What I’ve Learned So Far

Our plane touched down nearly a month ago and it is still strange and wonderful and topsy-turvy and weird, all wrapped into one. And that’s somehow a good thing. Like a salad with strong-flavoured greens, sliced strawberries, toasted egg noodles and bacon. Who knows why, it all gets together and it’s good. Splash some olive oil and white wine vinegar on top and invite me over, please. Partay in the mizouth.

Life has had a few new things to teach me in this fortnight and a half. If you’re organizational by nature, you might qualify some lessons as more important than others, but I don’t think it’s necessary to create categories and put these thoughts in boxes. They all have the potential to lead to positive growth, and for that reason, they’re valuable.

Here are a few highlights from the schoolbook of re-entry:

  1. Country music makes me sad. There, I said it. I didn’t realize it until now. I suppose I didn’t listen to it a lot before now, but country has morphed from what it was when I was a kid to almost-rock without some of the pretentiousness and cool, and I like that about it. But it makes me sad. I almost wept as some fella crooned about how I was gonna miss this season when it’s gone, staring at the boys in the backseat, the Bear making his baby brother giggle while we waited for the doors to open at preschool. Seems the sad stuff makes me sad, and the fun and happy stuff makes me sad because it’s usually about misbehaving and I just think all that misbehaving can only lead to bad consequences.
  2. You can’t trust Walmart to have the lowest prices. I depended on Pick n Pay 100% back in SA for all my grocery needs {except diapers} because we got such sweet discounts there through our health insurance. But now I have to shop around. Ouch. #Walmartfail
  3. People assess themselves as lovable or unlovable based on the way they are treated by others. And people are largely able or unable to receive the love of God based on how lovable or unlovable they feel, how deserving or undeserving they might assess themselves to be. So it makes sense on a whole ‘nother level that Jesus consistently instructed us to love one another. Love our neighbour. Love our enemies. Love, love love. Because the ability of many folks to receive God’s love, and the sacrifice of Jesus, can largely depend on their ability to believe that God could be loving, and if He is, He could love them.
  4. The Pirates are not looking to deliver on a promising season this year. Translation: my beloved alma mater’s football team is Trifling. Yep, that’s a capital T. However, they are still worthy of love and I hope they know that.

    {that’s the Bear, but it looks like the Tank, hey?}
  5. I am no longer confident of my ability to use of the English language. I have three and a half sets of English swirling around in my brain. {The half set being reserved for Afrikaans speakers of English in South Africa, who usually have slightly different word choices than the native English speakers. Or maybe it’s for people from Glasgow.} If requested to get a band-aid or a plaster for the Bear’s eina or boo-boo or owie, I might say I’m coming soon, in a wee while, or just now, after I go to the loo or toilet or restroom to fetch it. I struggle to decide which word to use to communicate something with my own mother. What?? I have now decided whichever word comes first is the one that’s coming out of my mouth so if you haven’t a clue what I’m blethering about, nae bother, just ask.

I rather think one especially lovely thing about life is that we get to keep learning. And this season sure has me off to a good start.



Knysna Memories

We have enjoyed a few peaceful days in the Knysna area with Goo-Goo and Gammy, and we’ve been taking a stroll down memory lane at the same time. It put a smile on our faces to realise that this has become the one and only destination where we’ve spent some holiday time with all of our parents.

First with G-pa back in 2009…


{This is on the Knysna estuary…see how the Bear enjoyed the boat ride?}


And then we were back when G.C. visited South Africa in 2010…


and see how the Bear enjoyed another boat ride…


{he enjoyed it by pooping!}

And now we’re here with Goo-Goo and Gammy and the Tank is about the age the Bear was when we were here in ’09! {Photos to come!}

It’s hard to believe our departure from these beautiful southern shores for the UK and then the USA is just seven days away. If I don’t have lots to say over the next few days, just be assured it’s because we’re preparing for the journey and I’m soaking in these last few moments of calling this wonderful country home. {Although I’ve been figuring out what home means and that it isn’t exactly related to an address… still, you know what I mean.}

This is a season pregnant with emotion: highs and lows, joys and sorrows. Please say a prayer for us… especially next week, on September 1st, when we take off for the UK. I’m looking forward to the return to the place I called home for four years, (and of course to the final destination) but saying goodbye to this place won’t be easy.

Still, it is well, it is well with my soul.


P.S. I am hoping to have some guest posts for your enjoyment while we are travelling, in case I’m not consistently able to check in. If you are interested in guest posting, please email me at cedcollie {at} gmail {dot} com.

Join Me in the Bushveld {Part Two}

{This post is continuing from Join Me in the Bushveld (part one) right here.}

We enjoyed a scrumptious brunch back in our holiday accommodation, keeping an eye on a mischievous monkey {who may or may not have stolen Blake’s dummy} keen to hop up onto the balcony and join our feast if no one was looking. We piled back into the car to hurry into the park in hopes of seeing more game…and specifically hoping for a good sighting of some lions.

Once we’re inside the reserve, the Bear scurries into the front passenger seat to sneak candy from a very willing Grandpa. He is finally getting the hang of looking for game, and we’ve been keeping him entertained with books and toys and special treats.

Through thick bush along the roadside, we spot a striking waterbuck who seems to be observing us, just as we are observing her.


We’d seen a hippopotamus in similar scenery that morning. It was special to see this delightfully cumbersome creature on the land instead of in the water. We watched him graze for quite some time, making sure our car wasn’t cutting off his path to the water — they don’t seem to like that too much.


Now a Greater Blue-Eared Glossy Starling is hopping alongside the car. I stare down, so impressed with his magnificent colouring.


We ride along quietly for quite some time and then come down a dip in the road that crosses over a dry river bed. We stop for a moment, half expecting to see something coming along this sandy thoroughfare at any moment. I search the sand for tracks, the Bear now on my lap, us leaning our heads out the window.


“That must be gruffalo poop!” we giggle, and I encourage the Bear to keep his eyes peeled for a gruffalo nearby.

We look up the hill in front of us before the Hubs begins encouraging Mr. Potato Head to begin the grumbling ascent, but this scene awaits us at the top of the hill:


HH moves the car slowly forward and then we’re motionless — watching as elephants are coming out of the bush and crossing the road right in front of us. We suddenly make another discovery: nature has called twice, and the baby has made a poopy which has gone straight through his onesie, his swaddle cloth, and onto Gammy’s nice white blouse. Sigh.

While elephants crack branches and munch munch a few feet away, we’re in the backseat trying to clean up the mess. The juxtaposition of the peaceful scenery of the grazing ellies out the window and the wild scene inside the car make me smile, and Mom and I laugh that this will be a special memory.

Once bottoms are cleaned, clothes are changed (except for poor Mom) and babies are back to smiling, I have the joy of gazing at the gentle giants outside my window. With strength and graceful movements, they knock over a tree and feast on the roots before moving on.

We linger watching the elephants for ages…it feels like such a privilege.

It’s time to start heading for home, so we move on, just pausing to smile at the monkeys now dotting the road in front of us.


We grumble along for a bit longer and then notice a lonely wildebeest. He grazes near the road as the sun begins to fade in the sky.


At last it’s time to hurry along to the gate, our last day of viewing game at the Kruger National Park coming to a close. In a great day-end surprise, Mark spots another leopard — we watch, awestruck that we’ve been privileged with three sightings of the least spotted (though very spotted) of the Big Five in one day. As other cars pull up in hopes of enjoying a good look at what we’ve seen, the leopard slips off into the bush again, and it feels like that special moment was planned just for us.

Up one hill, just before the descent toward the gate, you can see for miles — the Mpumulanga horizon breathtaking with fields and trees, the sturdy profiles of mountains outlined in the distance.

The evening sky mirrors the sky from early that morning. Silhouettes of wiry trees pass outside our window and my heart feels a little heavy as I wonder when I’ll have the privilege of being in this special place again. We approach the gate, stars are beginning to appear, and I find myself praying, “Lord, thank You. Please let us return to this wonderful place again soon.”


P.S. The Hubs grabbed memory-card-loads of five-star photos during our time in the Kruger, which I have not been sharing here, because they will be up in lights on his website. He has already begun posting a beautiful new photo every day over at Quiver Tree Photo, so please drop by and enjoy!

Join Me in the Bushveld

The Southern Cross and her companions are still twinkling around a sliver of a moon as we load up the car for our final trip into the park. We’ve spent two days in the Kruger already and seen game aplenty, but on this last day we’ve decided to race daylight and arrive in time to watch the bush wake up with the sun.

After everything is loaded into the car, HH loads the Bear into my arms, still in pajamas and wrapped in a heavy blanket. He lays a sleepy head against my chest and stares out the window, up at the stars he asked about counting the night before. He comments on a star he sees and we decide to name it the Goeie Môre star, the Afrikaans for Good Morning, {pronounced HWEE-yuh MOR-uh}.

Mr. Potato Head grumbles along the two dozen kilometers to the entrance of the park, and the sky closest to the horizon starts to change from dark into a lighter shade of blue. There’s just enough backlight to watch the silhouettes of the trees along the road, leafless on this cool winter morning, their wiry branches arching in every direction like spiny, weathered hands. We pass a bus that will take people from the outerlying settlements into town for a good day’s work.

The sky that’s touching the land begins a beautiful transition, deep red, then yellow, then orange layers slowly stretch toward the stars above, and I wonder how you pinpoint that beautiful moment when night is actually day again. A few dozen silhouettes surprise me, standing along the roadside, and I realise they must be waiting for the bus we passed a wee way back.

With our entry ticket on the dashboard, the diesel engine hums us through the gates and we peel our eyes, ready to see the animals of Kruger National Park waking up. The baby has fallen asleep in his car seat, the sleepy Bear is now ready for the action to begin.

We drive for a while, trees and tall grass out the window, areas where fire has burned the veld, then dense bush where you wonder if you’ll see anything at all. Suddenly we spot three giraffes enjoying their breakfast, their graceful necks stretching toward the high branches of thinly covered trees. One is eager to cross the road, so we back up when we realise we’re blocking the path he would like to take.


He has a bad knee and is limping a little as he goes. We watch with a little sadness, knowing he’ll be easy prey if a predator takes note of his disability.

After we have a handful of snapshots in our minds and the camera, we move on to look for more. We ride mostly in silence until someone spots an elephant — no, two — no three! And then we’re enjoying a beautiful moment with these ships of the bush.


With the engine turned off we listen as they crack branches with their dextrous trunks — they munch and browse and are always eating. Pictures just can’t capture their magnitude — those graceful tusks protruding on either side of a trunk with deep grey skin. They look weather beaten, even the youngest among them.

The morning slowly drives on and by half past eight we’ve spotted lots of buck, smiled up at more ellies and giraffes, discussed which birds are perching on nearby branches, seen rhinos at a distance and more up close in thick bush. We pause at a rest camp called Skukuza for a leg stretch and a bathroom break, and a glance at the sightings board in hopes of gaining a tip about where the lions that have been eluding us might be seen.

Vervet monkeys bring a bright smile to the Bear’s face, a large troop of baboons causes me to hurriedly roll up my window. A hornbill flies past the window and makes me think of Zazu in the Lion King.

We’ve decided to head home for brunch today, and we choose a route that will keep us inside the park an hour longer before our exit. On that last road on our way out, the Hubs suddenly sees a tail on the side of the road. The striped rings of it make him think of the lemurs we love to talk about, which are only indigenous to Madagascar. Perhaps it’s a wild dog…

No, it’s a leopard.

The least spotted of the Big Five…an animal that one should feel privileged to see in the wild…there he is alongside the road. This strong and majestic cat has a mission in mind, and he decides to cross the road right in front of our car.

The Hubs captures shot after shot after shot, we grownups are silent and watch in awe. Wow. After two minutes of practically holding our breath, as quickly as he appeared, he is gone again. Through straw-coloured grass about as high as the tail he carries in the air, he disappears.

As we start along the road again we excitedly chatter about what a magnificent leopard sighting we’d just enjoyed. They are such silent and majestic creatures…stealthy and strong and beautiful. We grow silent again, mindful of the little one sleeping in my arms, until HH pipes up again:

What is that?

Another leopard is travelling along the road, headed in our direction, and once in a lifetime is now twice. Mom and I are craning our necks from the backseat to see, and there he is, momentarily shaded by a small tree on the roadside. In the heat of the day, on the move.


Another two or three minutes of wide eyes and fast photo fingers, and the big cat is off into the bush again.

By the time we leave the park for brunch, grins are stretching across our faces from ear to ear. This isn’t a zoo — you don’t get directions on where to go to find what you want to see. We feel privileged to have seen so much, and look forward to a second trip into the park after brunch…


Our Baby Zebra

Now that we’re back (in Bloemfontein) after our trip to the Kruger, and then to the Drakensberg, and then to Durban, I’ve realised I forgot to tell you we brought a baby zebra home with us!

And just so you know, ’round these parts it’s pronounced ZEH-bruh instead of ZEE-bruh. {That first syllable rhymes with “yeah.”} And I personally feel that if this is where the ZEHbras live, and that is how they say it here, then that’s the way it oughta be. So if you hear the Bear say something about a ZEHbra in North Carolina, don’t you go trying to correct him. He’s got it right. ‘Nough said.

So, we ummed and ahhed about whether this special sort of adoption was a good idea, as we are still in need of some important paperwork in order to make it possible for us to bring the Baby Zebra across to the USA with us.

In the end, he was just way too cute to leave behind … and who would take care of him if we didn’t?


You want to see his picture?

I thought you’d never ask!

Here’s our baby zebra!


{Quite possibly my favourite grandparent/grandchild photo, ever. Ever.}

Did I tell you his brother was a ZEHbra, too?

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{Zebra Bear, Plettenberg Bay, early 2009}

Less than three weeks until our plane takes off for the UK — please pray that Baby Zebra’s paperwork is together by then!!


P.S. The bushveld posts are still a-brewing, but the first narration is on the way, I hope tomorrow!

Leaving the Bushveld

It has been one magical and special week with Goo-Goo and Gammy in the bushveld. Our visits to Kruger National Park were full of fantastic sightings, and HH of course got a ton of beautiful photos that I can’t wait to share with you!

We’re heading off today, passing through Joburg on our way back to Bloemfontein, which incidentally, I recently realised I constantly talk about but have never explained to you how to pronounce. So you’re probably reading that word and feeling annoyed, if you’re anything like me. {Um, maybe not?} In case you are, it’s pronounced BLOOM-fuhn-tane — that last syllable rhymes with rain and Spain, and mainly the plain, of course.

Ooh, and in case you’re wondering about “bushveld” that sounds like bush-felt when the locals say it. It generally refers to uncultivated land in Southern Africa.

With the busy schedule, the slightly more challenging internet circumstances, and the desire to rest, I haven’t shared too much of this journey with you, yet. But I’m planning to invite you along next week, so that you can experience the African bush right along with us.

In the meantime, here’s one little “Safari” lesson for starters. Originally used as a hunting term, the “Big Five” is a term that refers to the animals people most hope to see while viewing game in the wild in South Africa. The Big Five animals are lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo. They’re still hunted, but now most often shot with a camera!

We had the delightful privilege of seeing four of the big five on this visit, which included three very special sightings of what is typically the most elusive animal among the Big Five. Can you guess which animal we spotted three times?

And can you guess which one we missed?

I’ll leave you with a photo of the Bear, who also enjoyed a visit to a game reserve (with G-pa!) when he was the Tank’s age. Time flies!

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Tank is leaving the Bush in that outfit today. We are going to miss it here!