Ready for a break.

This morning I showed my IKEA Family card to the guard in place of my photo i.d. in order to get into my office.  The guard said, “Congratulations!”  Whoops.

IKEAI think it’s time for some downtime.  Some time off without too many big concerns (surgeries, recoveries, waiting work, prepping for baby…)

It’s incredible to imagine that last year at this time we were getting ready to go to South Africa and not thinking about any of the above concerns.  We didn’t even have an IKEA Family card way back then.

When we arrived in beautiful Cape Town in December 2012, Nelson Mandela was in the hospital and there was major concern with the friends we were staying with both in Cape Town and Durban that politically, things would unravel quickly should he pass away.  Our travel partners said it would be in our best interest to leave Africa immediately should Mandela die, anticipating chaos in customs as well.  Of course, Mandela held on and we were grateful to see a mostly peaceful country.  We were fortunate (only for our own sakes) to see some very raw emotions displayed through the segregation that still exists, long after apartheid is “over.”

And today, as Mandela’s body lies in state, just what our friends there said would happen is starting.  Political unrest.  There is talk of impeaching current president Jacob Zuma should it be proven he’s purposely “misled” South African Parliament and citizens over knowing the immense cost of renovating his homestead in KwaZulu-Natal.  I’m fascinated by this, as it didn’t seem to take the people long, even during this mourning period, for the people to push back at their current president.  I imagine there’s way more to this story.  And it’s exciting to see the people stand up and make noise.

South Africa Story: My first ele.

We arrived at Mpila Camp at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi, checked into our site, dropped bags and got back in the bakkie (South African slang for pickup truck) for some late afternoon animal viewing.  I wasn’t sure what to expect, except that we’d gotten a poor report on what animal viewing was like at Kruger National Park from Ludi’s brother two weeks before  we arrived in KwaZulu-Natal.  Being summer, and the wet season, animals are less likely to come to watering holes in the reserves where often, there are hides, or places where people can quietly observe them as they drink water.

I also wasn’t sure what to expect because I hadn’t yet seen the African bush in its glory.  Everything was new to me.  The landscape, the sky, the heat.  We were hours and hours away from the city.

Because it was my first time looking for animals, Ludi and Amy insisted I sit in the front passenger seat.

“Now Bridget,” Ludi started, “because everything is new to you, it’s going to be hard for you to spot animals in their natural habitat.  Remember, they look like the landscape.”

“I see an elephant!” I yelled.

“Exactly,” said Amy calmly from the back seat.  ”When you see something wandering around, just yell it out.  Let us know.”

“I SEE AN ELEPHANT!” I yelled again.

“Oh for real!  There it is!”

And Ludi put the brakes on the bakkie, threw it in reverse, and we watched quietly.

This is what I saw.


But he was there.  He was a really real wrinkly elephant.  And then he saw us.


And he said hello.  And we said hello.  And I fell in love with him.  He followed us for nearly two kilometers down the dirt road as the sun set on Zululand.


He was a little shy at first.

Then he stopped at a puddle and muddied himself to cool down.  And then he got back on the dirt road and continued to follow us.

ele4I really wanted to get out of the bakkie and hug him.  He probably wouldn’t have liked that.

ele5Bye, bye, lovely.

South Africa Story. Cape Town: What their hands made.

Unwrapping the gifts we brought home from South Africa was the best part of unpacking.  I especially loved seeing the handmade treasures we brought back from Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal spread out on the floor of our apartment.

Shopping for treasures was fun.  I was able to speak with some of the urban craftspeople who make these items and watch them at work at the markets.   A saved aluminum can from a landfill becomes a wild African animal, junked car parts from an overgrown lot in Cape Town become sculptures of people at play, wires from old telephone lines become woven baskets and empty cans of pesticide spray turn into animal trinkets.

The grand prize of our new eclectic collection is a rhino in action.  I imagine he’s walking toward a watering hole or to join his crash.  I purchased him from a man with a head of thick, beautiful dreadlocks in the heat of the afternoon the day after Christmas.  He wrapped the rhino carefully, so I could “get it home unharmed to America…”

The rhino is made of ginger beer cans and wire.  He is a stunning little sculpture and the biggest thing we brought home.  Check out that horn!

I found the following treasures at a Cape Town market, in Greenmarket Square, on a very rainy day.  Amy loves this market, and now I know why.  It is full of shoppers and crafters and artwork and movement, even in the mist and cold.

I liked this ostrich very much after Madison showed me an ostrich Aunt Amy purchased for her.  I found it silly and very entertaining – so did Madison.  Madison’s ostrich has wings that flap!

This elephant is just dear.  He’s delicately folded out of a container that used to hold roach killer, apparently (note the illustration on his back).  His head swivels a bit and I find him absolutely darling because of his miniature status and the fact that he’s clearly trumpeting.  A happy elephant.

This tiny Christmas tree is a close favorite next to the rhino.  I told the woman selling it I loved it and she told me many of the crafts sold support the people who live in the townships and informal settlements.  They are made in homes and at community gatherings out of found materials.  It will always remind me of our first wonderful Christmas as married couple, in South Africa with Ludi and Amy and their family.

And this small folded metal “reader” was sitting on a cloth on a table next to a metal drum player and a guitar player.  I liked the reader best out of the three.  The man I bought him from told me he’s made out parts of an old car.

I love the detail of his hand on the back of his head.

If you want to purchase items like these and support South African artists through fair trade, check out your local Ten Thousand Villages.  They have a few different examples of similar artwork and sculptures made of recycled items in their inventory now, such as this giraffe, this gecko ornament, and this metal sculpted musician.