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Come With Me to Botswana?

Africa travel contest flat stanley

We’re going to try our hand at real bush camping, in the Okavango Delta of Botswana. No fences. No bathrooms. No showers. Just a couple crazy Americans and a shovel to dig a loo.

Want to come?

You might die.

You might get eaten. Continue reading Come With Me to Botswana?

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Pardon Me, but Your Balls are the Wrong Color!

playing pool in other countries travel South Africa

Welcome to another post on “Tuesdays in Tshwane,” where I give you a little slice of life around the capitol city of Pretoria (nka Tshwane) South Africa. Continue reading Pardon Me, but Your Balls are the Wrong Color!

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The Pee Poem

flat stanley

Did you figure out where we’re going yet? I’m giving the final clues in today’s post. The following map is one:

flat stanley
Whatever could be located here?

I’m also announcing the winner of the last contest for creating another special Flat Stanley.

Congratulations to Leo R, of WalktoRio2016, who won the contest with this memorable entry:

Morning Dew

I woke up wanting to pee 
Stretched my body 
Opened the door, dog jumped on me
Saw a cherry blossom in all its glory 

Zipper down, free ran the morning dew
A yawn welcomes the day and I feel anew 


Leo will have a specialized “Flat Stanley” version of himself made, which will be taken with us on our upcoming vacation to… The Smoke that Thunders?

Did you guess it? The first five people to guess correctly in the comments below will receive a postcard from our destination!

Love, Marla

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Aren’t You Coming With…?

I’m inviting you (or, at least, a Flat Stanley version of you) to come on our next adventure, happening in just a few short weeks! It’s one of our bucket list items and I think you might enjoy seeing your head on a travel-size cut-out in front of what we’re going to see. You have until Sunday night to enter (details at the end of this post).

Moving around when I was little, and then again from my late teens onward, I’ve always had a habit of adopting the expressions (and sometimes accent) of wherever I live. My mom used to tell me of the earliest instances of this. I was between three and four years old, and we had moved to a trailer park in Oneco, Florida, near one of my dad’s construction jobs. I picked up the expression “very well” from a neighbor girl and used it several times per sentence as I was trying to figure out its appropriate placement. Mom was apparently sick of the phrase before we moved back to Pennsylvania.

My special versions of "Flat Stanley" are now ready for cutting and lamination. Will YOU be coming with?
My special versions of “Flat Stanley” are now ready for cutting and lamination. This version is winner Mishelle Davis Falsetto in her NHL Pittsburgh Penguins shirt. Who will get Flat Traveler’d next? Will YOU be coming with?

For the years Dad was still around I was fluent in understanding Spanish…at least in terms of fetching beer, cigarettes and ashtrays. I’m pretty sure that hearing a different language at a young age, combined with compulsive mirroring of others, is why new language is relatively easy for me to learn and speak, and I now pronounce “banana,” “giraffe” and “zebra” like a Brit or a South African, and why my affinity for using “yebo” instead of “yes,” and my almost nauseating use the words of “rather” and “shame” has Kurt cringing when I talk.

My mom lived in North Dakota for about twelve years, and although I was already in college and only went for visits, I picked up local phrases and accents there as well, including the common “Wanna come with…?.

I don’t have a problem ending sentences with a preposition. That was only a preference by poet John Dryden anyway, and eventually it stuck and became “the rule.” It’s annoying and doesn’t fit modern speech. For example, if you say: “From whom is this gift?” instead of “Hey! Who’s this gift from?” you’ll most likely get an eyeroll, possibly a punch, and maybe have that gift rescinded.

travel vicariously Africa
A special Princess flat traveler for the daughter of winner Heidi Jones DiSala.

But there is something more to the way North Dakota and parts of the sprawled Scandinavian influence down through the Great Lakes and midwest area end sentences. It’s not the prepositions, it’s that they don’t actually end…

“Wanna’ come with…?” is a common invitational question in North Dakota. They don’t use the “me” or “us” at the end, because it’s implied.  I personally think this is also the result of the Scandanavian language influence, but I don’t know enough about that to say for certain. Any true linguists out there want to tackle that question?

So, while it’s implied, and understood, it can create a compulsive need in the person hearing it to want to end the sentence.

But to the point: Wanna come with…?

I hope you do wanna come with us. We have room for one more “Flat Stanley” on this journey, and I hope it’s you.


Guidelines: Send a photo or poem or other piece on the theme WATER. Anything goes. Be creative!

Email to me: marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com

Deadline: Sunday, midnight your time

C’mon, guys! You know you wanna come with…

Love, Marla

P.S. Did you notice the flags each of my special edition flat travelers are holding? The American flag represents where each winner is from, but the other two flags represent our adventure! Have you guessed yet?

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NaNoFlatMo? What Month is it, Anyway?

vicarious travel Africa

Good grief! I saw a recent WordPress announcement that November is National Blog Posting Month. NaBloPoMo.


I guess that’s a thing now. In fact, it seems anything is a *thing* and every month is something-or-other-month.

So I’m adding my own.

vicarious travel Africa
Will you join us on our next adventure? Here is a Flat version of my nephew, Brandon, at the top of Table Mountain, Cape Town South Africa

In honor of the winners (yes, two people tied for first place!) of the Before and After Contest, I’m dubbing November the National Not Flat-Stanley Month. :-/

Do you know what other organizations and movements have adopted November as their ambassador month? Here is a list I came across on the internet (shockingly, they haven’t added NaBloPoMo yet):

  • Aviation History Month (AviaHHHHMo)
  • Child Safety Protection Month (ChiSaProMo)
  • International Drum Month (InDruMo)
  • National Adoption Awareness Month (NaAAwsMo)
  • National Epilepsy Month (NEpMo)
  • National Model Railroad Month (NaMoRaMo)
  • National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)
  • Native American Heritage Month (NAmHerMo)
  • Peanut Butter Lovers Month (PBMo)
  • Real Jewelry Month (ReJMo)
  • National Sleep Comfort Month (NaSleCoMo)

And my addition:

  • National Not Flat-Stanley Month (NaNoFlatMo)

Go ahead, make one up. It’s kind of fun.

In the meantime, please join me in congratulating Mishelle Davis Falsetto and Heidi Jones DiSala, who tied for first place in the Before & After contest. Both used their Sunday afternoon to tackle small projects at home.

travel vicariously
Both projects were small and completed in an afternoon. Heidi Jones DiSala of McDonald, Pennsylvania, chose a bedroom in need of some TLC, and Mishelle Davis Falsetto, of Clarksville, Tennessee, tackled an organization overhaul of these shelves.
(c) 2014 Heidi Jones DiSala and Mishelle Davis Falsetto, respectively.

Each will join Kurt and I on our upcoming adventure. We’re pretty excited to have guests, and even more happy they can fit in our carry-ons!

After the adventure, if your Flat Stanley/Stella has survived (I put them through the ringer!) I’ll mail it to you for a keepsake.



Submit a photograph, poem, or other bit of writing on the theme, WATER. Open to your interpretation.

You have until Sunday night (midnight your time) to enter. Please email your entry to: marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com

The winner will have a Flat Stanley version of himself/herself made to accompany us on our epic journey at the end of November. Seriously, guys, you want to come along. This is a bucket list trip.

Good luck!

Love, Marla

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Join Me on My Next Adventure!

travel Maldives vicarious

It’s Sunday! What are you doing today?

Today’s the last day to enter my Before & After Contest. All you have to do is organize and clean something. Anything. It can be as small as a desktop, or a refrigerator, or as large as a whole room. BE CREATIVE!

Be sure to send me BEFORE and AFTER photos!

travel Maldives vicarious
Your Flat Stanley self won’t be underwater if you win this adventure, but water plays an important role in the trip!
This photo is from last year’s epic trip to the Maldives, where a Flat Stanley version of my nephew made his debut.

What do you win?

A Flat Stanley version of yourself that I can take with you on our upcoming adventure. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime trip for Kurt and me. I think you’ll want to come along!

By midnight tonight (your time), send me your Before/After photos of your project, however big or small. Tomorrow I’ll announce the winner and we’ll get a Flat Stanley version of you to take on our trip!

Submit to marla at marlasinkdruzgal dot com

Good luck and Happy Sunday!

Love, Marla

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A Coalition of Cheetah and a Poesy of Parks’

family definition great grand aunt

My husband reminded me that after I posted about the 5 cheetah we saw in The Kruger, I never came back to tell you what a group of male cheetah are called.

A “coalition.” A coalition of cheetah.

When I first heard the word, I thought our heavily accented guide was saying “a collision of cheetah,” which I thought was brilliant, imagining those split-second legs and gangly bodies tumbling every which way over each other to tackle prey. I was happy, however, when he repeated himself and I thought he said “a collusion of cheetah.” That sent me into reverie about an exclusive club of hunters, stealthily hiding from humans and waiting to catch prey by all means necessary.

travel Africa
A coalition of cheetah in Kruger National

A “coalition,” therefore, was kind of a letdown. Of course it’s a suitable term, given the nature of male bonding and function of male animal groups, but I think “a collision” or “a collusion” would have been cooler.

Speaking of cool terms for groups, just last week my niece had her third baby girl, creating what I like to call “A Poesy of Parks’.” “Poesy” are poetical works. What are children if not poetry, yes?

Keeping with tradition, I’ve written a letter to my newest grand-niece, Nora Katherine Parks:

Dear Nora,

I hope to get away with calling you NiK-NaK, after the NK initials of your name. Nik-Naks are a snack here in Africa, loved by nearly everyone.

family definitions aunt
Nora Katherine Parks (aka “NiK-NaK)

You are the luckiest baby in the world, born to the most loving and kind parents I could ever imagine for a child. You have the most incredible big sisters, Adeline and Clara. Don’t worry about the funky nickname. I can’t help giving them. I even nicknamed your mommy “Bazinga.” (But you still have to call her Mommy.)

I can only imagine what you will see in your lifetime, being born in the 21st century. I just read that the next time Haley’s Comet will appear will be the year 2061, and I will be 91. You will be 55, so I hope you’ll visit wherever I am and we can watch it together. I can die after that, but hopefully not. 101 is actually my wish. You will love me and be annoyed by me many times by then.

In the meantime, I hope we get to spend enough time together for you to know your ol’ Aunt Marla. I have thought about what you can call me. I have a friend who is called Grauntie (Grand-Auntie). That’s not really for me. Your mommy calls me Auntie M. Your awesome Uncle Brandon calls me Marla, along with some choice expletives from time to time. You may not call me choice expletives until you’re 18. Your sisters call me Aunt Marwa.

family definition great grand aunt
A Poesy of Parks’.
Nora has an abundance of love from big sisters Adeline and Clara. (c) 2014. Photo by Brianna Parks

As a side note—and this is important, little NiK-NaK—I am your grand-aunt, not your “great-aunt.” Many, many, many people use “Great Aunt.” Many, many, many people are wrong.

Despite the fact that standard dictionaries now allow for “great” as an alternative to “grand,” it is still incorrect. This is the same way the dictionary revised the word “loan” to be used as either a noun or a verb, so that everyone and her uncle (or grand uncle) now thinks they “loan” people money, when in fact they lend it. But you will learn in your lifetime, as a wonderful but frustrating mentor once told me, “English is a living, breathing organism. If it didn’t adapt to its environment we would all still be speaking Latin.” I only agree with this when I like changes, like punctuation outside most quotation marks, or one period after a sentence.

family definitions great or grand aunt
My niece and her three daughters.
(c) 2014. Photo by Brandon Sink

Anyway, in terms of genealogy (the only true source for defining our ancestral relationships) “Grand” refers to the generation before your mother, while “great” is for two generations before your mother. It can be easy to remember this way: Grandma, not Greatma; Grand-aunt, not Great-aunt. If you go two generations back you add the great, as in great-grandma, or great-grand-aunt. Get it? I knew you would. You Poesy Parkses are smart that way. Of course, this may also have been one of those Aunt Marlaisms that annoyed you, but I warned you of that above.

Nora, I’m sorry to be so very, very far away for your debut. I was lucky enough to meet both your sisters within days of their birth, but you and I will not meet for over a year, when I return to visit November, 2015.

But I promise to make DVDs. I’ve already been making them for all three of you, but until now, I’ve called you “new baby Parks” in the videos, because your mommy and daddy cleverly kept your name a closely guarded secret. (They probably didn’t want to give me time to come up with an even worse nickname.)

My gift for your birth is one that was given to me the day you were born: a One Rand coin from the 2002 World Summit here in South Africa. It’s only the 2nd I’ve seen since moving here, and I’m bypassing everyone above you on my coins gift list to give this one to you.

travel Africa currency Rand commemorative

Welcome to the world, Nora Katherine. May your life be one of equality, compassion, liberty and love.

Love, Auntie M / Aunt Marwa

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My Uncle Bob’s Bear

travel Pennsylvania black bear

I know. I know. It’s misleading.

My Uncle Bob does not have a bear…at least, not a bear he owns.

But a bear does visit my Uncle Bob’s back yard, and therefore, he “has” a bear. Uncle Bob’s back yard is a clearing in the woods. Most of my family are rural Pennsylvanians, and black bears are part of the wildlife. It’s wonderfully surprising, however, how long the average person from our area can go without actually seeing a black bear. It can be decades, and then you suddenly see three (or the same one three times) in a given year.

My in-laws also have a bear. Several, actually. A yearly challenger to my father-in-law, the bear sneaks out from hibernation earlier and earlier, trying to get into the bird feeder before it’s taken down and put away in the springtime. This crazy bear is crafty, too. It has figured out where birdseed is stored, and mauled trash cans as well.

Last year, it brought a couple cubs to introduce to birdseed. Kurt’s parents arrived home to their little 5-acre plot in the woods to find a couple cubs climbing the pergola. They had to wait in the car until mama bear had shuffled the youngsters off again.

travel Pennsylvania black bear
Uncle Bob’s bear: A small black bear eating suet from a bird feeder in his backyard in Pennsylvania (c) 2014 Robert Sink

Occasionally we receive a text from them of bear tracks in the snow, and a mock-ominous message about the bird feeder being very afraid. It’s entertaining, because when you live in the woods, this is just what happens.

There are no bears in Africa.

In winter here, the security at our estate and the car guards at the local shopping mall call me Polar Bear. It is, I’m sure, because I’m big and white, and so thick-skinned that I rarely wear anything but sleeveless muscle shirts no matter the temperature.

But there are no real bears in Africa, and I think there is a bit of bear-envy.

Sadly there were once bears in Africa. In Northern Africa they had a bear named the Atlas Bear, for the Atlas Mountains it lived in. They were hunted to death. No more African bears.

Maybe they miss their bears. After all, they weirdly call an aardvark, or anteater, an antbear. I find nothing bear-like about the antbear. If they wanted an African bear so badly, I think they should have renamed the honeybadger. They could have named it honeybear, and then later Pooh Bear, to belie just how non-cuddly the honeybadger is. But antbear just doesn’t work for me.

In any case, I call shenanigans. Africa gets elephants and lion, cheetah and leopard and any number of animals we can only see in a zoo. They do not also get a bear, no matter how slyly nicknamed. America gets her bears. 😉

Maybe if they really want a bear, they can fly to my in-laws and have one of theirs. After all, there’s just never enough birdseed to go around.

Love, Marla P.S.

Traveling Marla has never heard an African actually express bear envy, and she’s pretty sure they’re quite content with their own wildlife, but thought it would be fun to use this post to stir the honey pot.

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White Eggs and Ham, American I Am

travel Africa

The title of this month’s Expat Focus column was based on an entertaining chase to track down as close to American-style Easter fare as I could find. As this is our first Easter in South Africa, I picked several people to invite who have never heard of some of our American traditions.

Please follow this link to read my monthly column at Expat Focus:

White Eggs and Ham, American I Am: Seeking a Yankee Easter in South Africa

After the column was finished I did hear of some genuine white eggs appearing from time to time in a nearby store or farm market, and I’ve been told that Crayola Crayons are to be found in some of the toy stores but that they don’t always have a pack with a white one.

South Africa is an incredible place to live. Tracking down an Easter dinner has been a wonderful experience in many ways, because each person I talked with in my hunt for an American Easter provided me with beautiful insight on a South African Easter, so I think next year I’ll have to try something locally traditional.

travel Africa
Candy clones!

And there is one thing I want to mention after today’s post. Finding things in South Africa doesn’t necessarily say as much about a “lack” here as it does about our overabundance and convenience in the States. Was it a pain in the butt trying to track everything down and give up on certain things? Maybe. But having put all the hard work into making an American-style Easter come together, I know I’m going to enjoy the meal all that much more!

Love, Marla

Please do remember to go read the column. I so enjoyed writing and preparing this one!