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Monthly Archives: September 2011

Being Steve – Cape Town

Author: Steve

First off Amy would only let me post this if she could title it and pick the pictures.

The kids are busy with school during the morning and swim in the afternoon.  Amy helps them in both of those areas plus she gets her workouts in at the club.  Since I have been labeled the TA (teachers assistant) for the kids’ school and I haven’t been needed lately . . . what do I do?   Other than fill my time with stuff like taking my paint-by-numbers elephant project back to the toy store because the numbers on the painting didn’t match up with the paint it comes with.  Here I am sitting with my nice glass of wine and my cheaters on my nose and the number for the mountains need to mix with black (you know 21/31 mixed together) but there is no 21 (no black)!!  “Amy come here . . . what the heck, look at this”!!   That’s just not right!  After I explained this to the store owner, he immediately took all the paint by number elephants off the shelf, so I’m sure I saved some kid a night of crying and years of therapy over the shear frustration; check your numbers people!  Okay so other than working out, which has been great fun; I thought maybe I should start to venture out in some other areas.

While we were in Joburg I had what I believe to be the most beautiful and fantastic tasting poached eggs ever.  Since I had it more than once I asked the waiter how they consistently make it that great and the kitchen was kind enough to give me a few tips.  I’ve tried to replicate that poached egg here in Cape Town and I honestly give my results a 4 out of 10.  Amy and Keegan (Kendal’s not an egg fan) give it a much higher mark but I think they’re just patronizing me to keep me in the kitchen.

To make this long story shorter, I’ve known for quite a while that I stink at cooking so I was very excited to find and start a “Basics of Culinary” course this week . . . wow, was that a great decision!  There are 14 students in my class.  The head chef has 6 assistant chefs that also graciously help us throughout the night. Much better than Chef Ramsay!!  When I first walked in I heard music pumping in the kitchen, was shown to my station and asked what I wanted to drink. The head chef is a beer-man, in the middle of the kitchen is a beer station (looks like a shrine) that is always tapped.  He likes a beer called Windhoek, from Namibia.  Above the tap is a message, “Chef can not cook with out his Chef Juice”.  He’s been cooking for over 22 years and just this week signed a book deal with a publishing company.  He definitely has a great passion for his work, taught me a ton in 4 hours and had the class laughing throughout the night.  I met some great Cape Town locals in this class and at the end of the night, as I waited for my taxi, I had a great conversation with the head chef about South Africa (what it was like when he was younger and what it is now).  I’m so excited that I have 3 more weeks left.

Let me change the subject – I received a message asking if we’re always happy like we seem in our pictures, the answer is no, we are not in a constant state of euphoria. We have the same silly arguments that we had back home, you know; pick up your clothes, who’s putting the dishes away today, no one said life was fair, you need to get another hour of school work in before bed, Steve are you listening to me?! (I love that one), etc.  But I can honestly say they are much less frequent.  It’s just like home; once the argument is over we quickly realize how silly it was and laugh it off.  When it’s so quiet you can cut the air with a knife and we are all still mad we can always rely on Kendal to come up with some funny movie or TV scene to relive to make us all laugh (watching her tell it is half the fun because she laughs so hard she can hardly get the story out).  So to answer the question; yes we argue but we are all still very happy!

On a not so nice note, but great in self-discovery: I think I may be lactose intolerant (so Amy is making me believe).  I don’t want to get raunchy on this blog but as humans all of us, at one time or another, have flatulence (gas).  Well, I’ve been trying a lot foods I’m not use to while traveling, as of late things like, kudu, impala, ostrich, biltong, etc.

In regards to the above two topics, here’s a sample of a silly argument that happened while driving in the car last week:

Steve: Oh…sorry, excuse me. (It was so incredibly small, like adorable small.)

Amy: (looks at me) God Steve! You are so lactose intolerant!

Steve: What?

Amy: You’re lactose intolerant!

Steve: Well you have ADD! (I know, pretty mature but that’s the quickest thing I could come up with.)

Amy: I’m choosing to ignore that.  You’re just in denial but you are definitely lactose intolerant. You’ve probably had it since childhood.

Steve: What the hell does than mean?!

Amy: You’ve been in denial for years.  Whenever you start eating cereal for breakfast with ‘milk’ consistently this happens to you.

Steve: I drank milk all the time at home.

Amy: Really? Really Steve?  I disagree.  You typically only drank milk right before you went to bed and just enough milk for your 2 cookies. Yes…we all knew you had cookies after we went to bed.

Steve: Oh. (Damn…is nothing sacred!! I decided to not look at her anymore and stare out the windshield)

Amy: So just stop drinking milk for a few days and see what happens.

Steve: Whatever! (I’m still staring out the windshield).

Kendal: (Sitting in the back seat taking in all the action) Remember that episode in ‘The Office’ (ha, ha, ha, ha) where Michael puts his grown college nephew over his lap (he, he, he, I can’t catch my breath) in front of everyone in the office and spanks him. That was hilarious!!!

Guess what; all good in the stomach since I took her advice but I still don’t think I’m lactose intolerant, I just think I have a highly sensitive stomach to new foods.

Cheers!

Some good wine, nice music and a paint-by-numbers project makes for a great night...if you have the correct paint. BTW I didn't ask for a refund I tried to be creative with the colors and it turned out...well, I'm still working on it.

I guess that's a funny picture of me with a turtle...

This is my station and one of three courses I was taught at the Sense of Taste Course on the first night - Salmon Rose and Beetroot Salad. It was incredible!

Here's another one - Chicken Roulade and I'll be attempting this one this weekend at our apartment.

Last week we went out for sushi to celebrate our 100th day on our trip - that's why Keegan has his finger up.

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Posted by on September 30, 2011 in South Africa

 

Ostrich Ranch – Cape Town

Author: Amy

Back at home we were always so busy with school, sports and our daily lives we often did not visit the places that our area is known for.  I liked having visitors so we could venture out and see what fun our hometown had to offer. We have enjoyed being residents of Cape Town and visiting many of the tourist spots.  I’m finding in the different cities we go to that residents don’t always see what the tourist come to see.  While in Greece we would ask different local people if they’d been to the Acropolis – most of them answered “no, never” and laughed.  Many South Africans we have spoken with have never been on a Safari.

We visited the West Coast Ostrich Ranch this week and it was such a warm, comforting experience.  It is only about a 20-minute drive from Cape Town so a great distance for a day trip.  The Ranch is on a rolling piece of green, lush land and you can see Table Mountain in the distance. Everywhere in Cape Town is prettier than then next.  The man that gave us the tour, Omar, knew everything there is to know about Ostriches.  He took his time showing us around and we felt the pride he had in his workplace.  It’s nice to meet people who really love what they do and are eager to share their knowledge with you.  We had a tour of the museum, learned about the ostrich skeleton, their vision, speed and the history of the ostrich in this area.  The ostrich has no teeth and swallows everything whole (they say to keep your cell phones and small cameras in your pocket because they can swallow them).  They then eat stones to help digest what they have swallowed.  At one point ostriches were poached because in their belly they would find different gems – diamonds, emeralds, etc., these beautiful gems were then sold for a lot of money.  Africa is known for it’s rich minerals and once the locals figured out that the ostriches were eating them, they became a fast way to find the gems and make some money.  Since it is spring here in South Africa the birds are a little aggressive, it’s mating time.  What was fascinating was the male Ostrich’s beak and legs turn bright pink to attract the women (if you know what I mean).  Our trip was the full experience.  We even stood on the eggs – they are so strong and weigh between 3-5 pounds.  One egg is equal to the size of 24 chicken eggs,  – – maybe use an ostrich egg for your next large brunch, only one egg to crack!  We even sat on an Ostrich.  Some ranches allow you ride them – this ranch (and I think it’s this part of South Africa) find it inhumane to ride them.  It was an exhilarating experience just sitting on them.  They cover their head with a fabric bag while you mount them, then they lift the wings so your legs lay between their body and wings – it was a very warm seat on a cool and windy day.  Just in July of this year the Guinness Book of World Records announced Ostrich Tom (who lives on this ranch) as the shortest Ostrich in the World. (I know a couple other short Tom’s but they have not made it in the Guinness Book of World Records!)  The Ranch has a wonderful gift shop that sells all things ostrich; purses, belts feather dusters and decorated eggs.  Our tour ended with lunch where we enjoyed, Ostrich filets, burgers and eggs.  Another fact, actually fiction, that made the guide roll his eyes is the story of the ostrich sticking his head in the sand  – – – it’s just a story – – – not one bit of truth to that!

It took a little while for us to warm up to them

Check out that red beak

Keegan figured it out pretty quick

Mamma warming her eggs

The eggs are so strong

Kendal really felt comfortable and started feeding all the animals

Tom the celebrity ostrich

Keegan feeling warm and ...safe?

Kendal calming the ostrich

 
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Posted by on September 22, 2011 in South Africa

 

Penguins at Boulders Beach, South Africa

Author: Kendal

“Ehhhh ohhhh eeeeeeeh aaaaaah”, think of the sound a donkey makes, that is the same sound we heard when we went to visit the penguins on Boulders Beach in South Africa. On a fine Wednesday morning we were off to see the African Penguins (Jackass Penguins as they are also known). While we were there we got to see the habitat that they lived in, the different safety tactics that they have and tons of new facts about penguins. As we have been traveling we have learned a lot about different animals, but so far the penguins are my favorite.

A few facts I didn’t know:

  • Penguins have a mate for life
  • The average lifespan of an African Penguin is between 10-27 years
  • Female penguins will lay two eggs and she takes turns with her mate incubating the egg, which takes about 40 days
  • When the male wants to mate they try to jump on top of the female and if the female doesn’t accept she shakes them off, she decides
  • The black and white feathers are a great natural defense system so predators don’t see them. In the water when predators looks down at them they see nothing but darkness and when predators look up they see lightness.

We saw the little cuties at their home on land. When they first came to Boulders Beach back in the 1980’s they trampled a lot of the vegetation that was there. So the National Parks Department decided that they would fence off certain areas to begin a process of growing stronger vegetation throughout the area. When the fenced areas were full-grown they then took the fence down and let the penguins eat and live in that full-grown area. Now they are living in a sea of green thanks to the help of the South African National Parks Department. They also added little bucket type shelters, fiberglass igloos, that lay on their sides and are used as little houses to help with severe environment conditions, protection for them, their eggs and chicks and to encourage reproduction.

It’s an amazing thing to be so close to these wild animals and they don’t seem to mind.  It’s like any other bird you might come across on a path in your home town.  Let me say that penguins have good taste in where to live – Boulder’s Beach is made up of huge boulder’s it looks like a movie set.  Among these boulders are all these cute little penguins, about 3,500 live here.  They are as gentle-looking as all the ones you see in the movies – the only thing is they do smell quite bad, good thing for the breeze and that they are soooo cute!  A man we talked to at one of the stores told us that every morning he has to make sure to check under his car in case the little munchkins are running around underneath. What a difference from our home, where we look for turtles under the car, to theirs, where they look for penguins.

When we were there we were very lucky because they were in the middle of their molting season so they were all there for us to see.  Molting is a big process in how they shed their old feathers and get new feathers. The first step is having to fatten up because when they are molting they cannot eat for 21 days. Let me explain; once they fatten up they go on land and start to shed for 21 days, they cannot swim when they are molting because when the old feathers are coming off they are no longer water proof so they don’t swim and can’t eat because what they eat is in the water.

At the very end on the ride home, we even got to see whales! They were in the water and were holding their fins up in the air for people to see. It was amazing to have witnessed both the penguins and whales in one day.  We are planning another day to see the whales as they migrate.

Our first siting was almost immediate as we got out of our car

Just to watch them walk is soooo cute!

It was like a movie set, the water was so clear...you can see the little guys coming out of the water

Here are the houses or fiberglass igloos that I mentioned and if you look at the two in the middle the female did not shake the male off

We were able to get right up close and they didn't mind

Here I am with a few of my buddies

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2011 in South Africa

 

Back to School & PE – Cape Town

Author: Keegan

Hi,

Well, you haven’t heard from me in a while.  Do you want to know why you haven’t heard from me?  It’s because Kendal and I started school just like all the other kids.  Instead of a teacher or teachers in front of us to talk to we have a virtual school called Florida Virtual School (or FLVS). Basically you take your class online, you have a pace chart of assignments and tests you take by a certain date.  You might think it’s fun because we don’t have a teacher but we do have teachers that we talk to over the phone when we have an oral exam or an exam to get a password or to ask questions. They’re all nice teachers.  My favorite subject is science.  For each of our classes we have modules we mainly have 8 but in science for me I have 6 modules (have you thought why I like it the most yet :-).

We also started PE!!  Every weekday we go to a health club (Virgin Active) and practice with a local swim team.  The coach is really nice to us, he welcomed us in like it was no big deal.   I haven’t swam as a sport for a few years so it is quite a different workout for me and it is fun.  You might also be wondering what I am wearing to swim…. I am wearing….babababaaaa a speedo but not the tiny kind, the boy shorts style with a cap and goggles.  I am NOT inserting photos but I will tell you that…I look nice!!!

Since we swim with the team we were invited to what they call a “Nipper Challenge”.  It is where all the kids (the “nippers” that are in lifeguard training) on the swim team go to the beach for a fun competition.  First you run in the sand, then there is a course in the ocean (that is way too cold) that you complete 3 times; once swimming, then you go grab a boogie board and do the course with that and after that you use a Malibu board.  The kids swam in the water with wet suites, they had them just in case and they needed them.  We didn’t have any, hoping the water would be warm enough but it wasn’t so we just watched, I did do the sand run.  They served chicken burgers, which were really good.  It was a fun event at the beach!  We also saw a beached whale that was dead 😦 and really decomposed, it was really sad.  Other than that it was an awesome day!

We haven’t seen many of the sites because we have so much time here and have been settling in, but last night we did go to the Gold Museum for dinner.  Before they gave us dinner we had an awesome drum class.  We all got a drum and it got really loud.  We did beats it was awesome!  We didn’t have to order food they just gave us food and told us what type of African food it was.  There were 5 courses, soup, stew, appetizer, main course, and dessert.  While we were eating there were 3 puppet shows, dancers and a singer.  The puppets were at least 8 feet tall with a person inside of it.  I was lucky enough to get to do a traditional dance with one of the guys that wasn’t a puppet.  It was a great night!

Keegan

Here we are with our drum instructors

Me and Mom with one of the puppets

Kendal and Mom joined the act

Here I am doing "my thing"!

Getting our briefing before the “Nipper Challenge”, that’s Lion Head Mountain in the background.

The water is always beautiful but cold this time of year.

 
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Posted by on September 11, 2011 in South Africa

 

Cape Town, South Africa

Author: Steve

Well we’ve been in Cape Town for over a week and are settling in until November.  We rented an apartment for our time here.  With the kids starting virtual school we really wanted to have reliable wifi, we also wanted to give them time to get into a groove with study habits. Since we are unfamiliar with this area we did our best to concentrate on being in a safe, central location; we ended up on the marina in a 7-story building on the third floor.  This is still off-season so we were able to get off-season rates that are honored through our extended stay.  Spring began September 1st, it will be fun to watch the season change.  The weather has been comfortable but cool, in the 60’s.  Another advantage of having our own apartment is being able to make our own meals. It’s been nice trading off making meals between the four of us and sharing the time with each other, not to mention the money savings.  At dinner last night we talked about the true definition of the word “extreme” and how we went from one extreme to the other within the same day.  When we left our hostel in Zambia one morning and stayed that same night in Jo’burg at our “special” hotel; that was a complete extreme.  Now being on the marina in Cape Town it’s just so different from the other parts of Africa we have been to so far.  It’s hard to imagine what Brian at the orphanage in Zambia (one of the best 11-year-old soccer players I’ve ever seen) is doing this evening; another unfortunate extreme.  It was nice to see the “bush” of Africa and now one of the more popular big cities to see the diversity the land offers on this amazing continent.

The apartment is about a 10-minute walk to the V&A Waterfront, we go there at least every other day for groceries or to see one of the daily street music performances . . . it’s also a good chance to say hi to the seals.  The new Cape Town Stadium is about a 10-minute walk from out apartment as well, this is where they played some of the World Cup Soccer games last year.  We are in a very beautiful area with huge boats/ships everywhere, seals sunbathing on docks, surfers on the beach, people walking all about; and it’s all nestled in between mountains and water ways.  Cape Town is a very sports driven, outdoors town.  Amy and I joke that we are now living the life in an area we always wanted to but never did as we were creating our life back home.

We found a local swim club that is allowing Kendal and Keegan to train with them.  Amy joined the health club as well so she goes to the club with them during the week while I’ve decided to just use the small gym at the marina since the weather is great for running.

Last Saturday there was a soccer game between the Ajax of Cape Town and the Kaizer Chiefs of Jo’burg (the countries favorite team), you would have thought it was the World Cup.  (Up in Jo’burg the Chiefs play in a stadium that holds 95,000 and they fill it).  The doors opened at 5pm and the game started at 8:15pm. We were wondering why they opened so early so we walked from our apartment at about 6:30pm thinking there might be some pre-game festivities for the kids.  When we got there the stadium was about a quarter filled, the music was blaring to hip-hop beats and people were dancing and singing at will. Many of them in team costumes. The stadium filled quickly, it was packed.  They love their soccer…over 36,000 people filled the stands; dancing, screaming and blowing on vuvuzela’s!  The home team, (underdogs) Ajax, held their turf with a 1-1 tie.

This week we will be begin taking some day trips to check out more of the great sites of the area.  A few days ago we got brave and rented a car for a few weeks.  It’s been an adventure driving a car with the steering wheel on the opposite side of the vehicle and at the same time driving on the opposite side of the road – in traffic!  Good thing we have a washer and dryer in the apartment because I’ve been sweating a lot when I drive – I’m serious!!  Even the round-abouts are clockwise.  I keep thinking, ‘it’ll get easier’ and it is, slowly.  I feel sorry for the left front tire, it’s taking the most damage at this point, the perception you’re used to from right to left is just off enough to cause alarm.  Keegan likes the manual roll-down windows in the back, calls it “old school cool”!  The first day Kendal got a good laugh because she saw me bang my face into the drivers’ window when I turned to the right to reverse out of a parking spot.

The thing that’s really nice is there’s no rush; on this portion of our journey we have time.  There’s so much to see just in this area and we are looking forward to exploring.

Cheers to right here and right now!

Outside the Cape Town Stadium before the game

Keegan and the Ajax mascot an hour before the action started.

The stands were full and the game was exciting

We drove up into District Six (history of this area is amazing and sad) and I took this quick shot from inside the car. That's Table Mountain!

The view from our apartment, we hope to spend more time on the patio as the weather gets nicer.

Our apartment is the one on the right.

Taking a walk to the V&A Waterfront Shopping Center, Table Mountain is obscured by the heavy clouds on the left.

Seals are there all the time.

Nobel Square at V&A Waterfront honoring the four South African Nobel Peace Prize winners; Albert Lithuli, Desmond Tutu, FW de Klerk and of course Nelson Mandela.

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2011 in South Africa