May 2006 (created 2-Jul-06 by Ken)
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I spent the last couple of weeks of April in Douala (Cameroon) trying to find transport for our personal items that had been in storage for months there. Initially I could not find transport from Douala to the border town of Libongo (near Bayanga) for under $2,000. I finally did make contact with a man from the logging company working in Libongo and he offered to transport our items for free as he often sends empty containers to Libongo. With that good news Erica and Charlie decided to fly out and meet me in Douala and we would take a short family holiday prior to our ...
After Cameroon we flew to Washington DC where Erica had scheduled some meetings. Charlie and I headed off to the National Zoo one day and saw the dinosaur exhibit another day. Half the fun of being in DC was riding the subway, Charlie loved it. The other half of the fun was eating all of the food she doesn't get in Bayanga: sushi, potatoe chips, etc. For our last couple of days we were invited to visit with one of the WWF project donors Lavinia Currier and her family. She has a son Michael who is about Charlie's age and they had a great time together. Here they ...
Here is Lavinia helping Michael and Charlie develop their green thumbs before they got interested in something else and wandered off. We enjoyed a very pleasant day and a nice dinner together before sleeping in Lavinia's guest house and heading off to the airport early the next morning.
On a tragic note, shortly after flying into Madison Erica's little sister Nupie died. Here is a recent picture of Erica and Charlie with Nupie and Melissa in Hawaii. Death seems easier to accept when someone is 150 years old and suffering from illness rather than 20 years old and just entering a new phase in life. It was good that Erica was there to help her parents deal with their grief. Gavin flew out to help as well and Griffen and Megan live nearby so there was lots of support. Nupie was a sweet kid, and always so loving to Charlie.. we will miss her.
While the family was making arrangements for Nupie's funeral, Charlie spent a lot of time with Ritch, Shannon and their family (friends of Roger's and Melissa's). Their son, Josiah, was instantly Charlie's best buddy and they really had a blast together. Their daughter, Savannah, was a little older than Charlie and gave her a heap of very cool clothing and stuff she no longer used. That, along with a trampoline, a pool, dogs, cats and a beautiful home tucked into the trees it was hard to actually get Charlie to leave at the end of the day.
A tradition at the Schnitzler's home on visits is the game of Settlers of Catan. We definitely spent a number of nights bouncing between Settlers, an NBA playoff basketball game and (well for me anyways) making rootbeer floats. There were also nice walks along the lake and a few dips in the lake for the kids and the more fearless adults (like Erica).
While in Madison we also enrolled Charlie at the same day school that Josiah was attending. It was only 3x a week and half day, but Charlie really loved having more time with Josiah and being around lots of kids in general. It was good timing because they were having their end of the year skit and Charlie got to participate. Here are Charlie and the kids in her class singing "He's got the whole world in his hands" complete with sign language. The teacher had told the kids to really sing out loud and Charlie took this to heart, belting out the lirics to the laughing joy of her parents.
My sister and her son David flew to Madison to visit with us as well over Memorial Day weekend. Here we are in the Wisconsin Dells enjoying some waterslide park fun. Judy, David, Charlie and I spent the night in the Dells and left Erica to have some alone time with her folks.
Another tradition with the Schnitzlers over Memorial weekend is to drive up north to a place called Lake Manitowish which is a summer camp for kids and help them get ready for the summer. This includes splitting and stacking wood, setting up the docks and generally cleaning around the camp. Judy, David, Bryn and Jon joined us in this fun tradition. Manitowish is in a really beautiful northern woods part of the state and I hope Charlie can enjoy a couple summers worth of camp there when she gets older. Perhaps we can do a family week sometime before that.
A Manitowish tradition during the weekend is to open the stage to the musical and theatrical talents of those who are visiting. Erica, Charlie and David.. along with some other kids.. sang Frere Jaque in French, English and Sangho with written cue cards to help the audience sing along. I volunteered to help with lights for the show. It was good fun and some pretty amazing talent in the people that participated.
Finally it was time to say goodbye and fly back to Africa. Griffen and Megan (the two on the right) also announced that they are married and are planning a formal ceremony next summer.. so we will definitely be back in a year if not sooner.