Category Archives: wildlife

Photography: Pink Flamingos add color to the ‘Laguna Colorada’, Bolivia.

Photography: Pink Flamingos add color to the ‘Laguna Colorada’, Bolivia.


Laguna Colorada (Red Lagoon) is a shallow salt lake in the southwest of the altiplano of Bolivia, within Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve, close to the Chilean border.



Exploring the amazing beauty of Laguna Colorada is a sheer delight for any traveler. Laguna Colorada is a breeding ground for the famous flamingos. The algae of Laguna Colorada are the source of food for the rare James flamingos and also for the Chilean and Andean flamingos.




There are also over 50 species of other birds which have made this lake their home. It is an unforgettable scene to watch the flocks of flamingos on the lake as they collect their food and fly over the red water.













The so-called Laguna Colorada covers about 60 sq. kilometers (37 sq. miles), with a depth of about 50 cm (20 inches).



With a high salt content, the fiery red color of Laguna Colorado is derived from algae and plankton that thrive in the mineral-rich water of sodium, magnesium, borax and gypsum; as well as red sediments and pigmentation of some algae.


James’s Flamingos abound in the area.

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Photo Project ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 32, 'One Shot, Two Ways, the Kenua Tree'].

It’s higher than any other tree in the world. Polylepis woodland is a distinctive, high-elevation Andean forest habitat that occurs above cloud level (3,500-5,000 m) as patches of woody vegetation surrounded by paramo (e.g., Festuca species) or puna (e.g., Ichu species) grass and shrub (e.g., Baccharis species) communities. These high-altitude woodlands tend to be relicts of a once-widespread habitat and comprise mainly evergreen trees of the genusPolylepis (Rosaceae) which are highly drought tolerant. The trunk and branches are laminated with brown-reddish bark that peels off in paper-like sheets as a protection against extremely low temperatures, and often have mosses and lichens growing on them.

The original/inspirational photo:


For this week photo series, decided to go with different angles to better showcase the unique and intriguing texture displayed by the tree.

Enjoy as you please, and thanks for stopping by! ♥

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways | Browsing The Atlas

Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways | WryGrass
WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge: One Shot, Two Ways | unexpectedincommonhours
Dinosaur Dimensions « Gleaning the Nuggets
Portrait for the Win? | Required Writing



Posted by on August 11, 2013 in BOLIVIA, photography, wildlife


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Photo Project ’52 Bolivian Sundays’ [week 31, 'Foreshadow'].

"Llamas Crossing"

“Llamas Crossing”

Warning drivers for what’s about to come… and cross… :o

Enjoy as you please, and thanks for stopping by! ♥


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Pictorial Journal: Cotapata Park, Bolivia.



Want more from this week’s gorgeous ‘Masterpiece’ Photo Challenge? Here they are!

Around 20km north of La Paz, some four hundred square kilometres of the north face of the Cordillera Real are protected by PARQUE NACIONAL COTAPATA (otherwise known as Parque Nacional y Area Natural de Manejo Integrado Cotapata).


Ranging in elevation from 1000m to 6000m, Cotapata encompasses many of the astonishing range of different ecosystems and climatic zones formed as the Andes plunge down into the valleys of the upper Amazon Basin.




Within a remarkably short distance high mountain peaks, snowfields and puna grasslands give way to dense cloudforest, which in turn blends into the humid montane forest that covers the lower slopes of the Andes in a thick green blanket.






The cloudforest – also known as the ceja de selva or “jungle’s eyebrows” – is particularly striking, made up of low, gnarled trees and home to many unique bird species, and elusive pumas and spectacled bears.

From Wikipedia:
Map showing the location of Cotapata National Park and IMNA

Cotapata National Park and Integrated Management Natural Area (Parque Nacional y Área Natural de Manejo Integrado Cotapata) is a protected area in the Yungas of La Paz DepartmentBolivia.

Read more:



Snapshots of The Smithsonian Natural History Museum, Washington DC.

Well, we’re in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia… and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! :All of that will be presented here… one at a time, though! :o 

Fifth stop: Halls at the Museum of Natural History, Washington DC: Link to the exhibit is here.


As a Biologist, mom/teacher and former volunteer at the Natural History Museum (2004), I can say the visit, the explanations, and the teaching/learning combinations are well worthy a day trip with your own children, class students, friends, or simply, a ‘curious soul’… Related articles


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Images from an exciting visit to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo, in Washington, DC.


Before assuming post at our newest work/life assignment in La Paz, Bolivia, like many other foreign service families, we spent our four weeks of home leave in the US. We visited with family in Virginia and Delaware. We reconnected with friends from the past and from the present. We had fun at parks, public libraries, museums and galleries. We learned and shared experiences about history, culture, nature and life, with our kids. A very intense period – and totally worthy! A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! All of that will be presented here… one at a time! :o 

Fourth stop: The O. Orkin Insect Zoo, part of the Museum of Natural History [Smithsonian], in Washington, DC: Link to the exhibit is here.

At a Glance

The O. Orkin Insect Zoo is a special exhibit hall on the 2nd Floor of the Museum where visitors can observe live insects and their many-legged relatives. Volunteers conduct tarantula feeding demonstrations, work with live insects that visitors may touch and hold, and answer questions about the many-legged creatures that live in the Insect Zoo.

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As a Biologist, mom/teacher and former volunteer at the Natural History Museum, I can say the visit, the explanations, and the teaching/learning combinations are well worthy a day trip with your own children, class students, friends, or simply, a ‘curious soul’… 



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Snapshots from Home Leave: An afternoon at the Clemyjontri Park in McLean, Virginia.

[Backstory: Well, we’re in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia… and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! All of that will be presented here… one at a time, though! :o

That said, let’s continue with our tales & reporting from our time back in the US, during this year’s home leave. Before, I shared here some unique images from an intriguing visit to the Butterfly Garden, hosted by the Smithsonian [Natural History Museum], in Washington, DC. Without question, the National Mall in Washington, D.C., is the United States’ public playground, with loads of open space for tourists, and kids in particular, to roam. There’s not much here in terms of specific play features, but you’ve got leafy areas for picnics, a carousel, paddleboats on the Tidal Basin, and lots of biking and walking trails.

Second stop: The Clemyjontry Park, McLean Virginia: Link to more information about the park, its hours and features, here.

As in, the packaging for a new toy can be as entertaining as the toy itself. I find that traveling with young kids follows a similar logic. You can do all the museums, monuments, churches, and castles in the world, but what kids really want is a place in which to run around like they do at home. So to aid in that quest, here are my recommendations for small-people spaces in big-city places—namely, adventuresome playgrounds that will stand in for that well-worn play area at your neighborhood school or park.

We had the pleasure of being joined by a dear friend, whose patience and care for my children are priceless… Thank you very much, Cherise! ♥


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Snapshots from Home Leave: A visit to the Butterfly Garden at the Smithsonian Museum, Washington DC.


Well, we’re in La Paz, Bolivia, now. But before we arrived to our newest work and life adventure, we got to spend some time with family back in the US, sharing our stories and experiences of the past two years living and working in Brazil; do a bit of traveling, spend some great quality time with our kids at parks in Delaware and Virginia… and visit the National Mall in Washington, DC. A lot done during our ‘home leave’, now, being shared with our friends, family and curious readers! :All of that will be presented here… one at a time, though! :o 

First stop: The Butterfly Garden, Washington DC: Link to the exhibit is here.

We had the pleasure to visit the $3million butterfly exhibit at the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The exhibit “Butterflies + Plants: Partners in Evolution” features a 1,200 square foot tropical butterfly garden with approximately 400 butterflies. In the exhibit’s main hall, visitors learn about the co-evolution of butterflies and plants.

The butterfly garden at the Smithsonian is located on the Ninth Street side of the National Museum of Natural History building. 

Four distinct habitats — wetland, meadow, wood’s edge and urban garden — encourage visitors to observe the partnerships between plants and butterflies.

The garden is a joint project of the Horticulture Services Division and the Museum with partial funding from the Smithsonian Women’s Committee.

The garden, on view at all times, is a perfect complement to a visit to the O. Orkin Insect Zoo on the second floor of the Museum. [Stay tuned for upcoming posts on other visits to the Smithsonian wonders!] :o

As a Biologist, mom/teacher and former volunteer at the Natural History Museum (2004), I can say the visit, the explanations, and the teaching/learning combinations are well worthy a day trip with your own children, class students, friends, or simply, a ‘curious soul’… We had the pleasure of being joined by a dear friend, whose patience and care for my children are priceless… Thank you very much, Cherise! ♥



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Snapshots of blue crabs (Callinectes sapidus), from northeastern Brazil.

There has been an ongoing interest in blue crab fisheries in the northeast of Brazil since the 1960’s, when the state of Alagoas recorded an average annual yield of 57 tons. Being a Biologist and a teacher, I became curious to find out a bit more of this intriguing wild population…  official or unofficial literature on the activities of blue crab fisheries in Brazil are scarce, but this resource is known to be the bycatch of several fisheries. There is great fishing potential for the species of the genus Callinectes, since blue crab fisheries are still mostly artisanal, located in small fishing communities scattered along the Brazilian coast. :o Now worries… there’ll be no Science over here, though, only interesting snapshots of these beautiful creatures!

Due to blue crabs’ productivity and socioeconomic importance, they’ve been constantly monitored and evaluated, with the purpose of maintaining sustainability, ensuring the continuing existence of the fisheries. Here, a quick sample of their “protected homes” :o

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Posted by on May 21, 2012 in photography, science, wildlife


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16 meters deep: Investigating marine life without getting wet! Projeto Navi in Fernando de Noronha.

Projeto Navi - The Navi Project: seeing 16 meters deep!

It’s finally here: the last post on our trip/expedition to the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago.

The husband, an avid and passionate amateur photographer. His wife, yours truly, always being reminded of her background as a Biologist and forever researcher… The perfect combination for venturing with Eng. Leonardo Veras through a private investigation trip along the open ocean waters in Fernando de Noronha.

Eng. Leo Veras takes responsibility for the Navi Project (Projeto Navi), a pioneer experiment at the archipelago – unique, and wonderful!

We were taken to observe the marine life, 16 meters deep, thanks to the ship’s glass bottom, resistant to pressure, high volume and speed. Talk about biology, math, physics, all at once! Lovely and fantastic! We were able to snap several shots, as well as, a couple of videos during our expedition. All 3 images from the Project’s Website (above) are used with permission from the Project’s Coordinator. [We are very thankful to Mr Leonardo Veras for his attention, kindness and, obviously, for the private tour!] All other photographs, (including all the videos to come!) presented below, are part of our family’s personal collection (feel free to use or share them, just remembering to mention the original source!) :o Thanks for the interest! 

Fernando de Noronha has caught the imagination of travelers for centuries and many urban myths are associated with this gloriously surreal island. The archipelago is made up of one 11-square-mile chunk of volcanic rock and 20 smaller islands, three degrees south of the equator, 220 miles from Brazil’s north-eastern coast. Fernando de Noronha’s claim to fame is its diverse and rich ecosystem.

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Fernando de Noronha Marine National Park: wildlife

Fernando de Noronha in Brazil is famous for its exquisite natural environment, pristine beaches, and tropical climate where the sun shines the whole year! A paradise for scuba diving in Brazil, there are numerous things to do on the Fernando Noronha island. The wildlife of Fernando de Noronha is very rich, and one of the main attractions of the island are the Spinner Dolphins which can be seeing 365 days a year from the Dolphins Bay Viewpoint or on a Noronha boat ride. We were fortunate to spot a few other “representatives” of the archipelago’s wildlife.

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[Português/English] Marine Turtles in Northeastern Brazil – Projeto TAMAR em Fernando de Noronha

Five of the world’s seven sea turtle species are found in Brazil.

For over 20 years TAMAR project is responsible for identifying and protecting nesting beaches and feeding areas, doing research, promoting awareness and involving the local community.

Thanks to good planning, loyal sponsorship and an innovative merchandising program they are able to maintain 20 bases in Brazil. Releasing more than 600 thousand hatchlings every year, the TAMAR bases have become important tourism attractions and mean income to 1200 families.

Project: Supported by WWF
Year started: 1982
Other Partners/Supporters: Petrobrás
Address: Alameda do Boldro s/no. – Fernando de Noronha – PE
Contact: Claudio Bellini
more info:
Area: Natural
Activities: Visit a conservation unit
Equipments: sandals, shorts, t-shirts, swimming gear, towel, small backpack, sunglasses, sunscreen
Gateway: Recife ou Natal
Near airport: Fernando de Noronha – PE
Dist. from the airport: 2 KM
Max. number visitors: 15
Min. number visitors: 2
Max. Lenght: 10 day(s)
Min. Lenght: 2 day(s)
Level: easy
Activity: Enviromental, Scientific, Social
Best time to go: February, March, April, May
Attending a night-time lecture (9 pm) at the TAMAR Institute

[Portuguese] O arquipélago de Fernando de Noronha, composto por 21 ilhas e ilhotas de origem vulcânica, está situado a 345km de Natal, capital do Rio Grande do Norte/RN e a 545Km de Recife, capital de Pernambuco/PE. É sítio de reprodução da tartaruga-verde (Chelonia mydas), que utiliza as praias arenosas do lugar para desovar entre os meses de dezembro e julho. É também área de alimentação, crescimento e repouso para juvenis desta espécie e da tartaruga-de-pente (Eretmochelys imbricata).

As praias de desova apresentam características propícias a um monitoramento diário, inclusive noturno nas áreas principais. A do Leão concentra 80% das ocorrências. As demais desovas acontecem ao longo do mar de dentro, entre as praias do Sancho e da Conceição. Cada estação reprodutiva, registra em média 100 desovas, gerando 8.900 filhotes da tartaruga verde.

O TAMAR iniciou suas atividades na região em 1984, quando o arquipélago ainda era território federal administrado pela Aeronáutica (hoje é território do Estado de Pernambuco).

Em 1986, foi criada a APA-Área de Proteção Ambiental. A praia do Leão, principal área de desova do arquipélago, tornou-se o embrião do Parque Nacional Marinho, criado por decreto federal, em 1988.

Fernando de Noronha é uma das bases mais importantes para o trabalho do Tamar.

É um verdadeiro laboratório natural, pois a transparência do mar oferece excelente condição ao desenvolvimento de pesquisas sobre a biologia e comportamento das tartarugas marinhas em ambiente natural, sobretudo debaixo d’água.

Além do monitoramento de fêmeas, durante o período reprodutivo, a base mantém um programa de marcação e recaptura de tartarugas que utilizam o arquipélago como área de alimentação, crescimento e repouso, durante uma etapa do seu ciclo de vida. Desde 1990, mais de mil tartarugas já foram marcadas pelo Tamar através desse programa, em que os pesquisadores realizam mergulho livre, autônomo ou rebocado.

Além do mais, o grande fluxo turístico que o arquipélago registra é estratégico para o trabalho de sensibilização e educação ambiental, principalmente através do Centro de Visitantes-Museu Aberto das Tartarugas Marinhas, o qual tivemos o prazer e honra de visitar durante nossa recente visita ao arquipélago. Todos os visitantes do Museu-Aberto do TAMAR recebem uma palestra gratuita sobre a vida selvagem a ser encontrada no arquipélago, assim como, são instruídos a como se comportar em frente à natureza, sem causar quaisquer impacto ambiental. Todas as palestras são às 9 da noite, e seguem por cerca de uma hora até uma hora e meia. Extremamente informativas,claras, concisas e ministradas por pesquisadores e voluntários do TAMAR. É a perfeita preparação para os que irão aventurar-se a explorar as ilhas na manhã seguinte. Nós adoramos a experiência, eu enquanto bióloga, e meu esposo, agora apaixonado pela vida marinha. Um sucesso e uma oportunidade única de vivenciar, aprender e compartilhar conhecimentos.


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Searching for paradise: Aerial views of Fernando de Noronha Archipelago, Brazil

This is the first in a series of posts on our recent trip to the Brazilian Archipelago of Fernando de Noronha: leisure, research, adventure, photography.

Peaks of the Southern Atlantic submarine ridge form the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago off the coast of Brazil, representing a large proportion of the island surface of the South Atlantic and the rich waters are extremely important for the breeding and feeding of tuna, shark, turtle and marine mammals. The islands are home to the largest concentration of tropical seabirds in the Western Atlantic. Baia de Golfinhos has an exceptional population of resident dolphin. The Fernando de Noronha archipelago covers the majority of the main island and includes the majority of smaller offshore islands and islets. The islands are part of a large submarine mountain system of volcanic origin, which rises from the ocean floor some 4,000 m in depth. The Fernando de Noronha volcano is estimated to be between 1.8 million and 12.3 million years old. The coastline is complex, with a number of high cliffs and sandy beaches. The north-west facing shores are relatively calm, whereas the south-east shores face the predominant currents and winds and are largely rocky shores with significant wave action.

Arriving… flying along the coastline

And here, a snapshot of “who’s got an unchallengeable view” of this paradise:

The highly productive coastal waters around islands are used by many fish species for spawning and as a refuge for juvenile fish. The shallow waters also provide habitat for benthnic organisms (such as coral, sponges and algae). Oceanic islands therefore play a key role in the reproduction and dispersal of marine organisms, providing a staging point for the colonization of other coastal areas and the surrounding ocean. There are less than 10 oceanic islands in the South Atlantic and the Fernando de Noronha Archipelago represents almost 50% of the islands in terms of surface area. As the site makes up such a large proportion of insular South Atlantic coastal area, it is an important repository for the maintenance of biodiversity for the entire South Atlantic basin.

Fernando de Noronha is also the only know location for Insular Atlantic Forest – a subtype of Atlantic Rainforest. To date over 400 species of vascular plants have recorded, including three endemics. The archipelago also contains the sole oceanic mangrove in the South Atlantic. [Source: UNESCO/CLT/WHC]


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The Manatee Project (Projeto Peixe-Boi), Itamaraca Island, Brazil

The Manatee Project (Projeto Peixe-Boi), Itamaraca Island, Brazil

What we do if we’ve got a holiday/day off right in the middle of the week? We get out of the house, hauling the 3 kids around! This time, our family decided to take a day trip to a nearby island, named Itamaraca (“rock that sings” in Tupi-Guarany language – there’ll be a later post about it!)

The island of Itamaracá, located 40 km from Recife, is separated from the continent by the Jaguaribe River. It has calm beach waters, with coconut trees, natural swimming pools, reefs, sandbanks and a fort (originally built during the Dutch Colonization Period), Besides the cultural and historical features, its ecological reservations with native forests, the island shelters the Manatee Preservation Center.

The native name for the manatee is “peixe-boi“, an enormous creature that intrigues any curious souls – especially, our toddlers’ curious eyes and minds!

Centro de Preservação do Peixe-Boi” (Manatee Preservation Center) – is open for visitors from Tuesday to Sunday, from 10 am to 4 pm, it is an excellent opportunity to see the manatee so closely, this exotic sea mammal..



Posted by on December 28, 2011 in ecology, science, wildlife


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“The World That We Live In” has called: places we’ve discovered…

Life’s been busy – kids are back in school, which helps a lot, but also requires new planning, on a daily basis. Back to work. Already tired, believe it or not! In order to temporarily stop the madness, found Brooke‘s  (The World That We Live In) request for the State Dept Blog RoundUp. Theme:  “Favorite Places” – and in Brooke’s words: places you have discovered on your travels that you have loved or that have kept you sane in some way or another.

My favorite places? I hold Southern Africa in a very special place, really close to my heart, for several reasons: our first overseas experience as a family, the first encounter with a reality that I never assumed existed, in good and not so good ways; and my first experience as a single full-time working parent… All in all, great moments, which I’m sharing now:

We moved from Washington, DC to Maputo, Mozambique in October 2006, for a 2-yr hard-to-fill assignment. Our only child then, had just turned 1. Little did we know, I’d end up staying until Oct 2009 with our two children, honoring a work commitment – while husband had to return to DC – but this is probably a too long of a story, and I’ll leave it to another opportunity…

We were very fortunate to meet many different and attractive personalties, each one with an unique life story, with whom we share work experiences, concerns, happy moments. We did travel quite a bit throughout the country: for work and leisure. Visited all the ten provinces, bringing back home material mementos, as well as pictures we could have taken only with our hearts.

Catembe, Maputo

During our time in Southern Africa we also visited the neighboring Swaziland, a couple of times. Calming, relaxing, intriguing country. We got to attend the internationally famous Reed Dance, and were quite moved by it.

I couldn’t forget to mention another neighboring country, South Africa, birth place of our middle child, who’s now 3,5. Between safaris at Kruger Park, visits to the wine country and the cosmopolitan Cape Town, caravan trips with friends to Richard’s Bay, visits to avocado farms (and also med-evac flights!), South Africa was a sure choice for a delightful getaway…

A view of the tip of the continent

Kruger Park

Some people say that the sunset over African waters is almost like a poem… it might very well be!

But the best part of traveling and visiting places, is getting to know people, making true friends. I’m very grateful to the ones we met during our time in Africa, and the many more who’ll come along…



Friends are, in fact, the most special gift one could bring from any new place… Khanimambo!


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Asante Sana, Swaziland

This is the third post on our time in Southern Africa, while posted in Mozambique with the State Dept (2006-2009). Swaziland is a living wildlife sanctuary, a great place for a restful weekend, and is covered with tradition, history and excitement. We had the opportunity to witness the Annual Reed Dance, a unique spectacle, only described by images – no words would do justice to the exotic beauty!

Swaziland is home to glass (Ngwenya Glass Factory), batik and candle factories and Swazi candles (Ezulwini Valley) are handmade using the age-old trade bead technique perfected in the glass making city of Murano, Italy. This technique is called Millefiore and it was adapted and utilized in the African candle making craft. Millefiore means “thousand flowers” and was first used in ancient Alexandria and perfected in Venice and Murano and it is now a major attraction in the Kingdom of Swaziland. Find here wonderful images of the Candle Factory in Swazi! The website owners did a much better job than I could’ve ever done!


Baie Dankie (“thank you”!), South Africa – Animals and Memories.

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Khanimambo, Moçambique

This post is the first one of a series. Here a few images from places we got to discover because of work… Travel & work sometimes, surprise us with very positive results!

As you may know by now, being together as a family is the most important thing for us…
This post is dedicated to our daughter Marcela, born in Pretoria, RSA, while we were posted in Mozambique.

During those 3 very intense years, we had the opportunity to visit South Africa several times, go on Safaris at the Kruger Park, walk by the Waterfront in Cape Town, visit the wine country (Stellenbosch), enjoy the Reed Dance in Swaziland…

Struggled for the first time as a single-mom, when husband left to Rwanda for the PEPFAR conference, and exercised the same single-motherhood skills for almost a year when he was back in DC, for work.

And we all survived. And we all learntlots of fun stuff! We also had a few med-evacs to RSA (FS families know exactly how intense med-evacs could be!), but hey, it is all part of the package!

Enjoy the images! Khanimambo, Moçambique!

Mozambique, Southern Africa, 2006 – 2009. Visiting all the 10 provinces & Capital Maputo




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