Aegean Bike Ride

So I had the vision of a bike ride along the Aegean Sea which it has been for a bit… (Lesbos Island in  the background)



Here’s part of our group at the edge of the Aegean Sea:



But mostly our trip has been in the Aegean mountains – which has been challenging, dramatically beautiful, and fun:





I love riding through the small villages tucked into the mountains:





And here’s a great afternoon break – ubiquitous Turkish tea and some other treats:



How lucky we feel to be riding with this guy for four more days!



p.s. If you want to see a cool article about Ben, Sheldon, and the Mtubatuba Football Academy, click here.


More Istanbul (if you want…)

I love watching magic shows. I know it’s all slight of hand and the cleverness of angles and mirrors and so many tricks, but I am there. All amazed. All enthralled.

One minute David’s not here. And the next he’s at our doorstep in Istanbul. Very magical. Of course there was that pesky detail of my locking us out of the apartment, waiting in the cold for the locksmith to arrive. Wishing I knew some magic to open a door. But that part was fixed by a man with a briefcase filled with tools to unlock anything. And we were off down the steep, narrow, cobbled road to a heated outdoor cafe for pizza, salad, and wine (or lamb chops, mashed potatoes, hot peppers, and beer if you were David).

This week in Istanbul has vanished so quickly. It seems we walked it away (how thankful I am for my new knee!). There’s a lot of magic in this city. Here are a few final images; tomorrow we fly to Izmir to start our bike ride along the Aegean Sea. More magic.

Bosphorus Strait boat tour:








From Suleiman Mosque and night life:








Finally, we are so thankful to our new friends at Robert College for their time, good conversations, and possible work together in the future. What an impressive place!



Istanbul take two.

Uploading photographs is a bit of a precarious dance in some places – I decided to break up the post. I’m sure there will be an Istanbul III 🙂

More of what we’ve seen:

Grand Bazaar, Spice Market, and more –

Topkapi Palace and hookah cafe:

Obviously I cannot get enough of this tile 🙂

View from the palace:

And the hookah cafe…

annd me reliving my days of making smoke rings…

And how lucky we feel  to be doing all of this with David!



We’re in. This is a compelling place – so much to see, so many places to walk and gaze in wonder. There is a dizzying busyness here on buses, trams, subways, and cement brick steep roads. And the water – the Bosphorus Strait, the Sea of Marmara, the Black Sea – everywhere it sparkles. And we are in Asia and Europe…Words cannot capture what we’ve seen and done; here are some photographs to try:

The first day:

Aya Sophya & the Blue Mosque and more…




Leaving South Africa, heading to Istanbul this evening!

It’s been whirlwind of driving on the N2, through the majestic, dramatic topography of eastern and southern South Africa to get to Rocky Road to see the Nobles group in Plettenberg Bay for a night and then to Cape Town for a night before we fly out this afternoon for Istanbul.

Here are some images from the last few days:

Ben coming out of the Indian Ocean –


Nobles kids after a full day of working on house construction and painting in Kurland, Plettenberg Bay –


World Cup soccer stadium in Cape Town (where Abby went to a game in 2010)


The Cape Grace where we stayed with my parents in 2000 (we had a drink at the bar there 🙂



Some Cape Town images –



Love these two (it was Abby’s 26th birthday on the 19th & we meet David in Turkey on Monday)! 


Zinkwazi Beach (thank you, Walshes, thank you, Cathy, for connecting us to the Walshes…)

Here is where we are:

Here is what we see:

Here is where we walk every day:

Here is what I’ve found:

Here is what we do:

(Ben reads  on his phone)

Here is what I had for lunch yesterday  (and today and the day before yesterday):

Here  is one of the coolest things about where we are  (an outdoor shower):

IIn addition to watching a lot of Premier League, we also play this  (I won last night):

Some of you who know Ben well, may be wondering how he is doing with the “I-must-work-out-at-5:30-am-every-morning” thing on the road. Here’s how:  (We both do this  several times, depending on what we have to do – I highly recommend it!)

Thank you for reading and caring about what we’re up to; we miss our family and friends!

In Mtubatuba!

     This is Chris Kaimmer’s “happy place.” I can see why. Sheldon. The multitude of soccer boys – eager, enaged, and real. Rochelle, Sheldon’s lovely wife, who seems to absorb Sheldon’s enthusiastic world with calmness and love. Jayden, Sheldon’s son, who drove from the field to their compound with us and shows only kindness. George, Sheldon’s father, a retired sugar cane worker and Anglican priest, who told us about his father’s two wives (twins his father married for sixty-four cows, thirty-two for each sister) whom he couldn’t tell apart for years. I can see why Chris dives into this world. It’s like living in the best novel with characters you have grown to love over pages and pages. But it’s real.

   The first night here under the old wild oak tree that is like a pillar with a leafy, expansive umbrella, we talked with George, Sheldon’s father, about apartheid (they are a colored family – George’s father was white and his mothers were black – Zulu royalty; that’s why his father had to pay thirty-two for each twin instead of the normal twelve cows), his twin mothers, seven siblings, belief in god, buying a church and turning it into a home, and the sadness of human unkindness – all this while being eaten by evening mosquitos but not wanting to move out of the darkness because his stories kept coming.

    We spent the following day with Sheldon, the founder of Mtubatuba Football Academy, as he led us through Cape Vidal and St. Lucia where we saw dramatic vistas, monkeys, hippos, kudos, wild boar, and more. The evening included another delicious meal prepared by Rochelle, Sheldon, and family: pasta, vegetable curry, avocados, salad, wild spinach, and squash. How fortunate we are to spend time with such a warm, welcoming family.

     We’re off to Zinkwazi Beach for a few days!

Sheldon and Ben talking with the Mtubatuba Football Academy boys:

Cape Vidal:



At St. Brendan’s School

     We are sitting outside on the cement porch of the volunteer house, a place I remember painting water color images with Abby fifteen years ago, a place I remember brainstorming ideas about teaching Macbeth with a Dartmouth student who was volunteering, too, a place of lovely light and soft winds, a place today where Sister Helene is coaxing flowers to grow and hoping to discourage snakes while the sounds of young girls from Bakita Village, an orphanage next to us, become a sweet background.

     We arrived a few days ago in the dark, past the turn for the Tropic of Capricorn, over the washboard dirt road, and to the welcoming sign, “St. Brendan’s School.” This place feels like home in some ways. We had such a powerful experience as a family in 2000 and then again with about fifteen Nobles students in 2005. So many teachers and students from Nobles (probably close to 200 students and 15 to 20 Nobles teachers) have become a part of this community, lucky enough to feel the joy, love, and warmth here. 

      The volunteer house and the campus are wonderfully reminiscent of our first time here when Abby and David were eleven and nine. In fact at assembly, Friday morning, we were told an English teacher hadn’t shown up, just as we experienced fifteen years ago – when both Ben and I became fulltime teachers for two weeks because of imminent needs (while Abby and David learned Sothu, the sex life of tsi tsi flies, and so much more with grade eight partners). 

     On Friday Ben and I team taught all day, four classes of forty to fifty kids in each. It worked best when we were introducing the play, Nothing But the Truth, by John Kani to grade twelve when Ben could do a great job with apartheid and post-apartheid history, and I could focus on the acting. It was pretty funny when I asked one kid to play a sixty-three year old man and had him consider how he should talk and walk. He was earnest and detailed with a decrepit, halting stature; then I told him I was sixty. Everyone laughed of course. I also really liked when one girl guessed Ben’s age as sixty-one after my telling the class how old I was. Finally, he’s older than I am! When we were teaching adverbs to grade ten, Ben became the class energizer, working hard to get the quiet ones to contribute. It reminded me a lot of being in San Francisco on Saturday mornings in the early years of our great friend, Alec’s then new enterprise, Aim High. Ben and I team taught study skills classes; Ben was the exciting one because he came  up with nicknames for the kids. Fun guy vs. grammar/study skills girl all over again 🙂

     On Saturday the campus started buzzing early with birds and the arrival of seven schools for a mega track meet – think: very dusty (buses and runners). We’re headed to Polokwane later this afternoon to see an evening soccer match of the Polokwane Super Stars vs. Cape Town Ajax with Bushey (a history teacher from St. Brendan’s in 2000,  who visited us in the US, now working in construction) and his wife and four year old daughter, Gift (what a great name for a child). We’ll spend the night with them, then back here on Sunday to prepare for a full load of classes on Monday and Tuesday. We feel so lucky to be in this part of the world again.

Before morning assembly::

In our first of many classes:

Saturday track and field meet with seven schools:

Fred Motupa, the school principal & Ben




In Polokwane with Bushey’s family – mainly just us and the security guards at the soccer game…










In South Africa!

     We are in South Africa, feeling lucky to be in a country we have grown to love since our trip in 2000 on our first sabbatical when Abby and David were 9 and 10. They were so moved by our experiences at St. Brendan’s, Johannesburg, Cape Town, and on safari with my parents that they encouaged us to take Nobles students here in 2005, Abby spent a junior semester at the University of Cape Town, and David spent a month working in Plettenberg Bay with home health care workers of HIV patients, and helped with chaperoning our 2010 trip with more Nobles students.

     We are starting our month long adventure here at the African Leadership Academy, ALA. What an impressive place on all fronts: campus, program, and people. ALA is also rife with acronyms 🙂 One person told us that at a recent meeting, the first of the assembled group, they were already referring to themselves with an acronym. To a person, all of the people we have met are positive and engaged. In every conversation with the ‘staffulty’ (love this mashup of theirs), we’ve asked about their paths to ALA. It seems like there’s been some magnetic pull for each. Chris Bradford and Fred Swaniker, the founders, had a powerful vision, created a compelling mission, and have attracted such bright, empathic, and innovative people to join them in actualizing their dream. They have a deep bench indeed. The students, the 200 brightest on the continent of Africa, are similarly engaged and committed. We feel lucky to be here and know we’ll continue to be involved. 

     Ben and I have some  areas to focus on before heading four hours north to St. Brendan’s School next Thursday. I’ll be working closely with Jake, an English teacher, as he’s going to become the point person to disseminate study skills. Ben will lend his expertise in many places, specifically on marketing some new programs ALA is launching to open up the experience to students around the world as semester and gap year programs with a particular focus on entrepreneurship and leadership.

     We’re pretty packed with meetings at ALA during the week days, but this Saturday we arranged to head into Kliptown, a part of the township of Soweto where Nobles students, faculty, and families have created a meaningful partnership with a celebrated program (CNN Heroes), Kliptown Youth Program. Thulani Modando is a hero; his program serves 461 kids a day. He and his team feed these kids each morning before they head to school, pack a sandwich for them for lunch, and provide an extensive after school array of activities. All of this engagement serves as a way “to provide opportunities that will enable our young people to rise out of poverty,” the mission of KYP. As part of Thulani’s achieving the CNN Hero honor, KYP received a $50,000 gift for the computer center, a buzzing operation on the Saturday afternoon we visited. His program has blossomed since our visit ten years ago, but sadly the township doesn’t look much different. Unfortunately, the government’s promises for improvement are slow in materializing.

     ALA and KYP are changing lives, and the kids in these communities are the ones who are going to accelerate positive growth and transformation in South Africa and all of the countries on this continent. We are lucky to witness the magic that is happening here.

African Leadership Academy images:

The core values they aspire to instill in their students are integrity, humility, compassion, diversity, curiosity, and excellence. These are front and center as you enter the community. Underneath each value is a dramatic photograph of influential Soth Africans. (Yes, that’s Ben in the background…on purpose 🙂

The lovely grounds:

A West African celebration in the ALA auditorium Saturday night:

In Kliptown:

The computer center at KYP:

KYP dancers and drummers:

Our hero  – Thulani Modando: