March 31, 2006

Purim and the rest of March

The day after we got back from South Africa was the Purim party at Tyler's pre-school. Purim is the holiday that celebrates the story of Esther from the Bible. The kids all dress up and as you can see below most of the girls dress up as princesses in honor of Esther.

Purim party

The pre-school also arranged for a professional photographer to come. Tiffany brought Brooke so that we could have a picture of Brooke and Tyler together.

Purim costumes

Tyler was off of pre-school for the next two days, so Tiffany went with the mother of one of Tyler's friends to a kibbutz where the kids could see, pet and feed animals. Once a week a lady brings an animal from this kibbutz to the preschool to show the class. We saw many different kinds of animals: chickens, goats, monkeys, birds and snakes.

Feeding the goats

Brooke was entranced by the baby chick. We also went in a shed filled with incubitors with lots of little chicks inside.

Petting a chick

There was a fun park in the center of the kibbutz. The kids were more excited to play than to eat our picnic. Fortunately they ate some pita while playing on the slide.

Lunch on a slide

On Saturday, after church, we went with several other members to the hills of Nazareth to see the Nazareth Iris. It blooms for only a few weeks each year and only in Nazareth. The flowers were beautiful and worth the trip.

Nazareth Iris

Tyler had fun running around, and Brooke enjoyed looking at all the pretty flowers. Tiffany and the kids posed on the hillside where we found the irises.

Nazareth hillside

Tiffany had another dentist appointment in Herzliya, so Scott played with the kids at a park while Tiffany got her teeth fixed. Brooke loves to slide any chance she gets. It is her favorite thing to do at the park.

Slide fun

On March 29th, there was a solar eclipse in the Middle East. It wasn't a total solar eclipse, but 83%, so the sky noticeably darkened. Scott watched it on his lunch break at work through a filter and took a few pictures when a cloud blew over. Tiffany was having her Hebrew class and noticed it getting dark.

Solar eclipse

On Friday night, we went to a birthday party for one of Tyler's friends from pre-school. The kids had a wonderful time as you can see in the video below.

Birthday Activity (video)

"ponytail" - Brooke's My Little Pony.
"Belts are my favorite part of getting dressed." - While putting on his seat belt.
"Why are there lots of Peugeots in the world? Maybe because they're so cute." - Tyler loves our green Peugeot 307.
"I'm not sad, I'm just making a wave with my mouth." - Funny expression.

"Prinsas" - Princess
"Fower" - Flower

Posted by sjbowden at 10:57 PM

March 11, 2006


On Tuesday, Mom and Dad watched the kids so that we could go on an early morning game drive. We left at 5:30 am and we had our own jeep and guide. This is the sun rising over the park.

African sunrise

While on the game drive, we saw a herd of elephants, a jackal, a lion next to a watering hole, tsesebe, zebra, wildebeests and a rhino. We barely missed seeing a cheetah cross the road. Another group saw it and called our game driver to tell us. Scott saw the cheetah's ears above the tall grass as it was stalking a group of wildebeest, but unfortunately we didn't see more of it.

We returned to the hotel, ate breakfast and then all went together in the mission van into the park. The first animals we saw were giraffes. Here Tyler is looking at one through his "binoculars." Grandma made Brooke and Tyler binoculars out of toilet paper tubes after they kept asking for the real binoculars.

Tyler watching a giraffe

The giraffes were amazing to watch. They walk slowly from tree to tree eating the best leaves. At one point we saw many giraffes in the same area. We even saw white giraffes.


Mom loves guinea fowl. So we always had to stop and take pictures when we saw one. They are kind of strange birds that seldom fly and are mostly purplish with white polka dots and a blue neck.

Guinea fowl

We stopped at a lookout point near a small lake. There we saw a large elephant getting a drink. There were lots of other animals around also: zebras, wildebeests and hippos. The hippos spent most of their time in the water, but we saw several out of the water.

Hippo entering water

For lunch, we went to Pilanesberg Center, which has a small restaurant and gift shop. There we ate hamburgers on the wood deck and watched animals come to the salt lick. We saw wildebeests, warthogs and zebras with their babies. Tyler's favorite part was his ice cream treat with a blue cone.

Mother and baby

In the afternoon, we returned to the hotel and Mom and Dad rested while we took the kids swimming at the hotel pool. There was a waterslide which both kids loved as long as they were riding down with one of us.

Wednesday was Scott's birthday, which he celebrated by getting sick. Fortunately we were due to leave for Johannesburg anyway, but Scott was pretty miserable on the drive home.

On Thursday, Scott was feeling mostly better but still recovering. Mom and Tiffany went shopping and made surprise cupcakes for Scott's birthday. After dinner Scott was feeling well enough to celebrate and eat his cupcakes.

The next day we went to Lion Park. They had eight month old lions that we could pet. Tyler was a little nervous, but Brooke loved it. Fortunately there was a keeper that kept the lions distracted while Brooke pet them. Dad wasn't so lucky - he was bit by one of the lions because he was petting them too softly! Dad says that some of the missionaries go to another park where they wrestle with bigger lions. Then they brag about their scars from being scratched and bitten.

Kids petting a baby lion

Right next to the lion cages was a platform to feed giraffes. We bought some giraffe feed and stood on the platform shaking the bag of food until a giraffe came by. We discovered that giraffes have long, slobbery tongues!

Feeding a giraffe

Next we drove through the lion camps. Mom was the first one to point out these lions resting in a tree.

Lions in tree

We ate lunch at a seafood restaurant and then shopped at an African market. We bought gifts for people and Scott bought an ebony elephant and Tiffany bought a bowl with carved animals on the rim. Then we returned to the mission home before going out to eat at Carnivore. We were greeted at the door of the restaurant by this Zulu warrior.

Tyler with warrior

For dinner, we ate kudu, zebra, gemsbok, ostrich, crocodile and springbok. Zebra was our favorite meat, but we didn't tell Tyler what we were eating, he would have been heartbroken.

On Saturday we went back to the Organic Market for some more souvenirs and then returned home to pack. After dinner, we went to the airport where Mom and Dad helped us get checked in. Scott bought a polo shirt with an elephant on it and we also bought some biltong, which is like beef jerky. The flight home was uneventful and we returned safely to our apartment in Israel after a wonderful visit to South Africa.


"By its lone" - By itself.
"Have you ever seen a funny 11 with three ones?" - Amazed by the number 111.
"How do they carry things on their head without dropping them? I can't do that." - We saw many African women carrying things on their heads, even grocery sacks full of food.
"Binocules" - Binoculars.
"Now I don't have to do any of those things at Grandma's. I can just play." - After telling Tyler he did a good job eating, sleeping and going potty while we were on the plane.
"We forgot to do jet lag." - Tyler missed getting up in the middle of the night to eat and play.

"Yion" - Lion.
"Pampa" - Either grandma or grandpa, used interchangably.

Posted by sjbowden at 8:28 PM

March 6, 2006

Johannesburg, South Africa

Scott's parents have been serving a mission in South Africa since July 2005. We decided to use the money Intel gave us for a home leave to go to South Africa to visit them instead of going to the States (sorry Grandma Sherrie!).

We left Haifa about 5:30 pm, ate dinner at the airport, shopped, let the kids play at the new play area and then boarded our plane.

Airport play area

Flying to South Africa is interesting. We flew almost directly south except for flying right down the middle of the Red Sea to avoid flying over countries unfriendly to Israel. Israel and South Africa are in the same time zone, so even though we were on a plane for nine hours, we had no jet lag when we arrived. We were happy that the kids slept most of the night on the plane. Scott's parents met us inside the arrival terminal at the airport. It was great to see the kids go to their grandparents right away.

Brooke and Grandma at the airport

Mom and Dad drove us to the mission home where they are living. They gave the kids toys to play with during their stay. Then we took short naps and Tiffany and Mom left to explore the store. We talked, relaxed and planned out our stay. After the kids went to bed, we played Settlers of Zarahemla, a variant of Settlers of Catan.

The next day, Thursday, we went to the Organic Market, where people sell handmade African items. Tiffany got a blue opal ring and we bought a few souvenirs. We noticed the mission van making noises, so Scott and Dad took it into the dealership to get it checked. A van is called a kombi in South Africa. The dealership arranged an appointment for Friday which meant we had to rearrange our plansa little. Afterwards, we visited the mission office and then went to the mall. We wandered around the big beautiful mall and then ate dinner at a wonderful Italian restaurant there called Ciao Baby. Then we went home and played Mille Bornes.

On Friday, one of the senior missionary couples, the Christoffersens, watched Brooke and Tyler so that we could go to the Johannesburg temple with Scott's parents. It was really nice since we hadn't been to a temple since Jeff and Augusta's wedding last March. Afterwards, we bought church videos and young women items at the church distribution center near the temple. Then we went to Red Chamber, a wonderful Chinese restaurant in another beautiful mall. It was nice to have a relaxing meal without our children. The mall even had a Leonidas shop, Scott's favorite Belgian chocolates, so he was very excited to buy some. We returned home to find the kids having a wonderful time with the missionary couple.

Brooke and Tyler wanted to help Grandma water the plants in the backyard. She eventually just gave them a bucket of water and let them go crazy.

Water fun

Tyler discovered that the mission assistants live in an apartment behind the mission home, so he went up to visit. Like most young missionaries, they have lots of "toys" they have collected during their missions. Tyler had fun playing with Star Wars Happy Meal toys, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle and a 10-inch long Lamborghini.

That night we invited the assistant over to play the Great Dalmuti, which is similar to a game we played in the States with our friends called President.

On Saturday, we went to the Rhino and Lion Park about 30 minutes away from the mission home. It is a large, 3500 acre private game reserve with lots of animals.


The most interesting animals in the park were the lions. They are kept in a separate part of the park so that they don't eat the other animals. They spent most of the time napping right next to the dirt road. We pulled up in the mission van next to several other cars and watched the lions. They just lounged around until they saw (or smelled) a blue pickup truck. Then they all got up and started moving towards the truck. They passed right by the mission van, and one of the lions sniffed our back wiper and then looked in the back window at Tiffany and Mom.

Many kings

Just a few minutes later, the lions were climbing on the pickup truck. The driver started honking his horn and driving slowly to get the lions to leave the truck alone. Scott was able to take a short video with our digital camera. If you listen carefully you can hear one of the truck tires deflate as the lions bite or slash it. You can also see a puff of dust from the air escaping and the truck settle several inches.

The Kill (video)

Once the lions deflated the two rear tires of the pickup truck they left it alone. The owners of the truck called the park rangers on their cell phone and the rangers arrived a few minutes later and held off the lions while the truck owner jacked up the truck, removed the two rear wheels and sent another ranger into town to replace the tires.

Vanquished pickup

The lions had left us alone, but by this time, Tyler was getting scared of the lions. We left the lion section of the park and drove to see other animals. Of course within a few hours Tyler was talking about how he would have chased the lions off if they had tried to attack our van.

We tried to see some wild dogs, but they were hiding in the tall grass. We did see lots of other animals, such as white rhinos, zebras, springbucks, impala and this blesbuck.

Blesbuck with Joburg in background

We were surprised that some of the animals hang out together, such as these springbucks and zebras.

Springbuck and Zebra

After the park, we ate grilled shrimp at one of Scott's parent's favorite restaurants, Three Peppers. Then we went home and got ready for the Soweto stake conference where Mom got to speak.

It was interesting to visit Soweto, which is a black township near Johannesburg famous for riots in 1976 about South African apartheid policies. It is a very poor area, but the church is growing quickly. The members are very strong and they have beautiful church buildings to meet in. The weather turned cold that evening and we soon felt like we were freezing. It was odd for us to experience the opposite seasons in the southern hemisphere. It was March, but it was fall. After the conference, we visited Irene, a Zulu woman who helps take care of the mission home. She lives near the church building where we had conference and has a son a little older than Tyler. Whenever Irene came to the mission home, Tyler would follow her around and talk to her. Mom taught Tyler how to say hello in Zulu, which thrilled Irene.

On Sunday, we attended the rest of the Soweto stake conference. Dad spoke in this meeting. Afterwards, we had dinner with the assistants. Then we watched Pioneers in Africa, about the growth of the church in Africa, and the documentary March of the Penguins which the kids really enjoyed.

On Monday, we packed and then drove to Pilanesberg, a national park about three hours from Johannesburg. Pilanesberg is an enormous animal preserve in an extinct volcano. We checked into the Kwa Maritane bush lodge inside the park and then decided to drive into the park looking for animals while it was still light. We were fortunate to see elephants right on the road. They were amazing to watch.

Baby elephant goes under its mom

We continued farther into the park and also saw zebra and wildebeest. We then returned to the hotel for dinner. We decided to eat on the patio from where we could see a waterbuck. The most exciting part of the dinner was that we could hear a lion growling and roaring somewhere out in the long grass nearby. We figured it wasn't a very common occurrence because even the hotel staff came out on the patio to listen and try to look for the lion.

Hotel patio restaurant

"Hippopotom" - Hippopotamus. Tyler was mixing Hebrew animal names with the English names.
"Milk store" - the grocery store
"I want to water can" - Tyler wanted to water the flowers again and play in the water.
"My favorite thing about missionaries is to shake their hands" - Tyler was excited to meet so many missionaries.
"I want to watch the lion, zebra and giraffe movie." - Tyler got hooked on the animated movie Madagascar.

"Cheese" - While taking pictures with a toy camera.
"Eight, nine, ten" - Brooke loves to count, but only knows a few numbers.

Posted by sjbowden at 9:11 PM