Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Christmas on the farm

We had the great privilege of spending Christmas weekend in southwestern Pennsylvania at my Aunt Traci & Uncle Jack's farm. We arrived Saturday afternoon and Bobby was whisked off to Hunting Hills where he got to enjoy shooting some birds. Meanwhile the ladies went to a candlelight service at a little country church. Then we all met up for dinner that evening. Sunday was nice and relaxing, and I was excited about getting to see the Steelers play, but the game was a major disappointment. Monday morning was a blast, more family & friends arrived, we had a delicious brunch and opened a bountiful amount of presents! Then we left the farm, drove two hours north to New Castle to exchange more presents and visit my mom's side of the family. The bad part was getting to bed late and waking up at 5:00 am (yes, that's 4:00 central time) to fly back to St Louis so that I could go to work... but hey, let's not focus on the negative! Here are some pictures from the weekend:

Bobby and his birds

The Hammond family Christmas photo

One of my favorite presents this year - my mom had my wedding gown preserved. Only to be taken out of the box when I have a daughter to try it on someday. Or if I have a mid-life crisis and get determined to fit back in it!

And this picture is just to prove that we really were on a farm... Pattycake the Pig, running up the steps because it's feedin' time! Isn't she adorable?!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Party Season

'Tis the season for parties & open houses, and fortunately other people have been hosting them so I haven't had to! True, I do love entertaining, but it really is nice when we can go to other people's houses and enjoy their clean, inviting homes and eat all of their food.

This past Saturday, our neighbors that live on the other side of our ceiling, Currie & Abby, had a fun little gathering. Unfortunately though, only one picture was taken all night, but it's a good one!

Here is Jessica, me, Abby & Joy - all seminary wives. Jess and her husband, BJ, don't live in Atherton yet, but they hope to soon.

Last week we got to go to another party. Technically it wasn't a "Christmas" party, it was actually a going-away party for our dear friends, the Zellners. We are very sad to say good-bye to them. Eric & I worked together at my first job here in St Louis - while I was running errands & doing laundry all day, he got to do all the cleaning - lucky guy! It was great to get to know him, his wife, Susan, and their two precious girls, Olivia & Emma Frances, well over the past 3 1/2 years. Wow, has it been that long?!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

18 days until Christmas

We put our Christmas tree up this past weekend and I wanted to show it off.

Here is our Nativity - notice, the wise men are far away.

Bunny's favorite winter activity is to wreck havoc on the tree skirt so I tried to capture that for all to see. Whenever we start playing with her, she goes directly to the tree skirt and won't play until we come over there.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winter Storm Hits the Midwest

I really thought I would not make it home from work last night. Give me a foot or two of snow and I can plow right through it, even in my little Altima, but hit us with sleet and freezing rain and two inches of ice, and I'm a wreck (fortunately not literally). My new work hours are 11-8:30 and the sleet began around 9 am, I made it to work just fine, but my drive home last night (fortunately they let me leave at 6:15) was hazardous, to say the least! There was a layer of ice, snow drifts and slush all over the roads, and the lane markers were completely invisible. Every little movement I made, even at 15 mph, my tires were sliding all over the place, and my 9-mile commute took me over an hour - and I drive on some really major roads!

Beyond my experience, here are some highlights of the storm's impact on St Louis:
  • 500,000 customers are without power
  • one of the major highways here (I-70) was shut down for awhile
  • Metrolink (train) was inoperable this morning
  • more than 1000 travelers stranded in Lambert Airport

Thankfully the sleet stopped sometime during the night and we woke up this morning to a winter wonderland! We were "supposed" to get 6-10 inches of snow, but only got 1-2. Normally I would be disappointed about that, but since there was 2 inches of ice underneath, I was happy with just a little more than a dusting this time. I am grateful now for the pretty sunshine that has come out and given us a relief from the precipitation so that the road crews can catch up and keep my roadways clear!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Every year

I have such a hard time getting in the Christmas spirit. I don't know if it's because I love fall & Thanksgiving so much and it's hard to let go of that season, because there is no snow yet (and it's 70 degrees outside!), or if it's because of the over-commercialization of Christmas that by the time it gets here, I'm sick of seeing Christmas decorations and Christmas songs. But whatever the reason, it happens every year. I don't want to get out the tree, the garland, the lights, the CDs... but I do it anyway, and you know what, the magic of the season eventually gets me and all of a sudden I'm little miss Christmas-girl.

But right now, on November 29th, I'm just not there yet... but then again, I hear snow is on the way... Better start bringing up the boxes from the basement, Bobby!!

Friday, November 24, 2006

Beautiful Day

Thanksgiving day has come and gone, but it was a wonderful celebration. We were fortunate enough to have both sets of parents and Bobby's sister, Mindy, with us as we hosted our first Thanksgiving dinner. We started off the day with a little walk outside - the weather has been sunny & in the 60's all week here in St Louis, then we watched the parade on tv, and started preparations for our feast. The turkey & ham were "smoked" the day before so we just pretty much had to reheat everything (thank you Currie & Abby for letting us use your oven!), but I was more concerned with the decor - and had a lot of fun dressing-up the table. If you're not already hungry, you may be after you read this... our menu consisted of: turkey, ham, stuffing, cranberry sauce, green beans, apple sauce, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, whole wheat rolls, and baked pineapple. And for dessert we had oatmeal-pecan pie (a new recipe - yum!), pumpkin pie, rice pie, ice cream & whipped cream. Following the after-dinner clean-up ritual, we pretty much just sat around and visited until we all fell asleep. What a great day!

Here is Bobby, in his glory, carving the turkey.

Monday, November 20, 2006


My favorite holiday (after Veteran's Day) is almost here! I've always loved Thanksgiving - I love the season that it's in, it's near my birthday, it's more laid back and casual than Christmas because there isn't any stress over presents, and everyone gets to sit around, enjoy good food & each other, and reflect on what we're thankful for. So in light of that, I thought I'd take a moment and share what I'm thankful for this year...

  1. First, my gracious and loving Heavenly Father. Each year I grow more and more in my faith and He is there to renew me each day and draw me closer to Him. I am so grateful that He calls me his own and loves me despite all of my flaws & shortcomings.
  2. My wonderful and loving husband. Once again he amazes me with his hard work and diligence - he (somehow!) manages to balance school (full-time seminary classes & German), work (UPS and part-time job at Covenant), his internship, several pulpit-filling opportunities, and his family. Through all of this, we have been able to have great health insurance, go on a couple wonderful vacations, and will graduate in May with almost ZERO debt! wow!! And while you may think we never get to see each other, I never feel neglected. He works really hard during the week so we get to enjoy our weekends together - whether we're watching football, shopping at Walmart or going to the movies, our time together is always special!
  3. Our families! I am so thankful that we both have such loving and supportive parents, we are truly blessed. And this includes our extended family too - we lean on them so much for support & prayers - we miss them all so much since we are far away from everyone, it seems, and it's so nice when we can get home to see them.
  4. The CTS community & our fabulous neighbors. Never would I have guessed that we would make such wonderful friends here in St Louis, especially living in the ghetto! Atherton has been such a great place to live, even though we had our doubts and were disappointed when we couldn't get into Gulf Drive, we never would have changed a thing - except a second bedroom would have been nice... Building #8449 rocks!
  5. Bunny & Brooks! My little critters bring me so much joy when I am home by myself - I love watching Bunny throw her toys around and constantly try and sneak into the bedroom (it is her main goal in life) and Brooks is so precious when you walk over to his tank and he swims (& wiggles - you should see Bobby inpersonate him!) just to get some attention. It's the greatest!
  6. Email/Internet - without it I wouldn't be able to communicate so well with my dear friends all over the country - especially the one in Virginia who brings so much joy to my day while I'm at work. (yes, I check my email while I'm working... it keeps me sane)
  7. This list is getting long so I'll summarize everything else into this last point: shelter, food, cars, HEALTH, safety, heat/air conditioning, cable tv, jobs, Body for Life, email, President Bush, Kirk of the Hills PCA church, Walmart, entertainment (movies, books, music, etc), and everything else that I can't think of right now...

So as you can see, I have a LOT to be thankful for this year!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Random pictures

For some reason my blog only lets me post four pictures per post so I thought I would make a new post just for those couple pictures that I couldn't post earlier... (I tried to see how many times I could put the word "post" in one sentence.)

Here is one of my favorite pictures of Bobby and I - taken at my parent's house a few weeks ago.

Here is a picture of Bobby enjoying the cheese fondue at the Melting Pot last Saturday night. (if it looks like he's tired, it's because we didn't get to eat dinner until 10:30 pm)

Here is a cute one of our little Bunny laying on "her" pillow.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Birthday celebration 11/11/06

So, many of you know that this past Saturday was my birthday. And what a great day it was! The fun started Friday night when I got home from work and was surprised & greeted by 8 friends and Bobby shouting "Happy Birthday!!!" We enjoyed a huge Dairy Queen birthday cake (my FAVORITE kind of cake!), blueberry sparkling cider, and listened to my new Josh Turner cd. Here are a couple pictures from that night...

Below is Karen (Abby's friend), Abby, Joy (and baby in utero), and me

Then Saturday I enjoyed a pancake breakfast in bed, opened quite a few presents from Bobby (thank you UPS for the bonus!), went out and did a little bit of shopping, watched (most of) the OU game, then had dinner at the Melting Pot http://www.meltingpot.com - finally! I've been wanting to go there since we moved here because I LOVE FONDUE! It was delicious!! :-)

Overall I had a great bday weekend and look forward to all those cards that will be coming in late on Monday because, as always, I never get mail on my birthday... (Veteran's Day + national holiday = no mail)

Monday, November 06, 2006

Football Frenzy

The Griffith's love of football doesn't end with just Bobby and me - Bunny loves it too! And to prove it, we'll show you how cute she looks dressed up in her football gear.

On Saturdays she becomes BUNNY SOONER.

And on Sundays she is STEELER BUNNY.

What? Doesn't everyone dress up their pet rabbits?!

No bunnies were hurt in the process of making this blog post. Only annoyed.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Take a little time to enjoy... Elisabeth Hasselbeck

I know it makes my husband very upset that I watch this show, which wasn’t a problem until my shift at work changed and now I’m home in the morning and I’m re-addicted. The show is The View. I really didn’t think I would be that interested now that Rosie is on it, but really, Meredith wasn’t much better. And even though all Rosie talks about is being gay and hating President Bush, it’s really Joy Behar that gets on my nerves the most. Yet, I still keep tuning in… Obviously the person I identify most closely with is Elisabeth Hasselbeck http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elisabeth_Hasselbeck . We’re both in our late 20s and conservative. I’ve been a fan of hers since she was on Survivor, then I watched her on The Look for Less when she hosted that, and now the View. Everyday when I watch the first portion of the show that they call Hot Topics, I just don’t know how she can stand to be on that show and have to put up with those crazy liberals and I start getting so upset for her, but then I realize why she is there… she is giving all of us who oppose Rosie & Joy a voice, and for that I am very grateful! I mean, basically that is the point of the show, Barbara Walters created it because she wanted a show with woman of different generations, different view points, etc. and she got it, but it seems like it’s everyone vs. Elisabeth most days. Baba Wawa is mostly neutral, but Joy & Rosie completely agree on most everything and they seem to gang up on Elisabeth, which again, makes me think, “Elisabeth, get out there! Quit putting up with them and leave!” But what fun would that be for us, the viewers? Seriously, I am so proud of her and for what she stands for – if there were an Elisabeth Hasselback fan club, I would be in it!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Boomer Sooner

Sooners beat the Tigers, 26-10! We had a great time at the game, the weather was fantastic and our seats were pretty good. The Sooner fans were out in full stride and the team didn't disappoint us. We got a great ovation from the players and Coach Stoops after the game as they were going into the tunnel on the way to the locker room - that was very classy! So all in all, the four year wait was definately worth it!!

Here are some pictures from the game.

Bobby & Me

Sooners running onto the field

Touchdown celebration (ok, so the picture is lame... I was a couple seconds slow with the camera)

The band and fans

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Two days until the OU-Mizzou game!

Bobby and I have been waiting four years for OU to play at Mizzou (University of Missouri - Columbia) and the wait is finally over! We're going to the game on Saturday. Unfortunately the game is at 11:00 am so we have to leave St Louis really early - especially because we want to go to some of the pregame festivities. We'll have to search through all of the Gold to find some Sooner fans in Crimson. (it shouldn't be too hard) So if any of you out there are home Saturday morning, turn the tube to ABC and look for the two fans in red near the 30 yard line - we'll wave at you.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Weekend in Pennsylvania

We had a great visit in PA this weekend. We went shopping at the Grove City Outlets on Thursday, spent the day in Pittsburgh on Friday, visited a great friend Friday night, had a fun bonfire with family & friends Saturday night, and went to a good church service Sunday morning. Can't ask for more than that!

Here I am in downtown Pittsburgh at the famous "Strip District" - Friday afternoon.

Here is Bobby eating a garbage burger at Max & Erma's in Pittsburgh. Looks like garbage to me, but it was delightful for him.

Friday night we went to visit Jodi (my maid of honor) and her husband, Scott. They have a really cute house - we're jealous.

Then on Sunday, before leaving for the airport, we took advantage of the nice weather and took a few pictures outside. Here is Bobby, me, my mom & my dad.

Sorry if the pictures look a little grainy... I don't know what's wrong. I have another picture of just Bobby and I, but I can't get it to post. I'll try again later I guess. (or go to Bobby's blog, he has it on his.)

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sooner Girls

It was a bad day for Sooner fans (we lost to Texas), but at least us girls looked good! Here is me, Danielle & Eva (who is also wearing an OU tshirt, just in case you can't tell).

New Haircut

I got my hair cut last week, got about 4 or 5 inches taken off. So, here's the new do:

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

My newest apprentice???

Maybe ... if we can convince her dad that baton twirling is a respectable extra-curricular activity.

This is sweet little Eva, daughter of our friends, Shaun & Danielle. This photo-op was a great distraction to the very controversial OU-Oregon football game that was on. Imagine four OU fans who watched the refs make 2 terrible calls that cost OU the game, and a BCS opportunity, yell & shout at the tv in "silence" because we didn't want to scare Eva. It was quite a sight!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

I'm taking a class at Covenant this semester...

... and you can take it with me! I'm sort of stealing a post from my dear husband, but Covenant Seminary now has all of it's MA level courses online - and they're free! So if you wish to follow along with me while I take Humanity, Christ, and Redemption - click here: http://www.covenantseminary.edu/worldwide/en/ST220/ST220.asp

If you wish to see any of the others that are offered, here is the main page: http://www.covenantseminary.edu/worldwide/default.asp

Gotta run... I have lots of reading to do! (and Dancing with the Stars to watch)

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Southern California trip... finally!

So here it is ... journal and pictures from our trip to California, July 2-9, 2006.

Day 1 - Sunday, July 2
Flight leaves STL at 7:00 am (ugh, I hate early morning flights) - arrives in LAX around 9:30 am. Within 45 minutes (no joke) we go to the restroom, get our 3 pieces of luggage from baggage claim, find the shuttle to take us to Enterprise and we are in our rental car and on our way. 45 freakin' minutes! Can you believe that?!?! LAX was NOT all it is cracked up to be - wasn't hectic at all for us - it was great! We drove over to the coast so we can see the Pacific Ocean for the first time. IT'S BEAUTIFUL! We saw Manhattan Beach because our hotel for second part of the week is nearby. Then we drove out to Beaumont where the reunion was - about 80 miles from LA. Stopped at the house where the reunion was hosted, meet tons of family, then went and checked-in to our room at the resort that we stayed at for the first 4 nights.

Very nice place - rooms were a little outdated but the grounds were wonderful - huge pool, lots of walking trails, etc. Waited at the room for Bobby's parents & sister to arrive. Went back to the house for a little bit, came back to resort, swam until 10:30, went to bed.

Day 2 - Monday, July 3
Spent the entire day & evening at Laguna Beach with the whole family - probably 60 so in our group were there. It was so awesome! We got to spend all day laying in the sand, or catching sun rays, swimming in the ocean, bodysurfing.... it was great!

Day 3 - Tuesday, July 4
Main day at reunion - all day and night spent at the host house visiting, playing volleyball, eating, drinking tons of water, watching the kids play in a HUMUNGOUS water slide they rented, etc. After dark, walked over to the nearby park and watched fireworks.

Day 4 - Wednesday, July 5

Family couldn't decide what to do so some went to Six Flags, Bobby & Bob went fishing, Susie, Terri, Jessica & Ashley went antique shopping - and I woke up with an awful sore throat, sinus problems, bad cough, and headache so I stayed in the room in the morning to rest. The girls came back and we all went swimming at the pool. While there, we were visited by a mama BEAR and her CUB!!!!!! They were just on the other side of the pool from us! But once they saw us, they turned around and left - no harm done. It was so exciting!!!! That night we all went out to dinner.

Day 5 - Thursday, July 6
Everyone checked out at the resort and departed around noon.... Bobby andI drove to LA! Before going to the hotel, we decided to drive up the Pacific Coast Highway/HWY 1 (I think they are the same) all the way up to Malibu - holy moly there are some huge houses up there! After checking into our hotel, we went to Santa Monica for the evening - we walked around the Promenade and Pier - got some great photos of the sun setting over the mountains.

Day 6 - Friday, July 7

Spent the day in HOLLYWOOD! I got to do one thing that I've wanted to do all my life - we took a STARS' HOMES TOUR! It was so awesome - we saw some huge stars' homes - Ben Affleck, Will Ferrell, Paris Hilton, Demi Moore/Ashton Kuchner, Tom Cruise (even though you can't see past the trees/fence), Johnny Depp, Dr Phil, Sean Connery, Sylvester Stallone, the list goes on and on! Then our driver took us through Rodeo Drive and the Sunset Blvd/Strip. Then we got on another tour bus that took us around "old Hollywood" - this wasn't as fascinating, but still interesting. We hit up some souvenir shops, then drove to LA where we went to a Dodgers' game. We didn't get great seats but it was awesome just being there. We love visiting baseball stadiums. And again, the weather was perfect! There weren't even any bugs!!!

Day 7 - Saturday, July 8
Another Beach Day! This time we beach-hopped... we started out at Manhattan Beach, then went to Hermosa Beach, then finished up at Redondo Beach - of course we loved them all! Back to the room, showered, then came back down to Manhattan Beach where we had dinner near the pier then drove up to Redondo to walk around the Pier. Very cool!

Day 8 - Sunday, July 9
I was still feeling crummy from the self-diagnosed upper respiratory infection and bummed becuase we have to go home (even though we really missed our critters!). We got packed up and decided to do a last run of Hollywood/Beverly Hills before catching our 4:30 flight. Drove to Hollywood Blvd, took a bunch more pics, went to Rodeo Drive, tried to find the office of Dr Rey from the tv show Dr 90210, drove thru UCLA a little bit, and the Sunset Strip. Now it was time to drop off the car and go to the airport. We thought we would give that all almost 3 hours - yeah, it took just 40 mins or so to drop the car off, go to airport, checkin, and go thru security. ugh, airports are so unpredictable. Got home at almost 11, talked to our neighbors for a couple minutes, and off to bed to get up just 6 hours later for work.

Here is the link to all of our pictures:

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Good ratings!

Way to go GCC! #1 value again by US News.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I'm alive, I promise

Not that I have many (if any) regular viewers of this blog, but if someone is out there (Hello!), I just wanted to let you know... there will be a new post (a real one) in the near future... so stay tuned! I will be posting our pictures and journal from our trip to Southern California. No, we didn't see any celebrities, but we did see their houses! And there are some great photos from the Stamper family reunion. Check back soon! :)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Bunny playing

Here are a couple little clips of Bunny playing. The first one is her playing with a little tennis ball and the second one is Bobby throwing a ping pong ball to her and her hitting it back to him. (I advise you to turn your volume down - she doesn't make any noise and all you can hear basically is the tv in the background.)

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

2005 INTRAV Inventing Southern Africa Fam Trip JOURNAL

Thursday, September 8

11:00 am - receive call from Nancy (my boss at INTRAV) asking if I would be able to go on a FAM (familiarization) trip leaving on September 10 and returning September 22. Realizing this was in 2 days, I quickly check my calendar and make a couple phone calls. Forgot to ask where the trip was going.
12:00 pm - Nancy tells me the trip is going to South Africa, quickly make the decision to go! This was a travel agent fam trip for FITA (Inventing South Africa) and one of the travel agents had cancelled very late and they needed to fill the spot and asked me to go. It was a working trip, and I didn’t even have to work! Everything was free, only had to pay for souvenirs!
Evening - begin packing

Friday, September 9

Take ½ vacation day to pick up malaria medicine (Malarone) at pharmacy and begin shopping - go to Bass Pro Shops with Bobby, buy some cool safari pants!

Saturday, September 10

Morning - go to Sam’s Club, buy 1 GB picture card for camera
Afternoon - watch OU game and continue packing; more shopping - Galleria & Target.
Back home - finish packing. Starting to get sick – oh no!
7:00 pm - drive to airport, see that I-70 is closed and they are directing traffic through the airport! Yikes! Finally get through and check-in at 7:30. Said sad good-byes to Bobby. Board the plane to Atlanta (Delta) and flight takes off at 8:10. Arrive at Hartsfield Airport in Atlanta, get luggage, hop on hotel shuttle, and arrive at Best Western at 11:30 pm. Room # 203. The room was very nice, but I had problems with the toilet - very annoying - it never stopped running and wouldn’t flush. Security came twice to fix it. Finally got to bed at 1-ish; already feeling very home sick, partly because I was definitely getting sick - very sore throat and beginnings of a sinus infection - not good! Never fell asleep this night.

Sunday, September 11

Wake up call 5:30 am (eastern time); met Christa downstairs for continental breakfast at 6:15. Hopped on hotel shuttle at 6:30, got to airport, checked in and got new tickets (South African Airways) - all by 7:30. My throat was hurting very badly now and felt very feverish.

Met up with the 4 ladies traveling with us:
Carol Bacon - from Chicago, IL
Pat Coffey - from Newport Beach, California
Kathy Esposito - from Pasadena, California
Karen Maldonado-Portanier - from Park Ave, New York City.

Nicky Esson was already in South Africa - she went a couple days earlier because a friend of hers got married over the weekend.

Boarded SA plane at 9:45 am. Flight #SA210. Left Atlanta at 10:30 am EST.Plane was very nice, 8 seats across: window 12 aisle 3456 aisle 78. (I was in seat #6, Pat was in seat #3, same row, and we had seats # 4 and 5 empty!) We each had our own personal TV’s that we could watch movies (stop, rewind, fast forward, pause, etc.), select tv shows, play games, listen to music, watch the view of the plane, and a flight map. I watched Kicking & Screaming, Off the Map, an episode of George Lopez & Becker, and Monster in Law. Throat still hurting very much - started taking Amoxicillin at 1:30 pm.

Monday, September 12

Still on plane…. Approx. 8 hours into our flight, we stopped on Sal Island to re-fuel and switch crews - we did not get off the plane - were here for about 45 minutes. Left Sal Island at 6:30pm CST - have about 8 more hours left until we get to Johannesburg. Scheduled to arrive at 9:58 am SAT (South African time) - 2:58 am CST. My ears were hurting very badly, can’t get them to pop; throat also hurts terribly. Were served a light dinner (ham & turkey sandwiches); had an awful lunch, and were given snacks frequently - stale cookies and biscotti. Will have breakfast 2 hours prior to landing in Joburg. Actually slept for a few hours, woke up at 1:00 am CST/8:00 am SAT - waiting for breakfast… got eggs, fruit, yogurt, hash browns, OJ. Arrived in Joburg @ 10:20 am SAT, went through customs/immigration; met up with Nicky, got luggage and transferred to hotel in Sandton via van. Sandton is the business and economic capital of Johannesburg. Were greeted at Sandton Sun hotel http://www.ichotelsgroup.com/h/d/ic/1/en/hd/jnbha with fruit drinks/smoothies. Went up to hotel room - very big hotel! I was on the next to the top floor. Group went on township tour to Sowento from 1-4, but I’m feeling so sick (congested & sore throat) that I decided to stay behind, take a shower & rest. The group said it was ok, but they were so tired that they feel asleep most of the time. Took a nap from 1-2, watched Dr Phil, Days of our Lives, & Sunday night baseball on ESPN. Took a wonderful steam shower, there were speakers in the bathroom so you could hear what was on tv. Went down and checked out the HUGE, really nice shopping mall that was attached to our hotel while waiting for the others to get back from their tour. 5:00 - met group in hotel lobby and went on site inspection of our hotel, and then drove to The Saxon hotel www.thesaxon.com - beautiful place, used to be someone's home! It was located in a residential area that looked like BelAir - mansions with big security fences & large entrance gates. Bill Clinton was there last month, Oprah stays there often. We did a site inspection and then had a very fancy dinner. I ate Kingklip - a very good tasting white fish. Returned back to Sandton Sun after dinner. I had been trying to call home all day and couldn’t use my phone card that I bought and cell phone didn’t work, very upsetting. Finally got to call Bobby - went to Business Center in hotel and just called direct (not cheap), then awhile later, my parents called my hotel room and gave me the access numbers to use their MCI calling card (39 cents a minute). I was very home sick this night.

Tuesday, September 13

Wake up at 7:00 am (feeling a little bit better than the day before, got a couple hours of sleep) Breakfast at 8:00
Left to return to Joburg airport at 9:00
Weather today in Joburg: sunny, 70’s - very nice! Flew from Joburg to Greater Kruger National Park on a little SAA prop plane which sat 30 people - only 10 on board so we got to spread out. I sat in a window seat behind the wing. Very smooth takeoff, were served smoked chicken (cold cut) sandwiches and mini chocolate bars and OJ. (got lots of juice on this trip!) Flew over some terrain that looked like the Grand Canyon; lots of big rolling hills and dessert area. Arrive in Mala Mala airstrip at 12:00 pm – were met at the bush airstrip for our transfer to Lion Sands Private Game Reserve www.lionsands.com via an open Jeep-like vehicle - this was our first, unformal game drive because we saw several animals. The road was pretty windy and bumpy, but we were driving slow so it was ok. We arrived and once again were greeted with juice & also damp cool cloths to freshen up from the drive. We realized that we were short on time, so we did a very fast site inspection – the place was gorgeous! Had a very quick, small lunch - fortunately I had eaten the food on the plane! We then had to rush around and leave to go back to airport. At this point we were very late for our plane so we drove like maniacs to get to Skukuza Airstrip for our flight to the next lodge! Probably going 50 miles an hour on these VERY bumpy rides - crazy ride! We were hanging on for dear life - I was in the back with Christa, and she never had a chance to fully get into her seat before the vehicle took off and she lost her sandal! Our driver got a call on his radio and we had to turn around and go back for it - it was very funny!! But now we had to drive even faster! Yikes!! Being in the back, I bounced around like I was on the Jack Rabbit roller coaster - flying out of my seat - if I wouldn’t have been holding on, I would have fallen out of the vehicle. We finally got to the airport and all survived our dangerous ride. We then got on an even tinier plane - 8 seater - old, very crowded. The flight only lasted 20 minutes and we landed on a dirt airstrip in the middle of the bush. We were met by Dale from Singita Private Game Reserve http://www.singita.com/ - he was our Ranger for the time we were there. Very nice, reminded me a little of Darren Wright. Again were greeted with towels & drinks (bottled water). We hopped into his Land Rover and traveled an hour to the lodge - on paved roads, what a treat!! We saw some animals on our transfer. Arrived at Singita - AMAZING! There are several “branches” of Singita, most of us stayed at Sweni (only 8 cottages total) and Nicky & Christa stayed in Le Bombo (just a short walk away). We each had our own building. Rooms were not attractive from the outside, but are fabulous on the inside! Rack rate for this place is $1200 per person, per night. There were 3 showers in each cabin, 1 totally inside (I used this one), 1 inside, but had a glass wall so that you could look outside, and 1 totally outside - the nature shower. Had 2 toilets, a tub, and 4 sinks. Bed had a mosquito net around it. And there was also a bed out on the balcony where you could sleep. No thank you! Besides, it was way too windy out that night. I think Carol slept out on her balcony. She’s brave!

Went on our first game drive that evening 5-8 pm. Again, our ranger/driver was Dale and our tracker was Seabol (aka Seabs) Seabs sat in a seat attached to the front of the game vehicle and was in charge of spotting the wildlife and their tracks in the ground to figure out which way the animals went and how fresh they were. Also analyzed dung - had to know what animal it came from, how fresh it was, etc. Also, Dale & Seabol communicated to each other in Swaheli. We saw giraffes, buffalo, lion & lioness (they were flirting with each other!), elephants, birds, antelope, crocodiles, and a bunny! (scrub hare) Made me miss my Bunny! When it got dark, Seabol used a high-powered spot light to find the animals. Came back, had dinner at 9, got back to room at 11, took a shower and was in bed at 12. Didn’t sleep well again, hard time breathing with the congestion & sore throat, fell asleep around 2-ish and had wake up call at 5 am!!

Wednesday, September 14

Wake up call 5, coffee/hot cocoa at 5:30, began game drive at 6. It was very chilly (maybe 60 and cloudy) so we were each equipped with blankets and hot water bottles! We saw lots of animals - zebra, hippos swimming in water, elephants (even a baby!), giraffes, etc… Came back to lodge had a great breakfast at 9, had French toast and bacon, OJ, yogurt, strawberries, and a croissant. Maybe ate too much because I got sick to my stomach. Left at 11 and had a 2-hour road transfer by van to Thornybush Lodge. On the way we saw a mother giraffe with 2 young ones - maybe twins! Also saw a turtle sitting on the ground next to a pond. Inside the pond were some hippos, and next to it were some warthogs, I think. As we were driving we had views of the Drakensburg mountains, very pretty. Arrived at Thornybush Game Lodge (Main) http://www.thornybush.co.za/ at 2:30 pm - scheduled to arrive at 1 (very long transfer!) Ate lunch right away - buffet - had a little chicken breast, yummy bread, little bit of salad, and a coke. Checked into our rooms and had a couple minutes to change clothes & take some medicine. 4:00 - met and left for evening game drive. Beautiful weather - sunny and high 60’s/low 70’s. Ranger’s name was Charl, ranger trainee Kiran, and tracker was Ishmael. When Shelly Young & Karen Trigg (INTRAV coworkers) were there last year, they had Charl as their ranger also, and they loved him. Charl remembered them! We saw some Impala (big surprise! We saw thousands of them.), Kudu, giraffes, a pride of lions (2 females and a bunch of cubs), a bush baby (so cute - it bounced like a bouncing ball!), zebras, dwarf mongoose, an African wildcat (endangered species!) - looks just like a domestic cat, gray dieker, vultures, warthogs, nyala, bush buck, water buck, steen buck, and then we stopped at sunset for drinks & snacks. Came back to the lodge around 8:30, I was so exhausted (up since 5 and have only gotten a couple hours of sleep each night since leaving home) that I decided to skip dinner with the group and instead had it delivered to my room. Beef fillet & potatoes. When I got back to my room, housekeeping had already drawn my bath and there were rose petals sprinkled on the bathroom floor with candles all around. Nicky’s dad, former owner of Grovesnor Tours (INTRAV’s tour operator in SA) had been to Thornybush earlier that week and paid for this service to be done for all of us. There was also champagne, but I was afraid to drink it because I didn’t know it was free! Called my mom, called Bobby, took a bath, and then broke shampoo bottle - oops! Got stuff out for the morning and got ready for bed. Went to adjust A/C and it’s broken! Called front desk, someone came to look at it and couldn’t fix it. Oh well, it was getting pretty cool outside so it was ok. Bedtime 11:00.

Thursday, September 15

Wake up call: 5:30 am. Got a wonderful night’s sleep - finally! It was cold though in my room when I got up, which meant it was going to be quite cold for our game drive - right, it was! Layered clothes: 3 shirts, fleece jacket, safari pants & shoes. Wished I would have had a scarf & hat too!

We saw very few animals, and began our search for rhino. About 2 hours later, we finally found them! 3 of them! They were huge, but Charl told us they were young males. We got really close to them in the vehicle, about 15 feet. Then we drove a little ways away from them, and got out of the vehicle! Typically a safari no-no, but this was ok because we had strict rules to follow from Charl. We had to walk in a single-file line, he went first with his rifle, then we all filed in behind him (I was third in line) and then Ishmael was last, carrying a first aid kit. We had to be very quiet, and we tried, but Charl said they heard us because they started running away. Also, the wind changed and they probably smelled us. He said since they were young that they would be afraid and run if they sensed us, and they did.

After those adventures, we visited a couple other lodges, Chapungu Luxury Tented Camp, Serondella, and Shumbalala. (may not be exactly correct about all those locations) We then returned to camp for a delicious breakfast – ate rice krispies, croissant, and fruit. Went back to our rooms, packed up and were supposed to take off on our little charter plane at 11, but for some reason, our plane was delayed, so since Thornybush had their own airstrip we could hear when the plane arrived, so we just hung out at the lodge, watched the warthogs eat the lawn, shopped in the store, walked around a bit, worked on our journals, etc.

We finally boarded our plane at 12:30 and then arrived at Kirkman’s Kamp http://www.exeterlodges.com/kirkman_camp.asp 30 minutes later. Had lunch – picked up some meat that I thought was roast beef from the buffet, starting eating it, and just as I was taking a bite, Carol (who was sitting across from me) said, “oh, you’re eating the ostrich!” I had no idea! It tasted like roast beef, it was good. We had a short time to relax, so I went back to my room, unpacked a little, put some clothes out to be laundered (free service there), and went and sat by the pool for a couple minutes. It was beautiful, but the water was way too cold for me! Nicky swam though.

Our ranger at Kirkman’s Kamp was Nicholas, and he did pretty much everything for us during our stay – he was our ranger, our porter, our waiter, everything! Very nice guy, so polite and perfect manners. He had only been doing this for about a year, but he loved it and wanted to do it forever. His accent was thick though, I think he was from Joburg, and it was a bit hard to hear him at first – but that was also because my ears hadn’t popped yet from the last flight. Ugh. Our tracker’s name was Elvis. Yes, Elvis.

We left for our game drive at 4 pm.
Highlights of the game drive:
Chased a leopard through some very thick brush, kind of swamp-like. We finally found her and she was gorgeous!! She was trying to be very elusive and we only caught a couple glimpses of her because she kept sneaking of into the weeds. The funniest part was when we kept following her through all that thicket! I mean, there was nowhere that Nicholas didn’t think we could go, over big rocks, through mud, up & down steep hills, and we did get stuck a couple times! At one point we all thought the Land Rover was going to flip over because we were nearly vertical, going up a hill, over rocks, and our back wheels were spinning in mud. But finally, we got free! I think we all said to Nicholas, ok, that’s enough chasing the leopard, let’s get out of here!!!
We saw 9 lions laying in the grass, 2 were injured… very sad!

We stopped at a great location, up on a hill, to view the beautiful sunset. Nicholas & Elvis brought snacks & drinks for us, but unfortunately I was in desperate need of a restroom so I had to humbly ask Nicholas to scope out a safe, nearby, hidden area for me to go. (Christa took a picture of me asking him!) What a memory, going in the bush!

Overall, we saw 4 out of the Big Five just tonight at Kirkman’s Kamp, only the buffalo we didn’t see. Amazing!

Came back to camp and had a boma dinner! This is an open-air meal in a reed-enclosed boma around a campfire. Once we were seated at a long table, the ladies on the staff (housekeeping & kitchen) came out in a line and were chanting (singing African gospel songs), stomping (and one lady had rattles attached to her ankles), and clapping. After our “entertainment”, we were served salad & soup, and then dinner was served buffet style. I ate lamb (off the rack), mashed potatoes, and homemade ice cream with chocolate sauce. Yum!

Went back to room and went to bed at 11:30.

Friday, September 16

Wake up call 5:30; coffee/tea/hot chocolate at 6:00. Left for final game drive shortly after. Weather was quite chilly again. We saw a bunch of elephants right away – there was a small baby (probably about a year old) with it’s mom and she was mad at us so we kept on driving, didn’t stop, so we didn’t get any pictures. We saw another elephant down at the bottom of a little hill so we drove partway down, but he got really nervous and started running around and he trumpeted at us! We were informed that this behavior was a sign that he was just warning us not to come any closer, that he wasn’t go to charge us. We later saw quite a few rhinos, a croc, monkeys, and buffalo. We got to see all BIG FIVE just at Kirkman’s Kamp! We even got a certificate that says so.

We were all pretty tired this morning, I even dozed off a couple times while we were driving around. Got back to camp at 8:40, packed up suitcases, had breakfast at 9 (corn flakes, yummy homemade biscuit, bacon, fruit, yogurt & granola.) Left at 9:30 to go get on our plane at the Mala Mala airstrip – got on our last little/chartered plane at 10:30 – flew 20 minutes to KMIA airport (Kruger Mpumalanga International Airport) – boarded a small commercial plane and left for Cape Town.

Feeling much better today! Still a bit congested, glands still slightly swollen, throat only hurts a little, but now I’m coughing. Ugh!

Ate a really bad lunch on the plane. Arrived in Cape Town at 1:30 pm – met Maggie and Amelia at the airport, they brought us to the hotel, The Mount Nelson. www.mountnelson.co.za
Beautiful, huge, old, charming hotel! We had a great view of Table Mountain from the hotel. (neglected to take a single picture of the mountain from the ground) Quote from their website: “Nestling at the foot of Table Mountain and set in nine acres of lush gardens, the Mount Nelson Hotel is one of Cape Town's most elegant hotels offering unparalleled tradition, history and luxury.” And it’s true! We ran to our rooms and change clothes; 5 minutes, we met back up as a group and drove to do a quick hotel inspection at the Cullinan Inn Hotel http://cybercapetown.com/CullinanInn/index.php . Then we went to Table Mountain and took the cable car to the top – not scary at all!!! Amazing views! Table Bay is gorgeous! The weather was perfect – sunny and not windy – very important when you’re over 3500 feet high!

Bad news – camera battery died and charger won’t work – rechargeable batteries aren’t working either. Trying to find a place to get batteries, but hard to find time and can’t find a store that sells them. Still haven’t bought a single thing, other than bottles of water! After done looking at Table Mountain, take cable car back down, drive around the “bowl” awhile and go back to hotel.

We all are so tired and so hungry – 6:00 pm – we walked to a restaurant that was just a couple blocks from hotel – a Mediterranean restaurant that Nicky recommended, called Café Paradiso. I got a HUGE smoked chicken salad with dried mango and cashews – it was very good! Also got a yummy dessert – chocolate walnut brownie – that I split with Carol.

Came back to my room – wanted to go to bed early, but A/C was broken, had to wait for maintenance, couldn’t figure out shower, had to take a bath, talked to parents & Bobby. Finally went to bed at midnight – a/c still not working after he “fixed” it, but ok since I had opened my humungous window and door that goes out to my private balcony to cool off the room.

Saturday, September 17

Wake up call 7:00 – thank goodness it’s not 5:00!!!
Breakfast 8:00
Leave hotel at 9:00
Begin driving toward Cape Point – road goes along the coast, very windy, very beautiful! Saw many beaches, many beautiful homes. Stopped en route at a scenic view point to get an awesome view of the Cape of Good Hope. Spotted a whale way down in the water. Got back in van, drove a short ways, stopped at a bed & breakfast - http://www.thelongbeach.com/ - lovely, right on Long Beach. Saw several ranches near Long Beach that had horses for horseback beach riding.

Weather was perfect, sunny 75 degrees.

Resumed driving, entered Table Mountain National Park grounds, arrived at Cape Point – rode funicular to the top – excellent view of the Cape of Good Hope, saw the lighthouses on Cape Point. The original one is on the very top, but it was too high, got hidden in the clouds/fog and the ships couldn’t see it, so they built another one – lower, right on the edge of the mountain. Walked back down the mountain, left Cape Point, went to lunch at the Black Martin restaurant. Had kingklip wrapped in bacon and hung on a kabob – very, very delicious!

Next we went to the penguin colony in Boulders, located in False Bay. These penguins are called African penguins, but their common name is jackass penguin because the noise they make sounds very similar to a donkey braying, it does, I heard it! The penguins were about 14-18 inches tall, we saw about 100-200 of them. Very cute. After looking at them, I did my first bargaining… there were a couple vendors set up near the parking lot and one was selling these bowls that I had been looking at over the last couple of days. So I went up to them and asked how much they were and they said 50 (Rand), but I couldn’t understand clearly so I said 15? He said 50, again I still didn’t hear, so I said 15? He said no. Then I finally got it. 50 wasn’t a bad price, but I still wasn’t positive that I wanted it so I said no thanks and as I was walking away he said, “Ok, I’ll give it to you for 15.” Ha! That’s just a little over 2 dollars! What a deal! I was very pleased.

Drove back to hotel, took about 45 minutes. Christa and I got dropped off at a shopping mall so that we could run into a pharmacy-like store to get my batteries. Came back to hotel, had an hour to relax (wow!). Met back up with group at 6, did a site inspection of the Mount Nelson. Had drinks in the Planet Bar and hor d’ourves with Andrew, the hotel manager. Then we began our tour of the kitchen and our Chef’s Table event. He even got aprons! There was a table set up for us in the back of the kitchen, and as we were walking through the kitchen, the chef staff clanged their pots for our arrival and formed a tunnel for us to walk through. Head Chef Allen (looked a little like Russell Crowe) came out to talk to us about the menu and gave us our tour. There were many rooms/areas and freezers. Allen took us into the meat freezer and held up a live crayfish (similar in size to a lobster), he said, “This is Boris, he will be your starter tonight.” (fortunately not true) And then he showed us a really old oven that was going to be demolished the next day. We started eating, and between meals, Allen gave us a demonstration making a salmon dish (just like watching tv!). Karen & Carol got to get their picture taken in the kitchen “cooking” with Allen – so funny!!

Back to room, showered, and packed up suitcases.
Bedtime 12:00.

Sunday, September 18

Wake up 6:45
Breakfast 7:30
Left Mount Nelson at 8:15, drove to Table Bay Hotel http://www.suninternational.com/resorts/tablebay/ (where we are staying the next two nights). Did a quick site inspection and quickly checked into our rooms, I think... Left hotel to drive to the Winelands Region. Our drive from Cape Town to the winelands took us through long stretches of highway with shacks lining both sides – for miles and miles. First stop: Spier Winery. Here we had a private wine tasting (at 10:00 in the morning).

We tasted 5 wines: 2 reds, 3 whites.
1. Chenin Blanc (young)
2. Vigonier
3. something I didn’t like
4. Merlot
5. Sweet wine – I liked it so much, I bought a bottle.

After the tasting was over, we walked around the grounds, shopped a little. There was a cheetah farm on the grounds, but we forgot to go see them.
Left Spier and drove a short ways to do a site inspection.
Then drove through a really quaint town called Stellenbosch. We drove by Stellenbosch Theological Seminary and a beautiful reformed church. Couldn’t get a picture because we didn’t stop.

Had lunch at Boschendal http://www.boschendal.com/ – a very charming estate/winery. We walked through the manor house, the rose garden, and looked at the vineyards and chickens. When we walked into the restaurant, we were greeted with drinks – I had the BEST sparkling grape juice, it was so good! The restroom had the coolest sink; everyone was talking about it. We had a huge buffet meal, I ate yummy spinach soup, chicken and salad. For dessert I had cheesecake, brandy snaps filled with cream, cream puffs dipped in the chocolate fountain, and marva pudding – we go the recipe for this.

After eating, we left and drove to Franschoek (another Dutch word) – did a site inspection, drove to Paarl (another town), did a site inspection at the Grand Roche Hotel http://www.granderoche.co.za/gr/homepage.asp where there was a beautiful, intimate chapel on the property for weddings, and the bride & groom got a plaque with their names on it placed on the door. Then we drove back to Table Bay. Got back at 4:20.

Had the evening off so a few of us decided to meet at 5:30 and do some shopping in the huge shopping center - The Shops at the Waterfront – which were attached to our hotel!! Very nice! Lots of shops, mostly normal “mall shops” (clothing stores, small dept store, Hallmark, kiosks, coffee/snack shops, a grocery store, and a few African souvenir shops.) We stopped for a while and had plans to meet for dinner, but I got sick while in the grocery store (Pick and Pay) with Carol and had to leave and go back to my hotel room. I ended up ordering room service for dinner, I got a cheeseburger and fries (yay!) and sorbet/fruit. Went to bed at 11.

Monday, September 19

(Didn’t take any pictures today)
Got up at 8:30 (the most sleep I’ve gotten in one setting!), had breakfast at 9:15.
The Table Bay Hotel breakfast buffet was AMAZING! I got pancakes! It was the biggest breakfast/brunch buffet I’ve ever seen – hot food, cold food, pastries, fresh fruit, even a seafood table! We sat outside (Christa, Carol, and myself) and ate, it was sunny but the air was cool. Christa & I then went shopping in the mall stores and then walked over to a Craft Mall; we bought a couple things there too – finally I’m getting my souvenirs! Then we walked back through the mall and stopped at Woolworth’s (a small department store) and I bought the cutest capri’s! We then had a few minutes to run back up to the room and then we met the group at 12:45 to leave for our afternoon activities.

First stop, Winchester Mansion Hotel http://www.kapstadt.de/winchester/ . We did a site inspection, then had lunch at Harvey’s – the hotel’s restaurant in their courtyard. We ate outside and the air was pretty cool – I was wearing a skirt and regretting it. First we had a tomato & buffalo cheese salad – I thought it was awful and only had one bite, but everyone else seemed to like it. Then we had chicken – the meat was really good, but I didn’t like anything else on the plate. Finally there was crème brule for dessert. It was delicious, but so rich – I only ate ½ and felt sick. Others were sick too. Then we left and went to another hotel – Park Inn – it was hip & trendy, but not very deluxe (it was a 3-star property) – very unlike all the other properties we had been to so far. After the site inspection, we had some time to venture out into the flea market of Green Market Square. I bought a couple things from the vendors – had some fun bargaining. The weather was very chilly and windy – we were quite eager to get back in the van!

Drove back to the hotel (Table Bay) and had an hour to go back to our rooms and get ready for dinner. I was very sleepy (why? I don’t know, I slept so long last night!) and made the mistake of laying down while I was watching Oprah on TV, and I decided to close my eyes for a couple minutes, didn’t plan on sleeping so I didn’t set my alarm. Well, at 6:00 (10 minutes after our scheduled meeting time) I wake up to a phone call from Nicky asking where I was! Yikes! I freaked out, told her I’d be down in a minute, yeah right! I hadn’t even brushed my hair before I laid down, I ran around the room like a maniac trying to get dressed, brush my teeth, I put my make-up on in the elevator. Shaking like a leaf, I met up with the group, apologized, and we walked over to the Cape Grace Hotel http://capegrace.accommodationsouthafrica.co.za/ . Just a few blocks from Table Bay. We did a site inspection of the property, it is a very nice hotel, amazing spa, and we saw the suite where the Clinton’s have stayed a couple times. Then we had a very nice dinner in their restaurant. Ute, our host (guest relations manager of Cape Grace), told us about all the famous guests that have stayed there: Samuel L Jackson, Chris Rock (their favorite), and Nicholas Cage to name a few. She told us that Nicholas Cage made the biggest scenes, even though he said, I don’t want anyone to know I’m here. He was there with his new sushi waitress wife and tons of bodyguards. For dinner we had a salad that I didn’t like, but I can’t remember what it was… and the main course was the best lamb I’ve ever had in my life! I was called nuru lamb – according to Nicky, the best lamb you can get. It was slow-cooked and pulled off the bone – it melted in your mouth! For dessert I chose a cheese platter (very common dessert in SA) – which I didn’t eat – too full. Following our meal, we were driven back to our hotel in a really nice BMW.

Got bags packed and went to bed at 11:00.

Didn’t sleep much this night, worried that I might not wake up for our early morning the next day.

Tuesday, September 20

Alarm went off at 4:45 am
Had a small breakfast in hotel lounge at 5:30 am
Depart hotel (& Cape Town) at 6:00 am
Amelia drove us to the Cape Town airport – from here we flew to Joburg. At JNB (Joburg Airport), Karen and I stored a couple bags in the storage area. I wanted to make it easy and just have one checked bag going to Vic Falls.
Our flight left Joburg at 11:25 am and we arrived in Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe at 1:00 pm. It was quite warm when we got off the plane and we proceeded into the “airport” – it was a very small building. We had to wait in a very long (slow-moving) line in the crowded, un-air conditioned building to get our Zimbabwe visas. ($30) I think that process took about an hour. Then we gathered our suitcases and met up with our driver. Her name was Mano (not sure about that ??) and she drove us to the Vic Falls Hotel http://www.victoriafallshotel.com/ . We drove through some areas that finally made me feel like I was in Africa – nothing bad, just desolate, poor, and old. Many people were sitting and standing next to the road – perhaps waiting for transportation, I don’t know. Many women were carrying things on their heads.

We arrived at the hotel and it was very pretty – the staff greeted us with very delicious fruity drinks and cold, damp cloths. We went back to our rooms for 10 minutes to change clothes – I put on shorts – and then we were off to the Falls http://www.places.co.za/html/vicfalls.html . Victoria Falls is on a high plateau between the Limpopo and Zambezi rivers. The Zambezi River widens to more than 5,000 feet at the falls and then plunges down a chasm 225 to 355 feet wide.

We drove to an area of public entrance to the Zimbabwe side of the Falls. There were a couple of stands & vendors selling drinks and curios, but that was it – no commercialization – nothing like Niagara Falls! Mano explained to us that this was their dry season (spring) and that the Falls were going to be very sparse, and they were! But they were still very beautiful. She said that they are actually better to view like this because when they are at full capacity, you almost can’t see the waterfalls, and you definitely can’t see the bottom, because all you can see is spray. And you also have to wear raincoats because you get really wet. We only got a very light misting. The falls were definitely a lot taller than Niagara and it was very beautiful with the rocks. We stood as close as you can in Niagara – maybe even a little bit closer – but you walk through a forest-like area to get to each viewing spot.

After our brief walking tour of the Falls, we went to a market – here was a spot where many vendors came and laid out their handmade goods – many carvings and other curios. It reminded me quite a bit of Jamaica. The vendors were very aggressive – not in a bad way – but they were very eager to sell their stuff. I did a bit of bargaining and got a couple things. Others in our group brought t-shirts and jeans to trade. In Zimbabwe we paid for things in US dollars. Their currency (Zimbabwe dollars) is basically valueless. Approx US$1 = Zim$25,000. Oh, and it was very hot this afternoon.

We left the market and then headed to our Sundowner Cruise on the Zambezi River. The watercraft was an old pontoon boat and there was a table & chairs set up for us – we were the only ones on the boat, along with Shane (our tour guide), and 2 crew members were on board. We headed out onto the river and were served drinks & snacks. While out on the water, we saw quite a few crocodiles in the water, we saw hippos, and even an elephant on shore. We saw some women doing their laundry in the river. AND we saw people swimming in the river – JUST inches from the edge of the falls!!! There were several big groups of them – looked like mostly teenagers. We couldn’t believe it! We watched the sun set and then headed back to land. This was very enjoyable and relaxing – the weather was perfect once again.

We drove back to the hotel and had an hour to shower and get ready for our fancy dinner at the Livingstone dining room in our hotel. Most of us wore skirts. Before dinner we did a site inspection and learned more about the property. The hotel is over 100 years old and many members of Royal families, international and local statesmen, and celebrities worldwide have visited and stayed here. After the tour, we met _______ for pre-dinner drinks in their new bar, Stanley’s. Then we proceeded into dinner. The room we were in reminded me of the room where we had our wedding reception, only a lot bigger. Dinner was ok, mozzarella basket, celery soup, beef cordon bleu (kinda weird), and fruit/ice cream for dinner.

During dinner there was a band and they were singing/playing American songs – pretty good!

After dinner we went back to our rooms and Carol offered to come check my room for bugs. The hotel was very nice, but it was old and open-aired walkways, so bugs were everywhere – big ones! So Carol and Christa came to my room and we found a gigantic wasp and a big spider. I was very scared of the bugs and Christa was scared of her room, so we decided to bunk up and share my room – we had 2 twin beds. So we moved her stuff over, Carol got our mosquito nets set up, and then we asked the security guard to kill & remove the bugs for us and he did. So we got all snuggled into bed and both slept pretty well.

Wednesday, September 21

Our last day in SA
We got up at 7, had breakfast at 7:30, and had a couple minutes to walk around the grounds of the hotel and take some pictures. From the back lawn we had a great view of the bridge over the falls where people bungee jump. (crazy people!) Our guide driver was late, but finally came… we then drove over that bridge, leaving Zimbabwe and crossing over into Zambia. Nicky took care of our visas and while we were sitting in the bus waiting for her, vendors came up to the windows and wanted to sell us bracelets. Everyone but me bought at least one.
We drove over to a hotel and did two site inspections and then we walked down and saw the falls from the Zambia side. We walked across a little bridge that apparently is impassible in the rainy season. We got very close to the falls here.

Soon after, it was time to head to the airport. The Zambia airport was quite a bit bigger than the Zimbabwe one was – and it was new. We had to wait in line quite awhile for security, but once we got through, we had over an hour to wait.

We boarded our plane and our flight to Joburg was 1 ½ hours long. When we got to Joburg, we went and retrieved our stored bags and checked in for our flight to Atlanta. We had a couple hours until our plane boarded so we took a shuttle to the Emporer Palace hotel and did our FINAL site inspection. Carol Scott was there to meet us and they had a wonderful spread of snacks for us.

Then at 6:00 pm, we drove back over to the airport and found a really long security line, fortunately it moved pretty quickly and we had time to buy our last souvenirs and make a quick phone call home and board our plane. We all sat in basically the same seats as the flight over – fortunately Pat and I were in the same row again and had the middle seats empty again! Yay!

Plane left Joburg at 7:50 pm. We flew 8 hours and stopped in Sal Island to refuel and switch crews. The majority of the flight we flew in the dark so it was very easy to sleep, which I did a lot of. I also watched 3 movies, A Lot Like Love, Madagascar, and Herbie. I also read ½ of my book.

Thursday, September 22

We arrived in Atlanta at 8:20 am. Retrieved our luggage, rechecked it, went through customs/immigration. We had to split from the group now because we all flew different airlines – Nicky, Christa and I stayed together. We proceeded to gate, waiting about an hour, boarded our final plane at, and landed in St Louis at 12:00 pm. Bobby skipped his classes that day to pick me up and spend time with me that afternoon – we even stopped on the way home to pick up a pizza because I had been craving it so much! What a wonderful, thoughtful husband!


And now that you've read all about my trip & hopefully visited the links I posted, go to the following 2 links to view my photo albums!!! I had to make them into two seperate albums because there are so many pictures.

Part One: share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AbM2jdk0Yt2H9

Part Two: share.shutterfly.com/action/welcome?sid=8AbM2jdk0Yt2IB


Well, I thought I'd start out with a little intro... my name is Jennifer and this is my blog! Voila!!

OK, maybe a little more info would be a good idea... this blog is a spin-off of Bobby's blog with the main purpose of showcasing my pictures and journal from my awesome trip to South Africa last year. I'm really not sure how I'm going to format all of the info yet, but I'm sure I'll figure out something. So, ENJOY! (and I definately welcome comments)

Thursday, February 23, 2006