Happy Thanksgiving to all of our American friends in the US and throughout the world…

Three little pigs are growing fast. They love pellets!

Thanksgiving was always one of our favorite holidays. The family, the friends, the comfort food, the games we played, and the lazy football watching while recovering after the big meal, while contemplating the next piece of pumpkin pie, often to be topped off with a dollop of whipped cream for those who liked it.

Once everyone left our home, the dishes and table linens were washed, dried, and put away. The next phase of the four-day Thanksgiving weekend began…a full three days of decorating the house for Christmas. Traditionally, I started this process every year, on this same date with a process I followed to a tee, year after year.

Tom brought down all the decorations from the attic, and my work began, often with Christmas music playing in the background or a favorite TV show on, to entertain me during the lengthy process. My two sons never seemed interested in decorating. Instead, once it was done, they’d revel in the beauty of it all if I say so myself.

They are so cute when they are chewing.

Richard was living in Nevada from 1988 on, and Greg had his own home in Minnesota, creating his traditions and decorating. His house. In the years since I became an empty nester before I met Tom in 1991, the process continued seamlessly, year after year, never missing a beat, until our lives changed in 2012.

Often Tom had to work on Thanksgiving Day, even getting called to work on the railroad during Thanksgiving dinner. He swallowed a few more bites and headed out the door, leaving me with the adult kids to continue. Usually, he’d return within 12 hours, help bring down the decorations, and head back to work again.

By the end of the weekend, he’d come up the driveway in the dark to see the Christmas lights on the tree. Most years, I decorated two trees, one by the window facing the private driveway and another in the breakfast room to be seen upon entry into the house. It was a festive time. We loved every moment, especially after the work was done.

Mom happily shares the pellets with them.

Following Thanksgiving weekend, although I worked long days, I began the Christmas baking, making plenty for us to have at home but even more to give away to the kids, other family members, neighbors, and friends. Every spare moment from the Wednesday before Christmas, when I made about a dozen pumpkin pies, to after New Year’s when the decorations were put away, I was busy.

I shopped, mostly online, wrapped numerous packages, each with a handmade bow made by me on every single package. We sent no less than 200 Christmas cards, each with a handwritten message inside, and took them all to the post office after placing matching Christmas postage stamps on each card. Oh, good grief. I worked so hard.

In the 1990s, we started making bottles of homemade Bailey’s Irish Cream, later called “Lyman’s Irish Cream.” Tom did all the prep work making the delicious recipe and filling the bottles while I designed and printed the decorative sticky labels, placing them on the bottles once the outsides were dry.

We love how perfectly shaped Mom’s tusks are.

The first year we may have made about 25 bottles. During our last Christmas in Minnesota in 2011, before we decided to travel the world, we made over 120 bottles to give to special friends, which we both personally dropped off to the recipients. Whew!

Then, of course, there was a holiday dinner party for friends, the celebration of Tom’s birthday on December 23, Christmas Eve dinner, and festivities on Christmas Day. As the years passed, our children created their own traditions at their own homes with other extended family members, and those special traditions we’d hosted year after year changed with the times.

Yes, 2011 was the last year we tackled all of these projects. And now? What do we do? We don’t send Christmas cards. We don’t buy all those gifts. Instead, we send gift cards to the grandchildren. We stopped sending gifts to our adult children, requesting they don’t buy anything for us either.

They stayed in the garden for quite a while.

Once we began traveling, we stopped purchasing gifts for one another. We never have a Christmas tree or any decorations. We no longer make Lyman’s Irish Cream. I don’t bake cookies and Christmas treats. It’s all over now. And what do we do on Thanksgiving today? And over the Christmas season?

We celebrate the meaning of the holidays without the usual merriment associated with these special times. We are thankful. We are grateful, and we never feel lost, alone and sad about having let go of all that embodied the holidays for us years ago.

This will be the 10th holiday season we haven’t celebrated as we had in the past, and we are content and fulfilled in many other ways.

Today, on Thanksgiving, we’re meeting up with our new American friends, Carrie and Jim, at Two Trees on the Crocodile River (we were rained out a few days ago), and together we’ll all have a toast to Thanksgiving in the US. As for Christmas, we’re planning to spend Christmas Eve at Jabula with friends, along with others like us, who may not have nearby family members to join in the celebration of the holiday season.

On Christmas Day, we’ll stay at our bush house, cooking a nice meal on the braai and enjoying our wildlife friends who come to call any day of the year.

It’s all good. We’re content.

May your day be content and fulfilling.

Photo from one year ago today,  November 25, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago while in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #247. View of houses on the channel heading out to sea in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. For more photos, please click here.

No WiFi Sunday…Are we too dependent on WiFi?…

Peter, Paul, and Mary (she’s in the center) couldn’t have posed better for this shot.

It’s getting hot here now that winter has ended and spring is in full bloom. Yesterday was 93F (34C), and today should be the same. Although this doesn’t sound that hot, when sitting all day outdoors under the shade of the veranda roof, coupled with the humidity, we are well aware of how warm it is already.

We’re well prepared that when we return here in December 2022, it will be even hotter. South Africans find this weather to be pleasant, but for us, living in mostly cooler climates, we can certainly feel the impact of the heat. But we will easily handle it when we return in the summer in months to come.

After all, this is Africa, and with the pleasures, sights, and sounds of this amazing continent, we all pay the price of heat, humidity, snakes, mozzies, other insects, and power outages. Speaking of power outages, we’re grateful there hasn’t been any load shedding since we returned from the US, other than a few short periods of “overuse” issues. Of course, last month we experienced five days without water. That was challenging.

An older photo of Tiny and Narrow. We’ve yet to see Tiny since w returned. He may have been culled, which makes me sad.

However, among power outages, there are WiFi outages. The infrastructure here is unstable, and WiFi outages also happen from time to time. Usually, they last for short periods, but yesterday we were without WiFi from 11:00 am to 5:00 pm (1700 hrs), a total of six hours.

I had already started the post, and in order not to lose what I’d already written, I had to use my phone’s WiFi as a hotspot to complete and upload the post. Once I was done, I turned off the hotspot to save on the outrageous expense of using the phone’s data for any longer than necessary.

Keeping in mind, we’ve never turned on the TV in this house, we no longer read books after years of doing so, and neither of us felt like playing cards or games. I could have done a puzzle, but we don’t have table space, other than in the dining room, where there’s no airflow. I decided against it.

Warthogs enjoy drinking from the birdbath since they can’t reach the pool. (Photo was taken during the greener season).

Tom played the same solitaire game on his phone that he occasionally plays while I fussed in the kitchen for a short period, preparing a few items for dinner. Needless to say, once I was done, we both were bored. We couldn’t go to Kruger National Park or sit overlooking the Crocodile River due to overcrowding and traffic from holidaymakers.

It had been a long time since we were bored. If we lived in a home of our own, we could have watched a movie on the TV using our DVR, cable TV, or non-WiFi services. If we lived in a home of our own, we could have tackled some projects around the house.

I thought about packing, but I have so few clothes I need to access over the next 24 days until departure. It was quite a dilemma. Gerhard had given us some movies on a flash drive, which I downloaded to our external hard drive, so we decided to see if we’d like any of them. As it turned out, we’d seen most of the movies, or they were those Tom doesn’t care for, such as superhero, fantasy, and science fiction.

I turned on the WiFi on my phone long enough to look up details of a few of the movies. Fortunately, I found one with Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant, a peculiar film called Florence Jenkins Foster that we watched and found mildly entertaining. In the middle of the movie, Tom needed a nap but only slept for 15 minutes, after which we finished the movie.

Hal is drinking from the birdbath.

At 4:00 pm (1600 hrs), we decided to head back to the veranda for sundowners. With our new speaker with songs we play using YouTube and Spotify, we realized we couldn’t enjoy the music without WiFi as we’ve done on other evenings. Instead, we sat there with the heat of the sun shining on us at 93F (34C) while we chatted. At times, we wondered when the WiFi would return, hoping it would be back on for our usual after-dinner streaming when we go inside due to the mozzies.

Much to our delight, at 5:00 pm (1700 hrs), I heard a ping on my phone that the WiFi was back on. We were thrilled. We proceeded to make dinner on the braai consisting of steaks and chicken breast. On the side, we had a salad with sweet corn and rice for Tom and grilled eggplant for me. It was a lovely dinner.

We’re making roast beef and chicken breasts on the braai, with sauteed mushrooms and salad tonight. Tom will have rice and sweet corn on the side while I have shrimp salad and grilled eggplant. It will be another great dinner. The boredom is gone.

Yes, based on our lifestyle, when WiFi is out, we scramble to find ways to entertain ourselves. It’s the “nature of the beast.” Thank goodness this doesn’t occur frequently, and most likely, while back in the US for a few months, it won’t occur at all.

Have a pleasant day!

Photo from one year ago today, September 27, 2020:

This photo was posted one year ago in lockdown in a hotel in Mumbai, India, on day #188. This is where we planned to lounge on the chaises at Madafoo’s in Diani Beach, Kenya, in 2013. It was a guarded area overlooking the Indian Ocean.  For more photos, please click here.

Adults only, please…Rutting season in full bloom in Marloth Park…Love is in the air!…

The above video is intended for “adults only.” We consider it a part of the wonder of nature, offering us a front-row seat on how wildlife finds their mates, court their potential mates, and ultimately propagate in the wild. Certainly, some may feel that this is inappropriate. We kindly ask you not to write to us in this regard.

This is nature at its finest, and for us, it is fascinating to provide us with an opportunity to witness the relationships among wildlife as they seek to preserve their species. Although warthogs do not appear on the list of endangered species, like all wild species, they have their place and their raison d’être on this beautiful Earth.

Whether it’s love or pure instinct of the more intelligent animals, like warthogs, is irrelevant. Watching them interact during this busy mating season in Africa is educational, and we must admit, at times, highly entertaining, when their behaviors are so unlike our own as humans, with some similarities regarding “the chase.”

Big Daddy Kudu is resting in the bush, awaiting the arrival of a female.

No, most of us weren’t courted by our significant others making “train noises.” But, it’s easy for most of us in relationships to recall the methods that members of our species implemented to express an interest. Whether it was a feature of one’s appearance, their scent, often referred to as pheromones, words spoken, or a plethora of other signals humans utilize, knowingly or not, to let the other person become aware of their interest and intent,

Animals in the wild are no different. Their language among one another may not be known to us in most cases, but it’s easy to detect, as we observe them in the wild, that they have no difficulty communicating with one another. Today’s video and a few photos illustrate this point.

Shortly after that, this female arrived, sitting a short distance away, an example of a subtle and gentle approach.

Who are we to say it’s purely instinctual when the process can be so complex, as we currently observe each day? Living in the bush, day after day, we are gifted with the opportunity to observe these interactions, often subtle and gentle, and at other times, bold and forthright, as shown in the above warthog video.

We hope in many months to come, we’ll see the “fruits of their labor” and be able to revel in the newborn nature has born to these precious animals. Only time will tell if we will be able to stay. The warthog gestation period is from 152 to 183 days; the kudu is 240 days, and the bushbuck is 182 days.

Last night, we had dinner with Linda and Ken at Jabula Lodge and Restaurant and had a fantastic evening. The food, as usual, was delicious, the service was beyond reproach, and the four of us, as always, never had a lull in delightful conversation. Tom and I often arrive an hour before a planned meeting time with friends to have fun sitting at the bar, chatting with Dawn and Leon and their trusty, warm and efficient manager, Lyn.

This is The Imposter, rubbing his scent on a tree. We’ve seen a lot of this “marking” on a few chosen trees in the garden.

There were few guests when we arrived at 5:00 pm, 1700 hours, but after we took our table an hour later when Linda and Ken arrived, more and more diners filtered in. It feels safe there with the employees well masked and the tables sensibly socially distanced. Hand sanitizer is readily available in all areas.

Tonight, Linda and Ken are coming for dinner with sundowners with snacks at 4:00 pm, 1600 hours. Dinner, suitable for all of our “ways of eating,” will be served a few hours later. Today, it’s surprisingly cool and windy. If it becomes any cooler and stays this breezy, we may have to dine indoors at the dining room table, which we did on another occasion when they were here, when it was raining in buckets.

The reason we’ve recently seen two Big Daddies certainly has to do with the fact that several females frequent our garden.

We’ll be back with more tomorrow as the adventures in the bush, nature at its finest, continue.

Have a fabulous weekend!

Photo from one year ago today, May 1, 2020:

A parade of elephants crossing a dirt road in Kruger. For more photos, please click here.

Almost every day something amazing transpires in the bush…See the latest…”Pig in a Pond”…

I.B. (Itchy Butt) laying in the wet, muddy cement pond, attempting to ease the itching.

Here’s our new video of “Pig in the Pond”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yw4uSqCK_1o

Just when we think we don’t have enough photos to share here, something unique happens in the bush, and once again, we’re in business, ready to post a new story with accompanying photos. If we wait patiently, it will happen. Late yesterday afternoon was no exception.

OK, I get it. You may be tired of hearing about warthogs and their hysterical antics. But, the reality remains…we see more warthogs at this particular house in the bush than we’d seen in past houses in 2013/2014, 2018/2019. Undoubtedly, we’ve embraced this fact and named most of the pigs, many due to their physical characteristics or peculiar behavior.

The cool water, on a cool day, must have made him feel better.

Today, we introduce you to I.B., short for “Itchy Butt.” We’ve never seen anything like it. Yes, we’ve had a Pig in the Pond in 2018/2019, when Little, whom we seldom see now, since Tiny, has become “King of the Garden” entered the pond, and we wrote a story about him, entitled, “Pig in the Pond, Pig on the Porch, Pig in the Parlor. See that post here.

Little not only entered the pond, but he also came up the seven slippery steps to the veranda (the porch) and entered the living room (thus, the parlor). We continue to laugh over that story even a few years later. And now, this new pig, who arrived late yesterday afternoon with a severe itch, spent considerable time in our cement pond.

He repositioned himself in an attempt to feel better, scratching his hind end on the sand.

During the first few months since we arrived in Marloth Park in 2021, it rained non-stop for days and days, leaving mosquitoes breeding in every pool of water, including cement ponds. The cement pond outside our bedroom window was filled with vegetation, creating an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes.

Moses, an employee of Louise and Danie, stopped by one day and emptied the pond’s vegetation and water, filling it with sand. Well, it continued to rain and the cement pond filled with water once again. No doubt, more mosquitoes are breeding in the pond, although the small amount of water continues to evaporate during the past dry weeks.

Nothing seemed to help relieve the itching.

Yesterday afternoon, as we lounged on the veranda, watching various animals stop by, including bushbucks, kudus, Frank and The Misses, and of course, numerous warthogs. I’d stepped inside to put away the laundry when I heard Tom yell out to me, “Get the camera! Pig in the pond!”

And there was I.B., rolling around in the mud and remaining water in the cement pond, mainly attempting to scratch his itchy hindquarters. He was on a mission, scratching against the boulders lining the pond, using the sand at the bottom to scratch. During one hour, he entered the pond three times, exhibiting the same behavior on each occasion. Later, when he exited the pond, he practically visited every surface in the garden to help him get a good scratch.

Finally, he climbed out of the cement pond.

Of course, we felt sorry for him. There was nothing we could do to help him. After all, this is nature. When warthogs have medical issues, the rangers don’t attend to them. There are many warthogs in Marloth Park, and their healthy and sturdy constitutions prevent the park from providing medical care for them. They usually recover from most injuries and illnesses on their own. It’s a rare occasion that a carcass of a warthog is discovered in the bush.

He tried scratching on the pebbles and big rocks in the garden.

If they have life-threatening injuries or illnesses, typically, they are found and euthanized and delivered to Lionspruit for Dezi and Fluffy’s next meal. Marloth Park residents are good at informing the rangers when such serious situations occur. But, an itchy butt is not necessarily a life-threatening situation. After we’d taken photos of his bloody behind, it looked so much better when he returned this morning. We were relieved to see the improvement.

After all his efforts for over an hour, his hind end was red and bleeding.

It’s a fantastic experience to watch wildlife all day and evening, learning their behavior, nuances, and special needs. Observing the behavior of wildlife is a rare opportunity and experience. Watching wildlife in zoos doesn’t provide such an opportunity. It’s only a feature of being in the wild among them, watching them and interacting with them, day after day. For this, we are humbled and grateful.

While all of this was happening, another warthog took a nap using a rock as a pillow.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, April 6, 2020:

Beautiful orchid we spotted in our travels from this post. For the year-ago post, please click here.

A little Little in the morning…What a great way to start the day!…

Less than three feet, one meter, from me, Little settled in this spot at the edge of the veranda, napping from time to time.

This morning, only minutes after Tom stepped out onto the veranda, he called out to me, “Little is here!” We hadn’t seen him in a week.

With holidaymakers coming to Marloth Park over the past holiday weekend (Women’s Day in South Africa), the influx of humans kept many of our favorite animals away. An exception to that has been Tiny, who visits each evening within minutes of 4:30 pm, 1600 hours, regardless of what’s transpiring in the park.

Occasionally, he’d get up onto his knees or stand when he’d hear a noise or see something moving in the bush.

As for Little, he’d last visited about a week ago. Tom is not as attached to him as I am when he considers that Little is like a “bull in a China shop.” but Tom shooed him away from eating Frank’s bird seeds, and we hadn’t seen him until today. I genuinely believe he decided to let go of feeling rebuffed and return to see me.

Little came into the living/lounge room in the Orange house last time we were there. After all, Little tore the screen to the lounge door, which has since been repaired. It was Little who languished in the cement pond on hot days. Little precipitated our post entitled, “Pig on the Porch, Pig in the Parlor, Pig in the Pond.” See here for the post.

He rested his chin on the ground or the edge of the veranda.

Little brought a friend into the house to share in his bounty of pellets, as seen in this link. The laughter and amazement we experienced in 2018/2019 are now repeated in 2021 by the intelligence of this bossy and yet charming warthog who continues to bring us great moments of awe and wonder over his ability as a wild animal to communicate with us humans to this degree.

This morning, was it love he exhibited when he nestled on the ground only three feet, one meter, from me after having his fill of pellets and the forbidden birdseed, as I sat in my usual chair at the table on the veranda? He couldn’t take his eyes off of me. I couldn’t help but laugh in sheer wonder.

When Zef and Vusi arrived to clean the house, Little stood up, checking out the visitors. Moments later, he settled back down to his former position, lying down next to the veranda.

Some may say he was looking at me to give him more pellets. But it’s been Tom who’s tossed him the pellets when he’s better at throwing them into the garden than I am. But, even Tom is amazed by how Little responds to my voice and interacts with me. We always loved our dogs and their ability to communicate in loving ways with us. Pigs, much more intelligent than dogs, certainly can do the same. It’s not always about “the food.”

We see a tremendous amount of loving behaviors in the bush. The moms and babies of most species exhibit an enormous amount of love toward one another. We often see friendly and loving behavior among the kudus, giraffes, warthogs, zebras, bushbucks, and other species. Why would it be so unusual that a wild animal could, under certain circumstances, express caring behavior for us human animals?

Last night’s sunset from the deck at the Amazing Kruger View Restaurant, we dined with Linda and Ken, who left today to return to Johannesburg.

As far as wild animals are concerned, most likely, we are simply another species they encounter in the wild with whom they may choose to interact or not. We often find ourselves gifted with a response that warms our hearts and fills us with great joy for those of us passionate observers who choose to interact with the wildlife in subtle ways, such as through eye contact, voice tones, and appropriate food offerings.

Yes, we know. That’s not our intent. They are wild animals, and we shouldn’t attempt to domesticate wild animals. Instead, we find ourselves in a state of awe and appreciation over the gifts of life so blissfully bestowed upon us by Mother Nature to enable all of us to live in harmony on this earth.

Yes, Little, and now also Tiny, each in their way, teaches us the importance of their existence and how to cohabitate in this unique environment. For this, we are grateful, as we spend every day living in the bush continually reveling in their very existence, let alone in an opportunity to somehow communicate with them.

We’d intended to post this photo from Friday evening’s sundowner party on our veranda, but WiFi issues prevented us from doing so at that time. We had a great evening, which ended when the mozzies came out with a vengeance.

Tonight, after spending five evenings celebrating life with local friends, we’re staying in. The heat and humidity continue to be outrageously uncomfortable. But, we’re managing well, especially when the air-con in the bedroom allows us to get restorative sleep at night. We sweat on the veranda during the daylight hours, occasionally taking a break to come into the bedroom to turn on the AC for a short reprieve. Knowing we can do this helps tremendously.

We’ve had several days without WiFi or power outages which have been delightful. But, as we discussed with Linda and Ken last night at the Amazing Kruger View Restaurant, after all, this is Africa. It’s a hot, dusty, humid, bug-infested continent with snakes, wild beasts, and dangers in many directions. If one cannot adapt to these conditions, visiting Africa may not be for them.

For us, with all its challenges, we feel right at home while continuing to stay on guard for any potential risks. By the way, in 30 days, we’ll be on our way to Kenya.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, March 9, 2020:

Sundowners on the beach at the Ideal Beach Resort located in Mahabalipuram, India. For more, please click here.

A repost from five years ago that still reflects our views…

Our new friend, “One-Wart,” is missing a full-sized wart on the right side of his face. Most likely, he was “born this way.,” possibly due to inbreeding. We have no doubt he’ll be a regular.

While I’ve continued to edit past posts due to errors I’ve made over the years, along with other errors as a result of WiFi issues at the time, I stumbled across a post from November 13, 2015, that over five years later, still resonates who we are and what we believe. I hesitated to repost the text, of course, using some new photos from Marloth Park.

Why the hesitation? To avoid redundancy. After all, during the past ten months in lockdown in India, there certainly was plenty of redundancy with dull stories and repeated photos from years past when no new photos were being taken. Thus, if you recall this post, feel free to pass by the text and enjoy the new photos taken in the past 24 hours.

Impalas rarely come to the garden since they are timid around humans. This fellow stops by almost daily.

If, years ago, someone would have told me I had to write a new story 365 days a year for over eight years, relevant to the current times, I’d have laughed and said it was impossible. I’d never be motivated to perform such a task. And yet, here we are, plugging away with the same enthusiasm in preparing our first post published on March 15, 2012. See that post here. It didn’t include a single photo, but over the years, that first post has been one of our favorites, so well describing who we are and what we hoped to achieve in our worldwide travels.

But, this post, which I stumbled upon yesterday afternoon while working on the prior post’s edits, also caught my eye, and I decided to share it again with you today. Our long-time readers may recall this post, or they may not. Our newer readers may never have come across it as they occasionally reviewed the archives, if at all.

This is Dad & Son, who stop by daily to see what’s on the menu.

In essence, this old post is no big deal, but it reflects who we were then and who we are now, which only you, as readers, may decide if we have changed our views over the years. To see the photos from that date, please click here. Please sit back, relax and read this revealing personal exposé we took seriously at the time and do so again now.  Here we go:

“A grain of sand on the beach of life…Who are we?…

Nothing in life is static. No state of being is guaranteed. All we know for certain is tomorrow, a new day will dawn, and tonight a sun will set. Even that eventuality is in question by scientific predictions in the millennium to come or sooner.

When we hear of new planets emerging within our range of perspective at the edges of our universe, our Earth becomes minor and insignificant in the vast expanse of “forever,” a place none of us in this lifetime will ever know.

How do we grasp a news report such as this:

“A rocky Earth-sized planet that circles a small, nearby star could be the most important world ever found beyond the solar system, astronomers say. The planet lies in the constellation of Vela in the southern sky and is close enough for telescopes to observe any atmosphere. It has a procedure that could help spot life on other planets in the future. Named GJ 1132b, the alien world is about 16% larger than Earth, and at 39 light-years distant, is three times closer than any other Earth-sized rocky planet yet found around another star. At that distance, it is hoped that telescopes will be able to make out the chemistry of its atmosphere, the speed of its winds, and the colors of its sunsets.”

Six warthogs, a kudu, and Frank came by, gathering around the braai.

As we simpletons scour the world, the Earth, enraptured by its endless wonders along the way, we are in awe of Earth’s natural evolution, leaving some of the most exquisite scenery in its wake. Imagine the millions of years that no humans were on this Earth even to know it was there.

With predictions that human life as we know it, from a scientific perspective, has populated the Earth for a mere 200,000 years is a “drop in the bucket” in time, a single grain of sand on a beach.

As the Earth has further populated, each one of us has become a grain of sand on another beach of impossible calculations. How many are there now? How many have there been, and how many are there yet to come?

A male bushbuck and a male impala. This species often graze together without incident.

And, within our limited field of vision, we deem ourselves significant and meaningful. Collectively, we matter. Individually, we must seek the power of the masses to hope for change and progression.

It’s easy to hide away in our self-imposed universe, in our geographic sphere, reaching out only to that which is readily available within our grasp. Is it human nature that we tend to cocoon in a limited space and time?

Oh, as I ponder these thoughts, as I write a meaningless timeline of a day in the village as in yesterday’s post, I’m reminded of how tiny our world becomes coupled with our ambitious desire to see as much as the world as we can as the clock ticks loudly and annoyingly. How much time do we have to complete this journey?  And what, within this realm, are we really doing?

After finishing the raw scramble eggs Tom placed in this pan, these two were determined to lap up every last drop.

I don’t know the answer to either of these questions, which in itself is a further reminder of how little power we each have in this world. The mystery.  Is it wrought from a sense of spirituality or simply hard facts? It remains to be seen in this lifetime.

As we continue to explore the significance of every creature on Earth and its interrelated purpose, it’s easy to assume we humans are at the head of the food chain, and yet, life emerged long before we were here.

The cycle of life and the food chain is magical. Every creature’s design is magic, and none of this could happen from an explosion of planets, remnants evolving into worlds, remnants growing into the Earth.

Ms. Tortoise made a brief appearance, moving quickly through the bush.

A power, a spirituality beyond our comprehension, created this magical life on this planet. As we travel, we witness the vast array in which each population has formed their perception of “who” and “what” this may be. They call it religion, faith, and spirituality in a manner they can most easily grasp and incorporate into their beings.

We don’t choose to see ourselves as self-serving individuals lost in a sea of “vacation,” “holiday,” and travel options. We see ourselves, all of us, you and us, as on a long journey of personal discovery in pursuit of the answers to our own relevant questions, whether we travel the world or sit back in an armchair, hoping to find answers, if not in this lifetime but perhaps in the next.”

She cracked open the egg by pounding it on the cement, sucking out the contents. Animals using tools, fascinating!

This morning upon arising, no less than ten helmeted guinea-fowl were on the veranda hoping for seeds. Once they left, francolins, Frank, and The Misses were looking in the glass of the veranda’s sliding door, wondering when we’d be coming out to toss some bird seeds. It took us no time at all.

Life is good. We have WiFi, power, and the high today will only be 92F, 33C, as we wait in anticipation of who may come to call in the next 12 hours, as we embrace our surroundings in the bush.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, January 30, 2020:

Five years ago in 2016, we spent three months in New Plymouth, New Zealand, living on an alpaca farm. In the early evening, a group of the babies got together to play, running through the paddock, making us laugh over their playful antics. For the year-ago post, please click here.

Day #266 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Friends…Pigs in a pile, too!…

Little told his friend that the “pickings” were good at this house, so they both climbed the six steps up to the veranda to the front door. 

Today’s photos that we enthusiastically share for a chuckle are from this date in 2018 while we stayed in Marloth Park for 15 months. For more on the post, please click here.

Friends. It’s incredible to be blessed with good friends. Without them, our lives would be different. Daily, we communicate with friends via email, text, and social media, many from our old lives and new friends we’ve made along the way in our travels.

The Big Daddies didn’t seem as interested in the lucerne as the female kudus, but this one managed a mouthful.

The two places in the world where we made the most friends were Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii, in 2015, and Marloth Park, South Africa, in 2013/2014 and 2018/2019. No doubt, an influencing factor in returning to South Africa is due to the number of friends we made there, most of whom we’ve stayed in close touch with since we left in May 2019, 20 months ago.

Knowing we’ll be able to spend time with so many of those friends when we hopefully arrive soon only adds to the excitement of getting out of this hotel room after ten months (as of our scheduled departure day on January 12, 2021). We realize that COVID-19 restrictions will be in place, even in the relatively safe Marloth Park, such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand washing, etc.

“Pigs on the porch,” Pigs in the pond,” and Pigs in a pile,” and “Pigs in the parlor.” It’s “Pig Paradise in the Park.”

Will we be able to hug our friends when we see them next month? We aren’t sure at this point. I suppose doing so will be predicated by the presence of COVID-19 upon our arrival, which can change on a dime. At this point, there are few known cases in MP and certainly no major outbreak, but we will remain cautious, even in the presence of the people we know and love.

With Marloth Park a popular tourist location, an outbreak could happen at any moment. We wonder if we’ll be able to go to Jabula for dinner, although they have ample outdoor seating. It’s one of those scenarios. We’ll simply have to play by ear. But, without question, our top priority will be protecting ourselves and, if it limits socializing and dining out, so be it.

“Little” was checking out what the kudus were eating. 

Our animal friends will surely visit in any case. The thought of sitting outdoors awaiting their arrival is a massive appeal and comfort to us now, a far cry from being stuck in this room a day longer than we have to. Speaking of wildlife and friends, I couldn’t resist posting today’s main photo of our friend Little, champion warthog, bringing a friend with him to visit us at our bush house in 2018 to share the bounty we so freely offered daily.

We laughed out loud then and over again over the past 20 months from this unique scenario many times. I think it’s easy for us humans to believe we are the only creatures on earth possessing the depth of emotion to develop friendships with our species. And yet, we’ve often seen this ability to make friends in our pets, for us, most often dogs.

Piglets in a pile.

In our old lives, we often laughed over the friends our dogs made over the years. We lived on a private road, not requiring our dogs to be on a leash, with just about every house on the peninsula with friendly little dogs. Some became friends with our dogs, and others did not. But, it was not uncommon for our neighbors or us to have ours and their dogs in our houses visiting one another.

Some animals in the wild are no different. They find companions that they become attached to as much as their family members, especially, as we’ve witnessed after spending considerable time in the bush observing wildlife daily. We often observed this behavior in warthogs, usually two females with or without piglets and males who often visited in pairs rather than large groups.

A male ostrich’s flattened feathers after a downpour.

They may, or may not, be related. Many wildlife species hang out together in large family groups such as impalas and mongoose, giraffes, and others, while many twosomes we observed were mating pairs. But warthogs and pigs are consistently rated in various studies as one of the most intelligent animals in the animal kingdom, as indicated in this article. Pigs are reportedly smarter than dogs. And we all know how intelligent our dogs are!

In any case, we’ll be back amongst “friends,” both human and animal, in a mere 30 days. We hope.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 14, 2019:

We sat outside on the veranda several times during our stay in Apache Junction, Arizona, frequently using the gas grill. The weather is warm and sunny most days. For more photos, please click here.

Day #254 in lockdown in Mumbai, India hotel…Looking forward…Funny photos…

A few days later, another exciting visit occurred. Little decided to check out the inside of the house. I was in the kitchen chopping vegetables when he entered and looked up to see this! Neither of us couldn’t stop laughing about this for days. Check back for that photo soon for a hearty laugh.

Today’s photos are from a post on this date in 2018 while living in Marloth Park and experiencing our favorite all-time warthog experience. Bear with me as we share this one more time, laughing all the while. See the link and a video here.

I struggled a little with the thought I might be boring our readers one more time while re-sharing my favorite post from South Africa in 2018. The heading for the post was as follows:

Pig on the porch…Pig in the parlor…Warthog “Little” comes to call…

The previous day, Little gingerly climbed several steps up to the veranda, looking for pellets.

This same experience left me reminiscing all this time while in lockdown in India for the past eight months, thinking about how much we miss living in the bush. It was only a short time later, we had a similar heading reading:  “Pig on the porch…Pig in the Parlor…Pig in the pond,” when our favorite warthog, Little, did all three in one day, also adding lounging in the cement pond to cool off on a hot day.

We named him “Little” for our new readers due to his tiny tusks when other warthogs of his size generally had much more enormous tusks. After using his name over and over, he came to know it. I could call out in the garden when he was nearby, and he’d come running.

Once he was situated, we brought him some fruit and veg.

Pigs are known to be smarter than dogs:

“Pigs are smarter than any other domestic animal. Their ability to solve problems, like the pig I.Q. test on The Joy of Pigs, is well-documented, and they are considered by animal experts to be more trainable than dogs or cats. … Pigs are difficult to classify.”

I sat quietly in the chair next to him, wanting to make him feel at ease.

People underestimate the intelligence and learning ability of pigs. Still, as a lifetime pig enthusiast, I knew they were trainable and never hesitated to teach “Little” and a few other favorite warthogs in Marloth Park to respond to my voice, a somewhat high-pitched squeal of my own. For a PBS story on pigs and their abilities and intellect, please click here.

I fell in love with a pig. Throughout each day and night, my eyes scanned the garden looking for him. Little became so attached to me and I to him that he’d look into my eyes (warthogs have poor vision) while I spoke to him before he’d ever touch any pellets, carrots, and apples, I may have dropped on the ground at his feet. But, he easily made himself well known to me each time he arrived by snorting and digging up the dirt in the garden.

That day, he was determined when he climbed the steps, feeling more at “home.” He’s come up the steps to the veranda a few times in the prior weeks, but then, it had been two consecutive days. 

On this date in 2018, I was busy inside the house, chopping carrots and apples for our wildlife visitors. It was summer during a drought. There was barely any vegetation for the animals in the conservancy. Most homeowners and visitors purchased game-warden approved pellets, lucerne (hay), and vegetables to supplement their sparse diet during these difficult times.

Sure, some animal activists complain we shouldn’t feed wild animals, and I get this concept. But, watching them die from starvation and thirst made no sense when most of us occupants in Marloth Park were more than willing to spend money and take time to feed them until the bush was lush again after the rains.

There’s always time in his busy schedule for a pellet break.

None of the wildlife we observed ever stopped grazing when everything was green again. They grazed, drank from the cement pond, kept clean with fresh water, and still stopped by for some pellets. But, coming to us for pellets seemed to be the same as giving your dog a treat.

But, not only did Little and the other warthogs bring us considerable entertainment and laughter, other wildlife touched our hearts every single day. The thought of returning to such daily adventures warms our hearts. Will we see Little again? Warthogs wander for miles each day, and he may find us again in our new location. Now, we can only hope and pray we’ll be able to get there in 41 days.

Little contemplating a nap after his big meal. He slept for about an hour.

Be well.

Photo from one year ago today, December 2, 2019:

Today, it was six years ago that Tom was checking out the views from one of the two houses we rented in Pahoa, Big Island, Hawaii. Only days later, our family began to arrive for the holidays. For more, please click here.

Today, we depart!…Love and understanding in two different worlds, yet in one…

The second time he came up the steps he was a little more brazen and came right into the house, while we were sitting on the sofa and didn’t see him right away.  We howled.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

Mutton Chops and Scar Face stopped by many times but we haven’t seen them in months after Basket chased them and Tusker out of our garden.  Now Basket visits with his new girlfriend with whom he actually shares the pellets.

It’s 11:00 am and we’re packed and ready.  All we have left to do is to close the bags and weigh them on our portable scale.  Once we sort out any overweight discrepancies, if necessary, we’ll remove some items and place them in the duffle bag along with a few odds and ends.

Little, tentatively climbing the steps to the veranda for a few pellets we gave him when we found him kneeling like this from the top step.

I’ve managed to fit all of my clothes in my one suitcase after giving Zef a huge plastic bag filled with clothing I’d never wear again, some too low cut for the big scar on my chest and others not appropriate for any of our ongoing travels.

Little, “Pig in a Pond.”

But, today’s story isn’t about packing or medical issues nor will future posts be about such over the upcoming months.  With the doctor confirming that my leg is healing sufficiently and that we won’t need further care at a wound clinic, we can manage the care on our own.  Yesterday, we purchased all the necessary supplies.  


Every other day, we’ll clean the wound, apply the cream and bandages and it should heal within three months or sooner.  It continues to be painful but I can live with that, as long as I know it’s on the mend.


Today’s story and photos brought tears to my eyes.  Last night when we were out to dinner with Kathy, Don, Linda, and Ken, Don asked me, “What is your best memory from the past 15 months, excluding good times with friends?”
I began to answer but the table of us became distracted by a young man from Holland who stopped by to say hello and share a drink with the boys.  

His feet were muddy and he made a mess but we didn’t care.  It was Little, coming to call.

Quietly, I sat at the head of the table with Kathy on my right and Linda on my left, my girls, along with Louise and many others, who kept me holding it together these past months.  (I toasted them, alcohol-free, on Thursday night at the dinner table with tears in my eyes).


The answer to Don’s question lingered in the air, unanswered but surely, this group of friends (including Tom) knew exactly how I’d answer.  My answer wasn’t necessary, especially knowing most of them will read this final post from Marloth Park.


It was Little.   


Pigs are actually considered the fifth-most intelligent animal in the world—even more intelligent than dogs—and are capable of playing video games with more focus and success than chimps! They also have excellent object-location memory. If they find grub in one spot, they’ll remember to look there next time.”

He was nervous at first, as he wondered if this was acceptable.

Was it his intellect or sensitivity that attracted me to him from the first time we saw him over a year ago?  Most likely it was both.  When I looked into his eyes and spoke to him in a soft loving voice, in time he’d actually stop eating the pellets to listen to me.
                                             
His response so much reminded me of the amazing interactions we had with our dogs over the years.  They listened when we spoke, often tilting their heads from side to side trying desperately to decipher the meanings of our words, our tone, and our demeanor.


Over time and countless interactions, this very same behavior from Little became evident to me in many ways.  He’d often look for me, to the point, he’d climb the treacherous slippery tile steps from the garden to the veranda traversing the steps, back and forth in order to maintain a foothold. 
                                  

Video of Little in the house.

His spikey toenails are used for digging up roots, not necessarily for climbing on slippery surfaces.  He took the risk of stumbling down those dangerous steps to see me.  No doubt, pellets were also on his mind, but we’d gladly toss pellets to him in the garden, all he could eat.  It wasn’t necessary for him to climb the steps.


The look on his face when he stood in the doorway on many occasions, was sheepish, often like that of a dog that knew the possibility of reprimand was at hand. And in his intelligence, he chose to take the risk, knowing full well it would be worth it.  I’ll miss him.  He’ll miss me.

Once he realized he was welcome, he settled in for a long nap.

He wasn’t as attached to Tom since on a few occasions when he was very muddy Tom shooed him off the veranda, scolding him.  He didn’t forget this scolding but it didn’t stop him from trying over and over again.


In the past several days he’s come to call many times.  Does he know we’re leaving?  Didn’t our dogs and cats become anxious when they sensed we were going away?  Pigs are smarter and more sensitive than dogs and cats.  Why would they not sense such a departure, such a loss?


During his visits in the past week when I’ve finally been able to walk to the edge of the veranda to see him, (he heard my voice many times during my recovery but hadn’t laid eyes on me), those beady little eyes were so intent and serious when we made eye contact, that I found myself in tears, knowing we’d be leaving soon.

A few days after Little’s first visit inside the house, he brought a friend to show him the goodies.  We aptly named his friend “Little’s Friend” and he often visits on his own and now responds to his name.

As I spoke to him in familiar words I often repeated his shook his head from side to side, acknowledging our connection.  I’d say, “Is that you, Little?” or “Little’s a big boy?” or “How’s my boy today?”  And, if pigs could smile, he would have.  I smiled for both of us.


Now, we go, we carry on, with memories of this magical place, these magical and mysterious animals whom we’ve come to know and love and we leave nothing behind.


With us, always in our hearts, will be the memories that we’ll carry with us, tales we’ll share with others who  will look dumbfounded when we try to explain the power and meaning of Marloth Park and these special relationships.

Little has brought us so many laughs and so much joy.  When I talk to him, he shakes his head in acknowledgment, not unlike a dog or cat would do.  Pigs are listed to be smarter than dogs.  Why wouldn’t they relate to us in the way our pets do?

I realize I can’t hold the attention with tales of Little at a table for 10 during dinner on a cruise ship.  But I can always smile to myself as the tears well up in my eyes over the memories of this special friend, in this special place and during this special time.


Goodbye Little.  Goodbye, Little’s Friend, Frank, and the Mrs., Cupid, Big Daddies, Wart Face, Scar Face, Wounded, Basket, Tusker, Wildebeest Willie; Ms. Bushbuck; zebras, giraffes, lizards, Froggie, Mom & Babies, Sigfried and Roy, Mike and Joe, hornbills and many more.  We’ll miss you all.


It was Little.

______________________________________



Photo from one year ago today, May 11, 2018:

Around 2:00 pm on Friday, one year ago today, we arrived at the Harry Mwanga Nkumbula International Airport in Livingstone, Zambia. For more photos, please click here.

It’s a new day…It’s a new dawn…A practical warning…

Big Daddy, so majestic.

“Sighting of the Day in the Bush”

This particular oxpecker is different from those we’ve seen with orange beaks.

It’s not over. I still have a long way to go to be fully recovered. However, yesterday everything changed when I hit the six-week mark (since the triple bypass surgery) and was able to stop wearing the compression stockings.

No words can describe the relief I felt when as of yesterday, I didn’t have to wear those tight impossible-to-put-on compression stockings constantly pressing on the still open incisions in my legs, especially near my ankles where the infection has been the worst.
 

Now, I’m only wearing the bandages, applied after cleansing, and applying antibiotic ointment twice a day to keep dust and dirt away from the incisions. I only remove the applications for a few minutes each day and stay far from the wildlife’s dust kicked up in the garden until I complete the treatment and cover the wounds.

Zebras stop by almost daily.

The infections are gone. My right thigh is completely healed, and I expect my two legs from knee to ankle will entirely close within a week. While the incisions are still open, it’s still painful but not nearly as bad as it was a few weeks ago.  

I take only two non-narcotic pain tablets a day, one in the morning upon awakening and then again at 10:30 pm before I go to sleep. No pain medication is needed during the day.  

My chest will take months to heal entirely. Ribs had been cut on the left chest during the surgery and the sternum to freely access the heart. I feel no rib pain at this point, but the sternum, a large bone, is still on the mend.  

When riding in the car, the seatbelt across my chest is painful. We bring a pillow along to strap in front of me. This helps on bumpy roads as well. The dirt roads are filled with potholes and way too bumpy for me. During our remaining 45 days in Marloth Park, I can’t imagine that our former almost daily drives to the Crocodile River will be possible.

Baby piglet, estranged from his family, visits daily now that he’s on his own.

However, Tom takes the best route to avoid as much bouncing around as possible when visiting friends. Again, with the pillow pressed to my chest, it’s doable.

As for energy…I have more than my body will allow. Thus, I do as much as I can, pushing a little harder each day. The walking is now back up to 30 minutes a day and will reach 40 minutes by the week’s end. Within a week or two, I’ll be able to walk 60 minutes each day on flat surfaces.  

For now, I’m walking into the house. Here again, the bumpy dirt roads aren’t a safe option for anyone to walk, let alone me, during this period. When we’re in Ireland in 45 days, I’ll be able to walk on the beach or the local roads. Surely, in time I’ll be able to navigate some of the hilly roads they are in our new neighborhood.

This morning, when I fell back to sleep at 4:00 am, I had a dream. I was having trouble breathing and thought (in the dream) I was having an asthma attack. Asthma is another of those hereditary conditions I developed as a child but have had under control as an adult.  

Check out the muscles on this huge animal.

Before the surgery, I used preventive daily steroid medication Advair since I’d noticed I was having trouble breathing. This helped a little but not entirely. I assumed the dust kicked up by the animals was the culprit.

Since the operation, I haven’t had to use the inhaler once. I wasn’t able to breathe because my heart wasn’t pumping enough blood into my lungs. It was logical for me to assume it was asthma.  

As time goes on, I’ve begun to remember more and more situations where I thought my symptoms were something else, when in fact, it was my heart, unable to do its job entirely.  

While working out at a health club all those years, I often struggled with a fast pulse and breathing issues. Little did I know, nor did I ever think, that my arteries were clogged. The doctors say the progression of the three 100% blocked arteries took place over many years, often as much as 30 years. I had no idea.

Heart disease isn’t always about sudden chest pain and one thinking they have a heart attack. As my case illustrates, it was insidious with few distinct symptoms.

I share these details, hoping to inspire our readers to see their doctor arrange a stress test.

From this site:
“Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women in the U.S. and also the leading cause of death worldwide. Heart disease is a term used to describe several conditions, many of which are related to plaque buildup in the walls of the arteries.  As the plaque builds up, the arteries narrow. This makes it more difficult for blood to flow and creates a risk for heart attack or stroke.

Ms. Kudu wondering when more pellets would come her way. We see several forkls of kudus each day.

Cancer is the second cause of death, but some are proactive in having various tests to determine if they’re at risk: coloscopies, prostate screening, pap smear, mammograms, biopsies for suspicious lumps, and skin checks.  

Without apparent symptoms of heart disease, most people don’t bother to see if they’re at risk. Heredity is a considerable risk factor in both of these dreadful diseases, but so are numerous lifestyle choices.

My case is a perfect example of how easy it is to assume there’s no reason to have a stress test done to determine if further tests are necessary. How many people know what an angiogram is, the gold standard of determining how badly heart disease has progressed?

This invasive and costly test is not necessary if one’s stress test results are promising. Mine indicated an issue but not the detail needed to determine the extent of the damage and future risk.

From this site:  “Atherosclerosis is a disease in which plaque builds up inside your arteries. Arteries are blood vessels that carry oxygen-rich blood to your heart and other parts of your body. Plaque is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium, and other substances found in the blood. Over time, plaque hardens and narrows your arteries.”

Stents are a great life-saving option for many with partially clogged arteries, done during an angiogram, subsequently called an angioplasty.  

From this site: “Stents help keep coronary arteries open and reduce the chance of a heart attack. A stent is inserted into the clogged artery with a balloon catheter. The balloon is inflated, and the stent expands and locks in place. This holds the artery open and allows blood to flow more freely.”

The male kudu is a distinguished animal with considerable grace and ease as he moves through the bush. He’s well aware of his massive rack and taps it on the ground near any other wildlife attempting to provoke him.

Please note, I do not intend to scare our readers. But if one reader is inspired to get checked, all this “heart” talk in many posts will have been worth it.  

After reading many comments in various online forums, for those who experienced coronary bypass surgery, many have said if they’d know how hard the recovery would be, they would have taken their chances and not have the surgery.

We’re talking about saving one’s life. This operation is not done willy nilly as a preventive means. It’s always about dealing with a life-threatening situation. For me, it was a no-brainer, surgery or die. I chose Life.

And as hard as these past six weeks have been, I’d do it all over again. It’s not over yet. The boost I’m getting from one great day, starting yesterday, could ultimately prove to be a teaser with many more months of recovery on the horizon.

But each day, I’ll carry on with sheer will and determination, taking extra care, following doctor’s orders, and striving to have many more years of adventure and world travel with my lover, partner, and friend, Tom.

Oh, oh, must go. Little is looking for me!

Have a great day!

Photo from one year ago today, March 27, 2018:

We didn’t recall seeing a warthog this tiny since this post in Kenya in 2013. when a mom placed her babies in a hole to protect them from lions in place for the kill, please click here for more details.