Friday, March 13, 2009


Okay now I have joined the 21st century by getting on Facebook. At first I was admonished by my children for even thinking about getting on Facebook, Mallory told me she would be totally embarrassed if I joined and then a short year later she was wondering why I wasn't on it. I guess enough of her friend's parents had joined that it became okay for her Pops.

What an interesting experience. After giving some info and joining you are infiltrated with requests to become your friend. Some of these requests come from current friends, some come from old friends, some come from very old friends, some come from friends of friends and some come from people who you don't have an inkling who they are. In a mere week I have 126 friends, imagine that.

All and all this social networking thing is pretty cool. I would suggest that if you are not on Facebook give it a try but becareful what you put on your or someone elses wall, everybody who is your friend can read it.

Friday, February 27, 2009


We have been adjusting to the New World again. It was really hard to go back to driving on the right hand side of the road again. After a week and a half I think we are almost back to normal and I have had an opportunity to upload some pictures.

Actually, I put the best of them in a book. You can see the book at this address
The order id is M1010145 and the password is 1468202. I have also uploaded a bunch of pictures on a web album You can see the album in the right hand corner of the blog. Click on it to see a larger slide show.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


I wanted to make my last African blog about a really incredible man that we met during our African journey, Ernie Thomas. Ernie and Lois hosted us at their home in Vipingo. This week we found out that Ernie had passed away.

He had battled throat cancer and had lost his larynx a few years ago. While we were at his home he was going through some tests because they had found a spot on his spine. Apparently the cancer came back and claimed his life.

Ernie was one of the most incredibly gentle men I have ever met. Since it was difficult for him to talk, you knew when Ernie said something it was worth listening to. Lois and him were so happy living in the little utopia they had created on the coast of Kenya. I know she must be devasted.

Lou and I are blessed and honored that we had the opportunity get to know Ernie and spend the quality time that we had with this wonderful man.

I have not uploaded any pictures of our trip on purpose. I have almost 2000 pictures of our African journey and I really want to cull and create an album or a book that documents one of the most incredible experiences we have ever had. To share all the pictures before the journey was done would be like having dessert before you have finished your entree but I do want to post a picture of Ernie so all of you can see the amazing smile of our good friend Ernie Thomas.

Off in Style

We ended up our African adventure with a bang on Valentine's Day. Paul and I served Sue, Tamia (Sue's friend) and Lou a seven course meal out on the lawn right beside the lake. It was a beautiful evening, a candles all around and a million stars. Lots of brownie points here.

When we started this trip I really wanted to get a feel of the culture, something you don't get when you stay in a hotel. We certainly got a taste of the culture and so much more. We feel like we have become part of the neighborhood. We have fallen in love with Africa, Vipingo, White River and the neigborhoods where the people have welcomed us with open arms. We have a whole new set of friends within the communities of Vipingo and White River. It has been a truly amazing experience. I highly recommend the home exchange experience. Lou and I could definitely live here, the biggest obstacle is that we could not leave our girls.

After our morning coffee and the usual conversations as the neighborhood stopped in at Zannas Louis and Paul drove us to the airport, in a 1933 Rolls Royce! Louis has a car museum with some amazing cars so he decided to make our last drive in Africa a memorable one. After breakfast, off we go sitting in the back of this classic car with Louis as our chaffer and Paul following in our little rental car.

We felt like royaly as we drove up to the airport in this beautiful car. It was really funny to watch the security guys, they all pulled out their cell phones and started taking pictures. It is the first time I have been to an airport where they let you park at the dropoff you checked your bags. Lou and I went in to check in and when we came back Louis was letting these guys enjoy a few minutes in the back of the car. What a great end to an incredible journey as we left Africa in style.

Hands at Work

Before Lou and I came to Africa I reached out to two organizations to see if we could get involved in some service work and as possible Dustin’s GreenHouse destinations. The first was the Vipingo Village Foundation (VVF) in Kenya and the second was an organization called Hands at Work here in White River. Both work with AIDS affected children.

I didn’t really have anything concrete set up with Hands, I just hoped I could get up with someone when we got to White River. On the flight from Nairobi to Johannesburg, Lou and I were not able to get seats beside each other. It was the only flight in the 19 flight segments we have taken on this trip where we were not beside each other. I asked the flight attendant if there were any extra seats if she could try to get us seats together.

The gentleman beside me, said he would be happy to change places once the plane got up into the air. We started talking about our trip and I mentioned that we were hoping to get up with Hands at Work. He almost fell out of his seat, because he was the director at the bible school where Hands at Work originated and is best friends with one of the directors, Marc Myburgh. Amazing!

Through him we were able to set up a meeting with Marc and Vivienne (his wife) to learn about the amazing things they are doing in Africa. What started as a local outreach program to help the community has grown into an organization that is in seven African nations and helping over 20,000 AIDS affected orphans.

Hands at Work works in villages where the incidence of HIV/AIDS, orphans and poverty is the highest and the support structure is very low. In such areas, institutional models of care, such as hospitals and orphanages are overwhelmed and unable to cope with the sheer volume of needed care. There are 2.5 million orphans in South Africa. In the war torn country of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) the population is 55 million over 4 million people have died leaving an orphan population of 4.2 million children. That means orphans make almost 10% of the population of the DRC.

Hands at Work goes into communities and teaches the community how to provide for the orphans within their area, providing them a safe and secure environment. They do not feel their mission is accomplished until the can provide three basic services for the children, food, shelter and education. Most of these homes have children as the head of household with younger siblings under their care; children taking care of children. Many are taken advantage of by men, trading sex for food or shelter.

Hands at Work sends community volunteers out to orphan homes to feed and check on shelter and heath care needs. They work to have community centers built in these areas so younger siblings can be cared for while the older children go to school.

Hands at Work, like VVF have no paid administrative staff so over 90% of all donations go to helping children. By 2010 their goal is to have 100,000 orphaned children under their care. Next month they are launching a program where you can support a child for a month with just a $15 donation. This is a wonderful organization that is doing incredible things to address a problem that is a true crisis. This is a crisis of momentous proportion and to stand back and watch while millions of people die is not an option.

Saturday, February 14, 2009


I couldn’t get out of Africa without testing their golf courses. I hadn’t played golf for over two months so I was dying to chase the little white ball. John, Paul’s father in law invited me to play at the White River County Club. It is the local course and it reminded me a lot of Jamestown’s course, a fun course but nothing to get too excited about. The price was amazing, to be a member it is $80 per year and $3 per round, as a guest I paid $13 and played like a dog.

Good thing I got in a practice round because Paul had a cool surprise for the next day, Leopard Creek. Leopard Creek is the Pebble Breach of Africa. By many it is considered the best golf course in Africa. The course is a private course that borders Kruger Park, so while you play golf normally you can see wild game on or near the course.

If can find someone to get you on, a round normally costs about $200, which is expensive by US standards and is out of sight for most in Africans. Paul’s Austrian friend, Ollie, who owns a beautiful restaurant and a five star hotel, got us on for free.

What an absolutely stunning course. Set among the escarpment and along the Crocodile River, beautiful running streams, rolling hills and every tee box has a bronze statue of a leopard doing something. As you progress through the holes the bronze leopards go from rest, to stalking to catching the impala. They told us each one of the statues cost in excess of $5000. As you arrive at the course they serve you a chilled fruit drink on the front steps, your chilly box (cooler) is stocked with drinks, after 9 holes they give you a cold cloth and serve you scones and tea.

We saw hippos, monkeys and waterbuck during our round. None of us shot a great round but we had tons of fun. Paul, Ollie, Mandler (one of Paul’s managers) and I laughed hysterically as we plopped ball after ball in the lake trying to hit the island green on number 18. When we were done we added up the lost balls on just the final hole, the total was 11. Good thing there wasn’t anyone in the clubhouse watching.

I finally found my game on Friday when I played again with Paul’s father-in-law. They have a small 9 hole tournament on Friday’s called the Meat Tournament. The winners get different types of meat. The winner gets a leg of lamb, I came in third and carried home a big piece of biltong. Biltong is like gourmet beef jerky. I’ve taken a pound of Mikey and Brads flesh and some of their money on occasion but never won meat on a golf course.
We finished the night with a delicious dinner of ostrich at Ollie’s.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Lou and I were really excited; we were headed for Maputo the capital of Mozambique for a night. We have been told that it is a really interesting city with a heavy Portuguese influence and only about 3 hours from White River. So we made reservations at a nice motel and headed out yesterday morning.

After a couple of hours of driving we reached the border. The first thing the border guard asked was for the proper papers that allowed us to drive a rental car across the border. We didn’t realize that we needed some sort of permission. When we called Avis they told us we could not drive the car across the border.

Not to be deterred Lou and I decided to park the car and try to get a taxi to Maputo. The taxi driver wanted $110 to take us into town and back the next day. We felt like we were getting the American rip-off price so Lou suggested we go into the customs office and see if we could bum a ride with someone. Who would have ever thought I could leave Lou in the African bush by herself or that she would come up with the idea of hitchhiking to Maputo?

As we entered the customs office we noticed a couple of older gentlemen and I suggested that Lou use her womanly influence to see if we could get a ride. These two guys were absolutely wonderful, they said they were not originally planning to go all the way into Maputo but they would take us into our hotel. They helped us through the process of getting the proper stamps and visas.

Along the way we learned that they were crocodile farmers. They owned a farm in the Nelsprit area and one outside of Maputo, harvesting almost 20,000 crocs a year. Their skins are exported to Mexico to make handbags, shoes and belts.

We were about to get our visas, the last step of the process, when the border official stepped out and told us we didn’t have enough room in our passports to paste the visas. We pointed out that there was one page and the very back page but he said he needed two blank pages and he could not use the back page or put the visa over another stamp. He handed the visas to the clerk and told her to give us our money back and walked off.

These poor guys had walked us through the whole process, waited almost a half an hour for us and suddenly our trip to Maputo was dead. As Lou and I walked out of the border office back towards the South African border we were totally disappointed. We ended up making a day of the drive back to White River and enjoying the African countryside.