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Wedding Bells…and Other Tidbits

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(Amy & Darren at Leopards Lodge)

Hard to believe that another six months has already come and gone…is it just me, or is time going by even more rapidly as we get older?!?

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(Heidi’s Going Away)

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(Karabo Asara Orphanage)

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(Sad to say goodbye – Heidi with Maria and Asara)

So much has happened over the past half-year that it’s difficult to know where to begin writing this blog entry – but I will try to provide big-picture highlights.

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(Performing for Heidi’s going away)

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(One of the lovely caregivers)

I’ve now been in South Africa for three years and feel more at home here than anywhere else I’ve ever lived (although Jamaica is a close second). Despite Pretoria being a suburban mecca, this country’s beauty astounds me. I truly hope friends and family will continue to take advantage of our time here and visit us before our next move (hint…hint…the wedding may be an excellent starting point – December 20, 2015).

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(Three Rondavels)

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(Bourke’s Luck Potholes)

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(Panorama Route)

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(In the heart of Mpumalanga)

Granted, the down side of my field of work is the constant rotation of friends from post. One friend in particular, Heidi O’Bra, recently departed after a ten-year stint in South Africa. She’s left behind numerous legacies, but the one I’m most proud of is the Karabo Asara Orphan Centre, an institution that she and her housekeeper started.

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(Our first day in Geneva)

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(Theatre in Orange)

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(Stunning city of Gordes)

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(Walking the old cobblestone streets in Gordes)

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What began as a simple plea for money from friends and family has turned into an institution that provides services for approximately 100 children a day, including meals! I’m desperately trying to follow in Heidi’s giant footsteps and have taken on the responsibility and joy of assisting with this center.

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(City of Gordes)

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(Beautiful city)

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(Lovely view)

We are in the process of looking for more sustainable ways to fund the orphanage and to provide food, clothing, toys and learning material to the center. So if you’re planning to come for the wedding, or even on holiday – please pack an extra suitcase of goods that could be used by both children and adult caregivers (who are all volunteers and dedicate much of their time and energy to the children of their communities).

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(Miss Maia)

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(Village des Bories)

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(Sisters)

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(Village des Bories)

Even though good-byes are always difficult, it’s comforting to know that we’re all in the same field and that our paths will surely cross again and again in the future!

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(Roussillon)

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(Red-ocre)

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(Gorgeous hiking)

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(Cool shadows)

Darren and I have continued to travel both locally and abroad. We drove through Mpumalanga’s Panorama Route, with its breathtaking vistas around every mountain corner!

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(Stunning scenery)

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(Amy and Merryland)

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(The Fillers)

The Panorama Route is home to one of the world’s largest canyons, Blyde River Canyon, and the impressive Three Rondavels and Bourke’s Luck Potholes. A magical weekend for sure!

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(Menerbes)

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(Maia and Scott)

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(Top of the city)

Then we traveled overseas for a lovely family reunion in Europe! Sami and Scott have been living in Geneva for almost five years now and I must admit I’m definitely envious of their quality of life (which is completely different from South Africa).

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(Sami and Ben in Oppede)

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(Springtime)

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(Top of Oppede)

Merryland and Koshie also met us in Geneva! We loaded up the cars and spent five glorious days exploring Provence in the South of France! We started off our journey in the Rhone Valley to visit a treasure among treasures, Orange’s ancient theatre – built early in the 1st century AD and one of the best-preserved theatres of the Roman era.

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(Maia and Ben)

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(Amy & Darren)

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(Merryland and Maia – trying to get warm)

I literally sat in the stands, shut my eyes and imagined the history that took place in the theatre – everything from poetry readings, pantomimes, magnificent stage sets, and even operas that had been performed. So magical…

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(Ben at the market in L’Isle sur la Sorgue)

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(Antiques)

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(Fontaine-de-Vaucluse)

We continued our journey to Saint Pantaleon, a peaceful, rural village situated in the Luberon Regional National Park at the foot of the Vaucluse Mountains. Surrounded by vineyards, orchards and market gardens, Saint Pantaleon was an ideal base where we spent five glorious days exploring the countryside!

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(Simply Stunning)

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(Sami, Maia and Ben)

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(Sami, Merryland and Amy)

Only five kilometers away was one of my favorite cities in Provence, Gordes! Standing on the edge of the plateau of Vaucluse, Gordes is one of the most picturesque villages I have ever come across…it’s no wonder that many famous actors and artists call this place home!

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(Palais des Papes)

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(The family at Palais des Papes)

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(Architecture…)

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(Top of the palace)

After an afternoon of exploring the ancient streets of Gordes, we ventured to the Village des Bories, an outlying hamlet consisting of mortarless masonry huts (built of dry stones). These huts, which were once agricultural outhouses used on a seasonal basis, have been turned into an open-air museum.

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(Maia and Scott)

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(Merryland and Koshieland)

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(The troops)

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(Avignon)

The ocre-red village of Roussillon also was a highlight! In addition to the beautiful village, with its red rocks, red stone buildings, and red tile roofs, I preferred the beauty of the surrounding countryside, with its deep green pine forest set amidst the bright red-ocre hills. What a gorgeous hike that was…

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(Pont du Gard)

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We also explored Menerbes and Oppede Le Vieux…both magnificent hilltop villages!

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(Amy & Maia)

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(Scott and Ben)

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(The family)

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(An amazing picnic)

I particularly loved Oppede Le Vieux, with its charming 15th and 16th century houses. At the top of the mountain we discovered a gem of a Romanesque church, Notre Dame d’Alydon, complete with a gargoyle and hexagonal bell-tower.

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(Welcome to Venice)

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(Picturesque gondolas)

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We made a special trip to L’Isle sur la Sorgue for Merryland for its famed antique market. More than 500 antique dealers gather here to show their treasures to customers from all over the world. Merryland purchased postcards that were originally sent from prisoners in concentration camps.

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(Masks of Venice)

Our next stop in Provence was Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, a medieval village tucked in between the banks of the River Sorgue and the Vaucluse Mountains.

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(Maia and Darren on the way to Murano and Burano)

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(Scott and Maia)

We then worked our way to Avignon, an ancient city full of history, life, art, music and boutique shops! But the highlight was the Palais des Papes, the Popes Palace, one of the largest and most important medieval Gothic buildings in Europe!

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(Murano Glass)

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As we worked our way back to Geneva, we made one final stop at Pont-du-Gard, an ancient Roman aqueduct bridge. Built in the 1st century AD, the engineering feat of Pont-du-Gard is simply mindboggling.

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(Family in Murano)

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(Burano)

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(Merryland in Burano)

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(Maia and Ben in Burano)

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(So colorful and bright)

We didn’t stay in Geneva long as we boarded a flight to Venice the very next day! We spent five amazing days exploring every nook and cranny of Venice, including the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge Palace, the Rialto area, and the colorful islands of Murano and Burano.

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(So gorgeous)

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(Merryland in Burano)

We ate like royalty, shopped like there was no tomorrow, and admired the beautiful Venetian art glass. But most importantly, it was wonderful being together as a family!

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I loved spending time with Maia and Ben, my niece and nephew respectively! I’ve lived overseas for the majority of their lives, so I cherish face time with family in general.

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(Sami and Maia in Venice)

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(Rialto Bridge)

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(Seagull)

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(always getting lost)

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(Night in Venice)

And now we’re gearing up for our big wedding here in December, which will again, bring family together! We’ve finally sorted out not only the logistics for the wedding, but also for family to go on safari and to explore the Garden Route in Knysna!

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(Last night in Venice)

Now I will focus my attention on planning the actual wedding itself…no wonder there’s an entire cadre of professional wedding planners! So much work…

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(Friends in Geneva!!!)

Sending much love to all,
Amy