My head is spinning round, my heart is in my shoes, yeah
I went and set the Thames on fire, oh, now I must come back down
She's laughing in her sleeve boys, I can feel it in my bones
Oh, but anywhere I'm gonna lay my head, I'm gonna call my home
-Tom Waits, Anywhere I Lay My head

Day One Hundred and Thirty Five October 30th

Today is a rainy day of sorts, almost always cloudy with a few sprinkles here and there.  We spend the morning at school and playing around the house.  At long last we are starting to feel settled in and get used to this Cape Town lifestyle.  It suits us after the run of constant activity we have had this past few months.  I am just now starting to feel a bit rested and relaxed.

Our big activity today takes us around to the other side of Table Mountain to Kirstenbosch Gardens.  On the drive over the skies get darker and darker and the weather much more ominous, but we forge on.  There is a heavy mist when we arrive.  The place is absolutely beautiful.

The gardens are set on the side of a hill sloping up towards the rim of Table Mountain.  They were first set aside as gardens way back around 1900.  However, people had been planting and farming here since the early 1600s so much of the landscape has been worked for centuries.  

I am not sure why we like it so.  Perhaps it is the gentle mist or maybe the peace and quiet.  There are indigenous grasses, plants and trees in various stages of bloom.  A whole section is devoted to medicinal plants with detailed descriptions of their ability to cure ailments of every conceivable type.  Sadly and maybe only in Africa, there is a large sub section for plants used in fighting AIDS and AIDS related issues. 

Here’s why:  There was an estimated 5.7 million people living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa in 2009, more than in any other country. It is believed that in 2008, over 250,000 South Africans died of AIDS. Prevalence is more than 15 percent among those aged 15-49, with some age groups being particularly affected. Almost one-in-three women aged 25-29, and over a quarter of men aged 30-34, are living with HIV. The national average of all persons is around 10%.

Think about that.  

Now link the epidemic to the living conditions in the shantytowns and you start to get a picture of the undercurrents here in ZA. As I have said all along this is a hard place to get a handle on.

The garden also has a brail trail that runs through the woods past wild almond trees and through ferns and berry bushes.  There are a series of ropes running at waist height that you hold on to as you walk with closed eyes to get an idea what it is like to be blind.  For those that actually are blind they have signs in brail to help guide and fill in what is around various resting spots.  Adele takes it all very seriously and does a great job navigating her way around.  

At the very top of the hill we branch off on the “Skeleton Canyon” trail looking for “bamboos.”  It is a fun hike down on a pretty stretch of single track.  Luckily all the “bamboos” leave us alone.  Late in the afternoon we stop off for a hot chocolate and a cookie at the guesthouse before heading back home.  

We were all very excited to be part of the “Scuarium” Halloween festival at the Cape Town Aquarium.   The kids get all dressed up: Adele in her belly-dancing outfit from Turkey and Vinny in his Stars and Stripe American Flag pajamas.  However, when we get there we discover they sold out online and refuse to let us in.

It is like a bad dream as a parent.  We stand there with two crying kids, clearly crushed they could not trick or treat and missing one of the few things that remind them of home, talking to the “director” all of about nineteen who could care a less about any of it and is willing to do absolutely zippo for the traveling family far from home.  

The Cape Town tourist board should be ashamed.  I can tell you this: the one thing the kids will definitely remember is NOT being able to trick or treat at the Aquarium in Cape Town.  How infuriating to turn away an eight and four year old, both so full of hope and wonder.   

We drive back to the house, rent a movie, burn some popcorn and have a family movie night instead.  If only we had not picked Toy Story 3, its terrible, we turn it off half way though and call it a night.

Day One Hundred and Thirty Six October 31st

We are up to a beautiful morning of bright sunshine and clear skies. It is Halloween!  And after last night we are even more determined to find some trick or treating.  

Cape town has pretty much everything you could want as a traveling family: the options are endless.  Today we are heading off to the Indian Ocean to see a small fishing village and catch a Halloween parade we found in one of the “Things to do in Cape Town with kids” magazines.  

The coastline on this side of the peninsula is beautiful.  The beaches are built for surfing with endless swells and wind swept shorelines.  I can only imagine a hot summer day when the place must be packed with people.  Or maybe not.  We are finding that South Africa has plenty of room for all.  

Lunch is in the town of Kalk Bay, a small single lane town with a jetty shielding a fleet of fishing boats.  Our restaurant, Live Bait, sits on rocks so close to the ocean that waves crash into the windows at high tide.  It’s excellent, fish so fresh it comes off the boats and straight into the kitchen.

For those that remember winding away a few happy hours at Live Bait in NYC I assure you this was an entirely different experience.  Though if they added frozen margaritas to the drink menu the place would really rock.

Vince has been wearing his Spiderman pajamas all day in anticipation of the Halloween parade.  Adele has her belly-dancing outfit from Istanbul all ready to go as well in the event it all works out this time.  Muzenburg won’t know what hit them!  The Americans are coming, and we own Halloween!

We pull up to a nondescript building off the main road running through town.  We could not find the road we are looking for so after several attempts I finally stop and asked for directions.  “Just passed the robot down there you turn right,” she says.  Robot?  “Yes, the robot, go there to the bot and turn right and then right again after the tracks.”  Sorry, are you making fun of me?  She smiles and waves.  A robot, as it happens to be, is a traffic light.  Who knew?  

The gymnasium is crowded when we get there and it gets more so over the next half hour.  It seems the entire town is here.  By the time we start out on the parade there must be hundred people.  

It is all very bizarre.  There seems to be a leader of sorts, a big guy in a leather jacket and a mesh halter-top with a huge beer belly hanging out.  He is pierced pretty much everywhere.  Then there are a bunch of others wandering along, some may be in costume but then again maybe not.  It is like one of those very uncomfortable dreams where everything is off kilter.  

Adele notices that the kids here are “all dressed as scary things.”  Back home they are “nice and go as princesses and fairies, good things.” Here they are all in black and wearing something out of a horror movie.  There are a number of scary witches, people with various wounds, bleeding from various places.  One guy has an ax in his head with fake blood everywhere (he is one of the fathers), a girl has a big safety pin through her nose with fake blood on all sides.  It is all very dark and gruesome.  Both of our kids looked concerned.

In the end they each manage to get a few treats so all is right with the world.  After a long day, we eat our few pieces of candy on the ride home, talk about the differences between here and the States, and wonder if anyone filled in for the annual Halloween party we through each year.  We love that party: it is one of our favorite times and highlights of the year.

It has been a good day but a hard one as well.  Holidays away form home are tough.  We all fall off to sleep a bit homesick, missing a normal life with friends around to share in the times we have together. 

Day On Hundred and Thirty Six November 1st

The weatherman doesn’t lie here in Cape Town and today, as predicted, is our best beach day yet.  We wake to a brilliant, sunny, cloudless sky.  

After an hour or so of school we are ready to go back to Boulder beach and swim with the penguins!  It is unbelievably cool.  The beach is formed from giant boulders that are stacked upon one another and spread out along the coast.  They create this natural cove, protected from the winds and high surf.

We spend all day here lounging around, swimming in the Indian Ocean, building sandcastles and watching penguins.  They have a restaurant with excellent food for lunch and a small store where we buy assorted penguin paraphernalia. 

It is a long day in the sun and worth every minute. We wind down back at home with Teri at a yoga class, the kids and I cooking dinner and everyone in bed for and early night.

Swimming with penguins!  Can you imagine?

Day One Hundred and Thirty Seven November 2nd.

All good things much come to an end.  Teri announces at breakfast that today is our last day in Cape Town.  We planned to spend one more day but a room cleared up the road in one of the B&Bs she has targeted and we are out of here.  However, there is much to do before we bid our farewells.

First off we have a bunch of logistics.  We head to the crafts mart for some gift shopping which leads to the need to find shipping back to the States.  I also need to stop by the rental car place to sort out billing issues and extend the rental for another week.  On top of that we are waiting on a fed-x package from home that is to arrive at the place we already checked out of and we need to squeeze in a trip to Robben Island to do the whole Mandela thing.  That coupled with a two-hour drive and the stress levels crank up a bit.  

The trip to Robben Island takes us by surprise.  You start by boarding a boat and ferrying across the bay.  The waves are bigger than you think they are going to be and the boat rocks for most of the crossing.  It’s a half hour ride to freedom or captivity depending on the direction you are headed.  When we arrive at the port there are big pictures of prisoners being unloaded and their guards watching over them.  When we bought the tickets we sort of forgot that we were going to a prison.  It brings up a lot of eight-year-old questions.

Our guide is an ex-political prisoner held here in the mid-90s.  It is strange to walk through the halls of the prison and hear him say, “this is where we were kept” or “this is where we were beaten.”  He decided that the peaceful resistance targeted against the way public education was being taught to blacks was taking too much time to foster change so he skipped across the border with the ANC and trained as a militant leader.  Upon return, and getting into some trouble I assume, he was picked up and sent here after being held for six months in detention.  The six months did not sound pretty.

It is odd to stand here with him now after all he went through.  He does seems at ease and content with his current lot in life. It is however hard to place him in the context of the Mandela story. Is a militant political prisoner, one trained in violent tactics, a martyr or a criminal?  It’s a struggle to sort it all out.

The prisoners were the ones that rallied to turn the island into a national park so I guess in many ways the place is testament to the struggle for freedom.  The fact that it held the leaders of the resistance movement here, pretty much in isolation, for such long sentences, strikes a note in all of us.  Mandela was here for eighteen years then another seven on the mainland.  That is a long, long time.

By later afternoon we are camped out in a Thai restaurant across from the lobby of the cottage place (they closed at 5p) waiting for the FedEx guy.  Do not believe the FedEx ads you see on TV.   Their service overseas is terrible.  I mean really, really bad.  They don’t show.

We track them down by begging our way on to the restaurant’s wifi system (our blackberry battery died) and finding them via Skype.  Turns out they have our package at the airport, sounds simple enough, so we head off to pick it up.  

Cargo at the Cape Town airport is not easy to find.  We wander aimlessly for an hour or so before we bump into the place by chance. God does watch out for fools and drunks.  By 7p we are on our way.

Our next stop is another home stay in Franschhoek, a pretty little town in the heart of South African wine country.  I am sure the drive was beautiful.  Just not at night with three other tired and weary passengers.  

The house is well worth the early move.  This self-catering travel really works well if you hit it right.  You end up with a house for the price of a mid-range hotel.   This one sites just off the main street, has three bedrooms, a great kitchen and CNBC on the cable system.  What more can you ask for?

Day One Hundred and Thirty Eight November 3rd
It is so nice to wake up after a good nights sleep in clean crisp sheets.  These are the things you miss the most while on the road.  So far in South Africa sheets seem to be a priority.  I guess good Egyptian cotton and cheap labor make all the difference.  

In the light of day our house is even better than we expected.  They have a large farm table perfect for school and an Internet Café around the corner.  I know, I can see the emails already, by way of defending the use of the “public Internet” we have been off the grid and need to get back on to secure reservations for the next few nights.  The Internet Café is a necessity.  We pray they do not hack into our Google accounts.

The boxes still need mailing.  I venture to the post office to try and send them back home.  The long poster size tube with four wooden men goes off with out a hitch.  The big box of stuff is another story.  They have two classes of mail, the first a slow boat that may or may not get there.  This one cost a few bucks.  The second is the one they tell you will get there but it costs a bit more.   Teri and the kids are back home and I can’t remember what is in the box and I forget if it has to get home or not.  A decision has to be made.  I opt for the “this one will get there” service and walk out two hundred dollars poorer.  I am still not sure how it happened.  

By mid-day we have planned and reserved the camps in Kruger, picked up cheap tickets for Jo’Berg and rented a four-wheel drive to chase lions, all in all a productive couple of hours.

We need to split up so I can focus on some CallMeCuff logistics back home and write up a complaint against the Cooking Vacations people that took advantage of us (and all of our money) back in Tuscany.  When we do Teri and the kids go to a gator farm to check out the crocs.

There is much excitement when they return.  The gator farm sounds like it was some sort of breading place for gator meat, a local favorite around here.  Regardless, the kids had a blast and “culling” the gators “at a certain size and age” can be easily explained away.  Sort of.

This was Teri’s first drive since the Fiat 500 way, way back in Edam.  With the steering wheel being on the “wrong” side of the car and all I ask how it went. Everyone bursts out at once.  Apparently the hubcaps are in the front seat because of the “rock” or maybe a “bump” or perhaps a “hole”.  Nothing to worry about they all say.  Just going a bit fast over a bump.  When I go out to put the hubcaps back on they don’t fit because the rims are bent on both tires on the drivers side.

For some context, another reason I needed to see the car rental people was to review the American Express insurance policy to avoid paying the supplement rates they are convinced they need to charge me.  I have been dealing with Amex and the Europcar folks for the better part of two weeks and final got it sorted out today.  I cancelled it.  Just before the hubcaps came home in the trunk.  We can’t get a break.  Maybe they won’t notice.  Teri is sure that the hubs were bent before we left. I tie them on with the kids string and hope for the best.

It is Election Day back home.  We have no idea what is going on and honestly don’t really mind.  My Google headlines fill me in on the important stuff like we failed to legalize marijuana in California.  Other than that it seems to be business as usual.  Someone won and another lost.  No one is working.  House prices are plunging and the mood is grim.  Glad to be here instead of there, we picked a good year to get out of Dodge.

The guy that rents the house we are in has a sitter service (actually it turns out our sitter works as his house cleaner) and we have booked Julie for a few hours so Teri and I can grab dinner.  She looks a bit shell shocked when we leave but she has a few of her own so it all works out.  

Dinner is a few blocks away at a nice place with average food and great wines.  None of the details matter, a nice dinner with just the two of us is priceless these days. 

Day One Hundred and Thirty Nine November 4th

It poured late last night and the roof of the house is corrugated steel.  I ended up sleeping downstairs in the back room (too many people in one bedroom) but Teri and the kids took the storm full on. It raged and was unbelievable loud.  Somehow, Vince and Adele slept through it all.

We skip school today and instead catch a quick breakfast and start one of our longest driving days yet.  Today we are on The Garden Route to The Crags, a seaside resort near Plettenberg Bay up the coast almost 500K.

The drive is uneventful.  It takes forever but for the most part it is a blur, kilometers slide on by.  The countryside here is some of the most beautiful we have seen anywhere.  Farmland stretches for miles, blue herons stand in freshly cut fields, sheep and cattle graze about.  Honestly, it doesn’t look real.  It’s like a landscape captured in heavy oils by one of the Masters. If you saw it hanging in the MET or the Louvre you would think it imagined. 

By the time we get to Hog Hollow, an Inn at the end of a long narrow road, it is half past six and we have been driving all day.  Everyone is exhausted.  

Sometimes in life you wonder why thing happen the way they do.  You get hit with the unexpected and it lifts you up.  The sense of surprise and wonder sort of shock and startle you.  This is what happens when we check in.

Let me first say that we booked a “family room”.  Or at least we booked a room suitable for a family.  

When the check in guy comes out to get in our car to drive to our room we all sort of grumble that we would like to be close to the main house with the pool.  The guy just smiles and says not to worry we are close.  We leave the main property and head about two hundred meters down the road.

“Turn in your driveway” he says. Did he way our driveway?  The house is probably the closest we have come to a dream home.  It’s bigger than our place back home.  It has a “family room” complete with pool/ping pong table, beanbag chairs and dragon kites.  There are two rooms and baths upstairs one for each kid.  

The main room has a wall of folding sliders that open on to a deck that overlooks the jungle.  There is a private infinite pool.  The kitchen is fully stocked.  There are two or three fireplaces.  I could go one forever.  I actually say to the guy, “Is this all for us or are we sharing?”  He just smiles.

Somehow we must be on a list.  The one they take out for road weary travelers in search of some down time and relaxation. The one that says these people need some space, some room to spread out a bit.  It is reserved for the ones living together every minute, twenty four seven, for one hundred and thirty nine days. I have no idea how we got on it but I pray we never drop off. 

Later that evening while we stand on the deck we can hear the voices of a local gospel choir bounce off the treetops. They come over to the lodge to share traditional African folks songs.  Now I truly understand the inspiration for Paul Simon’s Graceland.  Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose.
Day One Hundred and Forty November 5th

It’s raining.  Not that we care.  We don’t plan on leaving the house.  Actually we do try and see a Cheetah Reserves but it’s raining too hard so we pick up some supplies and retreat back home.  The cats can wait.  

VCC: There are flamangos there?
DAD: Mingos, fla- mingos Vince
VCC: No dad, it’s mangos, fla – mangos, the birds

It is a prefect day to simply sit in front of a roaring fire.  

For dinner they have arranged a sitter so we can have adult conversation at the main house.  How nice it is to be out and about with others without distraction.  This is the first time in a long, long time.   

As luck would have it I find a seat next to an older lady from Holland that I cannot understand.  I struggle to pull conversation out of her.  Teri gets to sit next to a guy who is in pharmaceutical sales in the UK and is starting a business to coach the mental side of golf.  Everything happens for a reason.

On my end of the table I notice that some of the men describe themselves as “working for and American company” like it is a badge of honor in some way.  They don’t discuss professions and skirt around which American companies but you get the sense they are all sizing each other up.  I freak them out and totally confuse them.  

Teri’s guy is into some organic, linguistic, life balance program something or another.  He describes it as a transforming personal philosophy or an approach to life that changes your entire outlook on things.  I am in but I’ll pass on the week long off sites.  Been there, done that.  Basically all the mumbo jumbo boils down to this: you are the one who decides where to go.  The good doctor is always right: sometimes you just need to hear a second opinion.  Same bat time, same bat channel.

You can choose to be happy, sad, playful or frustrated.  You are in charge not the situation.  It strikes a cord.

At this point in the trip we are all getting a bit tired of each other.  Vince is constantly asking if we can go home. Adele doesn’t come right out and ask but you can tell she is thinking it.  The contact with the kid’s friends back home is really minimal and they are feeling a true sense of loss: one we cannot replace.  

You would think that they would meet other kids as we travel but it’s not like that, only an occasional playmate at some random pool. We are not in one place long enough to truly settle in so we have not met many others traveling with kids thus far. Ours are feeling very much isolated and alone.  The same goes for Teri and I.  I hope it all changes with the six months in NZ.  As a parent and a participant you feel the pain.  

Hang ups and bangs ups do happen to us.  


These are the roots of rhythm, 
And the roots of rhythm remain.  - Paul Simon, Under African Skies, Graceland

Day One Hundred and Twenty Eight October 23rd

This alarm system will be the death of me.  I can’t sleep with the thing on because I am convinced something is going to set it off and we are all going to be freaked out in the middle of the night.  Then again, I can’t sleep with the thing off because Marko the house manager put the fear of God in all of us that people are standing in the shadows just waiting to break in.  This leaves only one option: stay awake as much as possible and worry about the alarm.  Not a good way to get by day to day.

Instant coffee does the trick.  I am actually learning to enjoy the instant coffee.  This is a shock to those that know me well.  The secret is to put a bunch of spoonfuls in so it gets a strong as possible.  Sugar helps.  I am convinced that they put instant into the French Press pots at the hotel in Cairo.  There were no coffee grounds in the French Press pots there.  How can that be? Plus it was painfully weak coffee.   It had to be instant. 

After school this morning we load up the car and start to drive the coast.  Once you get out of the city you immediately notice two things: (1) the shantytowns with intense poverty and (2) the beauty of the land.  

I will take them in reverse order.  The landscape is stunning.  When you get away from the populated areas the natural surroundings are still relatively untouched.  There are no billboards or electric lines, housing developments or random suburbs.  Not by LA standards anyway.  You notice that there aren’t any roads connecting places.  The only road is the one we are traveling on. Occasionally you see a dirt side road or we come across some random intersection but other than that it’s just our “highway” (two lanes, max speed 120K on the straightaway).

The poverty is really intense.  South Africa is deceiving: one minute you are in suburban paradise the next a ghetto of cardboard boxes.  In the back of your mind you know that this world exists: the apartheid and segregation issues.  But somehow you think it is all better or fixed in some way.  Don’t let the waterfront and the new stadium fool you.  It isn’t. 

These towns of cardboard and corrugated steel rise up as stark reminders.  At first sight you cannot believe people are living in them.  It is unbelievably congested with huts and boxes and simple square shelters made out of all kinds of materials.  There are old highway signs, cardboard appliance boxes, random pieces of wood, tents, sheets and blankets, all stacked together, leaning into each other for support.  It looks like one good storm would wipe the place clean.  

The crazy thing is that there are electricity lines running everywhere and there is a sense of permanence about the place.  It feels as if generations have been passed through here, raising families and living out their lives.  There is a clear and present danger to those of us looking in from the outside, but it seems not as much so to those looking out.  Then again what do I know: I am just driving by at 120K.

Garbage is piled randomly with out apparent rhyme or reason, though there must be some method to the madness.  I have no idea how they handle sewage.  There does seem to be a central area with block cement buildings.  These may be community, water and waste centers but it is hard to tell.

The other crazy thing is that these areas are so contained.  The towns are large but they seem to exist within set boundaries. The closest I can come to it is Cabrini-Green on the North side of Chicago when I lived in Lincoln Park back in the early 90s.  At that time you literally walked one block over and you were in a radically different world.  The same hold true here. One minute you are driving along looking a pristine countryside, the next you are passing by some of the most disturbing living condition in the world.  This is a strange country.

At lunchtime we find ourselves in the town of Noodhoek looking for horses to ride on the beach.  To give an idea of the scope of things here, they have 8K of unspoiled beachfront for riding.  I don’t think we have 8K of unspoiled beachfront left in all of the US. It turns out we need reservations for the ride so we cannot go today.  All is not lost though as we find a great little shopping/play area with an excellent brunch place.  It feels very much like Carmel or maybe Mill Valley up in Northern California.  

After lunch we continue on our way to the Cape of Good Hope.  This is another “biggy” for those of us ocean freaks out there.  It is the notorious Cape route that opened the trade links between Asia, Africa and Europe.  We are psyched.

The Baboon Crossing sign makes us stop and reverse the car to make sure we read it correctly.  Then sure enough, a large one comes walking up the road.  Baboons!  In the wild, not caged, just walking around looking for something to eat.  Vince is calling them “Bamboos” and Adele “Bambooms.”  There is much excitement in the car with all of us talking at once and all calling them something different.  Teri is trying to snap photos and I am trying to roll up the windows, press the door locks and not to run into them.  Baboons, really, walking down the street.

The drive to the Cape is majestic with big, wide-open spaces and wind swept landscapes.  If the end of the world had an address this might be the place.  The land mass gets narrower and narrower the farther out we go.  I understand why they used to think the world ended at this waterline.  From the tip of the point there is nothing but ocean as far as the eye can see.  

We drive the climb up to main lighthouse that sits on top of the final peak.  The kids and I take a cable car up to the very top and explore the observation decks carved into the mountainside.  These are old rock walls and platforms used for a few hundred years to call out to boats as they attempted to pass by.  Over six hundred and fifty recorded wrecks lie beneath the waves.  With the winds and waves you get a clear sense of how dangerous a journey it is.

Down at the shoreline they formally mark the Cape coordinates with an official sign so we head off to take a few photos and walk amongst the crashing waves.  As we drive in we notice that big necks with beaks are watching us.  Ostriches.  There are big wild ostriches, walking around and checking things out.  They are enormous birds, much bigger than we are.  It’s a bit scary to see them standing roadside waiting for you to get out of the car to see if you are indeed ostrich food.  Once again I feel the need to lock the doors and windows.

Our last stop of the day is Boulder Beach the home of wild African penguins.  Adele has always loved penguins and she can barely contain herself on the way over.  When we get there it is almost unnatural to see them sitting around in the wild.  Your instinct is to pick them up and call the zookeeper.  

They are all over the place: in the water, on rocks, under trees, all along the boardwalks.  Adele teaches us everything she knows about penguins.  It is amazing to see her so passionate and excited.  We have a great time and vow to come back to swim with them at the beach if it warms up a bit during our stay.

After a long afternoon we head back to our compound, eat in, watch some Animal Planet and call it a day.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Nine October 24th

Today turns into a rest and logistics day.  In the morning we have school, fill in our journals, lounge about the house and play an extended game of cars.  

By mid-morning we venture back into the city for lunch at the Waterfront Pier and an extended shop for necessities.  

Evening finds us on the couch watching Planet Earth.

This is our goal for these next few weeks, to slow down and regroup. We need some extended R&R.

Day One Hundred and Thirty October 25th

Up to more sunshine and wind.  This is one of the windiest spots we have experienced to date.  It never stops and the sudden bursts are really strong and powerful.  At one point I overhear Teri telling Adele that the constant “winds can drive people crazy.”   It’s time to move over the hill.

We are city people at heart and feel the need to be in Cape Town to fully experience all it has to offer.  Luckily we found the De Waterkand Cottages online.  They are in De Waterkand a largely gay neighborhood that climbs up from the base of the hill leading up to Signal Mountain. 

The company has fifteen or so houses spread though out the neighborhood.  The owner, Richard and his partner have been building up the business over the past eight years.  They own six or seven houses with the rest owned by out-of-towners and managed by them.    We have a great time touring five of six to see if we can find one that will work for the four of us.  We do and it is available tomorrow morning.  Decision made: we will stay another week in Cape Town. 

The kids are wound up so we try to go to Table Mountain to burn off some energy.  By the time we arrive the cable car is closed.  If you keep driving past the main station the road goes on for another half mile or so before stopping due to a large rockslide that knocked out a lane and a half.  You can however continue on foot.

Adele and I brave the winds and walk along the deserted road.  It is great fun.  We wander as father and daughter, keeping a watchful eye out for “bambooms”, talking about Apartheid and Robben Island (sitting just off shore in the distance), trying to figure out how people actually live in cardboard boxes, wondering where the winds come from (Antarctica I am told) and making up whale jokes.  It is the perfect moment.  

To celebrate our last night in the  “alarm house” we head down to Camps Bay for dinner.  Our restaurant, Blues, sits just across the street from the beach and has incredible sunset views.  The food is good but expensive.  Camps Bay wants to be the Hamptons of Cape Town but instead feels like a mix between the seeder side of the Cape and nicer parts of the Jersey Shore.  It has a preppy appearance with a gritty undertone.  Not our style.

Day One Hundred and Thirty One October 26th

We are so excited to be leaving Camps Bay and the “alarm house” that we are up and out by 9a.  If we thought we could have moved in early we would have left at 6a.  By the time we settle in to our new place it is close to 10a.  

Adele and I walk across the street to do a food shop and check out the local shopping area. How great is that?   We are just a few steps to a great grocery store. This is exactly what we are looking for.

The De Waterkand neighborhood has been gentrified over the past decade and is a collection of one and two story row houses.  The streets are cobblestone with tree lined and the there is a constant buzz of activity.  With a Yoga studio around the corner and the city sights in walking distance from our front stoop we feel right at home.

Determined to get to the top of Table Mountain and anxious to take advantage of another stellar day, we once again head up to the cable car to see if we can hitch a ride.  Today we are in luck.

Table Mountain is a “must see” for good reason.  It rises up and towers over the city.  The top looks like it was severed off with one quick blow leaving a clean, flat “table” upon which you can wander around and explore all sides of the mountain.  The views are incredible.

The most interesting to me is Robben Island, sitting just off the coast.  To think that Mandela spend eighteen years imprisoned there looking out to where we are standing as a focal point for strength and hope is both thrilling and disturbing in a way.  It is hard to form opinions of South Africa without context.  We need to get a better understanding of the trials and tribulations of this land.  

We hike along the ridge and learn about the shipwrecks and the sacrifices men made to round the Cape of Good Hope.  We see the three-meter high cairn used to make early calculations of the arc of the earth. The city and new stadium gleam down below basking in the sunlight.  It is windy and cold even on this glorious day: I can not imagine what it is like in stormy rain and gale force winds, especially on a ships deck.

In early evening we head back to our new house for a home cooked meal and early to bed.  

Vince is bleeding again. The red line runs down the back of his head and seeps out into the blond hair.  Do we go to the emergency room?  After much debate back and forth we decide not to go.  Back home, under insurance, we would have been in for a few stitches in a heartbeat.  Out here we are a bit more cautious not sure exactly what awaits us in the ER.  Besides it is not that deep and head wounds always bleed a lot.  The call could go either way: hopefully we made the right one.

Day One Hundred and Thirty Two October 27th

The wind is still blowing.  I don’t believe it has stopped since we arrived a week ago.  The only thing to do in these circumstances is to turn your attention indoors and go bowling!  Yes that’s right we are going bowling!

The lanes are on the other side of town tucked into a video arcade place in the basement of a strip mall.  Perfect.  It is supposed to be “duckpin” but we may have confused that with “ten pin.”  Either way, the lanes are long and the balls are heavy.  

But not too heavy for Vincent the Strong!  He has a dark green ball and Adele the Bowler has a light green one.  They put up lane guards so it is impossible to throw a gutter ball.  Bank shots add a whole new dimension and make the game so much more interesting.  We have a great time.  

The afternoon is spent napping, Teri doing a Yoga class, the kids get ice cream, we all cook pasta, the kids take a long hot bath and finally we wind down to a good nights sleep.  

It is nice to be settled and living a semi-normal life without the constant movement.  At times it feels unnatural and takes some getting used to again.  You almost need to reacquaint yourself to the day to day.  Then again, just as you settle in, you remember that there are “bamboos” lurking about.   

Day One Hundred and Thirty Three October 28th

The town of Hermanus is about a two-hour drive.  After breakfast and school we head out to see if we can find some whales.  This harbor is now world famous for offering the best land based whale viewing.  We have some inside scoop from a fellow traveler that the place is teeming with whales.  

The drive is another mix of beauty and poverty, the ying and yang of South Africa.  It is hard to take in and synthesize the opposing points of view.  

Hermanus is a pretty little seaside town that is all about the whales.  They have a guy, the Whale Crier, who stands around and blows a horn every time he sees one in the bay.  Apparently he is one of the most photographed images in all of ZA (yes, it si ZA not SA, no idea why).  His horn is silent when we arrive.

Where are all the whales?  We thought they would be lined up like SeaWorld waiting to pose for photos.  Did someone forget to fill them in?  No whales from what we can see.  

Then a big one sticks its flipper up in the air.  The thrill of seeing such a large creature in the wild is really incredible.  These are southern right whales and humpbacks, big ones, swimming around and having fun.  

For the kids (and parents) it is a lesson in patience.  You need to sit and watch the horizon or you miss them.  It takes time and energy to sit and whale watch.  Especially when you are four.  It’s a bit easier when you are almost nine.  

Satisfied with our whaling experience we grab a bite to eat cliff side and then head back to the city.  At one pint during lunch Adele and Vince wander across the street, staying in our line of sight, to get a better look at some whales. When they do an older lady approaches us to ask, “Are those your children?”  We say yes and start to talk about how fun it is to see whales and such.  She cuts us off, “In this country, never, ever, leave them alone like that.”  Startled, Teri mumbles something about being able to see them, and she cuts us off again, “Never leave them like that: not here, it is very, very unsafe.”  They are no more than twenty-five yards away.  The undercurrent here is so strong.

At days end we are all exhausted.  Teri and Adele are so tired they skip yoga class!  That’s OK though, Bilbo Baggins, Thorin and Company need to face up to their fears and deal with Smaug the dragon…

Day One Hundred and Thirty Four October 29th

Teri is a bit under the weather today so after school the kids and I head over to the waterfront park for a few hours of “gym class.”  The wind is still howling but we manage to stay grounded and burn off some energy.  We meet a nice lady that tells us it is usually beautiful this time of year and rarely this windy.  Not sure I believe her!

After traveling for two hours yesterday in search of whales it turns out we have some of the best viewing right in our own backyard.  There are two big ones surfacing about fifty yards from shore.  They are something to behold.  

The playground is part of the newly completed Green Point Stadium complex.  The stadium is very impressive.  I am told the cost came in at over four hundred million dollars.  The odd thing is that is now stands empty.  When I get into a discussion about it with one of the shop owners in the neighborhood he tells me there was much controversy with FIFA over the location.  

You need money to get here.  Parking is expensive and you need arrive by either car or public transport.  As a result, they don’t actually have a team assigned to play in the stadium because they’re afraid it is too hard to draw enough people to keep the lights on.  Apparently South Africa did present the option to put the stadium further out of town and make it more accessible to the masses but FIFA pushed the country and eventually got their way.  It’s a shame; the four hundred million dollars could have gone a long way towards upgrading the shantytowns.

We decide to make mom some chicken noodle soup to make her feel better so Adele and I head off to pick up the fix’ens at the market.  We spend an hour or so walking around the shops checking things out and talking to the owners.  Two conversations stand out.

The first is at the climbing store about a brand called Sherpa, made in Nepal.  This is a small company just starting to branch out into new markets and run by two American guys with local Nepalese workers.  They are creating products and selling them with the goal of upgrading the lives of their worker force.  This is right up my alley.  I need to research them a bit and see what they are up to.

The second is with an Austrian guy that runs a local weaving shop making hand loomed rugs. He is training and employing local women to work in his shop.  They are the main breadwinners for their families.  

Adele and I are drawn in to see the differences between hand looming and weaving via knots as we saw in Turkey.  This leads us into a discussion on travels and comments on Cape Town.  The comment that strikes me most is that he says, “We are living on a powder keg.” In response to my comments on the poverty he let’s us know that Cape Town is one thing on the surface and something entirely different underneath.  As we part the store he shrugs, tells us to be very careful, shakes his head and says, “such is South Africa.”

“It never got this hot in Brooklyn. It's like Africa hot. Tarzan couldn't take this kind of hot." - Matthew Broderick, “Biloxi Blues,” 1988

“I can tell you the license plate numbers of all six cars outside. I can tell you that our waitress is left-handed and the guy sitting up at the counter weighs 215 pounds and knows how to handle himself. I know the best place to look for a gun is the cab of the gray truck outside, and at this altitude, I can run flat out for a half mile before my hands start shaking. Now why would I (need to) know that?"
--Jason Bourne (Matt Damon), "The Bourne Identity," 2002 

Day One Hundred and Twenty One October 16th

Teri and Adele are out at the crack of dawn.  Vince and I roll over and get out of bed closer to 8a, much more our style. We wander down to the buffet, have breakfast and pass the time discussing various episodes of the Backyardagins.   

By 11a Teri and Adele are back, our bags are packed and we are heading out back towards Amman with a stop planned to swim/float in the Dead Sea.  One of the things on Dad’s list of trip highlights.

It is just one of those travel days.  We drive on the Kings Highway, an ancient travel route running up and down Jordan.  The road is two lanes wide, sort of, and winds through a number of small towns.  The signs are impossible to decipher making it hard to follow the route in places.  Getting lost on small side roads is not recommended.  It feels less welcoming out here.

We search for the crossroad heading towards the Dead Sea but cannot seem to find it.  An hour or so in the drive feels fairly far off the beaten path, not many fellow tourists around, and the towns seem a bit rough and tumble for our liking (meaning no place to stop for lunch), so we end up heading back to the main highway and calling it a day.  No Dead Sea for Dad.  I guess it is true that it’s best to leave something on the table as a reason to come back.

Four hours later we arrive once again at the Four Seasons for our final night in Amman.  Now that we are “regulars” we get a much nicer room with a little more space.  Everyone is ready for some swim time so we head down and order dinner by the pool.  Adele is swimming really well, doing alternate side breathing and more laps than Dad.  Vince has also come along way, leaving the sides and bobbing up and down on his own.

At days end we Skype back to the States and then fall off into a much-needed sleep.  It has been quite a week here in Jordan. 

Post script on Jordan:  This is an interesting country and we loved it.  We always felt safe but we were constantly on edge.  You really need to look at the glass as being half full.  If you look at it the other way you may never leave your hotel.  

The sights and history are staggering, some of the best we have seen thus far.  The people are wonderful to children, giving them gifts and engaging them at all times.  It’s funny, we spent almost three months in Europe and no one spoke to our kids.  As soon as we hit Turkey and now Jordan we find that the people here worship them.  We are constantly told how beautiful our family is, how wonderful the kids are and how much people love to engage us.   Folks actually cross the street to get a closer look and snap a photo.

On the half empty side the poverty is very intense.  People live in some of the worst conditions we have seen to date.  True, they may not know any other way of life, but poverty is still poverty no matter how you slice it.  Water and sewage are often a mystery.  Camels, sheep, goats and chicken living amongst people are common.  

Women are subservient to men.  Most are fully covered at all times.  People often address Teri to do things and then me for approval.  It’s as if the men make all decisions and the women must do all follow up, tasks and chores.  It is apparent and uncomfortable.  

Mosques are everywhere.  Not just in the town center like the churches in other parts of the world.  Here, the mosque is integrated into the fabric of daily life.  I bet the call to prayer can be heard from any point in the land.  People here pray all the time and almost everyone has a set of prayer beads in hand.  Islam is front and center and it clearly guides everything.  

We want to come back and go north up to Jerash, Umm Qays on the Syrian boarder and the Dead Sea.  If anyone wants in, lets us know…

Day One Hundred and Twenty Two October 17th

Nothing prepared us for this.

We are up for one last swim before take off.  We check out around 10a and head over to the airport to catch a flight to Cairo, Egypt.  The cab driver makes the forty-five minute trip in twenty minutes.  I am glad Allah is watching over his shoulder (and ours as well).  

The flight is on Egypt Air, a Star Alliance member so we get frequent flyer miles with United.  I mean how bad could it be?  The plane is so old that they still have ashtrays in the seats.  This is never a good sign.  When we take off part of the overhead compartment falls on top of Teri and kids.  No kidding, the part that holds the oxygen canisters in case of emergency actually falls in to their laps, a huge panel falls from the ceiling and dangles by wires swinging overhead.  No one seems concerned.    

They kids are freaked out.  

They manage to move us to new seats at the very back of the plane probably just so we can feel the full brunt of the horrible landing.  The pilot comes in way to fast, bounces and barely breaks in time.  

En route I overhear the following:
Lady from Chicago:  “Why can’t you just all be friends?”
Man sitting next to her: “These are our lives.”
Lady from Chicago: “It is so sad all the killing and fighting.”
Man sitting next to her: “There is to be no peace.”
Lady from Chicago: “But what about all those people in the hotels?”
Man sitting next to her:  no response, her question speaks volumes about her perspective, I am glad he is not armed. 

Welcome to Egypt.     

Thinking that we were being incredible efficient we spent every last JD at the Amman airport to avoid the currency exchange tariff.  Unfortunately, we forgot about the cost of the Visas to actually enter Egypt.  Fortunately, they have one ATM at the Visa Entry place.  Unfortunately, BOA will not agree to give us any money because my card is not supposed to be in Egypt.  Apparently it is supposed to be back in Los Angeles.  Not good.

We rummage through our bags to find $45 USD.  In the end we need to raid Adele’s secret supply of Save the Wolves money to pay our tab.  It is a collection of $10 bills from each country we have been to.  Luckily we only need the bill from the States but she starts crying uncontrollably none-the-less and Vince is now lying in the middle of the floor babbling randomly.  Chaos.

It gets worse.  When we get through baggage and customs we find our driver waiting with a sign.  This is good.  He then passes us off to another guy that will actually drive us to the hotel, not so good.  The car is actually a small van, falling apart, sort of air conditioned, cramped and crowded.  We all look very concerned.

The driver is very friendly or at least he sounds friendly as he goes on and on in Arabic about the things that pass by.  It is impossible to focus.  Cairo is insane.

There are people everywhere.  I had no idea what to expect with a population of twenty five million but it certainly was not this.  You can’t believe how many people there are.  They drive six lanes across on a four lane highway.  The side streets are worse. There are no lanes, rules or reason. There are people walking between cars, standing around in the middle of traffic, selling stuff, getting on and off buses so crowded they hang from window and doors.  There is little difference between street and curb. A herd of goats passes by.   

Trash is a natural part of the landscape.  There are piles of stuff everywhere.  Actually, everything is everywhere, without boundaries. There are no rules and little order.   I assume some of it is trash but it is often impossible to separate garbage from storage.  It is so filthy and dusty I can’t describe it.

The side streets off our main road are all dirt.  There are open fire pits, people cooking and washing and playing and sitting and living all in the dirt and mud on side streets in the middle of the city.  It is endless: going out in every direction as far as the eye can see.

The dust gets you before the air pollution.  It is so dusty that everything has a light layer of dirt.  You can see fingerprints on everything.  Your lungs feel heavy.  The car exhaust is overpowering.  The air pollution is acute. It is a radical environment.  Lights appear with glow rings around them from the haze. The heat holds all of it close to the ground.   My eyes are tearing.  I am actually afraid for our health.

It takes a lot to rattle us.  This shakes us violently.  It is deeply disturbing in everyway.  

The hotel security is cranked up.  They have gates, metal detectors, guards, guns and ammunition.  The difference between the hotel and the surrounding area is severe.  The contrast is so extreme it does not register: you can’t fully understand it.  

We have two rooms on the fourth floor with views of the Grand Pyramid.  Yes, we do see the pyramids on the way in but the drive is so overwhelming that none of us really notice.  It is hard to focus.

Everyone is on the take here.  They all come right out and demand tips.  Everyone that does anything for you asks you for money.  If you don’t give them enough they get mad and will not leave until you do.  It’s unnerving.
The kids are in shock because the Egyptians clearly don’t care about them as much as the Jordanians or Turks.  If I were in there shoes I would be totally confused.  One minutes you are the main attraction, the next almost invisible.  Plus, we will not let them wander more than an arms length from us without a firm and very tense call to fall back in line.  There is no margin for error here.

We need to lie down.  After a two-hour nap we rally, head to the pool for a late afternoon dip and then on to a quick dinner at the hotel.  The hotel is crowded and it is clear that no one goes off the property here.  

Did I mention its over ninety degrees?

Day One Hundred and Twenty Three October 18th

When we wake up and look out the window at the Grand Pyramid yesterday seems like a distant dream.  Sure it is hot and the air is thick and heavy at 8a but the hotel is air-conditioned and the rooms are very pleasant.  We wander over to our buffet breakfast and get they lay of the land.

We have one main objective here in Cairo: to see the pyramids and the Sphinx.  This is the only reason we came in and why we booked our hotel so close by.  The guy that brought us to our room said he would arrange a car to drive us to the park for $50 US.  Just for fun we check with the front desk to see if this sounds legit only to find out that we can walk next door to the entrance.  $50 US, be careful, everyone is on the take.

Vince is excited to see some more “old woodens.”  It took a while to figure this one out.  He is referring to “old ruins.”  As soon as we leave the compound they descend on us.  Within three steps a guy is trying to sell us camel rides.  On the walk over another guy tells us we are going in the wrong direction and suggests we follow him down a blind alley for a private guided trip.   We are reminded of the “not so goods streets.” Men follow us all the way to the entrance of the park trying to sell us something, anything.  When we finally pass through the main gate the police turn them back.

Buying tickets is totally confusing.  There are plenty of lines but we can’t seem to find the right one.  All of them lead to nowhere.  Eventually we end up with four tickets to the museum and one of the pyramids.  Then the guy letting people in tells us we don’t really need a ticket for Vince and he sends us back to get a refund only to then ask for half of the refund back in the form of a tip to let us all in.  Everyone here is working the system.

But none more so than the camel guys: they rig the system.  I have no idea how we ended up on top of camels posing for pictures.  It started when Teri bought postcards and needed change.  One of the camel guys came over to break a large bill (we should pay attention to prior lessons learned in the desert) and the next thing you know Adele and Vince are on a camel.  Then somehow I end up on Adele’s camel with her and they start to lead us off on a walking tour.  We politely and firmly refuse.  It sounds more like panic in our voices than anything else. 

They eventually let us down and demand payment.  When I give them a few dollars they suggest $20US.   When we try and explain that we told them we had no money they respond that we have a stack of cash in the moneybag.  So they carefully watched Teri pull out the bill earlier.  It is all very creepy.  Eventually we get away without paying them but they are really unhappy and everyone is a bit freaked out.   Including the kids.  It is clear we are in a different part of the world: very unfamiliar, uncomfortable and potentially unsafe. 

The pyramids are very cool.  It is amazing to stand before them and look up at four thousand year old feats of engineering.  It is mind boggling that such complexity was possible.  We tend to think that we are on the forefront of development.  I am not so sure.  The more we see and experience the more I believe that we are all moving forward incrementally around the edges but that the basic human elements remain largely unchanged.  

The most significant development in my mind seems to be the advent of the concept of a single god: a monolithic belief structure.  I am still struggling to work through an understanding of the big three (the Jews, Christians and Muslims) and how they all interrelate.  Wait until we get to Asia when the big three expands to the big five (The Hindus and the Buddhists) and the paradigm shifts yet again.

The rest of it is pretty much divided into the ebb and flow of the “haves” and the “have not’s.” Those that “have” rule, those that don’t, eventually try to take it away from them.  Outside of that, people just go about their business: Cairo, the Pyramids, Amman, Petra, Istanbul, Ephesus, Rome, Pompeii, Oslo, Eidfyord, Paris, Versailles, London, Stonehenge, New York, Mesa Verde.  The day to day is all the same.  We all wake up and put our flip flops on one foot at a time.

It must be the heat: there is much to think about standing at the base of the Grand Pyramid.

The Egyptians had it going on.  All of this splendor was for dead people, and as they say, “it is good to be king.”  We have tickets to go into pyramid number two and visit one of the king’s tombs.  At first it appears we have the wrong tickets but after some discussion we manage to talk our way in.  When you enter the tiny door and descend into the hot, stuffy passageway that gets smaller and smaller the deeper you go, the claustrophobia intensifies, though not if you are four or eight.

Vince is sprinting down the chute and Adele is close behind.  First we go down, then up, then over, then around, then up again, then back down a bit, we veer to one side, then the other and then finally we arrive.  It is a big empty chamber.  All of the stuff that was in here has been removed and placed in museums so we end up standing in an empty room somewhere in the middle of the pyramid.  It’s kind of weird in a way.  You sort of wish they put some fake stuff in just so you can get the sense of arriving somewhere.  We stay for a second or two then scramble back out.  The air is so thick we are dizzy.  I now understand the true meaning of “a light at the end of a tunnel.”  

With the temperature rising we push on to the Sphinx.  Yes, the big cat is still standing.  Reports of near total decay due to air pollution are pre-mature.  Its true the nose has crumbled a bit, but that’s to be expected after four thousand years of standing around in the desert heat.  My whole body is crumbling and we have been here less than twenty-four hours.  

On the way back up the hill we tuck in behind a large family.  This is a good thing as they provide some shelter from the hawkers.  Two sets of sisters fall in next to Adele and Teri and cautiously engage.  It turns out they are early teens and one speaks a few words in English.  Whenever they reach a level of understanding with Teri and Adele they fall back and start to giggle.  It is great fun.   

The walk back to the hotel is much the same as the one heading out.  People are trying to sell us something at every turn.  When we do walk through the gates of the hotel it is clear we will not be venturing out again today.  Instead we head down to the pool and order lunch.  We lounge around for a few hours before I get the wacky idea to head off the premises and try and buy some snacks and Coke Lights.  It must be the heat.

Crossing the street in Cairo is a full contact sport.  The “grocery store” that the hotel recommends is in the Mobil station across the main street.  Food and gas makes some sense I suppose, at least it is in the public eye.  

It all sounds easy enough in theory.  In practice the cars don’t stop.  Ever.  They keep coming and coming.  I try to cross on the corner but it’s impossible because the cars are all speeding up into a traffic circle to gain advantage. There is absolutely no room to negotiate.  I stand watching the locals for a while but the rhythm escapes me.  

Within minutes I am surrounded by guys trying to sell me something.  When they realize I am trying to cross the street they try to sell me an escort across.  When its apparent I am not going to buy anything they stand around watching what my next move will be.  At this point I basically have nowhere to go.  I can step into traffic or stand twitching on display.  Such fun is Cairo.

Somehow I manage to get across.  It isn’t pretty but I arrive on the other side in one piece.   The Mobil station speaks volumes.  There must be twenty gas pumps and each one is manned by a dedicated service person. No one is buying gas.  There are five or six extra guys doing clean up and landscaping.  Two more are washing windows.  Four policemen stand armed and in full uniform.  All of this is for an empty gas station with a Pizza Hut and a minimart.  The Pizza Hut is jammed with guys in suits.  It appears to be a popular upscale eatery.  There are way too many people here.

The rest of the day is spent napping, eating Indian food at the hotel (Vince actually falls asleep at the table!) and trying to sort out the ups and downs of Cairo.  We are all exhausted.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Four October 19th

We have a free day.  Anywhere else this would be a good thing: here I am not so sure.  The only other thing to see that we believe is “low risk” is the Egypt Museum.  This is the place where they put all the stuff from the empty pyramid we toured yesterday.  Getting there is our main concern.  And getting back as well.

It turns out we can hire a taxi for the day for $50 US.  Done deal.  The car will take us to the museum, wait around and then take us back.  No need to deal with hailing a cab.  It is the only way to go.

Our driver is a really nice young guy eager to up sell us on a full day of sight seeing.  We keep him on point and use the kids as an excuse to turn down the Mohammad Ali Mosque (everyone is quick to point out that this where Obama spoke when he came to Cairo), the Citadel and the open-air market.  I can’t even imagine an open-air market.  

While we drive I ask our driver about the vans with people hanging out the doors.  He tells me they are for the regular people and it costs about $.10 to ride anywhere in the city.  Our air-conditioned car runs us $50 to and from the museum.  It registers that our three hours can buy a lot of $.10 rides.  He goes on to say that it cost so little because everyone is so poor that they cant pay anymore so that’s what it cost.  Everyone is poor here, he says, everyone.

The museum is hard to imagine.  It looks like archeologists just dropped off stuff at the front door and drove off.  There are statues sitting in boxes, big stones wrapped in plastic, mummies pretty much everywhere.  The place is packed, there is no water, the restaurant is a thousand degrees and there is a dead cat lying in one of the statues in the garden.   It is unbelievable hot, the exhaust from the tour buses is overwhelming, the line to get in and out is chaotic and the signs to the Children’s Museum lead to an empty courtyard.

On the flip side, we do get to see King Tut’s tomb.  His headpiece is here as are his jewels and much of the burial chamber.  It is incredible to see the wealth and power. The carvings and paintings are equally impressive.  If you have time, patients and stamina this would be a great way to spend a day.  We have none of the above so we head back and try to recoup.  

I know this is not going to come across well and some may think we are to sheltered but it is near impossible to leave the hotel grounds here.  Especially with kids.  Perhaps if you come solo or as a couple you could manage it but the thought of trying to eat out or shop seems ludicrous.  

Our senses are overloaded.  

When we return all we can muster is a swim, a meal and an early goodnight.

Day One Hundred and Twenty Five October 20th

The good news is that we get to fly out of here today.  The bad news is that the flight is a red eye leaving Cairo at 11:30p and landing in Johannesburg at 8a with a four hour layover and then a connection to Cape Town at noon tomorrow.  Easily the longest travel day yet with nothing to do until flight time.

We get up and pack.  The hotel decides we need to be out of our rooms at noon instead of 6p as originally panned so we have nowhere to go for about six hours.  We turn towards the pool and arrive just in time for lunch.  

The old quote “mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun” must have come from an Egyptian, probably in Cairo.  We are not alone poolside.  The English are here in force.  Luckily the kids all congregate in a kids pool and soon enough Adele and Vince are off and away.  Teri and I try and deal with the sun and heat.  It is very, very, hot.

As it turns out London is a five-hour flight and many people come down for holiday.  This is why they are all sitting around the pool.  They are relaxing and enjoying the sunshine.  When I ask if they go off the property they look at me like I am out of my mind.

The six-hour pool stretch, broken up by a great lunch at the Italian restaurant onsite, works out just fine.  The kids get some quality playtime and interact with others: Teri and I can relax some and can actually have a conversation with out interruption.  At sundown we sneak in and shower in the spa, pull our bags from storage and catch our transport back to the Cairo airport. 

Darkness is falling when we get in the cab.  Traffic is stopped.  People are everywhere.  We move in tiny increments.  It’s painful and numbing.  We don’t say much on the drive.  Instead we all sit and look out the windows watching the world pass by.  It’s a difficult passage.  Two hours later we get out curbside and start our journey to Cape Town.

A few thoughts as we leave Cairo:  I am glad we came.  I don’t want to come back.  Cairo has become a new benchmark for me on so many levels.  These were the worst living conditions I have seen.  The poverty is severe, the desperation palpable. The difference between rich and poor is frightening.  There appears to be very little middle ground.  There is no more room.  I can’t convey just how many people there are here, what twenty five million looks like living day to day.  It fascinates me that people have been living here, in this spot, pretty much forever.  I try and understand but it is so foreign.  I am so thankful that we have what we do.

A thought as we leave the Middle East:  Never let your guard down.  Maybe it is traveling with two small children but I keep coming back to Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in that I always have one eye roaming, noticing, probing, assessing the situation and weighing options.  Or better yet, Al Pacino as Michael Corleone, always sitting with my back to the wall and eyes on the door.  It takes a tremendous amount of energy and focus. It is not for the faint of heart.  

Dim the cabin lights and take us to thirty five thousand feet… 

Day One Hundred and Twenty Six October 21st

We arrive in Johannesburg at 8a.  Vince fell asleep in the cab to the airport and slept straight through to landing.  Adele was not far behind.

Everything is going along smoothly until we check in for the Cape Town flight. Today is actually the 21st since we flew overnight.  When we booked our tickets we booked on the 20th, failing to take the overnight into account.  An easy mistake: not easily fixed.  

It seems our tickets were super restricted and completely non-refundable.  Getting any money back is impossible.  We can’t even apply them to another flight.   On top of that everything thing going into Cape Town is booked for the day.  Our only hope is to pay five times the current ticket price and fly in on something called Kulula Air.  

We do toy with our options: an eight hundred mile drive, an over night at the airport, or simply bursting out in tears.  In the end we do what you must do with two young kids, we write the check and get on the next Kulula flight.  

It is actually a very nice flight, the engines stay on and they keep the livestock underneath with the luggage.  The Cape Town airport is manageable and the cooler weather a welcome relief.

Did you know they drive on the wrong side of the road here?  Imagine my surprise when I sat down to start the rental car from the passengers seat.  This was totally unexpected.  Why do they do this the British?  What is wrong with them? Is it some kind of cruel joke on the rest of the world?  Crazy Brits.  No wonder the rental car guy kept insisting I rent an automatic.  The last thing you have bandwidth for is shifting when you are struggling just to stay on the right, err correct, side of the road.  

We have been talking about the Cape Town house since we booked it online via Home Exchange.  We so desperately want to have a week in a normal home doing normal things.  We need to learn to manage our expectations.

Let me first say that Cape Town is beautiful.  Our house is in a place called Camps Bay on one of the most beautiful beaches in town.  On the surface it sounds great, four bedrooms, lots of living space, a pool.  

When we pull up the first thing you notice is the big ADT security sign.  They are everywhere.  The house across the street has an electric guard wire atop the fence.  Five houses in a row are all for sale.  We have one in the middle.

It is clearly a rental house.  The carpets are really, really dirty.  The hardwoods are filthy with a layer of dirt and grim.  There is a hole in the couch fabric.  The place is huge, and the bathrooms are nice enough.  The kitchen has newer appliances and the pool is working but cold.  It is livable but not desirable.  We immediately start to try and back peddle to find something else.  It is too late, we pre-committed to a minimum of five days.

Within minutes I set off the alarm and can’t figure out how to reset it.  The ADT guys are there within five minutes apologizing for being late.  When Marko the house manager arrives we get a better understanding about security issues.  We must use the alarm. He keeps stressing this is a safe area but that we need to be careful.  Always park in the garage and lock the car.  Always lock the doors and windows in the house.  Turn on the alarm at night.  You can walk to town alone “but if someone follows you then immediately run up to any door, pound on it and cry out for help” He ends with “don’t worry, we all watch out for each other here.”

He scares us to death.

It’s late when we drive down the hill for a quick shop.  We are all very weary but with the security warning from Marko we are afraid to separate and leave half of us behind at the house.  Parking is difficult, the store is too small, and the labels are all foreign.   It has been a long, long, day.  

Hungry and tired we all head off to bed.  At 3:30a Teri get s up and trips the security beam which sets off the alarm.  The kids wake up and everyone freaks out.  I manage to shut the thing off, get dressed and go out to deal with the ADT guys.  This is not going to be the relaxing week we so much looked forward to. 

Day One Hundred and Twenty Seven October 22nd

After the alarm fiasco in the middle of the night I moved into the master bedroom so I can quickly reach the upstairs alarm control panel if need be.   You only have thirty seconds to call off the guards before the ADT guys start driving.  The kids moved in with Teri.  
At 6a the blackberry goes off so I can turn off the alarm system so everyone can get up to go to the bathroom without tripping the beams.  It is no use trying to fall back to sleep, I am too exhausted.

The sun is shining which always helps bring things into focus.  We are after all staying in one of the nicest neighborhoods in Cape Town with incredible ocean views at the foot of the Twelve Apostles and in the shadow of Table Mountain.  And even though it is puffy coat weather we do have a pool.  

Marko comes over to talk about the 3:30a alarm and give further direction on the beams.  When I ask about the parking guys that appear to be everywhere he says we should give them one rand as a tip for watching our car while we are away.  If they ask for more tell them “no.”  He goes on to explain that this is their only form of income and it is better than having them milling about begging.  For the record, one rand is worth about a $.15 – this is a very strange country.  

We have breakfast, drink instant coffee, spend some time doing schoolwork and pay some bills.  Around 11a or so we actually gear up and drive over the mountain into the city for lunch.  The waterfront is really great.  There are shops, restaurants, ice cream places, a working harbor, a crafts market and World Cup stuff everywhere.  The place is crowded with all kinds of people, seemingly from all over the place.  There is a group of guys singing and dancing traditional African music.  It is great fun.

Bank of America refuses to believe we are in South Africa despite numerous conversations giving detailed instruction as to our whereabouts.  I manage to hold up the line at the outdoor store for almost half and hour while trying to convince the BOA customer service representative in India to accept our charge in SA Rand.  I can’t stand BOA.

They have an excellent aquarium since this is the meeting place of the Indian and Atlantic oceans.  There are all kinds of marine life, notably the Great White shark and whales.  Both are common in this neck of the woods.  WE spend a few hours checking out sea creatures.

On the way back over the hill Vince lets out a big yawn and asks, “Dad, can we go home to Malibu, our real home?” Vin, we are going back to our house, the one over the hill.  “No, no, no, Dad, I mean our real home.  I want to go home.”