August 2005 (created 07-Jan-06 by Ken)
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A picture of Erica and I that isn't a self-photo.. a rare event so I had to include it although at least one advantage of a self-photo is that you can't typically see my underware hanging out of my shorts.
Erica baked "Baked Alaska" for Charlie's birthday. For those who have never had this, it is just an amazing mouth-watering treat of ice-cream covered in merange and then baked quickly in the oven. And Erica did this one to perfection.
Cole made this lovely sign wishing Charlie a happy birthday. Unfortunately I had to crop it to make it fit so you can't see the wonderful blue creature at the top but you do get his name spelled backwards at the bottom.
We also had a group birthday later with all of her friend. If I recall correctly celebrating birthdays were Charlie, Logan and Spenser. The party was at the Tyce's home which is beautiful, overlooks Laulau Bay, has a pool and lots of room for kids to run amok. The animal poster in the front is something that Erica made based on the movie "Madagascar" and the kids threw beanbags into holes to win prizes. There was also bag painting, general romping in the pool, and overall a great time.
August was one of those months where there was perhaps just too much going on. Apart from Charlie's birthday Erica and I had an invitation to do a site visit in the Republic of Congo from the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) country Directors Paul and Sarah Elkin. They have a number of various projects going on and there was some hope that Erica and I might be able to get involved. We flew to the Republic of Congo via South Africa. This picture was taken in Johannesburg at a Lion Park. While we did take plenty of pictures of lions, I really liked this one of a ...
Part of our time in Johannesburg included a visit to a closed gold mine where the following facts were very colorfully hung along the walls:

1. ROOMIEST ELEVATORS. The biggest man-carrying cages on gold mines, compared with passenger elevators in city skyscrapers, take 10 times as many passengers (150 in the largest cages), travel on average at more than twice the speed (about 45 km/h) to cover about 25 times the distance (up to 2.5 km)...
After a couple days in Johannesburg we flew in to Brazzaville, capital of the Republic of Congo, where we were greeted by Paul, Sarah and their staff. We arrived just before the weekend, and we were unable to visit one of their projects until the following Monday, so Paul arranged for us to see the Lafini Reserve where Gorillas that had been confiscated from poachers were raised and then released. This was a rare opportunity for Charlie to see Gorillas close up, and they seemed almost as interested in her as she was of them.
It was nice to be there over a weekend where Erica and I could work on our French language skills which had accumulated some rust over the past 13 years and to enjoy some of the local sites. Erica took Charlie to a local amusement park where she got to play with lots of kids on fun air-filled rides while I went to a soccer match for the national title with about 50,000 other people attending.
Paul was able to make final arrangements for us to conduct a site visit at the Parc National Conkouati Douli which is an amazing park that includes stretches of coastal environment up through some higher elevation forests. Although the population around Conkouati is not huge, hunting pressure on the park is still high. This turtle was given to Paul by the park guards who confiscated it from a vehicle where it was likely heading to a market to be sold. Charlie got the honor of releasing it back into the wild. I meanwhile kept a tight grip on her jacket to make sure she didn't join the ...
After a couple days in Conkouati we stopped off in Point Noir for a couple days on our way back to Brazzaville. Point Noir has a vast amount of off-shore oil activity and is a financial hub for the nation. For Erica, Charlie and I it was an opportunity to cool off in a local pool and relax. For Charlie she was much more excited about playing with the kids which included the game of "Drown the Mom" (Erica survived).
After Point Noir we flew back to Brazzaville then took a boat across the river to Kinshasa in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (former Zaire). Often to avoid confusion people refer to either Congo-Brazzaville or Congo-Kinshasa. The fact that they are neighbors and their capitals are separated by a river.. albeit the grand Congo River.. doesn't help the confusion. It was a highlight of our trip to get a chance to visit with Terese Hart and her daughter Jojo. As many of you know we used to work for John and Terese Hart in the Ituri Forest a number of years ago...
After three weeks of traveling and visiting it was nice to be home again in Saipan, and Charlie immediately organized an underware trampoline event with her friends Cole and Logan.