. Yes, it’s mud. In the Kalahari. That’s because those sprinklers are always on. Here, let’s sit down. The dogs are over there by the parking lot playing. Holly, the dog that looks like Sandy of Amble Inn B&B, is the wild one. However, it gets beaten by Candy, the dog that looks like Millie of Amble Inn B&B, in playfights.

I hope you enjoyed your tour. Thank you for choosing Reeder Tours.


Gnu Animals

Today I have seen four new animals. They are just-seen in the wild for only me because I, unlike Mom, Dad, and Ethan, had never before last week set foot on African soil. The four animals were ostriches, guinea fowl, gnus, and springbok.

Ostriches lined the Trans-Kgalagadi Highway today as we drove northwest. There were dozens, and after a while we stopped taking pictures. Most had the brown colorings of females, but there were some males, too.

Mom was the one who spotted the first guinea fowl on the side of the road. I saw the birds, too, and there are more here at Thakadu Bush Camp. These reminded Mom of the bowls Dad brought her from South Africa in 2009, which are colorful and have guinea fowl on them.

Another name for a gnu is wildebeest, which is the Afrikaans word. I always thought a gnu was sort of like a kangaroo or rodent. I had only heard of a gnu once, in a play when I was in fourth grade. The character Harriet was given a word in a spelling bee and told to spell it and use it in a sentence. Harriet said, “Gnu. G-N-U. Gnu. The new gnu knew.” That line has stuck with me ever since.

Springbok are smallish antelope. They were nervous and scattered when Dad got up to take pictures of them.

There were some other animals, too, just of the human sort at supper tonight. One woman claimed to be from Oregon.

Other humans were involved in today, too, as an entertaining call to the classmates of Ethan and I was made. Naturally the guys were all too shy to say hello to a girl.

The service was awful and we got cut off. That Orange network is very disappointing.


Cheerfully Chowing on Chicken

After breakfast at News Café, we drove out with Dad intending to climb Kgali Hill. We couldn’t find a road up, so instead we did a U-turn and took pictures. We stopped by Riverwalk for groceries, and then put the food away at our hotel. A few hours later, we emerged for rooibos tea at the President Hotel, which even has a Mma Ramotswe Tea Corner.

All of us had the same thing: rooibos tea and chocolate cake with cream. It was delicious, even though the chocolate cake got boring after a while. We looked around the African Mall for a Clicks, and then at the Westgate Mall, but there wasn’t one that was open. So we retreated to the cool of our room until six o’clock, when we went out to supper at Nando’s, the chicken restaurant. Ethan and I had burgers, and Mom and Dad shared a salad and chicken with Spanish rice.

It was delicious, and the chicken made me think of ‘partridge’ for the game of 20 Questions Ethan and I were playing. Sadly, Ethan guessed the name of the bird. But then I discovered his ‘okapi,’ leaving me the as-of-yet winner.


A Bout of Botswana

We’re mainly in Botswana because of Mma Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. In the fictitious series, detective Precious Ramotswe lives in a little house on Zebra Drive. We went looking for Zebra Drive, but the closest we found was Zebra Way. There are lots of animal street names here. We’re on Giraffe Crescent, off of Hippopotamus Road.

We visited one of Mma Ramotswe’s favorite places, the President Hotel, and took a look at the African Mall behind. Because it was high noon, we did not stop to have yummy rooibos tea at the hotel like the detective commonly does. We may return tomorrow at tea-time.

We eventually returned to our hotel and got wi-fi for 48 hours from the front desk. It was a relief to check email after a whopping twenty-four hours “off the grid.”

For supper, Mom persuaded us to visit Embassy, which is an Indian restaurant. We had ordinary curries and extraordinary garlic naan.


An African Adventure- 1

Within the last 36 hours, we have traveled through many towns, six time zones, three countries, two continents, and one land border crossing.

Where are we now? Peermont Mondior, Gaborone, Botswana, Africa.

We had supper in Perth, filled the rental car with fuel, and left it with Avis at the Perth International Airport. At the airport, we checked in, lounged in the Qantas Departures Lounge drinking lemonade and eating olives, and finally got on our flight behind all the tired little kiddies and their parents.

We took off after midnight and landed twelve hours later. Along the way, the girl across the aisle from Dad and I got motion sick, I watched Glee and Modern Family, and all of us tried to sleep.

After going through customs, immigrations, and the motions of getting a rental car, I got in the front seat, Dad got in on the right, and Mom and Ethan chilled in the back. We eventually left Johannesburg proper about a half hour (or so) later. We stopped to buy snacks at a grocery store along the way. Tom Bodett entertained us up until the Botswana-South Africa border.

We  parked. Got out. Took out the passports. Entered the building. Entered our vehicle’s registration number so that Botswana could be sure that we weren’t stealing it. Walked down the hall. Left the building. Got in the car. Drove in to No-Man’s-Land, between the border stations.

The stress level got higher as we couldn’t find all that we needed to declare to enter Botswana. Finally Ethan and Dad went back, and when they returned, all was well. We got to our hotel, got a SIM for Dad’s phone at the mall, bought take-out pizza and milk shakes, and ate supper here. Yum!


Perthian Playgrounds

Today Ethan and I tested five different Perth playgrounds. Here are the results:

Near East Fremantle: – – – – –
This was, I think, the most disappointing playground. Where the sign said ‘Playground’ in big, bold letters stood a U-shaped wood structure with steps. That was it. I was not thrilled, and therefore did not join Ethan in trying it out.

The Steamboat: O O – – –
The Steamboat is right next to the river. It is shaped like a steamboat (*gasp!*), and Ethan and I played Escape on it. In case you don’t know what Escape is, I will tell you: The person who is ‘It’ closes their eyes and hunts, relying on their senses of sound, feel, and smell alone. They finally tag the next person, and that person becomes It. There are two ziplines, multiple horizontal ladders (that’s what I call them), and two rock-climbing walls.

The Pack-a-Punch Playground: O O O O –
The PPP was an orange playground. The actual playground part itself was made of ropes and just begging to be made an obstacle course. There’s also a zipline, swings, microphones, a slide, a sand pit, a see-saw, a spinning climbing net, and a tire swing. We did not play Escape on the PPP because it seemed too dangerous.

Playground in Miniature: O O O O –
The PIM gets a high rating because it was surprisingly fun. It had a tire swing and rocking horse off to the side, and then there was the main castle: a climbing rope wall, two Siamese-twin slides, a climbing wall, and a shelf beneath. The person who was not It regularly cowered on the low shelf.

The Playground for Children of Ancient Times: O O O O O
Ethan and I give this one a full 5/5 because we stayed there the longest. There was a clever sort of see-saw, a bar for me, a chain climbing wall, and a playground on which Ethan and I played Escape. It is for children of ancient times insomuch as the floor is rusted metal and some things are creaking and cracking. But it was So. Much. Fun!


Another Park: DNA Makes Its Mark!

Today we went to another park!

It was Kings Park, a 1,003-square-acre park, located near downtown Perth. We only visited about ten of those acres. What we visited includes the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) Tower, Synergy Parkland, and Lotterywest Family Area. The Parkland and Family Area were, yes, sponsored by Synergy and Lotterywest.

Our first stop was Synergy Parkland. It has a playground based on the dinosaur ages, with fake climbable Stegosaurus and little dino babies. Ethan and I quickly tired of it and sat down with our parents to enjoy the corn chips and the pumpkin and chili dips.

Next we visited two lookouts, from which we could see Perth, the Darling Range, and the harbor. At the Lotterywest Family Area, Ethan and I climbed on the Space Net. I did flips on the lower, stiffer ropes. Ethan challenged me to a round of C-O-W. Ethan went down to O-W when I did several flips he couldn’t perform. Then I did a drop that he thought I couldn’t do.

Ethan changed his mind and made yet more rules: “Okay, and these can’t involve flips.” I quit then and went to the ziplines. We zipped and lined for a while, then returned to the Space Net. We finally left for the DNA Tower, which supposedly has 101 steps. The stairs run like a double helix, with two sets of stairs, and from the top you can see Perth, Kings Park, and the Darling Range.

Our last stop was a ground. They took the ‘play’ out of ‘playground.’ I was very, very disappointed.




SciTech is kind of like OMSI in Portland, except I like OMSI better. SciTech is more for little children who get scared of robotic dinosaurs and electronic things in general. However, there were a few interesting things.
The speed section had two races: pedal cars and an electronic car. For the pedal cars, you pedaled as hard as you could until your little figure on the screen crossed the finish line. The electronic one was just like a typical car race at, say, Roaring Rapids or an arcade. Except this was at no extra cost.
We visited Horizon The Planetarium for the Wildest Weather show. It was done by National Geographic and detailed the trip of the imaginary spacecraft Arion. It dropped probes, landers, or the like, depending on which planet it visited. It visited Venus, Mars, Jupiter, Titan, which is one of Saturn’s moons, Neptune, and Triton, a moon of Neptune.
They found seasons on Triton, an atmosphere of its own on Titan, and diamond hail on Neptune.
The lady at the planetarium also told us that we could see Mars and Saturn in the night sky here in Perth. That is, if there was less light pollution.

Lucky-to-be-Free-mantle Prison


Fremantle Prison used buckets for toilets in 1991.
That’s one of the reasons it was shut down in 1991- for sanitary reasons. When it was shut down, there were about 600 inmates, all men. Women used to stay there, but they eventually got their own jail.
The blocks of cells even have nets above the floor to stop suicide. The first block we visited  is the largest and tallest in the southern hemisphere. In several rooms, writing was allowed on the walls. One was the cell of an Aboriginal, one was the cell of someone whose painting was therapy, and one was the church. You wouldn’t want to insult the church here; the only man who got 100 lashes from a cat o’ nine tails got these for cursing the preacher.
In this Church of England, there are the Ten Commandments painted on the wall. The sixth one- typically known as “Thou shalt not kill”- reads “Thou shalt do no murder” because the gallows were still being used. In fact, forty-four people, all murderers, were hanged at Fremantle, including one woman, Martha Rendell.
Rendell moved in with her widower boyfriend and his five children. She killed three of Thomas Morris’s children with hydrochloric acid. She gave first seven-year-old Annie something to eat that would make her throat sore. When Annie complained of a sore throat, Rendell applied the acid, claiming it was medicine. This inflamed the throat, making it so the child couldn’t breathe. Annie died on July 28, 1907.
Then came Olive, 5, and Arthur, 14. Olive died on October 6, 1907, and Arthur died a year later. Dr. Cuthbert asked to do an autopsy on Arthur, but nothing was ever found. His death certificate most likely stated that he died of diphtheria, as did his sisters’. Then Rendell tried to kill George, who ran to his mother’s house because he didn’t want to die like his siblings.
Police eventually noticed, and she was tried and convicted. Rendell died on October 6, 1909, two years after Olive and a year after Arthur. The last person hanged at Fremantle  was Eric Edgar Cooke, a self-confessed serial killer. He died on October 26, 1964 and was buried above Rendell in Fremantle Prison’s cemetery.

Perth Pastimes


Ethan and I had to bid good-bye to Sandy, Peter, and Mr. Fluff today, but only after taking Peter on a walk (yes, with a leash) and getting the chickens’ eggs. We drove for three hours and saw, on the way, emus, roadkill kangaroos, and a bob-tailed
Once in our house in Perth, we settled in and then went to Coles for groceries. Upon our return, Ethan and I went to the nearby playground. We returned in time for supper, which ended with chocolate ice cream.
Now we have to empty our luggage in search for two cords, one of which I’ve found in my luggage. The other is still lost.

Sandy’s Stare and a Kangaroo Pair

Peter the rabbit is my favorite of the two rabid rabbits. Mr. Fluff is what I call the other one. (Peter really is the other one’s name.) I still love Peter even after all the scratches he gave me on my arms, ruining my tan by breaking the skin.

He gave me all those scratches after Mrs. Murray took us on a ‘tour’ of the land. She showed us the two ponds, the canola fields, their son’s house, Dennis fixing the barbwire fence, and the fields of yellow wildflowers she called dandelions (they weren’t our definition of dandelions). These flowers pollinated our shoes, so Mom’s hiking boots, which were once brown with the sands of India and red with the dirt of Ayers Rock, are now yellow with pollen.

Dennis gave Mrs. Murray, the four of us, and the dog Sandy a ride back to the house. Sandy is the rabbit-watcher. A herd dog by breed, she has a long attention span and was obsessed while Ethan, Dad, and I held and ‘played’ with Peter. Sandy is only three years old while Millie, the inside dog, is fourteen and nearly blind and nearly deaf.

Once Peter was safely in his pen with Mr. Fluff, Mom, Dad, Ethan, some food, and I climbed into the car and drove to the IGA supermarket. Mom and I got out and bought bread, chili-and-lime flavored corn chips, cheese, and lettuce for our picnic at the Pinnacles in Nambung National Park. We drove to Thirsty Point first and got attacked by sand.

At the Pinnacles Desert Discovery, Mom and Ethan flew through the Interpretive Center and discovered that there are no picnic spots. We eventually had a supper of sandwiches, oranges, and a chocolate-mint bar in the car. We saw three kangaroos at the next lookout: a joey in its mama’s pouch, Joey’s mama, and another one.

We watched the sunset that was 38 seconds late and then drove to Amble Inn B&B in mortal fear of suicidal kangaroos.


Leaning Trees and More EEs

Today could technically be called a driving day, but we didn’t actually go anywhere. We stayed in the car for a long time, but there were intervals of hiking/walking. Our first break was at Mt. Lesueur, named after a French zoologist. We hiked- or, should I say, I hiked- four kilometers up and down the plateau. Ethan, Dad, and Mom did another 2K loop while I went in search of the facilities.

Before this death march, we had gotten out to look at the informatory signs and take pictures of the flora. This flora included kangaroo paws, buttercups, and melaleucas.

We stopped several other times before leaving Lesueur National Park. Our last time was to look at a sign with a leaning tree on it. Well, a leaning tree that was an echidna. Mom was like, “Oh, that’s a leaning tree sign!” Ethan: “That’s an echidna, Mom.” Mom: “No, that’s a leaning tree!!!” (In her defense, it looks like a tree from a distance.)

That was the first of three echidnas, or porcupines as Dad called them just to bug Ethan, we saw: two on signs and one on the road near Amble Inn. It was so cute and I wanted one (I still do), and I also wanted one of the rabbits that three-year-old Sandy, the Murrays’ dog, was watching so intently. One was brown and white and it was the cuter and fatter one. I picked it up, but it was pooping. I put it back down. Immediately.

I finally got the black-and-white one in my arms and it is, in my opinion, the cuter of the two.

While playing at the playground in Jurien Bay, Ethan played tag with a brother and sister whose names were, coincidentally, Erin and Ethan.


Driving Down


Amble Inn B&B is our current location. It’s kilometers away from Gnaraloo, Jurien Bay, and Carnarvon. We drove about 750 kilometers south, plus some east-west. We only hit one animal, a rabbit, although we saw a dead kangaroo, dead rabbit, and a stupid sheep that ran across the road right in front of us.
Anne Murray (who owns the B&B) said that there are lots of foxes, and about once a year the people in this area go on a fox-shoot at night. Two years ago, Mrs. Murray said, they were out from nine pm to three am and bagged 120 foxes. That’s one every three minutes, plus the ones they didn’t hit.

Building by the Bay, Part 2


We went to Gnaraloo Bay once again, and Ethan and I built things once again. The tide was coming in, but it was at the place where the beach drops a foot. Ethan put a line in the sand after I started building my own “castle.” I put a hole in the back of mine and a canal going through o that, should the tide actually reach it, there would be a place to store the water. It didn’t really work, though, and our time at the bay ended when trespassings started occurring and a land rights fight proceeded.
After doing homework, we went out to the dunes where Ethan and I tried to parental units and dead sheep. Supper was beans, salad, zucchini, avocado, and pumpkin, and then Dad, Ethan, and I made our own toast over the little fire on the stove.

Sand & Salt


After climbing on the dunes, Ethan and I dug a hole. It was frustrating with all the sand-falls, but after while we could see the red-and-white layers of sand.
On the way back, we looked again at the lizard (dubbed Lizzy) and for the first time at the six emus. Dad had found them and was taking pictures. (Lizzy had already been photographed.)
We drove to 3 Mile Camp, where Ethan and I first tested the chilly waters and then built Lump. I dunked and then got Ethan mostly wet. Once we were sufficiently cooled, we dried off and Ethan started digging/building. First it was an O. Then he suggested that we fill it in and make it three or four feet tall. So we did… Just not that tall. Why?
The tide was coming in. Two feet up and two feet wide when a wave hit it and the ocean-facing half slid off. My piece of coral, the Lump’s topping, fell, too. I quickly built the top up so the coral could have a place. Then I helped Ethan.
I quit because we were trying to hold back the ocean. It still stood by the time we left, although I doubt it still does. Time for supper.

Building by the Bay


Down by the bay
Where the watermelons grow
Back to my home
I dare not go
For if I do
My mother will say
Have you ever seen a goose
Kissing a moose
Down by the bay?
No watermelons actually grow at Gnaraloo Bay, but I’m sure that Ethan and I could have sculpted one from sand. We tried to make a castle with walls and a double moat, but the tide started coming in. So I tried to make a hole, but only its wall stayed standing with all the waves coming in.
So Ethan and I added onto it, making a crescent, named It, which eventually got mostly destroyed by the killer half-inch waves. My corner still stood, though! So we built an O off of that, and it wasn’t destroyed by the time we left with our loot, which consisted of cool shells and formerly, cool coral, too, but we’re not allowed to take that. Oh, well…..

Now in Gnaraloo (NAR-uh-luu)


We finally arrived at Gnaraloo Station today after 150 kilometers and a blowhole. We were greeted by the bleating of sheep and the barking of dogs as we walked in to the office.
We’re in Cabin 6, which is overlooking the dunes and ocean. Walking to the ocean once everything was organized, we saw lots of squiggly snake tracks. There are six types of poisonous snakes here, plus two sea snakes, sharks, a venomous octopus, and jellyfish. To increase my fear, we saw sheep skeletons on our walk.
We dipped our toes in the Indian Ocean and saw a pod of whales blowing. Mom was lucky enough to see one breach; the rest of us only saw the splash. After some more sandy episodes, we climbed back up to the cabin and watched the sun set.
For supper we had salad, snow peas, beans and rice, and a raspberry mousse Cadbury bar. Delicioso.

Carnarvon Capers

Carnarvon is a little town on the Indian Ocean. It is (obviously) in Australia, directly across from South Africa. It is the only place where the Australian desert touches the ocean, Indian or otherwise.

It is also home to Mt Augustus, which is more than twice as large as Ayers Rock, but apparently less impressive because it is covered in shrubbery.

Carnarvon is, as Dad put it, a resort town without the resort. It is a very sleepy little town, but it has oceanfront property, three banks, three supermarkets, a dozen restaurants, and even a Target Country. The town must have a gymnastics club, too, because yesterday at Post Office Café there was a girl on the lawn doing cartwheels, handsprings, splits, handstands, and head stands.

Carnarvon has a few places of interest, including Mile-Long Jetty, which was built out into deep water. This way big ships could have an easy way to transport goods to the mainland. There is now a train out to the end, or you can walk, but both cost money. There is a new Interpretive Center being built between the jetty and the old sheep-shearing museum.

We also went to Pelican Point, where we felt the chilly waters of the Indian Ocean wash over our feet. Ethan tried to be elusive among the sand dunes, but it didn’t really work.


Coming to Carnarvon

Jurien Bay is about 400 kilometers south of us. We’re at some rest stop on the way up to Carnarvon. We stopped halfway to here at Geraldton for some fruit, crackers, and water at Coles. Sometime between here and there we switched from right next to the Indian Ocean to a long ways inland.

Ethan has played Colossal Cave for pretty much all four hours we’ve been on the road. I’ve been sleeping and playing Hearts on the iPad, Dad’s been driving, and Mom has been feeding us, sleeping, or writing a menu.

Dad has woken from his teensy-tiny nap and requested chips and dip. (He got them.) So far he’s had some capsicum dip and a sultana and carrot cake today. Oh, would you like to know what those are?

Sultana– raisin
Capsicum– bell pepper

The beet and sweet-potato chips with the capsicum dip is “pretty tasty stuff.”

We’re now in Fish Tales, which is a little 7-room house in Carnarvon on the ocean. We went to supper at Post Office Café, where we enjoyed a pizza and a salad. Ethan had a red lemonade, which was called a Fire Engine. I tried it, and it was the same as pink lemonade (just a different color).


Airborne Above Australia (Again)

We’re finally in WA- that is, West Australia. We got here after flying from Ayers Rock to Alice Springs to Adelaide to Perth. There used to be a regular flight from Ayers to Perth, but Qantas Airlines canceled it.

On the flight from Ayers to Alice, we got a snack of two cookies, cheese, 110 milliliters of water, and three crackers. There was an hour-long layover in Alice, and then we headed for Adelaide. I watched an episode of Big Bang Theory, and then, because the regularly scheduled programming was canceled, two really boring programs played. Instead of watching those, I read Sacajawea.

It was raining in Adelaide. In case you don’t know, Adelaide is on the southern coast of Australia. We had a three-hour layover (or so) there. The domestic terminal had a surprising variety of shops (of course, Australia is a big country), including Chocolat & Wicked Desserts and Smiggle. I love Smiggle! They organize the store by color. There is pink, purple, green, black, blue, and white/rainbow. I found the cutest mouse mouse, which is a cordless pink computer mouse that is shaped like a mouse. The ears are the buttons and there’s even a little face!

Chocolat & Wicked Desserts was more my style, though, what with its generous scoops of gelato that were inexpensive by Australian standards. I got two scoops, one of chocolate and one of honey-cinnamon. Ethan got one of chocolate and one of hazelnut. Mom got the same as me, and Dad got one scoop honey-cinnamon and one scoop chocolate-hazelnut.

We finallyfinallyfinally got on the plane after a ridiculously long delay. Once we were on we were told the reason for the delay.

When we were coming into Adelaide, there was some really strong turbulence. Some people threw up, so we had to clean it up and replace some seat cushions.

TMI. We did not need to know that there was a storm that we would fly through. There was a little bit of turbulence, but it was the first time that I have heard people (females) squeal on a plane. For supper, we were served pumpkin pasta, a mini Toblerone, cheese, and crackers. I also watched The Sapphires, the beginning of Rio, and three episodes of Modern Family.

Once we landed in Perth, we got our four suitcases and our Avis rental car and headed north for two hours until we reached Jurien Bay. It’s been a long day.


Point of View


Rise and shine Ethan! No sleeping in today! We have to go see the sunrise at Ayers Rock! C’mon, up up up!… Ethan, NOW!
Oh, you’re cold? Go stand by Mom. Yes, it’s freezing. The car said it was fifteen degrees Celsius. No, I don’t know what that is is Fahrenheit. Ask Mom for her phone.
Are you done with your breakfast yet? We have to go walk to the waterhole.
That was some waterhole. I’ve seen Periodic Tables with more H2O than that. You want to climb the rock? And die? Be my guest.
Look, you could actually climb the rock here; there’s the chain. No, it’s closed due to high wind. When will ten-o’clock ever come? Here’s the ranger, five minutes late. Let’s go.
What did you think of that? I thought he said “I don’t know what I’m talking about” too many times. He was also trying to convince you not to climb the rock. Like you would’ve even if it was open!
Sorry, I’m not going swimming in that freezing cold pool. I’ll stay here.
Mom, let’s open the Tim-Tams!!! … I want the last one too! Fine, we’ll split it. NO, I do not have the bigger half. I intentionally gave you the bigger one.
Ugh, this walk goes on forever. Ugh, that pun was so blah: “This is gorgeous!” We’re in a gorge. In the Olgas, 50K away from the Rock. That’s where we are. What is Sparta?!
Ohmygoodness, these potato crisps are so good. DO NOT sit on me. I’m serious Ethan. Pose for the camera. UGH! That picture is so embarrassing!!! Yes, Mom, we’ll be quiet. Oh, did you see that bus that was missing an S and said, This bus is licensed to  eat 46 passengers?

Flaming Foreigners

We barely, just barely, made it to Ayers Rock today. We wouldn’t’ve if it hadn’t been for a Californian couple on their way to Alice from the Rock.

Oh, you want details? Okaaay…

We left Kathy’s Place at around nine-thirty am after breakfast and several games of tetherball. Mom and Ethan were dropped off at Woolworth’s and my postcard was dropped off at the post office.

We left the actual vicinity of Alice Springs about an hour later after our car had become sparkly clean. We dug into our garlic-and-chives-flavored spreadable cheese (with crackers) at about noon-o-thirty and enjoyed it to the finish. Another hour or so passed, and The Cloud loomed ahead.

The white swirls at the edge of The Cloud merged with the blue of the sky. To the south was a red-grey wall. Straight ahead, to the west, was a sliver of blue. Looking north we could see a dark-grey column rising, defying gravity.

Three cars passed us, all heading toward town. A fourth finally stopped. In it was a couple from California coming from Ayers Rock. He advised us to put our aircon on recirculating and to keep our high beams on, but he convinced us to do it.

We could see the flames leaping on both sides of the road ahead. Mom took a deep breath. I dug my fingers into Ethan’s arm. Dad pressed down on the gas and… we were past. But the white smoke, it was awful. Swirling ash filled the air and we couldn’t see three feet. We finally pulled through the wall, only to have the worst still ahead.

I think Ethan has bruises on his arm now.

Looking back we could see The Cloud growing in size. A mile or so away from our hotel was a police car that blocked the road. The only way from Ayers Rock is by air (yes, there is an airport). I’m guessing Ayers Rock Resort has a lot more visitors than they planned on tonight.


A V-Air-y Good Day

Ethan took a didgeridoo course this morning at the Sounds of Starlight Theatre at the Todd Mall. After that half hour, Mom, Ethan, and I looked at the shops around it until Dad got frustrated of waiting on a bench for us. So we meandered down to the Royal Flying Doctors museum. We were all disappointed that the “cockpit” was out-of-order (OOO), but we got to see a movie and look at the displays.

After some more walking, we bought some Rocky Road, which is really marshmallows on fudge, thinly covered in the same chocolate. It was really good and we ate it by the Todd “River.” We had a ten-minute delay, but we finally got to the School of the Air center. We got to see two lessons being broadcasted from Studio 1 and watch a movie in the room next door. We also got to look at the Harmony Quilts made by the kids. All 131 students get together at least three times a year. There are 15 total teachers, and each teacher meets every one of his/her students once a year.

They also had a map that showed where and who and at what level all of the Students of the Air were. We even found Jackson from Ambalindum, who is a preschooler. On another wall it showed pictures and autographs of famous people who’d been to the center, and it including Queen Elizabeth II (signed ElizabethR) and Princess Diana and Prince Philip.

On the way home, we bought peppermint Magnums at Wentworth’s. After eating ours, Ethan and I went swimming in the chilly 70-degree pool. We only stayed in for a mere half hour. Once warm and dry again, Ethan and I played tetherball (sadly, he won all three games). We went up to Anzac Hill for the sunset and then bought pizza and a salad from La Casalinga. It was very good, and we ate all fourteen slices.


On the Grid

Finally back to civilization! After two whole days of being off the grid at Ambalindum, we’re finally able to catch up at Kathy’s B&B in Alice Springs. We also got on the grid on the way here when we drove over them. We saw some kangaroos last evening and this morning before we left the station. On the way here we stopped at Trephina Gorge and took a two kilometer hike around the rim and on the bed of the creek.

Once we got here, Ethan saw the pool and instantly started begging me to swim with him. Well, at 68º Fahrenheit, I’m not touching that water. Ethan eventually did, though, and Dad watched him. I hope he had fun.


The New Cowboy

The New Cowboy is on an ATV. He drives across Australia at the back of 990 head of cattle. He stands up in his seat and his jeans are covered in fine red dust. He and seven partners, one in helicopter, three in trucks, two on motorbike, and one on ATV, have the task of moving mothers and their babies to the yards.

He stops for a lunch of a ketchup-and-cheese sandwich and Lamington squares before heading up the hill to herd the cattle. He turns around and cuts off a calf’s escape. Sometimes the calves get so far behind that the two ladies in the rear truck have to rope it in. The helicopter lands to help them, but they can’t do it without the New Cowboy.

He tosses the calf in the bed of the truck with ease. He does this for three more strays later on. By the time he gets to the yards with his seven partners, he is exhausted. But the cattle are finally where they belong; he can finally go home.

(I am not writing about a specific cowboy from today because this is a combination of things different people did. Mel was on an ATV, and so was some other guy whose name we don’t know. Glenn and Michael were on motorbike. Ambalindum Station’s owner’s niece and the helicopter driver’s wife were in the truck at the rear. The owner, Tim, was in the truck at the front. His wife, Emily, and their three kids, Jackson, Harrison, and Georgia, were in the car at the very front.)



Ethan should be so happy; we got to sleep in! (Well, 8:30.) We had showers and a quick breakfast of cereal, toast, veggie sausages (with sundried tomatoes and kalamata olives), and oranges before moping around the homestead for hours. Well, not really.

First, Mel gave us a tour. She showed us the garden, the Bunkhouse, the Cottage, the Bush Camp, Dave’s cool rocks, the Shower Under the Stars, and the sheep shearing shed. In the garden are her and Dave’s cool rocks, including granite, quartz, quartz with iron oxide, and sticks of rock that a Japanese mining company dug up. Some of these have garnets in them.

Mel reminds me of a friend back home, from the blond hair to her love of Australia to the worn cowboy boots. She is, I think, 26 because she was wearing a Class 12 2004 shirt. She told us that the whole station is 3,316 square kilometers, which is the same as 5,121 homesteads, 819,401 acres, 3,277,606 roods, and 1,280 square miles. Mel also showed us the old butcher’s shop, and in it is a meat cutter, a poster showing different cuts of meat, and a freezer with beef on hooks in it. She told us that she likes the beef at her home, where they get it from English cattle. Here they mainly have Drought Masters (or something like that), with some others mixed in.

She also asked if we’d seen Lollipop the pony or Rapunzel the calf in Claraville on our way up. (We hadn’t.) She said that they belong to Tim, the owner of this place, and that his two-and-a-half-year-old son named Rapunzel. Mel gets to name the next calf here. She’s planning on it being a little girl who’ll be christened Amba, short for Ambalindum.

After schoolwork was done and Dad had gone on a walk and seen a live kangaroo, we got in the Kluger and went up to the lookout. After coming back down, we found that the film crew for the Old Ambalindum Homestead TV commercial was here! (Film crew of two.) So were Dave, Tim, and the other owner of Ambalindum. Dave, by the way, is an older guy who likes rocks.

The first shot that I saw taken was of Tim driving in twenty-four horses (there are twenty-seven owned by Ambalindum). Ethan was supposed to be captured leaning against the fence of the pen. He and I don’t think he was.

Once Rex (the Kiwi cameraman) came back from his wild ride across the bush, Mel and Dave built a fire and, once it got dark, we got filmed. Mel was supposed to take the pot off and on, depending on Rex’s command, the fire, Ethan and I were supposed to roast our marshmallows, and the adults (Mom, Dad, Dave, and Rex’s wife) were supposed to chatter. Dad said, “Whoa, did you see that huge spider?!” I dropped my first marshmallow; the second burst in to flame. Mel had to present the damper (a huge sultana scone. She called it raisin, and Dave said, “Getting fancy now, are we?” Rex’s wife said, “He doesn’t know the difference.”) to the camera. We were dying of laughter before Rex said “Cut!”


Driving Day Dos

We had another driving day today. We drove from Tennant Creek to Devil’s Marbles to Some Little Town in the Middle of Nowhere to Alice Springs to Emily Pass to Jesse Pass to Corroboree Rock to Old Ambalindum Homestead.

  • Tennant Creek: We stayed there last night and had breakfast at Top of Town Café where Mom and Ethan had French toast with faux maple syrup and vanilla ice cream. Dad and I each had eggs and toast- he had fried eggs with plain toast while I had scrambled eggs with raisin toast. He also got a chocolate malt cupcake, as Top of Town Café is home of the Pink Molly cupcake. The owner has a daughter named Molly who likes pink. The owner also gave Mom and me a raspberry brownie cupcake.
  • Devil’s Marbles: This is an area with round red boulders stacked on top of each other and just begging to be climbed by eager little children (such as Ethan). Mom just read the signs as she was scared by the snake we saw when we first got there. For the record, I saw it first. Then Mom, then Ethan, then Dad. Thankfully, it didn’t attack but just slithered off. It was brown.

It is well known that the Country is home to the World’s most Venomous snakes. There are two different Varieties of these snakes: snakes that are brown in color and the dreaded Taipan. The Taipan will kill you; you have no Chance. If a brown snake bites, you have an Opportunity to live if you hurry to Help. Providence is with us thus far; we have encountered only three snakes. Two of these were Pythons and one was a Taipan crushed by one of our wagon wheels.
A Record of My Experience in the Great Land; Australia by Geoffrey Allen Reid

  • Some Little Town in the Middle of Nowhere: We tanked up on fuel here. The official town name actually began with a T.
  • Alice Springs: We had to stop and buy groceries like eggs, cheese, milk, and bread. We also got four Magnums: they were Infinity Chocolate Caramel. They were delicious!!! At the store in Some Little Town in the Middle of Nowhere, and elsewhere, it was AU$7.00 per Infinity Magnum. At the Wentworth’s it was AU$7.99 for four.
  • Emily Pass & Jesse Pass: Two gaps in big red rocks. There were Aboriginal paintings of caterpillars and emu fat. In reality they were just white lines made from white lime, animal fat, and dirt of some sort.
  • Corroboree Rock: Another big black-and-red rock. Some inappropriate jokes were made here, and I discussed my future. Unfortunately, I discussed it with Ethan.
  • Old Ambalindum Homestead: This is a farm in the middle of nowhere, a hundred-some kilometers from Alice down a dirt track and some sealed road. On this road we saw two dingoes, four dead kangaroos, and plenty of cows and their calves. We have a whole house to ourselves. I was in my element, organizing all our food perfectly in the kitchen. For dessert we had a chocolate-mint Cadbury bubble bar.