En (Garden) Route to Safari, South Africa

After spending a glorious week in Capetown, we rented a car and headed along the famous Garden Route of South Africa. It is a stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa which extends from Mossel Bay in the Western Cape to the Storms River in the Eastern Cape. The distance is under 300km, yet the range of topography, vegetation, wildlife and outdoor activities is remarkable. This journey would also get us one step closer to safari-ing in and around Kruger National Park, home of the Big Five but more on that later!

Stephen quickly adjusted to driving on the left hand side of the road with the steering wheel on the right hand side of the car, and off we went. Toonces, look out!

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The resemblance is uncanny.

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I got this.

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Toonces in Africa.

First, we had to take a slight detour and stop at a winery along the way in the town of Robertson. Robertson is in the Western Cape Province of South Africa known as the valley of wine and roses. That alone sounded like it was worth a stop. Wineries abound in South Africa so it was hard to choose. But we settled on Van Loveren family winery because they had a tasting menu for kids too. While we wine tasted, the kids got to also sample ‘wine’ for kids – aka grape juice. Everyone was happy.

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The Day of Wine and Roses.

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Van Loveren family winery in Robertson, South Africa.

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Not too shabby.

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We (Van) Love-ren this place!

Our first night we nestled into a cozy little cottage in the town of Swellendam for nearly 40$ night. Had a lovely bite at a restaurant so perfectly named ‘De Vagabond’. Swellendam certainly felt more like Europe than how one would picture the countryside of Africa. Swellendam is the 3rd oldest town in the Republic of South Africa, a small town that has over 50 provincial heritage sites but most of the buildings are of Cape Dutch architecture.

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Swellendam country cottage.

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‘Ain’t life Swell?’

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Restaurant appropriately named ‘De Vagabond’ – we fit right in.

The next morning we left the charming little town of Swellendam and headed towards Oudtshoorn which apparently we found out is ostrich farm country. It indeed was and we even had the pleasure of staying at a working ostrich farm…which as a half vegetarian family was indeed quite an experience. All. Ostrich. All. The. Time. Oudtshoorn has the reigning title of ‘Ostrich Capital of the World’. We stayed at the Mooiplaas Guesthouse and we were greeted with a very warm welcome.

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Our Host, one of the many resident Ostrich.

Antagonzing the poor ostriches.

They are no guinea pigs, but they will do.

Off roading in Ostrich Town.

Off roading in Ostrich Town.

Cruisin'.

Cruisin’. Family Style.

Ostrich selfie!

Ostrich selfie!

Found a real porcupine quill! But didn't see the owner.

Found a real porcupine quill! But didn’t see the owner.

Taking a moment to savor Ostrich country.

Taking a moment to savor Ostrich country.

Enjoy! (Ostrich!)

Enjoy! (Ostrich!)

Once we got our ostrich fix we headed down towards the coast. Plettenburg Bay was next and we found it to be very similar to Malibu. We were here in May which is the beginning of their winter so prices are right, weather on the cooler side. We scored a Malibu-esque lodge for the night, and lived it up a little. The locals call it ‘Pletts Bay’ and it’s home to some of the best whale watching in the world. We didn’t go whale watching this time because we could spot whales and dolphins right off this very porch.

Oh Malibu - I mean Plettenberg Bay!

Oh Malibu – I mean Plettenberg Bay!

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Life on the road wouldn’t be complete without the kids losing their minds every time we stepped foot in a hotel room!

From Pletts Bay, we headed north and stopped in Nature’s Valley. Nature’s Valley lies between the Salt River, the foothills of Tsitsikamma Mountains, the Indian Ocean and the Groot River lagoon. Nature’s Valley has a balmy climate and is surrounded by the de Vasselot Nature Reserve which is part of the Tsisikamma Park and in turn part of the Garden Route National Park. We could have spent weeks exploring this stunning area. But we chose to hit some of the highlights.

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Oh, the Places We Go!!

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Nature’s Valley.

We drove onwards and crossed over the Bloukrans Bridge. It is the site of the world’s highest commercial bungee jumping. We were, umm, a little tired to bungee jump today so instead we thought we’d try a more mellow bridge to jump on.

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Bungee jumping anyone?

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This is more our speed.

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Like a bridge WITH trouble(makers) and water.

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Pictures don’t do this justice at all.

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Catherine David Friedrich.

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Twinsies!

As if it couldn’t get any better, we capped it off with a fine meal overlooking the Ocean. Tsitsikamma National Park took our breath away.

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Tsitsikamma National Park dining. Yes please.

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I think we found heaven on earth!

We knew we had to see the infamous Jeffery’s Bay, home to one of the best surf breaks (and notoriously sharky) in the world. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to surf this time around but at least, we could say we SAW it.

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Jeffery’s Bay, South Africa.

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Drowned our surfing sorrows with this view at Kitchen Windows. And wondered if Kelly Slater has eaten here.

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A1 Bay View Guesthouse, Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa.

After we came to terms with the fact that we wouldn’t surf in South Africa, we sought solace in the beauty that surrounded us. (and that we didn’t get attacked by a Great White). After another night in a B & B, we were on the road again for one more night until SAFARI!! Ending our Garden Route tour in Port Elizabeth, we stayed at another magnificent Airbnb close to Port Elizabeth. This is where we discovered the South African braai. The word braai in Afrikaans is for barbecue or grill and is a social custom in South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi. In this case, we skipped the ostrich and used it souly as fireplace with a nice bottle of South African vino. A perfect cap to our Garden Route tour. From here on out, it was all about S-A-F-A-R-I!

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Braai not?

This whirlwind of a tour taught us that traveling with 3 small kids and staying at new places every other night wasn’t exactly ideal. We certainly weren’t on a slow travel path here but we covered alot of ground in a short amount of time and we were glad we did!

After climbing a great hill, one only finds that there are many more hills to climb. –  Nelson Mandela

Capetown, South Africa

Somehow we made the decision to travel from David, Panama to Capetown, South Africa. It strangely was cheaper and more ‘cost effective’ according to our travel agency to not go through Brazil (which would make the most logical sense) but to fly from David, Panama to Panama City, Panama to Miami, Florida to Doha, Qatar to Capetown, South Africa…so that is what we did…If we could get through this travel day, we could get through ANY travel day.

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Before the sh@# hit the fan…

Did I mention that on our travel day from h@!l,  Mattie AND Stephen were sick pretty much the whole time with a stomach bug perhaps caught in Panama!!! Fever, vomiting, Montezuma’s Revenge, everyone’s worst nightmare…that happened. If it wasn’t for the giant Teddy Bear in the middle of the Doha airport AND the Airport Hotel where we could sleep for a 9 hour layover, not sure we would have gotten through it before flying to Capetown, Africa.

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Are we there yet?

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Strangers in a strange land. Mattie’s light at the end of the tunnel. Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar.

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Bocas del Toro, Panama

After our time in Costa Rica, we crossed the border by foot to Panama. The border crossing we had heard could go either way and for us, luckily, it was a cinch. Though getting to our next destination, Bocas del Toro, was not! After crossing the border, we hailed a cab and set out for a 4 hour journey to the northern tip of the country. Think long windy roads and going very slowly b/c our cab driver liked to take his tiempo!! But Panama is a beautiful country and some of us (those that weren’t car sick) enjoyed the scenery. Rolling hills, mountains, lush and green, Panama was truly inviting.

Panamanian mountains

Panamanian mountains

Bocas del Toro is known for its Caribe vibes, crystal clear waters and surf situated on the archipelegos of the Caribbean; it seemed like a place right up our alley and worth checking out. Plus we were going to meet my brother, Uncle Taylor and Aunt Alison for a couple weeks as we had rented a house right on the water with them.

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Doing Inspiring Sh#t

First, we have to apologize here for the delay in our all blog posts. Life on the road has its ups and downs, its challenges. One of them being reliable internet which has made it nearly impossible to sit and spend a lot of time blogging away. And even if we did have reliable internet, it’s sometimes hard to sit and carve out a few quality hours of blogging when really you want to be out exploring (or monitoring the kiddos). We have covered lots of ground since our last post so we are behind with posts about Costa Rica, Panama, South Africa, and Paris, France….we are constantly playing catch up and realizing that if we don’t stay on top of it, the hundreds of photos and videos being taken daily just multiply into a overwhelming maelstrom of images & videos! Not to mention all the of the experiences and memories we are trying to preserve and savor with or without the help of a camera or GoPro. Here is where we see the true benefit of social media. 🙂 Blogging aside. Anyways, slowly but surely, we will be chronicling each adventure so bear with us. Our long term goal here being that we will have a visual diary at the end of our adventure whenever that may be!

We are now in Dublin, Ireland finishing up our Irish tour. We will be heading back to Paris this week en route to the western coast of France, onwards through bits of Spain, Portugal and Italy. A lot of our itinerary is unplanned which we’re learning is tricky in the summer Holiday European months. It means there’s a lot of people moving about, lodging is full, and it’s not cheap! But it’s all worth every penny as we are experiencing…

While we were in South Africa we had the pleasure of meeting a family on safari. Turns out they were also from LA and were in South Africa to compete in an ultramarathon in Durban. And we thought we were crazy! But really it all felt more like kindred spirits and as we got to talking, they asked us to be a part of one of their projects. Check it out! You can hear us talk about traveling with kids. The ups and downs, planning, etc.

http://www.doinspiringshit.com/podcast/2016/6/11/disp-008-stephen-catherine-baumhauer-on-wanderlust-and-going-all-in

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Arenal, Costa Rica

After three good months in Oaxaca we’re finally off and into the great unknown. Our first stop was Arenal, Costa Rica. After flying into San Jose, we rented a car and made the 2.5 hour drive north to get there. If you’ve ever driven the south island of New Zealand then you’ll have some idea of the incredible beauty of this drive. High, rolling green hills stretching to the horizon, thick jungles, charming towns…it’s like a scene out of The Hobbit. We were also impressed by how clean everything was. In Mexico, you just take it for granted that there is refuse everywhere and there doesn’t seem to be much of a national consciousness about it. In Costa Rica, you can’t drive a mile without seeing a garbage can and there’s signs dotting the countryside reminding people not to litter. Obviously, there is a national campaign aimed at keeping it clean and it’s working! It’s great to see in general and especially when you consider the immense beauty of the place and how it could so easily be ruined.

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the ‘Wild’ Life of Costa Rica by Mattie Baumhauer

This post is from when I was in Costa Rica! I am now in South Africa and we were also in Panama. We had really bad internet in those places so that’s why this is so late!!! I will get to Panama in a little bit and definitely South Africa. We have been so busy and it’s hard to find the time to sit and write!

We are walking on a dirt road in Pavones, Costa Rica here. There is no one around except for us!

There was much more wildlife in Costa Rica than there was in Oaxaca, Mexico. It is because we were in rainforest areas that have some of the most diverse collections of animals, plants and insects than any other place in the world !

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Mitla is Neatla by Charlie Baumhauer

Hola Amigos! This is Charlie here.  I went to Mitla in Mexico a couple weeks ago. I liked it a lot because you could go inside tombs and a pyramid. The tombs were kind of stinky because they kept people who died here. The pyramid was empty inside and there was some details that looked like some patterns on the outside. I really liked that they were so in order. It reminded me of some designs I saw at Monte Alban. But Mitla had many more patterns on the sides.

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This is Mitla and it is NEAT la.

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You can see the patterns that are so in order.

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We are explorers!

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Mi familia at Milta

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Yo, Carlito.

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This is the church the Spanish built.

There was a church at Mitla next to the ruins that the Spanish built. They came and tried to tear down the buildings the Indians made which is why they are ruins now. I don’t know why they did that.

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This is me and a perro that came to me in the church. It made me happy and sad at the same time because I wanted to keep him but I couldn’t. The dog was homeless but he made a friend with another dog when we were leaving.

All the ruins were so cool I saw in Mexico.

Here are all the ruins I saw in Oaxaca, Mexico:

YAGUL 

MONTE ALBAN

MITLA

I think my favorite was Mitla because you could really explore the inside of the tombs. We also went to a great restaurant after we saw Mitla with a trampoline and a playground outisde for kids.

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We’re not in the USA anymore.

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My Mom and the adventurers

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My Mom and Dad

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This is me and Jake saying Goodbye to Monte Alban, Yagul and Mitla; all the ruins I discovered and explored in Oaxaca!

We also went to the beach when we were in Oaxaca. We drove six hours in the car and it was long and windy. We stopped halfway in the mountains in a town called San Jose del Pacifico and stayed at a little cabin in the woods. We had a beautiful view of the mountains and then we went to dinner at a little restaurant that was very cold. We were told that some of the people that live here are magical people called shamans.

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View from our cabana. It was magical!

 

 

 

 

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Our cabin.

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I found this cave. My Mom thought it was maybe an oven. I think it was from the Indians.

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This is a Maguey plant bigger than me!

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Jake con chocolate y leche caliente

When we got to the beach it was great to see the ocean again. We stayed at a cabana right on the sand in San Agostonillo and we caught waves with our bodies. The water was so warm and the sand was hot.

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Punta Placer cabanas right on the beach

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San Agostonillo

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Our own little swimming hole

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Jake the pirate!

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We love the beach!

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We had dinner on the beach in San Agostonillo. You didn’t have to wear shoes. Can you find me in the background?

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Muy bonita!

We visisted a turtle sanctuary in the next town over called Mazunte and got to see little tiny babies. They were very cute! They can fit in the palm of your hand. We also saw big turtles and an iguana.

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Mazunte Turtle Sanctuary

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Tortugas

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We went on a whale watching boat ride but didn’t see whales. We did see ALOT of dolphins and some sea turtles. My Dad caught a fish but we gave it to the captains of the boat. We went snorkeling in the deep ocean and saw the dolphins underwater! Jake didn’t snorkel because he thought there were sharks. I really want to try scuba diving one day. Maybe in South Africa I will scuba dive with the great whites in a cage! Just kidding! I don’t think I would do that because probably kids can’t do that. Maybe my Mom and Dad will. But probably not.

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Jake and me and the captain of the boat!

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This rock was white because the birds pooped on it!

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We also went to a bigger beach town called Puerto Escondido. We spent a lot of time bodysurfing and boogie boarding. The waves were really big so it wasn’t a great time to surf for kids. The currents were very strong but I was brave so I went out in the waves.

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Our house in Puerto Escondido

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Hanging out

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the empty beach in front of our house

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My Mom made a friend watching the surfers.

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Sunset swim

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Adios Oaxaca!

I am going to explore more in my life because I want to be an archaeologist when I grow up.

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I climbed this tree at Mitla and people were staring at me.

I really want to see the Mayan ruins of Mexico one day. The ones I saw in Oaxaca are from the Zapotec and Mixteca Indians.

We said goodbye to Oaxaca and my school there. I met some great friends here and got to spend time with my Grammy and see my Grandpa too. I loved Oaxaca and can’t wait to see more of the world!

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I made this picture for my teachers and friends at my school in Oaxaca.

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We planted two trees at the school so we could replace one I broke a little when I was climbing on it and give them a new one.

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Here is our little arbol. We put rocks around it to protect it.

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Adios Maestra Leia! Gracias por todos!

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This is the Arenal volcano. It is so big and beautiful.

Right now I am in Costa Rica as I write this. In Costa Rica, there is more nature than in Oaxaca City. We were in Arenal, Costa Rica. There is a giant volcano that erupted 9 years ago! It might still erupt! Hopefully, not when we’re here! I don’t want the volcano to erupt even when we aren’t here because I don’t want the other people to die.

I wonder if there are more ruins in Costa Rica? We went zip lining and I went all by myself. And I turned 7 at the hot springs! I celebrated my birthday here with my family. It was so fun, I made some friends and got to eat cake. We will be posting more photos about Costa Rica soon!

But for now, I will see you later or Hasta Luego, Amigos! I am going to explore more about Costa Rica.

Pura Vida, Adios Amigos!

Carlito Baumhauero

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Mis Cumpleanos

mi hermano Carlito

This is me and that is Dario from Oaxaca.

 

 

 

 

“Mexicans are lazy”

If there’s one resounding truth that can be said about Americans it’s that we’re hard workers. It’s in our cultural DNA. Before this trip, I used to routinely work 10-12 hours a day during the week and then cap it off with another 10 to 20 more on the weekend. And when I’d complain about it to a co-worker, the response was usually something like, “Good to have that work though, huh?” Or maybe, “You’re gonna be loving that O.T. though, right?” We’re culturally programmed to accept this. We even compete with one another for the title of, “Hardest Worker.” “I haven’t slept more than two hours in the last 2 weeks,” my buddy used to boast to me. “In the last month, I haven’t seen my wife for more than an hour except for sleeping,” another would brag. “My kids don’t even know for sure if I live at my own house!” This would bring much laughter and pats on the back.. “You win, big guy!” How have we possibly reached a point in our cultural evolution where this is acceptable, even applauded? Our freedom, our independence, the time to be a parent, a spouse, a human, our life itself, is for sale. We are selling our lives to other people and we’re thrilled to have the “opportunity” to do it! We actually cling to the idea and hold it up over our heads like it’s a shining virtue. It’s madness! ( Authors Note: As a person who has the luxury of being able to sit by the pool all day eating nachos and drinking cerveza, any opinions about how people should or shouldn’t live their lives are to be completely ignored.)

Impromptu mezcal tasting. Delicioso!

Impromptu mezcal tasting. Delicioso!

 

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Papalotes School en Mexico by Matilda

I have been going to school here in Mexico for almost 3 months. The name of my school is called Papalotes which means ‘kites’ in Spanish. I am in a class with 6 people and one teacher (Maestra Leia) including one of my brothers, Charlie. It is like my school in California where some of the grades are together. In my class there are 1st-3rd graders. If my DVIA classmates are reading this, I really, really, really hope you are having a great time in 3rd grade with Megan. I miss you all and I think of you a lot! My little brother Jake is also in my school but he is in a younger class. They do lots of music, cooking and playing. In my class, we also have music but we do math, reading and writing. We also carve things in wood like little creatures! We make art too. It’s really different from my school in California but I really love going to school here in Mexico.

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Here I am in my schoolyard. You can see my classroom in the back!

I LOVE that Papalotes is so close to nature, and there are animals everywhere around! There are mountains in the back and lots of nature around. Sometimes,  you can see donkeys and goats in the street! There are also cows and bulls that graze next to the school grounds. And once a big bull came so close to our schoolyard but thankfully, there was a fence there.

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Here are the burros! They are so cute.

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Mi amigo! La vaca!

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El arte y la vida de Oaxaca

All of our five senses have been on overload here in Oaxaca. You can’t have a bad meal, it’s absolutely impossible, and I, for one, don’t even eat meat so can’t imagine the realm of all the flavors out there …every time we step foot outdoor we anticipate some sort of adventure in any one or more of the senses ….and half the time we don’t even need to leave the comfort of our casa.

If it’s not the donkeys braying away in the distance, it’s the rooster and turkey crowing next door, or the parrots gawking in the trees outside of our house. Oh right, don’t forget about the 4 am fireworks wake up call and the wild perros barking up a storm every odd hour of the night. Every evening around 5 pm something like the theme to Spiderman and the Bunny Hop is blared through a loudspeaker. We don’t know why and probably never will.  Every night as we are going to bed we hear parties, music, salsa, any number of loudspeakers announcing something. It is clear, Mexicans are not afraid of noise. It is embraced and widely accepted. And strangely, we do too. Read more