I am my mother’s oldest. She is no longer here with us and I am not about to tell you she was some kind of saint or romanticize her existence. She was just as flawed as every other human walking this planet. She was, however, my mom and she was awesome! (Leigh here-wifey, I can attest to that. His mother was awesome. I miss her so much) Her words, via my memories, still inform me to this day. They set my feet upon this path whether it is the popular choice or not. She gave me the freedom to explore who and what I was to be without being judgemental. The thing I miss most about her is our many talks. We would dream big dreams together and one such dream was a trip to Africa!
We have been here for just over six months now and there are days we are still blown away by the beauty and grandeur of this place. It has been all that we have imagined it to be and then some. While it is stocked with precious metals, stones, and many other valuable resources, to us…the truest and most wonderful resource is the nature and hospitality of its people. There is an abundance of warmth and welcoming everywhere you look here, in our experience. We are very grateful each time we think of the lifetime friendships formed with those we have met (Some we met before we arrived. Couchsurfers ROCK!).
We were planning to take a trip at some point to Kruger National Park and Wildlife Game Reserve. As fortune would have it another couch surfing friend, Prisca and her sister, Lydie, were going around the same time frame so we combined our trips. We would like to thank them again for the invite and having them there made an already awesome trip even more special!
Kruger… I have run out of superlatives for this place. The well is dry so-to-speak. It is difficult to convey properly what you feel inside when there is an animal as majestic as an elephant ten feet from your vehicle with calf in tow, not to mention an entire herd! How do you describe the wow factor of a Blue Wildebeest standing in the road with coat shimmering in the mid-afternoon sun as he grazes with absolutely no regard for traffic whatsoever? We were amazed at the sheer enormity of the giraffe in the wild as they gracefully strolled alongside, then in front of us. Almost as if they were floating on air instead of earthbound with cloven hooves.
I can only describe to you the giddiness we felt as we photographed and filmed Hippos as they playfully frolicked in the river. Happy to just catch them surface from time to time rewarding our patience and determination to see more than just the eyes and ears at the tops of their heads peaking just above the water’s edge. It is maybe possible through pictures to see the soulfulness in the eyes of the Impala. They look as though they want to walk up to your car door but think better of it as they know big cats are lurking and a moment’s distraction could be their last.
PSA: Should you decide to take this safari trek please keep your windows up and for goodness sake stay in your vehicle at all times.
We would much rather talk to you than about you!
I guess the best way I can relay the feelings of the day to you is the word connected. That is how I felt. I have visited many Zoos and while they do a decent job of displaying the animals I can’t help but feel a bit awkward (I feel more than awkward. As a child I enjoyed a zoo. As an adult, I don’t much care for putting animals in cages solely for the benefit of humans voyeurism…ijs). I mean those animals, while cared for, are still essentially in cages for our viewing pleasure (Exactly!). I fully understand that most do a good job and it is for the greater good (Not to me). It all plays a part in the preservation of wildlife and such (And money). I have to tell you now that I will probably never visit a zoo again, though (Me neither!). I prefer this feeling that we are the ones on display in our little metal boxes at the mercy of the animals. It becomes readily apparent should an elephant decide to charge that there are limited options for your escape. You are simply tolerated in their world … as it should be in my humble opinion (I love you, Boo). Also, should you decide to ignore the PSA, the risk of becoming a victim of natural selection somehow added to the experience? This became clear with the excited echoes of “you are too close” that could be heard while I was driving…I won’t tell who you are lol! Just know the car was in first gear, the road in front of me was clear and I raced manual transmissions a lot in my youth! #nofear #8000rpmredline #Icouldgetaway .
Africa has had a profound effect on me. It connected me to my mother and our dreams of this place. I have no idea of what happens in the afterlife (If there is one). Suffice to say that I hope that in some way through our visit that she has seen through the eyes of her oldest child, a portion of this magnificent continent and all the wonders it possesses. There have been times I feel like she was there right beside us taking in all its glory (She was, honey). I wish with all that I am for this to be true. There is a place that I felt this more strongly than others, but that is another blog. For now, this feeling is more than enough.
Yes, that is the word … Connected!
We are on the serious countdown! Twenty (19 baby, 19) days left til we depart for home…Bittersweet. Love this place but missing home. Very anxious to get our life as full-time RV’ers going!
Till next time
Peace and Blessings!
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We just had an amazing weekend. One of the best since our arrival. Part of me thinks it is partially because we know that we are leaving soon. Regardless, it was a very special time. We were invited to go to Kruger National Park with our couch surfer friend, Prisca, and her sister visiting from Reunion Island, Lydie. We are so glad they did. Firstly, Prisca made all the arrangements, which was nice as I am the planner in our family, so I didn’t have to do it.
We left on Friday morning. We stopped at Billy’s for lunch. Outside of the service, this was a good place to stop. We stopped in Sabie and got dinner and food for breakfast. Then we rested for the night. Tim and Prisca took turns driving. He did quite well. The next morning, we headed to Kruger. It was amazing. We drove and drove and drove. It was so nice to see a Mama and baby elephant walk across the street. The park was massive. There were people everywhere.
Tim will write more later. I am just overwhelmed by the experience and had to put pen to paper.
This blog entry will be two-fold. It will serve to tell you about a very moving trip we took while in South Africa and will also be an excerpt from my forthcoming book. I’m not sure how it will all fit but here goes…
Standing on a bench looking out over Gauteng Province and all its beauty…
She asks me a question. “What is your why?”
Immediately and without hesitation, my response was, “You.”
We were at the Cradle of Humankind in Maropeng, South Africa. A place I call the most inspirational and educational place on the planet. It is carved into an open landscape of immense beauty. Rolling lush green hills surrounded by mountains, unique trees, and capped with the bluest skies I have ever seen. We learned quite a bit about the human genome, the formation of the planet, and the emergence of mankind. As one of our friends told us. “You cannot emerge from there unchanged.” We can now attest that it is very true. While there, we marveled, we laughed, we learned, and we cried.
There was a confluence of events that prompted this question. We were in this place marinating in the awesomeness of We Are One. Plus, we had recently watched the movie Collateral Beauty. A very moving film that touched both of our souls. There are a few lines in it that spoke to us. “What is your why” and “I am the only why …Don’t try to live without me.”
The “Why” is what gets you out of bed in the morning. Why you make the choices you do and the catalyst for them are three simple things. Love, time, and death. So Leigh’s question caught me by surprise but not unaware. After watching the movie I had some time to digest and analyze what does it for me. Hince the ability to fire off the answer so quickly.
Please be patient I have been known to go off on wordy tangents and this will be no exception. I promise it will all be tied in and relevant soon enough.
At my core, I am a coach. First, I was a player and that defined me for a while. After my playing days were over, football (American style) was in my blood and to stay close to the game, I began to coach it. My style was simple. All out as fast as you can and never be afraid to take a risk! Develop cohesive units by creating a family atmosphere and eschew the conventional wisdom that says don’t get so close to players because one day you may have to cut them. It was a labor of love. For years, I honed my craft and had fun doing it.
After a particularly grueling and in-depth meeting with my players, where I revealed the impact that my father (not actually telling me the words he loved me until I was 18) had on me and it’s meaning to my relationships, a player asked me how do you reveal your feelings to someone you feel that way about. My honest answer at the time was “I will let you know.” I think that day is finally here…
If I could time travel, I would go back to that evening leaving the field and explain it to them in football terms, just as I had to digest it, and undoubtedly the best way for them to understand it.
You are a gifted athlete with the ability to make people miss you in small spaces. What you need to explain this feeling, however, is what you use when the sideline is unavailable and contact is unavoidable. The Intestinal fortitude to grip the ball tightly and let your shoulder pads lead the way. Add to that, the discipline of a rush end that must take on a block with their outside shoulder free to set the edge. Knowing they have to trust the linebacker to fill the gap if the play is to be successful. Further, still, you have to be as selfless and humble as an offensive lineman doing their thankless work while someone else gets all the credit and glory. These are the ingredients needed to open oneself up to a place that all your emotions can be laid bare for the world to see and not care that you are exposed. You must be willing to take the risk that you are “all in” and on a highwire without a safety net!
All this to understand that Love is the biggest why!
As we stand in this place looking at the life-like renderings of early homo sapiens. I cannot help but ask the question. What drove them to succeed? What made them continue to exist under such hostile circumstances?
My suspicion is what the movie called the only why (SPOILER ALERT) “Love”. Maybe they could not explain it as easily as we do now but I have no doubt that brothers back then loved each other as much as I love my younger brother David now! Whose embrace I can still feel from our farewell before we took this journey! I wonder if he knows that he is my hero? Well, I suppose if he is reading this he does now. I am sure they also felt the same love I feel for his wife, Paula, my chosen sister. (We don’t do the inlaw thing in my family). She is the definition of the word “woman” in my book! I am sure back then they loved their sisters as much as I love mine. Delma, who is quickly becoming the glue that ties our little family unit together as we transition from the children to the elders, and Ruby whose strength, intelligence, and character, I admire from afar. I know for sure that they loved their children as much as I love my son, Tim Jr., and would do any and everything to ensure his survival! They had to have loved the laughter of their grandchildren as I do mine. What would be the purpose of securing a future otherwise? They had to feel love for all the uncles, aunts, nieces, nephews, cousins and those close to the family unit!
So stepping down off that bench after saying those words, “You are my why” the emotion between us was palpable. No words were spoken but none were needed. Later we enjoyed a late lunch at the Tumulus restaurant, an on-site restaurant with great food, service and a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape. In this place, it was easy to tell Leigh why she is my why. Loving her is what gets me out of bed in the morning. She is the reason why I strive for excellence in all the things I do. She is the reason why I long to feel love, why I wish for more time, and why I fear death.
We Are One is a common theme throughout this blog. It is something that I have always felt as a human being or citizen of humanity as I like to say. It is one thing to have a feeling of something and it is quite another to have it confront you with absolutely no room for escaping it or leave to ignore it.
This project, through science, highlights the fact that you are 99.9% the same as any person standing next to you no matter where on the planet they are from. Collectively our genes are known as a genome. Our genomes contain about 20,000 genes, each of which contains instructions for building different proteins. Our bodies functions rely on proteins. With such a large number of genes its easy to see how only a 0.01% difference is responsible for our uniqueness. There are no races, We are all connected and my estimation is the way forward is more of the same way we arrived at this space and time…LOVE!
Till next time
Peace and Blessings
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So we have been in Jozi since September and this day had to come. Growing up, a child of the south, driving was a must. Nothing is particularly close and parents look forward to the day when they no longer have to ferry children around to events or make a quick run to the store. Learning to drive usually comes at 16 for most southern teens, a rite-of-passage, if you will. For me, it was even earlier. Tractors for tilling soil and minding tobacco farms and such. I tell you this so that you know the confidence that I have behind the wheel of a vehicle. (Leigh here, he has also been riding motorcycles since forever.) I have alluded to the fact that in South Africa, they drive on the left side of the road and I freely admit that it gave me some trepidation. Therefore, I would have to test my metal on the open road driving on said left side and the last week of 2016 was just that test.
Charlene Harry, our dear friend, invited us to spend a couple of days in the town of her youth, Howick, South Africa. A mere 5 hour journey from our current dwelling in Marshalltown. The ever prepared Leigh, booked us a rental car for the journey and at my request secured an automatic seeing as this would be my first foray into right-sided driving on the left side of the road. We thought it would be prudent to not have to worry about shifting gears and such. We arrived on-time for our scheduled pick up just a bit nervous, but eager to travel outside of Johannesburg for the first time since our arrival four months ago (Wow! Has it been that long??) As we had been told by everyone here, South Africans work for 11 months out of the year and really go on holiday for the 12th. There were no automatic rental cars available! I know what you are thinking… We were thinking the same thing…But we made a reservation! Grrrrrr…. Moot point and after some searching for another vehicle in our price range (there were none), we decided to take the manual and be on our way.
First, let me say that I am a really safe driver (cough, cough). I do tend to speed at times (Did he really say…at times??) but within 5 mph of the posted speed limit (no comment) unless I’m on my bike then all bets are off! Fate decided to test me to the max this day for some reason or another. The drive started out fine. It was an exercise in self conversation and Leigh’s gentle reminding …LEFT SIDE…Left side. Turning left it was not such a big deal. It was the right turns that required maximum concentration. Before we go any further, I am happy to report that the vehicle was returned with all its original paint! Once we were well under way, it began to rain. Hummmmm. A bit further into the trip noticed a sign reading, “Severe penalties for any traffic infraction.” Further still, I realized we would be traversing a mountainous area ….Outstanding! The “white knuckle ” moment came rounding a bend on a four lane portion of N3 highway. it is a blind curve and yes, I was well within the posted speed limit. I guess here it is common for highways NOT to be separated by medians. This was news to me. As we were rounding the bend…in the rain…with a stick shift…the lanes narrowed and it appeared to me as if the driver of the on-coming semi had crossed the non-existing median and was in my lane! As it turns out he was simply in his lane that was about a foot from my door! Inside I was having a ” Chris Tucker” moment.
Outwardly, I had to exhale because Leigh was struggling for air! Sorry honey, I didn’t intend to take all the oxygen as I gasped. (It’s okay, Boo Boo.) At any rate, once that moment passed, I settled in and managed to keep us in one piece the rest of the drive. (He did GREAT!)
This drive, once my nerves returned to a somewhat normal state, was amazing! The countryside was filled with visual treasures. Wide open expanses, meandering rivers, lakes, soft peaked mountains, and wandering wildlife, all feasts for the eyes or eye in my case…I was not about to be caught unawares whilst driving on the left side! Other, more subtle difference began to emerge along the way. In the U.S., when you see a fueling station / rest stop, it is on one side of the highway or the other. Here there are two. One on each side. Same station, same stores just one on each side. And those stations are full service…I mean they check the oil, air, and fill the tank.
(Unfortunately, the options are limited on each side as well. I know… Spoiled American.)
Hitching a ride is a way of life here. We talked about the taxi’s and the hand signs given to show where you would like to go in a prior post. Here is one on display. I know its not the best photo, but it’s the best we could do at 100 kilometers per hr….and yes I was going exactly that! We found it interesting that some chose this method of travel rather than purchasing a vehicle but they do. Somehow they always find a ride. That would be maddening for me, but here, it all works! (Interestingly enough, it is not always economic reasons. Some hitchhike out of necessity, but some just choose to do it.)
The only damper on our 5 day excursion was the weather. It was overcast and rainy most of the trip, but still very restful and enjoyable! We stayed at Matt’s Rest B&B and Self Catering. Our room was quaint and cozy. The staff was excellent. They treated us like old friends returning for a visit and saw to our every need. The breakfasts were cooked to order and delicious. An all around great place to recharge your batteries!
I am smitten by that smile! (He is so sweet, y’all)
The highlight of this adventure came on Wednesday. We met up with Charlene and her childhood friend, Mpume, to tour the best of KwaZulu-Natal!
They called it the Meander, a stretch of highway and back roads that included: little specialty shops of Belgian Chocolates and Honey, an outdoor shopping center called Piggly Wiggly, Howick falls and best of all “The Capture site.” While I am sure most everyone has heard the story of Nelson Mandela, I’m not quite sure everyone knows the story of his life before his imprisonment and its his impact on life in South Africa. This museum does an excellent job of bringing that out. It is both an emotional and inspiring place to visit and we highly recommend stopping by if you are ever here! It was mind blowing to me to be standing on the very ground that President Mandela was captured so many years ago and the chain of events that followed. This all happened 3 years before I was born.
(We were trying to be cute…lol)
On to Howick Falls and its majestic beauty!
We want to say thank you to Charlene and Mpume for taking the time to share a wonderful event filled day in your home town with us! It was as lovely and beautiful as you two are and we truly enjoyed every minute of the trip. Thank you for introducing us to Chesa Nyama! That was delicious! (He loves anything with mostly meat!)
Well folks that about covers the high points of this trip and as you can surmise, I am writing this blog so the drive back must have been without incident! It will be a while before we get to travel here again as duty calls, but when we do, just know that I will post about our adventures. We still think the beauty of this place is the people and their warmth and hospitality. That is saying a lot given all the natural wonders that surround us here. We are gonna end this entry here with a few more pics to mark the event.
Till next time
Peace & Blessings
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