Archive for the ‘Expat living’ Category

There really is NOTHING better than swinging on a rope swing. The only thing I can imagine that would top this… if the rope swing was over a nice piece of water to drop into!

My little guy got in on the action too.

Plus there was an old tractor. Life does not get better than this if you are a boy!

And horses, which made this momma happy.

Plus a trampoline and beautiful light, which made us all happy.

Thanks Vasthi and Martin and Megan and Drew.

We luv yah, sooo very much.




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We landed in Zanzibar at 11 pm, still hot and exhausted from our airport battles. The next hurdle to jump over was, would our bags be there? The last time we had seen them was in Burundi and in our experience, whenever a flight is canceled… the bags go on a little vacation of their own. Thankfully, the bags were waiting for us. They were locked up in a dank musty room, but they were all there and we exited out of the airport into the night air five minutes after we arrived. We looked at each other and said, “Wow, that was easy!” We hailed a taxi, jumped in, and drove off!

Something was going to go smoothly for once, I thought, not at all like the rest of the day had gone. Then the taxi driver pulled the car over into a dark empty lot. He turned to us and said, “We are going to switch cars now.” Coffee Guy and I looked at each other, then back at him, and in unison said, “No, sir, we are not.” Except that I left out the “sir” and Coffee Guy, ever the gentleman, didn’t. The driver hesitated and then said that he just needed to get something out of the other car. My brain really does have a mind of its own, and I was thinking, “What, like a gun?” He jumped out, grabbed his cell phone, jumped back in and we were off. Dark alley crisis averted.

Five minutes down the road, the driver brought the car to a rolling stop on the shoulder of the very dark highway. It was dead. Not us (yet), but the car. The driver hopped out and got on his cell phone. Coffee Guy tried to get out to see what the problem was, but his door had been child locked. The driver peeked his head back in because we were the definition of back seat drivers by this point, yelling at him to try again. He made a half-hearted attempt to start the car from the outside, and it didn’t turnover. Meanwhile, I am trying to keep my silly brain from thinking that he has stalled the car on purpose. Back home, in South Africa, if you are in this type of situation…. the likelihood of your immanent death far outweighs the likelihood of your survival. Am I right South Africans? Holler for me!

The driver started pacing outside of the vehicle. Was he waiting for his other henchmen? Then, with no warning, he waved down another car, jumped in, and left us on the side of the highway. In that moment, in the stillness of that dark highway, in a taxi with no back window, in a country that I didn’t yet know, with a firm belief that this could quite possibly be the last place on earth I see, I prayed the most fervent prayer of my life.

Out loud. Loudly. While crying buckets.

I prayed for the little boy asleep I my arms, I prayed for the little boy tucked up in his bed in a country far away, I prayed for life. I prayed to live. I prayed for God to see us in that moment. I told God I was scared, more scared than I had ever been. In my entire life. I was angry. Angry that we were so vulnerable. Angry that there was nothing we could no, no place we could go. We had to wait.

A few minutes later, headlights appeared behind us. Our driver re-appeared and put petrol in the petrol tank, jumped in, and started driving.

I was still crying silently in the back seat. I didn’t trust that this guy was actually taking us to our hotel. Then, suddenly, the streets were full of celebrating Zanzibaris and traffic came to a halt in the middle of Eid al-Adha celebrations. People were banging on the car, jumping over the car, shouting around the car. The streets were impassable. Finally something gave, and we began weaving through the small alley-like streets of Stonetown in Zanzibar… to our hotel. As we arrived safely, our driver was not the murdering type after all, I vowed not to leave the hotel room until we departed for home. Which, of course, I didn’t do. Zanzibar is a photographer’s feast, but that’s tomorrow’s story.



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My four-year old son stood up in front of church this morning proclaiming the arrival of baby Jesus while dressed in a superhero suit. He was one of three very wise looking superhero suit clad kids. Everybody knows the wise men dressed as superheros. Duh. On the way home he said, “Mom, did you see me? I was a superhero and everybody clapped and I bowed!”

We all want to be seen every once in a while, and thanks to WordPress publishing Day 2 of our Burundi adventures on Freshly Pressed, this blog has seen more traffic than the red light district in the last two days. It feels great to be seen, but now that the company has left we can stretch out on the couch and put our feet up a little. I have loved all the comments and the help, the blogging community really is amazing.

The story continues tomorrow. I promise. I know I’ve said that before, but now I pinky swear promise. Zanzibar or bust!



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This day should be titled “The Day We Waited At The Nairobi Airport” because, although Bujumbura is TECHNICALLY only 6 hours away by plane, we were in transit from 6 in the morning until 2 in the morning the next day. When we arrived in Nairobi that morning I remember thinking, “How are we going to spend 8 hours here?” There were people wall to wall. Sleeping on floors, stuffed in corners, taking up every single restaurant table. There was nowhere clean to set Neo down and my arms were killing me! Entering the airport from the beautiful day outside felt like entering a really dark tunnel stuffed with hot sweaty people. We were in Dr. Seuss’ The Waiting Place. Then the dear God above smiled on us and we discovered that THERE IS A KIDDIES PLAYROOM in the Nairobi airport! I almost cried I was so happy. I could set Neo down! It was quiet! His hands and feet were covered in dirt from the grotty carpet, but who cares about that?

Midnight finally came and we were waiting down in a dirty dank dungeon like boarding area (it was only fitting at that point) for our plane to arrive. Little did we know, we were going to be waiting for planes to arrive a lot in the coming week. Finally, the flight went off without a hitch.

As we arrived in Bujumbura’s tiny airport and a crabby man checked our passports and yellow fever cards I felt a weighty anticipation. What if I didn’t like it here? What if communication and life were just too hard for me? What if I was the reason our plan for an adventurous life failed?

When we walked out and met our hosts their first question was, “You are not speaking French?” My heart dropped into my stomach. How would we survive here? We slept a short night on a disgusting bed with Neo rolling around between us… and the rest is for tomorrow.


Whenever you are traveling in third world countries it is a great idea to pack your own duvet cover (or, for you Americans, sew two top sheets together) to sleep inside like a sleeping bag. Just pop it on top of the existing bedding and “viola” you feel clean and snug. Pack your own pillow cases as well, and in our case, we should have even packed pillows. These are hard to come by in Burundi.

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Wow am I ever happy to be home! I am grateful for running water, the ability to brush my teeth straight from the tap, the freedom to open my mouth in the shower, my non-bedbug-infested-bed, and ziplocks. Ziplocks really are so handy, and I vow here and now never to take them for granted again. I have been waiting to tell you all about our Kenya, Burundi, Tanzania adventures (oh boy, was it ever an adventure… and FULL of drama from head to toe) because I am moving to a new blog! It’s a really pretty blog too, with enough room to move around in and LOTS of wall space to put up photos. I have NO IDEA how long it is going to take me to put this new blog together though, being that I am totally not tech savvy. In the meantime, I will show you one of my favorite images from the trip.

Cliff jumping is all the rage for the kids in Zanzibar. These kids were having a big competition for the “best moves” while blaring house music from a portable player. It was so much fun to hang out with them… even though, to them, I was a crazy white lady with a sleeping baby strapped to my front and a bag of popcorn. Because they have to get a pretty big running start, and I wanted to be ready, Coffee Guy would stand by the que of jumpers and I would have the camera pointed at the sea with my back to the “runway.” When someone started running Coffee Guy would shout, “Heeeeee’s commmmmmiiiiiinnnnnggggg!” All in the name of unpaid photojournalism.



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It’s “go time” in the morning. We will leave our house around 6:30 am and get to Bujumbura, Burundi at midnight. The next morning, early, we head into the hilly coffee region. I will be away from the blog for over a week, but I will have lots to share when I get back! This is part of living our lives as an adventure. I want my boys to be proud of the person I am, the life I am living, and the faith and bravery I possess… even though I’m shakin in my boots :)

Miss you already!



p.s. i would visit here, or here or here for fun while I’m gone. Oh, and get an account here! It’s fun. Oh, and you HAVE to go here, it’s proudly South African.

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Only Four Sleeps

In the Carlson house we make charts with boxes on them to count the “sleeps” until big events. Right now the chart on the refrigerator is “sleeps until Aunty Thobe comes to stay.” Thobe is our right hand woman, and Myles’ best friend. She is going to be staying with Myles while we are in Burundi, surveying the land. Right now she has her head buried in a mountain of paperwork plus a big exam looming on Monday. I am hoping she has the energy to keep up with Myles for a week! A week. It’s such a long time to be away. I know they will be fine… but a week? They will be fine. EVERYTHING will be fine.

Thobe loves to laugh, that’s her on the right with our other right hand woman Lou-Lou. Maybe you can’t have two right hand women, so Lou-Lou is our left hand woman? Left because she moved away and LEFT us and went far to the LEFT of us, to Cape Town. Huh, I could do this LEFT thing all day. Ok, so lets start over. That’s Lou-Lou on the LEFT. She LEFT us for Cape Town. Cape Town is to the LEFT of Durban and wouldn’t you know it, Lou-Lou is LEFT handed. No she’s not, that’s a lie. I’m sorry. She is always eating our LEFTovers when she’s here though. We make everyone eat leftovers. It’s a rule.

Have a good day!



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