School dayz

We are fortunate enough to be able to send Quinn to a private American school here in Pretoria.  Fortunate in that the cost of tuition is rolled into our relocation benefits package.  Now what's so great about this school you might ask?  Quinn's first grade class only has 13 kids.  13:1.5 (I'll count the teachers assistant as half a teacher).  Pretty good ratio compared to the 28 students per class he had before we left the US.  Now granted, I'm sure the great ratio has more than a little to do with the hefty price tag of the tuition, but still, it's awesome.  His teacher is a sweetheart and actually seems to enjoy her job of wrangling the varmints into something that resembles a learning environment. 
While we were still in the states he completed about a month of the first semester before we moved, when he started here in Pretoria I expected he would be about at the same point in the semester but either their curriculum is a little more advanced or they are learning things in a different order.  Either way he jumped right in and was bringing home reading and homework right away.  The school has music, art, and language class in the regular curriculum and even has after school activities for the kids such as soccer or library, science club, karate, and the kids get to pick an activity or two.
Their cafeteria is outdoors which I think is pretty cool since the weather is usually really nice.
He even gets to ride the bus (which is more like a transit van than a yellow bus). A new experience for him since before we were so close to the school we would walk every day.  Technically I think we are just as close as we were at home but we would have to walk out through the estate gates and around the block, so as the crow flies, really close.
I hope he continues to enjoy it as much as he does now.

Life's Soundtrack

I just got a new phone for Christmas. Yes, it's a little early but hey, Christmas feels just a little bit whackadoo this year anyhow.  So in the process of transferring all my contacts, email addy's, photos and music it got me to thinking about how some music elicits very strong memories of moments in time or certain people.  I've been walking down memory lane for the past few hours while my files dump onto the new phone.  Funny how easily distracted I can get.
Like how Pink Floyd, Jesus Jones, Incubus, Kansas, Foo Fighters and Liz Phair can all bring up memories of  past boyfriends.  How weekends have their own soundtrack of Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, The Beatles, and STP.  How memories of work come in the form of Tom Petty, 4 Non Blondes, Sheryl Crow, and the Black Crowes.
How I forget how much I like Fuel, the Posies, Smashing Pumpkins (when they were still rock), and SRV.
How about I take you down memory lane with me?  A couple faves:


Do yourself a favor, and dust off your old cassettes, albums or cd's from years ago, or not so many years ago, listen and remember who you were.


Happy Chicken Day!

As I have mentioned before, to someone, I don't remember who, they don't celebrate Thanksgiving here in South Africa.  Can't imagine why.  It's a good enough holiday, plenty to be thankful for.  Like the sunny weather today after a couple really rainy and bleh days.  See the previous post.
I'm also thankful for the fact that we have our health and home.  Unlike our neighbors who were practically washed out of their houses night before last.  I'm thankful that I have two sweet kids and a husband who puts up with my crap.
And, I'm super thankful for the fabulous feast we will have tonight.
Not only don't they have the holiday, they don't even have butterball turkey.  So, we are improvising.
Sounds delish doesn't it?
So Happy Thanksgiving! everyone.  Think of me while you are stuffing your face.

Hello! Noah?

I know I have been talking up all the great weather here in South Africa, right?  Well, I've obviously been bragging a little too much and someone upstairs has decided to take me down a few notches.  Even though it might appear summery here to the casual observer, it's still actually springtime, and in South Africa that means the rainy season.  The last few days have been good and wet.  With midwestern style thunderstorms to go with it.  Night before last we had a whopper of a rainstorm.  The rain came fast and furious and continued for a good few hours after the kids went to bed.  Being used to such weather, Chris and I continued to watch our movie and marveled at how it was finally getting down and dirty (the storm, not us and not the movie).  It felt a lot like home, and since I love a good thunderstorm anyway we eventually went to bed, but not before I noticed the headlights on the road behind our house (and on the other side of our security wall) were stopped and backed up down the road.  Strange, since it's not a very busy road during the evening and that they were all sitting still with their flashers on.  We wondered what was going on, but couldn't really see much in the dark and rain, so just left it.
Come to find out the next morning, the water (or river as I like to call it) in the culvert behind our house and on the other side of the security wall had swept part of the security wall behind our next door neighbors house right into their back garden.  Yes, a two foot thick brick wall, washed away by the rain. The raging river continued to flow through their garden taking out their garden fence in front of their house, the garage, driveway, and first floor of the neighbors' beside them, and the three houses at the end of our block.

The first photo is of our neighbors side garden and the house who had their entire first floor washed right out the glass patio doors into their pool.  The wall of water was strong enough to knock the kitchen cabinets off the walls, and shove everything out the accordion patio doors.  You can see too it took almost all the brick pavers lining their drive and washed them down the block to where you see them dumped in the neighbors drive. 
The second photo is of the last house on the lane. I think them and their neighbors lost a car in the garage along with most of both their driveways and their belongings on the first floors.  There was a flood mark about a foot and a half up their outer wall.  And the poor folks who parked their cars on the lane found them that next morning in the creek behind the house in the second picture, submerged, one on top of the other.
All this because the drain at the end of the culvert behind the estate was mostly blocked by weeds and debris, I think.
Though there was a lot of damage, no one was hurt.
I think I'm thankful today that no one was injured and that we survived unscathed.  If the water had backed up another several feet, it would have taken out our section of wall, and left us underwater too.
Be well everyone.

Not Your Moms KFC, Nor Mine for that Matter

Kentucky Fried Chicken, everyone remembers the tagline "finger lickin good!"  Or maybe it's just me, I remember the commercials when they still used the phrase, and you still saw Colonel Sanders in the ads.  But it's been a while since I'd paid attention to the commercials and had only stopped for lunch a handful of times in the past several years.  Why?  Because unless you want chicken, you are out of luck.  And my mom's fried chicken generally tastes better :)
Pretoria has a lot of restaurants to choose from.  But unless you want to eat from a lunch cart or pick up some ready made meal from the grocery there are few choices for "fast food".  Or at least fast food we recognize from the States.  There is a Wimpy Burger here, but we tried it and weren't impressed with the hamburgers.
McDonald's and KFC have hopped the pond and are pretty prolific over here, so as for weekend lunches while we are out we generally try those.  Both corporations have outfit their store locations with more hip modern decor than what they seem to in the states.  That's not to say I've been inside many of the locations at home, because I can only vouch for the locations we live by, but they really seem to be trying to appeal to a younger demographic in the KFC than at home, and an older demographic in the McDonald's.
The KFC specifically appears to be an underage nightclub inside.  And with the rave beats being piped into the dining rooms it truly feels like they are pandering to the younger set.  Am I getting old when I want to tell them to turn down the stereo?

Learn Afrikaans

It really is a good thing that a lot of people here speak English.  I've mentioned before that my ability to learn new languages is real stunted.  Even simple phrases shouldn't take me so long to remember.
Officially there are 11 languages recognized here, IsiZulu being the most common, with isiXhosa, Afrikaans, Sesotho sa Leboa, Setswana, and English rounding out the top 5.  I have no hope to learn much.  Luckily for us, our housekeeper Alice is fluent in most all of the languages and speaks Afrikaans and English well.  I would be having a real tough time communicating with the gardener otherwise.   His home language is mostly Portugese based.  I know a little Portugese, you know the stuff that has been mangled and adopted into our melting pot of Americaneze.
What I really need to do is get a dictionary so I can translate.  Or get an app for that.


Any questions?

Is there anything you would like to know about South Africa?  Pretend you were going to travel to the country for vacation.  What would you want to know about?  Prepare for?
Such as, what is required to bring your pets to SA?  A whole lotta paperwork, and a whole lotta cash!
Thankfully we had some help via the kind folks at Animal Land Pet Movers.  Here's a shout out to Igna and Beth who were very kind and extremely helpful in getting our dogs and cats over here.  It made what could have been a headache into not so much.  Door to door service.  Fantastic. 
I gotta say it was not a cheap ordeal, but there is very little of a "cheap" nature when moving internationally.  Especially when dealing with pets crossing borders.  The blood tests alone (for the dogs, the cats were exempt) were nearly $800 for EACH dog.  That's just so immigration could be certain we didn't bring any nasties into the country.  Never mind some the nasties they were testing for are also present in SA, so it's not like the UK, where they have all but erradicated rabies from their soil and they want to quarantine.  At least the requirements for SA weren't that tough. 
What else can I tell you about coming over here?  They still have full service petrol stations.  Ladies, no need to pump your own gas.  They will even wash your windshield, check your oil, tires, etc.  For a tip. There are parking lot attendants who will watch your car, help you back up your car in the busy (and crowded) parking lots and even carry your bags and unload your shopping trolley.  For a tip.
When you get your luggage at the airport a friendly valet will be right there to push all your suitcases.  (Well, we had 14 of them so I didn't mind so much.) For a tip.
But don't be turned off by the request.   A R2 (or 2 rand) tip is only about 25 cents US.  So it's not like your gonna break the bank. 
So come on, how about some questions.

Boerewors Here, Get Your Boerewors Here

More unusual sights seen on the street.  Peddlers and beggars.  I don't quite know what else to call these guys.  Entrepreneurs maybe?  They stand at every intersection in the street (note* not beside the street, not in the median, IN THE STREET) and you try your best not to hit them as you drive through the intersection.  I would hate to break the only leg the one legged beggar has left because I cut my right turn too close to him.  (I know, not funny but gee whiz guy).

Some of the, dare I say, legitimate businesspersons sell sunglasses, fans, umbrellas, sports merchandise, what have you, you can probably pick up while waiting for your red light. AT EVERY INTERSECTION on your way home.

It's not like our firemen with their boots collecting donations, nor the guys passing out m&m's for donations to the church downtown that helps the drug addicts.  No, these guys will lean in your car windows, harass you if you are so unfortunate as to have to stop anywhere close to the intersection waiting for a light and curse you in several languages if you try to tell them "no thanks, I don't need a questionable car charger today".  So you drive with the a/c on and the windows rolled up just to avoid the confrontation. 

This is why all my pics are taken through the windows. 
If you are wondering what  boerewors is, it's a sausage popular for grilling (or braai-ing) over here.
Delish!  It's hard to describe the flavor, not quite brat, but grill it and put it some in a roll. yum.


Put One Foot in Front of the Other

Strange sights seen on the street, kids everywhere walking barefoot.  In stores, restaurants, outside on the road, in school.  I don't think anyone under 18 wears shoes over here during the summer.  Ever.  I don't know if it's just a cultural thing, or what.  I know it has nothing to do with economic status because it's kids of all kinds.  There are those who have on the odd pair of crocs or sandals, but mostly dirty little bare feet.  I can so get with that.  I love going without shoes.  Always have.  So now, when my kids complain that their feet hurt or their shoes are rubbing blisters, they just take them off and go without.
These are the relatively clean size 13.5 feet of the youngest.  Yes, that's kid size, she's tall for her age, not a giant. 

I gotta say that it makes financial sense to not have to worry about buying umpteen pairs of shoes for those rapidly growing feet.   So maybe these folks are on to something.....


Christmas lists

The past couple of days I've been catching up on all the blogs I follow.  Not all of them post daily so I have to sorta go through the blog roll periodically because I'm just too lazy to check the email updates. Some of them I've posted on my sidebar.  Anyhow, I was reading a "new to me blog" and was nearly busting a gut reading their post http://www.rantsfrommommyland.com/2010/11/christmas-toys-from-hell.html.  Which got me to thinking about what my kids want for Christmas. 
Now, I'm the mom who has been secretly stashing away gifts they've asked for throughout the year since spring.  Those same toys I managed to bring over in 14 suitcases when we flew here, yes 14!.  So I've got some things already hiding away in various closets, but as I believe in letters to Santa I expect there might be some additional requests for the jolly fat man.
But here's the thing, since we moved, the kids haven't bombarded me with a nonstop list of crap items they've seen on tv.  Why? you ask?  Because the kid channels here don't show that many toy commercials.  Nary a commercial at all.  No McDonalds commercials, no aqua sand, no barbie, no crappy, plastic, made in china, breaks in 30 minutes, or never quite works right from the start, toy.  The kids only ask for toys when they physically see them. I'm guessing this is because they already own every toy they can think of, and without constant reminders from the toy corporations they can't think of anything they don't have. 
This begs the question then, if we turned off the tv permanently (or just eliminated the commercials from their world) would their wish lists be considerably shorter?  Would they think harder about the toys they wanted as toys they would TRULY treasure? 
I'm sure this comes as no surprise to some people, but I've never lived anywhere where the consumerism wasn't targeted at kids 24/7.  Kinda refreshing.



Have you ever purchased or been given something that at the time you were wanting, but less that thrilled with, because you didn't think it would be all that great and you could have bought/ asked for something even more spectacular instead?  Hello run-on sentence!  Well, I've done that before.  You know, you ask for something for your birthday that you might need (practical) or just want, but since you can't think of anything really special, you just go with the next thing that pops into your mind? 
I know there aren't many things that I really need anymore, aside from maybe new underthings to replace the worn out ones, or the random new appliance.  I already know that I have far too much stuff.  Witness my MIL's basement and the amount of time it took us to pack away the household goods. (And that was after several big clear outs and trips to the charity shop.)  But are these really things anyone would like to give you as a gift (think carefully about this one before you purchase, fellas), or you really want to receive?  Not really, I would guess.  That's not to say I don't appreciate an appliance or tool I've been coveting as a gift, it's just a little less spectacular when it's a practical sort of thing.
So my point in explaining all this is that for my past birthday I asked for a Kindle.  Yes, this lover of books finally joined the 21st century and went electronic.  Shocker, I know.  This was for two reasons.  One, we knew we were going to be moving to RSA and I didn't want to have to pack a bunch of books with me as we were moving just with our suitcases, and I didn't want to have to deal with higher book prices at the shops here.  I could get a cheaper price purchasing a download than a new release paper copy.   Also, it's just cool to carry around a skinny little tablet instead of a huge tome, am I right?  Two, I was simply running out of space for all the paper copies I would get and heap at the foot of my nightstand.  I've been known to buy several dozen books at a time at the thrift store or charity shop.  Just ask my husband about buying dozens of books at the charity shop in the UK and then a few weeks later taking them all back as a donation and picking out several more dozen.  Compact and convenient, that's the ticket. 
I do miss the smell of the books, and there is no second hand download, and you can't REALLY loan it to another person. (Kindle has that option on some titles, but you can only share with one other person and it appears there might be a time limit on the loan.)  I know in my book group we shared some books around a few times.  So that's a bummer, but I gotta say I'm enjoying being able to download a book in less time than it usually takes me to fix a drink, and I have dozens of books just waiting for me, at my fingertips.  On my sidebar are several other titles I've finished most recently that are decent reads if you are looking.  Read on!  I've been busy reading a book called Robopocalypse by Daniel Wilson, which I can recommend if you like sci fi.  Think Ray Bradbury.  And upon looking up the title to make sure I had the authors name right, what do I find?   Steven Spielberg is directing a movie based on the book, supposedly.  Figures that all the best ideas for movie plots are coming from actual novelists nowadays.  Can't Hollywood come up with their own ideas anymore?  Here's hoping they can do the book justice.



If you were ever to come to South Africa for a visit one of the more precious things you might find about the country is that they are very polite.  At least in my experience so far.  I don't mean the air kiss, or handshake, but the very earnest greetings you receive from everyone you encounter.  A typical greeting would be "good morning, how are you?" with the response following "good morning to you, how are you?".  Then actually wait and listen for the response. (I know, shocker isn't it to have to pay attention).  It appears that this tiny interaction is a familiar and necessary start to the transaction.  Everywhere.  Greeting people on the street, from strangers to friends, all will begin before the business at hand.  Even during shopping, the greetings will preclude any purchases.  It's hard to remember to be so alert to the communication.  Not easy when you have trouble hearing anyway.  Remember I'm from the land of "yo" and the ever popular nod of acknowledgment, if there is any notice taken at all.  Almost like we've forgotten how to take the time to greet someone like they matter, even if you don't know them personally.  Or, god forbid having to take a moment from our cell phone conversations to answer them.  Have we forgotten how to be polite?

Wherein I Point the Finger

I've been gushing about the weather here to people at home, since weather at home (USA) is sucky and swiftly approaching winter-like temps.  Here it is a comfy 28C.  Now, for those of you who say "eh" and throw another log on the fire because its "beginning to look a lot like Christmas", let me say that unlike home that's NO HUMIDITY with them there temps.  Warmth without the drippy, unless you just naturally sweat a lot. 
But, let me amend that by saying that this is not even the thick of summer yet, and we have air con in only one room of this house.  I am yet to be convinced that I will be comfortable in the manner to which I have become accustomed during my life through 30++ years of sweltering and humid summers in central Missouri (frosted lightly by air conditioning blasting directly on myself).  And add to that there is no real heating in this house either.  There is some underfloor heating in the bedrooms, but what if its just not enough?? So yes, my friends, I am rubbing in the coming winters' discomfort, with a nanny nanny boo boo, but only because I fear my time is a coming.
This is what my cat looked like when I told her we didn't have to freeze our tails off at Christmas this year.

And this is what the dog looks like during these hot south African summers.  (Ok, ok, she looks like this most of the time.   But this time she was in front of the fan.)

Can you tell which end is which? And why is it dusty, dirty dogs always choose the clean, WHITE, bed linens to roll around on?  I'm just saying.

Rights of Passage

Our family has had a momentous week.  First up, the youngest has reached that ages old milestone of turning 5.  Yes, can we have a whoop whoop!  We celebrated her birthday simply with a cake, some presents, and a dinner out.  As you can see below, the cake was professionally made by me.  I'm sure there are plenty of professional bakeries around, but since part of the fun was helping to make it, we opted for the box mix, and surprisingly they combine the cake mix and the icing in the same box.  Who knew?  At home you have to shell out extra for the sugar covering. 

Then on Saturday, the oldest lost his first baby tooth.  Surprise to us that it was a bottom tooth we didn't even know was loose, as he's been trying to wiggle the top ones. Surprise to him that it nearly came out biting into soft cheese.  It only took a little tug and it came out the rest of the way.  I'm trying to convince him to work at the one beside it so that his new teeth have somewhere to move to as one of them is nearly in all the way and the other is closely behind.

That was my week.  So many things happening at once that I think I need to spread out the events a little better on the calendar.  You know, to fill in for those weeks where literally nothing is going on.

I Didn't Just See That, Did I?

Have you ever looked at a sign and your brain fills in the letters as it THINKS it sees them? Rather than what is actually written there?  I keep doing that as I'm driving around town.  See, if there are apartments for rent available, some realtors or letting agents will post signs in the right of way near the roads so that as you drive by (quickly) you catch it out of the corner of your eye.  Only the signs don't say For Rent.  They say   TO LET.  Can you see what I see?

I have also done a double take at one of the local shopping centers as a large retail bookseller here is called CUM BOOKS.  (Take your mind out of the gutter.  It's pronounced COOM, rhymes with broom).  I'm not kidding.
Then there are the strangely named food products.  I found this to be a common problem while we lived in the UK.  They come up with some creative product names.  Products that are aptly named, that just sound funny, or might cause one to think twice about eating it. So I'm going to continue this as an ongoing series I'll call Product Puns.  First up is this boxes of salted crackers.

They were actually really nice crackers.  And you can make your kids howl with laughter anytime you mention the name.  Say the name out loud and see if you can keep from snickering.  Dare you.


Good Day Sunshine

The weather here is beautiful.  I don't know if we are just fortunate at this time of the year as it is all sunshine and great breezes, no humidity, and the occasional whopper of a thunderstorm to satisfy my need for a good storm, or if this is typical.  Amazingly this is the "rainy season" here in South Africa, though it has only stormed after dark so far. 
The sunshine is bright and warm, as it should be at 1350m above sea level (that's 4500f for us still sporting the imperial scale).  And has an unusual quality to it at this elevation, the sky appears bluer, and everything is clearer (no doubt less crap in the atmosphere).  But watch out as the radiation coming through that atmosphere is also a bit stronger. 

Christmas in December?
While it might be normal for the locals to have the Christmas holiday under warm sun, it will be a change of pace for us and I'll be curious to know if it will feel like the holidays as we get closer, or not.  So far, I don't have the urge to shop. 
The holiday decorations are also showing up in stores, and since I didn't ship any of our personal ornaments over with us I may have to think up some new traditions, like decorating a palm tree or something.  At least we have a fireplace to hang the stockings. (I remembered to bring those. Not that anything actually fits in those).

I also made sure that our best elf made the trip over with us.  We can't have Santa not knowing every single move the kids make, now can we!  I don't know when these Elf on a Shelf things became popular but we had a ball with ours last year at Christmas.   I gotta say it was hard to remember to move the little guy every night.  Because let me tell you, the kids notice!  And it is not easy to explain why he's not in a different spot each morning.  So this is our scout Crispin Twinklestar.


Under the African Sky or Which Way Do We Go?

Sunday we took a short road trip.  Not far from Pretoria is a little game park known as the Rhino and Lion Game Reserve.  Situated in the Cradle of Human Kind this was a nice beginners "safari".  We were looking for something to do as a day trip and that the kids would enjoy.  Bingo!
Lions and tigers and rhino, Oh My!
This is a drive through park, so from the comfort of your own air conditioned vehicle you can gaze in wonder at some of the best nature has to offer.  Ostrich, buffalo, wildebeest, rhino, cheetah, lion, wild dog, and springbok, they were all representing.  Even the drive was pretty impressive as it was similar to backroading in the hills back home.

The kids were disappointed that they didn't get the chance to handle the young lion and tiger cubs.  But as with any tourist attraction, the wait was long and the kids impatient, so we passed on it this time.

My favorite was a bird called the Secretary Bird who I thought had loads of personality and I think actually like the attention.  He was really pretty spectacular and definitely my favorite of the birds.

The had a nice selection of reptiles (mostly snakes) and I was surprised to find an old friend in the diamondback rattlesnake here in SA.  I missed seeing my all time favorite the copperhead, but then again they had a nice selection of mamba's and cobras so I wasn't disappointed.  Sorry there are no photo's of those guys as the cages were large and dark and the snakes are keen to find the most un-photogenic spot to rest.

We had a nice lunch at the pub/restaurant then went on to see the big cats having their dinner.
The cheetahs were just a few feet away from the car and were completely mellow.  We got some great photographs of them.

To end the visit we stopped off at the WonderCave on the way out of the park.  This would be the first time the kids have seen a cave and they were a little apprehensive about going down, I think they were thinking scary things, but 87 steps straight down and then into a lift and we found ourselves in a large cavern that had been used by italian limestone miners back in the late 1800's.  The kids were duly impressed.  Just wait till we return home to Missouri and we show them what a real CAVE is like.


Edit the Body

This past week I've been trying out a pilates class with a friend of mine.  The class is well presented by our instructor Jeanika and it is a nice small class full of other mom's. (So we can relate to each others' trouble spots :))  So far I've attended two classes in the mornings.  It has been so long since I've taken an organized workout class that I've forgotten how invigorating it can be. Now by invigorating I mean releasing those endorphins that make you feel awake and alive and ready for your day.  That's not to say I'm not nursing some sore bits, because it has been a good while since I've put this body through a proper workout.  But, I've really enjoyed it and it has got me to thinking about workouts in general.  I've taken circuit courses, yoga, and pilates as well as tried running (many years ago) and taken raquetball and weight training in college for sport.  I've trained on our elliptical at home and done any number of DVD workouts as well as my resistance pilates sled in the basement.  So I know what works for me and what doesn't.  Pilates (and here we are doing mostly mat exercise) is simply one of the best all over workouts that doesn't stress my joints.  
I sort of fell out of love with exercise simply due to lack of time during my day.  Kids will do that to you I guess.  I used to get up at 5 am and head to the Y for a morning workout before work, but lost my momentum.  You might ask why I didn't just join a 24 hour fitness gym, or workout at night.  Unfortunately, when you don't work out you tend to feel worse and even more tired which just keeps you from going to the gym again.  I really hope I can keep going and build the strength I've lost in the last few years.
I would like to find a yoga class, or maybe I should just join the 24 hour gym down the street as I've got all this extra time on my hands.  Isn't that what women of leisure do these days?   Work on my tan, and work on my physique?  Or was that mess around with the pool boy?  I forget, must be the momnesia.


Internetus Interruptus

So the internet has been out for the last 24 hours.  Don't know why, just that no one in our estate had any internet service.  Bummer when your contact with the other side of the world depends on that connection.  Oh well,  I will survive.  I guess I do spent the better part of my day logged on, because I find myself with a lot of extra time on my hands when I can't surf.
Just someone contact my mom for me so she doesn't think I've dropped off the planet.
That means I have to wait to post until I'm connected again.  Not that I thought of anything more interesting to write about than the crap internet service here.  But I've heard that it's a pretty common complaint and that you just have to deal with it.  Can't say that the service when its available is all that either.  The connections are slow and the downloads even slower, but I knew about that.  At least we don't have a cap on our service like many do. 
During peak time, skype-ing is a funny way to spend time trying to communicate with your friends and loved ones.  Kinda like watching old episodes of Max Headroom (there's an oldie but a goldie, for those of you who are old enough to remember him) only the soundtrack is stuttering right along with it like a badly dubbed kung fu flick.  It's good we don't have anything really important to discuss because half the convo is missed.  I have yet to find a way to save some of those freeze frame shots of my mother during the stuttering, because some of them are hilarious.  It's like pausing a DVR at just the right moment to catch someone on the telly looking like they just sniffed glue or walked into the door.
On another note, I can say that Halloween is a non-holiday here in South Africa.  At least here in the estate.  No decor, no trick or treat.  My son had a Halloween parade at school and a party where he got to dress up, but it could have passed by without mention.  I didn't even see evidence of costume sales for the kids to dress up.  But the commercial powerhouse that is the Halloween movement in the US may be just that...only in the US.  Not a major holiday in the rest of the world.  On the flip side, Christmas decor goes up in the stores here at the end of September.  Because as you know, there is no Thanksgiving, so straight on to Christmas, or the winter holiday of your choice.