Zip Line

Today we went to a zip lining place called Miss Sky. It was AWESOME!!!!!!!!  Some of them were so long and they were all so high. We will describe the morning to you.

We woke up in the usual way, with a game of Crazy 8 Countdown in bed. Then, Sam and Jet woke up and we found out that Sam had a bad earache in the middle of the night and they only had an hour of sleep. We were all feeling a little bit like we had colds. Alison/Mama came upstairs to get us for breakfast and reminded us that today was the day we were going zip lining. We all felt better after that!!

After breakfast, we all piled in to Patti’s car (with six in the back seat!) and drove off. We had to wait for the person at the desk when we got there and so we explored the nearby river which was mucky and I (Zaylie) got a cut on my finger. Then we went back and the woman was there so we got checked in and got all of our gear on (which is a helmet and a harness.) It turns out we were the early birds there. It turns out we would go on a 20 minute drive in the back of a huge pick-up truck that had bench seats to the starting point.

The guides (who were really nice and funny and it looked like they really liked kids) showed us how to be safe on the zipline, put your feet up and not put your hands on the front of the cable. The little kids go first which would be us and Tayo. So we got clipped on to the cable and then the guide behind us got clipped on and we pushed off and we went FLYING!!!

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The birds were soaring so high except they were at eye level to us. There was a stream trickling down below and mostly we were zooming over the tree canopy. The first time, we went just with a guide and on the second time, they asked if we wanted to go together with a guide and we said yes, definitely. On some we went super fast but on others we got stuck. Once we got stuck in between the platform things and our guide that was in back of us flipped upside down and put his feet on the wire and walked on it to push us along. Sometimes we got to the platforms we couldn’t touch so we’d have to dangle until the guide came to get us and unclip us. The cables were set up between mountains so that there would be a giant drop in between. It was so beautifulSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES.SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

There was one last really long zipline. After we unclipped there was a giant hill we had to climb. They gave us water at the end and then one of the guides made flowers out of the plastic cups and gave them to us. We got a ride back in the pick up truck again. I wish we could do this every morning!

 

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The Violet Sabrewing Drinks Alone

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One of my favourite memories from our last trip the Monteverde was the hummingbird cafe just outside the biological reserve. This time, we have gone almost every single day to watch the hummingbirds at the feeders.  I think it is fair to say that the hummingbirds are drama-llamas of the first order. The are so confident/focused on food/unafraid (how do I really know what is in the mind of a bird?) that they fly by us as we stand near the feeders, so we get front row seats to the action as the birds chase each other away and try to control access to the nectar.  Today, while I was trying to take a picture of a hummingbird on a branch, tow other hummingbirds flew BETWEEN me and the camera, tilting just barely enough that I only felt the breeze of their passing on my nose and not feathers. Sometimes I hear the sound of their little bodies actually thumping together. The violet ear plumps up his violet ear feathers and crest feathers while he chases others away.  He looks a bit like an angry ewok, so cute when he is on the attack.

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Most species seem to chase only others of their own away, but the Violet Sabrewing clears the area before going in for a feed. It’s the biggest, with a scimitar beak, so the others go, squeaking and chirping in distress (anger?).  There is one kind of regular bird, called a bananaquit, which does not participate in this ownership game.  It just stays at the feeder when old Sabrewing comes by.  I love all the action.

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The sound of the birds is also amazing.  Different species make their own buzzing sound, so it’s like being around different distant airplanes.

The first day we just looked and admired.

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The second day we discovered hummingbird selfies,

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and the third day we discovered they will land on us if we put our fingers on the base of the feeder.  Holy moly, I HAD A HUMMINGBIRD ON MY HAND! (hands alone below  belong to Jen)

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I love them.  And their names. And colours winking in the sun. I even started to read my camera manual to find out how to take better pictures.

Oh yeah. People! We came to Monteverde with my mum and Alison, Dan, Sam and Maeve.  After a couple of days, we traded the other family for my sister, so it has been a great family reunion here in the cloud forest.

 

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A Viper, A Toucan and a Blue Crowned Motmot By Jet

We are in Costa Rica’s Cloud forest. The nine of us and three others were standing out side looking at a map while the guide explained the route we would be taking. He said that the area we would be hiking in was part of a huge conservation park known as The Children’s Eternal Rainforest. Tourists are allowed to hike in only a little bit of the park. The guide said that The Children’s Rainforest was started when a group of kids from Sweden raised awareness about the fact that Costa Rica’s Rainforests were disappearing. They wanted to raise money to buy a part of the rainforest and turn it into a conservation park. Their message spread and more money was raised until over 2000 hectares became The Children’s Eternal Rainforest. The guide told us this as he walked us down the path towards the jungle. We were going on a night hike to see the nocturnal animals. At first we didn’t see much (some spiders, a katydid, crickets) but then the guide pointed out a tiny frog sitting on a leaf. The frog was about the size if my thumb nail. Then the guide cautioned all the kids to stand back while he poked a stick down a hole. He then invited us to bend down one by one to see what was in the hole. It was an orange-kneed tarantula. After that we saw an Emerald Toucanet sleeping in the trees.

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We found out that our tickets for the night hike were valid the next morning as well so we decided to take a quick walk on one of the trails. The minute we stepped out of the car we were showered with guava bits. We looked up, and there were White Faced Capuchin Monkeys in the tree right overhead!

The next thing we saw was a Blue Crowned Motmot.

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We saw some nice butterflies including the AMAZING Blue Morpho. There were some bugs and spiders but nothing much. We were nearing the end of our hike when my mum spotted a Toucan in the tree. It flew away just then but we saw where it landed. Everyone got a good look a it. It turned out to be a Keel Billed Toucan. Just then a large branch snapped and the toucan flew away for good. The monkeys were back! They had a baby with them. It seemed preocupied with taking every leaf it could reach and sticking them in it’s mouth, then spitting them out and watching them spiral to the ground.

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Today is our last full day here in Monteverde and we were going to go on one last hike. We started out and the first thing we saw was a Blue Morpho. We walked on. After hearing some bird calles, but not finding their sources we spotted an Agouti, which kind of looks like a fat Guinea Pig only a little bigger. Tayo and Zaylie had gone ahead and I was about to duck under the branch hanging over the path to follow, when I suddenly saw that what appeared to be leaves on the tree was actually a bright green snake.

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I screamed and leaped back. Then everybody crowded around to see. The snake slowly lifted it’s head, and flicked it’ s tongue out a couple times. Then it settled again.

When we got to the front desk we identified it as a Side-Striped Palm Pit-viper. The person at the front desk was quite excited and called some other people to look. He said that it was the first Side Striped Pitviper that had been seen in years.

-Jet, Monteverde, Costa Ricq

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Journey to the Sea, Guest Post by Maeve and Zaylie

IMG_2303Once upon a time there was a mother turtle that was waddling up a beach called Playa Ostional .Finally she thought she found the right place to lay her eggs so she stopped and started digging her nest. She was exhausted but she kept digging. After a while, she decided that it was deep enough. So she laid her 100 eggs. She used the sand around her to bury her eggs back up .then she started her long journey back to the ocean.

Sixty days later, the first turtle of that same nest poked IMG_2589his head out of the ground and breathed in the fresh air. He started digging his way up to the light. Just as he was about to climb out and say “Phew” to himself, something poked his butt. He looked down and saw another little head poking out. When that head finally came out, she was really clumsy and knocked his brother back down. Then, he finally flapped his flipper onto his sister’s head and pushed himself onto firm ground.

IMG_9229(1)When he looked up he saw lots of round thingamajigs staring down on him and making screeching noises.  Then he thought to himself, “What are those things?” He wasn’t sure if they were dangerous or not but he figured he better be on the safe side and not just leap into their arms. Somehow he knew what arms were.  He knew he had to get to that big, blue, glinty, sparkly, wet thing. So off he went.

IMG_9752It turned out that those two-legged things that made screeching noises were actually helping him. He realized that they were chasing away the soft black feathered, wrinkled bald fierce creatures that had long sharp things sticking out of their faces that didn’t look so promising. Also, they used their spindly flippers to clear away a path to the blue thing. They are really strong because they can knock down the mountains and fill in the craters. Those were big obstacles for the baby turtle. They missed one of them and he fell into one of the craters! He fell oIMG_2405n his back. Then the most exciting thing in the whole of his short life happened. One of the two legged creatures came along and picked him up out of the crater and put him on his belly on the flat space again.
When the sky got a little lighter, the baby turtle saw what turned out to be a crab. It was oval shaped with long pointy claw-like legs that waved about. It walked sideways for heavens sake! It came towards  over the hole to cover it. He loves, loves, loves those two-leggeds! Otherwise, he might have lost his head.

IMG_9224Finally, he was really, really close to the sparkly blue thing. Then suddenly, one of the big, tumbly, crashy things that turn white and come from the blue thing came toward him. It slowed down a bit when it came toward him but it covered over him. It tumbled over him but then it was so gentle when it came toward him that he let go. He had to adjust to using his flippers to swim instead of propel him along the sand. It was awesome and scary at the same time! But he felt ready for this next adventure. Would the two leggeds join him?

The End

Notes:

IMG_2541By the way, the two-leggeds in this story are us, Maeve and Zaylie. The mother turtles dig by curling their flippers up just like we curl our hands up and dig the sand up in the same kind of motion that we use, scooping and throwing. The front flippers clear away and the back flippers go into the hole and scoop out the sand. The bald feathered creatures are vultures. How did he know what arms were? How should we know? There are many mysteries about sea turtles that even scientists don’t know yet (like what they do for most of the time in the water, where they go, how they mate etc.)

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Fun Together, A Guest Post by Zaylie and Maeve

Fun Together

Every day we go to the beach and come home with at least 12,000 shells (that might be a little over the top.) Usually they are limpets and trumpet shells and olives. Most of our time is spent in the waves which are GINORMOUS. We play over, under, through and we added a couple which are toes, cannonball, fish, and ride. It’ll take too long to explain what all of those are but you can use your imagination. It’s super fun to body board. I (Zaylie) just learned how to ride the waves all the way back to the beach (and scrape my knees on the sand but it’s still really fun.) Also, we like to do sand acrobatics which means cartwheels, walkovers (front and back), handstands. Mummy (Patti) helped us. We’ve seen amazing cool different types of animals at the beach like starfish (bright purple and we got to hold it!), anenomes, a black sea urchin town, sea cucumbers, and dorises (which are medium sized, squishy lumps on the rocks), crabs that waddle around with their giant eyes, big and small fish. Also at Playa Guiones there are these REALLY HOT tide pools that we call Tide Pool Hot Tubs and when you sit in them it feels super good. It was time to go right when we found them and we wouldn’t get out until they threatened to leave without us.

Speaking of interesting creatures, in the jungle-ish, woods-ish trees around our house, there are other animals we’ve seen. There are the coatis (raccoon type creatures with their long snout like pig noses), the howler monkeys (with their little babies making a huge ooooooooooooooooooooooooo in the trees), variegated squirrels, lots of awesomely colourful birds and butterflies (that look like flying handkerchiefs.) And now we will tell you about the events of the night before. There are grasshoppers longer than our faces. One came in while we were playing Sequence. All of the kids screamed and ran into the kitchen and shut the door tight (but we could still see everything because the door is glass.) What we saw was not to our liking. It landed on the glass door right by our faces. Patti came over and caught it with her bare hand and then threw it outside off the deck. It kept coming back all night. We’ve seen those grasshoppers mating, one small one and one big one. Also, the gecko pooed on me (Zaylie.)

In the evenings and in our tiempo libre (free time) we play lots and lots of games together. These include Spot It, lots of normal card games, Sequence, Spoons, Can You Name Them All. Tonight we’re going to play Family Flux. Th e other game which is not really a game but is more like an exercise challenge is our Family Plank. We are working up to get from 20 seconds to 5 minutes. Yikes. To distract us, we sing ridiculous songs while doing it, like I Know A Song That Gets on Everybody’s Nerves, and The Titanic Song.

One project that we did over the first few days was Secret Notes from the Fairies and the Coatis. We were doing it to get Tayo to read. We made up the notes and tied embroidery notes to them and then we said that goblins would write her notes too but they wouldn’t have floss on them. We also made her a wand which was a stick that we covered in black and white embroidery floss and at the end we tied more floss on it to make it a wavy stringy fun thing. This was a good project and an awesome idea except instead of loving it (this is a quote from Tayo), “It was really annoying because they wouldn’t let me into the part of the house where they working and I felt excluded.”

Tortillas!!! We have been eating tortillas non-stop with all our meals. There have been mouthwateringly delicious things to put inside such as mango salad, salsa and guac, egg things, beans and rice, lentil salad, cabbage/carrot slaw, and good ol’ peanut butter and jam. We also had the most amazing milkshake made with coconut milk, banana, and pineapple. It was delicioso. Today, we get to go to Robin’s where we get to have gelato but only if we finish this in time so gotta go, bye.

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Olive Ridley Arribata

Today we went to Ostional beach for our second day of helping to guard eggs and hatchlings during the great turtle laying.

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photo by Sam Brown

The first thing was saw was a turtle, unmoving, who had laid her eggs low on the beach without digging a hole. It was an agonizing sight because the eggs were fresh and glistening in the gloaming, but we all knew they would not survive. Zaylie begged us to dig a hole and bury the eggs for this turtle, while Sam had to go and sit alone for a while to be with his despair.IMG_2372 IMG_2559         These children with their deep feelings and desire to protect the helpless stir me up all bittersweet.

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Another tough moment came right away as we saw the local people were still collecting turtle eggs to sell.

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These bags are for turtle eggs.

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Glaring at the egg collectors.

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These people are from the local town, and they are all collecting eggs. The rules on who can collect eggs are very stringent.

This  beach has a harvesting plan so there is not much poaching, and the turtles who arrive on later days dig up and destroy the eggs of the early arrivals so early harvesting is taking eggs that had a high likelihood of being destroyed. This is a traditional activity for the people who live here, and some of the people who are harvesting are also involved in conservation and protection.  (Read more about it here).  We have talked about all of this with the kids, but it is hard for all of us to be on the beach and see enormous sacks of eggs being carried away. More than that, even, I would like to know who is buying    $150 000 in turtle eggs each year? Where is the market?

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Soon after, the kids found an emerging baby turtle. They happened to find the first hatchling, so they counted the babies, and cheered as they made it to the surf. They shepherded 114 turtles all the way to the sea. They spent nearly four hours patrolling and guarding.

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Female turtles were also arriving at the beach, moving like exhausted boulders up the beach to did a hole for their eggs. The entire beach is covered with what looks like tractor tracks from the water to the trees, but the tracks are actually the trails the turtles make as they arrive to lay eggs and depart. It is mind-boggling to think how many turtles it takes to cover every bit of sand in tracks. They come out of the ocean for this incredible act of reproduction, and then turn and lumber back to the water.

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The babies hatch and scurry into the water and are gone from us into the waves. Some of them will come back to lay their own eggs here.

It occurs to me that for us, it is this beautiful and moving experience, but we are land creatures, and so it seems like this process is the most important part of the turtle. Plus they are threatened, and endangered, these sea turtles, and we are on the beach to scare vultures away, help overturned babies get right-side up, and move hatchlings away from dangers such as pits in the sand and mama sea turtles making a slow motion beeline back to the water.

I saw a female returning to the sea today. Her heavy body was still heavy on the sand in just an inch of water. A wave washed in and around her. It wasn’t enough to lift her up to swim, but as soon as it was deep enough, she stuck her head underwater. It reminded me that these are sea creatures; that laying eggs on land is a one-night event each year, and underwater is her home. I don’t actually know where they spend the rest of the year, or what they eat, or even how they find a male turtle to mate with. For me, I see the land event and think of the importance of reproduction to sea turtle populations, while for her, she labours to get back to her element; my experience of which is less that the blue pencil crayon scribbles we put around continents on maps we coloured in elementary school. Yet sea turtles have been doing this since the dinosaurs.

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Of course, watching baby turtles emerge from a small scrape in the sand is a wonder. They are cute, and they seem to come from nowhere in particular—they rise up from the sand like King Arthur’s Sword from the lake. And they are peppy. Most of them pop out and head off on their quest right smartly. When the reach the water, they switch from an alternating crawl to a two-flipper breast stroke, though the highest waves are less than an inch tall. It seems like they are almost unbearably eager to GET GOING. It reminds me of old videos of troops heading off to the Great War. And we know, in both cases, the survival rates for these troops just isn’t good. For the baby turtles, it’s about one in one hundred.

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I found my own nest to watch and guard, and I estimate there were 80-90 babies that emerged. I felt pride and ownership for my turtles. I felt responsible for their safety. I kept the vultures away, along with the help of a local boy who had a great strength for throwing sticks to scare the vultures. But there was a danger I hadn’t appreciated before. Suddenly, the crabs, whose sideways dancing antics usually amuse me, became evil hatchling IMG_2573beheaders. IMG_2383

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Missing a front and back leg.

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I had seen a few headless hatchlings the day before, but I had blamed the black vultures. This morning I found a headless hatchling body wedged in a crab hole! And the determined hatchling with one front and one back leg missing who nonetheless made it out into the waves, earning cheers from the kids for having reached safety and the chance to heal—a victim of crabs! I thought they spent their days drawing scribbles in the sand and rolling sand into little balls with their funny claws, but, like gremlins, when circumstances are right, they take the opportunity to snack on passing creatures.

I was a guardian, but there were 30 or so crabs between me and the shore. How could I do it? How could I keep ‘my’ hatchlings safe? I realized I felt hatred for the scuttering crabs.

This is the magic of the arribata. Turtles are reptiles, and reptiles don’t generally inspire much love and passion. Except that here, there is drama and danger, plus defenceless babies! There was a couple who spent hours sitting with the turtle who lay her eggs out on the beach. They waited to be sure she got back out into the water. I saw men carefully placing baby turtles in their hats to carry them past an obstacle. One couple spent time digging the flippers of one weary turtle free of the sand so she could walk more easily after her rest at the water’s edge. I don’t think all of these contributions are necessarily actually helpful, or good ideas, but it shows how involved in helping people are.

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The mist of morning surrounds people down the beach to beyond sight, all quiet, careful, watching helping, participating, feeling awe and pride. Our own kids smoothed and curated a runway from the nest to the beach so the turtles wouldn’t get tired crawling over lumpy sand. Today, our kids escorted over 250 hatchlings into the sea. They

 IMG_2413 IMG_2408 scared vultures away from fresh-laid nests. They saved two hatchlings from vultures who ate all the rest of their nest-mates. They feel satisfied with their contribution to increasing hatchling survival rates.

They understand, deeply, the cycle of life and death, of predators and prey, chance events, and the mystery and wonder of life and natural selection. They know that life is as fragile as a leathery eggshell laid in the wrong place, and as tough as a creature missing two legs following instinct into the water. I think they know enough, today.

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An eel??!!! Guest Post by Jet

We are in Costa Rica now and having a great time! We are staying with our friends Sam and Maeve.  Yesterday we went to a beach called Playa San Juanillo, known for its great snorkeling.

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My mum had just bought me a new snorkel and I was enjoying the sight of all the little fish swimming by when I saw something much bigger. I waved my hand in front of my mum’s mask and she signaled Sam. It was a puffer fish the length of about two apples. We followed it for a bit then moved on.

Ours looked exactly like this only a little smaller

 

We were about halfway back to shore when my mum indicated  something gray and slithery amongst the rocks. Sam heard my shrieks and thought I had recognized a pelagic sea snake (one of the most venomous animals in Costa Rica and for which there is no anti-venom). We broke a number of world records as we swam to shore faster than believed possible. My mum was laughing so much she could hardly stay afloat (having not followed us out) and was shouting “It’s an eel!  It’s only an eel!” Every body else was laughing at us too and Maeve went to see the eel. She did not (as pointed out later) run or shriek.

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Friends away from home

France has been great fun. We keep hearing how the fall has been unseasonably warm and sunny, and we are loving it. It feels like the very best early September Ontario fall day, over and over again.

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What has really made the time special, though, is the people. In the summer we visited Rich’s friend from university, Aurélie, in France. Our kids and her four kids hit it off immensely, and the adults did too. One of our goals for this trip was for everyone to improve their French, and after 4 days with Aurélie’s family, everyone was speaking more French than in the 3 weeks previous in Tunisia.

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Here we are at the chateau in Foix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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That’s our crowd on a floating water park!

We also were so lucky to spend almost two weeks with the Gorbets in Amsterdam. It’s funny, wherever they are in the world, it always feels like coming home to be with them again. [cue cheesy song That’s What Friends are For].

 

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Jet and Julia wrote and created a picture book for Tayo.

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Playing in Maakland. All the structures are built by kids.

 

 

 

 

 

We went to Museums and on bike rides and the kids made dinner and built things together and just played all day. The two pairs of big kids loved the 10 days of sleepovers, that’s for sure!

 

 

After Tunisia, we came back to France to live across the street from Aurélie, and mingle our lives together for a little bit. Our first night, we drove way out into the French countryside to see a circus show in a circus tent and have a dinner under the stars. It’s not how I imagined life in a small French village would be like.  Their lives feel like a surrealist ideal at times.  There are so many quirky events to choose from nearby.

Most nights we eat together (that’s 7 kids and 4 adults!!) and sometimes we drop off or pick up the kids at school. Right now we are on a holiday in the Pyrénées, and it is beautiful. The mountains cut the horizon into a bowl, and the stars seem close enough to touch. The kids, meanwhile, play all day in a two-language tangle of limbs and balls. Apparently language is less necessary when the play is deeply physical; although, tonight, they played several games of BINGO together, taking turns calling out in their second language. I actually feel like I am living in a dream. Do kids seriously work like this?

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All of us on a hike. Meet Aurélie, Michel, Simon, Léo, Angèle, Rose!

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It’s not just new people, but old friends here, too. We spent a weekend with Jo Wedge and Seb and Sophie, who are spending their second year in a small village outside of Bergerac. Our kids were so happy to speak English and play with people they knew. Tayo had hysterical fits when we left. She intended to stay with them (well, actually, Sophie) forever, stamps it, no erasies. It was a wonderful weekend of pony riding and a medieval chateau and the utterly fabulous village market, with the best oysters I have ever tasted, ever. The oyster guy even gave is his shucking knife so we could open them. Plus, we got to talk and talk and talk with Jo, uninterrupted-ish. And also dive into her library. I read three kid novels while I was there.

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Raja with the medieval village where we ate lunch.

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Arch of a Roman aquaduct which took water to Nîmes 1600 years ago.

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Sara Porter in the 14th century village!

Next, we met up with Raja in Nîmes for a weekend, and Sara Porter, too! She was on a writing retreat. We inveigled her out of the retreat, but not without difficulty, because massive storms caused the roads to flood. We tried to go and see the Roman aquaduct nearby, but the roads to it were flooded out also, so we diverted to a small medieval town where we could see the aquaduct in the distance. We had a most joyful and surreal lunch, since all of us live within 500 meters of each other in Toronto, but were, instead, on a sunny hilltop in France, eating in front of an ancient church, listening to the bells of the hunting dogs in the fields.

 

The next day, we met up with AJ in Toulouse. She visited us for almost a week, and Tayo said she had no need to be homesick now, because AJ was here and our family was together.  We will see her again soon in Costa Rica.  We are so lucky to have our people.  The world is so often a small and wonderful place to be.

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Here is AJ wearing the latest in preying mantises on her knee. All the cool kids want one; few are chosen.

 

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The sites

Sousse Museum

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The Sousse Archeological Museum is built right into the walls of the Medina, so the rounded spikes of the ancient walled city are all around.

Inside are mosaics and artifacts of the Punic, Roman, Aglabid and Christian times.  I like mosaics.  I like mosaics, because mosaics are the best.

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This here is a naked guy with some ichthyocentaurs. Haven’t seen those around much, have you?

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The accompanying text for this one describes a “polychromic shield-like composition, with a whirling effect.  In the middle is a theatre scene: a poet, sitting, is holding a parchment; on his right is a tragic mask and on his lef, a box filled with parchment rolls.   The second character, leaning on a column and holding a mask, is a comedian.”  From mid 3rd century, House of Masks, Sousse.

This next collection is directed at Les D of Nanaimo:  next time we come to visit, we would like our hot tub to look like this, please.

Ok, actually, it is a baptism pool (see the cross at the bottom?), but we saw a hot tub kind of like this, but a bit too plain for us, in the palace at the Bardo Museum.  We prefer this style.  We do not consider it an excess of decoration.

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El Jem Amphitheatre

One of the last amphitheatres built in the Roman empire, just as their fortunes were beginning to fade.  It could hold about 35000 people, making it the 2nd or 3rd largest in the world, after the Coliseum in Rome.  It had moving platforms in the floor of the arena, so that gladiators and wild animals could be hauled up into the middle of the arena to fight.  The walls around the arena floor were marble, in part to make it slippery and tricky for the animals to climb up. This kept the wealthiest patrons, seated closest to the floor, safe.

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the grey strip in the middle is the grill covering the hole where the animals came up on rising platforms.

 

One side has a set of rebuilt seats, to give an idea of what it would have been like (and also, conveniently, to provide seating for the music festivals).

There were three rows of seats, ranked by wealth, and there was a canvas roof to provide shade.  In its time, it would have been a big bowl of just seats from this view, like a modern sports stadium.  Except it was for the fighting of people and animals.

 

 

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See the rubble walls that filled the spaces between the rows of arches? (bottom left)

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And you can climb everywhere on this ancient structure. Look for 3 kids in the one below,  the top right…

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Here the kids are sitting on the rubble and cement sloped roof between arches that would have gone under the seats.

 

 

 

 

 

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It must be so irritating being an archeologist, and then getting frustrated with all the broken bits–what are you supposed to do with them all? We called this the column graveyard.  The parking lot was also lined with huge blocks of rock and column bits.

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Underground, in the basement.  These arches were where the wild animals were kept before they fought.  And a fossil shell in the sandstone in the wall.

IMG_1025These triangular holes fit the tip of the pinching tool used to lift and move the stone blocks.  You can see them in all the stones.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The arena turns everyone into fighters!

 

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El Jem Museum

On the site of 3 old villas of wealthy families.  Here is a mosaic in situ, and a close-up of a bird in it.  It must be hard to protect them against weeks growing in them and breaking them up.

 

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This museum had a rebuilt villa, so we could see the courtyard and the dining room and the bedrooms, and frescoes on the walls.  Rich loved it there.  Do you think it’s weird that the Romans wrote in Latin?  It seems reasonable when you think about it, but weird when you see it actually carved on monuments.

IMG_1124 Oh, hi, Medusa.

Oh, the mosaics.

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Hammam Sousse, fun at the beach.

Now that the sting of jellyfish memories have faded, it is easier to remember the fun we had at the beach.

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Rich and Zaylie, going up!

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Rich and Zaylie

 

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Jet and Tayo and an instructor.

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Kids coming down

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There is a human under those sticks.

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Two humans here.

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