Monday, May 28, 2012

Southern Africa

I just returned from a month long journey through South Africa, Botswana, and Swaziland. I went as the drummer for the BYU Young Ambassadors. When we weren't busy performing our show or doing firesides, we did as many outreaches as we could fit in to our schedule. Most of our outreaches involved going to an orphanage,  playing with the kids for a couple of hours, reading them books, doing a little performance for them, then leaving them with books, toys, candy, or other things that we brought or that were previously donated. We also visited an orphanage/hospice for children and adults who had HIV/AIDS, a home for children who were recovering from severe burns, and a couple of nursing homes. We also did quite a few workshops with high school aged kids where we performed for them, and then taught them a song and dance of sorts. Getting to know the people of Africa was one of my favorite things about going. They made us feel so welcomed, respected, and loved, and we couldn't get enough of each other. We stayed with members almost every night we were there. I was especially impressed with the members of the Church there. I was expecting that while we were there we were going to have to try to help strengthen and lift the Church members, but in reality they did that for us. The Church is very strong there.

I didn't take may camera with me to our outreaches and so most of my pictures are of the more touristy things we did. We will start with my time at the Lion Park, where we got to play with lion cubs and feed giraffes. This was one of the coolest things I've ever done in my life.
Here he is just nibbling on my leg.
Now He's gnawing on my arm. Believe it or not, lions have very sharp teeth and their jaws are actually quite strong as well...
A tender moment with the giraffe.
That tender moment turned in to quite the romantic exchange.
Working on his roar! Or yawning. Probably just yawning...
Best Friends.
Going in for the close up.
I got too close... Right after the last picture was taken, the lion jumped up and chomped at my face.  Luckily I was quick as lightening and escaped with my life. This pictures was taken in the process. There were signs all over that said that the park could not be held responsible for death or injury caused by the animals.

We also got to spend the night at Kruger National Park, one of Africa's largest game reserves. We went on an early morning jeep ride through the park to try to see as many animals as we could. We ended up seeing quite a few that were way off in the distance, but the jeep I was in also came upon a family of rhinos sleeping in the road. We almost got close enough to touch them.
The wild Kruger National Park

This is a watering hole we stopped at. I took this pictures because there was a hippo sticking his head out of the water. I can't seem to find the hippo anymore... can you?
These are white rhinos, not the endangered black rhinos.

These next pictures were taken from the bus on our way out of the park.

While in Swaziland, we took time to go to a cultural village which showcased traditional Swaziland homesteads and living conditions. At the end of the "tour" of their culture, they put on a 45 minute show with some traditional song and dance. Their signature move was to kick their leg aggressively over their head then rhythmically slam it back down on the ground. This was repeated many a time throughout the 45 minute presentation by both male and female.

During a 3 day stay at Durban, we were given a couple hours of free time one afternoon to play on the beach. As much as I really don't care for water, swimming in the Indian ocean was great. Even though we were getting into winter weather in Africa, the water was plenty warm and delightful. Here is a picture of the beach we played on.

These next two pictures are of the scenic coast we drove along on our way from Durban to Cape Town. 

While in Cape Town, we took a ferry to Robben Island, the place where Nelson Mandela was incarcerated for 18 years during the apartheid era.
This was taken from Robben Island looking back on to Table Mountain in Cape Town.

On our last day in Africa, we stopped by Cape Point. This is where the Indian and Atlantic oceans meet up and is also one of the most southern points of Africa. They say that at certain times you can actually see a pretty distinct line where the two oceans meet, but we were unable to spot it. I was skeptical of that, but it was confirmed by people who had been there before and had claimed to have been able to see the line. I was able to see that the two different oceans were different colors, though. Again, I've never been a huge fan of the ocean, but I will say that this was one of the most gorgeous places I have ever been. I'm sad that I'm not skilled enough with a camera to really capture it's beauty to do it justice, but just believe me that it was breathtaking.

The point that I hope to make here is that Africa is amazing. I'm expecting to get my hands on some more pictures of some other things we did on tour, and once I do I'll add another post about it.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

California's End....

So I've been back in Utah for about week now, and am definitely missing California (and not only the place, but the Christopherson's too). These are some pictures from a trip we took to the beach in Santa Cruz. It was a little chilly that day, but was still so fun. We took the scenic drive from San Francisco to Santa Cruz, which was sooo beautiful. All of these pictures, by the way, are courtesy of Jennie. I'm sure it's obvious...
Steven loved throwing sand
...and kicking sand
...and digging in sand.
He ended up in this tide pool
...and I had to pretty much drag him out, after he sat in it.

This is the one picture I took... from where I went running
My Mom came back to Utah with me, and has been an amazing help. She and Steven are doing lots of bonding, while I try and work as much as possible to make up for the 2 1/2 weeks I took off. And TJ gets home tomorrow!!!!! I can't believe I survived this month! I know that the only reason I did is because of my amazing sister, Jennie, stepping in and helping whenever it was obvious I was loosing it; her husband, Cody, watching Steven so many times so Jennie and I could do so many fun things together; Junie, Olive, and Henry for keeping Steven so entertained; and my Mom for basically taking over since we've gotten back to Utah (I've gotten to sleep in almost the entire week!!!). I love my family :)

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Fun

Steven has just been having a great time here with his cousins. He loves playing with Junie, and even though he and Olive butt heads some times, they have some fun moments too. He also just loved running around! He can basically stay entertained for hours if he has a big open space to run around in.
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I think I like his other sunglasses better....
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Henry hasn't quite gotten used to us being here yet. He gets really sad whenever Jennie leaves, even just the room. The other day, she had to run somewhere, and so left Henry and Olive home with me. Olive did fine, but Henry didn't do so well. After he finally stopped crying, he was just sitting in front of the door, waiting for Jennie, until he finally just fell asleep. It was one of the saddest things ever. I fest so bad! I don't mean to be a big scary aunt!
Jennie and I have been working on redoing her kitchen chairs. When we were outside sanding them down, the kids all decided it would be fun to come over and help at some point or another. It didn't last very long, though...
We also got to go to Olive's music class with her. Steven loved it! They basically just sang lots of songs that pretty much always had actions that went with them. At one point, they even handed out percussion instruments. Steven was in heaven.
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So bottom line, we're still having so much fun here. I am so grateful for such a wonderful sister that will put up with me and my [mostly] crazy child for almost 3 weeks. She and Cody have been so so helpful, too. I definitely get overwhelmed sometimes, and with TJ not here to help out, they have saved me more than a few times. They're just great :) I'm excited for one more week!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

California

As most of you know, TJ is now in Southern Africa! As of today, I believe he's in Botswana, but he's also been in Johannesburg and Soweto, South Africa (don't worry, he took the camera, so hopefully he'll be able to do an awesome post when he gets back). There are actually a few videos and pictures that the Young Ambassadors have posted on their Facebook page, so you should all check them out! Anyway, so he left early last tuesday morning. I stayed a few days longer in provo to get some work done, and then headed to California on thursday morning. The drive was long and pretty crazy with Steven, but he did pretty well, considering. He did spend a lot of time being pretty ridiculous, though, and yelling and throwing things at me. This, however, is how I choose to remember that trip.
I'm so excited to be here visiting Jennie and her family!! Since I couldn't go to Africa, that happiest place I could think of being was here. Besides the fact that I absolutely love spending time with my sister and her family, I love california. I've never lived here, and before about a year and a half ago, had never even been here! I always knew I would love it though. I love the ocean, and love warm weather, so California seemed like the perfect place. I've had so much fun so far, too! They live near the bay in this little town called Benicia. I go on runs down by the marina, and they live basically right downtown, so we can walk everywhere. It's great. Also, it's been so nice to not be the only one around to entertain my child! Junie has especially been doing a great job playing with Steven a lot. Jennie has been so much help, too. I got some awesome videos of her playing with Steven, but of course only one would load...
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I took this last video today while Jennie and I were out at some shops. Steven was so excited to get on the ride, but then all of a sudden, not excited at all. He apparently had way more fun watching Henry ride, than actually riding himself. And Henry had a grand old time! A year younger and already so much braver... Steven's got some catching up to do!
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