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December 6, 2009

The Imbondeiro Tree

This amazing and unusual looking tree, The Imbondeiro Tree, is very popular all over Angola. As the national tree of Angola, not only can it be found growing all over the country, but images of the Imbondeiro tree can be found on many different types of local art work such as paintings or carvings, and on clothing, car windows, signs, etc.
The Imbondeiro Tree, meaning "Giant Tree" can be found in other hot, dry, sub saharan African countries as well, where it is referred to as a Baobab or Adansonia Digitata tree. It is also known as the "upside-down tree" because the branches resemble tree roots, like it was planted upside down! According to legend...
"The Imbondeiro tree was among the first trees to appear on the land. Next came the slender, graceful palm tree. When the Imbondeiro tree saw the palm tree, it cried out that it wanted to be taller. Then the beautiful flame tree appeared with its red flower and the Imbondeiro tree was envious for flower blossoms. When the Imbondeiro tree saw the magnificent fig tree, it prayed for fruit as well. The gods became angry with the tree, and pulled it up by its roots, then replanted it upside down to keep it quiet. And it continued to grow like that."
It is said that they can live for over 1000 years! The massive trunk can hold up to 120,000 liters of water to endure a harsh drought. Sometime people live inside of the trunks or setup tiny shops or produce stands inside. The trees produce large white flowers and they have big, long, velvety fruits, called Mukua, that hang from the branches. The fruit is not usually eaten whole, but is said to be tasty when squeezed into juice. Other parts of the tree can be used for medicine, dyes, etc.
Our family has become quite attached to these trees too! They are so weird looking and it's fun to look at the windows while driving around town and find super funky ones. The name of our compound is "Imbondeiro" and we enjoy life here on the compound, so these trees will always remind of us of all the good times and good friends we've made while we've lived here!
Colby and Nolan making a pit stop in front of an Imbondeiro Tree while cruising around the compound

November 27, 2009

Rain Day

This morning my alarm clock went off at the same time it always does and just 3 minutes later, as I’m still lounging in bed, the phone rings with a message that there’s no school today! (There’s a large electrical problem.) Right away there was that familiar “snow day feeling” in the air that I remember from when I was a kid. So, I decided to make a big pancake breakfast to celebrate the special occasion. After eating (Isabel, our maid, joined us too- she had never had pancakes before!) the kids went out to play. Shortly after they went outside it started to drizzle, which is very rare here (It has only rained about 10 times in the year that we’ve lived here.) As the rain picked up the kids decided to play slip-and-slide on the trampoline…just like sledding! Then we all danced around in the rain, complete with a water fight…just like a snowball fight. The rain was actually chilly, so after about an hour we headed home to warm up with a nice warm shower- too bad we couldn’t have a nice, warm fire in the fireplace! It was only lunchtime, but the kids put on their pajamas so they’d be comfy to lounge around on this wet, wet day. And to top off our “Africa Snow Day”, a nice big mug of hot chocolate for everyone!

Hip! Hip! Horray for a Rain Day!

November 8, 2009

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween!

Can you guess who??

The boys showing off their tie-dye pumpkin shirts Transformers Colby and ZachThe Super heroes! The parents joined in on the fun too!

The kids went trick-or-treating around the compound. Zach and Colby ran from house to house and Nolan took his time and sampled some candy along the way saying, "more candy! more candy!" after every house.

the professional trick-or-treaters the whole gang- all the kids on the compound dressed up and ready to party!

After trick-or-treating there was a party up at the rec. center for all the kids, complete with games, dance competitions and lots of food!

Colby and his friend, Ty, competing in the doughnut game- racing to to see who can eat a doughnut off a string the fastest, without using any hands!

Willy trying to bob-for-apples... He got a little wet!
Happy Halloween from Superman Nolan, Transformer Colby, Transformer Zach, Batman Will and Cow Sandy!

October 27, 2009

Maritius Vacation

Mauritius!

We just got back from a week vacation in Maritius (rhymes with delicious!)- an island on the East Coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean (to the East of Madagascar).

just hanging out around the hotel

We had a great time doing beachy things like playing in the beautiful ocean, finding coral (no seashells on the beach!), and searching for the best "skipping rocks" to throw. We also went out in the middle of the oceon on a glass-bottom boat to look for fish. Our favorite activities from the week were playing in the hotel pool (where Zach learned how to do a back flip into the water!) ... ...and going down to the bottom of the ocean floor in a REAL submarine!

Oh, and we enjoyed all the delicious (Indian and seafood) meals and the beautiful sunsets everyday!

October 2, 2009

Whale Watching

Ay-yi-yi! We’ve been back from summer break for a little over a month now and I haven’t updated our blog. We had such a great trip home for the summer! It went by fast but we sure crammed in a lot of fun- lots of visits with friends and family, lots of trips to yummy restaurants, and lots of running around to get ready to come back here!

So, by the time we got back to Africa we were all ready to take a breather and slip back into the “simpler life” we have here. The big highlights since we’ve been back are; we’ve made some new friends with some really nice families that moved in, Zach lost two teeth in two days so we had our first visit from the African tooth fairy, Colby started kindergarten and is super excited about learning to read, and Nolan learned to ride his bike and wear big-boy underwear (which he likes to do at the same time!) Today we did something else new that we’ve all never done before- we went whale watching! We went out on the boat with some of our new friends, The Gants, who also have a household full of little boys. So there we are on a little boat in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa surrounded by new friends, good food, and big, huge whales! They were so big, so loud and so close to our boat! It was amazing! Zach said, “This is awesome!”, Colby didn’t like the sound they make when they blow water from their blowholes, and Nolan got excited to see “tall, tall fish” so close up! Pictures definitely don’t do it justice, but here’s a collection of some of our favorites!

check out the waterfall behind his tail!

look how close they are... that railing is the side of our boat

his bumpy head and tail

three of them together

4 of the 6 little whale watching fans

more tail...so cool

flipping over to wave goodbye :)

video

A short video of our whale watching trip

June 19, 2009

Home Sweet Home!

Yippeee! After a 14 hour plane ride and an additional 7 hours in airports...we're home!! The boys and I will be home for the entire summer break and Will is going to join us for the last two weeks. We've got a lot of fun stuff in store for the summer, but what we're looking forward to the most is just hanging out with friends and family and "enjoying 'All-American' lazy days of summer" (that's my motto for the next 7 weeks!) Over the last 48 hours I have realized how easy it is to forget everyday things! I haven't driven a car in 6 months and I had to ask the man at the car rental place how to put the car into drive. No joke...and it's a regular ol' automatic mini-van! When we pulled into our driveway for the first time Colby goes, "Oh! Now I remember this house!" Whenever we get in the car Nolan asks me, "home?" meaning "are we going home now, to our house in Africa?" Zach couldn't find the handle to flush the toilet! (The toilets in Africa have knob type things on the top of the tanks.) And my favorite....As the boys were parading from room to room in the house discovering things they had forgotten about, Colby said, "Oh, I have to go the bathroom!... Where is the bathroom in this place?" But, it didn't take long for us to readjust to American life- in the just 48 hours we've...been to McDonald's, shopped at Target, eaten Pizza Hut, enjoyed Slurpees, played at Chuck E. Cheese, met up with friends and eaten at our favorite sandwich shop! It feels great to be home. It's very true- there's no place like home! :)

June 14, 2009

Hospital Bags

I just started helping out with the “hospital bags” for the AIDS/TB hospital here in Luanda. The service project was started by a group of ex-pat wives because the conditions at the hospital are not very good. The only things that the hospital provides for its 250 or so patients are medicine (which doesn’t include pain medication) and a bed to sleep on (no sheets, just the mattress). These people are not provided with any food during their stay. It is assumed that relatives will bring them food, although this is often not the case. The patients sometimes have no family, the family could live too far to travel, or they feel that money is better spent on food for the children rather than someone who is dying. So a group of volunteers make up hospital bags every week to be distributed to the patients every Wednesday so that they have something to eat at least once a week. The bags contain; powdered milk (to be made into milk by adding water), a can of sardines, a hard-boiled egg, a yogurt and a piece of fruit. Tonight, Zach (with his love for Math) wanted to help me sort and count all the items to make up the bags. He was racing me- trying to see who was faster- me opening the bag or him measuring out the milk powder. He somehow also won. We had fun doing it together and I tried to explain why we were doing it, but it’s a pretty hard concept to grasp. I have not actually gone into the hospital because I don’t want to risk bringing TB back to my family, but I have heard that some of the patients are so hungry that they can’t get the containers of food open because their hands are shaking so bad. I decided to jump on the “hospital bag bandwagon” about a month ago because my friend, Hallie, is really involved with the project, it is something that I can easily do with kids at home, and I just can’t imagine being that hungry. As I stuff the bags I do often think to myself, “I wonder just how hungry I would have to be to enjoy that can of sardines!"

June 11, 2009

Check this dude out!

Check out this praying mantis we found at Zach and Colby's school!
He was huge! He was so fat he was having trouble walking- he was like waddling!
We moved him onto the grass because he was going so slow that he was going to get squished. And then I gave him a little advice- I told him to start praying that he loses a little weight (or he's not going to see too many more days)!

May 9, 2009

A Brighter Orphanage

Today Colby and I went on our first CAT (Community Action Team) Project with our friends Hallie and Ty. We went out to the Irmã Domingas Orphanage to help paint the orphanage’s classroom walls- to make a bright and cheery learning environment for the kids.
(Colby and Ty ready to get to work!)
We painted all of the classroom walls light brown and white to freshen them up. Colby did such a good job painting! He was working so hard to cover the walls with paint! I could tell he was proud of his work. And I was really proud of him. He never complained- just worked his little heart out.
(Colby concentrating on his painting)
At the end of the day we got to take a tour of the orphanage. Irmã Domingas (Sr. Domingas) started the orphanage at the beginning of the war after she gathered all the homeless children off the streets and kept them safe in a small shelter. As word spread more and more children found her and the group of children grew to be very big and turned into what the orphanage is today.

(Hallie talking to Irma)

When we first walked into the living area, I was shocked to see the kids watching tv! I just didn’t expect for them to have electricity, much less a tv! But they were watching Transformers (in Portuguese) so Colby and Ty just slipped right in and started watching it with the kids!
(Inside the orphanage, watching TV)
All the girls were dressed alike in little outfits that somebody hd sewn for them. They were so happy to see us- just full of hugs and smiles. They were excited to show us their home. There was one long room that had picnic tables for eating meals and the tv area was at the end of the room. The bedrooms had 4 bunk beds and one closet type thing for all their clothes and belongings. Many of the children have to double up in beds because with 45 orphans there just aren’t enough beds for everyone.

(A bedroom in the orphanage)

After spending time with the kids at the orphanage it was sad to leave. I couldn't help but cry as I looked out the bus window and watched all the kids wave us goodbye with their big, happy smiles. As I looked at all their faces I just kept thinking, "But these kids have no Mom or Dad and it's Mother's Day Weekend." I told Will when I came home, “It’s a good thing Angola doesn’t allow their orphans to be adopted outside of the country or I would have to bring a few back with me.” I was so sad yet so touched by those little kids. I really want to go back. This little guy’s name is Weeza (I’m just guessing on the spelling of his name!) and he is so cute!

(Weeza!)

He instantly reminded me of Nolan. He just had similar mannerisms, the same little attitude, and he’s about the same size. He was so full of hugs and he LOVED having his picture taken! As soon as I took the picture he would run over and sit on my knee so he could look at the picture of himself on the camera...It was so cute! All the kids loved having their picture taken and then looking at themsleves on the screen because they don't see photographs of themselves very often, if ever, and there are no mirrors around. I can't imagine not really knowing what I look like.

I found out later that Weeza was just 6 weeks old when the police found him lying in the middle of a trash pile. They brought him to the orphanage and Irma took him in and nursed him back to health. Now he’s two years old and he’s a spunky little guy!