Pinky Bear, Bruchsal, Germany


Posted Mar 27, 2008, 2:54 pm
Today I'm leaving my home in Bruchsal to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa.

travel plan:
MrsC (South Africa)
Aleoliva86 (Brazil)
minnihiiru (Estonia)

Posted Apr 10, 2008, 4:45 pm
Wooooooooooohooooooooooooo! Hey Mom, I made it! I'm an adventurous bear in AFRICA! Wait just a second... this IS Africa right? Something feels so, so...German...can't put my paw on it...

Nah, can't be, they all talk funny here... it's English but with a very flat accent. And it's boiling hot, it MUST be Africa.

There are two smallish children in this family, they are very nice,  they were pointing out all sorts of things to me on our car journey. We are going to meet some friends for a play date.

Oh what fun I am having! Whee...down the slide and BUMP! I land on the colourful balls. I've been for a ride on a bike and climbed to the top of the frame.

That was so much fun, but I am a little jet lagged from my long journey. I'll just curl up in this quiet little spot and have a...have a... zzzzzz....

Oh hello! Yes, I did have a nice nap thanks. Have I seen the dome? What dome?

Oh my, THAT Dome! It is enormous! Fi tells me they have Expo's and shows in there, from Elton John and his bling to Jeremy Clarkson and his cars...

Now, I feel like I am on safari. I am up a thorn tree. Don't worry, the thorns are as big as me so they are easy to see and avoid. Oh! You will never believe what I have spotted from up here....

I haven't really decided on my missons yet, so many choices! But I thought if I am going to Africa I want to meet the king of the beasts...a lion! And, look I found one in Fi's garden, just lying there snoozing in the afternoon is gigantic! How brave and fearless I am...

What do you mean that's a DOG? Really? But she is HUGE! Surely as big as a lion? No? Can I see a real lion then? Please? I can? When? When the children are on holiday? YAY! :p


Posted Apr 11, 2008, 1:12 pm
I had such a good sleep last night after all the fun I had...and my tummy was so full, we had cheese omlette for supper and some carrot cake that Fi baked. It was scrumptious, you need to ask her for the recipe because I think I may be addicted to it... I dreamed about it, so moist and tasty...Hmmm!

Anyway, we were up early this morning. It was the children's last day of school and they were excited to go. The little girl, Natalie, asked if I could go too because she was learning the letter P and she needed to bring something that started with P (That would be me, Pinky, in case you don't get it...)

I packed my school bag, and climbed in the car and sang along with the children to the Silly Songs CD they were listening to to pass the time.

Natalie is in the green class, she gave me a ride on her shoulders so I wouldn't get squashed by all the children who were running around WAY too full of fresh energy. She introduced me to Teacher Liesl and told her all about me. I like Teacher Liesl, she has good taste - she said I was gorgeous. :)

Teacher Liesl said I could sit on the "green table" where all the things that started with P were. Pig, pine apple, penguin, paper, paint, plastic bag, pop corn, plastic princess plate, potato, Peter Pan and PINKY!

Natalie went to sit outside on the jungle gym, so I joined her, I didn't feel safe with that pine apple...

Soon all of Natalie's friends came to see what we were up to so I climbed a little higher... but so did they so I had to get off.

A school playground is not a good place for a bear as tiny and tempting as me, no matter how brave and excited I am to be there. I thought I'd drive myself home because Fi listens to old people's radio in the car when the children aren't there...

One day I'll be big enough to reach the steering wheel!

I spent the rest of the day watching Fi rush around like a dervish...We fetched the children from school, but the power was out in the area so traffic was chaotic and we got to school late, so no more photos from there. The children and I are watching a DVD because there is no homework (yay from all around, including Fi!) When it is finished we have a project to this space....

Posted Apr 11, 2008, 4:17 pm
Well! The two children, Fi and I got stuck right into our project. We found some sturdy cardboard (they reduce, re-use and recycle around here!) and some sticky tape. We measured and cut, and folded and stuck it all together... can you tell what we were making? How about a clue? Next we got some sponge and some pretty fabric...

Ahhh! This is the life. Um...Mom? I may not be coming home after this....

Posted Apr 12, 2008, 7:30 pm

That was me at 5.30 this morning... I was sleeping so nicely in my cosy little bed when all of a sudden KABOOM!!! - I nearly jumped out my fur! The house was shaking from the noise and the room lit up with a brilliant white light and then KABOOM!!! again... I was terrified :o. I looked up at Natalie to see if she was also scared but she was still sound asleep. Maybe she is used to this noise and light that she can sleep so soundly through it... One more big boom and then.... what was that other noise? Machine gun bullets? Oh, rain drops, huge big heavy raindrops. That means all the kabooming was thunder and the brightness was lightning. I didn't realise it at the time but I had just experienced my first Highveld thunderstorm! Believe me it is something you have to experience to understand.... and it is something people who immigrate across the world yearn for, so I am told, as scary as it is; it makes you feel quite alive. Fi tells me she has even been hit by lightning while she was in her kitchen once! And that's why there is no TV (well aside from me! I am a TV too...hee...hee). It got hit by lightning and no one bothered replacing it.

Anyway, the storm was intense but brief, as they always are, and I eventually went back to sleep.

I was invited to a birthday party today! So off we went... the theme of the party was "seaside" and the whole garden was decorated with beach balls and fish and surf boards. The birthday boy, Harvey, who turned three, is English and the English associate Punch and Judy puppet shows with the seaside. So they had a Punch and Judy puppet show. The puppet  master (Um... mistress) was a very, very, very funny lady from the Netherlands. She had me and the children AND the parents rolling around with laughter. THEN as a special treat she let me be part of the show. Look: the naughty doggy was sniffing me all over...

And then! My nerves! He put me in his mouth!!!! Luckily I had lived through a Highveld Thunderstorm and come out a stronger and braver bear and I fought my way out...

The other puppet called John gave the dog a talking too and said that was no way to treat a guest, especially not a foreign one who would tell the whole world what a dangerous place South Africa was. So he said sorry to me and promised not to do it again.

Oh, oh! Now what...I get the feeling I am in trouble again...

Oh my goodness, I am in the jaws of a crocodile!

Phew! It was just a jumping castle...

Exciting news!!!!!!!! Tomorrow Fi is dropping me off with her friend who is travelling somewhere exciting on a medical conference for a week. I don't know if I will be able to sleep again... I'll be going on an airplane!

Oh, we had another storm this afternoon but I was much braver this time. I just watched how everyone calmly pulled all the electrical plugs out and switched off the computers (seriously, there are FIVE computers in this room - what a bunch of nerds! ;)) and carried on as if nothing was happening. Except for that giant dog who whined and cried like a big baby and had to be let inside. What a wimp.

Posted Apr 13, 2008, 11:49 am
Hmmmm, what a heavenly smell coming from the kitchen....
I need to go and investigate, I have a little rumble in my tummy, I need a small smackeral of something to eat.. as my hero Pooh would say...

Ah! Pancakes! But wait, what is this? Bear shaped pancakes in my honour? Oh yummy, pass the honey please...

I'm leaving on a jet la la la la la...don't know when I'll be back la la la la la.... PEOPLE!!!! PLEASE!!! Can a bear not get ANY privacy around here? Sheesh....

Oh, it's a little chilly today, even after that warm bath. I think I will put my scarf back on and a little beret to keep my head warm. Right, I am ready to meet Tanya and fly with her to....where is it I am going again? A secret? Oh come on.... little bears can't wait for secrets! Tell me now, please, please? Pretty please?

Sigh....guess I am just going to have to wait....

Posted Apr 15, 2008, 5:23 pm
I have sent Fi an SMS (or text message for those of you who speak foreign!) to let her know that I am having a ball over here but Tanya is having difficulty uploading photos. I'll be back on Saturday to share all my adventures with you... in the meantime I am going to scoff some chocolate... can you guess where I am?

Posted Apr 19, 2008, 11:18 pm
I’m back from my jet setting everybody! As you can see from the flag I visited Switzerland. It was very overcast so there weren’t too many picturesque photos, but come and have a look at what I got up to while I was here.

First off we went to Lucerne. I was so glad I had my scarf on it was very chilly. This is Lake Lucerne and the Chapel Bridge. This covered bridge has become the unofficial symbol of the city. The Wasserturm (Water Tower) is believed to have once served as the lucerna, or lighthouse, after which the town was named.

Hey! You CAN see a bit of the Alps under all that mist!

This is the Lion of Lucerne. The inscription reads ‘ HELVETIORUM FIDEI AC VIRTUTI’ which means “The Loyalty and Courage of the Swiss". It was designed as a memorial for the mercenary soldiers from central Switzerland who lost their lives while serving the French king Louis XVI during the French Revolution.

Mark Twain, the American author, called the Lion Monument “the saddest and most moving piece of rock in the world”.

So, Fi, we ARE going to see REAL lions sometime soon hey? Cool. Just checking. On with the tour.

Oooh, Tanya, coming from the Southern Hemisphere, was so cold we had to stop for a warming cup of coffee…

Then we got onto the SERIOUS stuff! Mhhh hmm mhh! Yummy, yummy, yummy… chocolate in my tummy. Every variety you can think of.

Oh, and of course some cheese… I’m drooling just thinking of it all again.

What a nice little house this bird has. Umm Fi…? Oh, no she says I can forget it, she doesn’t build houses. So where is this silly cuckoo everyone keeps telling me about? When is it coming out of there?

Posted Apr 19, 2008, 11:24 pm
Well, it wasn’t all play of course. They allowed me to be a guest speaker at Tanya’s Communications workshop in Buonas, which is about twenty minutes away from Lucerne. I talked up a storm of course being such a confident bear.

After all that lecturing it was time for a little spot of tea and a snack.

The time passed so quickly, it wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the plane heading back for Jo’burg.

Posted Apr 19, 2008, 11:25 pm
I came back to find a new visitor in the house. A fellow Toy Voyager who was so excited to meet me! He told me that his name was HitchaRideDooey and he had been abandoned by Dilbert  who had gone off to the Kruger Park without him. Ja? What about me? I also want to see wildlife you know. Doeey try that pleading look you’ve mastered. Maybe Fi will get the hint….

Posted Apr 21, 2008, 8:28 pm
Fi has been busy rushing around after her houseguests and she hasn't had much time to take us anywhere. We (HitchaRideDooey and I) have just been sitting around watching the goings on around here. Today was COLD! And I know I come from Germany but even I felt it! Fi explained that the reason we feel cold is that the house is designed to keep the African heat out. So no double glazing or central heating  (actually no air con either!) and the floors are mostly tiled. Every time a freak cold front hits (it is snowing in the Drakensberg making it icy here), everyone shivers...

She made me a nice dressing gown to keep me warm and popped a hot water bottle in bed to warm it up. They all have them in this house!

Well, I was just nicely snuggled in when Dooey hopped in beside me! I nearly jumped out my fur again... I had to take pity on him...something about those buggy eyes... he was so cold, so I just let him snuggle up. If Fi catches him I am just going to pretend I was asleep and noticed nothing. You got that Dooey?

Hopefully tomorrow will be a little warmer and maybe we will ACTUALLY get to go somewhere...

Posted Apr 22, 2008, 6:40 pm
Today was World Earth Day so we went managed to get out the house and see the Earth at last. Fi took us here:

Fi says it is a national obsession to rename everything...

First we went into the visitor centre. I hope she doesn't leave me on this table I don't want to be a touch and feel exhibition and the size of the giraffe neck bone gives me the creeps...

HitchaRideDooey went as white as a sheet and his eyes bugged out even further, I had no idea why until I turned around. I also got quite a fright. Luckily this was a stuffed eagle and it was behind glass because those talons were pretty scary I tell you.

Fi let me put a few coins in the Black eagle collection box. They have a breeding pair here, the only ones in the whole world that breed in an urban area. They are threatened by urban developement. Maybe we will get to see them a little later if we are lucky.

You know, I have to tell you guys something. Fi has no shame WHATSOEVER! She will walk up to a random stranger, a British tourist,  clearly on a botanical garden safari in his pith helmut, and...and.. POP me on his shoulder for a photo. My cheeks are burning just thinking about it....
And, he was just as potty as she is! Well clearly, he is wearing a pith helmut! But he said he was HONOURED to be featured on ToyVoyager.

Fi was muttering about 'mad dogs and Englishmen out in the midday sun'. How did she know it was midday without looking at her phone? She doesn't wear a watch you know...weird I tell you.

I asked Dooey if he wanted to play a game of "Pooh sticks". He said no way, what if he fell off the bridge...

I was walking along, just minding my own business when I found this strange creature. Then I suddenly noticed HUNDREDS of them. Fi said not to be scared they only eat vegetation. We found a sign that explained what they are. And then we found evidence of what they DO! That is a cabbage tree, well it was till they ate it all...

I decided to check out a few more trees, being a bear I am a very good climber. Being a bear, I was allowed to climb the trees I am sure. The rules apply to people only..

Then we found the waterfall. Natalie cried because she was scared I was going to fall in. It is so sweet how she cares for me. Fi made sure I was no where near the water, don't worry..

Look! Look! Look! Umm...hide me! Hide me! Eeek.....

Pity Fi never brought her bigger lens...

Ooh, these are pretty... No idea what they are!

Fi loves these Aloes and I can see why.

Cycads. Doeey was playing Jurassic Park in these because they come from the dinosaur ages.

Phew, that was fun and educational and TIRING...

The children and I read this while Fi bought us all ice- creams. Then she snuck of to buy postcards - typical Postcrosser! Soon it was time to go home. So off we went.


Posted Apr 22, 2008, 6:46 pm
On the way home (a ten minute journey by the way - nature is so close here!) We passed by this sad place. This is an informal settlement. More commonly known as a squatter  camp. Because it is an illegal residence, there are no ammenities such as electricity, running water or refuse collection. The houses (called shacks) are made from whatever can be salvaged. This is only a tiny part of it obviously, it is quite massive. We only managed two quick photos because it is definately not the place to stop and linger with a camera in your hand. This area is within walking distance from Fi's house and the crime in her area has gone up since the settlement was established a few years ago.

The mini buses are used as "taxis" to transport people to and from work because the Muncipal transport system is so ineffective. They are the bane of Johannesburg drivers lives (and much of the rest of the country) as they are a law unto themselves mostly.

Posted Apr 23, 2008, 10:29 pm
You know, we either sit around doing nothing all day or it's non stop action. Today was non stop action. Fi is a great believer in 'THE LAST MINUTE', without which she would get nothing done. As a result she is always in a rush and usually late. So this morning we all hopped in the car and the poor children and us had to eat breakfast - in the car.

She took this quick photo of Johannesburg proper which is about 30 km away. It is high up on a hill (hence the name  JohannesBURG (BERG means mountain, how they come up with BURG is not something Fi knows) and RandBURG is high up on his side which is why you can see the one from the other. Pretty cool. By the way, they call traffic lights 'robots' very odd lot, these South Africans!

Luckily she sticks to the speed limit when she drives and we were only 5 minutes late for meeting friends at the Bright Water Commons (formerly the Randburg Water Front - I see what she means about the national obsession for changing place names). First off we played Putt Putt, not just any Putt Putt, but ADVENTURE Putt Putt... That means it is set in a jungle, with lots of water and rickety bridges and you have to climb over rocks and other things that people with nice cameras should not be doing. Here is HitchaRideDooey and I having a rest at one stage...

One day, Natalie is going to be a fantastic hockey player, Not so much a golfer, but she tried. We cheered her on.

Can you spot us sitting at the side? There is one of the rickety bridges not looking even remotely rickety - but believe me, it WAS! And where the one green ends and the other starts is a long drop and you have to climb down rocks, not a stair in sight!

Anyway, the three boys were going so fast and all at the same time so nobody was keeping score and nobody really won. Once the game was finished we went inside to play ten pin bowling.

Dooey and I had an earnest discussion about whether we would be better off with the green ball which was lighter, but might not go as far, or the pink one which was heavier but would be sure to hit a strike...

The green ball won because it was the only one we could actually PUSH to get it rolling... Pushing is not as fast as throwing, by any means.

After a looooooooooooooooong loooooooooooooooong time, it eventually reached the pins.....

Shane is still asking how his four year old sister won the game, she could also hardly lift the ball!

Everyone was starving after all of this activity, breakfast in the car was not a large or sumptuous meal.

We headed over to a popular family restuarant called the Spur. There is one in just about every town in South Africa.

It is a steak and burgers kind of place with an American Indian theme (Typical South African? I think not!)

This was our waitress, she was very friendly and nice. She took us for a little spin in her tray...see how straight she holds it without even trying!

This is the kitchen staff who made our food. The kitchen is open along the one side of the restuarant, don't worry Fi didn't just waltz into the kitchen! Though I wouldn't put it past her...

And the food, we had run off to the play area, that is why we are not in the photo.... Natalie was eating crumbed vegetable fingers, what a weird child...I thought children hated veges? She let me taste a little bit, very nice: all different veges rolled up in mashed potato. One kid had fish fingers, the other had chicken nuggets. Shane had a real beef burger it smelled so good, But I just had my eye on the strawberry milkshake....

We had a quick ride on the carousel - Dooey felt sick and had to get off...I just held on for dear life and went around and around.... and around...forever it seemed... Then it stopped but the children wanted to go again so the man let them go a few more times because it was not busy.

There used to be a large man made lake here with a massive musical fountain. But then they decided to get water wise ... and the neighbours had complained of the smell! It is now just a little water feature with a small fountain. A skating ramp and a flea market have been built where the lake used to be.

Once again we all piled into the car, without breakfast, and headed over to Lara's place to fetch Dooey's buddy Dilbert who had just got back from the Kruger Park.I can't wait to see what animals he saw there...

Posted Apr 26, 2008, 1:46 am
It is half past two in the morning but I thought I had better let you know what I have been up too as I wil be away for a week...

We had a terrible day today, Fi was taking us and the children to visit a museum. All of the traffic lights were out because of a power failure and it was taking forever to get there. Fi decided to check if the museum was actually opened or if they were also sitting in the dark with no power, so she pulled over to phone. The lady who answered said they had power but you had to have an appointment to visit the museum. Fi said she had never heard of such a silly thing in her life.

We were all very dissapointed so Fi took us to a place where you can ride miniature trains. They were also closed because the trains needed to be worked on. By now Shane had a long face and Natalie was starting to cry, so Fi took us to lunch. As we walked into the shopping center the power went off! Man, can you believe it? Fi bought us some chocolate to cheer us up (it worked of course) and then we went home and had scrambled eggs on toast.

Then in the evening we went to a wine tasting with Fi and her husband, they belong to a wine tasting club even though Fi doesn't drink wine - I keep telling you how odd she is!

Don't worry, I didn't drink any... I couldn't get the cork off!

I was going to sit with the children and play but someone mentioned that they were going to Thailand. Fi tried to get them to take me or Dilbert with them but they said they were too irresponsible. Our hosts for the evening, Matt and Yolanda, said they would take me to the coast with them though! Fi sternly told Matt he was NOT to take me diving with him! No matter what cool photos he could take... so you will once again have to wait till I get back from my trip. I hear the weather has improved down there, it has been cold and raining... what good timing! Chat soon...

Posted May 5, 2008, 9:43 am
Hello people! I am back from the beach, where it was cold and grey, to Johannesburg where it is cold and grey! Okay, to be fair, we have blue skies today - BUT it is still cold! We are all huddled around the gas fire trying to keep our paws warm so we can type updates....

Let me tell you about my trip to the South Coast. We set off early in the morning because it is a loooooooooooong drive to Amanzimtoti, which is in the beautiful province of Kwa-Zulu Natal (which used to be just Natal - but you know the name change obsession...).

The naming of Amanzimtoti (which means 'sweetwaters' ) is generally attributed to Shaka, the famous King of the Zulus. During one of his campaigns, he and his army stopped to rest here and he was brought a calabash filled with water from the local river. He sipped the water and said “Kanti Amanz'amtoti' meaning ' the water is sweet'. Not a fat chance I was tasting it to verify this, let me tell you! He tasted it in the days BEFORE there were a million and one factories built up stream.

Anyway, the car was loaded up and we were ready to go! Umm, you are not leaving me in the boot are you? I can't see anything from here....

I rode up front and saw lots of farms along the way. Sunflowers and maize (they call corn 'mielies' ha ha what a funny name!) in the Free Sate, pine trees and sugar cane in KZN (my paws are too cold to type Kwa-Zulu etc). It is amazing how different the provinces look from each other. but you are just going to take my word for that because I was feeling to car sick to take photos... Fi found one in her collection....

It took forever to get there, I kept bouncing up and asking if we were there yet. Matt said if I didn't stop I was going to travel in the boot. That was just getting out of Johannesburg...

We stayed in a holiday flat. I found a sunny spot to sit and stretch my legs after the long journey...

All to brief that was, the weather turned grey a few minutes later... This is the view when I turned around to look at the sea...

Our first stop was a birthday party for a little boy. I found some interesting sweets and climbed up to reach them.

Then some clever person moved the other container away and just LEFT ME DANGLING THERE!!! Well, I could either drop down empty handed or climb up and stay in the tummy was as round as anything, of course I stayed in the sweet bowl till it was time for cake!

I got the first slice...delicious!

We eventually got to the beach when it brightened up a bit. Look what I found, wild animals!

The sun disappeared again...

I gave up trying to get a tan and watched this cargo ship for  a bit...

Even that got boring, a beach with no sun is also no fun...except if you are a fisherman, they didn't seem bothered in the slightest....hmmm, fish fur supper!

The next day it just rained so we went to the nearest shopping mall. Retail therapy is good for cheering you up...


Posted May 5, 2008, 10:19 am
Yay! Another miserable day, but at least there is no rain! What is all this nonsense I hear about Sunny South Africa? Ha ha ha...
We went here:

We got to see a show, with a very clever seal...

And some very impressive dolphins. They can jump so high.

Then we went to the aquarium....


Hmmm, I am really, really hungry!

This ray looks hungry too, I'm outta here!

And not a minute too soon....I say!

No, no, no! Don't put me back! Those giant crabs are really scary when you are as small as me..

That was really interesting! But I am glad to be up here, where those big sharks aren't.

The aquarium is in a re-created ship wreck! This is the front of it:

And this is the side view:

Time to go home, the weather has turned again! We won't be able to go on any of the fun rides..

Thank you Matt and Yolanda for taking me on holiday with you... and thank you for NOT taking me diving!

Posted May 6, 2008, 11:36 pm
The weather was rotten in Johannesburg all weekend, we never got to go anywhere....

The children went back to school today. Of course it was a nice sunny day. It was very quiet around here..except for Fi doing the post holiday house restoration. It is hard to believe that two small people can create that much chaos. The three of us just sat around chatting, then Fi said we needed to get rid of some energy. We joined Shane and his football team on the  school field.... I scored a GOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLLLLLLLL!

Posted May 7, 2008, 1:07 am
Yesterday, after the football match, I was so tired I went to sleep in Fi's handbag. Just as well I would have been so embarrassed at the pet shop yesterday with Dilbert and HitchaRideDooey and all their nonsense! I was blushing when I saw the photos today... they were all over the place and in everything, what must the shop owner have thought?

Today, fortunately, they redeemed themselves.

We all went to The SPCA (the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) so Dooey could achieve a life mission (Um, Fi, when exactly am I going to achieve  even ONE?)

We donated some food and two blankets for winter.

We signed the register, I will have signed my name all over this province before I leave this country! I could charge for autographs...

A very bossy, self important lady shouted at us and said we were not allowed to take photos of the dogs in the kennels. We said hello to the dogs and tried not to cry at all the sad ones or the ones that were whining to go home...

Then we went to the thrift shop that they have to raise extra funds and...... Dilbert and Dooey RESCUED a sad plush pup!

I rescued a whole bunch of bears!

This one is absolutely filthy... but very sweet...

This one is very old and very loved, and sadly very worn, she needs a lot of surgery to make her better...

This cheeky monkey followed us out the shop, he needs a few stitches too...

Fi has special plans for them all, starting with a bath tomorrow! Dilbert and Dooey are hiding away, they don't want a bath, I would love a bath I am getting very grubby from all my adventures...hmmm bubbles!

We were feeling rather proud of ourselves after all that!

Here we are, the RESCUERS!!!


Posted May 7, 2008, 10:06 pm
Hello, hello, hello! What a lovely sunny day! Perfect for washing dirty toys.... Pity none of them wanted to be cleaned. Most especially the really dirty ones! Fi got everything ready, thread, needles, scissors, warm water, sponge, delicate hand washing detergent, towels, hangers, pegs, HANGERS? PEGS? WHAT THE..... oh, they were in the bowl Fi was using and she just put them to the side, phew....I had visions of hanging on the line by my ears.....

I had to lead by example, so the others could see it wasn't so bad.... I was just surface washed with the sponge and the foam... once again, just for the benefit of the others; I usually take a nice long soak with bubbles up to my chin...BLISS!

Then I was dried off with a fluffy white towel....

Next was this little bear, who was actually white under all the dust and very fluffy!

This little guy just won't take anything seriously, he is always monkeying around! I think he was neglected for a long time, he just likes to hug everyone...he is very needy. He was also in need of surgery, his hand was falling off, but not any more!

This pup went mad! He shook himself all over the rest of us and then rolled around to get dry. Honestly, dogs have no manners....

This bear is very quiet, he spent a long time on the floor at the thrift shop because he had fallen off the back of the shelf and was trapped under a box of junk. He was absolutely filthy and Fi didn't know if the big black patch would come off his chest. Luckily it did and look how clean he turned out!

This sweet guy escaped the wash, he was so new he still had the store price tag on and he was inside a plastic bag...

We had to leave the room and go sit on the window ledge in the warm sun to dry... no pegs thank goodness... because Fi had to do a big job on the last bear and she didn't want us to watch because she had to do something very scary....

After a while she made us all turn around to dry on the other side... we felt a lot like chickens on a rotisserie... but it was lovely and warm in the sun and we were completely dry in an hour or so.

This is the bear that needed major surgery. He was split apart everywhere and he is very old and fragile. We thought he was a girl because of the lace around his neck. Poor bear, the lace was hiding the previous surgery he had to re attach his head.... ooh I feel faint just thinking about that... and the person who did that to him put his head on backwards!!!! That is why we had to leave the room. Fi thought we might be freaked out if we saw her taking his head off... boy was she right!

Here he is all fixed and cleaned up. Fi had to be extra gentle because his fur is brittle and falling apart. Doesn't he look much happier with his head on the right way round?

Tomorrow they all get new ribbons and accessories AND we find out what is to become of them all...

Posted May 15, 2008, 10:33 am
What a boring time I've had lately! Everyone in this house has taken a turn to be sick, change of season I suppose...

The latest news around here is that the little pup got a new name! He is called Ambrosius and he is already on his way to the Netherlands to join the Dutch trail... Shame, he is squashed really tightly into an envelope, hope he gets there soon!

More news is that Dilbert and HitchaRideDooey left this week. I was really sad because I had made good friends with them and now I am the only ToyVoyager left in the house... here we are saying our goodbyes...

I'm just left with the raggle tag of rescued bears and that monkey who does nothing but cause trouble all day long. REALLY!!! Fi should just take him back or even better, release him into the wild (and I really mean the wild, like the bushes or something. ) He hangs off high places and then when you least expect it he falls down on your head. Very annoying. They all leave here next week - Fi says that will be an adventure too. Something to look forward to I suppose...

.....SIGH...... I'm so bored... Natalie is home too as she is just getting over a bad cold.... she is bored as well... Fi says if we don't all stop sighing she may just go mad, and we are all under her feet she can't get anything done....SIGH... oops!

Fi made us both get in the car...maybe she is taking Nats back to school..

Hang on this is not school! What is this place?

WOW! These trees are so weird! The trunk is green and the branches...

Fi says it is called a fever tree. The leaves are used in traditional medicine for coughs and fevers. It is a type of thorn tree. It only grows in wet areas, Fi says Jo'burg has definitely been a wet area this summer! The rain has hopefully ended now. Winter in Jo'burg is dry.

Enough of the Biology lesson already, can we please go inside to see what they have here?

Can you belive it? NO CAMERA'S ALLOWED!!! It's not a bank or the houses of's a GARDEN CENTER! Sheesh, the people in this town are so paranoid...

Well you'll just have to use your imagnations to see all the interesting little shops and the restuarants and the plants...Oh! The beautiful plants...inside plants, outside plants, water plants, real plants, fake plants, little flowers, big trees, brightly coloured pansies everywhere ready for winter beds... too beautiful.

Oh ho ho! An outdoor play area and... another one! We went into the one where you pay by the hour, the first one was full of toddlers and their gossipy moms....boring.

We had the place to ourselves...wheeeeee!

Natalie and I made sure we went on EVERYTHING and used up every minute of the hour we had.


Jumping castle:


Wheeeeeeeeeee! I went flying off at the end because I was so small but Fi caught me in mid air! She said it was like being in a circus....

I climbed up the knotted rope, easy peasy lemon squeezy!

This one was a little more tricky because I was too small to reach the bottom, why don't these people think of small bears when they build these things?

I'm going to make it, I know I am!


All that climbing was thirsty work... Um... Nats? May I share? Thanks, you're a doll.

And Fi.... :p :p :p :p :p


Okay, okay, okay, I'm ready, what's next?

Hmmm, not sure that I would want to put my paws on those grubby handles even if I could reach them... Yuk!

Thank Nats! Let's go speed freak!

This is how they stop the kids escaping...

Just kidding! That's how they stop the MOM"S escaping and leaving the kids behind... ha ha ha... Okay, it's just a regular Jo'burg security feature...

Well our hour was up but not our energy... so we went on  a few rides. Nats thought I should be buckled in, I didn't think it was necessary... please, I'm a BEAR!!!

EEEEK! What an extreme ride, luckily Natalie came to my rescue...or I would have gone flying again!

Okay, enough of that - let's go buy some flowers... Wow! A little trolley - especially for children, how sweet. Natalie tells me that she usually climbs in it and Shane pushes her around. Speaking of Shane, I bet he will sulk when he hears that we were having fun whilst he was at school.

So, Fi, what are we doing with the plants hmm? A job for another day? What? How lazy are you? Okay, okay, tomorrow then....


Posted May 17, 2008, 9:32 pm
Oh my goodness, we ended up going to ANOTHER garden centre. This one is way more fun though. We were enclosed yet again (nothing in Jo'burg is open in case you haven't worked this out yet) but this place was MUCH nicer than the other one... it is a whole village for children, and TVs of course, to play in.
I started off on the bikes (much cleaner than that revolting pink one) though I couldn't decide which one to choose...

I chose a cool black one and off I whizzed around the race track, didn't need Natalie's help this time AND I obeyed all the traffic rules!

Can you tell what I'm doing up here?

No? How about from this side?

After I finished flying that plane I decided to blast off to outer space...just doing a final check to make sure the rocket is in order...

WHOOPS!!! The booster rockets set the hairdressers on fire, I had to rush and put out the flames...

Phew, that was scary! I thought the whole village would burn down but I saved it with my quick thinking and fire fighting skills. I think I'll phone home and let them know how I'm doing... where is the Post Office?

It's just ringing, no one seems to be home. Where can they be? Fi says they went on holiday...without me? How rude...

I'd better get a few groceries while I'm here. Fi is like Old Mother Hubbard...her cupboards are always bare...

Oh, how humiliating...please can we get out the nursery? I really am not a baby, get me out of here....

Just to prove that I'm all grown up I went to donate blood, I have a rare type P- . There is always a shortage so I donate every 56 days

OOOOhhh, I don't feel so well... the nurse said I had to sit and wait to see the doctor...

The doctor checked me out and said I was silly not to eat before donating blood. I had to go get something to eat immediately and I would be just fine.... can't think how I forgot to eat, must be all the excitement of exploring... He also said I was not to use the gym either so no photos in there...

Hmmm, chicken....

...and lots of healthy fruit and vegetables...

I feel much better now. Oh look a gardening trolley...that reminds me...Fi, we still haven't planted the flowers yet... Oh my, what a look she just gave me! She hasn't been feeling well so I suppose that is why she keeps putting it off. I wish everyone in this house would just get better so things can go back to normal...

Well that was a lovely afternoon, each section has a lady to look after the children and make sure they don't get hurt. They were all very curious about me, so I told them all about my adventures. You can tell they spend all day around children, they didn't think my story was strange at all!

We said our goodbyes and it was time to go home. OH DEAR, a flat tyre, just what we didn't will we get home now?


Posted May 19, 2008, 12:31 am
At last Fi got off her butt and decided to do a little bit of gardening... as you can see, the front entrance to her house has taken a bit of a beating from the extreme weather (high temperatures, low temperatures, relentless rain and hail storms). The hanging baskets looked particularly sad and the railway sleeper steps are starting to rot and become dangerous to walk on down the one side...

OOhhh! The sun is bright early in the morning, it is making me squint! How unattractive... and she still takes a photo!

Ah! That looks better. Fi says it will soon grow and fill up the empty spaces (if she remembers to water them - that is why she only plants indigenous plants, they are almost Fi proof  and can take a lot of neglect) They are also nice in that you just snap off a piece and plant it in soil and it grows another plant without much fuss...that's how it survives out in the veld.

Look carefully and you will see the buds on these ones. Fi says these plants are the best ones she has ever bought. She has not been able to kill them for years! They will open soon and they look like lobsters claws.

Fi decided the best way to stop someone breaking a limb falling off the stairs was to pull one sleeper forward and plant flowers in the space left behind.

That is when I truly knew I was in Africa, two lizards, one very large frog, lots and lots of worms, several unidentifiable bugs and a few spiders had made their home under that log. ALL of them disappeared before Fi could take her gloves off to take a photo. But I now know the gloves were not to protect her from the dirt!!!!

They look a bit droopy and insignificant here but they perked up with a bit of water. We ran out of soil so we couldn't finish... another day’s job.

It was hot by now so we went inside for a nice cool drink... and a biscuit or two...


Posted May 19, 2008, 1:13 am
Today Fi went to visit her Mom, she was going to take photos of me but Fi's Mom's dog was sick and they thought she might have to be put down. Well I am sure you can imagine how Fi was crying because Rascal (the dog) was her childhood pet...okay, okay, the dog IS ancient... and she never took me OR her camera to the vet. The vet decided the pooch needed x-rays before he made any dramatic decisions because he said she was still happy and alert and full of beans. So Fi left her there smiling and promised to be back to fetch her at 1pm.

Oh dear, when she got back without the dog her Mom was terribly upset till she found out Rascal was still alive. We sat around reading magazines and chatting to Fi's 93 year old granny who is very confused but still very funny. Sometimes she is polite and tells Fi she is a 'little plump' and sometimes she forgets her manners and tells Fi she is 'very fat'. Fi is just happy that Granny B still remembers who she is.

Well it was soon time to fetch the pardoned - from - death - row - pooch...and...OH fault for joking about this the other day apparently...

That will definitely be the last time I make a joke like that...

Eventually Fi's husband came to her rescue, the dog was rescued, Granny B had a nap and Fi set of to help her friend Vicki become a fully fledge ToyVoyageress!

Later on Fi's sister phoned to tell her to look outside at the moon, it had a funny aura around it. She is a LUNAtic so she pays close attention to the moon...ha ha ha ha ha ha ha...

So of course we all traipsed outside in the middle of the night (it was so cold so I put my scarf on - another cold snap is on it's way)

Fi actually lay down on the floor to take the photo and the dogs came over and slobbered all over her. GROSS!!! Then they went off to drink water and CAME BACK! Great big slobbery beasts!

Oh bother! You can't see me OR the moon's aura in this photo... honestly Fi! It is time you went for photography lessons!

Fuzzy but here you can see the big ring around the moon..

Must be something to do with the cold and the clouds. We will check the paper tomorrow. There may be something in there about it.

Posted May 19, 2008, 8:26 pm
Well there was nothing in the newspaper about the last night's moon. There are too many other terrible things going on in Johannesburg at the moment for anyone to notice the moon. Fi won't tell me what is happening, she says I am too small to understand, but she is very sad...

Anyway, one of the many strange things about Fi, is that she collects all her friend's post for them when she visits the post office. Today there was lots and lots crammed into the boxes as she has not emptied them for a few DAYS!!!

I helped her sort the post out.. she clearly has the most interesting mail... postcards!

Ah, but look what I found! I guess there is another TV waiting at the post office for collection. Who can it be? Fi says she has a good idea, it is someone she has been waiting for for a long time.

Oooohhhh! I can't wait for tomorrow.....

Posted May 21, 2008, 9:06 pm
Fi and I went back to the Post Office today. We were so excited to meet the new TV. But then the lady brought out the parcel and it was flat!!! That confused us both...hahaha! Fi could feel that it was a book of some sort, but she decided to save some of her dignity and wait till she got home to open the parcel... Can you see? More postcards...

And if you think Fi's desk is an untidy mess, let me just tell you that is the TIDIEST I have ever seen it!

Oh :D almost as exciting as a TV, it is MagicWomans travelling notebook... I hope Fi lets me help her fill it in.

Remember I said that something bad was happening in Johannesburg? Well, a lot of people have been left homeless and are sleeping in the garden of the Police Station, two roads up from Fi's house. Her friend MrsF asked her if she would go shopping to get some supplies for these poor people. So off we rushed, buckets to hold the supplies in and they can be used for storing water in too, disposable nappies for the babies (there is no place to launder cloth nappies), porridge and peanut butter for the children too.

MrsF had also organised blankets (it is bitterly cold at night without shelter) and toiletries. She delivered the whole lot this evening. I asked if I could go too, but Fi said it would not be dignified to take photos of a small bear amid people's suffering. She's right I suppose... I hope the situation ends soon.

Posted May 21, 2008, 9:50 pm
It would seem that Fi always has something on the go... Her favourite magazine is called Ideas. It has a section at the back called "social responsibility" where they highlight a charity organisation and ask for help with either voluntary work or donations. Well the April issue was a little different, they asked readers to knit, crotchet or sew items to help warm children or the elderly for three specific charities in different areas of the country as winter is fast approaching. Fi sent the request out to her friends and this is what she collected:

Today was the last day for submitting (again with the last minute thing!) so we, me, Fi and Threadbear hopped in the car and set of for Sandton, a very wealthy upmarket area where a lot of businesses moved to after central Jo'burg became to dangerous to work in.

Of course we got lost and drove around in circle for a bit until we found it. Threadbear was worried he would not make an important appointment but Fi told him to relax, we'd get it all done in time...

This is us at reception, the receptionist is hiding BEHIND the desk! She was very camera shy...hee hee hee!

Someone very creative was let loose in the reception area, all the furniture is painted on the wall!

Even the office cat was painted on, though he looked like he wanted to play!

We handed over the donations and left the poor receptionist in peace. Fi said whilst we were in the area we might as well stop at Sandton City, a very big, exclusive shopping centre where the rich & famous and tourists shop... bet she buys postcards...

But of course she did! And she took us into an African curio! It's BRIGHT!

We met a lady in the shop who was very excited to hear about ToyVoyagers (if you are reading this: Hi!  :p). This is the shop manageress, who very kindly let us take photos in the shop. Do you think these dolls would last as TV's?

Sandton City links to the Nelson Mandela Square, so we took a walk across to it, on the way we popped into another curio shop (Fi, you have a postcard PROBLEM :() and we found these little cute! Just the right size for envelope travelling!

Then we bumped into Nelson Mandela himself! I never realised he was that tall!

Bye Madiba, nice to have met you, we'd love to stay and chat but ThreadBear has important business to deal with...

Man, why did we park the car so far away?


Posted May 25, 2008, 8:55 pm
Threadbear is collecting Teddy Bears for the Teddy Bear Clinic and he wanted to visit it personally to see what it was all about...

Here we are getting closer, this is the famous Hillbrow Tower, situated in the infamous Hillbrow, which is pretty much a slum these days so this was as close as we were getting.

You may have noticed that  South Africans are very proud of their colourful flag...

Some more than others...

Here he is at Reception. Unfortunately the man we had come to see, Luke, was busy in training.  He is very, very busy as Child Protection Week is coming up soon. Never mind, I am sure Threadbear will get to meet him soon. The most important thing is that he knows what Threadbear is doing here on ToyVoyagers with the Teddy Drive and he is very excited about it too.

The Teddy Bear Clinic won a prestigious gold award, which recognises their contribution made to public life in South Africa. Well Done!

Threadbear and I join in a jacuzzi party! Just kidding, every available space is filled with Teddy Bears which is a lovely sight...

These ones do the filing..

These ones do admin...

These ones do general office work...

We made a friend on this desk...

Here is a peak into one of the rooms... people were busy in all the other rooms and we didn't want to intrude.

This bear is made from wire!

These poor girls need some TLC, someone tried to put a dress on the first one but it just got stuck because the bear was just too big. MrsC promised she would be back to make dresses (maybe she will take a sponge and some detergent with too)

Who is that I spot down the end of the passage?

Look, MrsC and MrsF did a good job two years ago fixing up this bear! The Gigantabearus still looks good, he just needs a little lip surgery and all will be well!

Maybe if we collect enough bears we can get ToyVoyagers up on the wall too?

Here's hoping!

Whilst we were in the building we went up to visit some of the other clinics Fi supports.

Here is the view out of the window. The tower again and the derelict looking building in front of it was once the esteemed Queen Victoria maternity home, where pretty much everyone in Johannesburg was born before the new Johannesburg General Hospital opened in the late 1970's. The building we are in at the moment used to be the children's hospital until that too was moved to the new Jo'burg Gen.

This is the Toy Library but children were busy having a play session so we didn't go in...

Then we went up to visit "BigShoes" which is a clinic for abandoned babies, orphaned or vulnerable children. Their mission is to aid these children so that they can grow up and fill big shoes! Isn't that sweet?

This is a lovely bright and beautifully decorated clinic.

In this room, the abandoned babies are assesed to establish how old they are. Blood is also taken for DNA testing and sadly, HIV testing.

These are some of the latest babies that have been adopted both locally or internationally.

If you can see on this poster, the little white stickers are all the children's homes just in Johannesburg alone. Scary.

All the people that work in this entire building, which is exclusively for children's clinics (all Non Government Organisations) do the most amazing job and I for one salute them.

On the way out we stopped at the canteen...isn't it sweet? The bears are down here too!

Well that was an emotionally draining experience but I can't wait to go back with Threadbear! It would be especially nice to take 500 bears back with us!


Posted May 25, 2008, 9:38 pm
Vicki, Fi's friend, is new around here and her children are so excited about  ToyVoyagers that they can't WAIT for one to arrive (post to South Africa is SOOOOO slow!)
Fi let me stay over at their place last night so they can see what it is to have a TV in the house... Wow, very different from Fi's house where the children are younger and noisier! Lots and lots of homework and projects going on! And that includes Vicki who is studying too!

This morning Vicki's daughter took me with to school as she was going on a field trip. It was so cold early in the morning...

Here we are ready to leave the school field...

Then we got on the bus. Teenagers think they are so funny... look where they made me sit!

We arrived at Happy Acres, a nature reserve in Magaliesburg. Fi said it sounded more like an old age home! Ha, ha, ha!
The students went to learn about ecosystems, plant ecology, animal ecology, ecological pyramids, different types of soils and more...

If you ask me they need to look into housekeeping, that water looks revolting! Yuck....

Look at this funny tree I found, it is shedding it's bark!

I'm just going to look this way and pretend that I can't see that, that, that... shiver... huge dung beetle... Oh man, it is almost the same size as me. I don't care if it has a cute name - a Toktokkie is still as creepy!

We had to cross the stream so I hitched a ride in this back pack...

What a very sophisticated system, are there no engineers around here who can build bridges? I can see someone not making it across on this rope…

Yep, there's one in the water...

I caught a little nap in the sun...lovely and warm now, it has been so cold lately.

Heh, heh, this is the life! My little legs just can't keep up... it is much easier all round if someone carries me.

Time for lunch and a drink then we are off to another exciting place...


Posted May 25, 2008, 11:26 pm
We all hopped back on the bus and got driven to our next destination Maropeng in the Cradle of Humankind.

South Africa has the earliest evidence of humanoid life. It is found in an area not to far from where Fi lives. A few years ago they opened a visitor centre to showcase the discoveries made in this area.

Two of the most famous discoveries are of the first complete Australopithecus skull to be discovered, in the Sterkfontein caves, nicknamed 'Mrs Ples' (of course, had she been one of Fi's friends she would just be Mrs P!) and 'Little Foot' a 4.17 million-year-old, almost complete ape-man skeleton which was also discovered in the same caves.

Maropeng starts off in a burial mound called a 'Tumulus' and the rest of it is underground... you go on a boat ride through an underground lake to experience  the four life giving elements that shaped the world into what it is today: earth, fire, water, and ice. Actually all the dark and noise and lightning and volcanoes just scared me out my wits... I see why little Natalie won't go back! Fi wanted to take us during the holidays and Natalie said NO WAY!

It was probably also all the bones and skulls that frightened her...

Look, a new face in the crowd!

This poster says 'Humans are the last surviving species in the genus Homo' where do I fit in then?

There are plenty of interactive displays throughout the centre...

People! Not THIS!!!!

Why oh why must they put me right on top of the creepy stuff?

Oh very funny! Yes put me BEHIND it instead! FI! NO MORE TEENAGERS!!!!

As well as displays on ancient life, there are lots about modern life like this one...they made a mistake though, it should be 6610054281 - they left me off!

Well, South Africa is not doing TOO badly on the world literacy ratings, 85%..  I got held up to represent Germany but the kid wasn't tall enough!

I can't really tell you about me and the toxic spill, the less said about that the more teenagers like I said!

I read this on the suggestion board... I agree…

Well that was an interesting journey, I saw all sorts of things I never knew before. Maybe if Natalie changes her mind we can go back again...

While we were waiting for the bus, I rested on this sign...then I looked down to read it....eeeeekkkkkk! Maybe, I won't be back!

I decided to change locations and asked J to hold me, she was too busy talking to her friends so she just popped me on her feet! What does she think I am: a penguin? Good grief...

Phew, made it safely home! Thanks J for looking after me and taking me with you...

Oh, Fi said I am going on another surprise journey! I'm travelling somewhere with her friend Tanya again, and we have already done Switzerland so it is not there... and this time I have a speciial travel companion called 'Hope', I can't wait to meet her!

Posted May 30, 2008, 5:09 pm

Tanya took me to Paris!

I met a new friend called Hope, she is also a travelling bear. She travels with Tanya to promote Breast Health Awareness. We didn't get to see too much of Paris as Tanya was working... but we did see the Eiffel Tower!

...and the Seine. (Did you know, there is no major river in Johannesburg? It was a town built on greed - for gold, not practicality)

We also visited  Jardin des Tuileries, which gets its name from the French word for tiles (tuilerie), as the area was originally a clay quarry. Catherine de Médicis had a palace built here in the late 1500's with a large Italian style garden to remind her of home. The garden was one of the first parks to be opened to the public. It is also the most central park in Paris.

Sorry pigeon, I have no crumbs for you...

Here I am outside the Louvre, maybe one day I'll go back and get to see inside it! I'd love to meet The Mona Lisa

Maybe I can convince Fi to take me to some local art galleries when I get back....


Posted Jun 6, 2008, 8:18 pm
Somebody lied to me...
I was told, and I distinctly remember this, that winter in Jo'burg is DRY with BLUE skies....
What the heck is this then?

Rain, that's what!!! Three days of rain. Grey sky and it is FREEZING. Freezing, I tell you, no double glazing, no central heating and no carpets!!!!

Luckily Threadbear had a spare jersey I could borrow. Or I would have climbed in an envelope and posted myself home just to warm up...

Well, they say it will warm up tomorrow and the rain will stop...

Posted Jun 6, 2008, 8:22 pm
Sorry, no updates from Pinky today. She is in a big sulk and staying in bed because the temperature this morning was 5.5 deg C. I told her it would be hot by lunch time, but she just pulled the bed clothes over her head and said 'hmmph'. So I left her there!

Posted Jun 6, 2008, 8:49 pm
It was much warmer today, so I eventually dragged myself out of bed...yay! Blue sky!

Well you may know that I am sharing desk space with Threadbear who is on a mission to collect 500 Teddy Bears for the Teddy Bear Clinic... Well today he and Fi went off to help a friend sort out some charity donations... and they came back with this:

I was speechless. There were so many toys and some of them smelled REAL BAD! I only posed for the photo 'cause it meant sitting in the sun, but because I'm sitting in the sun you can't even see me!

I helped Fi and Threadbear sort out the toys.

Bears to be washed...

Other toys to be dealt with afterwards...oh, I may have been more gentle with my own kind, sorry you lot...

The other bears that had already been washed were also sorted into groups. The whole room was filled with bears and Fi sat down to repair the ones with split seams, no ears, missing eyes, backwards arms...

She has a funny old fashioned thing called a record player that plays huge black CD's called records...what a stupid name...but it plays the most wonderful music! She put on some records from the 1940's which she says is the best music to listen to if you need to feel domesticated. So while she sat and sewed we all danced around the room.

You know Threadbear's little brother, Buttons, handsome...

Not that Threadbear isn't ...or anything...and he sure can dance. Buttons that is, and Threadbear... of course...

Well, then. I need to go and you know...blush...blush... and everybody.


Posted Jun 10, 2008, 5:17 pm
Yay! I am going somewhere at last! Hopefully there will be some sunshine today...

Nats has a birthday party to go to at a place called Toadstool Town .It's a Princess party. Now that sounds promising!

We are dressed and ready, LET"S GO ALREADY!

Bump, bump, bump! We had to drive on a dirt road to get there because it is on a farm.

Here we are!

We arrived just in time for a tractor ride. All the children and I piled on the back and off we went...

You can see how dry it is here in winter... but still very beautiful.

On our ride we saw an old windmill.

And people learning to horse ride. I'd like to ride a horse...or maybe a pony...

I even had a turn at driving the tractor! Okay, I was just pretending, I am not really big enough to drive this thing...

Whoohoo! What is next?
Hmmm, what is this? Something to eat? Oh. My. Goodness. This is quite delicious and dripping with sweetness. What is it?

A KOEKSUSTER! WHAT A FUNNY NAME..ha ha ha... This is a traditional South African sweet treat. It is made from doughnut dough which is braided then deep fried and then dipped in a cold syrup mixture (I can feel my arteries clogging with each delicious bite)..But oh, I just can't stop!

Right, I'd better work off some of those kilojoules or I'll be too heavy to ever post home. Nats, want to come exploring with me? Good, let's see what we can find.

Lots of old farm implements...

A what? A farm cat? Don't let it get me....eek!

Old wagon wheels...

An old building...

Interesting... stables...horses? No? Ponies? Where?

Are you sure there is a pony at the top of these stairs Nats? Seems like a very odd place to keep a pony...

Oh, I see, the steps are to help the children get ON to the pony. Can I ride with you then?

Well, there you have it! My first pony ride! I want to go again...

OOOOHHHH! Look at this...

I'm getting a good seat quickly, before all the children get here...

Hang on a second, I can't reach anything. Much better!

Oh, it is time for games first. We dance and play 'pass the parcel'. And we hunt for treasure... what enormous fun!

Time for cake!

And finally, home time for a rest. Natalie shares her party pack with me on the way home. What a great day it turned out to be. I'll tell Buttons all about it when I get home....


Posted Jun 10, 2008, 5:46 pm
I am so tired.

Well you know that Threadbear lives in this house too and that he is on a mission to collect 500 bears.. well every spare paw in this house has had to help with tying bows and fixing missing parts so that no bear gets left behind...

Teddy Bear Central, as the lounge/sitting room has been renamed, was in a complete mess and Fi has a scrapbook class in the morning so we had to tidy it up. It took us almost all night to get those bears to behave and sit nicely. Look at them all. Dozens of them.

I'm going to bed and I am going to sleep for a week. I have a new friend sharing my bed. Her name in Fiona just like Fi! I'll introduce her to you soon.

Posted Jun 10, 2008, 6:47 pm
Today Fi let me join her scrapbook class.

This is the page they were doing:

This is how they take over the whole is full of paper and rulers and photos and glue. If they each had a table they would still fill it up this much!

One of the ladies was celebrating a birthday so the others organised a champagne breakfast.

Well I skipped the champagne, but I certainly had breakfast!  :D Yummy, most delicious!

Posted Jun 11, 2008, 10:28 pm
I had a boring morning listening to Fi shout at her PC because the internet kept hanging and she couldn't upload her photos to Flickr. After an hour she gave up and went to tidy Natalie's room which looked like a hurricane had swept by. Like I said...boring!

Then we had a little excitement in the late afternoon. Vicki came by to visit and brought two TVs with her. They wanted to meet Threadbear...Honestly. You'd think he was some kind of celebrity the way they went on. They managed to stop and say hello to Fiona and I, before they went off to fawn all over him. Grape Ape is the monkey and Emil is the ASS oops, I mean donkey.

Vicki also brought three bags of bears..oh my aching paws, more work! That poor washing machine never stops.

Ha! No sooner had they all left, than I cought Fiona making eyes at Threadbear. What is it with all these girls throwing themselves at his paws? Buttons is WAY better looking. And she had BETTER keep her paws off him!

I can already see she is going to pester me all night asking questions about him. She has that look in her eyes. Dear me, there may be trouble ahead...

Posted Jun 13, 2008, 5:11 pm
I spent the evening consoling Fiona. I had to tell her that Threadbear already had a girlfriend. She was devastated and cried all night. Eventually I just went to sleep, I couldn’t listen any more… honestly, he is really no big deal.

To cheer her up Fi took us  with to her beautician, Claire, this morning. We had to drop the children off at school first, but the power went off, so there were no traffic lights working. What a nightmare. It took 45 minutes to go 6 kilometers (3.7 miles). Of course, as soon as we got  the children into the school grounds the traffic lights came back on! Well we eventually got to meet Claire, she let us sit on the treatment chair.

Then Claire asked if we wanted the same done as Fi...

We were about to say 'of course!" till we found out Fi was having her eyebrows waxed...aaarrrrggggghhhhh! Stay away from my fur you crazy woman!!!!

We decided to have a pedicure instead, Claire told us to choose a colour nail polish that we! So many choices...

I of course, chose pink... such a lovely colour, and it goes with my...well everything I suppose!

Once we were all prettied up, we got back in the car and headed off to Fi's friend’s post box for her (Fi is the unofficial postmaster general among her friends!) She collects all their post for them. No one gets street delivery, it all goes to post boxes like this.

Fi's post box is at the main Post Office in a huge shopping centre, so that is where we headed next...

She parked on the roof to show us the view.

It is funny that on this side it is all farms but directly behind us it is all urban (but a great big wall blocks the view of that)

This is part of the shopping centre. It is called Northgate - there is also a Westgate, Southgate and an Eastgate oddly enough. All service the four corners of Johannesburg, with dozens, probably even hundreds, of smaller shopping centres in between and a few other massive ones too. Because of the crime in Johannesburg, people feel safer in big shopping areas rather than at little corner shops. She says this is a false sense of security!

This is the Coca - Cola Dome again that I saw on my very first day in South Africa.. This weekend there is an extreme motor show. Guess we won't be seeing that then.

We did a bit of shopping looking for "Bear spares", don't worry I am not falling apart! Threadbear needs them for all the bears coming into Bear Central. Lots of them are damaged in some way or other

Fi left us in the car and went to a shop for something secret…I wonder what it is…

When we eventually got home, she said she thought I may be feeling a little homesick, so she had bought me a little treat from the German bakery…

…that made me cry a little because I do miss my home, but I am having so much fun that I want to stay here a bit longer.

Posted Jun 14, 2008, 2:15 pm
This afternoon, Fi’s son Shane, had an away soccer match. We chased the bus all the way to the school. Luckily we have been to the other school many times because we kept getting stuck at traffic lights... This was less exciting at the last away match , where we didn't know where the school was and we kept losing the bus!

We sat and watched for a while… they ran up, they ran down, they ran up, they ran...

Of course we got bored and had a wander around the school. If you look between us you can just see the Dome that we were at this morning. I didn’t realise that we are so far away! You can see the Dome from  miles around because it is so big and because it is quite high up.

The school is on a farm and on farms you need these… I wish I could have a ride on it, why are my legs so short?

This is the school hall. It doesn't look too impressive from the outside but inside it tiers downwards like an arena.

Aha! Fiona dared me to ring the bell…but there was a padlock on it! Obviously someone got tired of it ringing when it wasn’t supposed to!

There is a river running through the school property, but it is fenced off to stop the children getting to it I suppose. It also stopped us getting to it… Pity, it is so hot this afternoon, I could do with a swim.

Oh well we’d better get back to the match, it is about time for Shane’s team to play. Phew, I need a drink after all that walking...


Posted Jun 18, 2008, 12:23 am
Yesterday was one of those funny days where so much was happening there was no time to photograph it all. Lots of visitors came to the house, first off the breakfast crowd. Fi and some friends have a 'breakfast club'. They used to go out for breakfast, together once a month. Then someone had a 'wise' idea that each family should host breakfast at their home once a month instead.

Wow, what a flurry of activity, starting with Fi waking up early to clean the house quickly (I have mentioned that two young children live in this house?) Then the cooking begins and setting the table. Ooohh! The smells... My tummy was rumbling like mad with the bacon fumes! And black cherries on waffles are my new favourite meal. Fi said I'd have to learn to make them myself if I wanted them more often. No sooner had we cleared up than another lot of guests arrived.... and then another lot! Eventually they all went home and more friends came over for supper.

Fi told me that her husband's grandmother (they don't see eye to eye) once commented (not positively) that the house was like a hotel, with all the comings and going and meals on offer. If you ask me, it is more like Paddington station!

Any way, today was a lot more relaxed. We slept in a bit and then we all had a yummy Father's day breakfast.

After that we climbed into the car, got strapped in and set off for Fi's Mom. We were whizzing down the highway at 120KPH (about 75MPH) when she took these photos so excuse them if they are a bit fuzzy...

First up is Sandton City. Remember I went there recently?

There was a large police presence on the roads because it is a long weekend here. South Africa has a shocking road death toll.

This is a typical sight... usually they are even more overloaded. (This was taken on the way back home - you can see the sun is starting to set)

Fi's husband drove past her Mom's off ramp and she wondered what he was up to... he was taking Fiona and I on a little tour! First we drove up a steep winding hill.... (see the tall walls and electric fence? Very typical in Johannesburg)

We stopped at the top to look down...

We are in a part of Johannesburg called 'Upper Houghton' (old wealthy area) If you look behind us you will see a large group of buildings. That is Killarney where Fi's Mom lives. It used to be a predominantly Jewish area, but with everybody immigrating these days (or dying off... it was also full of elderly retirees!) it has become just as cosmopolitan as the rest of Johannesburg. At one stage it was also quite an exclusive suburb and some of the blocks of flats have been very well maintained. Most were built in the 1920s or 30's and were designed in an art deco style.

The part we are looking down on here is lower Houghton, and somewhere down there is the house of none other than the most famous South African, Nelson Mandela. Fi is sorry she doesn't know exactly which one...

Jo'burg is recognised as an urban forest (the largest in the world.)You can see that clearly, behind us! Wall to wall trees...and believe me when I tell you that under the canopy of trees, it is wall to wall houses too...

The road that we are on is called The Munro Drive, it is a National Monument and is listed on the very important sounding "One Hundred Places of Outstanding Cultural, Historical, Architectural, and Natural Interest in Johannesburg" (which sadly reads like a list of places to avoid in Johannesburg if you wish to live to an old age)

On the way back we passed St John's College. A very old, internationally recognised, Church school. Fi's Granddad went there a long, long, long time ago. I bet there was no electric fence in his day...

Then we popped out onto Joe Slovo Drive, which up until recently was known as Harrow Road.Yep, the name change thing again! Joe Slovo was a "struggle hero", an anti-apartheid activist, and the street was renamed in his honour to commemorate the tenth anniversary of his death. This is a new bridge that was built across the road. There are a lot of these bridges, which are very cleverly designed. They are put in place at the side of the road and then swung over into place by a crane to minimise traffic disruptions. A massive one was built at the side of a highway and swung over once, which was quite an engineering feat.

This is a memorial for those in the South African Scottish Regiment, who lost their lives in the Great War. It stands in front of the head quarters of the 'Transvaal Scottish' (who haven't changed their name even though the Transvaal is now known as Gauteng Province)

Our next stop was Fi’s Mom, where we had that delicious carrot cake again that Fi makes. Her piggy brother had THREE slices!

Posted Jun 18, 2008, 1:28 am
When we got tired of sitting around at Fi's Mom, we all got back into the car and took a little drive down to the Zoo Lake (so named because the 'river', more like a stream, that feeds it, runs through the Zoo which is adjacent to the Lake.)

Oh look! Boats! Please may we have a boat ride?

The two of us were sitting peacefully, enjoying the view...

And the nasty geese got closer, and closer...

Okay, time to leave! Dump the bread and run!
Heh, heh! Look what we found!

Red boat or yellow? Red of course! It is nice and pink inside!

My hero!

Okay, it's not quite the Titanic...but my heart will go on!!!!!

Okay, goose, have some bread...just leave me alone now...

That dreadful monstrosity on the horizon is not a stack of Lego; it is in fact the Johannesburg General Hospital. It was built in the 1970s which explains the concrete ugliness. The three tall buildings are the Nurses Residence. Fi used to live in the one on the left...on the 13th floor. The old hospital was so beautiful....

Hey! Not too close... it's a lovely day but it's not hot enough to get wet...

Oh, how pretty! A rainbow...

Fi says she remembers that fountain in the 'old days' when it used to be higher and fuller.

Oh Help!!! Pirates!!! Johannesburg IS a terrible can't even row a boat in safety... Unhand me now you scabby seadogs!

Thank you, Natalie for rescuing me and comforting me. Row us back to shore!

Ah, the boat house. Safety at last... oh no, another killer goose!!!!

This is a very famous restaurant called Moyo, on the lake side. It is an African experience more than a restaurant. There are a few branches through out South Africa.

The waiters were a little odd we had an ice cream instead and went back home...

On the way we passed this...

Then it was back on the we have these in our country?

We definitely don't get this! My goodness, what an intense sunset!


Posted Jun 18, 2008, 8:21 pm
Well today I witnessed a national institution: The Braai (known in other countries as a barbeque).

The following are valid reasons to have a braai: the sun is shining, there is an important sports event, there is a non important sport event, it is a special occasion, there is more than one person that needs to eat, there is a power failure, it is a day of the week that ends in 'y'. Yep, they pretty much use any excuse.

This is how a braai works:
The woman/women go into the kitchen and prepare a selection or all of the following: potato dish (baked, creamy, salad-whatever), garlic mushrooms, sweet corn, salad (a few types preferably), garlic bread, rice, desert ( a few if possible), tea, coffee all other drinks.

One man braais the meat while drinking a beer. Any other men will form a crowd around him. They will stand and gossip talk about important things like cars. The man will call the woman from the kitchen for another beer, braai tongs, a dish to put the meat on, another beer etc.

The woman will set out all the food that she has prepared: plates, cutlery, glasses, serviettes...

Several decades later the meat will be ready and lunch is served!

Everyone congratulates the man on the wonderful meal he has cooked. He takes full credit. They eat too much red meat and slather butter on everything.

The woman clears up the table and they have dessert.

In this case, milk tart, another national institution. It is baked custard in a pastry shell with cinnamon on top. (Fi cheated, this is a store bought one.) But, was yummy!

Then they all lie around wondering why so many South Africans die of heart attacks.

Fi insists that I tell you that all characters in this story are typical stereotypes and in no way reflect on her husband! And she only lets her family have a braai on rare occasions... with strictly controlled butter rations...ha ha ha!

Posted Jun 18, 2008, 10:06 pm
As a special treat Fi and her friends took their children to the Military Museum as they are all 'army' mad (and it is mid term break).

Now you may wonder what a country at the very bottom end of Africa, continents away from the rest of the world would have to fight about. The short answer of course, would be mineral wealth. European Settlers arrived, discovered how fabulous it was here, decided they wanted it and needed to take it away from the Zulu's (who'd already spent plenty of time warring against other local tribes to reach the top)

Then the Afrikaans people (an offshoot from the original Dutch Settlers) decided they were sick of British rule and wanted to be independent. The British didn't care much for that idea and it led to...

Being a British Colony, South Africa was obliged to lend a helping hand in this war...

And then again in this one....

Then they had a problem with the neighbours (with a little Russian interference)...

Quite a lot of action hmm?

Of course during the Apartheid era they were always on alert for the 'Swart Gevaar' (the Black Danger).

As a result there was compulsory Military Conscription. All men did two years each. The boys in Fi's class at school (1988) were (much to their disgust) the last intake of compulsory military training to do two years (1989). Then it petered down to one year and then it ended all together.

Anyway, here are a few photos from the museum in no particular order (we were running after a crowd of 7 and 8 year olds remember?)

First off, a brilliant intellectual mind Jan Christiaan Smuts (Fi remembers her Grandpa saying was remarkably clever man he was - high praise from Grandpa who was a pretty smart man too!) Read the link to see all of his achievements, including being the Prime Minister twice.

Here is evidence of his military achievements:

Here are the two of us on a tank...

...and a really old fire engine (Fi's favourite exhibit by the way!), called a 'Merryweather'.

Fi found a room full of military musical history that she had never seen before on any of her previous visits... maybe it is a new display.

Me hitching a ride on a cousin of Bokkie...

The Springbok was sculpted by an Italian prisoner of war...

Talking of POW's here are the boots and uniform of a Russian POW from the Border Conflict. Naughty Russians, interfering in affairs so far from home!

And here is another Springbok, called Nancy, she was a mascot for the South African Scottish Regiment in Europe during WWI

"During the battle of Delville Wood, a shell exploded in the transport lines close to where Nancy was tethered at the Quarter Master Stores.  Nancy took fright, bolted and broke her left horn against the wall.  This horn began growing downwards at an angle.  The doctors didn't know much about veterinary sciences and weren't about to set it.  Thus, the horn was allowed to continue growing.  To her honour, a gold stripe was added to the Murray Athol tartan coat strapping that Nancy wore."

Up, up and away!

Fi says she needs one of these mounted on her car... (I think she is joking...)

Phew, it is quite a walk around this place, one of the Moms let me hitch a ride...

The sign says no PEOPLE on the tank, don't worry...

Sing with me, ‘In the Navy, you can sail the seven seas, in the Navy... ‘ What? Surely you know the Village People?

Meet Mark...

He's a torpedo...

I'd make you sing 'Yellow submarine' with me, but your singing skills are clearly dodgy, and this submarine is clearly not yellow...

Are we cleared for take off?

What exactly do you mean by 'hold onto your knickers? I'm a bear I am not wearing anyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy……..

We didn't break it! Honest, it was the gazillion kids that have played on it...

Hop in, I'll get us home in no time, it will be a little drafty though...

Time to go home, it is getting rather cold and dark...

Wait a second, what is this?

Fi says to tell you that the memorial stone was laid in 1999, but the statue has been up top there for as long as she can remember (old stuff she remembers, breakfast she doesn't!) Read all about it here
Here is the Angel of Peace, a little closer.

Posted Jun 18, 2008, 10:27 pm
There was much excitement today! Fi went to the Post Office and came back with a large parcel from Russia...

We were dying to see who was inside...

Then we thought, hang on, the box is too big for a TV, this is clearly a parcel for Threadbear so we called him over to open it...

As we suspected! More bears! From Kristl

Well we left Threadbear chatting to the new arrivals and headed to the dentist..yikes! 6 month checkup...

Natalie, very bravely went first to get it over and done with... she had a little company though! Go on Nats, open your mouth!

I climbed up to the side to get a better view of what was happening... nice teeth Nats!

Oh good, no holes in anyones teeth, now lets get out of here before he asks me to open wide....


Posted Jun 20, 2008, 11:52 pm
I am so tired of bears! This house is full of them, and every day new ones arrive. Fi has been promising us that more Toyvoyagers are due to arrive any moment, and they won't be bears. I wish they would hurry up.

Fi let us look at her new lot of postcards that arrived in the mail this morning while she went to fetch all the other stuff out her car...

Wish I could travel to these places...Hey! I can! I'm a travelling toy after all....

Oh my goodness...look what the 'stuff' in her car was!

More bears! I can hardly stand it...

That Threadbear has  a lot to answer for, this is all his doing.

Look at them all, smiling and waving. I'm having nothing to do with... HELLO! Hold the press...

Hmmmm! was I? Oh bears...yes, of course I'll be helping tie bows on the new guys....

More parcels? Of course, open then up. Let's see who else we get to meet...

It's like Christmas! Cassiopeia, welcome, welcome! It is so nice to see someone from home. It is also wonderful to be able to speak German. Neither of us has been home for so long but we caught up on all the news we could.

Oh! Another one! A grumpy little mole from England. Maybe we should just post him right back...

Ooops, that was rude of me. Shame, he has been stuck in that box for an awful long time and I didn't realise that he was blind... Honest. Sorry Moley. I'll look after you.


Posted Jun 25, 2008, 12:19 am
Threadbear asked if we would go down and help him catch up on his  bear collection. Well why not, it is not like we have anything better to do this evening....

Here we all are, ready for action.

Fi had her i-pod on a bit loud... but the music was okay.

Fiona cut the tags off the bears, I took out the plastic barbs... a very important job, we don't want children getting hurt with them.

What a job! 75 bears worth...

Everyone else had a job to do too. Buttons was cutting off labels, he has been ignoring me lately, I don't know why... Moley was tying bows... Eloise performed emergency surgery on a bear, she is so amazing... just Cassiopeia could not help as she doesn't have paws.

She felt really bad about this but Fi said she would switch off the music and Cassiopeia could read to us. That cheered her up so much.

So Cassiopeia started reading us traditional South African tales

The evening went so fast, even once we had finished with the bears, we sat and listened... I loved these stories. Here is one I liked best...

'Kwasuka sukela' means once upon a time.

The Curse of the Chameleon (A Traditional Zulu Story)

Gogo breathed deeply of the cool evening air. She paused beneath the darkening sky, hands pressed into her back.

"Woza, Gogo!" called little Methembe, who, although he seemed to have unlimited energy, always waited for his granny. "Come on!" he encouraged as he turned and dashed up the final rise toward the homestead. Gogo chuckled, shook her head slowly and forced her feet to continue up the path. "Hawu!" she thought to herself. Soon she would no longer be able to make it down to the river and back. By the time Gogo came within sight of the evening fire, the children had put away the washed clothing and deposited the firewood where it was stored. They were now squatting in a tight circle, the older ones rocking on their heels, waiting for their elders to finish eating that they might then have their dinner.

After everyone had eaten and the pots were filled with water to soak, Gogo and the children settled down before the fire. "Gogo," asked Methembe rather tentatively, choosing to look into the fire rather than at his beloved granny, "why do people grow old and die?" The old woman looked lovingly at her grandson and smiled. She knew his unspoken fears.

"Ahh, my little Hope," she answered, looking into the fire herself. "That is a very interesting tale! Shall I tell you, my children, the story of why people must grow old and die?"

"Yebo, Gogo! Yes!" they all answered as if one.

"Alright then..." And Gogo began. "Kwasuka sukela...."

After God the great Creator finished making all things, he sat back and took a long look at the world he'd made. He smiled and decided that it was very good. He was especially pleased with the people, the first man and woman. They, after all, were the most like himself. "Yes," he thought, "this is good! Very good!"

But as time went on the Creator noticed that man and woman kept injuring their bodies. Oh, the skin would heal with time, but it always left scars. And after many years the first man and woman's bodies were looking old and tatty indeed! "Hmmm," thought Creator, "these bodies are wearing out! Time, I think, for new ones!"

So Creator called Chameleon to himself. "Listen, Chameleon," said Creator, "I have a package that I want you to deliver to man and woman. It is most urgent, so do not delay. Go straight to the people, tell them I sent you, and give them this parcel from me!" With that he pushed a small package into Chameleon's hands. "I trust you, Chameleon, for you are loyal and swift. Go now!"

So Chameleon set off to do as his Lord bid. In those days Chameleon was fast as lightning. He sped toward Earth, the parcel neatly tucked beneath his arm. When he reached the great river he paused to take a drink. And this proved to be his undoing!

Snake just happened to be drinking at the same time. "Hello, Cousin Chameleon," he hissed. "My, you are in a great hurry today! What are you about?"

Chameleon looked up. "Ah, yebo! Sawubona, Nyoka!" he politely replied. (sah-woo-boh'-nah nyoh'kah = "Yes, I see you, Snake!" or "Hello, Snake!" ) "I have a package to deliver for Creator. Something for the people."

Now Snake hated the people. They walked so far above the ground, often treading on Snake and his family members without even noticing. And Creator seemed to pay so much more attention to them than he did to the other animals. Snake was bitterly jealous of people, and when he heard that Chameleon was taking a gift to them from Creator, Snake began to scheme. How could he make sure that people did not receive this gift?

"Oh, dear Cousin Chameleon," Snake hissed, edging closer to Chameleon and the parcel. "It is so good to see you again! My family has missed you a great deal! All of our other relatives come often to share a meal. But you never seem to have time for us! One would tend to think that perhaps you thought yourself too good to associate with your close kin!"

Now Chameleon was a sensitive fellow. It worried him to think that Snake might have something against him. "Oh, no, dear cousin Nyoka," pleaded Chameleon. "I assure you that I hold you in high regard! I would be honoured to come for a meal sometime!"

"Well," Snake answered quickly, "why not now? My wife is at this very moment waiting lunch for me. She would be pleased beyond words to see you dine with us!"

"Oh, dear!" answered Chameleon, looking at the parcel still tucked beneath his arm. "I really have an urgent errand for Creator at the moment. Ummmm....perhaps some other time?"

"Yes, yes," hissed Snake turning away with a hint of disgust in his voice. "Just as I thought. Too good for the likes of us! Well, run along then with your all-important business."

Chameleon looked at the sun. It was still high in the sky. He could have the mid-day meal with Snake's family and have plenty of time left to deliver the package. Perhaps he was being too hasty. "Wait, Snake," Chameleon spoke quickly. "I was being too abrupt. I beg your pardon. I really would love to have a meal with you. To prove it I will dine with you now and do my business after the meal!"

Snake smiled to himself before he turned back toward Chameleon. "Oh, Chameleon," Snake replied, sounding quite humble indeed, "Thank you! It is we who will be honoured by your presence, I assure you!" And with that he led Chameleon off to his burrow.

Snake's wife had really outdone herself, as usual. She'd prepared a huge and sumptuous meal and truly was delighted to see that Chameleon had come to share it with them. She encouraged him to have more and more, and as it was so delicious, Chameleon helped himself until he was almost too full to move. He was having such a good time, and was especially enjoying Snake's outstanding utshwala (oo-chwah'-lah = a traditional Zulu beer brewed from sorghum), that he forgot all about his special mission. Snake smiled slyly as he watched Chameleon's head nod and his eyelids droop. Snake laughed aloud as Chameleon fell asleep with a satisfied little grunt.

"What is so funny, my husband?" asked Snake's wife, accustomed to the ways of nature to rest after the mid-day meal in the hottest hours of the day. She saw nothing strange or funny about Chameleon's behaviour. It was actually a compliment to her as a hostess, that she had made her guest so comfortable and welcome.

"Look here," Snake hissed, as he gently lifted the package from under Chameleon's arm.

"What is that?" she asked.

"A gift for us from Creator," Snake laughed. And with that Snake tore open the parcel. "Look, my good wife," he exclaimed, lifting something from the box. "Creator has sent us new skins! New skins, so that whenever our old ones wear out we can change into new ones!" Snake laughed again, louder this time, waking his guest. Chameleon took one look at the parcel and immediately knew what had happened.

"No, Snake!" Chameleon pleaded, a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. "Those are not for you! They are for people. You know that! Give them back!" Chameleon stretched out his hands toward the skins. "Please, Nyoka! Give them back!"

But Snake just laughed, holding the skins beyond Chameleon's reach. "No, my cousin. These are my skins now!" And with that Snake slithered away.

As the sun went down Chameleon was sick with sadness for the way in which he'd been betrayed and for the way in which he had disobeyed. He hid away from Creator in the braces of the trees, clinging to the limbs, moving slowly so as not to be detected. He was too afraid to face Creator.

"And so, you see, my children," finished Gogo, "how it was that people were cheated out of new skins by Snake. To this day snake will shed his old skin and don a new one whenever he is feeling his age."

"But that's not fair, Gogo!" cried Methembe. "Creator should make Snake return the skins!"

"Ah, well, my boy," Gogo looked at him and placed a hand on his head, "Life is not always fair. But while Snake got the skins, Creator did not stop the people from standing on Snake from time-to-time. In fact, when most people encounter Snake these days they give him what they think he deserves: a sound thrashing! And, of course, Chameleon is still hiding away in the trees, moving so slowly that he usually goes undetected. And as for people, well, Creator gave them another gift that was better than new skins!"

"What was that, Gogo?" the children asked

"Oh, my children," Gogo replied with a smile, "That is a story for another time! Now my weary old bones tell me that it is time for a good night's rest!"

And with a great heave Gogo lifted herself from her stump by the fire and walked slowly toward her hut.

"Lalani kahle, bantwana!" (lah-lah'-nee kah'-hlay bah-ntwah'-nah = "Sleep well, children!" )


Posted Jun 28, 2008, 9:51 pm
I have had enough of bears and other toys, so I put my paw down today!

I told Fi I am a toyVOYAGER not a toy repairer, counter or washer... I NEED to travel...

So she said, "okay, I'll organise something, pack your bags..."

Once again I am off to the O.R. Tambo International Airport, formerly Johannesburg International, formerly Jan Smuts International... I wonder what it will be called when I get back in a weeks time?

Ta ta Fiona, Moley and Cassiopeia, I'm OFF! Have fun sitting around, bored out of your brains with hundreds of bears for company... while I have fun in...hang on, she's done it again! I have no idea where I am going!!!!

Posted Jul 16, 2008, 11:17 pm
Well, well, well! This is more like it... I LOVE travelling...away from all those dreadful bears...

Fi has a travelling sister, but she mostly travels to the inside of hospitals...not for me thanks. This time, she was travelling to Germany (boring for me of course). BUT she had the weekend off, so she decided to hop on a plane and visit her family in Scotland. Fi was sick with jealousy, but happy that I could go with in her place (right Fi?).

The travelling sister travels camera...honestly, how can her and Fi even be related? That's the first thing Fi packs! So no photos of Clydebank or Helensburgh(where Fi was born!), but she borrowed a camera from one of her aunts (thanks Sheila!!!!) and took some photos of me in a beautiful little town called Strachur where Sheila lives... in this tiny little hut...

...across the road from Loch Fyne, it is a lovely summer's day in Scotland! (The photo of the tiny hut was taken a while ago)

The travelling sister, called Morag, and I took the dogs for a walk through the woods. Or they took us for a walk...

Come back dogs! This is a dangerous stretch of...of...lane! Fi once wrenched her knee right here, and it still isn't better, though I hear from the other TVs that she climbed up a hill while I was gone! Wish I had seen that...ha ha ha...

Come on Odin, get down here, hey cool! How do you make your eyes glow like that?

Lots of sheep around here, look how fat they are.

Yes, I DID call you fat, what you going to do about it?

Does this bridge look like a big open mouth to you? It does to me, with two big eyes...

That looks pretty cold...

And this looks pretty too...Foxgloves? Can bears wear them too? I'm not being silly....

Oohhh! More pretty flowers, I wonder what they smell like?

Help me! AAAArrrggghhh! It has THORNS...I'm being PUNCTURED!!! I've been attacked by a thistle...

You look at all the other pretty things while I lick my wounds...go on...stop laughing, it really hurts!

Wonder how this tastes? Oh it might be poisonous, I'll skip it!

On my very first day in South Africa, Fi took me to a kids play area called Never Never Land and I was so tired I climbed up a tree and fell asleep on a mushroom, just like this one! But now, thanks to being a ursine pincushion, I'm wide awake...

Where are those dogs off to now? Wait, I tell you! Wait for me...

This must be the local church. Very quiet for a Sunday...maybe they are all inside.

Ah! A phone booth, I must phone Fi to let her know how I am...

Um, help? The door swung back and caught me...I'm stuck...and squashed...

Fi? Fi! Fi? Can you hear me? Your sister is abusing me... she let me climb a thistle and almost get pricked to death...Fi? And I got squashed in the door... and...hello? Hello?

Now look what she did, said I was a tattle tail!

But that was not the worst thing she did, just wait and I'll show you...


Posted Jul 16, 2008, 11:35 pm
We left Scotland and returned to Germany.

We where staying in a town called Langen where Morag got me drunk! Oh, she's a bad girl...

THEN, when it was time to leave, she dragged me into a shop at the airport...and remembered that her cell phone had a camera.

Yes, very funny... a kangabearoo...


Man, there's another one!

Don't move a paw, please, I haven't recovered fully from the telephone booth door yet...

No, that's not the worst thing she did either!

Posted Jul 16, 2008, 11:43 pm
I can't actually bear to look! Can you see them?

There, behind me, no, no, BEHIND me...

THAT was the worst thing EVER!

She made me travel home in a BAG with all of them! More bloody bears! I was trying to escape from them and ended up bringing more home from Fi's aunt Sheila.

Threadbear, you owe me BIG time!


Posted Jul 24, 2008, 11:48 am
Yesterday, Fi took all the other TVs to the Botanic Gardens. I had already been so I decided to stay home and make peace with the bears after having a chat with Eloise.

Then, early this morning... Fi packed us all into a bag with a picnic lunch, and popped us in the car. We drove for what seemed like ages. Eventually she stopped here to get a security pass...

I don't get it. What are we doing at the University? She is looking for the Planetarium... oh, there it is...

This is the prettier, original bit of the university. The rest of it is mostly ugly concrete buildings... it would be nicer if we could sit on one of the rocks that was in the sun you know, it is chilly down here in the shade!

Fi said we are not going to the planetarium at all. There is a big bus here and lots of...elderly people? What on earth....?

We are going on a tour of Johannesburg with the Geological Society. That should be interesting!

We have a seat right at the back and we are off!

Posted Jul 24, 2008, 10:09 pm
So, we are on the bus and the bus is travelling through the city centre. We are all excited because this is somewhere Fi has wanted to bring us all but it is not safe enough for her to do on her own. Much better to be sitting on a bus with a camera and taking photos out the window...

You need to bear in mind that Johannesburg only came into existence in the 1880s when gold was discovered. So it is a relatively new city.

Fi grew up in these parts and it was a real trip down memory lane. Some parts were just shocking for her to see how much they had degenerated in the years since she has been down here. Come, I'll show you.

We were heading for The Munroe drive, but we had to get out of Braamfontein first and travel through the notorious Hillbrow.

This is Park Station, is appears to have been tidied up a little since Fi last saw it. It is the main railway station.

This building has a distinct 1930s feel to it, though I think the man is playing a more modern tune!

Jo' burg central is pretty much a slum these days. What happened is that during the 1980s the world decided to impose sanctions on South Africa to force her to end Apartheid. Most foreign businesses withdrew from the country and left the buildings in the CBD vacant. By the time they had all come back, the CBD was pretty derelict and most large local businesses had moved to the more upmarket area of Sandton. The foreign companies decided (wisely) to move to Sandton too as the CBD was run down and unsafe. Although downtown Jo'burg is technically still known as the Central Business District, it is a misnomer. In truth, Sandton City is now the CBD. Some of the buildings in town have stood vacant for the last 20 years.

There has been an effort to revive the city centre in recent years. CCTV has been implemented to cut down the crime level and there has been an attempt to tidy it up in time for the FIFA 2010 Football World Cup.

But, like I said, it is still pretty much a slum...

This old synagogue, that is no longer in use, was a copy of a Catholic church called the 'Sante Fe' in Istanbul... There is a massive Catholic church and it seemed to be well attended as we drove past but we were on the wrong side of the bus to get a photo.

Then we went through Hillbrow and Fi was having too many flashbacks of her youth to take too many photos! The lady she was sitting next to had also lived in Hillbrow and they were both pointing out where all the places had been that they remembered!

The Professor mentioned that during the world wars, Brazil had remained neutral and had not had the same economic crises as the rest of the world, so it had developed architecturally. Hillbrow was designed loosely on the Bazillion style and was at one time known as 'Little Brazil'.

During it's heyday in the 1950s, Hillbrow was second only to Manhattan, as the finest built up city in the world. BUT, already in the 1950's an architect had predicted that the manner in which it had been built would result in it becoming a slum. The streets were too narrow and the buildings too tall and crowded, blocking the views that made high-rise living so attractive in the first place. Sadly, he was proved correct.

This is Highpoint, now more of a low point... Fi remembers shopping here, German delicatessens, Viennese tea rooms, and trendy boutiques. Hillbrow was very cosmopolitan at that stage, English, Scottish, Polish, German, French, Hungarian, Czech, you name them, they were here. It is still cosmopolitan but now its Nigerian, Angolan, Somalian, Congolese...

This is the side Fi used to live. It looks quite clean here, but up close, it is a different story...

This is the Fire Station, quite a cute little building.

Not long till we head up the Munroe Drive…


Posted Jul 24, 2008, 11:38 pm
The bus came to a stop after a steep climb up the Munroe Drive, which starts in Lower Houghton and ends up in Upper Houghton.

From what I could understand, 374 million years ago, a bit before my time, two land masses called 'Cratans' crashed into each other in the area where present day Hawaii is. The one cratan ended up subducted under the other (it got caught underneath and then sloped up as a result - hope you can see this picture in your head!) Over time, with moving about and expanding and whatnot, they ended up right here! This area is called the Witwatersrand (white waters ridge) basin. There is some controversy as to how the name 'Witwatersrand' came to be, the most popular theory is that from far off the ridge shimmered and looked like water.

It was formed 360 million years ago. And it is massive. Now, way back in those days there was no atmosphere and this basin was a sea. Electrical storms (something that hasn't changed!) caused massive erosion over time, and caused the sea to fill with sediment to a depth of 8kms (almost 5 miles) - that is higher than Mount Everest! And that was the end of the sea. Pity, because it now takes 6 hours of driving to get to the sea....

Anyway, back to the ridge we were standing on... an interesting fact: when it rains, any water that runs off over the edge here, into Lower Houghton...eventually ends up in the Indian Ocean. Any water that runs off down the other side (which I'll show you soon) ends up in the Atlantic Ocean! Fascinating, Fi can't believe she had never heard that before. She needs to go on more of these tours, I think!

Another thing: GOLD! Gold forms in rock strata. The strata that Johannesburg gold formed in, is at a terribly steep angle as it formed in the 'cratan' that ended up tilted up at the funny angle under the other one. There was such a nice piece of exposed rock on the way down the other side that showed you how steep this strata is but Fi wasn't quick enough to take a photo, sorry.

This steep angle makes mining for gold very difficult and that is also the reason the mines here are so very, very deep.

Right, back on the bus....


Posted Jul 25, 2008, 10:09 am
We had to pass through Yeoville to reach our next destination. We were going to stop at two of the most famous schools in the area, but one of them, St John's College was hosting a huge church meeting where the Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was speaking and the other, King Edward VII School, was blocked off by all the traffic to the first. So much for that idea then! If you get a chance, read the history of KES, it is very interesting.

So, back to Yeoville. Yeoville used to be THE trendiest area, alive with arts and culture. It was at one stage also a predominantly Jewish area. And now sadly, it is just another slum. A lot of the buildings are bricked up, burned down or even condemned as unfit for human habitation.

This is Rocky Street. It used to be the place to shop during the day, and the place to go clubbing at night.

The rest of the photos are just too depressing so we'll skip them and head on over to the other side of Yeoville.

This is the road between Yeoville and Hillbrow. That really tall round building is called Ponte. It has gone through many phases. First as luxury apartments, then it became a bit more squalid, Fi remembers visiting once and the centre of the building (which is hollow) was filled with rubbish. There have been many grand plans with this building. At on stage they were thinking of turning it into a prison, complete with a police station and courts! Yes, Jo'burg has more crime than the current legal system can cope with and the jails are severely over crowded. Now it is going through another attempt at revival....someone has high hopes.

Now these apartments are still nicely maintained. They used to be THE place to live, only doctors and such used to live here because the view is quite simply spectacular....

This unfinished and abandoned building right next to it is where we stood to see the view on the other side of the Houghton ridge.

You can see all of Hillbrow to your right...

Sweeping across you can see Ponte again and all of downtown Jo'burg...

Ellis Park Stadium (probably has another name by now) where the 2010 world cup will be played...

A bit more of the vista...

Next we are heading over to this hill on the other side, where you can just make out a tower type structure on the top.

The view at night must be quite fantastic with all the lights, but sorry, it is not an option.

In stark contrast to that beautiful building, is this one right next door...

But then, a few blocks away from that...

Yep, "South Africa, Land of Contrast" indeed.

This underpass on the Joe Slovo Drive (formerly Harrow Road) has always been known for its dark and dreary appearance. But thanks to being the main road to Ellis Park, it has had quite a nice face lift! All the horrid concrete pillars, formerly covered in advertising posters and graffiti are now covered in sparkly mosaics! What a welcome change.

Now, you may have read before about the taxis in Jo'burg. They are mini buses that the masses use for transport. They have no true designated routes or ways of identifying where they are headed. So, with typical African ingenuity, they made a plan. The commuter makes a hand signal to indicate where he or she wants to travel to. If the taxi is heading that way he stops (usually abruptly after swerving in front of your car...ho hum...)

Now, very cleverly, the taxi rank in front of Ellis Park has the hand signals displayed so you know which queue to join! (A word of warning to anyone who decides to visit South NOT under any circumstance, take a ride in one of these taxis…call Fi, she'll give you a lift!)

Just next to Ellis Park is China City. As with every major city, there was China Town in downtown Jo'burg. But as the area became more and more dangerous, business suffered. So the Chinese traders all moved here, under one roof, with safe parking for shoppers. This is just the one gate...the whole place is quite huge.

A little further on and we are in a suburb called Kensington. No where near as glamorous as its London namesake...

In the 1970s Mozambique had a civil uprising and a vast amount of Portuguese people fled to South Africa or Zimbabwe. They bought houses here and re decorated them to better suit their style. The sloping poles on the veranda are a give away... it is a decidedly old fashioned Mozambican feature.

There is still a massive Portuguese community in South Africa, but as with large amounts of the rest of the former immigrant population, a lot of them have returned home following the 'decline' of South Africa.

Okay, the bus is stopping, time to stretch our legs...


Posted Jul 25, 2008, 10:50 am
The bus stopped in front of this pretty little garden that was on the side of the road.

We walked up a steep path of what was clearly once some ones house and garden. At the top we sat patiently and listened to The Professor telling us all about the history of the different suburbs and what terrible things were done to people all in the name of greed. Forced evictions, terrible living conditions, it went on but is actually too horrible to re- tell...

This is the spectacular view of the whole of Johannesburg City. Pity about all the people in the way...

Well, we sat here and waited quietly for the lecture to end so we could get a nice picture without the Archaeological Society members in. Then somebody said, "let’s rather walk THAT way back down through the garden". So they all came back our way and when we were spotted we caused quite a stir! Fi had to explain just what we (and she!) were up to...well that caused a ripple of excitement but they eventually moved on and we got our photo...then a mad dash for the bus! And remember we were right at the back of the bus, so we had to walk past everyone and be admired...luckily none of us are shy...

This is a very typical house from the early days of Johannesburg...I am talking about the style here, NOT the colour! Tin roof, square shape, pillars and 'broekie lace' trim ('Broekies' are girls’ panties or under pants, it is one of Fi's favourite Afrikaans words) I must also assure you that the house was quite level, it was the camera that was at a funny angle...

This is another prestigious school: Jeppe Boys the oldest school in Jo'burg and if you have the time, it is well worth it to read the history of the school through the ages.


Posted Jul 25, 2008, 11:38 am
You can't accuse South Africans of not having a sense of humour...

Our next stop was up another koppjie (little hill) to visit the Scottish Horse Memorial. We all huffed and puffed our way up the steep steps to reach the top....

Sadly the memorial has been vandalised. Because poverty is so rife in this country, many people turn to illegal means to make some money just to survive. The latest trend is stealing any metal (in this case the brass plaques, but door numbers, man hole covers etc) that are then sold to unscrupulous metal merchants for smelting.

There are two interesting things to see from up here.

Firstly, if you look straight ahead in this photo, you can see a large mine dump (our man made mountains that are by products of gold mining). Just in front of it and to the right of it you can see all the colourful containers... well, that is City Deep, our dry inland port and the second largest port in South Africa. The largest port being Durban Harbour.

The second interesting thing if you look at this photo, is that you will notice that the high-rise buildings of down town Jo'burg stop quite abruptly, and the rest of the buildings are quite flat...

The reason for that is under mining. The mines are all in this area and they go extremely deep underground (for several kilometres). Any buildings over a certain height would just collapse because the ground underneath them is basically tunnels. One of the men on the tour with us, said he worked for a building firm and they were trying to build something over there and they got three support pillars down but the fourth could never be built because when they drilled through the rock there was no bottom! As you can imagine there are a lot of earth tremors in Johannesburg from all this underground activity... every now and then there are minor quakes to, but more to the west.

Right, I am starting to get hungry now, surely it is time to stop for lunch? It is? Yay! We hop back on the bus and it is a short trip to Rhodes Park for a picnic lunch...

Rhode's Park is quite nice. Fi hadn't been there for years. There is a lake in the middle, swings and things for the children, a bowling green, a soccer field, a restaurant...

Fi set us all up nicely for  a photo in front of the lake and then had to explain to two people all about ToyVoyagers. And then she was listening to the Prof talking again. It was only when she got home and downloaded all the photos that she noticed she had packed us back in her bag without taking the picture! Silly woman...


Posted Jul 25, 2008, 2:05 pm
Hmmm my tummy is nice and full, and I feel like going to sleep now, not travelling around on the bus. Surely I can have a quick nap, there can't be anything more interesting to see...

We are going back in the direction we came from. The Prof is telling us we are going to see some place called Jeppestown...yawn... Fi told me that , when he was still alive, her father worked in Jeppestown. She says it is really not such a nice area...

The Prof tells us that Johannesburg was expanding so rapidly, that they knew they would have to create more residential areas. They could not go to the South because that is where the mines were, no one ever considered going to the North as they never thought it would ever get that big, so the toss up was: should they build to the East or the West? The company that was to do the expansion was called Jeppe & Ford Estate Company. They could not decide which would be better so they chose to do both Jeppe decided to build up the east side and named it Jeppestown after himself, and Ford built up the western side and named it...Fordsburg... vain bunch, weren't they?

Well Jeppestown took off with a bang and became quite a residential area. Ford built his side slightly different, he made it both a residential and a business area, and it boomed too.

Today though, Jeppestown is a run down industrial area. We passed the original men’s hostel. Oh. My. Goodness...

I can't believe people can live in such squalor.

Here is one of the original buildings that still stands today.

Fordsburg has a bit of a sad history, which you can read about now, because the sun was at the wrong angle to take photos of by the time we got there...

Basically the government decided (under the Group Areas Act IE. apartheid) that all the Indians needed to move out of the area where they had built up their businesses and move to an area set aside for them called Lenasia, 32 Kms (20 miles) away. There was of course great resistance. The government closed down the schools in Fordsburg, forcing the Indian community to move or to travel to Lenasia every day for the children to be schooled.

Eventually the government built a huge shopping centre called the Oriental Plaza for the Indian businessmen to rent out and continue with their trading, in an effort to undermine them.  However, the Indians turned the Oriental Plaza into a huge success and the area is now quite a busy trading site again. In recent years Fordsburg has been affected by the same decline as the rest of Johannesburg.

Next to Fordsburg is a town called Vrededorp, which was an area set aside for the Malay people. It was built to the same plans as a black township called Orlando in Soweto. It comes as quite a shock to see it. It also has a very sad history , which you can read here. Sorry, Fi just could not take photos because it is one of those towns where each and every single family sit on the outside 'stoep' (veranda) on a Sunday afternoon, for want of anything better to do. Taking photos felt like an invasion of privacy. Especially in such a desperately poor community; and even more so as they were watching our great big bus with open mouthed astonishment. Clearly not to many tours go through there then! Interestingly it was a very mixed community but mostly white and coloured (Malay).

Well after that little trip I was wide awake again! Then the Prof said we were off to a market. Oh, I do like to shop!


Posted Jul 25, 2008, 3:01 pm
So, I guess there will be no shopping then. We were told to leave our bags on the bus and we were in Fi's well we will wait till she gets back to tell us about it then.

I can smell something delicious....what is it? Pork chop?

Fi says to tell you that that woman's face is not that colour naturally, she has red ochre on it.

Okay, I am quite excited to see these photos of the market...

The Mai Mai market is the oldest market in Johannesburg. It is traditionally a Zulu market. In the 'old days' white people needed a special permit to gain access. Though truth be told, chances are these days none of them even know of its existence. Fi had never even heard of it after thirty odd years of living in Jo'burg.

Here is a little replica Zulu hut.

It is in a rather unsavoury part of town, but it has been taken over by some local council agency that is determined to rejuvenate and revive it to a pristine state. People actually live in the market, but plans are underway to relocate these families as it is quite unsuitable for children to be living in these conditions.

These two don't seem bothered at all! They are having loads of fun in an old crate.

Oh! It's not quite your usual market then... it is a 'muti' market. Muti is traditional medicine. When we read the other day at the Botanical gardens that 8 out of 10 people use traditional medicine, I bet you had pretty little visions of berries and flowers. Welcome to the reality.

I'll show you a closer look. WARNING: this is not for the faint hearted.

Those were ostrich legs, a crocodile and who knows what else...

These are various skins and carcasses...

These are roots and plants. Muti is not only used for headaches and tummy aches...but for all sorts of things you might consider  'witchcraft'.

Although this looks all nice and tidy and rather like an old fashioned sweetie shop, be warned, those jars contain things that will make you want to vomit! Read this for a bit more info on some of the contents. The shop they talk about in this article is this very one.

The whole place had been dug up to repair the sewerage pipes so it was a bit treacherous to walk through.

Two Zulu children.

Traditional bead work. As well as being a muti market, this is also a traditional crafts market.

Most of these hides are illegal, they are from endangered animals. That thing with its head still attached is a baboon. EEEUUUWWWW!

Oh well, it is Sunday after all...

These may be goat tails, they are used in traditional dress.

These sandals are a traditional design usually made from buck skin. The heart shaped cut out bit has buck hide in it but that little tick is a slightly modern twist... not so sure these are genuine Nikes!

The Prof told us that they have been making these wedding kists (or trunks) since the market first started...

But they are making more of these, and doing a booming trade because of the high AIDS death toll...

Right, time to leave, chicken for supper anyone?


Posted Jul 25, 2008, 5:18 pm
You know, I am REALLY glad we went to that market AFTER lunch...

It is time to head back to the university through the CBD.

Look, great big buildings and a tiny little corner cafe!

Apparently, Jo'burg was designed on a tight grid system with lots of 'corner' spots for a...ahem... good reason. This was not the first gold rush that South Africa had experienced (although it was certainly the biggest and most enduring).

The authorities had seen what had happened in Standerton when the 'gold diggers' had arrived and had the foresight to plan ahead with Jo'burg before they disclosed the news of the gold. They knew for instance that the type of man who was going to rush over and forsake everything for dreams of riches was not your ordinary upstanding model citizen. He wanted three things: somewhere to sleep, somewhere to drink, and the company of (how shall we put this?), ladies of the night. Those corner properties were for the ladies and their large revenues collected in rent and the same with the beer halls.

This old building has a sign on it that says it is for re-development. Next door is Dr Zunga & he gets his prescriptions filled at the Mai Mai market...

The trouble with tightly built tall buildings, the sun never gets in...

Here is a rather modern building in amongst the old ones.

Sadly, there are lots of for sale signs. It will however be nice if the buildings are bought and refurbished to their previous glory.

Like these ones...

This is the rather nicely kept (on the outside at least) Magistrates Courts.

We got off the bus in Main Street, where the Mining Houses have their headquarters. They have done such a nice job of cleaning up the street. They have had the buildings sandblasted to remove a hundred years of grime, re paved the road, planted gardens, displayed interesting objects and put up information boards. Well done! Now if only they can tackle the rest of town like this...

This is a mine head on display...

Here we are in front of one of the buildings.

This is the detail above the door of the same building.

This relief goes round the entire wall of the building, showcasing all of South Africa's animals.

Aren't we brave? Staring danger right in the...actually, could we move?

Fi says she remembers this statue so well from her childhood, but it was in a different place then...

Oh, this explains it! The Oppenheimers are the South African equivalent of the Rockefellers. They are a very wealthy mining family.
The poor bucks were vandalised by those naughty people who steal metal that I mentioned earlier...

Here is a front view.

This building is slightly less ornate than the other.

You know, during the week it looks exactly like this, but with taxis!

This is Main Street almost a hundred years ago...

And this was used for crushing the rock to extract gold. It was also vandalised for the metal and the original beams were used for firewood! Honestly, some people have no sense of history.

Here is the description.

...and a close up.

This is a rather attractive building.

This is an unattractive building that they have disguised with artwork...

Here is an interesting board about the stage coach.

Can you read it now?

Here is something else Fi only vaguely knew about, the Mapungubwe Rhino. This is obviously a reproduction. The original one is only 15cm (6Inches) long!

Here is the write up on it.

We are being called back to the bus...

We pass the ANC building which celebrates Nelson Mandela's 90th Birthday.

..and the 'Trust Me Tavern', which we don't!

Our next port of call is Fordsburg and Vrededorp which I have already mentioned.

On the way, we pass through Newtown, which is also a 'cleaned up' area. This is Museum Africa, which Fi says she has to visit one day.

Here we are back where we started! Educated and exhausted, and it is a long drive back home!


Posted Jul 27, 2008, 5:19 pm
We were all invited to a party today and the theme was 'The Olympic Games'. We were all quite excited to represent our countries!

First up were the equestrian events. Whoa Nellie!

We sat out the sprinting as we stood no chance against these fine athletes...

I gave the javelin a go though, don't worry, the car was just fine!

All four of us, together, could not make the weights even budge. Natalie showed us how, declaring "they are not so heavy!" Show off...

We were so quick at throwing discus that the photos were blurred! No point in showing you!

Next up was boxing... I had a little problem with my gloves at first...

After all of that physical exercise it was time for a drink and sugar boosting snack...

This was the only swimming going on today, this is the Winter Olympics!

I stand corrected, here are the synchronised swimmers...

We sang a rousing chorus of 'Happy Birthday' to the birthday boy and tucked into some scrummy cake.... cutting that cake was also an Olympic event!

Finally it was prize giving...

The bronze goes to Canada! Represented by Synapse.

Joint silver to Australia and England! Represented by Jubilee Bunny & Fiona

And the winner is.....ta da! The most superior athlete, me, Pinky Bear from Germany!

What a fabulous day!

But now I need to go home for a hot bath and a muscle relaxing massage...


Posted Aug 26, 2008, 9:52 pm
Ha ha ha...all those extra ToyVoyagers stayed at home and I went on another adventure!

Fi's friend Amanda took me on holiday with her and I had an amazing time. Let me tell you all about it...

Well I sat about at her house for a few days until it was time to leave. It was exciting packing everything to get ready for the journey. This time I knew exactly where I was going because Amanda has two young boys and they could not stop talking about the trip!

Finally the day dawned that we all got strapped into the car and left for the Kruger National Park!!!! Yay! At last, I get to see African animals, after all this time....

So off we what a lonnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnnng journey. Amanda told me to stop asking if we were there yet or she was going to feed me to a crocodile...I THINK she was just joking....

First thing I did when we got to the camp was go for a was a bit weird because the bathroom had a glass front so you could see the view!!! Seriously... this is me washing my hands; that is a glass wall behind me.

We stopped at the Crocodile Bridge Rest Camp...

Here is the Crocodile Bridge...

Here is the Crocodile River....

Here is me....

And... gulp...Amanda, you WERE joking right? Right?

So, let’s not sit around here any about we go see some animals...that aren't crocodiles?

Is that a rock? That fuzzy thing over there...

Oh no it is a rhino!

Well, it WAS a rhino, he has walked off down the road somewhere.

Next, next, what's next? I am so excited! Real African animals, all over the place!

Look! Elephants!

Nosey giraffe...

Okay, back away monkey...don't even THINK of snatching me...


...and more zebra.

Oh look! More they are really tall!

Time to head back to camp for something to eat I think.

Oh dear, the restaurant is CLOSED for reservations and nobody bothered telling us. Luckily we had some snacky stuff because it is an hours drive to the nearest store...I had a look around the garden while Amanda's mom and dad went to buy supplies

Aren't the Srelitzias pretty?

Hmmm these flowers smell heavenly...

Look what I found; the children will be pleased with this...

I'll just lie here for a bit on the lounger in the warm sun and... and... and... zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...

What? Huh? How did I end up in here? Pesky children, it is not nice to move a sleeping bear!!!

I sure hope there are no crocodiles in this river!

Well we waited THREE hours for Amanda's parents to get back, so no more game drives today... we had supper and went to bed...

We woke up early the next morning and off we went. We saw lots of the same animals and we stopped at the river again..

This time we saw a hippo...

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha !!!!! She has a few terrapins on her back... they must have thought she was a rock...they must have got pretty confused when she stood up and went for a walk!!!

Can you see the warthog behind me? I didn't want to turn around and frighten it off so I sat still for a photo first...

Now I really feel like I have been to Africa...bush, animals and an African sunset…What could be better than this?

I tell you what! On our last day, after spending all that time driving around looking at animals we got such a nice surprise...

Look! Elephants with riders...I wonder what it would be like to ride on an elephant...

OH. MY. GOODNESS. Amanda's husband spoiled us with an ELEPHANT RIDE!!! Look carefully... I am up there in Amanda's pocket...

Wow! That is all I can say... I don't think anything will EVER top that. I am happy to go back to Jo'burg now...I have seen and done it all...

Hang on... I never saw lions!!! We need to go back! What do you mean 'No'?

Thank you Adam and Amanda for taking me to the Kruger Park with you and helping me achieve one of my life's missions, and then bringing me home safely!


Posted Sep 4, 2008, 12:52 am
We have been all sitting around the house lately not really doing much and we were all starting to get bored of reading books, and doing puzzles, so Fi packed a picnic bag and piled us all into the car. The children asked where we were going and she said -"wait till we get there then you'll see!" Ooohhh ! I do like surprises...

It wasn't a very long journey, about 10 or 15 minutes. None of us needed to read what the sign board said, we could tell by the picture! Yay! Yay! Yay! Now I get to see lions….

We stopped at the ticket office to get our tickets and a map - that was for the children to look at; Fi said the place wasn't that big that you needed a map... We also bought some jelly beans and postcards (of course - what else?). Then we stopped at the loo because you can't get out the car for a pee unless you want to be eaten for lunch. That made me nervous and I had to go back in for another little tinkle.

Fi said we would not see anything from the front seat so she put us on the dash board and told us not to mess about - as if!

Oops... NormaNikkers got so excited she fell off... Fi gave her a cross look and said that we had to calm down or we would be in serious trouble. The two children in the back laughed hysterically, because that's what they usually get told.

You might have heard about all the terrible fires across South Africa lately. In winter it is so dry that the grass catches fire so easily; add a strong wind and it is a recipe for disaster. Quite a large part of the Lion Park was burned, luckily this happened before all the wind started or the animals would have been trapped. The fire was stopped as it could not cross the dirt road; in high winds that is no obstacle at all. You can see the new grass is growing through already and it must be very sweet and tender; those greedy buck never lifted their heads once the whole time we watched them.

This zebra was standing right next to the road!

Wait! I need a photo taken with it...

Oh, they are so far away I can hardly see them...looks like sable antelope and zebra...

And the wildebeest are so far away you can barely see them either.
I suppose the lions will be even harder to see...

Talking of which! There are strict rules: windows are NOT allowed to be opened. You have to stay IN your car at all times. Do not feed the TOYS to the lions. Okay, I made the last one up...but don't okay?

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! THAT is the king of the beasts? No, no,no! That is a giant pussycat!

And um....HE would be the king of the beasts...thank goodness he is sound asleep...shhhh! Don't wake him up...

Okay, now we sat back and watched an African soap opera unfold:

That is it! I have had enough! I am going to find another pride of lions to live with - you all take me for granted!

Yes, especially you Lioninna! I could get my claws out and have a real cat fight but I just couldn't be BOTHERED!

What are you lot looking at?

I am NEVER going back. NEVER! They can beg, they can plead, it is too LATE!

We huddled together hoping she would not spot us... Synapse slithered off the dashboard and took NormaNikkers with him...

Just then there was a little whimper...then a wail MOM! Where are you going? Come BACK...

That of course was too much for her... her maternal instincts kicked in and she turned back. Synapse stayed on the dash but so flat and heavily camouflaged that he may as well have stayed on the seat!

Oh dear... I sense trouble... look who just got up to see what was going on.

Just what do you think you are doing!? How dare you leave my pride without my permission? I am the KING!!!!

Ummm...I'll never do it just let me get to my baby

Mom? Where did you go? Can I go too? Pleeeeeease? Can I have rollerblades and a skateboard? Huh? Can I? Mom! I'm talking to you...

Then we drove on to the next camp. We were playing a game to see who could spot the lions first. NormaNikkers nearly wet herself with excitement when she spotted them.

Boring, they are asleep...

We started driving by.... she was quite sound asleep...Oh hey! These are WHITE lions!

Oops, our squeals woke him up....

Time to move on I think.... may I have some jellybeans?

We stopped at the picnic area because we were all feeling pretty peckish by now.
We found a table under a tree because it was also very hot.

And then we had a visitor.

She got REAL close...

Shane showed us that she was very gentle.

So I got a little closer to meet her.

Well that's not something you do everyday!

Time for lunch, oh my head is burning I need a hat. Oh thanks Fi! Now, what is there to eat? Boiled eggs, cheese sarmies (sandwiches), fruit, crisps and Swiss roll... where do I start?

This is an African Coral tree. They bloom at this time of the year. The leaves only grow a little later so the red looks quite spectacular against the blue sky. There is one of these trees on every block, such a nice way to end winter...

Well lunch was good! Time to see the other animals in the enclosures. Most of them are hiding because of the heat; mid day is not the right time to look for animals!

But she is cooling down on top of her hutch... she acknowledged our presence with a flick of her tail but she wouldn't turn around. Come on cheetah, smile for the camera!

We all stayed away from the ostrich!

And we wisely stayed away from feeding the giraffe... the children's arms were covered in slobber eeeeuuuwww!

They had to wash their arms three times to get it off!

Hmm what does this say?  Lion cubs... yadda, yadda, yadda entrance yad...what? Surely you are NOT taking us in there!?

Oh! So sweet... so sleepy.... lets leave them that way shall we?

Well that's more excitement than I can handle in one day... time to head home and have a nap!


Posted Sep 9, 2008, 10:15 pm
Well here we are in the car again! Fi and Vicki decided to take us to Museum Africa so see what it was all about...

Wow! It is pretty huge in here, three open plan floors... the building used to be a fruit and vegetable market in the Old Days (you know, when Fi was a kid!)

Well we found some old suit cases, guess we are going on a journey...

The Museum has all sorts of interesting thinks about South Africa on display, like clothing from the REALLY old days (ie. even BEFORE Fi!) like this...

Here is what it says about that display:

There is a huge hall dedicated to the 'Treason trial' that was held in the 1960s at the height of Apartheid. There are pictures of all the accused. One of the most famous:

Nelson Mandela

This is what he said about it in his book...

Each of the accused has a little red book under their photo that people can write comments in... Mandela's is handled so much that it is falling apart... it is filled with words of love and admiration.

There was a lot more to that section but it was all very political so I won't bore you with it.

Next up: life in Johannesburg, before it was Johannesburg...

This is a replica of an Iron Age Tswana house, impressive...but hey they were smart enough to smelt iron (iron melts at 1100°C / 2012°F) over half a century ago!

This is what the smelt looked like, it was made from mud. It was quite a mission to melt the iron and required the efforts of at least ten people just to make one spear blade. It was always done outside the village because it was considered spiritual and mystical.

From the Iron Age to the Gold age! Johannesburg is a gold mining town, still to this day and the mines go down several kilometres/miles.

The managers lived in fancy big houses and ruled with an iron fist. (we are talking late 1800’s to early 1900’s)

The mine workers lived like this...

Pretty shocking, hmmm? They worked long hours in terrible conditions, way underground, then came up and lived in quarters that were almost as cramped as the mines. They were not allowed to leave the property without a 'pass'. Because the miners came from so many different tribes and even other countries, and the bosses all spoke English or Afrikaans - they had to develop a new language called Funigalore so they could understand each other. It is still spoken in the mines today.

Also around this time, shanty towns were developing. One of these was called Sofiatown - it was the birthplace of modern South African music. Sofiatown was raised to the ground; all of the people who lived there were forcefully evicted, to make way for new developments.

Here we are in a replica of a Sofiatown Shebeen (house where alcohol is sold illegally)

This is the back room - see how it is lined with cardboard? This is still how it is done today, I'll show you in a bit...

This is what the outside would have looked like...

Then we moved on to a section which shows you how the shacks look today. THIS is how MILLIONS of people live in this country; often there is no running water or electricity.

The shack is built from 'found' items, usually corrugated sheet metal. Sometimes it is plastered with mud or old boards. It is then lined with cardboard from packaging boxes for insulation. Sometimes this is decorated with 'wallpaper' - old newspaper, adverts, sheets of uncut food canning labels... Cooking is done on a primus stove (fuelled by paraffin). These shacks are TINY and Fi felt very claustrophobic in them. Often you will find the whole place crowded with people living in there...

The good news is that government is (very slowly) building houses for these people, with running water, electricity and other amenities. There is a huge, huge housing project just up the road from Fi called Cosmo City - proof that it is happening.

Now I am sure you have heard of Ghandi (kind of the Nelson Mandela of his day...)

Well he lived in Johannesburg for a while, and the terrible suffering he witnessed and suffered from led him to start a movement for peace, called Satyagraha, which had a massive influence in India, the USA (with the African American Civil Rights movement) and locally.

There were a lot of other exhibits but we were running out of time as it was a long journey back to fetch children from school. Also housed in the museum, is another museum! Called the BenSusan Museum of photography - Fi said that was for another day, but she did let us have a photo taken...

Here we all are signing the visitor’s book...


Posted Sep 9, 2008, 11:06 pm
Well, after we left the museum, we went across the road to the Gauteng Tourist Information Centre (Gauteng is the province that Johannesburg is in).

Fi went to pick up some brochures of nice places to take ToyVoyagers...

Look who had also popped in! Hi Madiba! (Madiba is the nick name Mandela is known as in South Africa) He has shrunk a bit since I last saw him in Sandton!

And that is the president, Thabo Mbeki, in the middle photo.


Posted Sep 11, 2008, 12:02 am
Threadbear and Eloise managed to keep a secret from us all until the last minute... Fiona and I had to be told earlier than everone else as we had a special role to play...

The other TVs thought they were just helping keep all the bears in order for a group photo before they left for the Teddy Bear Clinic...

There was much giggling and chatting as everyone jostled for good positions. Threadbear eventually managed to get them all to calm down and then made an announcement.

He welcomed all the guests and thanked them for travelling from both near and far to help me him on his quest. The he said that he had some good news, he and Eloise had recently gotten engaged! There was a ripple of excitement through the crowd and a few whistles and cheers from the rowdy section...”but”, he said, “we wanted all of you to be guests at our wedding before you leave for the Teddy Bear Clinic so... if you look at the end of the aisle, you will see the most beautiful, kind hearted bear I have ever laid eyes on...”

There was a very loud gasp as they all realised that they were at their wedding!

Buttons walked Eloise down the aisle to give her away, Fionaand I were bridesmaids. Hector did the honours of best man.

I could tell how happy Threadbear was as we walked closer and closer...

The officiating bear asked who gave the bride away, and Buttons stepped forward to do the honours.

Then they exchanged vows...

Eloise said 'I do'…and Threadbear said 'I do'. (I heard a few sniffles in the crowd...)

The ring bear-er passed over the ring... well really it was a bracelet as bears have paws not fingers...

The crowd gave a collective sigh...

Then it was time for him to kiss the bride!

Oh….that was lovely!

They walked back down the aisle as bear and wife...

We showered them with petals...

Oh that was amazing! Everyone congratulated them
We went inside to have some wedding cake - Vicki brought a chocolate cake because that is way nicer than fruit cake....

The bears preferred to have honey and large pots of it were provided. We had a whale of a party, we danced and chatted most of the night was quite a whirlwind of an evening.

Soon, however it was time for them to leave. They climbed in the car...we had snuck out to decorate it…

We gathered around to wave them off.

Eloise threw back her bouquet...

I caught it!!!

And they were off...sigh…that was so romantic…


Posted Sep 28, 2008, 8:53 am
Fi has a whole box of silkworms. It is spring in South Africa at the moment, which is silkworm season.

These silkworms were rescued from a little girl who was tired of looking after them. Luckily Fi has a mulberry tree near by because they never stop eating... they have already grown since she first got them a few days ago.

I wonder how big and fat they will get before they start spinning cocoons. It seems that I won't get to see because Fi's brother and his girlfriend were here today and they are taking me on holiday somewhere exciting and I will be gone for quite a while. 

Hmmm, I wonder where it can be...we are going on an aeroplane so it must be somewhere far away....

Posted Sep 29, 2008, 9:43 pm
Fi said she was taking NormaNikkers somewhere really special today and that we could go with, so in the car we got…

We were heading for the Magaliesburg, a mountain range just past Johannesburg.

After a long winding drive through the beautiful hills of the Magaliesburg, and an unintentional detour (yep, we got a little lost), we stopped to turn what does this mean?

This is looking very interesting...

Oh we seem to be going into the woods...lots of little streams and bridges and woven sticks...Norma went crazy!

LOOK! Little people! I wonder if there are any more of them?

Trust her to find them!

We decided to stop off for a drink and a snack.... Norma was way too excited she went to go explore...Bye! We’ll save you some milkshake...maybe...

When she came back she told us we had to have a little look in the room full of fairies…we were a bit big to sit amongst them, so if you want to see more have a look at her travelog.

She found another little house...

...with some family members inside!

Look what we saw in the woods...pretty hmm?

Norma went inside the restaurant, but it was a bit busy to take photos.
She said it was so cute in there! Lots of little nooks and crannies. Some rooms were only big enough for two people and some were big enough for twenty or more. There was a very large upstairs, open air part but it was rather full so she never went for a look. Some of the doors were so tiny Fi had to hold her breath to squeeze through!

The gardens outside were very pretty too, but it has only just turned spring. I am sure in summer it is a lot greener and more lush.

Ahh, what a dreamy place...Norma hasn't stopped talking about it! We should have maybe left her behind....


Posted Jan 15, 2009, 9:47 pm
I am so mad, that I am shaking with fury! I don't want to even talk about it!

Okay, I'll talk about it...

Fi's brother said he would take me to Romania - I was so excited! What he really meant was "you are going to remain here. Right here, in my flat, in a bag full of important documents that should be going with me."

So the documents and I sat in that hot itchy bag for weeks on end. And did he take me straight back to Fi when he eventually got home? NO!!!!! He left me in the bag.... and only brought me back tonight. I was too upset to even be happy that I was back.

Then the other TVs in the house, Hector and Shaggy Bear told me if he was that unreliable it is just as well I got left behind - imagine I got lost in Romania! What a horrid thought...

They managed to convince me to play a game of basket ball with them. I am glad I did, it was such fun!

Then it started raining so we went inside. I forgot it rains a lot here in summer.

Posted Jan 15, 2009, 10:07 pm
Tonight we went to Carol's by Candle light at the children's school.

The entire playing field is covered in people having picnics and the children sit up on the stands and sing and dance. It was lovely...

Heh heh, we ate Reindeer eggs! And sausages and carrot cake and...ooh, my tummy is grumbling with hunger just thinking about it....

...and chocolate hedgehogs too! Yummy!

The children were to far away to get nice photos of, so you will just have to imagine them all in Santa hats, or reindeer antlers waving big green shakers around.

Once it got dark we lit our candles.

Luckily the rain held off until it was time to go home, but it sure cleared the field fast!

Posted Jan 16, 2009, 9:33 pm
I could not understand why Fi was running around like a nut, moving stuff and setting up tables and while her husband was reeling out metres and metres of cables....

Before long the gate intercom was buzzing and strange men drove in with...their entire PC strapped in their cars!

The War Geeks had arrived. Usually they play a game called Battelfield on line. They have a forum too and they have funny nicknames like 'Useless' and 'You are toast', Fi's son is called Shrapnel (cause he is small and annoying? :p ). Today however, they were having a network session and taking over the house!

When I say taking over the house I mean it!

Upstairs… (Wow! That is a massive screen!)

In the garage!!!! Two teams...

In the dining room...oh, umm... that's me having a turn!

They were in the lounge and someone even commandeered Fi's PC. Aha! It was Shrapnel - that's okay then. He plays quite well for a kid (though his mother would prefer he didn't play at all!)

Could someone send out for pizza? The troops are starving - an army marches on its stomach you know!

Posted Jan 16, 2009, 9:56 pm
Fi and her friends formed a book club for their children called Bookworms. They meet once a month, share books, read stories, have lunch and play. They have been doing this for about three years now.

Today was the Christmas meet up as most of them would be on holiday in December. We all met at the Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens.. Oh, I have been here before! No locusts this time!

Each child gave a book present to another. The children also gave their Dads a small gift to thank them for attending Bookworms for the VERY FIRST TIME! One of the Dads took the children down to the waterfall to see it. (We had to stay behind because Fi had just found out that her Grandmother had passed away after a very long and happy life) We wandered around the area and found a tortoise! There was another, bigger one but they move faster than you think!

After a picnic lunch, we all sat down and listened to Christmas stories... and 50% of the Dads fell asleep  ;)

I had some left over pudding that Fi made - oh it was yummy!


Posted Jan 16, 2009, 10:10 pm
There is always something going on in this house. Every year Natalie and Shane take part in an international Christmas card swap. The rules are simple: the children have to make ten cards by themselves and then they get sent to other children who are partaking and whose names are randomly drawn.

Well, we really wanted to help so they let us! As you can see we went with an 'African Christmas' theme.

We helped with cutting, gluing and glittering (and we stayed clean and glitter free!) and then popped the cards in envelopes.


Posted Jan 16, 2009, 11:09 pm
Tomorrow is the last day of school. Fi had decided to give the children's teachers a platter of home baked biscuits as an end of year gift. Nice, but she only started baking once the children were in bed! We got roped in to help - to speed things up, but all the posing for photos actually slowed things down  :p We ended up going to bed at 4 in the morning!  :o We had an extra pair of fins to help. A little turtle called Squirt arrived from Okinawa today.

First up: Pistachio and cranberry biscotti (if you want any recipes just ask Fi)

Looking good, but a bit too big...

That's better!

Pop them on a baking tray and in the oven they go!

Shall we mix the next batch while that bakes? Good idea!

Okay, we need butter...

Chopped nuts... Fi wouldn't let us help here; she said the knife was too sharp and dangerous.

Oooooohhhh! Treacle sugar! Yummy!

Now that made me thirsty!

Now that it is all mixed up we need to add the nuts and chocolate chips... it is very hard working with all these yummy things and not being allowed to eat anything - my tummy is grumbling...  :(

Tada! The first batch of choc chip cookies!

The biscotti comes out the oven and the choc chips go in...

The loaves get sliced...another big sharp knife!

...and put back on the baking tray... biscotti means 'twice baked biscuit'.

The choc chips are done! The smell! My tummy is EATING itself....

The biscotti are done! There is a hole in my stomach...I think I am digesting my own stuffing...

Fi says she usually uses the ends of the loaves as 'testers'. She gave us one to taste (heavenly - what a relief for my poor starved tummy) it got passed around and we all had a nibble...




All gone! Next up: gingerbread! Ooohhh...molasses!

The dough was all mixed up and the counter cleared, ready for rolling. Can you make out the time on the clock behind us? 23.20! We'd better get moving.

Good grief! What a lot of cookie cutters! And these in this jar are JUST the Christmas ones...

We tried to get Fi to use these bear shaped ones but she said no...

Rolling out the dough was such hard work we had to take it in turns.

Oh my hat! It has just gone mid-night and Fi is starting on takes almost an hour to make... yaWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWn

I can't keep my eyes open any more...I need to sleep now... fudge is setting, gingerbread is decorated...what more?

Ah, trays! Fudge is till to warm - Fi says she will get up early to sort it out  :o she hasn't even gone to sleep yet and it is four in the morning! I bet she will have a mid morning nap!

Bed time!


Posted Jan 19, 2009, 6:48 pm
Today we all packed into the car very excitedly as we were going somewhere that was a surprise...

As we set off it became apparent that we were driving into a massive storm! Fi and her husband looked a little worried as the surprise was outdoors.

We finally drove into the parking lot of the Montecasino...which was mostly flooded because the rain was bucketing down... We went upstairs to the outdoor arena to be met with a solid sheet of water and hundreds of sad looking children and grumpy looking parents.

We had come to see 'The Beautiful Creatures' concert and it was the very last show and it looked like it would be cancelled. After much milling about and unhelpfulness from the ticket agents, we went to have some lunch. On the way back we saw that all the children were still hanging about with their even grumpier parents, so we went to ask what was happening...aha, if the rain stopped by 4 the concert would go ahead!

At quarter past four we took out our tissues to try and dry our seats! The children eventually just moved to the front and sat on the wet floor because they were so excited to see their favourite African animal songs come to life...

The children did all the actions and sang along (actually, so did most of the parents - once you have heard the CDs a million times in the car, you pretty much know all the words!)

Oh it was lovely! Worth the rain and the wait and the damp seating...and I was right up front to watch it!

After the show, we queued up to buy the new CD and had it autographed by Ed Jordan who created the series (and Alan Glass, but we never got a photo of him) and sings on the CDs.


Posted Jan 19, 2009, 7:58 pm
Usually Fi puts up her Christmas tree on the first day of December. This year she didn't feel inclined to bother.... so the children nagged and nagged and said they would decorate it.

Eventually she decided to haul it out of the trunk it is kept in - it is just too hot for a real tree, it would be dead way before Christmas!

So we helped 'puff' it all out.

Not very awe inspiring is it?

Oh...<blush> that was just the bottom piece, it comes in segments...

That's more like it! Fi said we could stay on there if we wanted and be the decorations. Ha ha ha! Always so funny...Hey! Take me down!!!

The children started decorating the tree - three days later they still hadn't finished so Fi took pity on them and finished it off - You will have to wait then to see what it looked like.

In the meantime, we popped up our tree - easy peasy - it took 2 seconds!

...and we hung up our stockings... there is no fire place and therefore: no mantle, so we found the next best thing: the gas heater.


Posted Jan 19, 2009, 8:09 pm
You know, Fi really takes advantage of us....
baking, tree puffing and now KNITTING! Honestly...

I didn't even know I COULD knit!

Posted Jan 19, 2009, 8:20 pm
She's at it AGAIN...or rather WE are at it again...

We are not really even that sure of what we are making...

Posted Jan 19, 2009, 8:31 pm
Oh! They are mice, Christmas mice! They are gifts for fi's friends - they each get a bowl of tree decorations....

...and what would Christmas be without gingerbread men...and ladies?

Posted Jan 19, 2009, 9:07 pm
Today is a public holiday in South Africa called 'The Day of Reconciliation' read about it here.

We went to visit Fi's Mom for lunch. We thought we would stop by the Zoo in the afternoon to look at the animals and then wait till the lights came on.... Luckily we passed the Zoo on our way and saw that it was jam packed, so we gave up on that idea and just waited until dusk to go when we knew most of the people would have left.

This is the closest you'll ever get me to an ostrich.

I have an uneasy feeling that something is going to drop down on me....

This is the entrance to the gorilla enclosure. They were inside though as they have a new baby (a few days later Fi's brother walked through here and the gorilla threw a stone at him! Can't say I blame him.)

How brave am I? Actually, I think I am too small for him to see or bother with. But if he takes a step sideways he will squash me!

This has got to be the only place a lioness would meet a polar bear...

This Christmas tree looks tiny in the photo but is was really, really big! Whoops, the top lights seem to be off...

Yikes! A hippo wants to eat us! Run for your lives....

Phew! We had to sit down and catch our breath after all that running!

We are safe here... oh! The flash just blinded me - it lit up the whole area, could you see what was behind us Fi? Why are you laughing?

That is one grumpy looking buffalo.

Hey! We found the gorilla! Mostly, because we nearly tripped over him in the dark.

This was Natalie's favourite.

Oh and this one!

We had a few turns on the funfair rides and then we left as it was getting late and very dark and none of us had eaten supper.

Posted Jan 20, 2009, 7:40 am
We went to Fi's sister for supper as the children had been swimming there all afternoon.

This is a traditional way of cooking food. It is called a 'potjie' which means 'small pot'. Usually it is placed on a fire but a Cadac gas cooker works just as well. The food is layered in the pot, with the longest cooking ingredients (meat usually) at the bottom and the quickest cooking at the top.

In the rural areas this is the only way to cook when you have no electricity. These post range in size from tiny to ridiculously enormous (a friend of Fi's has one so huge it takes three strapping men to lift it!)

Hmmm! Smells delicious! Lamb and rice...


Posted Jan 20, 2009, 8:04 am
Today we went to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve, but we didn't see a single animal...

We were there for an end of year party with some friends and just went to the recreational part of the reserve.

Mostly we sat under a thatched umbrella to stay out of the sun (it was so hot!) and the children swam...

We watched some young men playing soccer....South Africans are CRAZY about soccer.

We made some international friends... (We may have eaten them...oops, tasted just like chocolate!)

…and we just hung around chatting and listening to music...

Then we ate too much...Braaied (BBQ'd) chicken and pap (finely ground corn meal that is mixed with water and salt and cooked to a stiff porridge - it is a staple in the diet of most South African people) with tomato and onion gravy and carrot and pineapple salad.


Posted Jan 20, 2009, 8:58 am
It's Christmas Eve!

There is a great air of expectancy around the house, everyone is excited! Well... the children and TVs are excited...

To keep us occupied Fi gave us and the children a job (as usual) but this one was fun! We got to decorate the gingerbread house. Fi had assembled the house the day before, with much wailing and gnashing of teeth - the icing would not set - most likely due to the fact that it was 36°C (96.8°F) and the air was humid, thanks to a brewing storm. It set very nicely once Fi re-arranged the entire fridge to remove one shelf so the house could fit in!

Burp! Pardon me! I may just have eaten more sweets than I put on the house....

Once we were done with that, Fi banished the children upstairs to watch a movie and threatended them that Christmas would be CANCELLED if they so much as peeked down the stairs!

Hmmm...smells like more work for us....

Oh boy, here we go again...

None of us could figure it out....a sort of nappy? Who knows...all we did know is that the fabric is a local one called shwe-shwe. It is a stiff cotton that becomes softer with washing. Traditionally it was made in blue or brown but now comes in a slightly wider range of colours like red and yellow. It has pretty patterns on it, usually small repeats. On the back there is always an animal stamp to denote the manufacturer. We have a leopard and an elephant here. Maybe these are elephant no...too small...

Now that it is turned the right way round it looks like a doll with a flat head!

AH! The penny drops....

It is a pouch for Natalie to carry her doll in!

This pram had belonged to Fi's sister in law 25 years ago. The plastic had all deteriorated and the children improvised with a blanket!

Fi got rid of the blanket....

Then the natives started getting restless and demanded to be released from captivity! So Fi released them and wrapped the gifts in her room safe from prying eyes.

And then a million people descended on the house for supper... well ten adults and three children and four TVs... but it felt like a million and her husband certainly catered for a million- we ate left overs for the next three days (interspersed with Christmas lunch)!


Posted Jan 26, 2009, 9:35 pm
Merry Christmas!

At last!

Why am I hanging in the tree? Um...I am not quite sure...but it's Christmas at last! And how do I know this? I have been counting down everyday since the first of December with the aid of an advent calendar and there are NO MORE CHOCOLATES!

Our Christmas stockings were filled with candy canes and chocolates and SOMEONE seems to have forgotten to take the photo....

Never mind. Put on a silly paper hat and pull a cracker!

BANG! Oh that was scary and fun! Squirt read the silly jokes and we all fell about laughing...

Yay! My turn....

BANG! Ha ha ha....look what we all won!

Shaggy Bear Hmmm....those will come in useful late at night when everyone else is sleeping....

Hector oooh! Ladybug crayons....

A yo-yo! Want to see me do tricks with it?

Squirt A pipe? How odd... oh, you blow out of it and try balance the ball. Squirt is very good at that because he can take such deep breaths and let them out slowly...

Right, is everybody ready for turkey? Time to leave and visit Fi's sister for Christmas lunch... I can't believe SOMEONE left the camera at home.....

There was a power failure so the potatoes and veges were roasted in the Weber (BBQ). Luckily the turkey was smoked and the ham had been cooked on the gas braai (BBQ) the day before (during the previous power outage). It was so good, but there was a lot of turkey left over - I can already tell we'll get sick of it soon!


Posted Jan 26, 2009, 9:51 pm
It has been raining....again... look at that miserable sky...

Posted Jan 26, 2009, 10:24 pm
If you go down to the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise.
If you go down to the woods today,
You'd better go in disguise.
For every bear that ever there was
Will gather there for certain because
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic.

Picnic time for teddy bears;
The little teddy bears are having a lovely time today.
Watch us catch them unawares,
And see them picnic on their holiday.
See them gaily gad about.
They love to play and shout,
They never have any cares.
At six o'clock their mummies and daddies
Will take them home to bed
Because they're tired little teddy bears.

SURPRISE! Oh! They remembered it was my birthday!

The others have been slaving away in the kitchen to surprise me - oh, I think I may just cry! How sweet they all are.... sniff....
They made bear biscuits and a chocolate cake with bear sprinkles for a surprise picnic party for me.

Fi lit the candles for us (we are not allowed, it is against THE RULES.)

I need to blow out those candles and make a wish! What shall I wish for? Phewwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww!

Hmmmmm....honey tea and cake!

Oh these biscuits are simply heavenly... don't worry they are not made from bears....just shaped like bears...

Once we were all rolling around from eating and drinking so much, they surprised me wuith a HUGE present! Sniff....sniff.... now I really am crying! Whahhhhhhhhhhhhh! Oh I love you guys...even the turtle.....

What on earth can it be?

EEEK! I'll have to share this! That is the biggest bottle of honey I have ever seen....oh I am so spoiled! Thank you Shaggy Bear, Hector and Squirt!


Posted Jan 26, 2009, 10:35 pm
And make up for all the horrid rain... Mother Nature gave us this sky....BEAUTIFUL!


Posted Feb 9, 2009, 7:43 pm
Tonight is New Year's Eve!

We ended up at Fi's sister again, this time we had to make supper ourselves...

Roll out the dough...

...smear it with a tomato sauce and pile it with ham and cheeses and whatever else you feel like!

Then pop it in the table top pizza oven.

And wait and wait and wait and wait....guess it wasn't hot enough yet or it needed more coals. By the time it was ready we were too hungry to take a photo of it! It tasted really good and the next ones didn't take as long to bake, but by then we wondered off to play a game called 'Cranium'. We were on Fi's team so we won of course. It wasn't long before someone asked what the time was....


Luckily there were no fire works to terrify the dogs because it was bucketing down with rain!


Posted Feb 9, 2009, 8:05 pm
Today we went to a cute restaurant to help celebrate a friend’s birthday. In the middle of the hustle and bustle of the suburbs, is a walled off property. It is like a tropical jungle inside, with a quaint little tea room, a few craft shops, as well as an antique/ junk shop and a book store. The whole place is decorated with old farm equipment (possibly because the property WAS once a farm - the tea room certainly looked like an old farm house.

Chickens run around underfoot and you feel like you are miles away from the city.

...and look at the cakes!

Hmmm…blueberry pancakes!

They grow their own flowers to decorate the dishes with....

I can't believe it is not raining today!


Posted Feb 9, 2009, 8:37 pm
We were all starting to get cabin fever from all the sitting at home during the never ending rain

Fi had to take a 'little' drive out to the Cradle of Humankind, so she stopped here at  Maropeng so we could have a look. We didn't go into the centre  as there wasn't time. But we learned a few cool facts.

This area is where the oldest evidence of mankind is found. AND, some of the earliest forms of dinosaur were found here too (200 million years old! Wow!) The first stone tools were used in Africa (2.6 million years ago).

This is a 'dig' site where fossils are excavated from. You can clearly see the layer of fossils in this bit (about half way down).

I also learned that former South African president, Thabo Mbeki , has tiny feet!

...and Kofi Annan has big feet!

Then just for the heck of it, we drove down to the actual Sterkfontein Caves where the important fossils like 'Mrs Ples' and 'Little Foot' were actually found.

Isn't it a beautiful view? This is where our ancestors once roamed....okay, I'm a stuffed toy... YOUR ancestors.


Posted Feb 9, 2009, 9:05 pm

You know the insistent rain I keep mentioning? Today I had the most terrifying experience of my short little life.

Fi was driving to school to fetch the children and the rain was absolutely pouring down. The area she was driving through was in FLOOD! The road she drove on had become a raging river... and to make matters worse, paving bricks were tumbling down through the water too... the windscreen wipers could hardly keep up with the downpour.

At one stage she felt a rather large void under her tyre and knew the road was being washed away underneath her...

Indeed...this is what the patch of road looked like once the water drained away....

Some roads completely washed away and several cars did the same....


Posted Apr 20, 2009, 10:43 pm
I feel like I have been sitting here for months... actually I think I may just have been sitting here for months....doing absolutely nothing, nothing at all. It has just rained and rained and rained.

Finally, one day Fi told her husband she had had enough, she was taking us and the kids in the car and going down to the coast. He said if she could wait just one more day then he would go with because he was busy with month end... so we waited and watched the rain a bit more.

He of course got home late from work, so after supper we piled into the car and set off! It took us over an hour just to get out of Johannesburg because of roadworks on the highway. We reached our destination at three in the morning!!!!

Four hours later the children were bouncing around and demanding to go to the beach, Fi and her husband were still trying to have a sleep after the marathon all night drive.

Guess who won?

Here we are at Thompson's Bay. This is called the 'Hole In The Wall', very imaginative... it is a hole in the wall!

There is a narrow little ledge through it that gets you to another beach.. but if you sit there too long and the tide comes in...well, let's just say we took no chances and stayed on THIS side of the hole...

Here we are sitting in the tidal pool.

The tidal pool used to be quite full of water. A year ago, there was a terrible storm and part of the wall was torn down. Nobody has bothered to fix it. This is not actually a bad thing, because the small children love it.... it is now a small walled off sea for them to play in.

The one side is rock pools...where you can fish for crabs and tiny fish...

It is filled up by big splashy waves like ...aaargh... run for your lives!

Oh, that wasn't that bad...

The other side, where the wall is broken, has nice waves coming in where the children can body board without fear of being washed all the way out to sea. It is calm now but a bit later on, the tide got quite strong and a bit rough.

In the middle is a nice beachy bit where you can build a sand castle!

I have a really stupid song stuck in my head now...

Let's go surfin' now
Everybody's learning how
Come on and safari with me


Posted Apr 20, 2009, 11:48 pm
I can't believe it! It is raining here

Well, I guess the beach is out then. Fi found out that it was not raining in Durban, so in the car we went...

Miserable isn't it?

Ah... 43 kilometers to Durban...

There is the Durban skyline just ahead of us...

This is the stadium that they are building for the 2010 Soccer World Cup.

There are lots of old colonial style buildings in Durban.

The people of Durban are in an uproar as someone decided that all the street names needed to be changed (don't get Fi started on this subject... it is one of her bugbears!)

Here you can see that Winder Street has been renamed to... can YOU pronounce that? I can't....

We eventually got to uShaka Marine World. I have been here before!We missed the seal show, so we went straight into the aquarium. The whole aquarium is designed to look like a shipwreck.

This tank shows the reef fish...

Yikes! Sharks! If you sit in the restuarant on the other side of this tank you can see the sharks while you eat...

All of these fish lying about in here looking like rocks are very poisonous. The purple one is a scorpion fish, the other ones are stone fish.

Ooh... rays...

Their faces look funny!

Can you see the sea horses?

We went outside to see the dolphins...hang on a second...

Better hurry up or we will miss the real dolphins....

Here they are!



Three... Four... of them leaping about...

We went back into the aquarium so Squirt could see a turtle face to face....

He was so excited!

We ended off the day by signing the guest book.


Posted Jun 15, 2009, 8:16 am
Yay! No rain today so we went back down to the beach....and built a few sandcastles.....

We were a bit scared of swimming but Fi said there were life guards on duty. We even met one! (And an ice cream seller....)

When it started getting too hot we went back to the flat...actually we were in a penthouse. This is the view from the balcony. The complex is in an eco estate so there are lots of dams for the bird life and small animal that wander around (lots and lots of very noisy frogs in this dam!)

To the side you can see the sea!

Oh yes, this is the life! Hmmm - I smell lunch...bye!


Posted Jun 15, 2009, 8:39 am
Today, at the children's insistence, we went to the Flag Animal Farm. It is along a dirt road in amongst the sugar cane fields. No trip to Ballito is complete without a chance to feed and pet the animals.

We found a sleepy little calf...

We sat down for a drink at the little cafe. Nice view....

A pig wandered over....

We found some ducks...these are the ducks Fi says she will have in her garden one day (one day when she doesn't have huge big bird chasing dogs!)

We saw loads of animals, pigs, goats, donkeys, horses, tortoises BUT the best fun was milking a cow! The lady said she had NEVER, EVER, EVER had toys milking cows before....surely not?

I see why the children like to visit the farm...such fun for city kids!

Banyo found a nice tree to climb.... it is called a coral tree.

Here is a close up of the pretty flowers...

Hmmm... I should have climbed up too but I was feeling lazy....


Posted Jun 15, 2009, 8:56 am
Fi has had to go back to work because of the economic crisis. Things are getting tough for the people of South Africa.

Sadly this meant that we didn't get out much, actually we didn't get out at all!

One day she had to go on a bit of a drive so she took us with knowing that the view from the top of the hill was quite spectacular.

The best view are on the road though and it is very windy, very steep, with no shoulder - so no photos from there. This was the best we could manage....kind of pathetic if you know what it looks like in real life!

Posted Jun 15, 2009, 9:20 am
Well, not only did Fi have to go back to work, but she also got sick. So we sat and sat and sat and waited and waited...and NOTHING! Boring, boring, boring....

So I said to Fi - "you know, I have been here for over a year already! I have pretty much seen enough, it's time to move on now."

So she looked at me and said "really? More than a year? How time flies....."

"Yes" I said, "time flies and so should I".

So she said, " okay then, pack your stuff, I'll see what I can do."

So that's what I did.

Then she cried, and I cried. And then we laughed and had a hug.

Now I am on my way to Brazil. I hope it's bloody warmer than Jo'burg at the moment!

Posted Jun 19, 2009, 6:00 pm
Hey Mom

Just wanted to let you know I have arrived safely in Brazil.
Ale loved me, she said I look so much better in person than in the pictures, haha!
The weather is very sunny outside, but inside the apartment it is a bit chilly.
Pictures will be uploaded tomorrow!!


Posted Jun 23, 2009, 2:19 pm

I have arrived in Brazil. Ale showed me her bedroom view and her fish.
She also showed me some streets nearby. We were alone in her car so she started taking pictures on it.


Posted Jun 23, 2009, 2:34 pm
Festa Junina!!


Here in Brazil we have a big party every June. We call it festa junina.
Ale and her mom went to the party thrown by a church. It was a very small party, but I got to take a picture by the people dressed up in costumes and eating Canjica, which is a typical food made with corn.
Other typical food is hot wine.
The kids dress up and get REALLY cute, but I couldnt find any of them in this small party.
So Ale took a picture by a store that sells costumes, so that you can see how it is.

Posted Jun 23, 2009, 2:41 pm

I went with Ale to this mall that only sells furniture.
They were having some statues on display.
These are the flags of : São Paulo the city, Brazil, and São Paulo the state.


Posted Aug 31, 2009, 11:06 pm

Ale is so sorry for taking so long to update, she will definitely try to change that.

Today I watched a soccer match on TV. As you know, soccer is the national game !

Posted Sep 11, 2009, 1:34 am

I have been around here for such a long time, I already know Ales house very well. The house has been reforming, so its all quite messy here, we had to sleep in the kitchen for a few days! No it is still everything out of place, but the floor surely looks nice!

Posted Sep 11, 2009, 1:40 am
Hi there!
The other day Ale took me to a candy store!
Yummy! I love chocolate!


Posted Sep 11, 2009, 1:56 am

Yesterday Ale took me to her college.
Oh boy, the traffic was so horrible. Well, at least we dont have to take the bus, look at how full it is!!!
In the way there we passed the Hospital das Clinicas (third and fourth pics). It is the most important public hospital in São Paulo, and one of the most important ones in Latin America.
Here in Brazil the public health is a very troubled issue, as it is in very developing country. Not everyone has access to it, there are very long waitings if you need a specialist... Oposite to Europe, here everyone who has some money has private health care. The same with education, you just use the public ones if you are really really in need. I know, its sad!!
This hospital however has some specialists that are not even available on the private practice, so it is very good.
We also passed by the most important avenue in the city: Avenida Paulista. It is really cool, very long, and they have everything you need in there, many museums, parks, and the most important business headquarters are in there.

Posted Sep 20, 2009, 5:24 pm
Friday Ale took me to college again.
I watched a class, it was really nice, i really payied attention.

Posted Oct 1, 2009, 4:15 pm
Mom, today we took the dog for a walk.
On a wall it was painted the sayings "A verdade é que você mente todo dia", which means "the truth is that you lie everyday". Kinda makes you think, huh?!

Posted Oct 3, 2009, 3:38 am

Today i helped Ale to run some errands. Ad you know, Brazil is a poor country, so in many traffic lights there are poor people trying to sell things such as fruits or candy. The candy sellers usually hang the candy on the car mirror with a small message. This message said "Desistir é a saída dos fracos, insistir é a alternativa dos fortes. Feliz 2009. Deus abençoe. Apenas R$ 1." This means " To give up is the weaks way out, to insist is the strongs way. Happy 2009. God bless you. Only R$ 1." (about 0.5 dollars).


Posted Oct 11, 2009, 10:36 pm
Hi mom

Yesterday Ale tood me to a local antiques fair. We passed by this earrings and necklaces little stand, and Ale got me a gift! she bought me an Açaí seeds necklace! Oh, I feel so pretty!!!
Açaí is a very popular fruit here, they always drink its juice. Below, i put a picture of an Açaí treee for you!
And the woman selling it was so funny... Ale told her to hold me and smile for a picture, she was very pleased for that! haha.

Posted Oct 12, 2009, 2:45 pm
part I

Posted Oct 12, 2009, 3:03 pm
part II


Yesterday Ale took me to the park on her bike. It is called Ibirapuera Park. It is huge, Ale loves it so much.
I saw the Obelisk, which is a monumento to the Constitutionalist Revolution of 1932, and the biggest monument of the city of São Paulo. The height of the monument is 72 meters. Inside it there are the remains of 4 students who died in the battle.
You can also see the Monumento as Bandeiras...which is something like the Monument to the flags. It is a beautiful statue of some people pushing the boat of the first first Portugueses who arrived here.
I also saw this "human statue " guy.... it really looked like a statue!
Oh gosh... Ale was fell from her bike that day, can you believe it? She was happily riding it, when suddenly a bug landed on her eyelid. She lost balance and fell down, right ona  place so full of people. Thankfully she didnt get hurt, and neither did I, but boy, was that embarassing!!!! :o

Posted Oct 16, 2009, 12:00 am
Dearl mom

Today was very rainy day. In the chaotic traffic, we got an issue of the free newspaper and bought a piece of cloth to clean up the computer screen. Then I was a little tired and decided to take a nap at Ales bed while she watched TV.


Posted Nov 1, 2009, 9:03 pm
Dear mom

I dont know if Ale ever mentioned this, but she has a disease called Endometriosis. It is about irregular tissues growing outside the endometrius, like the ovaries and intestines, like Ales case. Well, last year she had a very big surgery for it, but now it seems to have come back. No big deal I guess, just that she has to always take birthcontrol pills. So I went to the hospital to run some exams with her. She had a blood exam and couldnt eat for hours prior to it.
After it, they gave us a little snack (I didnt eat either, to make her company, hehe).

Posted Nov 2, 2009, 8:27 pm
Hi Mom

Yesterday Ale ordered a tuna and cheese pizza, her favorite!
I tried it too, I loved it!

Posted Nov 28, 2009, 10:53 pm
Dear mom

A new mall just opened in this neighborhood. I went there to check it out, but we didnt like it too much, it was kind of small. We had lunch in an arabian restaurant.

Posted Nov 28, 2009, 11:37 pm
Dear mom

Here in Brazil, as i guess it it is in every other developing country, most people dont buy normal DVDs and CDs. We just either download it, or buy ilegal copies that are sold everywhere for as little as 3 dollars for the dvd ( the normal one would be at least 12 dollars).
Ale prefers to buy it than to download it. She hasnt bought a legal copy of anything in ages!
She knows its not good for the record companies, but, these people who sell it are way worse off than those huge Hollywood companies!
Besides, they have the movies as soon as they are in the movies. The copies are perfect. And you can ask them for any movie you want, they will get it to you. Its not like looking for it in a cold Wall-mart.
I know, its really an ethical paradox. But I dont know, I think here we are so used to see corruption. My mom for instance has some money the government owes her ever since 1987. Yes, you heard it right!
A few months ago, here in Brazil we heard about a big outcome on corruption of the schools lunch. Oh holly molly. Most kids here go to school just for the food (which is 100% free), its their only meal of the day, how can someone steal that? how?
You think Ale will spend her money on DVDs, which are like 50% taxes? No, thanks, she will buy ilegal all the way!


Posted Dec 1, 2009, 6:04 pm
Dear Mom

I am here for such a long time, a new avenue was built up right in front of our apartment. Its the first picture.

Look at me, I tried out Açaí juice! yes, my necklace is made of the seeds of it! It was yummy!

Posted Dec 10, 2009, 5:19 pm

today i watched Obamas speech. He won the Nobel Prize of Peace.

Posted Dec 10, 2009, 10:43 pm

Today I went to the new mall again. I saw a very big christmas tree and took a picture with Santa!!

Posted Dec 11, 2009, 6:08 pm

Well, yesterday we actually went to the mall for another reason. Ale's mom and her friend wanted to see Dr. Hollywood, who is a surgeon of the celebrities in Beverly Hills. He also has a tv show in the USA and here in Brazil.
He was born here in Brazil, in a very poor family. Then he was adopted by a wealthy american family and left when he was like 10 years old, and had all the chances, he studied medicine in Harvard. His portuguese is very rusty!
He was in a shop called Polishop, talking about some beauty products that use his name.
Well, when Ale was there getting his autograph, she asked him to please help Brazil more actively. She wrote her email on a note and gave it to him.
Of course he wont care, like anybody else do, but hey, at least she did her part! If he doesnt do his, thats not her problem!
Oh cmon, the man spent one million dollars to redecorate his kitchen... He could help his own country somehow, couldnt he? I mean... we are such a needy country... :(
But hey, lets not judge him! maybe he already helps it and we dont know about it...

Posted Dec 20, 2009, 11:11 pm
dear mom

Yesterday Ale took me to a park, it is called Parque do Povo (park of the people), it is only a few years old. They had some santa claus being exposed there.
Then we went to a gas station to buy a water bottle, the weather here is very hot and we were thirsty!
Well, tuesday Ale will take me to Minas Gerais for xmas, which is another state, so hopefully we will have lots of fun there!


Posted Dec 20, 2009, 11:58 pm
Oh there was a few pictures missing from the last travel log! :)

Posted Jan 3, 2010, 9:55 pm
Dear family,

Today Ale and her friend Luis took me to the MASP museum. It is the most important museum of the entire country!
In the other side of the street there is an open fair market that sells many little things, like candles, necklaces, and other handmade things.

In the museum, there was a Rodin exposition, but there was also many masterpieces of Picasso, Van Gogh, Portinari, and others.

Aaaaaaaaaand guess what!
Ale fooled the guards and got to take a picture of me by a Picasso!
of course, it is prohibited to take pictures in the museum.
Well, this is a very famous and important painting, it is called  "Portrait of Suzanne Bloch". It was stolen from that same spot in 2007, but they recovered it a few days later. It is worth US$ 55 million ! Wow, I cant believe i was so close to something that valuable!


Posted Feb 10, 2010, 8:40 pm
Dear Mom,

a few days ago, Ale took me to a city called Paraty. It is in the state of Rio De Janeiro. We stayed in a very humble hotel, then we went to many crystal water beaches by boat, where we could snorkel. I loved it!

Part I

Posted Feb 10, 2010, 9:40 pm
Paraty part II

Posted Feb 10, 2010, 9:40 pm
Well, this is it.

Time to go home.
I wonder how it will be like to go from 32 degrees C to snowy Germany !
I hope I have a safe and fast trip back home.

bye Brazil!


Posted Apr 22, 2010, 10:21 am
I'm back at home after haveing a great time in South Africa and Brazil. Now I will try to learn more about my own country and then start to new adventures maybe in summer. Thank you so much MrsC and aleoliva for the wonderful time at your places.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 3:56 pm
Help, Mum. Yesterday we watched this one house burning, that has a little framework. It is the house in the middle of the photo. The flames were really high and we all are still trembling. Thank God, nobody lives in this house and nobody got hurt otherwise we wouldn't have taken this photo.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 3:58 pm
My host had a disc prolaps in her neck and she felt and still feels really bad. So our activities are rare right now, but today we went on a short walk around this beautiful sea. We really enjoyed it.


Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:21 pm
Today we drove to Münzesheim to visit the Japanese Garden, which belongs to the therapy centre against alcohol and other dependencies. All buildings and works of art are made by patients of the therapy center based on antique models. The garden is about 5.000 m² large, it is open for patients and visitors. You will see a roof made of blue bottles, put into the concrete with the bottom to the outside - it's an interesting room, fascinating. Wall and floor are covered with blue tiles. Just enjoy the photos.

Uaah, Mum! What's my host thinking? She doesn't like spiders herself, but put me just under a really really big spider. Help me!

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:24 pm
On our way home I had a little rest on a parking place near to the hospital and jailhouse. Here you see the little tower of the old part of the hospital.

And here you see the jailhouse. It is an interesting building.

For dinner we had some Chinese or Thai food. It tasted yummy.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:29 pm
I helped to cook Schupfnudeln or Buwespitzle (finger shaped potatoe dumplings), Sauerkraut and Kasseler (smoked pork chop). My host's daughter - who's my mum by the way - had Apfelmus (apple puree) instead - I think, I prefer this too

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:31 pm
My host wanted me to help with some paper handicrafts for the window. I think, it is really nice.

In the afternoon it was time to bake a sponge cake (Biskuit). My host used 10 eggs, 500gr sugar and stirred them, then she gave 500gr flour and baking powder to the dough - ready. I helped to decide whether the dough was fluffy enough, before we added the flour.

Yes, it is fine now. So we can bake it. Let's see, how the cake looks like tomorrow.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:35 pm
My hosts drove to Karlsruhe today. Karlsruhe (German pronunciation: [ˈkaɐ̯lsʁuːə]; population 288,917 in 2007) is a city in the south west of Germany, in the Bundesland Baden-Württemberg, located near the French-German border.

Founded in 1715 as Karlsruhe Palace, the surrounding town became the seat of two of the highest courts in Germany, the Federal Constitutional Court of Germany (Bundesverfassungsgericht) whose decisions have the force of a law, and the Federal Court of Justice of Germany (Bundesgerichtshof), the highest court of appeals in matters of civil law and criminal law. It therefore considers itself the home of justice in Germany, a role taken over from Leipzig after 1933.

It is said to be model city for the cityscape of Washington D.C., due to similarities to the US capital city. Both cities have a center—in Karlsruhe the palace and in D.C. the Capitol Building—from which the streets lead away like sunrays. (wikipedia)

We went to the library, which is next to the Friedrichspalais, which you see here. It hosts the museum of natural history.

Then we went to see, whether there still is the Celtic store close to the Friedrichsplatz, but unhappily it was closed. We have to find another one. The tower belongs to the old city hall.

So we are heading back to the underground parking at the Friedrichsplatz. The church you see here is the Stephanskirche.

Then we drove home again.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:41 pm
In the evening we still had lovely weather. So my hosts decided to take me on a little walk along the Saalbach. It flows from Bretten to Philippsburg, where it flows into the Rhine.

There are some nice houses along our way, too.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:41 pm
Today is the day to finish our cake. It is First Communion of my host's nephew and she promissed to present him a lovely cake. The only cake for afternoon coffee and tea. Feeling not fine, it wasn't that easy for her, so she asked us to help her.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:46 pm
This morning I read in the newspaper about the Eyjafjallajökull. I'm really happy to be here with my hosts and not somewhere between those waiting people at the airports or maybe - scary - even to be in Iceland myself. I think, I would love to be there, but please without volcanic eruption.

In the afternoon we used the time to sit in the garden. When my host came outside too, she found us sitting on her chair

There are many flowers blooming in her garden.

While sitting there my host had a hot cup of tea and read in this book "City of Bones" - in German this time, but she told me, that she prefers the Twilight books

To make things complete we had a nice evening watching what? Yes, "New Moon" - great! Emmh, I'm in a Jacob family, if you know, what I mean. I'm not sure, who I prefer, maybe it is Embry?

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:52 pm

It is such a beautiful day, that we decided to go on a walk to the little field chapel. On the way we passed the seven sorrows of Maria, the holy mother.
They started to built the chapel in 1903 and consecrated it in 1905. In year 1908 the seven stations were finished. The first four stations were destroyed by environmental impact and war and so they were recreated in 1957 and consecrated in 1958.

The Seven Sorrows (or Dolors) are events in the life of the Blessed Virgin Mary which are a popular devotion and are frequently depicted in art.

It is a common devotion for Catholics to say daily a Hail Mary for each.

1. The Prophecy of Simeon over the Infant Jesus. (Gospel of Luke 2:34)

2. The Flight into Egypt of the Holy Family. (Gospel of Matthew 2:13)

3. The Loss of the Child Jesus for Three Days. (Luke 2:43)

The small house in the far is the fourth station.

4. The Meeting of Jesus and Mary along the Way of the Cross. (Luke 23:26)

We look down to the way, where the the other three stations were built.

This is the field chapel, Feldkirchle.

We didn't walk to the last two stations, because my hosts still don't feel really fine. They were rather exhausted, so we walked down to the car again.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:54 pm
Another photo taken on the balcony. We love this cherry tree in neighbour's garden:)

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:56 pm
One of my host's sons has problems with asthma and so they have to see the children lung specialist in Mannheim-Rheinau every now and then. On our way back home we took this photos.

Because my host still has a lot of trouble with her neck, her older son drove the car. He did it really well - I enjoyed even our drive on the autobahn.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:57 pm
The small sign on the right side shows the palace of Bruchsal.

Posted Apr 29, 2010, 4:59 pm
Who would think, that within four days we drive nearly to the same place? This time it is for fun, because my host's aunt celebrated her 75th birthday at a Greek restaurant called Dioni. The food there tastes really yummy. If you ever come here, you have to have lunch in this restaurant. It is located next to the Rhine and from the restaurant you have a wonderful view to the Rhine. Later we went on a little walk to the Rhine, where we took some photos. I loved this afternoon.

Posted Apr 30, 2010, 10:05 am
Today we drove to the Michaelsberg, a small hill, which belongs to Untergrombach. Untergrombach is one of Bruchsals suburbs. There are Untergrombach, Obergrombach, Heidelsheim, Helmsheim and Büchenau.

On top of the Michaelsberg there is a chapel called Michaelskapelle. Next to the chapel is a restaurant, where you have a nice view over the Rhine valley. You only can see a small bit of it on the right site.

The houses you can imagine on the right side belong to Bruchsal. On the horizon of the left side you can imagine two small small towers, which belong to the nuclear power reactor of Philippsburg. The quarry pond belongs to Untergrombach.

Here you see Untergrombach down the hill. The small mountains in the far are the Palatinate Mountains.

Here we look in direction, where you come to Karlsruhe, which is in the Rhine valley too. You maybe can imagine the edge to the Kraichgau with its small hills. The stones you see on the photo, are the so called Steinriegel (Clearance Cairn). A Clearance Cairn is an irregular and unstructured collection of fieldstones  which have been removed from arable land or pasture to allow for more effective agriculture and collected into a usually low mound or cairn. Commonly of Bronze Age origins, these cairns may be part of a cairnfield (a collection of closely spaced cairns) where some cairns might be funerary. Clearance cairns are a worldwide phenomenon wherever organised agriculture has been practised. (wikipedia)

The Michaelsberg is a nature reserve area and famous for the Magerrasen (nitrogen-poor, species rich grassland).

The last photo shows a view to Obergrombach.


Posted May 6, 2010, 6:57 am
My hosts had dinner at a restaurant next to this stable. It was a bit late, so you only see a small horse in the far.

When we were at home again, we baked a Danube Waves Cake for my hosts' nephew birthday.

Posted May 7, 2010, 3:35 pm
We enjoyed this lovely sunset today, but my host told me, that they will have bad weather soon. If she tells the truth?

Posted May 9, 2010, 7:02 am
Yeah, here they are: the dark clouds!

For dinner we had meatballs Tuscany kind and noodles. The kids love it.

And to drink: Stoertebeker Pilsener - not for the kids

Posted May 9, 2010, 7:03 am
A new toyvoyager arrived: umechan from Japan.

So we are now:

1rst row: Robby, Jennifer, umechan, Pinky Bear, Kari
2nd row: me, Cilly, Scotty

Later we had a snack: A pretzel (Brezel) and tea (my host loves green tea with sugar and milk - not they way you should drink it, I guess)

Posted May 9, 2010, 7:03 am
For dinner we helped our host to prepare toast. Some of the family members like cooked ham and Maasdam Cheese, but my host likes salami and Gouda Cheese. Under the cheese my host had some bananas, the kids had ananas. We wanted to help more, but our host had a phone call and then she told us, she had to hurry a bit to get finished.

By the way: The weather is still grey, rainy and stormy.

Do you see that house on the left side with the interesting front? It is called Sancta Maria. My host told me, that she will take me with her to this house and tell me more about it - when the weather is nice:)

Posted May 9, 2010, 7:04 am
Someone told me, that May is called the merry month and I really thougth, that this would mean, that the sun is shining. Right now it seems to be kind of November here, even in the morning it was so misty and here you see another photo in the later afternoon. It was another rainy day.

Posted May 17, 2010, 9:55 am
On our way to Koblenz we had a cappuccino at the service area along the highway.

Posted May 17, 2010, 10:00 am
Today we visited aunt and uncle of my host's husband. We thought, that we maybe could see the German Corner and the fortress Ehrenbreitstein, but because next year there will be Bundesgartenschau in Koblenz next year and many places are closed right now to get everything finished for the horticulture show.
So we only had a short walk "around" the house. We saw some interesting old houses.
Horchheim is a suburb of Koblenz on the right side of the Rhine. The oldest house of God is dated in 1130, but there were settlements in Bronze Age already.

That's a board, that we saw nailed to the house: former it was a house v. Eyss, built 1765 from baron (Freiherr) Matthias v. Eyss, plan attributed to Johannes Seiz, in year 1945 heavily damaged.

This is the back side of the house:

There's a big church too.

We also met some Monchhichis here.

We took some more photos on our way home.

Posted May 18, 2010, 10:04 am
It is still cold outside and in the early evening we had rain again.

So we read a book about Bruchsal, at least we looked at the photos and our host explained, what we saw.

Bruchsal occupies an excellent geogrphical position on the western side of a charming region of rolling hills between the Odenwald and the Black Forest, called the Kraichgau. Thanks to its convenient location the town of more than 40000 inhabitants on the Saalbach, historic yet modern, has developped into an industrial and trade centre. Bruchsal is also regarded as the Euopean  'capital of asparagus', being the main trade centre for this delicious vegetable.

Bruchsal was first named in 976 A.D., but they found pieces, which are much older than that.

This is an old photo of Bruchsal's palace after the bombing on March 1st, 1945.

This is the ground plan of the men's prison, completed in 1848, today a detention centre.

The Damianstor (Damian's Gate) forms the remarkable northern entrance to the palace area and the town. The spendid palace of Damian Hugo of Schönborn - bishop, sovereign and cardinal of the state of Speyer - with its numerous surrounding baroque buildings, is fenced off by walls and ditches to produce the impression of a baroque quarter of its own.

Rebuilt from the ruins the magnificent baroque residence serves many purposes today. The portrait of Maria Theresa, empress of Austria, looks upon the shining and gleaming Marbe Hall from Cardinal Hutten. The crowning glory of the stairwell by Balthasar Neimann leads to the reconstructed halls and modern museums. In the south wing the parish of St. Damian and Hugo has its church with a modern interior.

At the front, on top and at the rear - baroque elements and shapes everywhere.
In the baroque garden you find lifesize allegories of the four seasons and the ancient elements of fire, water, air and earth adorn the main axis of the palace grounds. Stone-halberdiers guard the palace.

There is the town museum of Bruchsal, the Museum of Mechanical Musical Instruments and valuable exhibits presented by the Badische Landesmuseum at the Corps de Logis.

The fountains are beautiful, this time colourful, because there was a special concert.
The 'Ehrenhof' on the right side with Balthasar Neumann's 'Torwache', unfinished - full of smmetry despite the missing obelisk.
THe building with the little tower is the county court.

One event that we missed on Mother's day was the Summer's Day procession of the colourfully adorned children of Bruchsal. The snowman will be in for a fiery end after the hardships of the winter - sure, it didn't burn well enough this year, because it still is so cold.

On the right you see municipal architecture and the world of business in the heart of Bruchsal. The big house were you can read a few letters of the word Schneider is a closed shopping center.

I'm sure I will see the carnival procession in Bruchsal's centre next year - if everything goes well until then. So called 'Guggenmusiken' take care of the necessary background noise.
On the right you see a view from the former town hall, built in 1954, which soon will be a shopping center. St.Peter rises above the 'Große Brücke' (Great Bridge). Balthasar Neumann's creation is the town's sacral gem.

The choir and bell tower of the catholic church Unsere liebe Frau (Our lady) are gothic, the roof of the bell tower is baroque, the nave modern. From the bell towe you have a good view to the weekly market, which is in front of the former town hall two times a week.

On the left page you see the old medieval keep, dated in 1358, next to it the Community Centre, built in the end of the eighties. It houses two halls, foyers, conference rooms, a restaurant, shops, an underground car park, the 'Badische Landesbühne'- theater, the municipal library, the tourist information and the adult education centre.

I should try to get a photo of this, because it was taken only a few steps from our home. It is the view from Friedhofstraße towards the Holzmarkt, municipal theatre, keep and part of the new town hall.
Holzmarkt and Kübelmarkt are at the end of Kaiserstraße. During the Advent season fistive lights, the smell of 'Glühwein' and the scent of the pines are predominant. The Christmas market is held under the statues of St. Peter and Paul. The building behind the statues is a music school.

The Saalbach, here at Holzmarkt and Kübelmarkt, flows through Bruchsal from the east to the west. The banks are connected by several bridges and footbridges. The footbridge at the ''Große Brücke' is used frequently - also by us.

At the end of the pedestrian precinct the Seilersbahn leads to Huttenstraße. The limestone building of the Pallotines' private grammar-school St. Paulusheim, built in 1923, towers above the massive concrete walls of the senior citizen's centre at the Klosterberg. The white big houses belongs to the old people's house.

On the doorstep of St.Paulusheim: the remakable landscape surrounding Bruchsal. The fertile 'Löß' soil can be intensively cultivated. The Kraichgau offers pleasant views to nature lovers and walkers throughout the year.

The walker is rewarded by a magnificent panorama after a steep ascent to the top of Andreas-Staffel (Andrew's stairs). It leads uphill from Huttenstraße, next to the senior citizen's centre. In 1852, Victor v. Scheffel hat to take a detour to arrive at his favourite spot, since known as the 'Scheffelhöhe'. The keep, the Community Centre, the catholic church Our Lady and Lutheran Church are below. Karlsruhe and the Palatinate mountains are visible in the background. We surely will go there to take a look.

The baroque retreat of the Belvedere, today situated in the municipal park, has always been a favourite subject of painters. The delicately elded 'Chinese-style' towers with their wrought-iron work crown the traditional building from 1758. Today there is no more shooting at the former shooting range - except possibly during some summer evenings, when the Belvedere serves as a very fitting background for open-air plays staged by the amateur theatre 'Die Koralle'.

Bruchsal's famous former men prison outside the Damian's Gate originally accommodated revolutionaries from Baden in 1848. Today it is a modern detention centre and an important employer, supplier and manufacturer of a broad range of products.
The 'New Men's Prison' for the Grand Duchy of Baden was built as a fortress. It was a modern prison then because of its prison cells for solitary confinement. The four wing building, including a central building - locally known as 'Café Octagon - Caf´d Achteck' - was constructed between 1841 and 1848 by Heinrich Hübsch.
On the right you see the neo-baroque part of Bruchsal's hospital from 1905/06 by Fritz Hirsch. In the old days nu s with their caps with upturned wings took care of 70 patients at the Fürst-Stirum-Hospital. The beneficial work of the 'crested larks' is acknowledged by a statue from the artist Jürgen Goertz. The hospital training nurses and doctores occupies over 700 employees. It can take in 350 patients. The historic central building has been enlarged and modernized several times.

Nature is thriving and blossoming in and around Bruchsal. The 'white gold' - delicious asparagus grows in the sandy soil of the Rhine Valley.
THe central axis of the palace gardens becomes a straight avenue of several kilometres which used to connect the residence with the supplying farm of Altenbürg (Karlsdorf) and continue on to Graben through parks, forests and fields. Today the old axis is interrupted and crossed several times by railway tracks, roads and the highway.

Train tracks from the four points of the compass meet at the Bruchsal junction. The post-war train station in the west of the centre is a stop for Interregio - and regional trains and buses. The Stadtbahn has boosted the public transport service.

Once in the year the is a big flea market near the palace.

The right page shows the Saalbach and one of Bruchsal's schools, the Stirumschule. It was the primary school where also my hosts was from grade one to four.

During hot summer days many people enjoy the cool, refreshing waters of the outdoor pool, Sash.

The 'Justus-Knecht-Gymnasium' is the largest municipal grammar-school. It dates back over a hundred years. In 1953 it was named after the bishop Dr. Justus Knecht from Freiburg, who was born in Bruchsal. This was the grammar school, in which my host was from grade 5 to 13.
The building on the right side belongs to the way of the sorrows of our holy lady, near by the Feldkirchle.

You surely know this house with the nice front. Many women from Bruchsal and the surrounding region still remember their courses in housekeepiong and needle-work at the Sancta-Maria-Institute. Built in 1906/08 by Reverend Kunz, the house is owned by the Fransiscan nuns of Gengenbach. Today it is still led by nuns as a school of social education. Female nursery teachers are trained here in full-time courses.

Pleasant old buildings are rare since the fire storm of March 1st 1945 destrayed 80 per cent of the town. Only the upper town remained. St. Peter's Church with its characteristic onion towers was the only one to survive World War II.

The sacral baroque gem of Bruchsal is St. Peter's Church. Cardinal Schönborn began the building in 1740, his successor, Cardinal Hutten completed it and had the interior finished. The architect was Balthasar Neumann from Würzburg. The church holds the remains of the last prince-bishops in a crypt. The black-and-White marble gravestones adorn the choir. High altar, side altars, pulpit, gallery and organ are masterpieces of the Rokoko - thought up to praise God and to edify people.

Posted May 18, 2010, 11:10 am
Wow, that's a lot. We need a rest and called at a pizzeria. My host ordered a big Nizza Salad, but without anchovies, because she doesn't like them, instead she had an artichoke. My mum had a pizza, yummy:)

Posted May 18, 2010, 11:59 am
Just showing some more impressions from Bruchsal.

Bruchsal has five suburbs: Heidelsheim, Helmsheim, Obergrombach, Untergrombach and Büchenau.
This is Heidelsheim:

and Helmsheim:


Untergrombach, the biggest suburb:

and Büchenau:

Posted May 21, 2010, 10:37 am
Today a new toyvoyager arrived. It is Brinda, a lovely little rabbit. She comes from Estonia, where I will be next week, hopefully. I will start my travel today, just wanted to say 'hi' to Brinda.

Posted May 21, 2010, 10:41 am
I'm so excited. I will travel to Estonia tomorrow. Today my host's son traveled to Greece and we watched the flight on the computer. Then I looked at a few photos of Rakvere - I'm so curious and so unpatient now. Why can't it be tomorrow already?

The Lufthansa has landed, you see it above the dark line.

Posted May 21, 2010, 3:36 pm
I'm on my way to Rakvere


Posted May 28, 2010, 4:43 pm
Today I arrived Rakvere and got breathe again fresh air.I met Pinkz,who also came Rakvere last week.I believe we will have lots of fun together here.Weather isn't that good today,was raining earlier and we stayed home,but my hostmum told that we'll go to walk tomorrow.

Posted May 28, 2010, 5:13 pm
Today weather wasn't the best,but we still decided to go for walking trip.First we visited graveyard and my hostmum put candle to her great-grandmum,who she misses much.There wasn't almost anyone and it was really quiet place.
Next we went to Pikk Street,its the oldest and maybe also the longest street in  Rakvere.Rakvere's town get started from there,and then were founded other streets,houses.There are lots of old houses,some of them are renovated and others are not.
My hostmum's great-granddad worked in this house as firefighter,but now there arent any firefighter anymore,only "Big families union in Lääne-Virumaa" and some other offices also.
Mostly houses were built from wood,but we saw some stone houses also.
This one was school-building in 19th century.
There is museum,this time we didn't go there,maybe we visit that later.
My mum showed me Rakvere's castle from Internet and today I wished to see it with my own eye,sadly we didn't go inside,but I saw it from far at least.
We're walking there about 2 hours and then we found a bench and sat down.
I had a great day !

Posted Jun 3, 2010, 4:35 pm
Today we cleaned a bit and found much old paper.We decided to bring that to recycling.I sat a bit on the paper and then later we went city centre by bus.
Paper  is now there,and hopefully will be in use again,after recycling.We care of enviroment :)

Then we went to library,there were many books,we visited youngsters and children books  department.My host mum borrowed some books,then we went back home,was quite hot here,about +20 degrees.

Posted Jun 3, 2010, 4:40 pm
My hostmum dad started knocking down old brick oven,because it was broken,and they will build new one soon,not they,but builder.We will see the new one soon hopefully.
A moment later we drunk a bit.

Posted Jun 3, 2010, 4:48 pm
As bike was earlier broken,but now is okey,its easier to go outside for far,and we took a trip to forest near.My hostmum haven't been there this year yet,so it was surprise for both.
Before going forest,I sat down in flowers,near the petrol station.
Usually from there hostmum goes to forest,but this time we couldn't as there was water and really wet,because the winter was really snowy and all water isn't even for now gone,water still there.

Then we used other way to go,and back the forest we saw wonderful picture,big " lake " and impossible to get the place we wanted to go,but we could take some photos of that wet place still.It looks like a bog!
Maybe this small tree will be Christmas tree one day ..

Posted Jun 6, 2010, 11:42 am
We took trip with bike to nature,once again.Firstly,we had to ride a bike about 1-2 kilometres to get there.
Then we found post 5
The esker,witness of onetime glacier,is steep here.In the peak period of latest glaciation,approximately 20 000 years ago,thickness of the glacier at top 1,5 km.For some reason the climate started to warm suddenly up,while the ice was rapidly melting.Long cracks and interstices sprang into the ice where various sedimentation material was gathering.As the ice melted oblong relief elements-eskers- remainded to pronounce the landscape. On the slopes conditions for oaks are less favourable,therefore lime-trees are mainly growing there.
Looking and checking the map,where we are ?
German's soldiers' graveyard

Oak is dominating tree species of the oak-grove;other species to be mentioned are lime-tree,elm and can often notice oaks with remarkably bough and stubby trunks,indicating to the fact,that the trees have been renewed vegetatively.

According to some records the whole local oak-grove was felled about 450 years ago,during Livonian War,the purpose of building the forticationg fences for the stronghold of Rakvere.The same has been done even latler,the last time was probably around 1800,which explains why the age of the trees does nor exceed 200-220 years.

In the central part of the Oak Grove a German Military Cemetery can be found,surrounded by a limestone wall.Several Estonian soldiers,who were fighting in the German Army,are buried among the hundreds of German soldiers.The cemetery was restored in the 1990-ies with the aid of the German Government.

77 fungus species have been found in the oak-grove up to date,while half of them belong to the wood decomposing pore fungi group.A great number of trees are harmed by brown wood-core rot,caused by the suphur shelf(or chicken of the woods;Laetiporus sulphureus).The fungus is maturing slowly,causing cavities of the oak trunks.After being infected by the fungus the oak can grow the next hundred years or even more.

Fallen trees begin to decompose quickly.Decomposing trees are diversifying the enviroment and creat conditions for several new species e.g. woodpeckers,who are feeding on insects.

Then we reached back the road,we got almost out of the city,was quite late already.
back to city
There were other graveyard,but we saw it from far and then we rode back.[/size]


Posted Jun 12, 2010, 5:06 pm
Last time we didn't see all signs in Rakvere tammik and we decided to go back there,but this time we also didn't see all of them,some of them were just missing.Hopefully,we will go back again.It's quite easy to go there by bike,but in the evening there are many mosquitos,or at least somekind of flying bugs,who want to eat human's blood.
In deciduous forests with good light conditions lots of mosses,lichens and fungi can be found growing.Several species are directly connected with the oak,growing on oak trunks and branches,inhabiting the ground substrate right undermeath the trees or decomposing the wood.

Lungwort(Lobarid pulmonaria)is extremely sensitive to air pollution.Noticing lungwort and Anomodon mosses on tree trunks is the sign of the clean and unpolluted air.
Rakvere oak grove is recognized for the species-rich forest bird fauna.To improve the breeding conditions,nesting boxes have been hung up here since the 1960s.The most eager box-breeders are great tit,pied flycatcher and robin.Cavities in old oak trunks are most suitable for great spotted woodpecker.Turdidae,Fringillidae,Corvidae and Sylviidae build their nests into the tree canopy or shrubs.Chiff-chuffs and warblers build their nests into the herb layer.

Posted Jun 12, 2010, 6:09 pm
Finally,Rakvere  started to " live".It means that lots of events,tourists and its noisy sometimes.Rakvere is city from year 1302 and today we celebrated 708th birthday.City days got started in year 2002 when we got a sculpture " Tarvas "  to town.With years those are grown bigger,with many events.
In the morning we visited book-fair,sadly my host mum forgot money home and couldn't buy any book,but we looked books at least.
Don't you want buy it?

In the evening we went to Rat Race,we didn't take part in it,but we were looking how they were running.
starting running
waiting back them to finish..
first one's coming back to FINISH
and then started to rain,other took umbrellas, I didn't have and we got both wet,me and my hostmum.
The man,who is wearing the costume,took part in competition.


Posted Jun 17, 2010, 9:19 am
We visited handycraft and other stuff fair,I looked some nice dress and delicious strawberry.There were many people and almost impossible to walk,but somehow we could walk.
Also in park near,we saw animals,pigs,chickens,ducks and a goat.
Sheep also:)
Pigs there far.
and what this sheep is doing there?

Posted Jun 17, 2010, 9:33 am
This summer’s men-only folkdance festival in Rakvere is close to being sold out in only early spring.Luckily we got ticket and nobody asked ticket for me.
The Man’s Folkdance Festival has attracted also dancers from among the prominent people of Estonia - all the way to the government.

In days of yore, the Universe was thought to comprise four basic elements: air, water, fire and earth. Air and fire were seen as active, masculine elements; water and earth as more passive and feminine. Even in astrology the constellations are divided into elements.

The name of MENDANCE FESTIVAL 2, ELEMENTAL, stems from these ideas: its source of energy is a combination of high and low, earth and sky, man and woman... where everything comes together as one.

Why men? Why dance? Traditionally, Estonian men danced to mock women and ridicule their modesty, often doing so while drunk. Their dances contained aspects of ancient rituals of which they themselves weren’t even aware. In some parts of the country, boys were the primary guardians of the dance – dancing was considered unbecoming for girls. There is even an old Estonian saying that goes: when the men start to dance, the women stand back in the corner. MDF2 once again allows the men to dance in front of the women – and in front of everyone!
The dances, as well as the music accompanying them, were inspired by Estonian folklore and created exclusively for the festival, giving national music a modern form. When awareness of the past meets innovation, something new is born.

a video from there

Posted Jun 29, 2010, 10:27 pm
Finally I could go outside of Rakvere.Mari's friend graduated 9th grade in her school and its in Koeru.It is really small place in Middle-Estonia.I went graduating ceremony and saw 32 happy 9th grade boys and girls,who were happy and sad at the same time.We ate cake at home and I enjoyed the company with there.
In way back we did some pictures of country-side in Estonia.
1 hour in bus was a bit boring,but I saw German text,it was written by Mari and checked by her friend Kati.


Posted Jun 29, 2010, 10:39 pm
"Jaanipäev"(John's night,Midsummer) is today here,we do some BBQ,we didn't celebrate it as big as some people do,but anyway something we did.

Usually Estonians celebrate "Jaaniõhtu" on the eve of the Summer Solstice (June 23) with bonfires. On the islands of Saaremaa  and Hiiumaa, old fishing boats may be burnt in the large pyres set ablaze. On Jaaniõhtu, Estonians all around the country will gather with their families, or at larger events to celebrate this important day with singing and dancing, as Estonians have done for centuries. The celebrations that accompany Jaaniõhtu carry on usually through the night

We weren't awake all night,we went bed earlier.


Posted Jul 5, 2010, 4:12 pm
Heya from beach,
We went on holiday,but not under the palm-trees,we went to local holiday resort,where we can sleep in tent,go beach easily and enjoy the nature.
We arrived late and couldn't go swim any more,but we took pictures and enjoyed the sun,as long as we saw it.


Posted Jul 5, 2010, 4:18 pm
Whole day in the beach,Kauksi.We're sunbathing and doing some crosswords,when girls went swimming far,I watched it from the coast.I tried to build sandcastle,but sadly we forgot to take a picture of that.
so difficult crossword !
Do you see my name in sand ?
Sometimes the waves tried to get bigger and bigger.

It was good rest from busy city life,there were many people,who  enjoyed the same.
Finally some pictures of sleeping in tent

Posted Jul 12, 2010, 3:33 pm
Again we took bike and decided to ride a bit,not far,but when we go,it happens often that we still go far.We went to forest,usually people use that for skiing in winter and running,riding a bike in summer.
We saw some interesting things " Võimlemine värskes õhus"(Gymnastics in fresh air)
the forest
Then suddenly started to get darker,clouds.. and we saw flash in heaven and we're with bike !! We started to go home quickly..
near home,,look !!!!

Posted Jul 19, 2010, 9:38 pm
Football evening,we're keeping our fingers crossed for Germany.The pics are a bit bad,beause the lights were turned off,but any way it was cool match,but sadly Germany lose :(
I hope you that you,Mommy also watched it.


Posted Jul 23, 2010, 9:44 am
Today we went beach by bus.There was so hot and we had to stood all way to beach,about 50 minutes.It was tiring,but finally when we're there Mari went straight swimming.I stayed on the sand.
Water temperature was +23°C
Air temperature was  +30°C
This pie was so delicious : )
Who comes swimming with me ?
Finally back home.. sitting in bus.

Posted Jul 25, 2010, 5:41 pm
My hostmum,Mari had b-day.She did do any big party,but she got  19 years old and everyone wished her " Palju õnne sünnipäevaks! (Happy birthday !).I did also.Her family,neighbour and granny came to celebrate it,was a bit special day for her..
and of course  a big cake,with "19 " on the cake.
It took 3 times to blow all 19 candles !
somebody puts light to candles with matches.This person has to be Mari's little brother :D

We ate so much,that later we're so full and we went ride a bike then and spent some time with neighbours.It was great day!


Posted Aug 25, 2010, 11:05 am
Last days were full of saying good-bye's,hugging,doing some shopping,enjoying Estonian summer,packing all necessary things.Even I was so curious and couldn't wait to be in Finland.Today finally our journey begins.Well we did even the most important shopping and Mari got own lap top,so she can keep in touch with home and of course,my blog needs to be written also:)
We left from home 3.36 am,outside was dark,nobody was in the street,we're the only one's with huge suitcase and bag.We went together with Mari's mum to bus station,last hug and we're gone . . .

With bus we went to Tallinn and we were there about 5.30,we started going to part,outside was not dark any more and we went by train a bit and then walking.Soon we were in port,waiting for the ship to leave.We waited about 1,5 hours there,sun started to shine .

But first some pictures of heavy bags and the pic of being in Tallinn

and finally sun

Waiting was tiring and we both were so nervous of coming at night,and didnt sleep more than 3hours,so we wanted sleep,but we had to wait and it did even more sleepy.
sitting inside of the port
the sea,somebody was too tired,to stand up and took better picture
sitting 2,5 hours in ship
There were so many who played these games,they lost and won money.Well,I did something better,we listened to music and tried to sleep there.

Around 10.40 were out of ship in Helsinki and I could breathe air in Finland.I'll tell you more of Finland and life here,during coming days


Posted Aug 30, 2010, 9:59 am
After unpacking things,and learning more of life here,we decided to look around,we both were really curious,as it was new place for both of us.Well,we took bike,we love doing cycling and we have done it a lot together,well we took also map and s tarted going somewhere,we didnt know where,just somewhere.
Then finally in Laajalahti,we realised that we are really far,and at home we checked its about 6 km there.We started to come back,but we got lost more times,because we didnt know where we are,but we got back home and delicious dinner waited us.I can tell you that Finnish people like to do sport and here are lots of bicycle ways and lots of peoply bicycling.
Where we a re even ?
it was cool to ride like this :)

Posted Oct 4, 2010, 4:19 pm
Outside is really warm still and there is any sign of autumn,so we just enjoyed our day.We went to check out one park,called Kaivopuisto,we walked around,sat down for a resting and just enjoyed the time there.

Sun was just shining and the weather was so warm,I wish that it would be so warm really long.

and somebody forgot to put me on the pic,because that monument seemed cool.
A lot of greetings for mummy !

Posted Oct 6, 2010, 8:18 am
We went Helsinki centre city,to do some sightseeing,but for bad luck, camera's battery got empty and we have only picture of centre rail way station of Helsinki(Helsinki päärautatie asema)
We walked more in centre city,but no pictures we went some shops,but didnt buy anything.
We'll take a trip in centre city once again.

Posted Oct 6, 2010, 8:44 am
While Mari was picking up plums from tree,I was looking around in sand-box,there were any children playing,so I was there alone.
When all plums were picked up,we went behind of the house,and checked own real Moomin mökki and we were a bit tired of playing in sand-box and picking up,so I sat on the chair and Mari sat on the ground.

Posted Oct 9, 2010, 7:36 pm
Was cloudy day,but we decided to do (again)cycling a bit,this time we turned left and not right.We went down the "hill" and soon we were close to nice lake.Its not suitable for swimming,but it was near forest,was nice to sit down for  a while and then continue biking.
Finally some flowers in the garden

Posted Oct 24, 2010, 4:53 pm
The art of tolerance 1.9-26.10-2010 Helsinki

"We have to get to know each other better ...
... it makes us understand one another better,
trust each other more, and live together more peacefully."

Under this motto, the UNITED BUDDY BEARS promote living together in peace and harmony on their global tour. Around 140 Buddy Bears (each 2 m tall) represent as many countries recognised by the United Nations.

Since the first exhibition in Berlin in 2002, more than 22 million visitors world-wide have been able to admire the United Buddy Bears.

Message: The Buddy Bears stand together hand in hand in a peaceful circle, promoting tolerance and under-standing among different nations, cultures and religions.

Art and Culture: Each Buddy Bear has been designed by an artist on behalf of his or her native country. The international artists’ different styles are joined together in one work of art, spreading zest for life. The diverse design of the Buddy Bears – always typical for the respective countries – enables the visitors to experience a journey around the globe.

Charity: Buddy Bear activities and aid for children in need have formed an inseparable unit. To date, over 1.614.000 € (June 2010) have been raised through donations and auctions in aid of UNICEF and local child relief organizations."
It should be South African bear
There were a lot of people,so somebody said : " Look that little bear there :D " Mari was surprised,because they spoke Estonian.
FINLAND and Mari too there ; )

So there were lots of bears,lots of people,lots of cameras and lots of fun :)

Posted Nov 5, 2010, 9:56 am
Mari was bored at home and a bit homesick too and then we both decided let's go outside and enjoy the  nice weather outside,because wasn't cold and was sunny.There were also many signs of beautiful autumn in Finland.
Can you find me from these colourful leaves ?Seems not so easy.
After a walk outside mood was much better and even lunch seemed to be more delicious.We bought something sweet also from shop.I think walking outside makes us feel better,we should go out more often.


Posted Nov 16, 2010, 8:44 am
As we said last week,we went out again and weather was same beautiful or even more beautiful.This time we went to park,called Kissapuisto(Cat's park).It's kind of playgroud for children,but this day,we didn't see any child playing there.
Also a bit swinging for next !
We had fun and we hope that there are even more sunny days coming before gets cold and dark.

Posted Nov 19, 2010, 2:35 pm
We woke up 6,because we couldn't sleep more.Though we could sleep till 8,but we were so nervous,because of the trip.We left home 9,went by train to Helsinki,took tram and then were in ship port,Mari got her ticket,I could go for free :D We spent 2,5 hours in ship.We sat,looked people around in ship and saw everywhere only sea.As suitcase was heavy,we didn't want walk much,though we had to.We tried to find place,where can take money out,as in purse Mari had only 10 euros and nothing to do with it.Estonia gets Euro in January 2011.So a couple of months till that.
We bought some foood and prepaid card to mobile,because no connection with Finnish simcard.Finally we sat in bus and started 1,5 hours trip to Rakvere.Though Mari was happy in Tallinn already,but even more when she saw her mum,waiting her.I was happy too !:)

These days in Rakvere we didn't do anything really "special".Just normal life,seemed to be enough cool,after months in Finland.We went local shopping centre and wondered why everyone speaks Estonian.We went library,borrowed books and enjoyed reading.We took carrots out of ground.Mari had grown with care and love.
We spent together time with neighbours's children 7 year old Erling and 12 years old Elisee.We just took everything of that holiday there.We had to leave on Sunday,but all tickets were gone and Monday after we left Rakvere.When we came was quite warm,when we left it was cold.But everything was done,winter clothes and promised chocolate to friend.We could go back Finland,where is our home currently.Some pictures of Tallinn!

Posted Nov 19, 2010, 3:01 pm
Back Finland,again weekend and free day.What to do ?Let's go nature !We took a "random" bus and then we were in Viherlaakson uimaranta(Viherlaakso's swimming beach).Was cloudy,there were nobody,water was cold,but still we took some pictures.
As the lake was so nearby,we realised that we can walk back home,no need to take bus back.Was getting dark outside and we were back at home.

Posted Feb 6, 2011, 4:22 pm
Today after waking up we saw snow outside and in the afternoon we      decided to go outside and see what's  that white thing there.
As it was wet snow,we decided to do snowman,but the finally result didn't look like snowman.

Posted Mar 1, 2011, 7:52 pm
In Estonia there is tradition to go graveyard on Christmas time,so as always we did so also this year.Outside was lots of snow and we even thought we don't get close to grave,but we went over fence and could put candle to Mari's great-grandma and great-granddad..
After that we walked back home and helped with Christmas tree.Everything was this year so late,cleaning was done in last minute and same about Christmas,when it was beautiful,was perfect time to go kitchen and start with Christmas food.It was simple,but delicious.Later Mari watched TV with her brother and I joined them.A bit before midnight they exchanged gifts.
Häid jõule,ema ! Merry Christmas mommy!

Posted Mar 1, 2011, 8:01 pm
After returning home from Estonia.I sat on the cupboard and waited when somebody takes me out,but nobody did it.Once child came room and took me,it was cool : ) For Mari the month was busy,full off work and now time for cool activities with me,but she promised that coming weeks and months are going to be fun ! Because we both are going to take the best of Finland. Also other TV came to Finland,so now at least I have company.I am with Pinkz.
Looking for great journeys!

Posted Apr 26, 2011, 6:41 pm
Well!It was really nice Saturday's afternoon we decided to go Helsinki and to do something great,we went to SeaLife.

SEA LIFE transports you into the amazing underwater world. Be wowed by beautiful and fascinating creatures of the deep sea and prepare for astonishingly close views.

We spent there for about 2 hours,I am sorry I cannot tell which animals are in which pictures,because there were MANY and I can't remember everything !The pictues don't have the best quality neither,but there wasnt so easy to take good pictures!We did our best.
What that thing does here ? XD
has to be somekind of medusa


Posted May 17, 2011, 10:19 am
Today we celebrated Laskaistiistai(Shrove Tuesday),as Mari had nobody else to take with her to sledging,me and Pinkz decided to join her.We went to lake nearby,but it was covered with ice and snow and it doesn't look like,it is lake and we had fun there.
and our "huge " hill  =)
When you do not have somebody else to take,you can always trust true friends,us toyvoyagers!

Posted May 17, 2011, 10:34 am
For everyone seems that snow  never goes away,it seems to stay here till Midsummer.Well,we have noticed first signs of coming spring,snow has started to melt away finally,over these months,birds are singing in the morning and we see more sunshine.

Posted May 17, 2011, 10:41 am
We travelled to Estonia to have 1-week holiday once again,this time we did not take many pictures.We were just there and enjoyed holiday and I think it was last time for me to see it,because I think I travel home from Finland.I have spent almost a year with Mari.Wow! As usually holiday ended quickly and we returned back Finland with almost empty suitcase,so I had lots of space to play my games in suitcase,while Mari was reading the book and waiting to be back in nice home.
Though spring had started,we had still lots of snow and we got even some more,while being there.Hopefully,spring comes soon =)
in bus in Rakvere,waiting it to move
and we could not leave before taking photos with me and beautiful old town of Tallinn,sadly as first time when we went Finland we did not have time to look around there.

Posted May 17, 2011, 10:58 am
And finally snow was melted almost from everywhere and we could again take bike and do the same trip,we did in winter.We found snow in lake and two swans,but it was beautiful and we saw a women reading for a book,near the lake.We understood,spring is here and winter hats and gloves can stay home and we do not need those anymore.Not a much to wait till summer.My friend Pinkz was also with us !
we forgot to take a picture where is me and swans =(
The weather was wonderful and I am sure that we will repeat that some more times before I go home,but then maybe without taking pictures,the fresh air is also important.

Posted May 17, 2011, 11:04 am
This Easter Mari did not paint eggs or actually Mari's hostfamily did not do it and so it was Easter without it.We through ate some chocolates eggs and we grilled sausages and enjoyed the great weather.I hope you had great Easter,mum =)

Posted May 18, 2011, 8:49 am
Today we celebrated VAPPU(Mayday).Here is common to go picnic with family or friends to Kaivopuisto and there we saw lots of people.They were enjoying the day,eating and drinking and music came from everywhere,trams were full of people and balloons everywhere.So Finns celebrate beginning of spring.
Again I forgot to go to picture,sorry mommy!


Posted May 18, 2011, 9:05 am
We had plan to visit Natural Museum in Helsinki and Mari took me there too to see some animals.I think that photos can say more than words and I am sorry for the quality of the photos.
me and Tyrannosaurus Rex ?
it was once a real people? Or actually it is human,but I do not know,if it is real.

Posted May 20, 2011, 5:09 pm
It is my last update from Finland and with Mari.I have spent almost a year with her.It has been great,but its time to move on and continue my journey,from other part of the world.I loved these things I did and I could travel couple of times with ship to Finland and back to Estonia,but when Mari leaves Finland for summerholidays,then I do not join.I am then back in sweet home,hopefully.Thank you ! I can't wait you to see you,mommy !!!
I try to find package for me and then walking to post office.HEI-HEI Suomi!(Bye-bye Finland )

Posted Jun 22, 2011, 4:09 pm
I have arrived, much to the surprise of my new host, in England.  She didn't know to expect me, but did recognise me from my profile.  I brought with me a bar of Linnupiim (thank you), which I love but my host has never heard of before.  She's a little scared to try it!  :stare:

First I was introduced to fellow ToyVoyagers Nook from Germany and Alex_Lion who my host has only recently activated.  I'm going to show Alex all my adventures and how fun they were so that he won't be scared to go on his own.  Nook is very sweet - he cuddled up to me on my lap.  :)

Then I got introduced to a bigger bear; it was nice to meet a toy of my own kind.  And, then the King of my host's toys, Bunny.  Bunny was a little severe  :o but he is 21-years-old so I know to be nice to him!

Then the TVs and some bigger toys posed for a group photo!

Later she showed me some of the postcards she has received from a website called Postcrossing.  It was very interesting to me, because it is similar to ToyVoyagers - nice things get sent across the world to make people smile.  After this Alex and I read a book about a girl who doesn't fit in at school.

I miss my mum a little , but I hope she can see I'm having a good time and a good first evening with my new host; I'm looking forward to some adventuring.  :D

Posted Jul 1, 2011, 4:30 pm
My host had to temp on reception and she decided to take me with her to liven the place up!  I had fun getting into various places around the office.

I said "Hello" to a statue...

Sat in a plant...

Nestled in some trays....

Weighed myself... I've put on 4 Grams!!!

Sat in a drawer...

Sat in another drawer... with Nook and Alex_Lion

And answered the phone...

It was also a sad day, becasue we had to say good-bye to Alex.  I only got to meet him briefly and I am sad to see him go, but I know he will have fun in America!!!

On a more positive note... I finally got to eat the Linnupiim!!!  My host said it was sweet, but she isn't sure about the texture.  I love it though!  :p

Posted Sep 29, 2011, 9:33 pm
Hi mum :D My new host says sorry she has only just had time to update my travelog!

I am happy to be here though :)

I arrived with some lovely stickers from Vicky, and a note to apologise for the delay. Then BineHH was showing Edelweiss her pictures from a trip to Liverpool the other went on the others day. I went over to have a look too. Edel also showed us her cousin Wavy Gravy! It was nice to compare their similarities :)

Another TV visiting here is Pengy, who was very excited to find some cards of The Royal Wedding. He has a bit of a fascination with Kate Middleton  :p

I will be updating again soon,
Pinky Bear x

P.s. Ooh, Buzz Bluejay informed me that the bear and monkey are newbies from the charity shop. They don't have names yet but will become TVs soon! If you were wondering who they are ;)

Posted Oct 6, 2011, 3:13 am
I'm gonna have to post these pictures with no write-up for now, as my host has taken sleeping pills and is about to hit the pillow. See Buzz Bluejay's blog for more details...

I shall be back to update soon!


Posted Oct 10, 2011, 1:22 am
These were taken about a week ago at the end of another abnormally hot and sunny day for this time of year. It is a church in the next village along from my host's home village.

(The last entry showed photos from a Business Park we passed in Cheadle, Manchester, when the sun was setting. Usually Business Parks are quite ugly, but the water attracting wildlife made this one pretty :) And I loved the swans.)

Posted Oct 14, 2011, 9:13 pm
A few weeks ago we all got packed into a bag, ready to travel to my host's term-time home in Durham, North-east England. It was very exciting! :D

The hills were covered in fog floating above, but it was still nice to watch the landscape through the car window.

We then stopped off at a service station for a break. Unlike the rather dull motorway stations this was a friendly country one with farm animals. Just as we were leaving we looked across at the cows and then stared :stare: Buzz said 'is that a deformed cow?!' I exclaimed 'That cows got humps!' and then BineHH shouted 'That cow's a CAMEL!' :O Ahahaha. So funny. It was extremely windy so much so that my host had to try several times to get the camera still, but we were determined to get the random field camel on camera ;) My host had never seen a Camel in a field before. In England we usually only see Camels in zoos!

I don't think Mr Camel was aware that he was not a cow :P He was on the other side of the field though so I have added a few really zoomed in pictures for you to see :)

Posted Oct 15, 2011, 7:40 pm
So, on the 3rd of October (quite in the past now!), we arrived in the university Halls of residence. On another day there was a double rainbow! We rushed over to climb onto the windowsill, but sadly it was fading quickly :( I don't know if you can see the remains of one of them just above the roof on the opposite building?

The other pics are of our new Toyvoyager accomodation :P The shelf is very much like the one back at my host's home, only this one is more spacious so we can all fit on :)

Posted Oct 29, 2011, 4:14 pm
Helloo mum!

Every saturday now, a private tutor comes to teach my host statistics (because she really fails at understanding anything to do with numbers!). Anyway, that is rather dull, but the room where she is tutored is really pretty, so last Saturday we took some photos. It is in the building where my host lives, but all sorts of people book it. Today we couldn't go in as there was a wedding! :stare:

We had a bit of a chuckle about the bum on the wall :D My host said it was artistic but we just thought it was funny! :p

I'm not sure if TVs are allowed to take photos of the room... but we didn't touch anything ;) I liked the glasses all neatly arranged :)

Posted Oct 30, 2011, 9:49 pm
Today we had a quick trip to town to get some shopping essentials. We visited the town centre with these pretty statues. The second one is Neptune I think, he looked very superior with his Trident. 

Due to the clocks moving back it seemed to get dark extremely quickly! On the way back along the river we took a nice picture where you can see the small crescent moon. Can you spot it?!

Posted Nov 8, 2011, 5:55 pm

*Disclaimer: All amazing decorations were designed and created by the corridor below, not my host!*

We got an exclusive preview before the guests started arriving, to avoid getting crushed ;)

We first entered Willy Wonka's corridor of sweets, and I tried to grab a lolly pop. There was also a Pinata who we wanted to make friends with, but we decided not to talk it because otherwise we would be too sad that it got smashed later. My host felt quite traumatized to watch this happen :(

The games room was next, with the notorious Jenga blocks which had dares on :)

JUNGLE! This room was awesome, although not so fun to clean up the next morning  (my host went to help with the clean-up as the party creators had put so much effort in).

There was also a Halloween room but sadly the owner of the room hadn't opened it to tourists yet and may not have been too pleased with TVs banging on the door :p My host said it was pretty cool with lots of cobwebs, spiders, a pumpkin and apple bobbing as punishment for those who had not arrived in fancy dress! (The dress code was tribal)

P.s. Sorry that I am a bit white on some of these pictures, my host isn't great at using her camera so it's a bit hit and miss as to whether the flash makes me pale or not!

Posted Nov 16, 2011, 11:47 pm
This evening we were looking through the Golden Bear categories to decide who to vote for. Guess what?! We found ME! :D I was so proud to be on there. The rest of the TVs here are too young to be in with a chance, but I think I have inspired them to try to get their pictures nominated for next year ;)

There was also an arrival the other day; Owly! He is a handmade present/prize from Klubwerks and my host was delighted to find him waiting for her when she went to visit home at the weekend. He hasn't got his own travelog yet, so he wanted me to put some pictures of him up here :)

On Friday my host has two essays due, so at the weekend we are hoping to get out! There is a light festival called 'Lumiere' which should look amazing, although whether the photos will come out very well is questionable... We shall see :)


Posted Nov 19, 2011, 8:17 pm
Tonight we are going to the Lumiere light festival :)

We have noticed in the forums that many hosts are making TVs winter clothes. Well, my host really needs to learn how to knit over Christmas! For now though she cheated :p I don't know if this happens in other countries, but when it gets cold in England, Innocent Smoothie drinks start wearing woolly hats! They are knitted by generous volunteers in order to raise money for Age UK. My host has just looked up the website and people from all over the world can send them in before the 14th of October every year >

Aanyway, back to us! What normal people do with these hats they receive on their smoothies, we don't know. Because obviously the only real use for them afterwards, is for TVs! :D My host bought it in mind for Edelweiss, but when Sienna got it down for her, it was a bit big. Edelweiss was kind and thought I might like to wear it instead :) It was perfect for our night out in the cold... or it would have been if we hadn't forgotten it! :( Ah well, maybe it will keep me warm another day.

I cut the map off the Lumiere programme to make it easier for us to refer to whilst walking. Then we set out to this festival of light!

P.s. After my host messing around trying to improve these updates, my photos are still out of order! :mad: The last two photos were meant to come first...

Posted Nov 21, 2011, 5:36 pm
As we neared the town centre we noticed that the roads had been closed in preparation for the crowds, and we got our first glimpse of the giant snow globe. It is a bit hard to see in that light, but the statue of the man on the horse which is in one of my previous updates, is in the centre of the globe!

We then moved on towards the Cathedral, and it was a one-way system with masses of people moving in what felt like a procession. The Cathedral was lit up for 12 minutes with a projections of illustrated pages from the Lindisfarne Gospels. The pictures don't show it too well, but it was the best we could do ;)

After the cathedral we went down the cobbled streets along The Bailey and looked up at the bright figures floating above us. We went across Prebends Bridge, which was lit up with rainbow colours, which I have shown in a picture without me on to try to show it clearer.

From Elvet Bridge we could view the 'Splash' illuminated waterfall on Kingsgate bridge. It very nearly looked like a real waterfall, except it was slightly wonky kindov giving away the illusion a bit ;) Our picture does't reflect what we could see, but again, we attempted (Oh, and I am on that photo, if you look closely through the darkness :p)

Next we came across what was called the 'Wish Comet'. We're not sure if this was meant to be positive or not, because we could hear what sounded like positive words projected in a very creepy, depressing way.

Finally, we saw a rather unimaginative piece of light work saying 'Everything will be alright'. The message sounded reassuring though, so we took a pic ;)

The last photo again is a bit blurry, but I am standing on another bridge which shows the view across the city (It hardly feels like a city as it is really the size of a small town!)

Posted Nov 21, 2011, 5:52 pm
On Sunday we went for a walk to see what the Snow Globe looked like in the daytime. I also visited the hatted smoothies, although there weren't many left! Mine is so the best ;) Ooh, and I saw Santa's grotto, but the hut didn't seem extravagant enough for such an important person, in our view.

It was extremely foggy. On  the fourth photo you can usually see the cathedral clearly perched behind the street, but recently you can only just make out that it's there amongst the mist.

Posted Nov 21, 2011, 6:13 pm
You may be wondering why there are more light pictures! The first time my host didn't realise there were amazing lights actually inside the cathedral, so we went again :D

We saw bright colours on the side of a restaurant saying 'Fusion is Rubbish', whatever that means, all this 'modern art'... As we passed the globe the snow stopped! :o We peered in at the man shovelling away inside, which was quite funny to watch. Then we saw what we thought was just some lights shoved into a bin. We felt a bit bad taking a picture of that rather than the proper displays... then we looked in the programme and realised that the bin lights WERE a proper display! Oops :p

We had to watch the Cathedral lights again while queuing up to go inside. There were loads of lanterns hanging up, and candles to make it atmospheric :) Then we went into the cloisters area where *cough cough* some parts of Harry Potter were filmed ;) There was so much fire all was needed was some hooded people with wands running around, to make it look like a HP battle scene :p And there were even more fire displays in the gardens.

My host took 235 photos altogether on these nights, she gets a bit obsessive :p

Posted Dec 23, 2011, 12:11 am
Snow! We got all excited about the snowflakes, but by the time we had got the camera out they had stopped and this is all that remained... :( Maybe this area could get a prize for having the most appalling amount of snow ;) Oh dear. We did however find amusement in the fact that there were ghost versions of ourselves in the glass! :p

And a few days later, there was a joint arrival! Chrissy the rat and Tapsi the lion :) And they brought sweets! We are happy to have some new company for Christmas. I think Chrissy and I will get on well.

Posted Dec 25, 2011, 7:38 pm
Today we went to a nearby shopping centre mum! It was all pretty and Christmassy :) I am going to have to split this into a few updates in order to have a rest between uploading the photos, so more will come another day.

We went through the main shopping area, then into 'The Orient', where all the restaurants and cafes are. It is designed to look like a big ship, can you tell? And guess who was flying across the sky?! Santa himself! :D And his reindeer of course.

We wanted to look at the building from the outside, but only Chrissy had time to peek before the rain came down heavy. I have included her pictures so you can see :)

We found the birth of Jesus! Oh no, I have just realised we forgot to take a picture of me there :( You can see the top of the stable on the picture third from the bottom, then I have used a Chrissy picture again, she gave permission ;) The stable looked a bit hidden and out of place against all of the extravagant decorations, but I guess a stable isn't very classy is it? Maybe they could have made it bigger though... it looked like it had been thrown in as an after-thought! Where has the true meaning of Christmas gone, we ask? :p

Posted Dec 26, 2011, 10:43 pm
These are the rest of the photos from our trip to the shopping centre.

I found a small waterfall :) We thought there must be a big Christmas tree somewhere, and sure enough, we found it! Only it wasn't any old tree, it was a singing tree! :D The branches at the bottom moved, as a mouth, but you can't really see that on the photo.

We then discovered China Town, then went back to another area where something funny happened. Chrissy rat was posing for a picture on the statue of a music band, when this little boy pointed to her and said 'can I have that mouse mum?!' Well, she looked really scared of being taken away but it was all okay. We thought it was hilarious, especially her indignity at being mistaken for a mouse! :p She saw the funny side afterwards.

Next we went to look at where the cinema is. We went back through the Orient then up some steps to get there.

Posted Jan 3, 2012, 10:48 pm
Tree decorating!  (The camera battery went flat so we used a different camera in the middle until the battery charged and now the pictures are in different folders... bear with us while we get the order right )

We admired the cards from Edelweiss's mum, krawfish, and RikeHH :)

Posted Jan 4, 2012, 8:48 am

We got a few more pictures of our host's tree now it was day time, then went to see the real tree downstairs. My hosts family bought it for 50p a few days before Christmas :p Can you spot me? The picture is a bit blurry for some reason.

For Christmas my host got a brain! It is meant to help her learn the different parts for her studies, but we just found it fun to play with 

Then we all got a surprise... A new TV!  And he looked liked the brother of Pengy, aww :)

There was another present for my host, which seemed strange; Dawn of the Bunny Suicides! :o She said it is meant to be humorous to humans, but we didn't look inside as judging by the cover we felt it might be a bit disturbing!

After the present-opening we took a few pictures of the decorations, then went to watch 'The Muppets Christmas Carol'. Kermit the frog was starring in it, so we heard it was very good.

Posted Jan 9, 2012, 2:25 pm
A few days after Christmas we went to the 'Lowry Outlet Mall' in Manchester, which we were glad still had Christmas decorations up :) This is next to the Lowry Theatre and arts gallery and Salford Quays (on the banks of Manchester Ship Canal).  The Lowry is named after the artist Laurence Lowry, known for his drawings of Manchester and 'match-stick' people.

This area has been labelled 'Media City UK' as some of the BBC television studios are here (we think the rest are in London), and in another part of the city there are ITV Granada television studios where my host's favourite Soap 'Coronation Street' is filmed. However it isn't too interesting to see as you aren't allowed to visit the actual television set where the street is any more :(

The strange looking building in the background of the photo with the seagulls is The Imperial War Museum.

Posted May 23, 2012, 12:25 am
Hello mums! Sorry, I am still here! I have many many pictures to update with and my host keeps going out again so I keep going along too, but once I have posted all of these I WILL find a comfy envelope :) I have not been bear-napped, don't worry! Ooh, we are meant to be visiting one of my host's friends who lives in a castle next week, when exams are over, can I go too?! Pleeaase?!  :) Then I will come home, I promise. Wow, I wonder how long I have been here for?

Update from Christmas (!):

Percy Pig came to stay :D We had lots of fun with the crackers and talking to santa clause :) Do you like our hats?!

Posted May 23, 2012, 12:32 am
Many months ago we went for this walk. On the 7th picture I am standing next to some buildings; the building at the back of the picture next to the cars is the halls where my host lives. I think I have taken pictures of some of these grounds before, but it was such a pretty frosty day that I wanted to take some more. We went up the steep hill round the back and found a church. Then we walked back through the college grounds down to the river, in the direction of my host's lectures.

Posted May 23, 2012, 12:43 am
Today was Edelweiss's birthday :)

In the morning we went for a walk around my host's home village. We wanted to go on the swings but it was such good weather there was too many children in the park  This is abnormal; the village is usually very quiet, and there are many old people who live here. We visited the bowling green instead, then looked across some fields.... to be continued.

Posted Jun 5, 2012, 2:11 pm
It was glorious sunshine :D Percy pig and his mentor wanted to see Liverpool, so we caught the train for a day trip, although we were a bit late getting up... I peered into First Class but we weren't allowed in there. Still, I smiled for the CCTV camera  :) We stopped off to cool down in Starbucks then went to Albert Dock. The sun was now setting and the river Mersey looked beautiful.

Posted Jul 13, 2012, 11:46 pm
Hello mums! :) Erm, I still haven't climbed into my envelope yet :/ (my host has been busy revising for exams postponed until August; I have only just gotten chance to steal the computer for a few minutes!) The dates of these next few updates are going to be out of sync with the real dates, but ah well. A few months ago my host's friend from London came to stay with her at uni so we showed her some sights. We went to the cathedral of course, then posed round the back. Can you spot us in the forth picture? ;) Then we walked across the river to see a nice sight that we thought would look good in a painting.

Posted Sep 4, 2012, 2:19 pm
On the day after we viewed the cathedral we went with my host and her friend to visit the Botanic Garden. This is near the Psychology department and near what we call 'the hill colleges' in Durham. The weather wasn't brilliant but at least the rain from the afternoon before had stopped.

I climbed a tree :) And we met The Millennium Bug with her baby bug!

Then we went into our favorite area - where it was really warm and lovely with the cacti. For a few moments we pretended to be somewhere far away in a desert. Then we went to the next room which was a rain forest! This was very humid, but still interesting. There was a button that when you pressed it light rain came down.

Next we got to meet a tarantula. I tried to say hello but she didn't speak back, just stayed very still  :stare: Some other tourists behind us asked whether I was afraid of the tarantula but I think a general personality trait of a toyvoyager is curiosity rather than fear. My host likes tarantulas as they look fluffy :P ... but if it escaped the glass we probably would have ran! Haha. A less dangerous looking fellow was a froggy we found, but he too didn't seem to know English. He made some sound but I think it was frog-speak.

Then I had a ride on a giant Lilly-pad!  This was the best bit. Apparently they could take the weight of a small child.

Posted Mar 29, 2013, 4:15 pm
The weather was so grey, that we had not really a chance to go out and see other places. It had snowed during the night - everything is white now. At least it isn't so dark outside now.

Posted Mar 29, 2013, 4:36 pm
Today I joined my host on a trip to Blaustein. Her son studies at the university of Ulm and she visited him over the weekend. He has a nice view out of the window and today we had been really lucky, because the sun was shining.

Posted Mar 29, 2013, 5:14 pm
Blaustein is a municipality in the district of Alb-Donau Baden-Württemberg in Germany. It is situated on the Blau River, 6 km west of Ulm and has about 15,000 inhabitants.

It was created in 1968 after the union of Ehrenstein and Klingenstein and some more municipalities joined.

It is home to one or more prehistoric pile-dwelling (or stilt house) settlements that are part of the Prehistoric Pile dwellings around the Alps UNESCO World Heritage Site.

View to Löwenfelsen in Ehrenstein

The river Blau really shimmers blue sometimes. The name comes from the celtic name Blava. The blue colour comes from light scattering due to the high chalky spring water. River Blau is a left tributary to the Danube.

It was so so cold, that we hurried home again after these two photos.

Posted Mar 29, 2013, 5:52 pm
The next day we joined our host's son and her on the way to the university and after we said goodbye to him, we walked back home. The way was rather steep and I had a lot of fun on the icy way. But you can see, that the sky was grey again.

Back in Blaustein we walked through the Szeklertor, which is a present of the partner city Cernat in Romania. The Székelys derive their name from a Hungarian expression meaning "frontier guards" and were regarded as the finest warriors of medieval Transylvania, but it isn't completely proven.

Posted Jun 2, 2013, 9:34 am
Today I watched tv, because it was a special day. We followed the flight of former Pope Benedict XVI. out of the Vatican.

Posted Jun 2, 2013, 2:38 pm
Wow! We have another sunny day! I really had no chance to see the flowers in the garden behind the house until now, because the weather was that bad. I can't remember, that we had springweather like this before. All flowers are blooming at the same time and the trees got leaves within minutes it seems.
Julie Hansen

Posted Sep 12, 2013, 7:56 am
Hello from Ukraine, I am start my sommehollidays
Julie Hansen

Posted Sep 12, 2013, 7:57 am
my host Family have to go to wedding today.....we with tvs visiting ruine of old castel
Julie Hansen

Posted Sep 12, 2013, 7:59 am
on the way to the seaside
Julie Hansen

Posted Sep 12, 2013, 8:04 am
enjoing good weather

Posted Mar 30, 2014, 5:07 pm
I arrived at home last week. Thank you, Julie Hansen, for being my host for a while. I will sort out things and then maybe I will travel again.


Posted Feb 20, 2015, 8:46 am
Today we visited my host's son, who lives in Blaustein. When they are there, they love to drive to Blaubeuren.

Blaubeuren is a town in the district of Alb-Donau near Ulm in Baden-Württemberg, Germany.

As of December, 2007 it had 11,963 inhabitants.


Posted Feb 20, 2015, 8:49 am
The Blautopf (German for Blue Pot; "blau" means blue, "topf" means pot) is a spring that serves as the source of the river Blau in the karst landscape on the Swabian Jura's southern edge, in Southern Germany. It is located in the city of Blaubeuren, approximately 16 km (9.9 mi) west of Ulm. It forms the drain for the Blau cave system.


Posted Feb 20, 2015, 10:37 am
The weather is terrible. Right now we have a bad thunderstorm. Do you see the scaffolding? The house will have a new colour soon - we all hope so.

Posted Feb 20, 2015, 10:49 am
Today we visited my host's sister and her sons. They have chickens, ducks and more little animals.

Posted Feb 20, 2015, 2:47 pm
The next day the weather was rather nice again. So we decided to go for a walk and take photos on this little rock, which you've seen on the photo yesterday. When you stand on top of it, you have a nice view over the landscape.

Posted Feb 20, 2015, 3:54 pm
I love that rainbow :)

Posted Feb 20, 2015, 5:45 pm
May - rainbow month

Posted Feb 20, 2015, 6:55 pm
There will be a big event in this family this year: the wedding of one of the sons. Petra is happy, that she is allowed to bake the wedding cake. It will be a cake with strawberries and maybe some marzipan. She still doesn't know the other ingredients, so she has to try some cakes and find out the best version. And of course we are part of this.
Here's the first cake - I can't remember the ingredients anymore, I'm sorry.