We're here!

Home again, home again, jiggity jig!

Wow! What a trip! We made it home Thursday night, but it has taken this many days to get off of the couch. I am so not joking. We marathoned through all of our recorded TV, watched a bunch of college basketball, were intrigued by Little People, Big World, on TLC, and took a ton of naps. Today I felt sure that life would return to normal, but of course Mother Nature has a sense of humor. A snow day on the first day of Spring is appropriate, no?

So let's talk South Africa! It was an AMAZING trip! Here are the highlights and accompanying photos:

Monday March 6th - Arrived in London for a 9.5 hour layover and took the tube into the city. It was bitterly cold, but we toughed it out. We got off at Piccadilly Circus, had a bite of lunch, and then walked to Trafalgar Square, through St. James Park, past Parliament, to Big Ben and Westminster Abbey, and then ended at the river. By then we were frozen to the core, so we headed back to the airport. It was an excellent way to kill a few hours and I definitely want to return to London with more time for sightseeing. Here are a few highlights:London1London2

Tuesday March 7th: Arrived in Johannesburg after flying all night. We were met at the airport by Vince and Monique, from Scrapping Fever. Scrapping Fever is a scrapbook supply distributor in South Africa and Vince and Monique are the owners. The cruise was their brainchild and they did a marvelous job of planning and executing such a huge premiere event. We were rumpled and tired, and the last of the Americans to arrive, but when faced with the choice of resting all day at the hotel or going to Lesedi with the others, we chose to tough it out so we didn't miss a fun outing.

It was the right choice. Lesedi was incredible. Mandy was our hostess and chauffeur. She was able to cram 9 crazy Americans in her vehicle, and the hour-long ride was spent pleasantly getting to know each other and admiring the scenery of South Africa. At Lesedi, we had the opportunity to learn about some of the many tribes of South Africa, see dancing, costumes, villages and sample some exotic food. I thought the villages looked familiar and asked if this was the place where The Amazing Race came when Rob and Amber were on the program. Sure enough, it was!!! How thrilling was that?!


In the top photo you'll see the ladies of our group - Jorganna (All My Memories), Me (Creative Imaginations), Marilyn (All My Memories), Our Guide ("Moi" or "Loverboy"), Margie (Making Memories), Frani and Carol (Bazzill). Three of us brought husbands - John, Grant Aslett, and Marilyn's husband, Mike. Grant took the photo of us.

After Lesedi, we went to Scrapping Fever's office for an orientation with some of the ladies who would be helping us in our cruise classes. We had pizza, laughs and (in my case) a near heart attack. The heart attack was when I pulled a few of our class kits and found the cardstock missing from every one of them. The cardstock required to MAKE. THE. MINI. ALBUM.!!! Oh snap! I called California in a total panic. A thousand sheets of cardstock - how were we going to solve that problem? Scrapping Fever is a distributor, but they certainly weren't going to be able to come up with a thousand sheets of Magenta cardstock . . . or were they?

While I was tearing my hair out talking to California, Frani, Carol and Monique were in the back pulling every pack of Bazzill they could find that was in the purple family. I already loved Bazzill, but now I love them even more for offering 15 different shades of essentially the same color. They found a thousand sheets of cardstock that would work. I couldn't believe it! Bazzill, Scrapping Fever . . . MWAH!

Wednesday March 8th - The Retailers Day took place at a lovely location in Johannesburg. Each of the four companies taught a workshop. Mine was first, so John and I caught a ride to Vince's office that afternoon to catch up on e-mails. Vince had ordered a large truck to transport all the cruise materials to Durban but it was four hours late arriving at the office. Everyone pitched in, though, and we were just about done loading the truck when the rest of the gang arrived from the Retailers Day. Unfortunately, though, this meant it would be tight getting us back to the hotel to get our luggage and then to the airport in time for our flight to Durban. We didn't make it in time to check our luggage, and none of us were traveling light! Vince had to book us on a later flight.

Remember how it was cold in London? Well it was summer in South Africa, and to recap, I'd gone two full days without sleeping or showering in transit. Then we went straight to Lesedi, so no time to freshen up. I took about a million photos, with my nose pressed up to a camera in the warm, slightly humid South African sunshine. On the Retailers Day I got sweaty loading a truck. In short, the pores on my face were clogged with every kind of who knows what, and the result was that by the time we were boarding the flight, I was sporting a prominent red pimple on the end of my nose. It matched nicely with the breakout on my chin, though, so there was that.

I leaned over to John and asked if the nose pimple was very noticeable and you could see that to lie would have required more strength and straight-facedness than anyone could handle. "Uh, er, well, uh, yeah. It is. But say - if it's foggy in Durban they might just pull you into the cockpit to lead the way!"

And so the Rudolph jokes began. John was also kind enough to point out that I could probably eat more now that I was eating for two.

When we finally made it to Durban we had one more mishap with Franni's suitcase being sent to Cape Town. They promised to send it on the first morning flight and deliver it to Zimbali, where we were to spend our free day. Zimbali is an exclusive community of beachfront vacation homes and a golf resort. Vince had rented two luxurious homes for us and we had all of Thursday to just enjoy the beach and amenities. It was, in a word, incredible!


The top photo is the view from our balcony. The monkeys are actually a nuisance at Zimbali and there were several warnings not to leave food on the balconies or leave windows open because they would get inside the houses. They actually did invade the other house on the second morning, so it wasn't an idle warning. Still, to see them in the trees was pretty cool. Each house came with a golf cart for getting around the resort. Margie's husband Grant did most of the driving. He would have loved to golf, but the timing didn't work out. The final picture is the view from inside our house, looking out onto the balcony.

Thursday March 9th - It was John's birthday, and we couldn't have chosen a better place to celebrate. John was up before everyone else and answered the door when Gloria arrived. She explained that she was the "service" which John took to mean housekeeping, like in a hotel. He told her that we'd arrived very late at night and didn't have a chance to mess the place up yet. She asked if we had laundry to be done. Eventually everyone was up and Grant was cooking up a breakfast feast and we came to realize that Gloria was going to stay there all day and serve us! She set the breakfast table, cleaned the dishes, did laundry and ironed our clothes! This was pampering at its finest!

Our game plan for the day was to relax, relax and then maybe relax some more. Grant and John wanted to swim. I wanted to swim, too, but after the miracle of modern makeup that was required to tame Rudolph, I had to settle for putting my feet in. Carol and Margie were desperate to go to the lodge where there was a rumor of Wi-Fi. In the end we relaxed the day away, largely by the pool, some on the beach, some on the balcony.


The infinity pools were very impressive. Grant took the photo at water level (upper right).

That evening the rest of the cruise helpers came to the house for another practice/orientation setting. The next morning we would leave Zimbali to board the cruise, and although we joked about refusing to leave such a paradise, we were all looking forward to the next adventure!

Friday March 10th - We boarded the Rhapsody in Durban harbor in glorious weather and stunning seas. There wasn't much work for us on Friday - just an opening ceremony that evening where we did an introductory slideshow. I showed photos of my studio, including the "before" picture, which received screams of delight. Apparently South African scrappers have creative messes as well. Ah, my people! One of the opening speakers, Glynis, had a powerful message about mapping your dreams and creating a life that you love, which was the theme of the cruise. It was an inspiring presentation.


John and I had never been on a cruise, so we were worried about seasickness. We took Dramamine just in case, and it knocked us out for a couple of hours. The ship was moving quickly, and although it wasn't rough seas, you could definitely feel the rocking. By dinner time employees were strategically placing barf bags around the ship. Still, our group did well - no major sickness - just some queasy stomachs here and there.

Saturday March 11th - The first thing we noticed was that the ship was still. We had arrived at Portuguese Island sometime during the night and anchored for the day. Making Memories, Bazzill and All My Memories had classes scheduled for Saturday, but both of mine weren't until Sunday. There were small boats shuttling people to Portuguese Island for the day. You could swim, eat a barbecue lunch, and shop for trinkets from local artisans. Grant and John went earlier and Margie, Frani and I joined them after the classes ended. Carol decided to stay on the Rhapsody.


Portuguese Island is uninhabited. You can take a nature walk around the island, but we preferred just lounging about. We bought beautiful wraps and souvenirs and hammed it up for the camera a bit. In the top right photo with Margie and Frani is Celine, one of the class helpers. You can see the silhouette of the Rhapsody in the first photo.

Saturday night after dinner was the deck party. What fun! Lots of dancing!


Sunday March 12th - What was immediately obvious was that the ship was moving again. It was back to business for me, with two lectures and two practicals to teach. I was jealous of the other girls who got the Saturday spots with a still ship. Eventually I just took my shoes off to help with the balance. Because of the facilities onboard and working around meal times, we had to split our classes into a lecture session in the lounge, and a practical session in the main dining room. There wasn't enough time to finish the project, and some inaccuracies in our kits made it even more challenging, but the students were just fabulous. They took every hiccup in stride and were truly amazing, talented, wonderful people. So were our helpers. We worked them to death! Here they all are with Margie, Vince and Monique. I couldn't have done it without them!


The ending ceremonies were as inspiring as the opening ceremonies. The keynote speaker was Alison, who changed many lives that night. Alison shared her story about surviving a brutal attack where she was raped, stabbed repeatedly, had her throat cut from ear to ear, and was left for dead in the South African bush. Her story of survival was truly miraculous, and although it may sound like a shocking and horrific story (and it was) she weaves such an uplifting message of embracing life and following your journey that you can't help but be inspired. I bought her book and am about halfway through it. Her story is amazing.

On Sunday night there was open cropping at the rear of the ship and since very few students had finished my project, I had promised to come help them during the crop. Alison was also there signing books. There were a few die-hard scrappers, but the seas were getting rough as a storm rolled in, and keeping your balance was becoming increasingly impossible. Eventually we gave up and stumbled back to our cabins. Our suitcases were supposed to be in the corridor by 1 am for priority offload. I had expected to find John packing in the room, but instead he was sprawled across the bed, too seasick to move. I started packing, but the roller coaster eventually got me, too, so we were both sick. It was quite a storm! I would lay on the bed, muster strength, hop up and shove a few items in a suitcase. When I was about to lose my lunch, I'd plop down on the bed again. This went on for an hour, until I finally heaved the hastily-packed suitcases into the corridor and collapsed for good. The sounds of the storm were eerie - the ship would crash down after a big wave and the spray would shoot up forcefully.

Monday March 13th - We met the others for breakfast and learned that we were not the only storm sickies. Several of our group were sick. This was also a morning of sad goodbyes. Frani and Carol were going to visit one of their accounts. Margie and Grant were spending the day in Durban shopping and then were flying back to Johannesburg and then right on to the States. Vince and Monique would finalize things and then head back to Jo'burg as well. For Jorganna, Marilyn, Mike, John and I, we were heading to Scrap'n 4 Africa.

Anchen, the owner of Scrap'n 4 Africa, has 5 stores in South Africa. We were doing a whirlwind tour of three of them, teaching classes in Durban on Monday and in Jo'burg on Tuesday. I felt bad that we were in such poor shape for Monday's classes. We were all tired and still a little green. The shop is in a mall, and Anchen had set up the classes for the middle of the mall! There was quite a bit of gawking from the shoppers passing by!


We flew to Jo'burg that night and went to dinner at a wonderful steakhouse with Anchen, her husband Jan, and several of their friends and colleagues. The food was divine! Anchen pampered us just like Vince and Monique had - we were treated like royalty! She also treated her students divinely - notice the class packs in boxes with a fresh rose and bow - what a nice touch!

Tuesday March 14th - More teaching and more pampering. We taught at her two Jo'burg stores and then went to another divine dinner. We celebrated being all done with the classes. Anchen had arranged for us to go to the lion park the next day since we all had evening flights. Everyone was excited! Shelly was to be our hostess - I actually knew Shelly - she had taken a class from me at a CKU last year! John and I were so excited about the lion park. I emptied my camera card in preparation of all the photos I planned to take. We fell asleep, exhausted, but content.

Wednesday March 15th - Our last day in South Africa. I woke up early and was momentarily excited about the lion park until the intense pain started in my stomach. I was sick! Oh no! I thought perhaps I'd eaten something that disagreed with me, but the pain was getting worse and the bathroom was my only friend. Finally I had to admit that there was no way that I would be able to go to the lion park. I sent John down to give my regrets. He came back up 15 minutes later and said that Anchen had made an appointment for me to see a doctor. She was worried about me flying that night if I was sick. I protested, but I was in a lot of pain, so I finally gave in.

Everyone else went to the lion park while Anchen took me to the doctor. We had to wait for quite a while, and I threw up a few times, but eventually Dr. Kim was able to see me. She said I had caught a virus that was going around. I ended up with an IV to replace fluids, a shot in my bum, two prescriptions and a directive to go right to bed and not eat anything for several hours. We had to decide by 4 pm if I would try to fly home that night. If I didn't feel up to it, she would write a doctor's excuse to get us bumped.

Anchen took me to her home. Wow. What a home. It was the most beautiful house I'd ever seen. I slept for hours in the luxurious guest room. The others returned that afternoon from the lion park. John came immediately to check on me and when I asked him how it was he tried to say "Oh it wasn't that special" but his ear-to-ear grin gave him away. It was incredible, he said. They got to pet baby lion cubs and everything!!! I asked if he at least got some great pictures and he said no, because my camera was flashing "E" and he didn't know how to fix the error. (Note: the "E" stood for "empty" - he hadn't loaded the card. *sigh*) But Mike had taken plenty of pictures and promised to send them to us. I regret that I didn't get to say goodbye to Mike, Marilyn and Jorganna. Their flight was earlier than ours.

I was much better by the afternoon and we decided not to delay our flight. I'm sure Anchen was anxious to get her life back to normal although she was so kind, so warm, so wonderful. Her kids, L'Andre and J.K. were fabulous as well. I loved looking through L'Andre's scrapbooks. She's quite talented!

Thursday March 16th - after flying all night we arrived in London again. This time we only had 5 hours to kill and neither of us were up to braving the weather for another trip into the city. Just one more flight and we'd be home to the kids! We made it home that evening.

So it's a bit surreal settling back into my humdrum life after all that excitement. I can't stop hugging my kids, though. We'd never left them for that long before. They had a blast with their grandmother, though. Karl was telling me about their fun game of tossing the dirty laundry from the landing every morning. "Mom! Some of it would land on the ceiling fan and then we got to race downstairs and turn on the fan and it would fling the clothes all over the room and some of the socks would stick to the TV!!!" They also had a movie day where they set up a theater in the family room, including sheets over the window to make it dark, made up tickets for popcorn and drinks, and invited the neighbor kids for the show. They missed us, but with Gram around, every day's a holiday!


And that's all I have to say about that!

(TPBQOTD: "Well when does it get good?"  "Keep your shirt on and let me read!")