The Leon's 2016 Photo Album

Updated: 2017.01.02


Click on the thumbnail pictures to see the full sized pictures



Dec

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Mexican Riviera cruise.


April

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14 people from Valley Church in Cupertino went to Harare Zimbabwe to volunteer at Habitation Of Hope (a summer camp for orphans run by Hands Of Hope) for almost 3 weeks.

Note: many of these photos were taken by others, including Starla Sorrentino, SiuLin Tay, Dave Kiefer, and Jordan McDevitt

Travel / Dubai

We left SFO on Monday evening, and arrived in Dubai on their Tuesday evening, followed by arriving in Harare on their Wednesday evening.

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Goodbye San Francisco!

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And just a few (15) hours later ;-) we were standing in front of the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, U.A.E.

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Yup, the World's Tallest Building indeed - over 1/2 mile up. Kinda' makes those 20-30 story buildings next to it look puny.

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The next morning, we had a 10 hr flight to Zimbabwe. When we landed, we had this sunset to enjoy while we waited for our luggage. We each had our own suitcase, and one extra full of crafts, puppets, and supplies for the camps. It all arrived!

Avalon / Orphan Homes

Our fearless leader (Glen) kept us busy. We landed Wed eve, and Thursday morning, we were meeting local people in Avalon (Harare suburb) and then visited four orphan homes.

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Diane & SiuLin talking to a local resident on the streets of Avalon, while Megan and Alan observe.

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The street vendors seemed to think we looked like pretty good targets. Luckily, I had 0 money in my wallet. This guy told a good story, about how his kids watched him make these with his own hands, and how we should encourage his kids to work hard by buying them from him.

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Some of the kids from the Shalom house all curled up on the couch watching TV. Several of them were sick, and you can tell it was a cool day here.

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The girls in the Westgate house sang us several songs. They have amazing harmony. Then they gave us a tour of the grounds, including the rabbits and chickens. This was the first home purchased by HoH.

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We had lunch at The Otter House, and met some of the cute little girls there.

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Each one of the girls had their own photo album.

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And each one thoroughly enjoyed showing it to us.

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Group shot of us and The Otter House family. Hey, I remember this picture from Diane's trip last year!

Habitation Of Hope

In our spare time, we got settled in at the camp.

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Main Street just outside the Habitation of Hope camp, pretty typical of the area, except most of the roads are not nearly that nice!

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Our main room for evening programs, after being decorated. There was lots of help making and hanging the decorations.

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Mealtime - we were well fed the entire time thanks to Lucy and Alice! This was the first time I had ever tried peanut butter porridge - it was good, I liked it. :)

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Our little bungalow. (left half) Not too shabby! Life was even better after the water-pressure issue got fixed, so we had hot water after the first few days.

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The view out the front from our bungalow. Resort-like!

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No city lights to interfere with an awesome view of the Milky Way. As usual, this photo doesn't do it justice.

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Quietly stalking a bird to take a picture of it... see how close you can get without scaring it away... and here is the moment right when I... realized it was fake. I also didn't realize that Jordan had snapped a picture of that embarrassing moment!

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A new fish farm (talapia) being built at the camp. HoH is working towards becoming self-sustaining. They also have a farm where they grow maize and peas.

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Greenhouses and chicken run are almost complete.

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A rabbit project housing about 50 (for now!) rabbits.

Borrowdale Community Church (BCC)

On Friday & Saturday, we ran a program for kids in the morning at a local church, and then provided training for the leaders in the afternoon.

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Diane ran the crafts, and these monkey drums were a huge hit!

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We had indoor and outdoor games for the kids.

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The Puppet team put on a show about a Shepherd who lost his sheep. Two of us took turns holding mics for the other two puppets who were "on stage".

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The kids seemed to enjoy the puppet shows.

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The first afternoon, we played games outside, mostly with balloons. But this is the classic, grab hands, and try to untangle yourselves. The next day we had some sprinkles, so played indoor games. They had a riot with "Simon Says".

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Taking a break for lunch, with Thomas supplying the best photo-bomb of the trip. I had no idea he was there, and just about jumped back when I looked at this picture later. Well done, Sir!

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On the first afternoon, Diane gave a talk on running a crafts program. She has done it for quite a few years, so had lots of insights to share.

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Me doing a talk on puppeteering - I might have been smiling because of how much I was NOT an expert on this topic! Hey, I think that puppet is laughing at me!!

Green Valley

On Sunday morning, we visited a nearby church. This facility is more typical of the area, in stark contrast to BCC above.

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This little girl was one of the most friendly folks there, and by the end of our visit, I think we had a picture of her with just about everybody.

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Lots of people packing into this little half-structure. We had overcast skies and a few sprinkles the first few days, but then clear and sunny for the rest of the trip.

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It seems a lot of the locals wanted to get their picture taken with Alan and/or SiuLin. (our Asian team members)

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Recognize the little girl on the right?

Camp - Week 1

On Sunday evening, our first group of kids arrived for camp. Hands Of Hope feeds about 2,000 kids each day, not necessarily in one of the 18 orphan homes.

Most of the kids at camp were orphans, having lost both parents, typically to AIDS. Otherwise, they were described as coming from "hard places", which usually meant an abusive situation.

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Story time - Thomas tells the kids about his school project to get a lima bean to sprout.

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The Yellow Team (aka "Team Takasimba") is gathered for small-group time.

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The Zimbabwe half of our leadership team from the first week.

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This little guy was not shy, and most of the kids enjoyed some love during the week.

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These two wanted to stop and pose for my picture - I had to tell them to keep going, you are in a race!

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The balloon toss is always fun - especially for the spectators!

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Hand combat on a muddy, slippery pole. Farai (red shirt) dominated this round. Taniya calls foul! The boy getting out of the water doesn't seem to mind the taste.

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Not everybody made it across the mudpit ropes. (actually, most did not)

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These magic scratch crafts were so great, that a bunch of them disappeared over night. Luckily, Diane had brought some extra, and was able to redistribute them for the 2nd week kids. Yeah, she is normally that prepared.

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Of course, the monkey drums were also a big hit at the VBS camps.

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Louise (bottom left) brought glow-sticks for all of the kids on the final evening, and they all got string-bags in which to carry home their crafts from the week.

Imire Game Park

The first week of Camp ended Thursday night, and we got up early on Friday and drove for a few hours to get to the game park in time for the 9:30 AM safari drive.

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The group enjoying tea and juice (especially Kurt!) before our next adventure.

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Posing by the banana tree in front of our bungalow. The facilities were really nice. I watched a monkey pick a few bananas and eat them on a lounge chair by the pool.

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Low-rider chair in our room.

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Looks better with Diane in it. :)

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All 15 of us piled into a multi-level truck for the safari ride.

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Of course, Zebras are the coolest.

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Saw a few youngins sporting their hip mohawks.

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The Sable are the most agressive antelope. They were constantly head-butting here.

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Giraffes are just miraculous. This was not a zoom lens - they really were this close to us. It helped a bit that our driver was pouring treats out for them.

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As you would guess, this is how they drink water also. Think about how hard their heart has to pump to get blood up to their brain.

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They are incredibly graceful when they run, almost like slo-mo.

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The warthogs chased the giraffes away and took a turn with the treats. Sad giraffe.

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Saw 4 elephants at this stop.

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Ya' try to get a nice, picturesque, lake background, and some photo-bomber has to ruin it!

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This was the first elephant at the game park, so she joined a herd of Water Buffalo. Now they can't ger her to join the other elephants. In fact, she is the leader of the herd!

Extra Credit: Find Waldo the Warthog in the picture!

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No, *you* ask him to move!

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We also took a sunset ride thru the game park.

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Yup, just awesome.

Highfield Church

On Sunday, we visited a different church. This one was more of a drive across town. I think we had 15 of us packed into a mini-van, along with a suit case full of puppets, and a puppet stage. Of course, it was also hot and humid. This outing gave new meaning to the phrase, "make sure the team sticks together."

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Got all cleaned up. :-)

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Thomas managed to find time to get in a workout. This building had all of the walls completed.

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Diane making some new friends after the service.

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We did a puppet show for the kids there. The translator on the left was just grabbed at the last minute, and he wasn't clear on the concept. At one point, he just started reading the script. We tried to just go with it! Finally, Garikai (on the right) took over, since he knew the deal. :-)

Puppets

Speaking of puppets, that was my main job - putting together the scripts, getting the costumes and props together, organizing everything, etc. We had an awesome team of puppeteers to execute on the plan. Here is a collection of peeks into the puppet show happenings throughout the 2 weeks of camp.

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This was back-stage at the camp - the doorway between the main room and our dining area. Craig and I are ready to go! Craig wasn't planning to be on the team, but he was our faithful back-up whenever anybody couldn't be there. As Craig would say, I always knew since I met him that we would be doing puppet shows together in Africa someday.

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Here we go... looks like the puppets are a crowd-pleaser. And yes, our arms did get tired after doing that for almost 10 minutes at a time. I tried to keep the scripts short, but forgot to account for translation time, which doubled everything.

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Thomas was normally the voice of "Safari Dave". We heard that some of the kids had never seen puppets before. You can see one of the kids waving to the puppets. We couldn't see the kids, so we would always wave when coming or going from stage just in case.

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Front view of the kids watching the puppets. People sitting/standing would often see the top of my head, but luckily, the kids were sitting on the floor.

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There was one 'scene' where we had 5 of us crawling over each other with our puppets. Shout out to Jordan McDevitt for building this awesome puppet stage for us, and to Gari's wife, Virginia, for all the sewing work.

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Here you can see our go-to translators, Oscar on the left, and Blessed on the right. Today, Blessed was also the Birthday-Boy, so the puppets started the crowd singing "Happy Birthday" to him.

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At the end of each week, the puppets revealed who was helping them. The kids seemed surprised both times we did this.

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Here is a view of the kids during the final reveal.

Camp - Week 2

On Sunday evening, the next wave of kids arrived for camp.

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Team Takasimba group cry

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The kids had a great time taking turns throwing water balloons at Seth Kiefer - I believe this was their favorite game of the week as evidenced by their smiles.

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Keep it level... d'oh! The goal is to lower the tub of water to the ground without spilling it.

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I think somebody is about to get wet.

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Hanging out with Bibiata, Kupakwashe, and Kellie during afternoon game time. This wasn't a Cisco sponsored event, I just had the T-Shirt. ;-) Although, Cisco deserves a shout-out, as they started a new "Time2Give" program, which gives all employees 40 (paid) hours each year to volunteer for a cause of their choice. Very cool.

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I don't remember why Bibiata and I were having a moment here, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't one of my good jokes. (she didn't speak any English and I only learned a handful of Shona words!)

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All the kids loved having their picture taken, and of course, looking at it afterwards. Some of the kids would mob the camera and try to pull it their way just to see the picture. Kupakwashe (left) looks amazed and Kellie (right) is very excited.

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Bibiata and Kellie enjoyed wearing my glasses.

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Tanyaradzwa had a great time with just a scrap of balloon. And yes, he let me have a turn. :-P

I asked one of the translators what his name means, and she said, "at a memorial service, the silence, due to the pain." Wow. I asked another one of the local leaders and he said it means "we are consoled". I think I like this latter translation better. :)

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Tanyaradzwa and Kellie had fun with these cones for quite a while.

We were told that Zimbabwe babies often get their names based on what is happening at the time of their birth. Our Safari guide was named "Anyway" - it's kind of a long story!

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The official group photo of Team Takasimba. (literally, "I feel strong", hence, many of their poses) That became one of the favorite words of the week, mainly due to the puppet shows. It's also kind of a long story. (ask next time you see me :-)
Back: Alice, Megan, Diane, Nate, Chris
Middle: Brian, Euna, Brian S., Admire, Tawanda, Tawanda C., Learnmore
Front: Shantel S., Tanyaradzwa ("we are consoled"), Bibiata, Shantel

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This was Team Takasimba after successfully completing the Tires of Hanoi challenge. It's like the Towers of Hanoi, but using car tires and wood posts instead of small wooden disks.

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Kellie enjoyed some "me time" with Diane.

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It seems Kellie didn't enjoy "group time" quite as much! This was our last evening with these kids, so it got pretty rowdy.

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Entire camp shot on Friday morning. The kids are all wearing the shirts they decorated earlier in the week.

Travel Home / Dubai

We left Zimbabwe Friday evening, and arrived in Dubai on Saturday morning. We had a 24 hour layover, so we were able to get some sleep, and then take a bus tour of the area.

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Near the beginning of the city tour, we stopped at an old fort turned into a museum.

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Crossing Dubai Creek, with our tour guide, Nasser. Seems out of the "creek" league to me, but that's what they call it!

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Visiting the gold district.

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They claim this is the world's largest gold ring - anybody care to argue?

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If you have to ask, you can't afford it!

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We stopped by the spice district for some snacks.

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Final sunset looking at Burj Al Arab from Jumeirah Beach, before we flew home the next morning.


March


February


January