Irene Market

Today, Cecily and I went to Irene Market to get some cool stuff and to eat some even cooler food.  Check it out:

Cecily’s school break is coming to a quick end, so we’re trying to milk these last few days before she heads back to the U.S.


A True Story; Not a Horse Tale

This really did happen to me today.  I didn’t make it up; my mind is not this creative.

Today I went to a pharmacy in Pretoria.  It was a pharmacy called DisChem which is similar to a Walgreens in the U.S.  It’s basically a big store with lots of products that just happens to have a pharmacy at one end.

I was in DisChem looking for travel-size toiletries for my son Ben; who, by the way, starts Air Force Basic Training next week.  (Expect a sobbing mother entry early next week.)  So, I asked a worker where to find the travel-sized toiletries whereupon I was directed to Aisle 8.  Aisle 8 had a small section of everything from tiny vaseline to travel-sized toothpaste to miniature bottles of polish remover.

The one thing they didn’t have was shampoo; or maybe I should clarify, they didn’t have human shampoo.  Instead, they had 90ml (3 oz) size bottles of horse shampoo.  You read that right, horse shampoo.  Remember, this was a human pharmacy, not a veterinary supply store.  Besides the horse shampoo, there were no other animal related products in the travel-size toiletries section.  There was also no human shampoo.

I then waved down a worker and the following conversation ensued:

Me (holding up a bottle of the horse shampoo):  Is this really for horses?

Worker (after inspecting the bottle):  Yes, I believe so.

Me:  Um … do you have any human miniature shampoo?

Worker (after looking around the travel-size toiletries section):  It doesn’t appear so.  But this is also really good for humans.  It will prevent your hair from falling out and give you a glossy coat.

Me (while giving the worker my squinty-eyed perplexed look): Really?!  People really use this?

Worker:  Yes, but you have to mix it with human shampoo.

Whereupon, I put back the few miniature products I had collected and walked out of the DisChem.

Too bad Ben isn’t going into the Cavalry.


In the years that I have lived overseas (7 years combined), I have at times found myself in unexpected situations, doing things that I doubt I ever would have done had I stayed in the US.

For example, when I was a Mormon missionary in Italy in my early 20s, I taught a couple of lessons to some Egyptian men in an old, condemned building that was illegally occupied by a bunch of Arabs who paid monthly “rent” to drug lords.  Oh, and the building had no electricity or running water, so we taught our lessons by candles and flashlights.  Though it seemed like a completely reasonable thing to do at the time, with a little hindsight, it was probably not the smartest place for two young American women to be.

This is probably the first time my mother is hearing this story.  Sorry Mom.

(Note to my kids:  If you ever find yourself in a position to enter a electricity-less, condemned building in a foreign country that is occupied by Arab men and run by drug lords, don’t.)

In the past few years, I have found myself in a few other unexpected situations.  Though the others haven’t been as stupid as the story above, they have at times been quite heart wrenching.

I once took a woman to prison.  I drove her to the prison and stayed by her side as she turned herself in.  Then tearfully hugged her and told her how strong she was just before she walked alone through the heavy metal doors.

I’ve taken food, clothing and toiletries to women in prison and tried to be encouraging as we talked through glass barriers.

I once talked a woman through a divorce while simultaneously helping to get her husband deported.

Then today, I found myself in another unexpected situation when I had to tell a woman, who was 6 months pregnant, that she has malaria.  I then drove her to the hospital and escorted her to the ICU.  Once I was confident that she was in capable hands, we tearfully hugged as I left.

Sometimes I wonder how a little girl from Utah gets herself into these kinds of situations.  But I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve had to grow in compassion and to develop better understanding.  Through these experiences, and so many others, I have developed a unique world view.  I have seen God’s love for his children, wherever they live.  And it has changed me.



Turning 18 and Taking Flight

Tomorrow, this little puppy turns 18.


We’ll do all the normal birthday things.


We’ll have a big birthday meal …


Sing Happy Birthday …


Eat some cake …


But then, as the sun is setting on his 18th birthday, he’ll board an airplane to Germany.


He’ll arrive at Ramstein Air Base Monday morning, where he’ll take the ASVAB, go through a physical exam, and before the week is up, enlist in the United States Air Force.


He’ll fly back to South Africa on Saturday.  Later this month he’ll graduate from high school and then spend the next few months working at the Embassy.  He’ll probably start basic training in late summer or early fall.

So for now, I’ll have a few more months before this son of mine becomes a soldier.  I’m so proud of him and his decision to serve his country.  But I’m going to miss this little boy of mine.


Happy Birthday Ben!!  I love you!

Alone! Alone! Alone!

I know a lot of people who don’t like to spend time alone.  I am not one of those people.  In fact, I find that I need a certain amount of time alone.  And I’m pretty sure that the last time I spent a whole night alone, I was in my 20’s.

Since I became a mother 20 years ago last Tuesday (Happy Birthday Cecily!), I have spent very little precious time alone.  And though I love my husband and children, and I will forever be grateful to be a wife and mother, sometimes I find myself wishing they would all go away … for just one night.

Does this make me a horrible wife and mother?  Maybe.  But, whatever.

When I got out of bed at 6:15 this morning, there were 8 people in this house: my husband, my 4 kids, my mother-in-law, and our helper.  And now, a mere 13 hours later, there is no one here but me.  And I don’t plan to see another human being until tomorrow around noon.

I’m giddy with excitement!

Where are they all you ask?  Well, our helper is home with her family; Jason, my mother-in-law, and my girls are driving to Cape Town; and my boys are in Johannesburg for school functions.  My boys should be home around noon tomorrow and then the three of us are hopping on a plane to Cape Town to meet up with the rest of the bunch.

When I told my friend Amy that I would be spending an entire night alone in the house, she wondered if I would be a little afraid.  NOPE!!!  I live in Fort Knox, for heaven’s sake!   I honestly don’t see how a mere human could get through all the layers of security that surround my house.  I’m feeling pretty safe.

One night of this is all I need.  I’m sure that tomorrow night I’ll be glad to be reunited with the whole gang at our rental home at Camps Bay in Cape Town.  And I’m looking forward to waking up again next to my husband again on Sunday morning.  But for now, I’m in my pjs and fuzzy pink robe, enjoying the sweet, sweet sound of silence.

And it’s heavenly!


In my pjs, in my fuzzy pink robe, in my bed, in my silent house, selfie.  Can you feel my joy?

Scuba Failure, American Idol Audition and Naughty Monkeys

Some people were not meant to scuba dive.  We are those people.

We spent the last few days at Sodwana Bay and St. Lucia on the eastern coast of South Africa.  Jason set up scuba lessons for himself, Elizabeth, Ben and me.  Noah was certified last year on a school outing in Jordan.  In the US, it can take weeks, if not months to become scuba certified.  In much of the rest of the world, it can be done in a weekend.

While Noah went off diving, the rest of us spent the first morning of certification in a classroom, watching boring videos and taking written tests.  We all passed with flying colors.  Yea us!!!

Then we spent the afternoon at the dive pool.  First we learned how to assemble and disassemble all of our gear.  Passed!!!  Yea us!!!

Then we had to prove to the instructor that we could float or tread water for 10 minutes without help.  Passed again!!! Yea us!!!

Then we geared up and into the pool we went.  At the deepest end, the pool was 3 meters deep.  When we made our first descent I was immediately overcome with nausea.  I tried so hard to suck it in; and for the most part, I was successful.  But by our 7th or 8th descent, I lost it.  I shot back to the surface, swam as fast as I could to the side; whereupon, I lost my lunch at the side of the pool.  A small fraction of my lunch may or may not have found its way into the pool.

We asked our instructor if he had ever had anyone throw up before.  He had students throw up over the side of the boat on the way out to dive in the ocean, but never at the pool.

I was the first.  It was not a proud moment.

I knew that if I couldn’t make it through the pool portion of the certification without throwing up, there was no way I was going to make it through the ocean portion.  If 3 meters made my stomach churn, imagine what 12 meters would do!  That evening, I continually imagined myself the next morning throwing up my Corn Flakes while simultaneously aspirating star fish.

So I graciously bowed out, making myself the first Hale Scuba Certification Dropout.  Again, I’m not proud.

The next morning, while Noah went off on another fun dive, Jason, Ben and Elizabeth set off for their ocean certification.  Ben made it about 1 meter underwater where he wasn’t able to equalize the pressure in his ears due to a cold he was suffering from, making himself the second Hale Scuba Certification Dropout.

Jason and Elizabeth both made it the 12 meters down to the ocean floor, but only after Elizabeth pleaded with her dad to not make her do it and Jason secretly convinced they were all going to die.  Though they made it the furthest, neither of them passed the ocean portion of the certification, becoming Hale Scuba Certification Dropouts #3 and #4.  I’m sure our instructor now thinks that all Americans are pathetic wimps.

Surprisingly, none of us feel particularly bad about our failures.  And none of us want to go near scuba gear ever again.  We can all readily admit that we were not meant to scuba dive.  Except for Noah–who admitted later that he didn’t remember anything from his certification and was actually winging it.

We’re all lucky to be alive.

While at Sodwana Bay, we stayed in a charming chalet in a local neighborhood.  On a number of occasions during our stay, a local kid would hide in the bushes behind the back fence of our chalet and sing his heart out.  My guess is that he thought that there was a chance that we were American music producers who were traveling around Africa looking for the next great singing sensation.  I’m sure he was pretty disappointed when we pulled away without taking him to meet Ryan Seacrest.

And speaking of our chalet, it was surrounded by naughty monkeys who would run around on the tin roof early in the morning–sounding like someone was rolling logs off the roof.  At one point, one of them climbed in the kitchen window and, while straddling the window sill and countertop, ate most of a loaf of bread.  Here is one of them eating a plum that Elizabeth put out on the back table for them.