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.)


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.


Good Fortune

Today we had the good fortune to visit three forts near Jaipur: Amber Fort, Jaigarh Fort, and Nahargarh Fort. We spent the most time at Amber Fort because that was the first one we visited. We were trying to get to Nahargarh Fort because the Amber Fort tickets included a visit to its neighbor, but our driver misunderstood and took us to Jaigarh Fort instead. At Nahargarh Fort, we only paid a visit to the palace because we were looking for a good place to take pictures of Jaipur. Apparently the conditions weren’t right, but we did get to smell some more ancient bathrooms that didn’t stop being used once ancient times ended. (When did ancient times end? In a couple thousand years we’ll be ancient.)

Amber Fort also ended up being our favorite for a number of reasons: it was big enough to not get bored in after a short time, it had cool passageways, it had a tunnel, it had shade (yes!), it had ice cream, and we weren’t exhausted and hot when we visited it. We also got an audio guide. Ethan and I were supposed to listen to it and then tell the other three what we’d learned. The whole program was 2½ hours long, so we didn’t listen to all of it. We did learn, however, that the walls around the diwan-e-aam (hall of public audience) that looked like marble weren’t really marble. This was evident by the wasp coming out of a tiny hole in the wall, but we finally learned what the walls were: a strange mixture including yoghurt, limestone, honey, and marble dust. It was polished with agate and felt and looked just like the Taj Mahal marble.

Our favorite part was the zenana, or women’s apartments. There are stairs leading every where, a water pump, passageways just begging to be explored by kids eager to escape their parents, and plenty of smelly latrines. There were smelly areas in the other palaces too, but by then we’d learned to avoid those areas. Ciao!

Certainly Saying “So Long” to the City

As the miles of rails pass by, we get to think about what we did in Bangkok, especially what we did today: we hit three malls in the time frame of less than six hours. Obviously we didn’t hit every stall and shop, but we went to the important things: Cream and Fudge Factory (for the best ice cream since Friday) and Madame Tussauds wax museum. My experiences?

I got to cuddle up to Justin Bieber, have a friendly conversation with George Clooney, be Oprah Winfrey’s guest, take charge of the Oval Office as President and First Lady Obama looked on, moonwalk with Michael Jackson, backup dance for Madonna, get a hole-in-one with a jealous Tiger Woods watching, play Wii tennis with Serena Williams looking on in total awe, win four Oscars– dream come true, play paparazzi to an Asian celebrity nicknamed “Pancake,” be Bruce Lee’s replacement figure, yearn for One Direction figures (and be duly disappointed), pose with Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt on the red carpet, show Picasso how to make a perfect painting (an eyebrow with an eye!), be taught by Beethoven, and take pictures of many, many more, including Princess Di, Buddha, Gandhi, King Rama IX and his wife, Beyonce, Nicole Kidman, and Will Smith.

Once we had fully appreciated the wonders of waxmanship, we found our way to the sky trains station and headed to Chong Nonsi. There we switched to the BRT and rode for seven stops down to Wat Pariwat. After one last look at the Star Estates @ Rama III building that was our home for a week and the temple that was our view for a week, we grabbed our luggage and hopped in a red taxi. It’s funny- we’ve been in Bangkok for about eight days and had had only one taxi ride. The taxi was green and yellow. The most common color is pink. And, nooo, of course we couldn’t ride in a pink one! If we had gotten to the curb with all our luggage a mere minute earlier, the pink taxi would’ve been ours. Instead, it was pulling away with a single tourist in the back. Sigh.

On a brighter note, we made it safely to the train station, got our postage stamps (for the postcards) and Trident gum from the 7-Eleven across the street, read our social studies books (Beware, Princess Elizabeth and Horrible Histories: The USA), and boarded our train. An hour later, we’ll still technically in Bangkok. It’ll take us thirteen more hours by rail to get to Chiang Mai, when it would have taken a mere hour-and-a-half by air. Ciao!

June 1 (Rabbit rabbit!)

We leave in 20 days! Wasn’t it just Christmas??? Wow. Someone emailed me today and said “20 more days until your trip!!!” I knew it was June as of today, but I had forgotten– okay, not forgotten, but it had slipped my mind– that we leave so soon. We still have so much to do. How can we get it all done? Ciao!