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Monday, June 27, 2011

The Life & Times - Let There Be Light


A couple weeks ago at The Village we put up our light post.  Have you ever seen one of those email forwards (yes, I read them but never forward them) wherein some guy is standing on a ladder held up by a forklift sitting on another forklift?  Sometimes I felt that's what we were doing.  The post is about 25 feet high, but seems significantly higher when you're lifting it straight up and dropping it over another pole.

A couple notes of interest:
-When Brian was digging the trench for the light's electric line, he kept unearthing bones with about every other shovel full.  Since this was a former cow pasture, we're quite certain they were leftover beef.
-Once we set the big post over the anchor post it was pretty tough to twist into position.  Fortunately we have a friend who has a brain.  Lawrence Dargie was visiting and came up with an ingenious plan using a plank and some rope.
-Now that we have the light set, we've only used it once.  This is because the bulb shines so brightly that even with Roman shades and curtains it creates too much light.  So we've got to do something about that.
-At the very same time I was writing this post the electricity in our home went out.  Ironic, huh?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Life & Times - Safari

Two years ago, in the midst of a visit by brother Sam O'Tool and my sister Rosina, we made a trip to Pilanesberg Nature Reserve.  During that safari (which you can read about by clicking here and scrolling down - with apologies for the formatting change) we began a point system for being the first to spot a particular animal.  That created some debate, as Samuel and Louis vied for the victory.  

As a result, we took a poll, to which we received many responses.  People ranked their own personal quintessential African animal list, and except for Doug Diers chihuahua nomination, we received much valuable feedback.  

This time there arose no debate as one contestant indisputably rolled to crushing victory.  In fact, the win was so dominating that we didn't even have to assign specific points to each animal.  As you read below you can tally who the champion is.  I will give you a hint - this person is now the two-time reigning champion.


Hippo: Seen by Tim.  Hippos kill more humans than any other African mammal.  Worth mega points.

Wildebeest:  Seen by Louis many, many times.  These are like the rabbits of Africa.  They are the bottom of the food chain and their main self defense is procreating more quickly than they can be eaten.  Watch Nature sometime.  Therefore, worth very few points.

Warthog:  Seen by Rosina, and then again many more times.  We only saw two tails on our last Safari so it was kind of surprising that we got so many good glimpses this time.  Worth a few points.

Impala Herd:  Seen by Louis.  Not normally worth many points but since it was a whole herd, including a male, it was worth a few points.

Female Kudu:  Seen by Amber.  We saw lots of different types of buck, but not many males.  Most of the females tend to look alike.  Not worth many points, although amazingly delicious.

Baby Baboon:  Seen by Rosina.  We have other photos, but this is a family site and given the nature of baboons they aren't exactly G rated.  Worth several points due to the opposable thumbs.

Crocodile:  Seen by Louis.  Worth lots and lots of points, as both a predator, reptile, and it's awesomeness.

Monitor Lizard:  Seen by Tim.  Interestingly, Komodo Dragons are in the monitor family.  This not worth many points because it isn't the Komodo.

Turtle:  Seen by Louis.  Worth only a couple points.

Turtles and Birds sunning themselves

Skink: Seen by Amber.  Not worth any points because we have them at our own house.

Starling:  Seen by Rosina, but worth no points because it was lame.  Not physically lame, just not cool.

Giraffe:  Seen by Rosina.  Worth mega points as one of the quintessential African animals.

Some kind of marmot or rodent:  Seen by Rosina.  Worth only minor points.

Guinea Fowl:  Seen by Tim.  Not worth many points because the O'Tool family has owned these in Iowa.  So not as cool as you might think.

Rhino:  Seen by Amber.  If a Rhino charges you, get behind a tree and freeze.  They have terrible eyesight.  Worth also mega points since it is another quintessential African animal.

Zebra:  Seen by Tim.  Lots of times.  We got close enough to these to almost touch them.  Tim was 2 inches from slapping this guy in the rump.  And by "this guy", I mean the Zebra, not yours truly.  Worth medium points, since it is cool, but very common.  Also, very delicious.

Elephant:  Seen by Louis.  This particular one was the first we saw and had two baby elephants with it.  Worth jumbo-mega points as one of the top two quintessential African animals.

Look closely in the upper left corner.  You'll see how close we were to this elephant.

Impala:  Seen by Tim.  Not worth points because Louis already saw a whole herd, but with this male so close it was pretty awesome.  Tim thought maybe he could catch it, but he isn't very fleet of foot.

Elephant:  Again, seen by Louis, but not worth points as the second sighting.  This one and another were hanging out together and were both huge.

Meredith and Drake spent most of the day hanging out in the back seat.   They looked at animals when we spotted them but otherwise typically behaved very nicely throughout the whole trip.  We were thankful, considering they spent 12 hours straight in the car.

Female Kudu:  Seen by Tim.  Not worth points.

Mama and Baby Kudu:  Seen by Tim.  Not worth points but a fun view nonetheless.

Female Lion:  Seen by Louis.  Worth mondo points, as THE QUINTESSENTIAL African animal.  Two years ago the Lion came in Numero Uno in our formal poll.

Male Lion:  Seen by Louis.  Worth Gargantuan mega points as both the King of the Jungle and the QUINTESSENTIAL African animal.

Power lines.  No, just kidding.  Sunset:  Worth 0 points but very cool regardless.

I would like to thank the following people for making this win possible.  First, my lovely wife Amber who planned this trip for us.  Second, to myself, for driving everyone else through the park.  Third, to my children who behaved very well throughout the drive.  Fourth, to siblings Rosina and Tim, for not being very good at seeing animals so that I was able to both keep my eyes on the road and spot the most highly ranked animals.  Fifth and finally, to my brother Sam, who's second-place finish last time helped sharpen and hone my animal spotting skills.  Thank you all for making this defense of my championship possible.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

The Life & Times - Quotes


1.  Quote Numero Uno - Thomas Heiderscheit, my cousin and son of Kim and Julie Heiderscheit, was here visiting.  Normally Tom is a pretty intelligent young man, proved by the fact that he graduated from DMACC in only 3 years with the ability to work on diesel engines.  So we all were taken aback on their first day in this country to hear him say "It's a good thing for gravity or we would all fall off the world."  You know, since South Africa is on the bottom of the world. And if you're wondering why this quote is funny, then we're laughing at you too.


2.  Are you ready for Quote #2?  Ok, here it comes.  Drake, our two year old son, was in the bathroom whilst Amber and I were brushing our teeth. He climbed up on the scale and said "Oh, I'm getting fat."  Only it came out as "Oh, I gttg bat."

3.  Our third quote comes from Meredith, in one of her interactions with my sister Rosina and soon-to-be-sister-in-law-Michelle-Fincham.  The boys are working hard to build this house we've been building, and the girls spend most of their time taking coffee breaks.  Occasionally they squeeze in enough time to bake some cookies for them to eat while on their coffee breaks.  And on this specific occasion they were baking cookies when Meredith became afflicted with some painful malady that clumsy and uncoordinated 5 year olds are prone to incur.  In order to comfort her, Rosina offered to allow her to taste-test the icing.  When Rosina asked "How is it?" Meredith responded "It's good but only because I don't want to make you feel bad."



4.  The fourth and final quote comes from our friend Allison.  This is her third visit to us in South Africa and we always enjoy having her.  This time her visit happens to coincide with a couple other young people who are working in one of the local hospitals.  These two guys are living in Evergreen Lodge at The Village (Evergreen Lodge is a shipping container converted into a small efficiency apartment).  They are cooking for themselves using a microwave and hotplate.  One day they were talking about making No Bake Cookies, the kind you see pictured on the left.  Allison says to them "I didn't you could make cookies."
"Why not?" they replied.
"I didn't think you had an oven out in the container." said Allison
...(pause)  "We don't.  You don't need to bake No Bake Cookies.  That's why they're called No Bake Cookies." say the boys.
"Well, I didn't stop to analyze the name." said Allison

Friday, June 10, 2011

The Life & Times - The Opposite of Construction Progress


They've been doing road construction in Johannesburg since we first came in November 2006.  Maybe this is why it is taking so long.

We're just hoping the second guy never had the urge to stretch out and lean back.  Because the other side of that wall is a drop of about 20 feet.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Life & Times - Construction Progress

May 13: Just a foundation

May 16: Laying out the initial block to start the walls

May 17: Making sure the corners are all set and level so the walls can be built straight and level

May 18: We call this the "Building an Ophanage Diet".  It will be the next rage along the lines of the Atkins and South Beach Diets.  Great way to lose weight and get toned.

May 18: Moving enough bricks to build all the walls

May 23rd: Walls have been built, just waiting on the lintels that we made the week before. 

May 25: Filling  cracks between the blocks

May 25: "Plastering" a finishing coat of cement


May 25: Smoothing out the finish coat

May 25: A finished wall

May 25: Cutting angle block for the gable ends

May 25: Setting the gable ends

May 30: Setting the trusses

May 30: Finishing interior walls
May 30: Trusses are set


May 31: Putting on the sheet metal roof.  The metal was coated in oil to keep it nice, which made for several mad scrambles by Tim and me trying to stay on the roof.


May 31: The finished roof from inside the house

May 31: What the house looks like.  You can see the smooth walls here.

June 1:  Putting up ceiling board

June 1: The finished ceiling.  Next step is interior walls.

June 1: In three weeks the project went from a foundation to something resembling a house.

June 1:  Our first picture of the two children's houses together.