The Leon's 2017 Photo Album

Updated: 2017.05.30


Click on the thumbnail pictures to see the full sized pictures



May - Zimbabwe

14 people from Valley Church, Cupertino went to Harare, Zimbabwe to volunteer at Habitation Of Hope (a summer camp for orphans run by Hands Of Hope) for just over two weeks.

Travel / Dubai

We left SFO on Wed evening, and arrived in Dubai on their Thur evening, slept there over-night and flew out the next morning, followed by arriving in Harare on their Fri evening. It's a long haul no matter how you look at it!

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Here is the whole gang getting ready to leave for the airport. We each had our own suitcase and one other full of crafts, puppets, supplies, etc. This year, Zachary was able to join us. It was totally last-minute . . . he finished finals early, got home on Mon, we purchased his ticket on Tues while he was still finishing a final project, and we left Wed. Ever spontaneously decide to go to Africa tomorrow?!

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A few of the guys standing in front of the Burj Khalifa - most of the team ventured out in Dubai, even though it was after 11 PM local time, and it had been a long 15 hr flight.

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Welcome to Harare, Zimbabwe - we were very glad to arrive!

Habitation Of Hope

Getting settled in at the camp.

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We stayed in the same chalet as last year, with the same resort-like view out the front door!

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I don't recall seeing poinsettia flowers last year, but there they are. A butterfly or two seemed to like them as well.

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We had an awesome puppet stage last year, made by Jordan McDevitt. There was only one thing wrong - it was made out of large PVC. Guess what happens when a water pipe springs a leak at the camp? Yup, the maintenance crew repairs it with whatever they can find. Thus, we had to construct a new puppet stage this year, but didn't have enough connectors. Using that same McGyver spirit, here we see our camp director (Garikai Masuka) making a connector by heating up a pipe over the stove. :-)

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On Sat morning, we went into Avondale, and mingled with some of the 'locals'. A few of us met a man named Jeremiah who was selling belts. We got to chatting with him, and he asked us to bring him back to the US. I thought he was joking, until he asked a 2nd time. He went on to say, "we are suffering." Things are very bad there for many, with unemployment estimated as high as 95%. Here we are at the office, so that we could get internet access, and let friends and family know we all arrived safely.

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After our quick office visit, we had lunch with the ladies at Westgate Haven, one of the first HoH homes. They served us an amazing lunch, followed by singing us two songs, and ended with two different cakes.

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Here we see Dr. Charles drawing a crowd.

Camp - Week 1

On Sunday afternoon, the first wave of kids arrived for camp.

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The Red Team completing a task together. The ~50 kids were broken into four teams (~12 each)

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High-5 relay race

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Getting ready for a game of "Red light, green light", although, we called it "Mhanyai! / Mirai!" ("Run! / Stop!")

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The dodgeball games were a hit. :)

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Shamiso ("wonderful") sinking one in the bucket - nice shot!

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The balls were building up to the water balloons. Arbby catches a handful of water!

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Arbby shakes off the water, and translates for Diane, as she explains how they will decorate T-Shirts.

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Later in the week, the kids also decorate string-bags, which came in handy to carry all of their crafts home.

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One afternoon, the kids made crowns.

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Zachary assisting some of the kids.

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The crowns were a big hit, and all the kids wore them that evening, and even some on the following day(s). Even one of the puppets wore one that evening. :)

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Every afternoon was team-building games, led by the Zim team - they worked really hard all day long.

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This was our Red Team working on their egg-drop project.

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Proudly displaying their efforts, basically an egg surrounded by straws and a layer of masking tape. We had scrambled eggs that afternoon.

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On Thurs afternoon, we visit the mud pit. Here the teams battle it out on the muddy pole.

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And then see who can make it across The Ropes.

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Only a few made it across without a refreshing dunk.

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Valerie had a great smile, but we didn't see it very often. You can't tell from most of these pics, but these kids have had a rough life already.

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Red Team photo

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Sunset behind a few of the A-frames where some of the kids stayed.

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Peeking backstage during a puppet practice. The kids loved the puppets, and we had fun too.

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Final Thurs night dance party, before the kids left Fri morning. A few long hugs like the one in the background.

The Weekend between the two camps

On Friday morning, we headed for Bally Vaughn Game Park

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Well, not so fast. Our "combi" (van) would not start. We tried pulling a battery out of a nearby SUV, but could not get the posts to line up. Finally, we pulled the battery off the camp's back-up generator and used that to get us on the road.

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A few hours later, relaxing at the game park lodge.

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Until Stripes, The Very Friendly Zebra, came to visit. He has a sweet tooth, and is quite smart. For example, he tried to knock the tea & cookie out of my hand by nudging my elbow so that he could claim them for his own.

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After he realized I had set it down, he went after Diane.

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She wasn't too comfortable with him nibbling at her back.

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Here was our ride as we went to feed a few elephants and see some other wild life. Looks like it will fit about 8-10 comfortably.

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So we crammed 13 of us into it. :-)

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The view was breath-taking at just about every turn.

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We got up-close and personal with two elephants.

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Nate's turn to feed one of them.

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We also saw some Zebra and antelope there.

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And a brief glimpse of an eagle.

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We ate well the entire time, but especially here. All 14 of us, plus our fearless leader (Glen) in this pic.

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A handful of ostrich running around the park.

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And some nice sized golden orb spiders.

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Speaking of big, these caterpillars are probably around 8" long.

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The wildebeests kept a close eye on us, but didn't seem very worried.

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The African (Cape) Buffalo (aka Black Death) on the other hand, would not let us get very close, and that was fine with us, given his reputation for charging.

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Not your ordinary donkey - check out the legs - it is a zonkey!

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Looks like he is waving hello, but it is actually more like pointing out who he plans to eat first.

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This was one angry cat. He was brought here after getting his throat tangled up in barbed wire. He survived, but now has a low, gurgling roar.

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I would not want to meet this guy on his terms.

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Ms. Lion was also one with whom you would not want to toil.

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Their biggest lion at the moment - this guy was starting to make a dent in the fence.

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Finally, a more friendly face. Who knew hyenas liked to have their chin scratched?!

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I believe this is a croc based on the teeth.

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Looks more like a gator, but again, the teeth make me think croc.

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This poor guy has arthritis, and is moving very slowly.

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Beautiful coat

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Of course, the photo doesn't do it justice, but you can start to get the idea, just gorgeous.

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We shared a nice little house between four of us, and had this view of the savanna in the morning.

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Looking up at the main ("mwanga") lodge, named after a hard wood tree.

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Diane made friends with the Zebra before we left. (by having food for it of course :) On the left is one of the twin girls (Abby or Eden?!) who grew up here, and taught Stripes most of his sneaky tricks. ;)

On Saturday, we headed for Hatfield (near Harare) to visit an orphanage there (The Philadelphia House)

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This little girl (Makanaka-Ishe) was one of the friendliest folks we met on the entire trip. She went around and shook everybody's hand.

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Loni and Autumn seem to be enjoying the company.

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Diane got to hold baby Seth on several occasions.

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Finally Nate got a turn to hangout with Makanaka-Ishe.

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On the way back to camp, we passed one of President Mugabe's homes - not really all that inviting.

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A group of us climbed up some boulders back at camp to watch an awesome sunset that evening.

Constellations

It did not occur to me last year that we were looking at different constellations in the Southern hemisphere.

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Just above the middle of this pic is a kite-shaped constellation, known as The Southern Cross, or Crux. To the left of that, the two bright starts are Alpha and Beta Centauri, which point to the cross.

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This pic contains Scorpius (aka Scorpio), although it is difficult to pick out unless you know exactly what it looks like.

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This shot has a shorter exposure, so that the Scorpius constellation is easier to discern. (start with the curve of the tail in the middle of the pic, and then move up and to the left for the head. The bright star near the head is Antares.

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All dressed up and ready to go. We attended Green Valley church on our 2nd Sunday there.

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We put on a puppet show for the kids, and they all wanted a backstage pass afterwards. The show went well, except we were pretty much outside, and it was a bit breezy, so our scripts and such were blowing around during the skit.

Camp - Week 2

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

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Many of the kids had never used a frisbee before.

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Again, the high-5 relay, this time the HoH National Director (Charles Kaguda) is participating.

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The kids have a blast with duck-duck-goose.

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Lots of team-building games. In this one, they had to use the small cup to bring water from a bucket, fill up the larger cups one at a time, and blow the ping-pong ball down the line. If it fell out, the larger cups were emptied, and they had to start over.

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friendly rivalry between the US and Zim leaders - the points were all tied up at the end of the week, but more US leaders successfully crossed The Mudpit Ropes, just sayin' ;-)

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Filling 35 water balloons simultaneously using this clever invention.

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Of course, the water balloon games are a huge success.

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And inevitably escalated to water bucket games.

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Meanwhile, things are a bit calmer (and safer!) in the craft shack as they decorate T-Shirts

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or just enjoy coloring

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or even apply tattoos

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Quick break for a family photo

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One morning during game time, I ran down to the pond to snap a photo of a large flock of egrets.

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Walking out to the field for afternoon team-building games. That load of bricks will be put towards the new staff housing.

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Once again, the kids battle it out on the mud pole

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and try to make it across the ropes

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Ever wonder what your face looks like just as you realize that you are going in the drink?! Thanks to Taniya, now you know. ;-)

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A quick photo with Anastacia.

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Taniya and Arbby catch a rare moment of peace and quiet.

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Mostly the red team on our last evening.

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Finally, the red team after they just received all of their crafts from the week, including "Uncle Theo" who did most of the translating for us this week.

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I'm still amazed at these piles of huge boulders scattered around the country side.

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Our new friend, Nyasha. (I thought it meant "mercy" but she said "grace" - she prolly knows better than I ;-) She sold us five T-Shirts at the local market in Avondale, a more upscale part of town. Just doin' our part for the local economy!

Travel Home / Dubai

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

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Entering the Gold Souk ("market")

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Strange, many of the vendors seemed to know we were tourists! I lost count of how many wanted to show us their watches and handbags. If you ask for directions, they will just lead you to their shop. :)

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It was 99 degrees that day, and quite humid. The vendors are clever and keep their shops very cool, so at some point, you have to visit one or more of them. They don't seem to mind if you just come in and sit in their chairs for a while!

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After the gold and spice markets, we took a quick tour of the old fort / museum, and then took a taxi back to the Burj Khalifa, where we rode the zippy elevator (9 m/sec) and enjoyed the awesome view At The Top.

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It is mind-boggling to look down on very tall buildings. We are on the 148th floor here, out of about 163 total.

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We stayed through sunset, until it got dark outside.

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Speaking of the sunset...

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we watched it sink over "The World"...

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a group of man-made islands just off the coast.

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I just couldn't narrow this bunch of pics down to one!

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After dinner, we went outside and caught the fountain / light show.

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It is at least (if not more) impressive than the fountains at The Bellagio in Las Vegas.

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How do you get from Dubai to San Francisco? Head North, of course! Unfortunately, it was a cloudy day, so we weren't able to spot Santa's workshop.


April


March


February


January