Tag Archives: parents

On Being An Adult

August 1st was my 25th birthday so I guess that officially puts me at the quarter life mark. Strangely, referring to myself as an adult has gotten a little bit more natural of late. I used to approach that reality with a real sense of disgust and contempt, but now it doesn’t seem quite as awful as I had once viewed it. Perhaps I realize that being an adult does not necessarily mean the denial of wanderlust, enthusiasm and maybe even freedom.

But let me just tell you, that I LOVE birthdays. Okay, I just enjoy holidays in general, but I am an unabashed birthday lover, especially my own. That being said, I don’t expect my birthday to necessarily be a big hurrah, but I do love the annual ritual of hearing my birthday story.

My mom and dad take turns telling me about how they went to the hospital and the nurse didn’t believe my mother was actually having contractions – and so my dad almost had to catch me. Thankfully the doctor casually walked into the delivery room and announced, “So I hear we’re having a baby!” And then there I was. My mom tells me how happy she was to finally have a girl, then my dad chimes in, “Oh you were an ugly baby… but look at you now, you turned out pretty well!”  

That’s my birthday story. How funny and probably grossly self-indulgent to bask in all that all that sentimentality, but it’s my little reminder of how lucky I am to have their unconditional love and support.

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Last Minute Adventure in Jo’Berg

After two weeks on the road with my parents and Ingrid, we made full circle and spent our last day together in Johannesberg. We stayed with family friends, visited, repacked and did laundry.

Of course, adventure had not given up on us quite yet. Early the next morning, we loaded the car up and started off towards the airport.  I was using dad’s iphone GPS to guide us, but  somewhere along the way perhaps I got a bit confused and the map led us to a train station in downtown Johannesburg. Ooooops.  Then of course, running an hour late, the iphone battery died, the two maps were no help and no one on the street seemed to want to offer directions. 

Full of adrenaline and pre-flight jitters, dad displayed  some heroic traffic maneuvering and got us back on the right track.

Airport goodbyes are always hard, especially when you don’t know when you’ll see your family next.  Christmas? Maybe, but probably not (good thing we celebrated in July).  There is no graceful way to express the depth of my love and appreciation for my parents,  and absolutely no possibility of maintaining any composure when faced with the acknowledgement of eminent distance.  So, with teary eyes, a few big hugs and too much to say – dad pushed me through to security and on my way back to Vilankulo. 

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Thanda Tula means Love the Quiet

After venturing over the mountain pass we finally

We were so well taken care of at Thanda Thula. Our mornings started early with game drives with our guide Kenneth.

We saw all of the Big Five, including one particular

After a veritable breakfast feast and we’d go for a bush walk. Kenneth, armed with a big riffle, would lead us around pointing out different plants and tracks.  I can’t say that we’d be well equipped to survive in the wilderness alone, but it did stir the embers of adventure. 

There are so many facts to learn and I often feel that perhaps I missed my calling as a naturalist or at least an eccentric museum tour guide. However, I shamefully admit that I am the type of person who wants to touch and collect all the stones, bones and feathers I find.

There was one particular

All of the staff was incredibly gracious. When I was clumsily attempting to learn a few greetings in the local language Shangaan, Nomsa wrote up a list of words and expressions I might want. I can’t say I ever had a proper opportunity to say “Another elephant please!” but with Nomsa’s list, I could if I needed. 

*  *  *

After three days it was time to move on to the next stop. We loaded up the car at 4:30 AM and drove north to the Botwana border (avoiding all scenic mountain passes).

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The Scenic Road

Ingrid got put to the test on our way out of Swaziland. Instead of following the suggested directions, as given by our travel agent and google map, Dad decided that the quickest way to our destination was over the mountain – which I think we all know, is never the quickest way.

Up, up and upppppppp went.  Hours later, after driving over unpaved, rocky mud roads used solely by logging trucks,  we finally passed through Bulembu, an eerily quiet, pitiful mining town on the border with South Africa. At the itty bitty border cross the lonely control guard showed us her crochet work.

It was all so surreal – this random road we picked, the wide eyed stares as we passed in a red, two door Ingrid. Finally at the isolated border, I heard a German man in the other line say, “I’d like to enter Swaziland.” Without any hesitation the border control says, “NO.” (She waits a few seconds until the awkwardness is palpable, then says in a slow easy manner)…. “I’m Kidding!

With that and the crochet still sitting on the counter, I lost it. I got the giggles and had to walk outside. Funny how months later this memory seems to encompass the whole series of ridiculous moments that had culminated  that day. 

Anyway,  the point is that Ingrid served us well and made it through the mountain challenge out of Swaziland and back into South Africa. 

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Finding Advice & Arts in Swazi

In Mbabane, the capital of Swaziland, we walked around the old “mall” commenting on how some things were exactly the same and how other buildings had really been built up.  Jokingly my dad mentioned that we ought to just find a Peace Corps volunteer and ask for some advice and… HAZZAH!

 As if the universe was listening, we spotted what looked like a young American. After enthusiastic introductions, Connor drew us a little map and pointed us in the right direction to where we could meet the current country director and new trainees.

If only all diplomacy was so forthright, friendly and generous.

So we drove north past Pigg’s Peak to meet the new PC country director and a bunch of new volunteers who were midway through their in-country training. I think it really meant a lot to my dad to meet the new staff and share some of his experiences from twenty years past. Everyone got a kick out of the randomness of the reunion, and it was actually really fun.

With quality nostalgia under our belts, we continued on. Our next stop was at the weaving studio of Coral Stephens Handweaving. We toured the workshops, got to see products on the loom and meet some of the weavers.

For me, with a degree in fabric and textiles and a real love for African arts, this stop was perfect. Swaziland’s rich history of traditional arts full of basket weaving and textiles makes my heart pitter patter with joy. 

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Revisiting Swaziland

I wrote earlier about my return to Swaziland during the Bushfire Music Festival in May. My first trip back was fantastic, and I was excited to get to return with my parents. I looked forward to hearing their stories and perspective on how things have or haven’t changed. Moreover, if there’s one thing that’s fun about revisiting places with your parents as an adult – it’s hearing the less edited versions of stories.

Several years ago, on a long road trip with my father, I remember rehearing lots of tales that I hadn’t heard since I was a kid. So while most of the anecdotes were familiar, all the sudden they had a few more honest and scandalous details. (Of course that’s what you were doing/smoking in Amsterdam in 1967.)

Anyway, we loaded up Ingrid and hit the road. Our first few nights, we stayed at Riley’s Rock Lodge in the Milwane Wildlife Sanctuary. (Same game park from May, just better digs.)

The lodge is an old stone house that has been refurbished as a little hotel. It has a great view of the Swazi mountains, beautiful gardens, birds, bees, bush babies, and extra friendly staff. 

During the day we returned to some of our old stomping grounds. We found our house that went down the mountain. We even visited with current residents and their kids. Of course it looks a little smaller than I remember, but not too different. 

Now this was really a blast from the past! The hot springs pool is no more or less rundown than it did when I was 6.

At night we sat around a big bonfire and ate dinner with the other guests. You are sure to meet a variety interesting international visitors when traveling in Africa, particularly in Swaziland, since it’s definitely off the beaten path. 

I didn’t get any particularly juicy details from my parents’ expat life, but nevertheless it was enjoyable and interesting to hear stories of working in southern Africa at the end of apartheid and during the release and subsequent election of Mandela in neighboring South Africa. 

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Let the Wild Rumpus Begin

After a week of showing off Vilankulo, Mom, Dad and I flew to Johannesburg to begin the next chapter of our African adventure together. It’s started off on this:

In South Africa we rented a car and hit the road. First destination: Swaziland. This was the prearranged route:

Now, it’s important to recognize the relationship of road-trip travelers and a dependable car. You must bond with the vehicle, and that process starts with a name. Our  red Hondai hatchback was christened Ingrid:

Ingrid was small but mighty.  She served us well on highways, dirt roads, sand paths and the occasional scenic route over unpaved, rocky mountain passes (more on that later). 

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