Friday, April 30, 2010

fri, 4/ 120

You can just see Cory and Theo peeking out behind the crates by the climber.

They're having a rambuctious good time together reconnecting at Extended Day, after weeks of Cory heading home (or to playdates) straight from school each day for the time I was gone.

thu, 4/ 119

Niall was so happy that Kellen was up for playing chess with him on his new chess set. I don't know who won but they were busy playing for quite awhile.

Big brother time and a cherished chess set. Bliss.

wed, 4/ 118

Oh, Cory was such a hoot this morning. He saw a "face" in a piece of his waffle and couldn't wait for me to take a photo of it.

Of course, we had to post this wonder on Facebook so everyone else could enjoy it too. :D

tue, 4/ 117

Getting back into the routine, back to work, catching up on email, still falling into bed as soon as the boys are down but...getting there.
These are some of the beautiful carved wood items I brought back. I just love them.

The same woodworker also carved a two-piece set that shows a woman lifting a pot to carry on her head, and the intricate bowl-and-top (that needs some gluing assistance). He has a tiny little shop just a short ways from the Dedza Pottery shop where we stopped on our way back to Lilongwe from Club Mak.

This book is from Tribal Textiles (where I got the placemats and a bunch of other neat stuff). I plan to make a photo scrapbook with it. Love the hippo on the cover - reminds me of all the hippos in the river at Camp Nkwila.

The fabric below the book is what I bought at the market in Lilongwe. I had narrowed down my favorites to two prospects, and Niall really didn't want me to buy the brighter, more dramatic material. So we made it a joint choice and went with this subtler pattern.

mon, 4/ 116

I took this photo over the weekend: my little blondie boy, sitting on the couch across from me, jabbering away while he creates a "pattern" on the calculator for me to check out.

Very happy to kiss his sweet face and give him lots of big hugs now that I'm home. But goodness, I had honestly forgotten how chatty he is. :D

sun, 4/ 115

Back to a typical morning scene at home: Niall reading the morning paper.

But now we have our beautiful placemats from Tribal Textiles in Zambia to remind us of our adventure. (You can see the one at my place: a giraffe, of course. :D)

Thursday, April 29, 2010

sat, 4/ 114

Opened the suitcases and working on unpacking. Of all the fragile and precious cargo I brought back, there was only one casualty - my beautiful carved wood bowl. But I think we (Dad!) can glue it together (FX).

But all the pottery survived, the carved wood figures, masks and spoons. I was very happy to see nearly everything intact! And nothing stolen either. Whew.

fri, 4/ 113

At the Amsterdam airport, you naturally see clogs for sale.

We went through security for our flight back to the U.S. as soon as it opened - 1.5 hours before the flight was scheduled to take off. There were 20-25 security people carefully reviewing passports, baggage packing and handling questions, patting us down, and more. But they were still screening people as we filed into the airplane, and we took off 20 minutes late because security took so long. Crazy world.

Niall entertained himself by watching his new love: Star Trek TNG. We borrowed a disk with several episodes from Sieglinde and the girls, including The Borg. Classic. :-)

Back on home soil at last! We had to wait ages for a shuttle, and the shuttle itself took several hours to get us home. But we made it at last, with an eager little 5YO and a relieved Grandma awaiting us.

It was 5 p.m. on Friday, 1:00 in the morning Saturday for us, and we'd gotten up at 6:00 a.m. Thursday morning. Two very tired travellers!

thu, 4/ 112

Out African adventure is drawing to a close at last, four days later than we'd expected.
This is Niall at the airport in Lilongwe, checking out the planes.

We had a six hour layover in Nairobi, during which we entertained ourselves by shopping (!), playing cards, interviewing each other and writing down notes ("What was everyday life like when you were a child?" for example), and drinking Fanta (and bottled water!). Niall was delighted to find a reasonably-priced drum. He'd been hoping to get one ever since he tried the one they used at Nkwali Camp to awaken us in the morning and let us know that meals were ready.

Despite the ban on photos at the airport, I risked taking a quick picture of Niall with the flight board, shortly before we boarded the plane for Amsterdam. It was close to 10:00 p.m. our time, and we had an 8+ hour flight ahead of us. And then another five hour layover, followed by a 10 hour flight. It's a long way from Africa to home.

wed, 4/ 111

Our last full day in Lilongwe! My travel agent has finally lined up our flights home, after many hours (days) of phone calls and chasing down seats. After potential trips through Nigeria (not happening!) and Bangkok (the loooong way around), we ended up with the same itinerary that we had Sunday/Monday, just shifted four days. So it'll be a long trip, but not what it could have been!

Today we went searching for a place to swim, starting with the girls' school where we've swum many times on this trip. But they had laps and swim lessons going on (even though it's Fall and swim teams are finished).

So next we tried a local hotel that has allowed non-guests to swim in the pool before, for a small fee. But we discovered that they had recently (just a week ago) decided they'd gotten too many complaints about the noise so they weren't offering that option anymore. Darn! They had some gorgeous quilts up in the lobby, though, so I enjoyed checking those out, while we were there anyway.

As we headed home, disappointed, Sieglinde remembered that we could just go to the hotel/gardens across the street from her house and swim there. Yay! They have a pleasant pool with a cafe so we got some yummy samosas with chips (French Fries) and had a refreshing swim.

A palm tree next to our table had this intriguing seed/flower blooming out of the side. It reminded me of the growth that emerged on our radish-gone-to-seed a few summers ago. Quite dramatic.

tue, 4/ 110

This is the view from the little balcony just outside the master bedroom at Sieglinde's (the room Niall and I are staying in). Also known as the spot from which you can *just* get Skyband Internet access from the hotel/garden across the road...on a good day, at least.

The girls are back in school this week, at least until early afternoon. Sieglinde had arranged to meet a colleague for coffee this morning, so Niall and I tagged along for a change of scene.

I wrote a letter to Cory about our adventures and Niall enjoyed some time on one of the girls' PSPs. Tea for two, followed by delicious grilled sandwiches for lunch. A relaxing morning out in town.

mon, 4/ 109

The avacados here are enormous! Sieglinde says they used to be regular size but in recent years have gotten huge - no idea why. They're really impressive though.

sun, 4/ 108

The kitchen at my sister's in Lilongwe where we spent lots of time making meals, tidying up, listening to BBC on the radio.

That's how we heard about the eruption of the Icelandic volcano whose ash cloud over Europe has delayed Niall and me here for at least a few more days.

sat, 4/ 107

We visited the big local market for a bit this morning, and I bought a few yards of Malawi fabric.
My cute nieces - don't think I've posted enough pix of them from this trip!

For a late lunch, we enjoyed pizza and gelato at a local cafe. Yum!

fri, 4/ 106

This morning Sieglinde and I went on a walking safari with guide Bertie and several other people from camp. Great experience! The girls and Niall stayed back at camp (much to Niall's disappointment - he was too young to do the walking safari, poor guy).

The termite hills are stunning. Especially when there are big trees growing on top to boot!

thu, 4/ 105

It's really hard to pick just a few photos from each day of our visit here at Nkwali Camp, when we go on two 4-hour safaris each day and see so many amazing animals and plants each time.

The birds here are incredible. Such variety and so colorful and dramatic. I'm not a bird watcher normally but the birds here are irresistible.

This morning Laly wanted to see a cape buffalo, and lo and behold, Sebastian found one for us!

This is Niall having a turn riding up front with Sebastian. You can see more from the stadium seats in the jeep, but when you sit with the guide, you can ask more and learn more along the way.

wed, 4/ 104

Intrepid safarier Niall. He loved it.
The baobob trees never cease to amaze me. They are just so odd looking and fascinating.

We were thrilled to see wild dogs on our morning safari. Sieglinde was especially happy to see them, as she's missed the chance every time previously.

tue, 4/ 103

Our first day at Camp Nkwali! We crossed the border into Zambia midday and drove over very rough dirt roads to get to the game park, but we're here at last.

Our guide, Sebastian, chatted with us for several hours this evening as we relaxed on the veranda by the river. The (surprisingly loud) hooting hippos in the water also entertained us!

Niall delighting in a nice, tall glass of cold Sprite after our day's journey. This is the life...ahhhhh....

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

mon, 4/ 102

Niall and I headed out to Bunda College with Sieglinde today to see her workplace and the gardens there. Here Niall and Sieglinde are checking out some soybeans growing in a greenhouse that are part of an experiment.

Niall and I wandered through the gardens while Sieglinde had some meetings. Niall was delighted with the impressive cacti!

Later in the day, we went to a nearby market and Sieglinde bartered with the merchants there for a chess set for Niall. He was over the moon. :-)

sun, 4/ 101

Niall's little bed at Sieglinde's - neatly made up for him by Aggie every day.

Yes, Clown came with us on our trip - and also Puffer and Turtle! It's been fun to see how different staff people have arranged Niall's little friends when they make the beds for us. :D

Aggie washes clothes nearly every day next to the house in this outdoor sink. She was good enough to come today (on her weekend) to help us since we had so much laundry after being gone on vacation.

Andy (her boyfriend, and Mercy's son) was visiting today since it's a day off work for him. He washed the truck for Sieglinde. Boy, was it a sight after all our driving this past week!

sat, 4/ 100

A day of relaxing at Club Mak - swimming, eating, swimming some more, playing cards, followed by (you guessed it) another swim. And today we headed home - that is, back to Lilongwe.

On the way, we stopped at a pottery place that Sieglinde and family have been to many times called Dedza Pottery. They have a lovely little cafe as well, so we had lunch and then browsed through the shop.

Niall really liked the pottery village scenes and the chess set. I thought a pottery chess set would be a major undertaking to bring home - yikes. Luckily Sieglinde mentioned that there are some really nice carved wooden sets that we could check out when we're back in Lilongwe and Niall thought that sounded like a great idea. Whew.

fri, 4/ 99

This is Niall and me at breakfast - self-portrait, as you can tell. :D

The sunsets over Lake Malawi are to die for.

thu, 4/ 98

We left the Lujeri Tea Estates this morning (after one last swim!) to head to Club Mak on Lake Malawi. We stopped for lunch at a place Sieglinde had been before called Tasty Bites.

Here's Niall hamming it up with the soda bottles. He's had more soda on this trip that in most of his life total up to this point! His favorite is Sprite. My newly-discovered favorite soda here is Fanta Passion - yum!

We arrived at beautiful Club Mak in the late afternoon, in plenty of time for a swim in the pool after settling in to our spacious cabanas right on the beach. Gorgeous!

wed, 4/ 97

Arrived at the Lujeri Tea Estates lodge a little later than expected yesterday evening, and found that although we opted to bring our own food, the place comes with a chef and staff!

So we unpacked and looked around while dinner was prepared for us, then sat down to a yummy meal.

This is a beautiful spot, up on a hill with the Mulanje Mountains around us, a beautiful garden full of exotic plants, refreshing swimming pool, and a lodge brimming with old-world elegance. The kids are practically living in the pool, while Sieglinde and I chat and catch up on writings on our laptop while we watch them.

What a wonderful place to vacation and relax. Perfect!

tue, 4/ 96

En route to the Lujeri Tea Estates in southern Malawi, where we'll spend two nights at a hilltop lodge.

These pink booths are sprinkled along the roadside. People can buy cards with minutes for their cell phones or charge their phones for a fee.

Most women carry a baby wrapped on their backs and something on top of their heads as they walk along the road. I was surprised at the thick, warm blankets many babies were wrapped up with. Sieglinde reminded me that it's moving into winter here. But still feels very warm to me.

We drove through some driving rain along the way. Some people carry umbrellas which provide shelter from the sun and are also handy when a squall comes up suddenly.