Sunday, November 30, 2008

Back from Sheffield Beach

We're just back from 4 days on the beach. We celebrated Thanksgiving this year on Sheffield beach, north of Durban on the Indian Ocean. We stayed at villa Cascada and it was just beautiful, magnificent views and a small private beach all to ourselves for the first days and then we only shared it with 2-4 other families. It was so relaxing, rolling waves, beautiful blue and clear water, and the girls just played played and played in the water, finding little crabs, getting excited about catching fish with their bare hands....giggling about the waves that pushed them into the much fun. I can't even tell you how much fun they had! Let's see some pictures and you can see for yourselves.....(click on any of the images so see them larger)
Our house on the beach, and its view.

We had the beach to ourselves, with little coves and small pools to find all kind of little sea animals. Great for the girls!

Here they are doing a game, getting knocked over by the waves, holding each other tight.

I took some pictures from the back and from the front, so much giggling and having fun!

Jasmine and Juliet (green bathing suit) were all day from 8 in the morning till 4-5 pm in the water, enjoying numerous of games. While me and Dirk set on the beach reading books and magazines, going splashing with the girls in the water to cool off. The water was not cold at all, really beautiful and refreshing. We saw many many dolphins swimming is not called dolphin beach for nothing!

A wonderful Thanksgiving weekend, and we are so grateful to have such a close knit family and such a gorgeous and healthy children!

I hope you had a great weekend as well ;-)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving in South Africa

Thanksgiving Day, celebrated in the USA on the fourth Thursday in November, at the end of the harvest season, is an annual American Federal holiday to express thanks for one's material and spiritual possessions. The period from Thanksgiving Day to New Year's Day often is called the holiday season. Most people celebrate by gathering at home with family or friends for a holiday feast. Though the holiday's origins can be traced to harvest festivals that have been celebrated in many cultures since ancient times, the American holiday has religious undertones related to the deliverance of the English settlers by Native Americans after the brutal winter at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

Or as some people call Thanksgiving, Turkey Day. The tradition all over the country is to gather family and friends together and eat a big turkey with the traditional side dishes like mashed potatoes, green beans, sweet potatoes, cranberry sause or jelly, stuffing and pumpkin or pecan pie. Yummy, but heavy duty ;-)

This year we and most of our friends here in SA are going away for the long weekend, so we celebrated already Thanksgiving last weekend at our friends' home. They did the deep fried turkey, since most of us never had it and these friends are from Texas, so we got a traditional Texas way of cooking the turkey. It was really juicy and tender and the crispy skin was yummy!

Coming weekend (actually we are driving off tomorrow morning) we are at the coast of Durban, to Sheffield beach or as they call that area, Dolphin coast, to relax a few days and enjoy the sand and sea and sun! Not so traditional but very much fun! We have a little house directly on the beach where the girls can find their creepy crawlers and we can read many books. Sounds good to me!

Happy Thanksgiving all!
I am probably not posting for a few days...

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Khetho, my maid, is very sad and worried these days. She was planning to go home to Zimbabwe for Xmas. Her family lives in Zimbabwe, while she lives here in SA, to make end meets. She has a son of 4 years old, which she hasn't seen since he was 9 months old, so she was really looking forward to this trip. But she is scared to go. The situation at the moment is worse than ever. A cholera outbreak sweeps the country. Zimbabwe, formerly Rhodesia, is in southern Africa, a landlocked country bordered by Botswana, Zambia, Mozambique and the Republic of South Africa. Successive droughts in the region combined with Zimbabwe's political and economic problems, as well as the prevalence of HIV/AIDS have created a worsening situation for most of Zimbabwe's population, and it is estimated that over 6 million people are at risk of starvation. Close on 2 million people have no access to safe water or sanitation, and there have been increased outbreaks of cholera and other diseases.

Nearly 300 people have died already from this disease and many people are fleeing to South Africa, so it is coming closer to home. A lack of clean water and poorly maintained sewage systems have allowed the waterborne intestinal disease to thrive. Zimbabwe's deepening political and economic crisis has crippled the country's health system.

These days there are almost no hospitals open any more, no schools, nothing available in the supermarkets, it really is a shocking situation. Khetho, my maid, dries a few white sandwiches a week and sends them to her mother and child. By arrival they can dip these dried sandwiches again in milk or soup, this is their food, nothing is available in Zimbabwe. I really feel for her and her family and it is hard to celebrate Thanksgviving and Xmas with all the abundance of food and gifts around while a member of your household has nothing to share with her family.

I feel so sad and helpless with her, what can we do to help these people? There are many ways to help in general, here are a few charities which you could help and donate. Think about it when you are dressing up your Xmas tree, just give a portion of your gifts instead to each other share it with people in need. We are doing it, I hope people who read my blog will be thinking of it as well.

Check out these websites for ways of helping, there are so many children, especially the children I have a hard time with who just need our help!
SOS Children villages, the world largest orphan charity, who also works in Zimbabwe.
What you need to know about poverty at Educate 2 Escape.
And of course there are many charities that are maybe closer to your heart, I am just hoping that in these times with the holidays coming around you will think a little bit further than your child, cousin or niece.

Have a good week!

Friday, November 21, 2008

International Food Festival

Last week we had International Food Festival at school. I just haven't come around to blog about it. Since we have 72 nationalities at our school, all the parents were asked to participate. Well 61 countries were represented during this food festival. We were all set up in the cafetaria and each country had their own food. It was amazing to see and to taste all these different food. We had to make enough for the whole school, so about 700 children who would come each with their own plate and they were aloud to have 8 different kinds of food. We were set up in a row and they would start with the youngest kids from elementary and go up to middle and high school. So each kid had a choice of 8 from the 61 choices....hard to choose for some.
We represented Thailand, since the Dutch is such a big group they had already many dishes. There are only 3 Thai children at school, and 2 are mine. So I made chicken satay...this is such a favorite amongst everybody, so when the middle school was finished and it was time for the high schoolers I was out of my satay, and I made 85 skewers!

There was food from all over Europe, the Americas, Asia, Africa, Australia, I have never seen so much different kind of foods, it was just amazing. Think about all these youngsters being exposed to so many different cultures, foods, languages. When you enter the cafetaria at lunch time it really is a divers group; some eat with their knifes and forks, some eat with chopsticks, some eat only with a spoon, some eat with their hands.... I am so gratefull that our kids can experience such a diversity, it will give them a sence of belonging wherever they go, because they feel at ease with all different people at such a young age.

It was a great day at the American International School of Joburg!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Small magazine

Do you know this online magazine? Everytime a new issue comes out I get an email in my inbox. I am always looking forward to the great photography they use, the vibe the magazine sends out, very green, organic, simple, modern, classic. I really love it! So I wanted to share it with you.

It always gives me a lot of inpsiration, new sites to go to, great children items, so shopaholics between you... my readers, and I am sure you know who I mean, yes YOU! go to this website and drool over the great things you will find ;-) Love the photos as much as I do. And by the way I am not affiliated with the magazine at all, I just think it is a great compilation of fashion, photography, styling, food, design and environmental awareness...the green factor that they combine so well! These are all the things that are dear to my heart, I just love beauty in all shapes and forms, especially when it is well photographed.

So check it out at ..... you will LOVE it as well!
Have a great day,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet ~Saint Nicolas & Black Pete

Anticipation season has started in the Dijkstra household! The girls are asking me almost every day....well more a few times a day: When is Sinterklaas Kapoentje coming?? He has arrived on the Dutch TV with his steamboat from the girls are following this daily and are wondering when they can put their shoe in front of the chimney, start singing their songs, add a carrot and some water for the horse. Now I see you thinking....are we missing here something, what is this? Well, it is a Dutch tradition, see more below, I tried to explain it to you. But there is a festival on December 5th that all young children in Holland celebrate: Sinterklaas en Zwarte Piet. The holy man who arrives with his helpers on a steamboat from Spain, and he is celebrating his Bday by giving all the kids in Holland candy and gifts, but if you are naughty you will dissapear in the hemp bag from Black Pete and he takes you home on the steamboat....anticipation galore in our house....are we naughty or nice??

Sinterklaas tradition in the Netherlands
Traditionally, in mid-November, two weeks before his celebrated Feast Day, Sinterklaas arrives in the Netherlands by boat from his home in Spain (it is widely believed that Spanish sailors brought the legend of Saint Nicholas to the Netherlands). Accompanied by his white horse and his helpers, the Zwarte Pieten, he arrives in the Netherlands to signify the start of the holiday season.
This event is broadcast live, and each year Sinterklaas arrives in a different city. Many people from across the country welcome Sinterklaas at the harbour and watch him parade through the city's streets. During the two weeks before his "birthday", it is said that Sinterklaas rides across rooftops at night on his white horse, listening through chimneys for good children. Nice children that leave carrots in shoes for Sinterklaas' horse, wake up to shoes full of candy and treats. However, it is the eve before his Feast Day (Sinterklaasavond) that is the most highly anticipated by children, and the busiest day for Sinterklaas. This is the big day when Sinterklaas delivers presents to good children and coal to children who have been naughty.
On Sinterklaasavond (5 December), children anxiously wait for Sinterklaas to knock on their door, and when he does, children know that if they run to their door, a sack full of gifts will await them on their doorstep. Following Sinterklaas' visit, each member of the family takes turns handing out presents and unwrapping them. Names are printed on each gift, and almost every present is accompanied by a tongue-in-cheek poem about the gift's recipient.

Families celebrate Sinterklaas' Feast by singing songs and indulging in a feast of their own, which consists mainly of sweets like marzipan, chocolate initials, pepernoten (ginger biscuits) and hot chocolate with whipped cream. The image of Sinterklaas The traditional image of Sinterklaas is one of a bishop, clothed in a white garment and wrapped in a red cloak. He wears a tall red and gold hop'smiter (head dress) that covers his long white curly hair. He usually wears white gloves, and in one hand carries a tall metal staff and in the other hand the book of names. Like the North American concept of Santa Claus, he has a long white beard, however, unlike his North American cousin, he does not have a belly "like a bowl full of jelly".

Zwarte Piet: Zwarte Pieten (Black Petes) always wear colourful and jovial costumes. They are adorned with gold earrings and hats with feathers and are generally considered simple and full of beans characters. Their role is to assist Sinterklaas by performing various holiday tasks, like delivering presents down chimneys and recording names of naughty and nice children in Sinterklaas' book of names.
Despite his colourful image, Zwarte Piet, or Black Pete, is a very controversial character in the Netherlands. He is called Black Pete because of his dark colouring, and while some attribute his skin colour to the soot from the chimneys he slides down, others criticise the character for being an old-fashioned stereotype and racist symbol of slavery.
The origin of Black Pete's character is not known, however many speculations have been made. Some believe that Black Pete is a symbol of the medieval Christian idea of evil, when black was often associated with evil. Others believe it is more probable that Black Pete is Saint Nicholas' Moorish servant, but with the absence of any historical proof, there is no way of knowing exactly what Black Pete represents.

The girls have picked out their gifts already, they desperately want Triops. These are prehistoric monsters also known as dinosaur shrimp that millions of kids have brought to life simply by adding water to eggs that are in suspended animation! Creepy crawlers that comes in a kit, you just add water and it grows. They make great pets....what they claim...I am not so sure about it (Yikes). But so the girls are really good these days, helping cleaning up the table after dinner and these kind of small chores, asking all the time: Mommy are we good, do you think Sinterklaas Kapoentje sees this?? (I tell them the whole time, that Sinterklaas has eyes and ears everywhere!!)

So we are in a good season ;-) is is easy ;-)
How about you?
Ciao, Mireille

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Have you heard of couch surfing?

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon couch surfing. The CouchSurfing Project is a free, Internet-based, international hospitality service, and it is currently the largest hospitality exchange network. The project was commenced in 2003 and formally launched on Jan 1, 2004. As of October 2008, it had more than 780,000 members in 232 countries and territories.
According to their own published statistics 40 percent of their members are currently offering their couches to host travellers (with another 22 percent saying "maybe", and others who are travelling at the moment). According to Alexa it is currently the most visited hospitality service on the Internet, averaging over 30 million daily page views in July 2008.

Members use the website to coordinate contacts and home accommodation ("couch-surfing") with other network members around the world. The website allows the creation of extensive profiles, and uses an optional credit card verification system, a personal vouching system, and personal references to increase security and trust between members. The site offers other features such as discussion groups, events and meetings, and live chat.

So if you think couch surfing is something for you check out this website that links travelers looking for convenient and free places to stay with willing locals. It is one of the better resources on the web. If you’ve done any major traveling you’re probably familiar with Couchsurfing, but have you set up your own profile, offered to host international guests, or slept on floors half the world over?

It is definitely a way to meet interesting people and travel to places you would normally not go to. I haven't signed up on the website (as a host) you can't go with a whole family to crash on somebodies couch, but I wouldn't mind having now and then some youngsters visiting my house who like to see SA.

How do you feel about couch surfing, an idea for you?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Hijacking class

Saturday we were invited by our car dealer to attend a class of car hijacking. So we went. Although vehicle hijacking is a worldwide phenomenon, it has increased to such an extent in South Africa that it is currently regarded as one of the countries with the highest hijacking figures in the world. It is estimated that a motor vehicle is hijacked every 40 to 54 minutes in South Africa. This implies that more than 25 motor vehicle drivers become victims of hijackings daily.

Hijacking in South Africa is a group activity that is usually executed by two to four males. Young black males aged between 12 and 25 are usually the offenders. Females are very rarely involved in the active hijacking of vehicles, although they may be used as accomplices to attract the attention of motorists. What we learned though at the course was that the tap-tap method: a car taps you lightly from behind, you look in the mirror and see a woman, you step out to find out the damage and then they hijack your car. Even children are used these days, so the old tricks you are warned for become new tricks because now they use the females and children in the plot.

The most dangerous place for a carjacking is at your own home in SA. While you are waiting for the gate to be opened you are at your weakest. A staggering 52% of all hijackings take place in front of private residential properties.
Rounding out the rest of the Top ten hijacking hotspots were:
2) sitting in parked cars (10%):
3) at traffic lights (7%)
4) at stop streets and yield signs (6%)
5) at business premises (5%)
6) victims forced off road by decoys (4%)
7) while taxis are loading passengers (4%)
8) at shops, phone booths, etc (3%)
9) while offloading goods (2%)
10) victims working at the roadside (2%)

At this course we got a lot of facts and figures, scary details and stories you really are not waiting for on a free Saturday morning. But what it did to us, it that we need to be more ALERT and AWARE of our surroundings. No car is safe from being hijacked, there was a list of most hijacked cars, but basically nobody is safe. And the numbers are high! Luckily we don't live in a free standing home, meaning that we don't live on a regular street where the house is surrounded by a gate. We live in a secured estate, where you first have to enter through a guarded gate. So for the hijacker to follow me to my house is impossible. So at least the first 52% we are saved from, we just have to be careful at the other spots of high risk.

Lets just pray that we won't be involved while living here!
Have a good week,

Friday, November 14, 2008

R U on Facebook?

I am on Facebook for a while now and I was wondering if there are readers of my blog who are also active on Facebook. So let's meet each other at Facebook, my name is Mireille Dijkstra and I am on the South African network. My profile picture is one of my twin girls. And when you decide to become my friend, please mention this blog ;-)

I also started this Thailand Adoption group on Facebook. Check that out as well, if you are an adoptive parent of a Thai child or in the process of adopting a Thai child you can sign up to this group and exchange specific information or just chat with other friends who have gone through the same process. Exchange info about great finds in Thailand, food, restaurants, hotels, anything that you want to know before you make your trip to Thailand to pick up your child. Let's get together and talk, chat about one of the greatest countries in the world!

Hope to meet you soon!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Happy Bday Dikky Dick!

Today is a special day! Today it is the Bday of my hubby, Dirk. Congratulations Dikky D! Hartelijk Gefeliciteerd met je verjaardag!

He turned 41 this year! And as usual he got quite some presents, drawings and cards from the girls in bed this morning. But since it is a normal working day, he is off to work and the girls off to school. So later on this evening we will have a small family celebration. We always hang up streamers if somebody has a Bday in our family; tradition, so as you can see on the picture I did that today as well.

What is happening in the world today on Dirk's Bday?
It is Loy Krathong ลอยกระทง in Thailand, a beautiful festival, festival of lights; celebrated each year on the night of full moon in November. Loy Krathong is as old as Thai heritage and represents a close bond between Thai culture and water. The festival takes place on the full moon night of the twelfth lunar month when the water level is high and the climate is cooler. Participants ask water spirits to sail away their troubles in their krathongs, which are containers traditionally made from banana leaves and carrying offerings of incense, lotus flowers and small money. The festival of Loy Krathong is a time to pay our respects to the Goddess of Water by floating candles and joss-sticks. (For more pictures and description see this website).
We LOVE this festival, when we used to live in Thailand we would go out on the streets and see all the people sitting on the side of the boardwalks next to the ocean in Jomtien and making the krathongs. You would choose the most beautiful one (in your eyes) and put some money and hair inside and float it on the waves, for good luck. Afterwards we would buy these huge balloons and let them loose and make a wish. The sky would be filled with these balloons, so pretty, so magical!! Pretty girls would be dressed up in traditional Thai dress and walk around with their boyfriends or girlfriends, people eating, drinking and is such a great festival. If you are ever in Thailand in November, make sure you will be there around Loy Krathong!

Today is the Day of Respect in the Netherlands, the theme at school for 3rd and 4th graders (10+11 years old) will be respect. They will do games and activities to learn all about respect. Respect for each other, respect for yourself, nature, surroundings, people, animals, feelings, environment etc.. But also respect for people who think differently, believe differently or look different."

Other news for this day:
Bone marrow transplant potentially linked to cure of patient with AIDS. In what could be a major medical breakthrough, or a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence, a 42-year-old American man was cured of AIDS after receiving a bone marrow transplant in Berlin, Germany two years ago. The transplant was performed as part of a treatment for his leukemia.

Happy Bday, Dikky D! Enjoy your day ;-)
Love, M

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

November ~ National Adoption Awereness Month

November is National Adoption Awareness month. So you can find all over the Internet articles about adoption. To bring more awareness to the people, who are thinking about adoption. Or to raise public awareness about the thousands of children and youth waiting in foster care for permanent, loving families. If you are one of those, just read and look at our maybe helps.

We already adopted our twin girls Jasmine and Juliet more than 6 years ago. They were only 3 months old when we got them. At that time we were living in Thailand, their birth country. We stayed there till they were 16 months and then we moved to the USA.

I still remember so vividly the first days and months, it was overwhelming to have 2 young babies at once! They only slept through the night the week before their 1st Bday! It was a long first year, but I wouldn't have missed it in the world! And if you are a parent or an adult who is thinking about adoption and not sure yet.....Just go for it! I can tell you it is one of the best decisions we made in our lives! Just look at these faces and think about a child like JJ and Jezz could be yours, to hold, protect and love for the rest of their lives. There are so many children out there that need your love, protection and guidance. It is not an easy road to travel, but it is so worth it! And like a heavy pregnancy, you forget all the pain and sorrow when you hold that little precious child in your arms! I know from experience!!

Here are some pictures from 2002-2008, each year as they progress from cute little babies to adorable toddlers to beautiful 'big kids' now!
3 months old, it was hard to let them sit straight. Took me forever to get this shot ;-)

17 months old, just waking up.

27 months old, wearing funky hats.

3 years old, how sweet.

4 years old, having fun.

5 years old, fashionable girls.

6 years old, be my sweet valentine.

I also found a poem from Jill Work about adoption on this site, I like to share with you.

My child,
I carried you in my heart
before you were even born
And dared to dream
that you were real.

My child,
I carried your picture with me
since the day I received it,
And dared to love
a child I was yet to meet.

My child,
I carried you in my arms at last,
and gazed in helpless wonder
at your face,
And dared to lose
my heart to you.

And now, my child,
a dream fulfilled,
a prayer answered,
a family created,
I have dared to become
a mom.

And so now,
my precious child,
I shall carry you

If you like to see more pictures of JJ and Jezz, go to my Flickr album. There is an album for each year of their lives.

And if you are thinking about adoption or you have questions, shoot me an email I am more than happy to talk to you!

Love, Mireille

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Positive adoption study....makes me smile ;-)

As an adoptive parent you have to proof yourself so much towards so many people before you are allowed to adopt. In one way it is good, in the other way I hated that part, because every little 'fool' can have a baby, but we as addoptive parents have to proof to be fit, sane and whatever they check for to become a parent.

Well, since it is cold and rainy here in SA (yeah, I didn't realize it could be also not so nice here) I am a bit browsing on the net and I found this article on the About site. Althoug the article is from 2007 I still like to share it with you, because I know some of my readers are adoptive parents and sure will like this article as well.

New Study Finds Adoptive Parents More Invested in Their Children than Biological Parents.
A new study published in the American Sociological Review and funded by the National Science Foundation, the Spencer Foundation, and the American Educational Research Association, showed that adoptive parents spend more money and time on their children. 13,000 households with first-graders in the family showed that adoptive parents spend more time reading to their children, eating together, and talking with them about their problems. It was suggested that some of the reasons for this could include:

Most adoptive parents went through a lot to have children in their lives.

Most adoptive parents live in an environment that says that what they do is not real parenting - so they tend to over compensate.

In general, the adoptive parents were older and wealthier than biological parents that were a part of the study.

It was also noted that adoptive parents that faired the best were two parent adoptive families and scored high on criteria such as helping with homework, parent involvement with school, involvement with cultural activities, and family church attendance.

Where did the adoptive parents falter, the frequency in which they talk with parents of other children.

Who also did well in this study, gay and lesbian parents. It was noted that the discrimination that they face as a family may drive them to go the extra mile as parents.

Some researchers called into question the argument that children are best off with their biological parents.

I think Adam Pertman, executive director of the Evan B. Donaldson Adoption Institute said it best when asked about this study's findings, "It's an affirmation that there are all sorts of families that are good for kids. Adoptive parents aren't less good or better. They just bring different benefits to the table. In terms of how families are formed, it should be a level playing field."

What I know for sure is that we have 2 beautiful, happy and well adjusted children who see adoption as part of their lifes, but it doesn't overwhelm their reality. It's like one of the many facts in life, and for now they don't pay much attention to the fact that they are adopted. Maybe this will come up later in their teen years, but as study points out that we are quite invested in our family, so I am sure we can deal with it when it comes passing by! I also agree with Adam Pertman that adoptive parents aren't less good or better. A loving environment is very important and if that environment means 2 mothers, 2 fathers, single parent or a mother and a father that is not important.

If you are an adoptive parent, please share your site with me!
Ciao, Mireille

Monday, November 10, 2008

Nappy hair in the White House? ~ Yes, we can!!

We've come so far to except an African-American to become the president of the USA. Now we have to come a step further I find and accept that black people have beautiful hair; nappy hair. Why do young girls like Sasha and Malia have to straighten their hair at such a young age??

Look at these pictures, these girls are so beautiful in their natural state, they don't need to sit hours in a salon to look beautiful? They already ARE!!
Sasha Obama, look how cute this girl looks with her natural hair?
And here Malia, she is just so beautiful!
They should give an example to the rest of the world that it is OK to have nappy hair, expect the hair you've got and wear it proudly!

Of course it is easy for me to say, since I don't have nappy hair. But hey, I have to except the hair I have as well. I am not always happy with the fine and sleek hair, but that is who I am and I better get used to it. (Which I am especially by now...)

I hope that Malia and Sasha will go through their days mostly just wearing their hair naturally. I mean I can understand that if there is a big happening that they want to look a bit more special, but their momma should also tell them they are beautiful no matter what their hair looks like!

Maybe it is because I live in South Africa, and I grew accustomed to the nappy hair. But most people here are so creative with their hair and some have the most beautiful patterns in their hairs. It looks just gorgeous! But how do you feel about nappy hair in the White House? Give me your opinion!

Have a good week,

Friday, November 7, 2008

Faces of South Africa

South Africa is a diverse country with people from many different ethnicities, religions, and languages. South Africa is often called the Cradle of Humankind, for it is where archaeologists discovered 2,5-million-year-old fossils of our earliest ancestors, and 100 000-year-old remains of modern man. In percentage 79% classified themselves as African; 9,6% as white; 8,9% as coloured; and 2,5% as Indian/Asian, all with their own traditions, food, language. It is very diverse and people live most of the time in peace with another.

We are living in Johannesburg a very modern city and you hardly notice that there are still so many tribes living here with their original traditions and cultures so different than ours. I like to share some of these faces with you.

The first picture is just a cute picture I found and used as my change of address card back in June, but the rest are all pictures and stories I found on National Geographic and the link you can find by clicking on the title.

1. Face painting in the colors of the SA flag.

2. In a ceremony before being tested to see whether they are virgins, Zulu girls in Lamontville, South Africa, had their faces painted with mud.

3. Xhosa boys are shown wearing the white clay painted on their bodies that signifies transition to manhood. Around the teen years, Xhosa males traditionally are initiated into adulthood. The initiation includes a period of separation from family, during which older men mentor the younger ones. Still widely observed in rural areas, the initiation ends with the rite of circumcision.

4. Against a typically patterned Ndebele home, women display the colorful traditional costumes and neck and arm rings that their culture is known for.
The indigenous South African population includes the Nguni people (consisting of the Zulu, Xhosa, Ndebele, and Swazi), the Sotho-Tswana people, the Tsonga, and the Venda. A few members of the Khoi and the San (or Bushmen)southern Africa's oldest inhabitantslive in South Africa.

5. Islam is observed by a small minority of South Africans, including these children. About 80 percent of South Africans identify themselves as Christians. Jews, Hindus, and people who adhere to traditional African beliefs make up small religious minorities.

6. Woman From the Namaqualand Outback. The arid Namaqualand region is also known as the Garden of the Gods, because every August and September, Namaqualand bursts into a profusion of wildflowers.

There are relatively few old South Africans—only 1 in 20 is older than 65. And due in large part to the AIDS epidemic, deaths slightly exceeded births in South Africa in 2004, according to the CIA World Factbook. The result: a shrinking population.

7. Zulu Bride. The Zulu kingdom is called KwaZulu, or "place of heaven." This fertile country contains wilderness parks, traditional kraals (native villages), and Durban, Africa's busiest port.

IsiZulu is 1 of 11 official languages in South Africa, not to mention many more unofficial ones. Other official tongues include Afrikaans, English, isiNdebele, isiXhosa, Sepedi, Sesotho, Setswana, siSwati, Tshivenda, and Xitsonga.

8. Afrikaner Rugby Fan. South Africa's white community consists primarily of Afrikaners (descendants of Dutch, French, and German settlers who formed unique cultural traditions and their own language) and "English speakers" (mostly the descendants of immigrants from the United Kingdom).

9. Swazi Women at a Reed Dance. Young Swazi and Zulu women are regularly summoned by their respective monarchs to perform the ritual reed dance, which is a right of passage as well as a traditional homage to the king.

Swaziland is a separate, independent country, almost completely surrounded by South Africa, but many Swazi people live across the border, in South Africa.

South Africa is divided into nine provinces, each with its own legislature, premier, and executive council. The provinces are the Western Cape, the Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, the Northern Cape, Free State, North West, Gauteng, Mpumalanga, and Limpopo.

Within these provinces are a number of "traditional rulers," including the current Zulu king, Goodwill Zwelethini, who is a direct descendant of King Shaka, founder of the Zulu kingdom.

10. Indian Bride. South Africa's Indian community is largely descended from indentured laborers brought to South Africa by the British to work on sugar plantations. South African Indians today are found in all walks of life, including the president's cabinet, the law courts, and corporate executive suites.

11. "Coloured" Men at Cape Carnival. New Year's Day in South Africa traditionally means street carnivals of song and dance, especially among the Coloured people in the Cape Town area.

The Coloureds are South Africa's people of mixed racial ancestry. Made up of descendants of former slaves, blacks, and whites, many Coloureds proudly assert that they are living proof that South Africa's different races can get along.

Enjoy your weekend!


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