Aiden says “I even painted my arm pits!”

Juju getting her braids taken out

Last week was splendid!  We went on a family vacation and visited Hwange National Park for two nights and Victoria Falls for two nights.  It was so fun to drive off after packing a friend’s truck (she is so brave to let two americans drive it, as it is a standard car, driven on the opposite side of the road) and to head out with no computers in tow.

We pack food, blankets, towels, clothes, and huge smiles as we get in the truck and pull out of the Stambolie’s house for the first non-working vacation I can remember in a long, long time.  No houses to build, no repairs to be made to day care centers, no repairs to roofs.  No…we were going on a VACATION!


Four hours and lots of snacks after leaving, we arrive at the park and unpack our belongings in a lodge we rented for the two nights.  As we walked around, taking in our surroundings, I hear Eric muttering that one of the doors doesn’t lock and that during the day, we’ll have to lock everything into a bedroom.  I go to the kitchen to put away the food and notice that the refrigerator door is held to the fridge with a coat hanger.  As I take the coat hanger off, the door falls.  We get so excited about heating up some water for tea only to find out that the electric burner takes 45 minutes to do its job.  We roll our eyes, but take it in stride, as we are on VA-CA-TION and nothing is going to dampen our spirits!

Once settled, we head out to do a quick drive before dinner time and we see a honey badger! This is an animal that is not usually seen in the day time and it is something Juju has learned lots about.  She is so excited and tells us all about the animal.  Next, we spy elephants and kudu and impala and we decide that this is going to be the best trip ever.  We vow to get up at 6:00 so we can be at the park gate the minute they open up.  With bellies full of ramen noodles (took an hour to get that darn supper cooked), clean from warm baths, and full of excitement, we all hit the sack.

No one needs to be woken up the next morning and we are at the gate entry at 6:30 sharp.  No one else is there and we have park to ourselves.  We drive for a couple of hours and see 40 elephants crossing the road right in front of us.  They were very, very close and it was exciting.  Then, giraffe and zebra and warthogs and impala and birds of all kinds make their presence known.  We try to convince Morgan to strap on a piece of meat on each side of her and to run through the savana so that we’ll all get to see lions, but she just won’t do it.  So, no cats are seen by this crew, but we are all happy anyway.  Another drive during the late evening hours and at sunset allow us to see tons and tons of animals at a watering hole, soaking up the last rays of the sun.  What a sight!

We arrive back to our lodge with a plan: Eric will get the kids in the bath while I get food going.  Morgan will help Eric and in no time, we’ll all be fed and happy.  We don’t count on the fact that there is no electricity and that we have no wood to make a fire.  I march on down to the office just in time to see the worker locking up the office.  Long story short – customer service is not quite what it should be and we didn’t get vouchers to eat at the park restaurant.  Instead, we get to wait for someone to bring wood.  Of course, the lady who brings the wood and is supposed to start a fire, doesn’t have matches.  And she needs a ride home.  Really?

As the moon rises over the fire, the stars come out in droves.  I am dizzy looking at them, there are so many.  They sing songs of ages past.  They swirl and dance above us and remind us of how small we really are.  Of how amazing creation is and of how big our Creator is.   Even Aiden is rendered silent as he looks up and simply sighs “ohhhhh”, as though his breath is taken from him.  It is magical, standing in what seems to be the center of grandeur and I find myself echoing Aiden.

Sunset on the Zambezi

After another day and night at Hwange, we head up to Victoria Falls, where we are met with more awesomeness.  The roaring of the falls is heard at our lodge and in my dreams, I think it is the air conditioning going on.  We walk around the falls, getting wet in the mist and pointing out the wonders in front of us.

As a surprise to the kids, we book at cruise on the Zambezi River from where we watch the sun set over Zambia and Zimbabwe, one country on either side of us.  Hippos rise out of the water for air, crocodiles sun on the banks and birds swoop and dance in the distance.  We eat warthog, crocodile, fish, and kudu for dinner and it is all delicious.  Perfect night.  Perfect way to see a bit of this lovely country we have all grown to love.

Before returning to our cottage in Bulawayo, we must stop of HairMart.  It just sounds too interesting to pass up, so the kids and I head that way.  In no time at all, wigs are being tried on and we have a Fabio on our hands.  When the fun is over, we head back to the truck and start the trek back to Bulawayo.  The kids sleep in the back and I am lazy in the front seat while Eric drives the first part of the trip.

We talk.  We laugh.

This has been good.