Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas 2012

 Living in South Africa celebrating Christmas is different for us BUT one thing remains the same and that is that  

WE CELEBRATE THE BIRTH OR OUR SAVIOR!  He is the Reason for the Season!  

One reason is it is different for us is that it is summer and not winter.  So picture needing to put your tree up in July!  That is what it feels like here. We do our best to keep some of our family traditions the same from when we lived in the States but we have also added some new traditions as well ... like swimming on Christmas Day.  Here is a quick peak of our month celebrating the birth of Jesus, loving one another and spending time with family and friends. 

when they discovered the trip to Vic Falls

Baking a birthday cake for Jesus!

the dogs relaxing on Christmas Eve

Luke and Noah finishing the cake
Everyone in my family was a huge help to me on Christmas Eve.  I found out earlier that day I had a slight pneumonia and I did not feel so great.  Thanks to all of them we enjoyed a nice Christmas Eve dinner at home (Mexican Food of course!) and Mark read to us about the birth of Jesus!

Doug shared a special treat from the States with Mark.

Girls making peanut butter balls

Mark and Luke making our white candy

Luke helped me with Christmas Breakfast ... at one point he said "I am triple tasking here, it's harder than you think!"   ... hmmm I don't know about that at all!

Did I mention the icing melted before we ate it!


We headed to the mission farm for Christmas lunch to spend time with the  Nathan, one of the Seminary students, the Vaughan Family and the Frew Family.  It was a great afternoon!  

Julia working on her tan on Christmas Day!

Ian and Marie stopped by for dessert
 After we left the farm, we headed to the Hixon's for Christmas dinner!  Of course, we had to swim again ... it is Christmas Day! 

And the angel said to them, "Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  Luke 2:10-11
We hope that you had a wonderful Christmas celebrating the birth of our Savior with family and friends. 

Trip to Victoria Falls

Warning this is a long post but grandparents like details ....

Debbie asked us last month if we would consider going with them when she took her parents to see Victoria Falls.   It is safer to travel with two vehicles.  We decided that we would join them and surprise the kids with an early Christmas present.  We were thankful for money given to us by our family for Christmas to help us with this trip.

Our original plans were to leave on Tuesday, December 18th and return on Thursday, December 19th.  This was going to put us leaving Polokwane at 3 am to get to the Zimbabwe border early to hopefully avoid lines.  The more we talked to people the more we did not have peace about the travel plans.  So on Sunday afternoon at 4pm we changed plans and left on Monday morning at 4 am.  So let the packing begin!!!  We decided to drive through Botswana all the way and enter Zim at the top only 45 minutes from Victoria Falls.  It did take us two days to drive there and then two days again to return home.  This was by far the best move we could have made.  The border crossing at Martins Drift only took us four hours to clear both sides.  (Once we were at the falls we talked to people who went through Zim and they waited over 10 hours to clear the border).  After 11 hours we made it to the The Woodlands Stopover outside of Francistown, Botswana.  (highly recommend this place for a quick overnight stop!) We enjoyed the pool for a few hours and finished off our leftover roadfood from the day, showered and headed to bed. 
getting some advice from friends at church

last minute packing!

beautiful sunrise that morning!

Thought this was funny and sad!

toilets and showers - very clean!

our security guard for the night
We were up at 5 am the next morning, loaded the bakkies, ate a quick bite of oatmeal and hit the road.  Driving through Botswana was great.  We didn't have any trouble finding diesel and our cards worked.  After driving through Nata we noticed they are working on a new road.  It is a nice two lane road with nice shoulders on both sides.  We enjoyed seeing the animals just roam wild.  We were driving at 120 and had to slow way down as 7 giraffes darted across the road.  We also saw several elephants along the way and a few zebras.  We did have a little road construction to deal with but no traffic.  It was slow moving for about 8 1/2 km as we traveled on dirt with speed bumps.  Once we reached the border to Zim it only took us 1 hour and 35 minutes to clear both sides.  After a quick picnic we were checked in to the hotel by 3:30.  It only took us 9 1/2 hours from Francistown to Victoria Falls.


much needed stretch!

going 120 then had to slow way down while these crossed the road

one of our many picnics on the road


We stayed at The Kingdom Hotel and it was beautiful.  Once we checked in we waited for a storm to pass and then hit the pool.  After pool we went to dinner at the Spur which is attached to the hotel.  Honestly, I do not recommend eating there.  The food was twice as much as it is at the Spur in Polokwane (which you expect it to be high when you are at a place like Victoria Falls) but double is too much AND the food was not that good.  We might have enjoyed it better had we known they had the hot rock.  Mark and I would have ordered that for sure.  Problem is, that was not on the menu and well after our food was ordered they brought the display to the table offering the hot rock!  A little too late.  Ok, enough about that.

Debbie's mom at her room

The next day we meet up with the Crawford's for breakfast (which was a buffet included with the stay at the hotel).  It was a large buffet with lots of options from sweet to savory and everything in between.  After breakfast we took a short walk down the street to the Victoria Hotel.  We had signed up to take a Tram ride that left from the hotel.  The hotel is beautiful and the view from the back garden is incredible.

We walked on the red carpet to the Tram and off we went to toward the Bridge and the falls.  Debbie and I really weren't sure what we signed up for but we figured this was a good plan since it drove us over the bridge into Zambia and stops at the Bridge Cafe.  We figured this would give us an opportunity to see the Bridge up close and you can cross into Zambia without a Visa.  We had also signed up for the Bridge Tour.  Once we got there they asked if anyone would like to do any of the other activities.  We confirmed with them 2 times that there would be enough time for the the Bridge Tour, which we already paid for, and to do another activity.  They all said there was plenty of time.  So Julia signed up and paid for the special to do the bungee jump, swing and slide (crazy girl) and Mark and Luke wanted to do the slide so Brit and I stepped way out of our comfort zone and joined them.  Debbie was thinking about going on the slide with Julia.  The deal was Mark and Luke would go together and Brit and I would.  Once we signed up and paid, we headed over for the Bridge Tour which started with a monologue of Mr. Imbault sharing about the construction of the bridge.  My mom would have loved the history lesson! 

Once he finished, we harnessed up to take a walk across the bridge (WHAT!  Remember Debbie and I didn't have a clue what the Bridge Tour was.)  Oh well, this is where I ask the Lord to give me the courage to do it.  We get our lesson on how to stay strapped on the bridge safely and off we go.  Brit and I were so nervous but we absolutely loved it.  We walked across the street and down a few stairs and we were on the cat walk of the bridge right under where the cars drive.  INCREDIBLE view of the gorge and some of the falls.  The whole time we are walking across Mr. Imbault talked to us through earphones telling us more about the history of the bridge and the falls and answering any questions.

Once we completed the tour we walked back across the bridge toward the cafe again.  When we got there they told us that it was time to leave.  We informed them they told us we would have time for the activities and we already paid.  Long story short, they asked us if we could come back because the Tram had to be off the tracks in a few minutes as they were only allotted so much time to be on the tracks.  We explained that we were leaving the next day and we could not come back.  Mark asked for our money back and they quickly started making plans for us to stay and do our activities.  They arranged for a worker to drive us back to our hotel after our activities at no extra charge.  They were very apologetic and said that the Tram is still new and they are still trying to work out the kinks in timing.  The thing was we had asked more than once about the timing and didn't want to pay unless they it would work.  Debbie had decided since she didn't pay to take the Tram back with Doug and her parents.  All in all it was fine and we are so glad that we were able to stay.

Julia was harnessed up and off for her 3 crazy activities and we needed to wait for the next group on the slide so we watched Julia from the Bridge Cafe deck.  She was one of the first to slide across the gorge.  You start on the Zambia side and end on the Zimbabwe side.  While we were waiting we also saw her do the swing.  While we were waiting we heard some commotion from the group standing next to us.  Mark looked and a baboon had jumped on the deck and knocked a little girl down to get her bag of chips.  The guys were tying to get the baboon to leave, which he finally did, and Mark helped to pick up the chips so he wouldn't come back.  The mom picked up the little girl, who was scared but fine, and she said "this is a place to get your adrenaline pumping!

Next, they called us over for our slide.  Now Brit and I were a little unsure about this and the closer down the walk way we got we were thinking ... what in the world are we about to do!  Now, they told Mark and Luke they couldn't go together because the weight so Luke was totally cool going by himself.  They tried to tell Brit and I we were too heavy together, then the guys said he thought it would work.  WHAT! We did some quick talking as we wanted to go together but wanted to be safe and for this worker to be sure.  After the fact, I really think he wanted us to go single so we could enjoy it even more!  :)  Anyway, as we reached the area where we start the slide, Julia was about to Bungee jump.  As we watched her the guys was getting the double ready for the slide.  Brit and I really didn't want to go first but no choice.  So we went and he hooked us to the guide (two hooks only ... hmmm) told us to sit with our legs out.  I had to hang on to Brit and keep our legs out until we saw the water then we could let go and enjoy.  1,2,3 and we were off with a big push.  We were so glad we did this.  For a girl afraid of heights, this didn't even make my stomach drop.  It was my first ever zipline and I would do it all over again! The view was incredible.  I kept telling Brit to look around and take it all in.  God's creation is absolutely amazing.   Luke was next and then Mark.  We all loved it.  We are still talking about taking the zipline across the Zambezi River from Zambia to Zimbabwe.  The Bridge Tour and Zipline are a much if you go!

Mom and Brit having a BLAST!
Luke loving it!

Mark enjoying the ride!

we were greeted when we got back to the hotel

 After we returned to the hotel, we changed in to our swim suits and shorts, ate a quick pb&j and headed down a path toward the Victoria Falls National Park.  (Another MUST SEE).  Once you pay and go inside the gate you set off on a path and enjoy the view of the falls from 16 different viewpoints.  As you walk, you are walking through a rainforest.  It was amazing.  Warning ... you WILL get drenched no choice if you want to see all the view points.  The mist from the falls is so heavy.  We can't even begin to describe the beauty of Victoria Falls.  As I walked, I kept thanking the Lord for allowing us the opportunity to see this.  What a mighty God we serve!  I don't see how someone could look at this and still say there is no God!

    Bless the LORD, O my soul!
        O LORD my God, you are very great!
    You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
        covering yourself with light as with a garment,
        stretching out the heavens like a tent.
    He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
    he makes the clouds his chariot;
        he rides on the wings of the wind;
    he makes his messengers winds,
        his ministers a flaming fire.
    He set the earth on its foundations,
        so that it should never be moved.
    You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
        the waters stood above the mountains.
    At your rebuke they fled;
        at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
    The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
        to the place that you appointed for them.
    You set a boundary that they may not pass,
        so that they might not again cover the earth.
    You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
        they flow between the hills;
    they give drink to every beast of the field;
        the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
    Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
        they sing among the branches.
    From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
        the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
    You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
        and plants for man to cultivate,
    that he may bring forth food from the earth
        and wine to gladden the heart of man,
    oil to make his face shine
        and bread to strengthen man's heart.
    The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
        the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
    In them the birds build their nests;
        the stork has her home in the fir trees.
    The high mountains are for the wild goats;
        the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
    He made the moon to mark the seasons;
        the sun knows its time for setting.
    You make darkness, and it is night,
        when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
    The young lions roar for their prey,
        seeking their food from God.
    When the sun rises, they steal away
        and lie down in their dens.
    Man goes out to his work
        and to his labor until the evening.
    O LORD, how manifold are your works!
        In wisdom have you made them all;
        the earth is full of your creatures.
    Here is the sea, great and wide,
        which teems with creatures innumerable,
        living things both small and great.
    There go the ships,
        and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
    These all look to you,
        to give them their food in due season.
    When you give it to them, they gather it up;
        when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
    When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
        when you take away their breath, they die
        and return to their dust.
    When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
        and you renew the face of the ground.
    May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
        may the LORD rejoice in his works,
    who looks on the earth and it trembles,
        who touches the mountains and they smoke!
    I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
        I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
    May my meditation be pleasing to him,
        for I rejoice in the LORD.
    Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
        and let the wicked be no more!
    Bless the LORD, O my soul!
    Praise the LORD!
(Psalm 104 ESV)

After we returned from a two hour walk at the falls, the kids headed to the pool and Mark and I took a walk to town to get a few groceries for road food traveling home the next two days.  Doug and Debbie and her parents had gone to town after the Tram ride and looked at the shops.  They ate dinner and turned in for the night.  We had decided that we would try the dinner buffet at the hotel instead of going back to the Spur.  It was only going to cost us about $20 more.  This was a great choice and a great way to end our day.  We had a nice waiter, Charles, and they had entertainment.  The buffet was huge.  So many choice and it was ALL delicious.  The only regret we had was not eating there the night before!

This is a picture of my change from the grocery store.  In Zim they take dollars. So my bill was $2.20 and they gave me back $2 and then R8 in coins.  At least I could use the coins back in South Africa.  


our entertainment for the evening

Julia was asked to dance!

our waiter ... Charles

The next morning we meet Doug and Debbie and her parents for breakfast and they were going to go do the walk to see the falls.  Luke was happy because that meant he could swim before we checked out.  The Crawford's and her parents had a great time.  This really is the only way to see and experience the Falls.  If you ever go, it is a MUST!

Julia enjoying a little time by the pool.

We left the hotel at 10:30 and arrived at the border at 11:30.  It only took us 45 minutes to clear both sides.  We saw elephants seven different times while traveling  back to the The Woodlands Stopover in Francistown.  We did have to stop at two different check points to get out and walk across a towel with sanitizer on it and also get any extra shoes out and sanitize them.  then you drive through some sanitizer for the vehicle.  No a big deal at all, it is good to see Botswana trying to keep the spread of disease under control. 

Notice the Baboons

Dinner at Wimpy's
It took us 9 1/2 hours to get to Francistown and honestly the worst part was the last 45 minutes when it got dark.  Traffic was worse than we had seen the whole trip and the road in this area has not been fixed.  I spent the 45 minutes looking out the window helping Mark see.  There was really not a shoulder along the road and  I would say things like, "bad road" meaning the road was eroded, or "people" because there were people walking along the side of the highway, or "pothole" there were plenty of them in this section, or "animal" lots of donkeys and so on.  We were glad when we turned off the road to the Stopover.  We showered and headed to bed.

We got up on Friday and left the lodge at 7:30 am and with only spending 50 minutes to cross both borders back to South Africa we were home at 4 pm.  We praise the Lord for keeping us safe as we traveled over 2200 km in 4 days.  AND neither vehicle had any problems.


Mopani Worms for sale

last picnic on the road

Our family had an amazing trip and we are beyond grateful for the opportunity!  Please check out Debbie's blog for more details and pictures.