Kaapse Klopse!

What better way to end our visit to Cape Town, S. Africa than with a vibrant celebration! January 2nd is the celebrated Kaapse Klopse, or Carnival. Capetonians acknowledge this historical event as the day enslaved people celebrated the new year with festive, colorful clothes, song and dance. Downtown streets are blocked off giving way to a sea of bright oranges, reds, yellows, and purples. Various “klopse”, or troupes, stroll through with dancing, music, and singing from about noon to 1:00 am! Our host Soreya’s sister welcomed us into her tent along with the rest of their family. They even had family members participating in the parade!  We had an up close and personal spot right along the street, giving Sebastian the perfect opportunity to hone his video taking skills (see below).

Unfortunately, we could only stay for a couple of hours as we had to catch our flight back to the US. What a learning experience for the boys! In addition to the first-hand experiences we were able to discuss and focus on the following to continue our Road Trip Learning:

  • Civics – comparing and contrasting government structure
  • History – comparing and contrasting slave trade routes, origins, and outcomes
  • Literature – reading more about Nelson Mandela and his writings
  • Science – Boulders penguin migration (why are there penguins in hot S. Africa?)

Robben Island

Beautiful hues of blue danced across Table Bay as we were ferried to the place where Nelson Mandela spent 18 of his 27 years of political imprisonment. It was a fairly chilly ride, perhaps a foreboding sense of the isolation, abandonment, and imprisonment that was felt by many who were transported to Robben Island throughout the years. Upon arrival, though, I was struck by the message that greeted us as we pulled into Murray’s Bay Harbor: “FREEDOM CANNOT BE MANACLED!”

The video below shows the highlights of our tour. Jama, our tour guide, was a former political prisoner at Robben Island. He explained how the prisoners themselves built the prison. I was surprised to learn that it had been previously used as a leper colony.

Viewing Nelson Mandela’s cell, and even standing at the window, was powerful. Most of the original items were kept in the cell, but someone stole his spoon a few years ago so his cell is now locked.

The tour ended with a bus ride to the lime quarry where the prisoners spent hours of hard labor and persevered to continue their education with an “each one, teach one” philosophy. Robben Island is now a miniature town with houses, a post office, a school, and a church. Some of the former prisoners, including Jama, currently live in the former prison guard houses. I found this to be an interesting twist to an island storied with a history of squashing freedom. Once again, I was struck by the power of the welcoming slogan.

Road Trip Learning at Robben Island

Penguins and Seals and Cheetahs! Oh My!

In addition to the “The Penguins of South Africa”, we were able to interact with a couple of other animals while in Cape Town. We visited Hout Bay, a wharf run by families of local fishermen.

Hout Bay fishermen have an interesting relationship with a few of the seals that live on the wharf. They train them so that people can go pet them and feed them. Xavier was bold enough to hold some fresh tuna (a pretty long piece, I must say) in his mouth and feed the seal. Check him out in the video below! He even ate the rest of the tuna since it was “just like sushi”. Sebastian, on the other hand, was good with just (slightly) petting a seal.

Later on our trip, we visited one of two Cheetah Reserves dedicated to protecting and fostering the survival of South African cheetahs. We learned that cheetahs are not nocturnal (i.e. mostly awake and active at night) like most other big cat predators. They generally sleep for 16-18 hours a day and do their hunting mostly during the day. Because of this, they are often mistaken for eating farmer’s livestock and are killed. The Cheetah Reserve helps protect them.

Road Trip Learning at the Cheetah Reserve

We got to meet, and pet, Ebony, who has a brother named Rafiki also living in the reserve. He was resting and very calm.

We received careful instruction on how to approach him: kneel down on one knee, and only stroke his side and back in the direction of the fur.

Sebastian also met a namesake meerkat at the Cheetah Reserve.


Road Trip Learning Atop Cape Town – Table Mountain

There’s just something ethereal about Table Mountain that kept drawing my eyes to it. The ancient peaks have a massive presence over the Mother City. Surprisingly, it’s only approximately 3700 ft. high; Denver is much higher!

The locals say that from a distance the mountain range that includes Table Mountain is Nelson Mandela lying in state. No wonder it’s one of the New 7 Wonders of Nature!

Ascending and descending Table Mountain via the Table Mountain Aerial Cableway.

Our spectacular views from Table Mountain:

Standing (Almost) at the Edge of the Earth – Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa

Overlooking Cape of Good Hope at Cape Point, Cape Town, South Africa

We began our trip near the tip of the Earth – Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope. As I mentioned in our last blog about our trip to Cape Town, South Africa, our personal tour guide and driver, Mario, was wonderful and EXTREMELY knowledgeable. He pretty much answered any and all of our questions we had; if he didn’t know, he told us something related to the subject.

I highly recommend paying for a personal tour guide/driver in Cape Town. Ours cost somewhere between 1500R – 2000R ($108 – $145), for an 11-hour tour, not including lunch (the food and views at Two Oceans Restaurant were worth paying for though). 

Heading up to Cape Point Lighthouse

Beautiful Cape Point – Contrary to popular belief, the Atlantic and Indian Oceans do not actually merge here. The Atlantic Ocean wraps around to the east a bit.

It was well worth having someone give us an intimate look at tourist spots being first-timers to Cape Town. Maybe next time we’ll venture out on our own!

Well-deserved rest after an 11-hour tour!

MLK50: Activism 101

We don’t always have to go out of the country to do our road trip learning. There is so much to learn here in our own country. We had the privilege to use our 2018 spring break to obtain valuable lessons in American history, social studies, and Social Activism 101. We visited Memphis, TN for MLK50, a commemoration of life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

MLK50 Parade
Photo credit: Lens of Ansar
Participants gathered to reenact the iconic “I Am A Man” photo sponsored by the Withers Collection Museum and Gallery. April 4, 2018.
Photo credit: Lens of Ansar
The Russellsprouts and I with Ken Johnston, who walked from Selma, Alabama to participate in the MLK50 commemoration. “Preserving our civil rights is the most important value we can protect today.” – Ken Johnston. April 4, 2018.
Photo credit: Lens of Ansar

Moving forward. MLK50 participants marched from Beale Street to the MLK50 Commemorative Ceremony National Civil Rights Museum. Stage was set at the infamous balcony of the Lorraine Motel. April 4, 2018.
Photo credit: Lens of Ansar

The first lesson we received from one of our learning guides, Dr. Clifford Black, was that this was not a celebration. It’s disrespectful to celebrate the murder of such a powerful leader. Rather, this was a commemoration of his life’s work of social activism to help the economically disenfranchised. We started our commemoration by participating in one aspect of Dr. King’s work that made him famous: nonviolent, peaceful protest.

We were honored to take part in the Memphis Coalition of Concerned Citizens’ Rolling Block Party. The mission of this group is “to create a safer, more equitable, unified Memphis”. The Rolling Block Party was just that: a block party! Instead of the usual “mean mugging” and solemn seriousness of protesting, this party was meant to uplift serious issues with inspiring music (i.e. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power”, one of my personal all-time favorite songs) and spreading powerful energy amongst each other with dancing in the streets. The target was FedEx to protest unfair wages.

Xavier was all in and ventured out of our car with one of our security guides and even struck up a conversation with one of the police officers who surprisingly didn’t disrupt the peaceful protest. Sebastian, on the other hand, was initially not for “this activism thing”. He expressed mature concern over the disruption of people’s jobs and livelihoods. He stated that by blocking their entrance to and from their work could potentially get them in trouble with their bosses, which could have seriously consequences effecting their ability to support their families. And he was scared when the cops showed up to the protest site. We found out the organizers strategically and thoughtfully planned out the protest so as not to interfere with workers; if any worker was affected by the blockade of the entry way, they would still get paid. His fear of the police also subsided when the cop whom Xavier befriended came over to our car to shake their hands and wish them both a great day ahead and overall Memphis visit. He initiated a handshake with the cop.

To be honest, I was scared, too. As a mother of two young, beautiful and bright sons, I’m afraid for their lives every single day. I have to give them “the talk” about how not to play with toy guns outside, and how boys that look like them are treated differently than some of their not-so-darkly skinned peers.  However, I will not allow them to be afraid of those that use people that look like them as targets. I will guide them to have a healthy respect for the police just as with any other human beings, while always being keenly aware of their motives and intentions. It’s a stress that I wish they didn’t have to endure, but one that is critical for their survival.

Nothing like being in the mix and experiencing social activism in real time. What a powerful lesson!

Photo credits: Lens of Ansar

The Penguins of South Africa

Our adventures in Cape Town, South Africa began the day after we arrived. Our gracious hosts, Soreya and Nadiem Dollie, set us up with a wonderful tour guide named Mario. He took us on an 11-HOUR TOUR! We were fortunate to start our tour at the Boulders at Table Mountain National Park, home of the endangered African Penguin.

The Russellsprouts learned quite a bit about the Boulders penguins from our super tour guide, Mario.

Traveling to South Africa with Children? Here’s What You Need

Yay! We completed our travel goals two international trips for 2017! A good friend of mine had mentioned traveling to Cape Town, South Africa earlier in the year, and we finally made it happen at the end of the year. However, this trip almost didn’t happen.

I just so happened to look up passport/visa information on traveling with children to South Africa the night before and found out that I needed the boys’ unabridged birth certificates (basically, originals and with both parents’ information on them) AND a copy of their father’s death certificate since I was a widow traveling alone with the boys.

I generally don’t like carrying their originals around and always carry copies on international trips, and, of course, I couldn’t find Xavier’s original. So, I thought I’d take a chance and try taking copies.

We got to the airport extra early to check-in. At this time, I was working for Delta Global Services, where for working 30 hours per month I got travel benefits for my family and had a great discount on international flights.

Of course, the desk agent told me that I needed ORIGINALS. Needless to say, I went into slight panic mode because I couldn’t find Xavier’s original. She was very helpful, though, and gave me a few options:

Plan B – Get the copies signed by a notary. I later found out that this was illegal.

Plan C – Wait until the Vital Statistics office opened at 8:00 am get originals. This would’ve still given us time to catch the 6:30 pm flight out of Atlanta to Johannesburg.

Plan D – Not go at all. Not really an option.

Thankfully, the universe had other plans – I found Xavier’s birth certificate under the basement TV room couch (why the heck was it there?!) We got back to airport in time to catch (and get seats on) the next flight out to Atlanta.

So, if you’re planning to travel to South Africa, be mindful of their rules for children traveling to the country. In addition to passports be sure to have official, unabridged birth certificates for both you and your children. Click here to check out other requirements for children traveling to or from South Africa.

While we waited in Atlanta to see if we’d get seats on the flight to Johannesburg, I received word that my 93 year-old grandmother in Kentucky was in the process of transitioning to the ancestral realm. We were able to spend time with her on her 93rd trip around the sun, so I was at peace if she had decided to leave this earthly realm.

She had started to regain some strength, so we continued on with our journey. The boys had hoped that she would be able to see the beginning of 2018 and she did. She made her transition on January 12th, 2018. Cornelia Rebecca Gamble – may her memory be eternal!

3 Essential Homeschooling Strategies: Lessons from Costa Rica

In the last post, I discussed our real-time classroom experience of ziplining through a Costa Rican rainforest and meeting other homeschool parents. I had the honor of receiving some valuable homeschooling tips from one of the parents in attendance, Julie Jackson. With over 23 years of homeschooling experience, she shared her philosophy of schooling, learning, and life with 3 basic strategies:

  1. ENTREPRENEURSHIP – Give them small jobs that makes them money where they learn responsibility and finances. This allows them to explore their passions and heart given talents
  2. BOOK WORK – Of course, sticking with the basics (reading, writing, and arithmetic) with a bit of book work is key. Focus on the basics, then let them use their gifts and talents to fill in everything else.
  3. SERVICE – Teach young minds compassion and respect for themselves and others by doing service projects both at home and their communities.

The biggest takeaway I received from our road trip learning experience in Costa Rica was this: EVERYTHING IS SCHOOL. I can’t teach my sons everything they need to know. However, if I can teach them to be life-long learners, to follow their passions, and that it’s OK to change course if necessary, then they will have the tools they need to succeed in life.

Zippity Doo Dah!

What better way to hold class than on location in a Costa Rican rainforest! The workshop we attended in Costa Rica included a variety of adventurous excursions for attendees and guests, one of which was zip lining.  The boys and I had this on our very long “things to do” list, so they were excited when I told them that we were going zip lining.

An added bonus on this particular excursion was meeting other homeschool parents who were also inventing their own time, money, and education freedom. We discussed the many different lessons that zip lining provided. Luckily, the boys were able to experience the following in real-time:

  • Physics – The simple cable and pulley system provided the perfect laboratory to observe and experience gravity, friction, and speed.
  • Botany – We were up close and personal (although at a pretty fast rate) with Costa Rica’s lush rainforest.
  • Ecology – While we didn’t get to see some of the rainforests natural inhabitants such as scarlet macaws, chestnut mandible toucans, and whiteface monkeys, we did observe what looked like a possible termite nest nuzzled in the high trees.
  • Geography – We were able to view the features of the land and rainforest as we headed up the mountain to the starting course, with spectacular views of the Gulf of Nicoya and the Pacific Ocean.

Overall, these experiences allow us to expand our studies as needed while embedding priceless memories in our hippocampal neurons (the hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for memory, and neurons are brain cells; remember, I’m a science nerd :-)).

Click here to check out highlights of our zip lining adventure with my first attempt at movie making!