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Author Archives: Steve

School in Tomares – Spain

Author: Kendal

While in Sevilla we were able to experience a Spanish school in a town called Tomares. We went with our American friend Alex, who had invited us to some of his classes. At the school, all the kids are learning English. Keegan and I felt like we were celebrities because all the kids wanted to talk to us.  They had me stand in front of one of the classrooms and give a small presentation about the trip that we are on. I had to use simple words though and talk a little slowly because they weren’t all very good English speakers yet. Some of them even asked questions about things like; what’s my favorite color, what do you like to do in your free time, and the most common one  “do you like Justin Bieber?” Keegan went to a music class and was able to play an instrument (they played the Star Wars theme song). It was all very fun and most of the teachers there spoke some English so that was nice. The town was really cute, and since it was only a short bus ride away we went back during the weekend to watch a soccer game. The town had a special Christmas area with little rides and an ice rink (ok it wasn’t really ice more like hard plastic, we skated on it though). While there we ran into some of the kids from the school and we talked with them for a little while, hung out at the “ice” rink and went to a restaurant with them as well. One of the girl’s moms is American so she spoke perfect English with us; the girl’s grandma was also in town visiting from Virginia.  I do miss my girl time with my friends so it was nice to “hang” with some girls and have some laughs.  Special thanks to Alex and José Manuel for letting us visit their school.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone!!  Kendal

Here is the soccer game we went to in Tomares - I think they were a semi-pro team. It was fun because when Tomares would score the players would run and hug the little kids watching from the side of the field.

Keegan and I had lunch with a couple of the girls from school that we ran into while we were there on the weekend.

Keegan skating on the eco-friendly ice rink.

Tomares is a beautiful small town, we loved going there.

 
2 Comments

Posted by on January 1, 2012 in Spain

 

Feliz Navidad! – Spain

Author: Amy

Feliz Navidad! One of the customs in Spain is to have an extravagant nativity scene or Belén.  Yes, Mary, Joseph and little baby Jesus but then add on the whole village of Bethlehem; the shops, the farms, little fires roasting meals, whole neighborhoods, etc. They are fun to stop and look at as we wander about town.  Our Flamenco teacher’s family has one of the best we’ve seen and they open the doors to their home for two showings per day for anyone who wants to take a look. As Kendal and I left one day from one of our classes there were three classes of very cute five and six year olds waiting patiently in line to go in and see the Belén, they had walked over from a nearby school for this field trip. In the center of town, right behind the Cathedral, there is a large market specifically for selling the little figures that make up the scene.  Another tradition is that the Three Kings; Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior (Steve made me add their names, thought someone might be curious) bring gifts to the children on January 6th.  Christmas is for family celebration and the sharing of a large meal, not presents.  Some families are slowly changing and give gifts on Christmas but most hang on strong to the tradition of the Three Kings.  As we walk about in the evening the streets are filled with lights – each street has a different design  – we all have fun searching out these different designs.

We feel so blessed to be able to spend this holiday with my brother and his family.  My mom had to have an emergency open-heart surgery 2 days ago and all went well.  The blessings of coming from a large family where there are others there to look after my parents during this year is something I take for granted from time to time but I am so very grateful to my siblings for being there for my parents.

Wishing everyone a loving and peaceful Christmas. Merry Christmas to one and all!

We took a day trip to the city of Jerez and ran across this life-sized Nativity in the center of town.

They made everything very realistic in this Belén.

This Belén is close to our apartment and has a live mule, 4 lambs, 6 rabbits and 3 chickens.

This is the Belén in our flamenco teachers house, her parents put it together and are so proud to share it with everyone and anyone.

Here's another view, it's an L-shaped table and goes around to the left. They have a bright light up above on the ceiling that's on a timer. It dims on and off very slowly sending the scene from day into night and it's really beautiful. They have little lit up fireplaces and running water. They have to water the grass because it's real sod.

This guy comes every evening to the end of our street and plays Christmas music and displays his Belén from the back of his car.

Here's one section of the market that sells all the Belén figures and supplies you could ever need.

The Three Kings with their bags of toys of good boys and girls!

Look who's climbing up an apartment building with toys. . .

In Jerez Steve and Keegan got to speak with one of the Kings and he told Keegan to write down what he wanted and put it in his box. Then he gave Keegan a handful of candy.

This amazing display of festive lights is all throughout Sevilla.

That's my brother with my niece on his shoulders checking out all the sites. The blondie in the sea of brunettes.

Keegan and I under more festive lights.

Beautiful Christmas trees in front of the Cathedral.

Having a great night out with my brother and sister in-law before we headed to a flamenco show around the block.Feliz Navidad from Sevilla!

 
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Posted by on December 25, 2011 in Spain

 

Advice for Parents – Sevilla, Spain

OK it is I the one who writes blogs (aka Keegan).

Parents do you have any trouble touring cities with kids??? Well I am writing this blog for you! Here is a list of steps you can do to keep your kids happy while touring!

The Happy Touring Guide For Parents With Kids!

Number 1. You have to identify the problem; are they tired, sad or mad.

Number 2. Give the kids their own money to spend for that day.

Number 3. Pass a local candy store on purpose but say to your kids “Oh look here a candy store. Do you guys want to go in here?” That will get your kids hooked!

Number 4. Once your kids have their OWN bag of candy they will most likely stay happy until they run out of candy.

Number 5. If they ever get a little cranky or mad or sad shove a piece of candy in their mouth!

I guarantee you that this method will work every time! If not, you did not do one of the five steps correctly, but if you did and they are still cranky or mad or sad then just get them home or… well I don’t know it has always worked for me.

The Glorious Sign - you have found the right place!

Ok so now that I have given you a list of steps to do I will tell you a story on how those steps worked in action.

My parents wanted to go to the Metropol Parasol in the Plaza de la Encarnacion ‬for the day, which is like a huge mushroom modern structure that was just built in the middle of town.  We went there and we took an elevator to the top. It was really cold so my mom and dad got a cup of joe and we got some hot coco to warm us up. Then we walked around on the top of it. After that Kendal and I wanted to go home but of course my parents wanted to walk around some more so Kendal and I looked at each other and knew what we had to do! We had to be cranky or sad or mad. Then our parents walked by our favorite candy store in Seville (Wonkandy) and then because we had some of our own spending money we asked to go in. We got some candy and then we were happy right until we got to our apartment! So that is one of the times the Happy Touring Guide With Kids has worked for us.

The elevator - going up!

A view from the top of the Metropol Parasol. They say it's the worlds biggest structure held together by glue.

Another view from the top. They say it's the worlds largest wooden structure. It's totally different than the buildings around it.

Once in a while my dad even likes to put a plastic glove on and grab candy too.

Oh how I love my WonKandy!

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2011 in Spain

 

Castillo de San Jorge – Triana

Author: Steve

On a drizzling overcast day last week we decided to go to the Castillo de San Jorge Museum and it was well worth the 3 minute walk (it’s right down the block on our street, Calle San Jacinto, just before you head over the bridge into the heart of Sevilla) and free admission.  I personally loved this museum, it is laid out well with great information and because it’s free I can scoot over by myself and read about something that I didn’t quite understand the last time I was there.  You can see everything in less than an hour.  The museum is under the Mercado de Triana, when they started to renovate portions of the Mercado back in the 1990’s they unearthed some incredible ruins from the Castillo de San Jorge.  For almost 300 years, between 1481 and 1785 this area was the actual Seat of the Holy Inquisition in Spain. The Inquisition was an independent institution of the Church, supported by the Crown to prosecute false Christians and heretics.  The Inquisition was first implemented to remove the remains of Judaism and Islam but not only did they deal with heretics but also bigamous, blasphemers, usurers, sodomites, witches, wizards and clerics accused of sexual misconduct.  An ‘auto de fe’ was the ritual of public penance that took place on the condemned once the Spanish Inquisition had decided their punishment.  The punishment most notably was ‘burning at the stake’ but could have been a number of horrible sentences.  I looked up some of the torture and execution techniques used during this time and one can almost get sick just imagining it.  What is fascinating to me is that as I walk the streets of Sevilla I notice the areas where many of the ‘auto de fe’s’ took place, places like the steps of the Cathedral de Sevilla, the Plaza de San Francisco and the church of Santa Ana which is a few blocks from our apartment.  Places where people now gather to laugh, pray and have festivals; complete opposite reasons to gather than ‘auto de fe’s”.  As I stood there the other day in front of Santa Ana (we went to see a beautiful nativity scene with live animals in front of the church) I tried to envision the terrible atrocities that took place there (I don’t know why) and I imagined all the people that would come and watch these punishments/executions and cheer on the process . . . scary times.

I feel humbled to be in an area with such incredible history right outside my door.

As you start the walk in the museum they have a phrase on the wall that really sticks with you, “Value judgements, abuses of power and the victims of both have always existed in the past, and will continue to exist in the future. This place is part of you. This is part of your history”.

Castillo de San Jorge - Triana

This image became the sinister iconic symbol of the Spanish Inquisition

Inside the museum of the Castillo de San Jorge

A view of one of the Bodega's in the Castillo

Here's a shot of the Mercado on the left and as you can see the Museum entrance is straight ahead. The building behind the entrance with the ceramic dome is the Chapel of the Virgen de Carmen

Catedral de Sevilla - the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world

Iglesia de Santa Ana - build in the 13th century, its construction began in 1276. Santa Ana was the mother of the Virgin Mary and grandmother of Jesus

 
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Posted by on December 19, 2011 in Spain

 

Parque Maria Luisa – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Amy

While in Sevilla we are getting around town by foot.  It is a condensed area and we are able to get around quite easily.  Every day we get out and explore, today we headed to Parque Maria Luisa.  After walking about 40 minutes to get to the huge park, which is part of the Plaza de España, we decided to treat ourselves with the four person bike.  It was a lot of fun and Kendal was definitely our motor.  It’s a great way to enjoy the park because there is so much to see.  There are statues, ponds and fountains throughout.  We even went into the two museums that were there; the Traditional Arts and Customs Museum and the Archaeological Museum.  Beautiful buildings one had all sorts of tools used throughout time and the other was full of marble statues from uncovered ruins. The park is just gorgeous. One of the ways to know you’re in Sevilla is the orange tree’s – they are everywhere! Our timing of cities is often in the “off-season” to get better rates on lodging, etc.  The weather really hasn’t been an issue as good locations are nice even in the “off-season”.  The afternoon was cool but very pleasant.  The streets are full of people enjoying the outdoors.  The parks always have an outdoor café that serves coffee, beer and snacks.  The cafés are full of well-dressed people enjoying themselves.  The Plaza de España has a waterway in front of it that you can rent rowboats and row around, it is an outing we have saved for another day but are looking forward to trying.

On a side note – you may have noticed the +follow tab that pops up on the blog.  If you are interested in getting an email each time we have a new post (so you don’t have to check the site randomly) just click on the follow button and it will tell you what to do.

Thanks!

A pretty hill with a gazebo on top.

The Traditional Arts and Customs Museum

Enjoying the ride!

Archaeological Museum

One of the MANY orange trees. We didn't really pick one - we don't know the rules but people don't seem to pick them.

Mother, daughter moment in the park.

The Plaza de España - see the rowboat behind us.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2011 in Spain

 

I Want To Be A Stuntman! – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Keegan

Hi it’s me again, today I am writing about an awesome stunt.  On Sunday after church we came back to our apartment and tried to open the door, then we remembered that the other set of keys was in the key slot inside the apartment so we couldn’t get in!  BIG MISTAKE!  The windows all have bars on the outside of them and were locked. Luckily we left the bathroom window open just a crack the problem was it was about 6 feet off the ground and the only person that could fit through the bars and maybe the window is . . . yes, you guessed correctly, me. We thought that might be our only option that we could do because everything is closed on Sunday and the locksmith would have cost a lot of money and who knows when he would have got there. Our landlord, José Manuel, was really nice but never heard of someone doing such a thing – crazy Americans.  He was going to try to contact a locksmith for us but my dad told him we had one more option, to see if I could fit in the window.  José Manuel told us to go for it and he would start looking for the locksmiths’ number.  It was our only hope – my dad wasn’t a big fan of the plan.  Wait before I start to tell you any more you have to remember that there are bars on the outside of this window as well. Once I got through the bars I would have to open a window that was about the size of a . . . um oh yes I know the size of 4 small toaster ovens 2 by 2 next to each other and on top of each other. OK on with the story, my dad helped me get up closer to the window and then he held my leg so I didn’t fall backwards. So I got to the window with only my stomach and up inside of the very tiny frame. Then I had to move a latch that held the window open and make the window fall down but still be attached to the window hinge. Then I had to turn my body all the way around (I was all tangled in a ball) so I was feet first and my stomach was on the windowsill. At that time I was holding on to the bars with my feet inside of the bathroom. Hopefully you will see some of the action because my sister video taped most of my Mission Impossible stunt.  My mom tried to hook my long sleeve shirt that I wasn’t wearing so I would have a hold but at the time I was really stressed so I didn’t get the message. Have I told you yet how scared I was! I was panting and I was crying inside of my head! BOY I was scared! But in the end I got inside of the apartment and let them in and from now on we will NEVER leave the other set of keys in the door while all four of us are out and about. I really hope the video turns out!

Note: the video turned out really good but we decided not to post it because we don’t want to teach people how to break into this apartment. If you want to see it remind me and I’ll show you when I get home.

Here's my dad helping me get started.

The space looks bigger than it really was.

Here's my first disguise in the next Mission Impossible movie.

 
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Posted by on December 9, 2011 in Spain

 

Flamenco Dancing – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Kendal

Last week we went to the Flamenco Dance Museum in Sevilla. We were able to see the museum, take a flamenco dance class and watch a show. The museum was, well . . . a museum.  The class was really cool because our teacher was also the lady in the show; she was really nice and an incredible dancer.  She kept telling Dad to stop shaking his hips so much.  In Flamenco women move their hands a certain way and lead with their middle finger and men lead with their pinky fingers.  The show was really fun to watch because the sun had gone down outside and all the lights were off inside except for a few candles.  It was a very romantic ambiance.  It was really amazing when they were dancing, they got so into it and their sweat was flying off of them into the crowd – that was a bit gross! Sometimes it even hit you so the 3D for the show was a thumbs-up.

Mom and I started taking Flamenco classes this week with a nice lady, who I think used to be a professional when she was younger.  The classes are at her house which is also a cool ceramic store and flamenco studio, it’s right around the corner from our apartment.  We are learning the local folkloric dance ‘Sevillanas’ and it’s really a fun time . . . me, my mom and the teacher laugh a lot.

Bye and thanks for checking on us!

This was on our way to the Flamenco Dance Museum. There are so many cool streets and neighborhoods to walk through.

While we walked through the museum we didn't realize that this was going to be where we took our dance class but it was.

This was my favorite dress in the museum.

Our teacher was nice enough to take a picture of us, she told us to yell olé!

This is on our way back to the apartment . . . that's the back of the Catedral de Sevilla and the Giralda Tower. It was such a pretty night.

 
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Posted by on December 4, 2011 in Spain

 

Clase de Español – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Keegan and Steve

Hola ¿Qué tal?  That means, hi, how are you, in Spanish.  As all may know we are now officially in España (Spain in Spanish).  We took some Spanish classes and for me they were difficult.  But for my dad he already knows Spanish pretty well because his parents would speak to him in Spanish when he grew up. Kendal, she should know Spanish because she took Spanish for two years in 7th and 8th grade but . . . she didn’t talk it much in 7th and 8th grade so she learned that speaking it is even harder.  My mom she knows Spanish (she took lots of classes growing up) but she just doesn’t like to speak it.  Even though my dad knows Spanish pretty well he didn’t teach me Spanish as a kid, why he didn’t I DON’T KNOW!  I probably would have done a lot better in this class so I guess I will blame my bad performance on my dad . . . no offense.  I wanted to learn . . . más o menos (more or less) and my dad said I did learn but I don’t think I did.  My mom told me we are going to keep learning on our own and keep doing study sessions at Starbucks in the city center (after class we would go for a tapas lunch and then go to Starbucks to do our homework, it’s a really cool area).  My mom says that when I take Spanish class back home I should do well because of this class . . . we’ll see.  My Spanish teacher was pretty awesome his name was Juan Carlos and we played some Spanish games with him to help us learn Spanish. We also learned that he doesn’t live far from us in Triana. Thank you Juan Carlos!

Here we are with our teacher Juan Carlos

View from our Starbucks study-hall window - they play cool American Christmas music

We finished our week of initial Spanish classes and it went well.  Kendal and Keegan definitely learned a lot and for Amy, because she was in that class with the kids, it was a great refresher course for her.

I took one Spanish class in 8th grade and most the kids in the school I went to spoke Spanish so I don’t recall learning much grammatically . . . let’s just say there was a lot of scary distractions in that school.  What I remember the most is strategically figuring out ways to make it through that class, not to mention everyday, without getting my butt kicked.  Surprisingly, Spanish was not offered in my High School. When I went to college my mother strongly recommended I take a Spanish entrance test “NO SEAS TONTO, TAKE THE STUPID TEST!!” and somehow I tested out of a number of classes (great money savings).  I ended up in a conversational class with a buddy, it was a long Thursday night class, we laughed from beginning to end every Thursday before heading out for a night of college camaraderie (ahhh the good old days).  So, not much to show for my classroom Spanish education and grammatically . . . I’d say I stink.  Jumping in this class, which was in chapter 7, (some students are here for up to 10 weeks) I felt over my head. Four hours everyday was . . . suficiente para mi cabeza!  One of the main benefits of such a small class is that you are forced to learn, your involvement is not a choice.  The little I know I completely owe to my parents who spoke Spanish to me growing up, I am so grateful for that . . . and yes, I definitely wish I would have responded in Spanish.  I hope to have that same determination to speak to my own kids in Spanish which is easier said that done.  The class consisted of 6 other students with various backgrounds – all interesting stories.  We were all happy with our classes and for the next 5 weeks we will just keep trying to get better by getting out there and talking to people.

This is the inside of our school - it was a very Spanish building

Here is my class - it was a great diverse group that allowed for interesting dialogue with very different yet similar opinions of current world events. We had a student from Japan majoring in Spanish; a retired professional from Italy; a linguist from the UK that just returned from Afghanistan; a clinical psychologist from the US; a South Korean student spending a year in Spain to learn spanish, a retired French military helicopter pilot and me. I was very lucky to have had the opportunity to spent so much time with each of them that week.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2011 in Spain

 

Happy Thanksgiving from Sevilla, Spain

Author: Amy

Gracias, Thank you, Danke, Dankie, Ef Charisto, Grazie, Hvala, Merci

To you who read and follow our blog; on this Thanksgiving Day, which we will spend in Sevilla, Spain, we feel so completely grateful for so many things.  Thanksgiving to me is like a cozy hug of a holiday spent with family staying warm and eating good food.

With a humble voice we are thankful for . . .

  • our health – our family – our freedom – our friends old and new – the wonders of nature – random kindness of strangers – google maps – great food – virtual school – the Kindle and for excellent readers – teachers – Amor – clean water – historians and those that chose to preserve history so we can learn – Democracy – all the heroes that had the strength and determination to change history for the better . . . our list is endless.

We found our favorite tapa restaurant last night and it's only a block away. Taberna Paco España! The food is awesome and the service is even better. The owner ran after us as we were leaving to give the kids candy for the walk home. To live for a while in Sevilla walking everywhere within clean, beautiful cobblestone streets is truly something we are thankful for.

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2011 in Spain

 

Has Anyone Seen Our Luggage?? – Sevilla, Spain

Author: Steve

We left our apartment in Cape Town at 6:30am on a Monday and got to our new apartment in Sevilla on Tuesday at 5:30pm.  That was a long 2 days of travel . . . which we are kind of getting used to (not that we like it all the time but; it is what it is).  The very frustrating thing was that for some reason our luggage never made it to Sevilla.  We called and called and sent email after email trying to track it down. We didn’t seem to be getting much response other than, “we don’t know where they are, but we’re trying to track them”.   Luckily we always take all important documents and electronic gear with us as carry-on so we were not as frazzled as we might have been since all we needed to replace was the backpacks and clothes that aren’t that expensive to begin with.  Thursday we were off to start the process of slowly buying new clothes.  Before we headed out we called one more time to check and they said they found them (not sure when they were going to call us) and that we could pick them up that evening when they arrived.  We let them know that we were told that our luggage would be delivered to our apartment; however, they said that because they came from outside the EU they would have to go through customs and a bomb detector and we would need to be present for that process.  A small annoyance that we were happy to accept as long as we got our backpacks back . . . and we did.

Now to some fun stuff . . . José Manuel, the apartment owner, met us at our apartment, he has spent some years in the US as an Educational Ambassador for Spain so his English is excellent.  He is a great guy that was gracious enough to take us out for dinner (great tapas) on our first night in Triana (the neighborhood we are actually residing while in Sevilla – I’ll get to our location in another blog).  José Manuel explained some of the many nuances of the area and if that wasn’t a nice enough introduction he also introduced us to Alex, a young teacher from the US that is here teaching English to Middle School level kids.  José Manuel and Alex (the only teacher at this school that teaches English as a specialty) have invited Kendal and Keegan to go and spend time with their students to help teach and also learn some Spanish.  Kendal and Keegan were quite happy with their invitation and are very excited to see another school setting.

Other than a bumpy first part of the week, uncertain whether we would ever see our luggage again . . . we couldn’t have asked for a better way to start off this leg of our adventure.

We are definitely in a traditional neighborhood and not a tourist area (which is exactly what we were looking for) but we now know that this really puts more responsibility on us to reach out and get involved.  We’ve learned that we need to take a day to get situated after long travel but as soon as possible get schedules worked out.  The issue that obviously makes things more difficult is the language barrier.  English in this area is not as prevalent as we have experienced in other European areas.  So, we are all signed up for Spanish classes this week.  Amy and the kids are doing a private lesson for 2 hours each day and I’m in a group of 7 students for 4 hours each day.  After the first week we will decide if we want to stick with this school or move on to another one for more variety or just try to wing it.  TIme will tell.

It’s been raining the last few days so it’s been hard to get the camera out and take some pictures but this week should be better . . . it really is a beautiful neighborhood with incredible history.  Our apartment is on a pedestrian only street, which was a nice surprise.  I was a little concerned with the location at first because as you may know they stay out until 3, 4 or 5 am here having fun (we’ve come home at 10:30 and 11:00 some nights and it seemed like things were just getting going – which wouldn’t surprise me if this was a vacation spot or if it was a holiday but it’s just regular week days).  However, as we walk into our courtyard and up to our apartment we hear absolutely nothing from the street, its amazing. So we get the great, constant action of Calle San Jacinto and the quietness of our apartment.

Thanks Amy for getting us in another great location!

Here is our street, Calle San Jacinto, we are half way down on the right side.

We are also a half a block away from El Mercado de Triana - it's very big and full of incredible produce and shops

Here we are with our new friend Alex and behind us is the Metropol Parasol. An incredible structure that was just recently completed. We plan to go back and not only learn more about this structure but walk on the top

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Spain

 

Good Bye Cape Town

Author: Amy, Kendal, Keegan and Steve

Amy –  Coming to the end of our stay in South Africa.  Wow!  Have we learned a lot!  For one the kids started Virtual School here – and yes, they are learning.  Our naïve perception of Africa as a whole and the many countries here, including South Africa has completely changed.  I’m so happy to have had this experience for myself but I am doubly excited that my kids, at their young age, have had the same experience.  My perception of Africa will forever be changed and theirs will be molded on first hand experience that has been so beautiful and positive it’s just very exciting.  If anyone is contemplating a trip to Africa I say – go for it!  You will NEVER regret it and it’s better than anyone can tell you.  That’s not to say that every corner is safe and wonderful, unfortunately with bad people and bad leaders – which are in every country, there are bad pockets.  Our opinion has been formed over the 90 plus days we have been here.  I know I was very cautious at first and waited for the negative to overtake but that didn’t happen.  We found the goodness in so many people.  Our apartment has a wonderful staff – they are short term rentals and we became one of the longer stays for them and we all got know each other.  They said that we are now a part of their family which is one of the biggest compliments we could have received.  Their priority was to make sure we were happy and had everything we needed – they spoiled us . . . thank you Lawhill Apartments.  Steve took a chance with his cooking class and met some great people.  The kids and I met incredibly nice families while swimming with the swim team. We have learned so much from them and are so sad to leave them.  I believe we will see them again either in the United States or back here in Cape Town (yes, they said we could come back!).  Their Swim Coach, Csanad treated them like one of the squad.  Also, we were able to see a school in action while the kids took Hip Hop dance class.  All the kids wear uniforms here – not just a polo and shorts to the knee.  Real Harry Potter type with high socks, blazers and vests even ties for the older boys.  Kendal can’t pick a favorite she loves one uniform more than the next.  They would leave Hip Hop and say – the kids are soooo nice to me and to each other.  They adore their cool teacher Mandy – the epitome of Hip Hop.  We feel so blessed to have had this experience and to take all the love and goodness with us on the rest of our journey.

Kendal –  My thoughts on Africa before we got here was, oh geeze this will be an…interesting…adventure, why would my parents bring me to Africa??? Back home you hear of all the scary stuff that happens here. But the thing is, what we thought was wrong.  We have met so many kind people here, and we have been to so many nice places. I have come to think of Cape Town, South Africa as my second home. I’m so lucky to have so many second homes, Germany, Greece, Croatia now South Africa.  Thank you to all the people who have made this visit extremely better than I thought it could ever be.  I hope that all the new friends that we made will come visit us in America someday, because they are always welcome!

Keegan – Before I got here I couldn’t wait to go home – I thought I was missing out on starting school with my friends.  Now that I’ve been here I can’t wait to come back.  Africa is wonderful and not scary like you might think it would be.  The safari was awesome, Victoria Falls was amazing and Cape Town is a spectacular place.  I love being outside and Africa has so much to do and see.  Thanks to all the nice people that made my visit better than expected.  Come see me in America!

Steve – I feel blessed for the great friends we have met in Cape Town and that they are now a part of our lives . . . thank God for Africa!!

The kids with Coach Csanad

Out at dinner one night with good friends; Skyela, Brandon and Amicah

Dinner with friends - Nicci is hiding

The kids were lucky enough to get a picture with Australian Cricket player, Mitchell Johnson; one of the top cricket bowlers in the world and a really nice guy.

Here I am with my dazzling friend Nicci - she's the one hiding behind me in the dinner picture

The kids with Hip-Hop and choreography superstar Mandy!

Here with my good friend Christine with traditional face paintings at Moyo Restaurant

I had to throw this picture in - on our way to swim we stalked Steve on one of his long runs on Beach Road and Kendal took this picture from the car. Steve loved that run.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in South Africa

 

Friends in Cape Town

Authors: Keegan and Kendal

My sister and I had a request to write about our awesome swim buddies and Hip Hop friends, we were going to anyway, how couldn’t we they were so great!  We have made some awesome friends along our journey and we would like to say a special thanks to our new friends in Cape Town.  We probably would have begged and begged to go home by now but we honestly want to stay here forever. Our swim coach was Hungarian and spoke very good English, but with a strong accent.  We loved his voice and his comments always made us laugh!  I would tell you some but this is a family blog hahaha!  The kids on the squad practice a ridiculous amount of hours a week – all because of Coach Csanad.  They are good – we’ll be looking for some of them at the next Olympics representing South Africa – you know who you are!  Our skills improved while being here, Coach Csanad told us and the team when we left (it’s fun if you say it in a strong Hungarian accent) “at first these kids here were drowning and could barely swim but now look at them!”   Okay, a little dramatic but we have definitely improved a lot. Thank you Csanad and Mandy!!

The last practice we had a “Fun Friday” and did swim relays – Keegan and I were captains and picked teams (I hate that part, I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings).  Each team had a t-shirt that the swimmer had to wear and when the next swimmer was up they had to put the wet t-shirt on.  Talk about drag!  My team pushed me in the water when I had the shirt only half way on – amazingly it went on better once in the water.  We all had such a good time; it was a blast!  It was hard to leave them; we will miss them all very much and never forget them.  As Keegan also told you we even took a hip-hop class. Keegan took his class with kids his age and I took a class with the college kids (high school kids in SA terms).  I learned a lot of moves so I guess you could say, “I’ve got the moves like Jaggar” 🙂 (lol).  Mandy our teacher was great and wow could she hip-hop!   She even made a surprise good-bye party for both Keegan and me. The kids in our classes were all very nice and warm and welcoming.  All of the friends that we made on this stop of the trip were amazing.  Thank you friends for making our stay in Cape Town incredible!

Here we are with some of our good friends from the swim squad.

One of our final days at swim with great new friends.

Here I am with one of my college friends, Brandon, breaking it down, that's Keegan in back.

Here's our final Hip Hop class with a good-bye party after - we all had a great time!

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in South Africa

 

Castle of Good Hope – Cape Town

Author: Steve

For anyone coming to Cape Town I would recommend a visit to the Castle of Good Hope on the front end of your holiday.  We ended up doing it on the back-end but I think it would have been even more impactful if we had done it on the front end.  It’s a very informative tour that explains the powerful history of Cape Town.

The Dutch East India Company originally built the castle as a replenishment station for the long treacherous sea trips from Europe to the East.  (If you remember from my last blog, wine was served…this replenishment or supply station is now modern-day Cape Town today.)  It was built between 1666 and 1679 and during that process they made the decision to build a more fortified fortress foreseeing a possible conflict between them (Dutch settlers or Boers) and the British.  It is the oldest existing colonial building in South Africa.  Surprisingly it never needed to be defended as no conflicts ever took place there.  I could have stayed there for hours checking out the exhibits and reading all the historical data.  Quite interesting was the data regarding the Second Anglo Boer War that took place between 1899 and 1902.  Only 87,000 Boers, all unpaid volunteers, took on 450,000 trained British soldiers.  At that time the British were a colonizing country that looked to conquer other, mostly third world, nations to help manage their natural resources.  The British adopted a “scorched earth” policy and destroyed over 30,000 Boer farmhouses, several towns and slaughtered hundreds of thousands of livestock.  Of the casualties over 26,000 Boer women and children died in concentration camps.  Over 75,000 lives were lost before the British finally won the war.

It was about a 45-minute guided tour and then you are allowed to walk around freely to check out the Castle Military museum and the Iziko Museum.  If you plan it right you can see the military ceremony performed by a traditional Cape Regiment at noon and watch them fire off a small but very powerful cannon.

At the entrance of the Castle of Good Hope

The ammunition room leaked so they incorporated a hole to drain the unwelcome water. However they were so close to the sea that water came up from the hole.

This is an entrance to one of the prison cells that held up to 20 inmates at a time, very tight quarters. We also stood in the gruesome torture chamber and got an education on how that all went down...you could almost hear the walls screaming.

Solitary confinement cell - I couldn't see them when I took this picture, it was pitch dark the flash lightened the room. As you can see Amy was not very comfortable.

Traditional Cape Regiment Ceremony - check out the family watching on the bench

The kids are resting behind a XHOSA WARRIOR

These are 2 great pictures outlying some Cape Town history

We are on top of one of the 5 bastions overlooking the city - the clouds are always awesome to look at as they blanket the mountains


 
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Posted by on November 12, 2011 in South Africa

 

The Beautiful Vineyards – Cape Town

Author: Steve

As you heard from Kendal and Keegan we have been on a number of farm and vineyard tours.  There is definitely much to be learned from the science and art of wine making but we have also learned a great deal about the local and global business of vineyards.  I hope that whatever Kendal and Keegan are taking in from these tours that they are also absorbing some of the larger picture aspects of business.  I’ll try and touch on a little of what we tried to take in on our visits.

The majority of the vineyards we toured were all in Western Cape in the major wine-land regions of Stellenbosch, Franschhoek and Paarl.  The intriguing history of wine in this area dates back to 1659 when the founder of Cape Town, Jan van Riedbeeck (a Dutch surgeon), produced the first wine.  The Dutch East India Company established a “supply station” for their long travels east, today this “supply station” is known as Cape Town.  The Dutch surgeon planted vineyards to produce wines believing the vitamins contained in wine were a remedy that would ward off scurvy the sailors were getting during their travels through the Spice Route.  In 1685 the Governor, Simon vander Stel established the Constantia Estate and was at that time considered one of the best wines in the world. The decades that followed were full of, you guessed it, more incredible history.  I’ll fast-forward a little…in 1859, after the area fell under British rule, over 1 million gallons of South African wine had been exported to Great Britain successfully.  However, an unfortunate combination of a free trade treaty in 1860 between Great Britain and France (the Cobden-Chevalier Treaty) and a phylloxera epidemic in 1865 (an aphid is a plant lice that attacks the plant vines and injects a deadly venom and corrodes the root structure) diminished South African wine exports. This disastrous combination would take more than 20 years for the vineyards to recover from.  Even after they got back on track with great wine they really weren’t noticed much globally during the 20th century, most of that vain came because of the boycotts instilled due to Apartheid.

I have been reading a lot in the newspaper over the last few weeks on the vineyards here and the unfortunate financial difficulties many have found themselves in, specifically the “primary wine producers”.  There are a number of reasons why over 100 vineyards are for sale and a surprisingly huge percentage are under the brink of bankruptcy and I’m sure some of these same issues affect many vineyards in other countries. They are all interesting reasons in their own right and each one could be discussed at length (but I promised this would be a short blog).  South African wine exports have decreased by 25% in the last year. Their fuel, electricity and labor costs have all increased by almost 50% since 2004.  It doesn’t help their valid paranoia that if US Walmart Corporation buys Massmart (South Africa’s largest chain retailer), Walmart could very well bring cheap wine to South Africa in large quantities and further hurt local sales.  One of the more fascinating areas is the prohibited use of enzymes in the wine manufacturing process in South Africa. The longer the grape is in the ground the more sugar is created which increases the alcohol content. If a vintner is unable to get the grapes picked soon enough (getting labor out on a Saturday or Sunday for example, can sometimes be impossible) your alcohol level is higher and that increased alcohol content increases the vintners’ taxes and tariffs. Other countries are allowed to use enzymes which puts South Africa at a huge global disadvantage because you can’t really level out your alcohol, not to mention the increased aroma and taste enzymes could give your wine.  Another way to reduce that alcohol level is to water down the wine (they call this process “Jesus Units”, which comes from the bible story of the Miracle at the Marriage at Cana when they added water to wine).  However, this practice in some crowds is considered “wine fraud”. Other countries are allowed to use a limited amount of water to “make sure the grapes don’t dehydrate” or “make sure the grapes flow smoothly through the machines”;  the question then is how much water is really used during that process.  When you buy a bottle of wine you may have noticed the alcohol percentages have increased over the years.  That increased alcohol content, in my opinion does have an effect on the aroma and the palate.  Interesting tidbit; lets say a bottle has an alcohol content at 14%, that’s an estimate, bottlers are allowed 1.5% leeway either way for that bottle so it could be 12.5% or 15.5%…at this point I would say it’s more on the high end.

There are so many fascinating aspects of this business and I’m sure if I had the exposure to Napa or Sonoma Valley I would surely have taken this all in back home.  As I mentioned many of these same issues affect similar wine markets throughout the world.  We head to Spain in next week (we try not to talk about it much because we are all getting very sad that we will be leaving Cape Town) and I look forward to learning a little more about the EU wine process. Let me close my rambling by saying that the vineyards and the wines in the Western Cape area are beautiful and incredible. The people are extremely friendly and inviting to all and we always felt very welcome at each visit.

The beautiful landscape at Groot Constantia, the oldest vineyard in South Africa - established in the year 1685

The Groot Constantia Manor House - you can really see the Cape Dutch architecture

Having some fun after lunch at Groot Constantia

We had our first Braai at the very inviting Middelvlei Vineyard

The kids had a great time roaming around freely to feed the animals

Kendal loves the animals

Keegan checking out the Braai Masters in action

Here we are with the owner of Middelvlei, Ben was kind to everyone

The "Cathedral Cellar" at the KWV Winery - notice the cool barrel vaulted roof

KWV Winery is world renown for having the 5 largest barrels in use under one roof - this is one of them


 
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Posted by on November 10, 2011 in South Africa

 

Museum and Home Ec – Cape Town

Author: Keegan

Hi remember me?   I know you do – you’ve been waiting for me right?  RIGHT?!?!?!?   My TA (teacher’s assistant -TA is what you will hear for the rest of the blog. A.K.A Dad/Steve) and I have taken a few field trips together while in Cape Town.  Sometimes I finish my schoolwork before someone else (not mentioning any names).  One trip was a science field trip.  We went to the Planetarium to get additional Science smarts, I already have a science class on-line and we all love to watch MythBusters so this is additional work.  We strolled into the entrance and bought the tickets for the Museum that was connected to the Planetarium and then my TA asked if these included the Planetarium and they said…the Planetarium was closed.  So we ended up taking just a history field trip instead.  We saw some really cool prehistoric animals and saw that a lot of animals that you may draw or think in your head are probably real.  Also did you know that if we humans had wings we could fly?  After our little history class we went out for lunch and went to this restaurant called The Sea Palace.  We wanted sushi – it’s my favorite these days.  When we got inside we were surprised at how it looked — really fancy but no one was really there so we didn’t have to worry about having to fit in.  We both had sushi I had a California roll and my dad had a Rainbow Nation roll.  We shared them and they were both pretty good.  While we were eating a group of 7 people came in 6 were tourists the other was the guide.  They had this cool spinning table so when they asked for something they would just have to spin it.  While on the trip I really want to go to a sushi bar that has a conveyor belt that has sushi on it going in a circle and you just grab off what you want and eat it.  My TA and I are planning to go back to the Planetarium next week.

That's me in front of the whale exhibit.

I told my dad to act afraid and this is what he gave me.

Moving on then.

Another one of my field trips with the TA was a Home Economics class (some may call it Home Ec).  We made gnocchi and calamari.  The gnocchi my sister helped with and my dad and I made the calamari.  A little something he learned at cooking school and passed along to me.  We cleaned the calamari took off the head, took out the guts and took their eyes out too. They are slimy little buggers. The gnocchi didn’t turn out THAT well…but Kendal and my dad know what went wrong so they are going to try again before we leave Cape Town.  But the calamari was pretty good.  We had to take the trash out that night because the trash was smelling REALLY BAD it is beyond belief how bad the trash would have smelled if we left it overnight. It is indescribable!

The calamari was fun to clean but I'm sure we won't be doing that every week.

Here's the plate of the finished calamari.

My final report is a full family trip to a local farm.  It was a bit overcast but a fun day with a cool playground at the restaurant.  One thing in Cape Town there are tons of cool restaurants with awesome play grounds. There was a rooster that was attacking my dad it was really funny to see him try not to hurt it but try to get it away from him.  He asked the waiter if he bites and the waiter said yes.

That's Kendal about to swing on the tree rope.

Day trips to farms and vineyards are awesome!

Felix the rooster was really nice at first and then he turned into "Mr. Crazy Rooster"!

The scenery is always beautiful, it's like a fairytale.

All in all we are having a pretty great time in Cape Town South Africa.

 
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Posted by on October 31, 2011 in South Africa