My Amazing Birthday!

Author: Kali

From the moment I was awakened by beautiful singing, to being lulled to sleep by the steady clack-clack and rock of the train, I had a fabulous time! My family spoilt me in every possible way from swimming and playing on the beach and having ice cold mango smoothies at the beach bar, to even balloons on my train bed. I was showered with many gifts, goodies and cards and squeezed so many times it felt as if I would burst.

I laughed as the others told me the ordeal of firstly finding a bakery, choosing a cake, trying to explain the flavours and decoration to a Vietnamese speaking lady, only to end up receiving a cake that has ‘collect 21/10’ decoratively written on it.

Eulain and I spent some precious moments together. Every time I would look over to Eulain, my ‘sand castle building’ buddy, she would draw a heart or write a short message for me in the brown sand. Esto clung to me like syrup and did every possible thing (including a two man bodysurf!) with a large smile and a high five. Ruzow knows me so well! He outdid himself and organised practically everything and worked hard in preparation and planning to make the day special.

Mum made a huge fuss about me turning five and not being a toddler anymore. Well mum… double that and add four! The years have flown by fast. Too fast! I loved every second of the exciting, surprising and unforgettable day with my amazing family. I wish this year, the adventure in particular, would never end!


Until next time,


Hom and Tao

Author: Kali

The hand waved us across the road and down the muddy slope. The old man was lying on the back of his water buffalo! The poor beast looked exhausted, lying with it’s head between it’s hooves and ears drooping. However, that large head slowly lifted up in curiosity as we approached.

Friendly man waving us over

The man wore a pair of dirt encrusted trousers and a white collar shirt that could’ve been mistaken for brown. He wore a stained conical on his head, shielding his face from the afternoon sun.

He introduced himself as “Hom”, shook each of our hands enthusiastically, and pointed to the large animal still lying in the dirt and said slowly and repeatedly, “Tao”. Tao’s head lifted slightly at the mention of his name and then stood up and came closer.

At first I was quite frightened. A water buffalo is a big animal, with big horns and big hooves and big teeth. Hom saw that all of us were drawing back a little. He gently took my hand in his rough, wrinkled hand and set it carefully on Tao’s hairy back. Soon, poor Tao was being handled like a pet kitten.

I was curious to know how old this massive beast was. I asked Hom, he either didn’t seem to hear or didn’t understand. However, a second later, he knelt down and carefully wrote something in the dirt with his fore finger: “50”! We were surprised and impressed. Hom looked with pride at Tao and gave him an affectionate slap on his neck.

Unexpectedly, Hom took me by the arm and led me towards the right side of Tao. He gestured for me to throw my left leg across the buffalo’s broad back, while at the same time he would lift me. After a few seconds I was sitting up on Tao’s back. It felt really strange! Eulain joined me and Hom led us as we walked a few paces. I never imagined that I would ride on the back of a water buffalo!

Until next time,



Reflections On A Faraway Land

Esto and Rodger

Author: Esto

We were riding in a jeep. I sat right at the back. We were on our way to ride on camels. I was a bit scared, but I thought it would be fun. When we arrived, the camels already had their saddles on their backs. They were all standing on their knees, but they were still very tall. I thought that I would have to share a camel, but then the guide said to me: “This camel is yours!”. I was very happy. The guide helped me to get into the saddle, and then he told the camel to get up.


Right after that Eulain shouted: “No, no! I do not want to go on a camel by myself any more!”. Then Mom said: “Get on the camel, it will be fine”. She got on the camel,  but when the camel got up, she was a little afraid. It was not for long.

The boy that lead Ruzow’s, Eulain’s and my camels hooked the ropes to one another. I thought I would be right at the back, but it tuned out that I was right in front! After we started moving, I asked the boy what the camel’s name was. “The camel’s name is Rodger,” he said. I liked Rodger because he was very gentle.

When we arrived at the place where we would stay for the night, there was already a fire burning and men were making chai tea. We had the delicious hot chai after we put our bags at our camp beds. We were going to sleep in the open under the stars. While the others were waiting for the sunset, Eulain and I played with a ball between the sand dunes. After a while the guide joined us. This was so much fun.


Later, the guide announced that everyone needed to sit down because they were going to serve the dinner that the men made on the fire. I enjoyed it because it was not too spicy. There were no lights, so we had to eat in the dark. I could only see the outline of the plate.

After dinner, we laid down on our back and looked at the stars. This was very, very beautiful. We went to bed, all six of us sleeping next to each other. Some of us saw shooting stars.

The next morning, the chai was ready when we woke up and the men were making breakfast. While we had breakfast, they saddled the camels. I looked for Rodger. He had a green rope around his neck. When it was time to go back, I got onto Rodger and we all rode back to where we would meet the jeep. I had to say goodbye to Rodger. I was sad and I asked my dad if I could have a camel. The guide then said I can take Rodger home. He just joked, but I actually wished that I could take him home with me.


Climb the Camel!


Author: Kali

The open jeep came to a sudden halt in a small clearing where camels were laying on the sand with colourful saddle blankets on their pale brown, humpy backs. It was so exciting to see the animals for the first time from up close. Eulain and I resembled the camels, being covered in dust and sand from riding in the back of the Jeep.

Camels are strange animals. They have long necks that stretch out from their massive, lumpy bodies. Their legs are long and thin, with large knots for knees and funny flat feet that are round with two sharp toes. They have short tails that look like fish back bones with hair and they love to swing them from side to side. Ears that are peculiarly small for such a large animal, sit perched on their heads. Huge teeth and a large mouth that is always chewing, completes the picture. A rod is put through their nostrils. This, as I had once read in The Swiss Family Robinson, is used to control them. Reigns are attached to these rods.

Ruzow climbed his camel like a hay stack. I couldn’t blame him though, it is really hard to get yourself into the saddle without feeling like you are pushing the camel over.  A sharp ‘J’ sound from the 10 year old boy who would lead some of our camels, was the command for them to get up. Slowly, one of the brutes lifted his backside into the air with a loud groaning noise. It was now standing on it’s knees, looking absolutely absurd! With another groan, the animal stood up straight, towering above the rest of the beasts that were now all with their backsides in the air.


Riding was the strangest sensation. It was what I imagined riding a dinosaur would feel like and it was really scary looking down, being much higher than I expected. The camel’s motion is unlike a horse’s. Rocking forward then backward, the strange motion slides the inexperienced rider from the front to the back of his saddle. Even though I had to pay for it with chafe marks on my legs, I was thrilled about riding a camel.



At one stage, Mum’s camel was close enough to mine so that I could pat its hard, dented head. To my surprise, it made a sound somewhere between a growl and a loud burp. Our camels’ guide, Arsheesh, told us that Mum’s camel’s name was Lalu, and mine was Kalu. It was such a coincidence that mine had that name, because Mum and Dad would have called me Kalu if I was a boy. I would’ve had a camel twin! For some reason I’m glad I’m a girl 😜. However, I wouldn’t mind a pair of those long eyelashes.

Until next time,


Snippets Of Precious Memories


Author: Mariza

Camels – what incredible creatures! And so perfectly designed for the desert. Strange too! Especially the way they get up or go down with a person on board. The “walk like an Egyptian” sway, backwards and forwards, backwards and forwards, making you giggle. To watch the wonder on the faces of our four beautiful gifts and to know the sight or reference to these animals will forever take them back to this very moment we all shared – priceless!

Nothing beats the atmosphere created by food being cooked over an open fire. And to then sit down on top of a sand dune to be served with a small group of lovely people – an unforgettable experience. Still better it gets when, after filling up on Indian cuisine, you simply topple over to look at the stars, while continuing the conversation. Special, special memories never to be forgotten.


Six desert beds in a row, all covered with the same colourful fabric. My heart overflows as we lie side by side as a family, looking up at the stars, talking. Our four precious children, thanking us again and again for this most wonderful experience.


Paradise is sleeping under the stars in the desert with nothing but sand dunes in sight. And billions of stars. And then you wake up to see the yellow moon rising from behind the dune you face while lying on your back. And still the sky is adorned with bright, beautiful stars. All through the night you force your eyes open in the perfect stillness just to peer at that magical sky for one more minute. And off again to dreamland, or is this it? And then, on one occasion, you catch the first sign of daylight. The light creeps up from behind that same dune and touches all in its reach with colour. Further and further it stretches and paints ever brighter, ever changing the colour on a growing canvas. And then after a long time and many colour changes, the sun rises in all its splendour, the artwork completed. My heart is saturated with the colour of every treasured moment.


Caution Captine

Author: Eulain

The jeep stopped. I was so excited. We were going to get onto our camels here. A man pointed to a very large camel called Captine. When he sat,  he was bigger than me. I had to climb on it’s back.  When I was on, the man pulled on the rope that linked Esto’s and my camel. Captine stood on his knees. I thought it was not that high because, it was about the size of a horse. Then he stood up on all fours with a jerk. I was so far from the ground. At this height, I am sure you too would be quite afraid. It felt like I was a mile up in the air.



The next morning after breakfast, we set off for Jaisalmer. The twelve year old boy who was walking in front of our camels started running. The camels all followed his example. I never imagined that camels could run. It was heaps of fun, but the bumping around was quite extreme. I clasped my hand over my open drink bottle. It was a bad choice to drink while riding on the camel. I was terrified when I saw that the rope that I was supposed to hold to guide dad’s camel with, had fallen. I made a grab for it, but nearly fell off. In the bump and grab process, I accidentally showered myself and poor Captine in sticky Sprite.


The Thar Desert

Author: Ruzow

On our camels in the sun,

Oh it’s amazing so much fun.

Over the dunes we will tramp,

Until we arrive in our desert camp.

Watching sunset from a dune,

The moment is gone all too soon.

A thali is cooked over an open fire,

What more could my heart desire.

The camels lying in the sand,

There’s so much beauty in this faraway land.

In my bed back at the camp,

With only the stars for a lamp.

Underneath this starry sky,

I watch the comets shooting by.

I’m in the desert oh so dry.

I am gazing at this in awe,

What a sight I long for more.

As I sleep the moon keeps a watchful eye,

From her perch way up high.

Up again at first light,

Watching the sunrise what a sight.

But now it’s time for a wonderful meal,

Excited I’m now beginning to feel.

Back on our camels we’re now on our way,

How I wish we had a longer stay.

So even though we’ve left it behind,

The Thar Desert will be forever in my mind.




Indian Street Cricket

Author: Kali

A single cricket ball can draw a crowd in India. All it takes is for us four children to start throwing the ball. At first it will be only the little children who come to join in, then the older ones. Sometimes, even older men will play with us. The parents will then come to speak to Mum and Dad. It doesn’t feel like we are just tourists, but friends.

One of our fondest cricket adventures, was playing with the tuk-tuk drivers in Jaipur. The game started simply with us four tossing the ball in the street in front of our hotel. Ten metres from where we were playing about 15 tuk-tuk drivers were resting under a tree, waiting for business and watching us with longing smiles.

It took only one man, who could not resist the urge to come towards us and cup his hands for the ball, to encourage the rest to forget about their afternoon nap. Initially, we only played catch, showing off all sorts of tricks. Later a rough wooden plank became our bat, we formed teams and really got playing.

It was heaps of fun and we played for the entire day in the middle of the road, between the cows, dogs, tuk-tuks, people, cars, busses and scooters. Play is constantly interrupted by passing people or vehicles. The result is that it is a very fast game, with everyone making the most of every opportunity. Players come and go. Some even come very suddenly! A number of times, some of the scooter drivers, waiting in the traffic at the intersection, would reach out to “field” and toss the ball back before speeding off.

We were referred to as ‘The Aussies’. I chuckled as the one man asked me why the people always shout ‘Aussie! Aussie!’ at cricket matches. How do you answer that? No matter what I told him, and even though he nodded as if he understood, I could see very clearly, as he walked away, that he was still puzzled.

The “international” game became so important, that a few cars would patiently wait for the over to be completed before honking and slowly moving though the game. I’m sure the Jaipur tuk-tuk drivers will never forget how they played street cricket against the Aussies. We definitely won’t forget.

Until next time,


Our 40 Hour Indian Train Ride

Author: Kali

We observed the hustle and bustle of the station for nearly two hours, waiting to board the train from Agra to Goa. Like everyone around us, we all sat on the dirty, hard, cement platform floor beside our pile of luggage.

We boarded the 37 hour, two-night train, hungry. Although we had scouted out every little stall and vendor in the station for a meal or snack, we could not find anything except Petah.  These sugared pumpkin chunks, a traditional dessert from Agra, would not do for dinner, but we bought some anyway.

The train was packed, and the six of us were split between two compartments, located in two adjacent carriages. We shared a six berth compartment in 3AC (3rd class with air con) with a young couple from Delhi, and the other in 2AC with an older Indian couple. Although we intended to switch places with the young couple so we could all be together, the conductor refused our request firmly because we would have to swap seat class, which was not allowed. So, we spent the entire journey moving between the two carriages. This was a big disappointment.

Although the meals were far from the greatest, we eagerly devoured the chicken and vegetable thalis (curry set) as soon as the train attendant brought them. My chicken thali was very spicy and purged me from my sins right down into my tummy. The last curry we had was quite bland, so I hoped for something that would at least leave a tingle on my tongue. But this was ridiculous! I drained the tiny cup of water in record time. It felt as if there was a fire raging in my throat and mouth.

Even though the beds in 2AC were more comfortable and you could create some privacy by drawing a thick curtain, I still liked 3AC more (there are no curtains in 3AC). I liked to be part of the chaos, the noise and the activity. Someone walking towards the bathroom would say hallo, come sit down, and end up having about a thirty-minute conversation. Children would inquisitively come over to our seats to play or just stare. Although we were the only non-Indians on the train, we felt just like any other local family, traveling.

At one stage, four men from the Indian Army came over to talk. They were on their way home and in good spirit. At first, we were quite nervous, but in the end, it was great fun. We exchanged stories about our travels and about their duties that took them to South Sudan and other places. We also took endless amounts of selfies and group photos! One of the men was wearing a red turban and had a long black beard, or “god’s gift” as he referred to it. He jovially quizzed us about our blonde hair. “God’s gift!” Mom replied pointing to our light hair, drawing laughter from the men and people around us that were listening in on the conversation. During a time when the train slowed down somewhat, two of the men jumped out, rushed into a sugarcane plantation, cut off a few juicy stalks and dashed back, barely in time to grab the moving hand rail of our carriage. We had a sweet time together!

Ever so often, the steady chant of a carriage attendant selling food or drinks would ring through the carriage: ‘Tomato soup! Dip chai!” or “Garam Pani, Chai, Kopi!’. Often, they would ‘rest’ on one of the benches in our compartment. They would sit for about a minute, watching us or say hello.

The activity on the train never stops, even at night. The 3AC carriage echoed with crying, yelling, talking, and so many other noises that it was a nightmare trying to sleep.

At one of the stations, I greeted a group of girls around my age that boarded the train. After they had organised their things, they started scouting around and came to speak to me. They asked me all sorts of questions and told me they want to teach me Hindi. This was obviously just to speak to me and pummel me with another truck load of questions. I tried to use “getting to bed” as an excuse to escape the questions, but even as I was laying on my uncomfortable middle bunk, they passed through our open compartment about 10 times. Each time they would look around, smile shyly and disappear into the next compartment to visit their “friends”. I was very amused by this.

The train arrived 3 hours late in Madgaon station in Goa where our next adventure began. I was exhausted, but looking forward to connecting with some of the local people in Benaulim, our home for the next few days.

Until next time,


Introduction to India

Author: Kali

You will either love her and adore her, or you will hate and reject her. She is a place like no other. It is easy to hate her and be blind to her uniqueness and only see the things she lacks or must improve upon. It is somewhat hard to ignore these things and only see her beauty.

I want to love and adore her. I want to know her and her people who are either sustained and comforted by her or strangled by her harshness. She is unique, colourful, insane, chaotic, alive with culture, and bustling with mysteries and adventures. I long to meet the one that will challenge, excite and fascinate me. Your attitude towards her is crucial to what you will discover. I have chosen to wrap my arms around her and all she’s about. I have decided to embrace India!

It whacked me straight in my face, dried my lips and blew my hair back. The hot wind that blows through her vast countryside hit us as soon as we stepped off the plane. Our six fair heads and pale bodies stood out among the masses that swept through the airport. There are always dark eyes inspecting us from all angles. The locals seem to be intrigued and fascinated by this strange family.

When I smiled and waved at two little girls, dressed beautifully in their colourful sarees, they grinned, hugged each other and waved back a little shyly. Then they ran off excitedly to tell their mother, with lots of enthusiastic pointing, about the strange girl who had waved at them. Some people have shown us pictures of a little girl that looks quite a lot like Eulain. She is a Bollywood star and the locals are completely convinced that Eulain is her blonde twin.

We headed towards the Delhi train station via the metro. We must’ve been looking a little bit confused, because a man came to us and asked if he could help us. He was kind and friendly, however, we would only later learn that there is always a reason for this. One of the very first things I noticed about the locals, is that they are willing to do anything and everything with only one single condition. They want something from you. Usually money. At the sight of a tourist, they immediately see an opportunity to give and to gain. They will approach you, with the kindest attitude and ask if they can help you. They do not mention anything about money. They just offer their help and advise. In the end, however, they will always expect something.

The man led us to the platform and onto the train and asked all sorts of questions. ‘Where would you like to go? Where are you staying? What are you doing in India? For how long?’ He was trying to convince us to get off at a stop that was not the New Delhi Train Station. This, and a few other things, started to rouse some suspicion. Why had he gotten on the train if he ‘worked for the station’? Why did he want to force us to get off at the wrong station? It was hard to say that we did not need his help, as he was being extremely kind and helpful. In the end we had to be firm. We got off at the Delhi Train Station and ignored what he was trying to tell us. My suspicion was that he was trying to lead us into a trap.

New Delhi train station was like a beehive! Masses of people were milling around the platforms and tiny stalls. Others were waiting with their bags of luggage, lying on the hard, dirty floor, each with their sandals next to them.
In India, there is no such thing as a line. Everything happens in mobs. Even though there are bars and barriers to try to enforce some order, people simply climb over, or push past. I have discovered a new way of buying tickets! Three small ticket offices were at the end of metal bars. It could’ve been very neat and efficient… but it definitely wasn’t! Our team marched into one of the ‘lines’. There were people hanging over the bars and they reached towards the small window. It was a clutter of yelling, grabbing, climbing and of course staring.

In India you have shoulders for a reason. Unless you never want to get your tickets, with people pushing past you, you must use your shoulders! We did this very well… for beginners. Every time someone wanted to squeeze past us to the front of the line, we would form a wall that completely blocked the line! After pushing, shoving and asking, the person would be so frustrated that he would join another ‘line’. Us four were the protectors and guards so that Mum and Dad could buy the tickets.

It took another hour until we finally made our way out of the crowd with the tickets in our pockets. Dodging the people both on the floor and not, we made our way to the platform. Our train to Agra, where we would be staying tonight, arrived at the station at 2:30pm. We bought some take away curry and roti, serving as both breakfast and lunch.

As we were sitting on the dirty platform floor, we saw trains roll into the station with people literally hanging out of the open doors and windows. Seeing so many people squeezed into such a small space immediately made me feel claustrophobic. People would even jump out as the train was still moving quite fast! I could tell everyone silently hoped that we would not be on one of those for four long hours. To the great relief of all of us, we weren’t. After putting away our bags, and making ourselves at home in our air conditioned compartment, we sat down together to have our first meal of the day. It was really good curry! However, we all expected it to be more spicy.

Four hours later, after a short nap, we arrived at Agra Cant Station. It wasn’t quite as busy as Delhi Station, but still rather crowded. With the help of a friendly man, we found a minibus taxi. Our driver’s name was Lucky and we chatted and talked about Agra as we headed through the crazy afternoon traffic.

The roads in India are even more of a mess than the stations! Tuk-tuks, motorbikes, horse carts, wheelbarrows, bicycles, people, dogs, goats, monkeys and cows in the middle of the road. It is chaos! No driver’s licence required, just guts. Lucky broke a sweat and swore when at one time he had to brake very suddenly in order not to hit a cow.

We turned into a side street with stalls and tuk-tuks lining the road. Our hotel, Optimum Tara Place was among the chaos. It felt great to not feel sticky and dirty after a nice cold shower. (There was no hot water!) We had a delicious dinner at the hotel restaurant. And yes, as you can guess, Grandpa Gordon, I had Butter Chicken! We saved a spot for you, but you didn’t come!


Our introduction to India has been both a shock and a massive eye opener. Definitely something I will never forget. I am so glad I can experience it with my amazing, brave and adventurous family. Not many others would have done all this with me! I look forward not only to tomorrow, but the rest of the adventure that lies ahead.

Until next time,

Time For Timisoara

Author: Kali

Our train from Budapest to Sofia took us through Romania with time for a short stopover in Timisoara. We took the opportunity, and it has proved to be a great choice! I love it when we have enough flexibility to be able to make such decisions and have unplanned adventures. Come Check Out Timisoara!


 The train came to a screeching stop at the Timisoara North station. A scruffy station welcomed us to Romania. There was construction work blocking the entire main entrance to the platform. The floor inside the station building was nothing more than dirt and rubbish. Beggars and vagabonds hung around the station, and empty bottles and cigarette boxes lay around everywhere. It wasn’t at all a pleasant welcome!

Our host advised us to take the number eight tram that will deliver us right to the door of our apartment for the two nights we will stay in the city. The tram rolled through old cobble stone streets lined with old buildings, all looking as if they needed some maintenance. You could see that these streets were once very pretty.

As we got off the old tram, there was a man standing near the stop. He smiled as he saw us load our heavy backpacks onto our backs. The man greeted us and told us he was our host, Horio. We followed him across the road, then through a large wooden door into the outdoor living space of a large family home. It was lovely! There was a large flower and vegetable garden and a typical Romanian home stood proudly overlooking it. A fiery, but friendly Maltese Poodle greeted us with barks and leaps. No matter who entered, the little white poodle would bark ferociously. Our apartment was spacious and clean. I was so happy to see something worthy of being call a pillow on my bed. The last five places we’ve stayed, I think I have had exactly three feathers in my pillowcase, and no matter how I tried to puff it up or fold it, it was simply non-existent. This time, however, it was luxury.

I love Timisoara! Although some areas look a bit neglected, it is a beautiful city with colourful towering churches, lovely squares, green parks and walkways all along the Bega river. Tiny pubs and restaurants line the walkway, overlooking pedal boats drifting in the water. Every few blocks there is a park with a memorial or artwork amongst the trees and flower beds. What impressed me the most is that everyone seemed to enjoy the city. There were children running around, playing soccer on lawns or in the playgrounds. Others just sat, enjoying their surroundings. Horio later explained that it was summer vacation in Romania and that everyone was making the most of it.

During our stay, we also visited a museum that taught us about the Romanian Revolution of 1989 against communist rule. There were photographs, news articles and other items from the revolution displayed everywhere. We even watched a movie about it. The movie was narrated in Romanian and had fast subtitles in English. Timisoara was the city where the revolution started in Romania. I had never seen a film about a war, or even pictures really. This was an eye opener for me and gave me insight into how the people of the country suffered to be free. They were willing to give their lives in order to be free from the dictatorship. It was inspiring!

As we wandered around after having watched the movie we recognised many squares and buildings, now knowing the importance of them.

Another train carried us away from our beloved Timisoara. The overnight train will drop us at the Craiova station at 4:00am. There we will wait for another four hours and then, after two more train hops, we will be in Sofia, Bulgaria.

Until next time,



Museum with Mary

Author: Kali

In Skofia Loka, we stayed in the large family home of an elderly lady called Mary. She is 86 and had lived in Skofia Loka all her life.  She is still totally independent and every Saturday and Sunday she drives to the Stari Grad (Skofia Loka’s castle) and works in the museum as a guide. Of course, if anyone would know about the history and traditions of Skofia Loka, it would be dear Mary!

Mary speaks no English, however, using a lot of sign language she told us about her life and surroundings.  She immediately felt like a grandma to us. After she told us that she worked at the castle museum, Mum promised that we would come to visit there.

On our last Sunday morning in Slovenia, we drove to the Skofia Loka castle to look around and visit Mary. As we entered the museum, Mary cried out in joy for seeing us. She welcomed us excitedly, grabbed her handbag and led us towards what she called ‘The Old House’. She looked really pretty in a beautiful blouse and white trousers. A story book grandmother.

As we got closer to an old black wooden cottage, Mary started explaining that it was a historic family home of four hundred years ago. Eight children, their parents and grandparents lived in this two-room structure at the time. She showed us the loft where the bigger children slept on the hay each night, the fire place, the adults’ bedroom (with a crib for the baby), the sewing table, and a special game the children used to play, among a number of other fascinating things.

Mary pulled me towards her and gestured that I should sit down at the table opposite her. She started to explain a game to me that the children used to play. She handed me twelve white beans, she took the twelve brown beans and then she laid out a sheet of paper on the table that had a pattern of dots and lines printed on it. The game was loads of fun and the more experienced player won in the end. It was a precious experience. As we finished the game, she neatly folded up the sheet of paper and used another brown paper sheet to make a sort of cup, or cone and slid twenty-four beans into it. Next, she placed it in my hand with a big smile.

I am sure that we will play this game many more times, and each time we play, it will be a reminder of dear Mary and our time together.

Until next time,




Soccer and Friends in Otočak

Author: Kali

While we were staying in Otočak, a small village near the Plitviče Lakes, we would race down to the local soccer field every afternoon. The four of us would only play for a little while, before some of the local children would start peeking at us from behind walls or suddenly be immensely interested in the dirt and potholes around the field. Slowly the children would gather. Then a serious discussion would start. You could hear a few English words in between fast Croatian. Words like, ‘Football… kick… play… Da! Da!… Hello.’ This was clearly heading towards fun.

After their meeting, they would come over and awkwardly ask if they could play with us, using the few English words that we had heard earlier. About ten boys, that were all around twelve years old, came to play every day.

Choosing teams was quite easy. We would point to players and try and gesture who would be in a team. It got much easier once we learnt the names of our newly found friends – Davide, Angelo or “Ankie”, Nicola, Luka and a few others. I was called “Kolly” and Eulain was simply “Yay”.

Eulain and I were the only girls that took part in the fast and aggressive game. Within five minutes all the players would be dripping with perspiration. As we played a hot, dry wind swept across the sports grounds.

After about thirty minutes of enthusiastic calling, gesturing, running, laughing and having heaps of fun, a crowd of local children would filter into the benches surrounding the small, concrete field. They would cheer in Croatian, and every now and again try to use English words like ‘Yes Baby!’. You could not help but to burst out in laughter at this!

Later, one of us would swap with one of them and the teams would be mixed. This is when the fun really began. Ankie and Ruzow, despite not really being able to communicate much, got on really well. At one stage, Ruzow passed a short ball to Ankie, the boy started yelling enthusiastically and waving his hands in front of him, ‘Run! Run! Run, Ruzow!’ Everyone cried out in laughter! It was hilarious!

It is always so special to interact with some of the local children of the places that we visit. It is amazing how different we grow up and how much we can learn from each other. As I am writing this, I wish that we were out there right now, playing soccer with the children of Otočak.

Until next time,




Heatwave. Hungry. Thirsty. Tired. Truffles!

Author: Kali

[Not only is Kali growing up and starting to look like Mariza, she has now also started to write like Mariza!  – Jarik] 

After our reentrance to Croatian Istria, our aim was to find something (anything!) cold or wet to rid ourselves of the terrible heat. Hoping we would be able to swim, Mum led us to a nearby lake and a little village close to it. The car struggled up a narrow, dirt road to reach a tiny hilltop village.

The lake of false hope

We asked at a restaurant whether we could swim in the lake below. The answer was no, but the restaurant ended up being the tasting room of a world renowned truffle supplier. Dad, Mum & I were warmly welcomed and introduced to the wonderful world of truffles.

Truffles are difficult to find and very expensive as a result! They grow underground between the roots of trees such as hazel and oaks. Truffle hunters in Eastern Europe use pigs and dogs to sniff out truffles. To me they have an intense, musty and earthy flavour and smell. We tasted all sorts of oils, butters, spreads and dips all containing traces of the flavourful truffle. Even just a small bit of it is extremely strong.

I really liked the truffle and white chocolate spread. It was delicious and I could’ve finished the entire jar. Here I was, sitting in a free tasting room, critiquing an array of truffle products. ‘Hmm.. this is good! I’m going to taste it again… delicious! Oh! This is even better!’ And so it went on. Only later did I find out that you could pay up to $2000 for a kilogram of the musty fungus.

As we were leaving, the lady showed us a stunning view of a neighbouring walled hilltop village. She said it is called Motovun. It was where we would be staying for the next few days. All extremely excited, we headed off to discover this magical place.

On the bottom of the hill, all visitors must park their cars and walk the steep winding road to the village. However, because we had a special ticket from our hostess, we could drive up all the way to the centre of the ancient hill top town. I felt so important, driving past all the walking tourists that were perspiring their way up the hill. The smooth cobble stone streets are so narrow that two cars cannot pass each other. Our car struggled and slipped, but made it in the end. It was so worth it!!!

Zvjezdana, our hostess, warmly welcomed us to a clean and spacious apartment situated right in the centre of the tiny village. It was inside the ancient village walls and there were even two cold beers, and four cold chocolate milks set out for us! It had stunning views of neighbouring villages, vineyards and the largest truffle forest in the world, all spread out below. From being nearly dead from the heat, exhaustion, hunger and thirst, we all suddenly felt a tremendous spurt of energy. Ruzow, Eulain and I immediately ran back down to the bottom where the other cars were parked, to play soccer at the sports grounds. Every little village we’ve been to has at least had a little soccer field. (Esto was still out of action from the tummy bug.)

Mum and Dad sat on the balcony, soaking in the complete serenity of the surroundings. It was stunning! As the sun started its descent and the sky became a rich red-orange, us three soccer stars started huffing and puffing up the hill. The stone buildings gleamed as the sun struck their smooth surface and birds darted around the bright sky. I wish I could describe it better. Indescribable!

 We spent our days either exploring beloved Motovun or other nearby gems, such as Kalmanjak and Pula (the Istrain capital). I absolutely LOVE Istria! It is a magical and wondrous place.

When we had to leave Motovun, we greeted Zvjezdana with big hugs and kisses. Suddenly, she dashed into her apartment and came back with a foot long slab of chocolate for us. It was delicious (and quite a mess in the car as it was melting very quickly)! Thank you so much, Zvjezdana for having us stay in your picturesque Motovun! We will certainly be back!

Until next time,



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