South Africa: Day 39, Strand and Stellenbosch

Saturday, February 13

We woke up anxious to see how Tisetso was feeling after the scare we had last night with his leg pain. Thankfully, he said he was doing ok and only woke up once with some pain. With Tisetso feeling ok, we decided to go to Stellbosch for the Slow Market, which came recommended by our agency.

On our way to Stellenbosch, Brian made a pit stop at the rental place so we could pay for the extra days in our flat. While Brian was in the office, Tisetso and I stayed in the car and had a heart to heart. The topic? If you were any animal, which animal would you be? I told him I’d be a dolphin so I could swim around and explore shipwrecks. Tisetso said he would be Ben 10. This kid. What superhero would you be? “Batman!” (At least he got that one right.) Unfortunately, Brian was unable to pay for the apartment as our realtor wasn’t there and the employee who was there didn’t know how to use a credit card machine. ( . . . ) We would have to go back on Monday before leaving to pay.

We headed to Stellenbosch, which was a beautiful drive! We were on the other side of the mountains we had been taking pictures of for the past few weeks. There were lots of wineries along the way. Stellenbosch is basically the Napa Valley of Africa. We passed at least 20 along our route. It was a fun drive with a lot to look at. 

You know you're doing something right when the hashtag is Foodie Heaven.

You know you're doing something right when the hashtag is Foodie Heaven.

We got to the Slow Market without any hitch. Our plan was to get a late breakfast / early lunch while there. It was really nice. There was a good mixture of art vendors, food stands, and entertainment. One of the best forms of entertainment we found was an oriental rug auction. The auctioneer was sitting up front with what appeared to be a karaoke machine and had the microphone turned to the echo setting, so everything he said was really echo-y. He was also the worst auctioneer ever. He was saying how people could purchase the rug for R5000 (about $250) today and sell it for R10,000 tomorrow. He then moved from speaking into the microphone to yelling at the audience at how dumb they were for not buying the rug. Then (back into the microphone), he announced that the rug was worth at least $16,000 and this was the best deal they were going to find in their lifetime. It was very entertaining.

With the entertainment finished, we got about to the task of lunch. We found a samosas place and grabbed a few of those. After insisting he didn’t want any, Tisetso proceeded to steal my chicken samosa. *sigh* After that, we found a place with a fun sampler platter with chicken nuggets, fish sticks, and cheese and steak croquettes. It was a good way to try a few things. We got Tisetso to try one of the beignets with jam, which he surprisingly liked. 

We walked around the rest of the market and found a gift we needed. That was a win. Tisetso’s mood seemed to be deteriorating rapidly, so we decided to call it a day. Once again, the ride back was gorgeous. It was a perfect day with sunshine and white, fluffy clouds floating around. Come to think of it, we’ve not had any bad days here. We’ve had some hot one or windy ones, but not bad.

This old Merc pulled in and I had to get a shot!

This old Merc pulled in and I had to get a shot!

After we got back, I really needed a break. Tisetso’s mood had been pretty flatlined for most of the morning and, after several days of it directed towards me, I decided to go to the tidal pools by myself. It was a good break. If you know me at all, you know I love nature. This had my nature meter pegged. It was nice to get outside and to explore without my kid wanting to go back and play Lego. It was the best of both worlds. I got to be in nature and he got to play Legos. 

The Krusty Krab.

The Krusty Krab.

I got pretty far out!

I got pretty far out!

Tisetso had found one of my headbands. While I was at the tidal pools, Tisetso worked on using up his stickers.

Tisetso had found one of my headbands. While I was at the tidal pools, Tisetso worked on using up his stickers.

After my break and a resting time for Tisetso, we headed to the mall. Because the exchange rate is bonkers right now, I really wanted to get some clothes shopping in. I was able to get two organic cotton shirts for the price of Gap Outlet shirts. It was pretty great. Brian and Tisetso went to the stationery store to purchase some pens (for Brian’s work). When we were all done, Tisetso requested pizza for supper. We obliged and headed to Romans Pizza again. With two pizzas in hand, we finished our day out by wrapping up Robin Hood. It was a low key way to end a slightly frustrating day.

Posted on February 24, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 38, Strand and Khayelitsha

Friday, February 12

We were excited to get up and at ‘em early for the sake of getting Tisetso’s passport and doing the noting of the adoption. We met the Sareela family and three social workers at the Wandisa / Wybrow Oliver offices. Once again, we were headed to the Home Affairs office in Khayelitsha. It helped knowing what to expect this time around. When we arrived, we walked through the security section and headed upstairs (we hadn’t been on the second floor before). Upstairs we met with an official who looked over our paperwork and noted the adoption. This was when we also officially noted Tisetso’s name change.

A lot of the shipping crates have been turned into shops with colorful murals painted on them advertising what's inside.

A lot of the shipping crates have been turned into shops with colorful murals painted on them advertising what's inside.

Paperwork to pick up Tisetso's passport.

Paperwork to pick up Tisetso's passport.

As to his name, we had always been open to keeping our child’s name. We did pick out an English name as we’ve heard of older kids wanting to push everything from their life from before the adoption out of the picture, including their name. Tisetso is the exception to this way of thinking. It worked out well because I was going to have a hard time shifting to another name! 

The name we had picked out for Tisetso was "Knox." We actually considered it about two years ago and have loved it ever since. The name is after one of my favorite theologians, John Knox. He was an amazing man who lived during the 1500s in Scotland. He loved God and did great things for the Gospel. We knew we’d keep "Knox" and "Tisetso" in his name. If he wanted a new name, his name would be Knox Tisetso Malcolm. Because he wanted to keep his name, we’ve changed his name to Tisetso Knox Malcolm. We hope and pray he grows up to be an amazing man, just like his namesake.

After noting the adoption, we headed back downstairs to pick up his passport. After about 15 minutes of waiting for our number to be called, everyone who was waiting (about 20 people) except for the adoptive families got up and rushed the counter. It was slightly alarming. We didn’t know what was happening. One of the social workers got up and checked out what was going on. Apparently the workers had decided to speed everything along. They took everyone’s number, went in the back, then grabbed the passports.

We got his passport quickly! And he has his bowtie in the photo!! And his scuba diving skulls t-shirt. It was a banner day for his stylist.

The South African passport cover

The South African passport cover

They said "Don't smile." Nailed it.

They said "Don't smile." Nailed it.

We had to get fingerprinted upstairs after we got his passport. Our fingers covered in ink, we mashed them down on paper, sealing our adoption paperwork. It was neat because we got to meet a French family that Wandisa and Wybrow Oliver are working with while doing our fingerprints.

It was while we were being fingerprinted that we heard the most gut-wrenching sound. It was, hands down, the worst sound I’ve ever heard. It was a woman in another part of the building wailing because she found out (from the officials in the building) that her daughter had been killed in a hit and run that morning. Even now, my heart aches to think of the sound and that poor woman. It was overwhelming how the pain of this woman filled the building. I’ve never heard grief like this, but it was such a powerful sound, I could not help but grieve with that woman. I will never forget her pain.

When it was time to go, we prepared Tisetso for the sound to get louder as we went down the stairs to the ground level. He nodded that he understood and walked quickly to get out of the building. While walking out to our car, the social worker told us that in the African culture, grief is expressed through wailing and trembling. She said that it’s actually a healthier way to process the pain of grief than how the Western culture deals with it—by holding it in and stretching it out.

After a sober drive home, we made sandwiches and prayed for the woman. We didn’t know her name or face, but she needed comfort. 

In front of our apartment there are some awesome tidal pools that form every day. I figured it was about time to check them out. I basically had to drag Tisetso outside with me. I am sure my nature ADD had him apprehensive about being at tidal pools with me. It ended up being a great time for me, when I didn’t hear the pleas of my son to go back inside and play with his Legos. He did not enjoy it. Tisetso’s apprehension of nature extended to tiny hermit crabs, star fish, and fish. He did not like the tidal pools. After heading back at the brisk pace he was setting, I decided I’d go tomorrow by myself.

Tiny star fish and baby hermit. <3

Tiny star fish and baby hermit. <3

Biggest hermit we found—about 2 inches.

Biggest hermit we found—about 2 inches.

Cautious as ever, Tisetso asked to hold one of the hermit crabs. I got so excited! A breakthrough in his dislike of nature! NOPE! He proceeded to chuck the poor thing far away back into the water. *sigh*

Cautious as ever, Tisetso asked to hold one of the hermit crabs. I got so excited! A breakthrough in his dislike of nature! NOPE! He proceeded to chuck the poor thing far away back into the water. *sigh*

We did a little school after the tidal pools. Tisetso enjoyed writing letters using an app and, when school was done, played with his Legos. Brian and I worked on where we would stay for the next few days. We decided to fly to Johannesburg on Monday and booked our tickets. The two big things we wanted to do were Stellenbosch (a town largely filled with wineries and shops) and Robben Island (were Mandela was imprisoned). We planned to do Stellenbosch on Saturday and Robben Island on Sunday. While working on plans, we found out we could stay in our current apartment until Monday, which is a huge blessing. We won’t have to pack up to go to a hotel just to unpack and pack again before flying out. 

Two paragliders that flew past our flat.

Two paragliders that flew past our flat.

At least 19 parasurfers on the beach that evening!

At least 19 parasurfers on the beach that evening!

After a slow afternoon, we headed to supper with Rose (our social worker) and Ronel (the assistant to the lawyers at Wybrow Oliver). We had extended the invitation for dinner to everyone, but because of the short notice, most people were unable to make it. It ended up being a wonderful time with Rose and Ronal. We enjoyed getting to know them better and hearing about how they ended up at the agency. Brian got snails on bone marrow for an appetizer and I got pasta (my love language), which is surprisingly hard to get around here (because my son only wants KFC or burgers).

After we had said goodbye and gotten home, Tisetso told us how his leg was really hurting. The way he described it, we thought it might be a pulled muscle from playing, but we didn’t want to take any chances. Thankfully, we have a contact at Comer Medical in Chicago who was on call to field any medical questions we may have while here. After a few emails back and forth, we decided to monitor it over the next few days and go from there. 

It was a big day! With passport in hand, we only have to do our visa interview on Tuesday (February 16) in Johannesburg. I can feel home getting closer!

Posted on February 19, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 37, Strand

Thursday, February 11

Today was a day of rest. We finished off Tisetso’s cough and spit series with success. What a huge relief! It was tiring not letting him eat or drink anything (except water) before the doctor’s appointments. Tisetso found them relaxing as he would get a 30- to 60-minute massage then do his thing. We decided to celebrate and Tisetso asked to do a picnic on our balcony.

Our traditional McDonald's pancakes after the doctor's office.

Our traditional McDonald's pancakes after the doctor's office.

After the cough and spit, we went to the mall to pick out picnic supplies. Brian and Tisetso went ahead to the grocery store to start getting the supplies, while I went to the stationary store to get pens and paper. I loved having a few minutes to myself in a stationary store. HEAVEN! When I was done blowing through all of my spending money, I met up with Brian and Tisetso in the grocery store. We were able to get some fun stuff. It was funny because Tisetso chose pretty much everything you can get in America. When he told Brian he wanted biscuits (cookies), Brian thought we’d get to try some unique South African delights. Nope! Oreos for this kid!

Picnic supplies!

Picnic supplies!

Our picnic was simple, but a huge deal to our kid. It was a special treat for celebrating being done with his medical. It also ended up being inside (though on the floor around our coffee table) after he decided he wanted to watch Ben10 while eating lunch. After the mall, we did little else today. It was much needed, as we’ve been going full steam ahead. It was hard for me not to go do things because we know our time here is even more limited than we originally thought, but we all needed a break from being tourists.

Getting ready for our picnic.

Getting ready for our picnic.

My son stalling at bedtime by being Roy's hairdresser.

My son stalling at bedtime by being Roy's hairdresser.

Today made me excited to be home—to be in the mundane for a little bit. We’ve been out of the USA for 7 weeks (1.5 in London and 5.5 in South Africa). I cannot wait to be home and to be in our house. We’ve been gone just as long as we lived in our new house. When I think of home, I really have to press myself to remember what it’s even like. I am glad to have had two summers this year. What a life! 

Posted on February 19, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 36, Strand and Cape Town

Wednesday, February 10

Beautiful view from our bedroom this morning.

Beautiful view from our bedroom this morning.

Today started as the last two have: a sauna in the bathroom and coughing and spitting in a doctor’s office. We were successful for the second day in a row! Because we wanted to encourage Tisetso for his hard work (the coughing and spitting is a pretty tiring process), we decided to have a picnic as a celebration and an incentive to finish well tomorrow. We grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s (more hotcakes). We’re not ones to break tradition and there is very little by way of faster dining that we could find.

We stopped by our lawyer's office to get a few questions answered about the paperwork we had filled out the previous night. While we were talking, Tisetso made himself comfortable in Mr. Brad’s chair and proceeded to draw Jack and the Beanstalk. He also ordered some coffee and told us our work was subpar and we needed to step it up. It was pretty adorable with him sitting in the chair that, for now, is a bit too big for him.

Every professional needs a balloon from McDonald's adorning their desk.

Every professional needs a balloon from McDonald's adorning their desk.

Our plans for the day were to head to Cape Town and go to the rugby museum. Since arriving in South Africa, Brian and I actually watched rugby. It’s pretty great. We also really like the Springboks jerseys and had a hard time finding them in America. Where can one get a Springboks jersey? At the South Africa rugby museum, of course! 

Checking how they measure up to rugby players.

Checking how they measure up to rugby players.

Because we got there right after they opened, we were able to have the whole place to ourselves for most of our time there. We bought some jerseys and Tisetso also got a cap (which he has worn once). The museum was interesting. A lot of the country’s history is very intertwined into the team’s history, specifically concerning the Apartheid. With our sport meter pegged for quite some time, we left the museum and walked around the Waterfront.

We walked to the market because Brian had a couple of gifts to purchase. While there, things seemed to melt down. Tisetso was upset with me for reasons unknown, which was hard because there’s no way to address the issue. After Brian had found the gifts, we went to the next big building over where they have a whole slew of food vendors. We ended up with delicious samosas (in several varieties), a vegetarian Scotch egg (oops), and a somewhat gross lamb philo wrap. Brian went back to get more samosas and Tisetso got upset with me for something (it escapes my mind now). When Brian got back, I gladly hopped up to get drinks. I found a new root beer we had never tried for Brian, a creme soda for Tisetso, and a Coke Light (Diet Coke) for me.

It’s been hard for me because, right now, Tisetso favors Brian. I’m sure there are many reasons for this, of which I can think of many, but it becomes difficult because I’m the one working with him most days and doing the unexciting things—getting ready, school, trying to get him to clean up his Lego bricks because I don’t want to step on them, etc. Today reached a breaking point for me. 

I was glad to have stepped away from the table for a minute because I got to see Brian and Tisetso having a conversation. I don’t know what it was about, but I had a moment where I saw our family forming; father and son talking over samosas. It helped me press on for the rest of the day. 

Sneaky photo during their conversation.

Sneaky photo during their conversation.

Tisetso had been complaining that his legs hurt for most of the morning. While we were eating lunch, he saw the ferris wheel and said that riding it would help make him feel better. Not wanting to miss an opportunity to make him feel better, we tossed our trash and headed to the ferris wheel. It ended up being a good thing. His mood lifted a little and we were able to enjoy the time on the ferris wheel.

The rest of the day we just laid low. We felt Tisetso had had too much during the day and didn’t want to add anything else to the agenda. While we were resting in the afternoon, we got word that Tisetso’s passport was ready. It came in only five days! We were told it would be 13-15 business days, so we were surprised. The plan is to go pick up the passport on Friday and do the noting of the adoption (officially submitting his name change and starting the process of finalizing the paperwork for the adoption in South Africa). 

It took us so off guard we freaked out a little. We have a list of things we want to do in the Cape Town area still. We thought we had so much time left and now, we’ve got a few days. Gah!

I loved getting to see the moon and the fading sunset.

I loved getting to see the moon and the fading sunset.

Posted on February 18, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 35, Strand and Cape Town

Tuesday, February 9

Today started with Tisetso and I sitting in the bathroom with the shower spewing out hot water. We were trying to get his lungs ready for a good cough and spit session at the doctors. Thankfully, our hard work paid off! We were able to get a good cough and spit and got day one of three out of the way!

As a celebration, we grabbed breakfast at McDonald’s. Once again, Tisetso got the hotcakes. This time, I followed suit and enjoyed tasty pancakes. We were glad to get a good breakfast as it ended up being a super hot day. On the docket: pet some awesome animals.

We headed to the Cheetah Outreach. Brian and I bought tickets to pet cheetah cubs and bought tickets for Tisetso to join us in the meerkat-petting experience. We headed to the cheetah enclosure first. Brian and I headed in while Tisetso, grandma, and grandpa watched through the fence. We got to pet two cheetah cubs, but truth be told, they weren’t tiny. They were both around 9 months old and already quite big. I was still in heaven. After being so many places where I could pet wildlife, but shouldn’t (zoo and bird gardens), it was wonderful! The cheetahs were just sleeping, but we were able to pet them and ask the handlers some questions. 

Cheetah #1

Cheetah #1

Cheetah #2

Cheetah #2

It was super cute!!

It was super cute!!

After getting our fill of petting cheetahs (is there such a thing?!), we headed back into the building to take the tour. The tour was just ok. The coolest thing we learned was they’ve started a conservation program using dogs. Apparently, many farmers resort to animal traps or poison to keep their livestock safe from predators (often cheetahs). The dogs the Cheetah Outreach gives farmers will bark and protect the livestock. Cheetahs are classified as "lazy predators" in that they will not pursue difficult food (dogs disqualify the animals by their presence). The farmers sign a contract not to use traps or poison. Apparently the farmers see their loss go from 30%-40% (usually while using traps) down to 3% after using a dog to guard the flocks.

Tisetso was getting antsy during the tour, which was understandable as most of it was in the boiling sun. I flagged down a staff member and let them know we were ready to do the meerkat experience (they had to get a person to the enclosure to let us in). Tisetso, who was super excited to pet a meerkat when we bought a ticket for him, no longer wanted to pet anything. We convinced him to enter the first enclosure area that has two doors leading to the two meerkat cages. He sat with one of the volunteers while Brian and I met, pet, and held "Sebastian" the meerkat. We were told up front that it was too hot to hold Sebastian, so all we’d be able to do was pet him on the ground. 

Sebastian the meerkat

Sebastian the meerkat

After sitting on a bench to pet him, he hopped up and laid down in my lap and held my arm. It was like he was giving it a hug! I was even more excited than when we had pet the cheetahs. Sebastian was purring and chattering. It was delightful. Tisetso, not one to miss out on fun, tried to pet the other, wild meerkat by sticking his finger into the cage. The volunteer quickly retrieved his finger and told him that one bites. (This kid.)

Look at the smile!

Look at the smile!

With photos and petting Sebastian over, we were told it was time to say goodbye. After (jokingly…) threatening to put Sebastian in my purse, we headed back to the car. I’m pretty sure all of us were sweating through our clothes and had gotten our fill of sun exposure. We went to the mall to get another suitcase to send back with Roger and Merry Ann and to do a little shopping. 

So in love.

So in love.

We stopped by Game (a store that has no rhyme or reason to its layout and feels a bit like Walmart) to pick out a suitcase. We landed on a cheap one that Roger and Merry Ann could donate back in the States or keep in their condo in Florida (where they were flying back). We also went to Woolworth’s (a bit like Nordstrom, but with cheaper prices and a grocery store sort of like Trader Joe’s attached). There we bought another dress shirt for Tisetso, along with more bow and neck ties. We also found some great clothes that will hopefully fit a little while longer (we bought one size up). Unfortunately, during this time we (Tisetso) hit a bit of a rough patch. I’m sure it’s because we hadn’t had lunch yet and we had been in the sun for a while.

With arms full of luggage and goods, we went back to the car. On our way back, the rough patch hit a boiling point. I had asked Tisetso to hold my hand as we were in a parking garage. He typically holds Brian’s hand as is his preference, but Brian was up one level checking the cart we had rented for Tisetso’s “treasure” (bottle caps) that he said he had accidentally left behind. After Tisetso saying he wanted to hold Grandpa’s hand and me kindly insisting he hold mine because I was his mom (hello, attachment), he pulled his hand away and told me I wasn’t his mom. Thankfully, at this moment, the Lord was protecting my heart and it didn’t hurt me. I was able to see he was not dealing well with the circumstances and that we needed to get home. I told him I was sorry he felt that way and I hoped some day he would feel differently. 

We got back to the flat and quickly made sandwiches. We then started packing up the suitcase to send with Roger and Merry Ann. We had Tisetso rest during this time as he really did need a break. With bags packed and everyone buckled, we headed to the airport.

It was hard to say goodbye to Roger and Merry Ann. They were here for such a short amount of time! We only got to see them for six days. They flew for a third of that time just to see us! It was a huge blessing to have them there, as they offered a break in company and allowed for Tisetso to meet some of the people in his family picture book. 

Tisetso with Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm

Tisetso with Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm

Before they went, we bribed Tisetso to take a picture with them. It only took R1.50 (about 10¢) to get him to agree. Even though he was bribed, his smile said it all! He really did enjoy getting to know Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm. We were very glad they made the trip to South Africa.

Tisetso playing with his new phone (the phone Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm used while visiting us).

Tisetso playing with his new phone (the phone Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm used while visiting us).

After getting our little guy in bed and to sleep, Brian and I stayed up well past midnight getting some forms filled out for our embassy interview. It was rough staying up so late, but it seems like this may be the end of the line for paperwork in South Africa, so we did it with a happy heart.

Posted on February 18, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 34, Strand and Simon's Town

Monday, February 8

Today we got an early start. We wanted to make the hour-long drive around False bay back to Simon’s Town to see the penguins, grab lunch, and then head back before it got too late. Before we could do any of that, Tisetso had his first sputum test. This is required for him for entry to the US by the CDC for his immigration medical. It’s basically you cough, clear your throat, then spit into a cup. We had taken a long, warm shower that morning to get Tisetso ready.

When we got to the doctor, he got to lay on the table and get a back massage for an hour. Sadly, he wasn’t able to produce a good cough. We needed three consecutive days of samples for the CDC, so instead of being done Wednesday, we now had to continue going each morning through Thursday. Because Tisetso couldn’t eat or drink anything (except water), we were ready for a quick breakfast at McDonald’s. Tisetso ordered hot cakes, I got my usual Sausage Egg McMuffin, and Brian tested one of the sandwiches that is only found in South Africa (Boerie Breakfast Bun—which he said it was “just alright”).

After our quick breakfast, we packed everyone into the car and headed out. The ride down the coast was beautiful. The crazy wind had continued through the night and into the day. The high winds were creating fun looking waves and white caps and making the driving fun for Brian. We were able to get to Simon’s Town with no issues.

We parked and Tisetso and I ran down to the public beach to see if the penguins were still there or if we would need to go to the state park beach. Thankfully, they were there! We all lumbered across the sand and over rocks. Most of the penguins were behind some rocks, so we had to climb across. 

Two penguins were dancing around together. It was adorable.

Two penguins were dancing around together. It was adorable.

As with all nature, Tisetso kept a respectful distance.

As with all nature, Tisetso kept a respectful distance.

Roger was surprised at how close the penguins were coming. Apparently I hadn’t conveyed well in my other blog post about our excursion to see the penguins how close we were when we went to the beach the last time. They come very close! At one point, I had one waddle by my leg within six inches. It was magical! Roger and Tisetso were able to crawl over the rocks together. I stayed back with Brian and Merry Ann for a little bit, but really wanted to get closer, so I journeyed over the rocks, too. I really wanted to pet a penguin (self-diagnosed nature ADD here), but I have to be an example now. Parenthood can be a real drag sometimes!

Don't mind me. Just swimmin' by!

Don't mind me. Just swimmin' by!

A penguin took us by surprise as it was under some rocks Tisetso was climbing.

A penguin took us by surprise as it was under some rocks Tisetso was climbing.

After getting our fill of the penguins, the beach, and the wind, we braced ourselves and walked to the restaurant. We went to the same place we had gone before (Seaforth). It was good last time and this visit did not disappoint. We hesitantly sat outside (remembering how cold and windy yesterday’s lunch was). Thankfully, it ended up being perfect. The covered porch offered enough protection from the wind, but allowed us to enjoy the sights of the beach. I ended up getting one of their traditional African pot entrees, the chicken curry. It was delicious! I’m pretty sure they cooked it overnight as the meat just fell apart and was infused with the spices.

Chicken Curry Pot. So delicious.

Chicken Curry Pot. So delicious.

Tisetso entertaining himself before the food came with his new pirate sticker book.

Tisetso entertaining himself before the food came with his new pirate sticker book.

When we had stuffed ourselves, we walked up the path to check out the little market. I had been wanting to get Tisetso one of the beaded lions I had seen at our previous trip to the market. It will go perfectly in his Harry Potter themed room. After he had picked out a lion and Roger and Merry Ann had gotten their fill of the market, we headed home. One great thing about the ride to Simon’s Town is going there is beautiful and driving home is beautiful. It’s as if you’re taking two different trips as you see so much from only one angle.

When we got back to the flat, Brian headed out to an appointment with the rental company to check out another flat. (Our time in the current flat ends Saturday.) While he was out, I got a text from Rose (social worker) telling me that Tisetso’s passport should be done soon and we could have our embassy visa interview as early as next Tuesday! This was incredible news because we anticipated being in Cape Town for at least another week and a half. I texted Brian to let him know we may not need another flat!

The rest of our day was pretty good. The news about Tisetso’s passport was swirling in my mind. If we leave for Johannesburg on Saturday (when we’re done in this flat), we’re not going to have much time to finish everything we wanted to do! BUT I would be happy to get home sooner rather than later.

I asked for a photo and these are two of the gems that came from the request.

I asked for a photo and these are two of the gems that came from the request.

For supper, Tisetso and I made chocolate pancakes (his request), followed by watching Jake and the Neverland Pirates. Tisetso wanted to introduce Jake and friends to Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm. After story and a hug for Brian, we tucked our little guy in. It was a good day filled with fun and good news.

I got a little carried away taking photos of the sunset tonight. It was beautiful. I loved how the pink of the clouds was reflected in the water.

I got a little carried away taking photos of the sunset tonight. It was beautiful. I loved how the pink of the clouds was reflected in the water.

Posted on February 18, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 33, Strand and Cape Town

Sunday, February 7

One month! Mr. Owl (AKA Hedwig) and Roy made it into the photo.

One month! Mr. Owl (AKA Hedwig) and Roy made it into the photo.

Before beginning the regularly scheduled blog post (HA!), I wanted to note that today marked one month of us knowing Tisetso. It has been a crazy, fun, hard, and good month. We are thankful to God that we have such a wonderful son.

Today we decided to go to the waterfront. We wanted to spend a little more time exploring and checking out all the area has to offer. We left early to make sure we could get a good parking space and get to the sights first. The ride in really tested my ability to process road sickness as the wind kept knocking our car about. Upon our arrival, we found a fantastic parking space and headed towards the fun. 

Really cool mural of Nelson Mandela we see each time on our way into Cape Town.

Really cool mural of Nelson Mandela we see each time on our way into Cape Town.

Son and Father

Son and Father

First on the docket was buying tickets to ride on the "Jolly Roger," a pirate ship that gives tours of the harbor and surrounding areas. Unfortunately, the Jolly Roger had been hired out for the day for a child’s birthday party. We decided to head towards the ferris wheel instead. Merry Ann decided to sit the ferris wheel out as the cars were swaying ominously in the strong wind. By the end of the four times around (about 12 minutes) I was wishing I had maybe stayed on the ground with her. It was fun to see the waterfront from a different perspective and I enjoyed when Tisetso allowed me to take pictures with him and Brian. It was really special.

Father and Son

Father and Son

The blustery ride over, we went our separate ways. The boys went on a harbor cruise and Merry Ann and I went to the market space to buy souvenirs and gifts for our family. I wanted to go on the cruise, but the car ride coupled with the ferris wheel had left me feeling unready to face choppy water. While we were shopping Brian kept me updated that they had seen many seals and even dolphins! COME ON! Thankfully I was able to get several gifts purchased while we were out and about. My shopping even included waking Erin up super early to get her opinion on her birthday gift.

A cloud stayed over Table Mountain the whole time we were in Cape Town. Yesterday was definitely the right day to go!

A cloud stayed over Table Mountain the whole time we were in Cape Town. Yesterday was definitely the right day to go!

We had decided to meet up at a grill (the one we had been to previously) around noon, which is when the harbor cruise was slated to be over. Merry Ann and I beat the boys there and I thought it would be nice to sit outside. I was wrong. Within 20 minutes, Merry Ann, Tisetso, and I were ensconced under blankets the restaurant had provided. The wind was blowing everything around. Thankfully the food was delicious. Tisetso veered from tradition and got a hot dog (he usually gets cheeseburgers). Brian and I ordered two entrees (kingklip fish and boerwoers platter) and switched halfway. The kingklip was a recommendation from our immigration doctor we had seen a couple of days earlier. Merry Ann got an ostrich steak and Roger indulged in the massive assorted meat skewer Brian had ordered when we visited before. Aside from being cold and the wind being out of control, it was a delightful lunch.

Our son shooting at people with the sculpture titled "Non-Violence"

Our son shooting at people with the sculpture titled "Non-Violence"

We headed home after lunch. While we were walking back to the car park, we saw seals playing in the harbor. We got to get pretty close to one of them that was sunbathing. It was awesome!

NATURE!

NATURE!

He wanted his picture with the seals, then proceeded to pretend he was fighting them.

He wanted his picture with the seals, then proceeded to pretend he was fighting them.

Brian got to navigate the blustery roadways again. It was rough because there have been several fires in the area (they are experiencing a drought this summer). I felt badly for those out fighting the fires on such a windy day.

One of several areas along the highway we've seen fires crop up at over the last few days.

One of several areas along the highway we've seen fires crop up at over the last few days.

When we got back, we had just a few minutes to rest and recover from our busy day. We headed back out shortly after our arrival to the flat for church. We found a great church (Christ Church Waterkloof) here in Somerset West (10 minutes from our flat). It was nice to be able to introduce Rose (our social worker) and Brad and Debbie (our lawyers) to Roger and Merry Ann. They even got to meet our friends who are in-country at the same time as us, the Saarela family. 

Church was good and, thankfully, not hot like last week. We were thankful for less protest from Tisetso. He was, however, ready to leave right away when it was done. If anything this will be an area he will have to work on because we never leave right after church. It may have been that he was extra eager because we had (out of love) agreed to go to Spur again.

I think Roger and Merry Ann enjoyed their time at the ever-exciting Spur. Tisetso was only seen when there was food. I had to pick something up from the pharmacy, so I arrived after they had been seated. Tisetso and Brian were already in the game room. After deciding on a burger for myself, I asked if Tisetso had left his order. Apparently he wanted chicken nuggets and a cheese pizza. Because we could take left overs home, Brian said that was ok. Unfortunately, I ordered the grilled BBQ chicken nuggets, so that half of the order went unappreciated and uneaten. Thankfully, the rest of the meal was fine. Once again, nothing to write home about (although apparently worth writing on my blog about). 

We got home and got Tisetso tucked into bed with no issues. I apparently had a long day, too, because I fell asleep on his bed while waiting for him to go to sleep. Brian woke me up about two hours later and I just headed straight to sleep. It was a long day for all of us!

Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 32, Strand and Cape Town

Saturday, February 6

Many of the buildings in Cape Town have murals painted on them. I particularly liked this one.

Many of the buildings in Cape Town have murals painted on them. I particularly liked this one.

Today was a big day. Today we went up Table Mountain. Purchasing tickets online ended up being an adventure (apparently the line can get quite long to buy them there). I added three adults (I thought it said 4) and one kid. Realizing my mistake, I went back and added the correct number: 4 adults and 1 kid. All of a sudden, the total was 7 adults and 2 kids. After several frustrating minutes, realizing you couldn’t delete tickets, signing out and signing back in, we had our tickets (the proper number) secured!

Clouds over the bay and one rolling in from the left.

Clouds over the bay and one rolling in from the left.

A picture with Grandma Malcolm. He wouldn't smile, but would make the weird puckering face.

A picture with Grandma Malcolm. He wouldn't smile, but would make the weird puckering face.

The ride into Cape Town was nice and we were hoping for good weather. It has not been uncommon to see Table Mountain under a cloud and we didn’t want to have bought tickets (read: gone through all of the hassle of buying tickets) and have to skip going up. Thankfully, we picked a perfect day! There were clouds, but they were hovering over other mountains and over the bay. It was quite picturesque. 

No fear, this one (not even fear of losing his hat).

No fear, this one (not even fear of losing his hat).

Riding up, we held our breath a few times as large tour buses drove quickly past going the opposite direction. After Brian and Roger dropped us off, I decided to take a video of a cloud rolling out between two mountains. Tisetso decided to be in the video. After attempting to take the video again, I gave up. After meeting up with Roger and Brian, we joined the line to get in the cable car. We waited for about 30 or so minutes. 

Once in the car, we headed up. It was great because the floor of the cable car turns a full 360° during the ride up and down. It afforded everyone a good view of the ride. Unfortunately for me, Tisetso wanted to be held. I had been separated from Brian through the boarding, so Tisetso and I tried to manage on the opposite side of the cable car. At one point, my bag fell over spreading its contents everywhere while Tisetso made his discontent at being put down made known. I’m pretty sure I exited the cable car looking quite frazzled. It was a rough ride up. Thankfully, it was worth it!

The views were astonishing! We loved every minute of being up there. After looking around for a few minutes, Tisetso asked to get lunch. We went to the cafe and, sadly, found out they didn’t have any food he was interested in. After a meltdown in the cafe area, I had Brian take Tisetso out to the seating area. I could tell our little guy was overstimulated from the crowded room, the high altitude, and was feeling stressed.

I managed to get us pizza slices, orange slices, carbonated juice (their Coke machine was broken, God help me), a Table Mountain cookie, and potato chips. Thankfully everything seemed to be satisfactory. After a couple of spills, a few birds begging for food, and figuring out that dassies are cute animals we are not allowed to feed (signs were everywhere), we resumed our exploring of the top of the mountain.

My Table Mountain cookie.

My Table Mountain cookie.

I miss home.&nbsp;

I miss home. 

Tisetso enjoyed climbing the rocks. He loved running ahead then waving down to Grandpa Malcolm and Brian. We even saw a snake at one point! It was the only wildlife we saw aside from birds. Tisetso went over and grabbed Brian around the waist. I (stupidly) thought he was hugging him. Tisetso announced that he was trying to toss Daddy over to the snake. (Brian does not like snakes.) *sigh*

Our little mountain climber.

Our little mountain climber.

One special moment we had was Tisetso actually took pictures with me. It is rare for him to let us take photos of him/with him. It has to be on his terms and he usually has to be bribed (we’re keeping the bribing to a minimum as we don't want him expecting them). I asked to take a picture with him. When he said no, I tried a little reverse psychology. I took a self and made it look like the best thing ever. Before I knew it, my little man had barged in and was smiling away. It was really wonderful.

Be still my heart.

Be still my heart.

I love this kid.

I love this kid.

After deciding it was time to head back, we stopped at the gift shop. We saw a mailbox and decided we should mail postcards back to ourselves. Tisetso picked out a postcard and I grabbed one, too. We wrote/drew on our cards, then Tisetso put them in the mailbox. After that, we were ready to head down.

On our ride down.&nbsp;

On our ride down. 

Another cool mural we saw a couple of times before I managed to get this picture.

Another cool mural we saw a couple of times before I managed to get this picture.

Thankfully, the ride down was less eventful. We all got into the car and decided it had been a full enough day. We headed home. After arriving, Roger, Merry Ann, and Brian took naps while Tisetso and I relaxed by watching some cartoons and playing Legos. Tisetso decided he wanted pizza for supper, so we piled into the car again and drove up the road to Romans Pizza. Romans has a pizza deal which ends up being two large pizzas for $5. The pizza is the best fast pizza we’ve found here. We ordered four pizzas and tried to order one Coke Zero and three waters. We ended up with three Coke Zeros and zero waters. After trying to rectify the situation, we walked away with three Coke Zeros and three waters. Thankfully, our pizzas were perfect and delicious. 

With pizza consumed, we walked down the street to a frozen yogurt place and grabbed some dessert. The chocolate I got tasted really, really fruity. It was weird. Tisetso only wanted gummy toppings, which we found out after when he didn’t touch anything but the gummies. When we were done, we headed back to the flat. 

After a really stressful day, we decided to put Tisetso to bed pretty much right away after getting back. We were expecting a struggle (he did just have sugar), but after jumping it off, he listened to his story and then, he even let us hug and kiss him again. It was good to have the hug after a rough day (the freak outs on top of the mountain and at the bottom, etc). 

Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 31, Strand and Cape Town

Friday, February 5

Today was an early start as we had the second of two immigration medical appointments for Tisetso. Breakfast consisted of donuts and oranges. Tisetso, having chosen a chocolate sprinkle donut, enjoyed his second experience much more.

We piled in the car and headed out. The ride ended up being a frustrating one because on their ride from the airport hotel to the flat the previous day, Brian had given Roger and Merry Ann an extensive tour of South Africa. He basically told them everything interesting. Any time I opened my mouth to say anything, I was informed that they had already been told by Brian on the tour. 

We got to the Waterfront with plenty of time and were able to get a decent parking spot. The plan was for Roger and Merry Ann to wander around and sightsee while we finished our appointment. We had talked with Tisetso quite a bit because he needed 1-2 immunization shots (we prepped him for 3 to be safe). He was not excited but told us he would give the person six seconds to give him the shots. We promised him sweets when he was done. When the time came, he was really nervous, but powered through. He stopped struggling and started counting. He only needed 4 seconds and the one shot (ONE) was over! He was very brave.

Chicago is  only  13,662Km away.

Chicago is only 13,662Km away.

With paperwork in hand for the customs and border control at the US border, we set out to find Roger and Merry Ann. After a few attempts, we found them by a large building that houses a market place with little shops inside. After deciding we needed some lunch, we headed out. Tisetso had decided he wanted a hot dog, so on our way to the restaurant, he and I stopped at a stand to get his lunch. Back at the restaurant, we had a beautiful view of Table Mountain and the interesting sounds of weird new age music (not my favorite). It was a really warm day and we decided that after lunch, we were going to go back to the flat. 

Table Mountain family photo!

Table Mountain family photo!

Luckily for Tisetso, as we were leaving the restaurant, we saw his best friend, the "clown" (human statue). I convinced him to put R5 into his box. Tisetso was prepared this time for the movement and wasn’t scared, but was still very skeptical. After finding our way back to the car, we headed home. 

Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm smiling in Cape Town!

Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm smiling in Cape Town!

On our way back, we stopped at the mall to pick up supper. We grabbed some pepper steak pies and the bare necessities (Diet Coke). The rest of our evening was low key. When we went to go tuck Tisetso in for the night, he surprised us immensely! Every night, we would ask Tisetso if we could give him a hug. Every night (with few exceptions for Brian), he would say no. Tonight he said yes! He gave us both big hugs and even let me give him two kisses! We couldn’t believe it! Then as he was in bed with me there for moral support, he asked me to sing to him! It was sucha good night. We are hopeful this means that, moving forward, he is more comfortable with us.

Apparently the gal in the middle was being arrested. Donatello's head reportedly fell off in battle.

Apparently the gal in the middle was being arrested. Donatello's head reportedly fell off in battle.

He told me to take his picture.

He told me to take his picture.

Again, the Lego port-o-let.

Again, the Lego port-o-let.

Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 30, Strand

Thursday, February 4

Brian and I woke up excited to see Roger and Merry Ann ("MAM") today. Even amidst our excitement, we all seemed to be in a funk. I asked Brian to pray for us and Tisetso insisted I should pray. This is a portion of the prayer:

Me: ...and I pray for Tisetso,
Tisetso: to find my Batman mask.
Me (trying not to die of laughter): ...to find his mask.
Not quite what I was going to pray for, but there it was.

Tisetso seemed a little nervous. He kept saying that they could come tomorrow ("tomorrow" is his code for he doesn’t want to do whatever it is, and seems to be an indefinite amount of time). He wanted Mr. Owl to come, but Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm should come tomorrow. Now the story with Mr. Owl is an interesting one.

Mr. Owl, aka Hedwig from Harry Potter, was bought for Tisetso by our friends, Ben and Sarah, during their recent excursion to Harry Potter World. Hedwig was the perfect addition to Tisetso’s Harry Potter themed room. Before we left America, Brian and I took a video of our home. Part of that tour included Tisetso’s room, which included Hedwig. From the beginning, Tisetso named her Mr. Owl and kept asking for her for some time. Knowing Roger and MAM were coming, we had our friend, Kyle, mail Hedwig to them and had them bring the owl in their carry on. Tisetso had stopped asking about Hedwig and hadn’t mentioned anything about her for a while. The day before Roger and MAM came, he told me they must bring her and it was her birthday tomorrow (today). I told him it was too late for them to add anything to their luggage as they had already left.

Before Brian picked them up from the airport, Tisetso and I finished school (he earned another Lego person!) and cleaned up his toys. When Brian had left, Tisetso showed some signs of being stressed out. I reassured him that Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm were very nice. To reduce the amount of time he had to freak out, I put a show on. Thankfully, this helped take his mind off things. 

We were playing Legos when they arrived. Brian had intentionally gone to pick his parents up without us to talk to them about Tisetso and prepare them for a week in South Africa. It went really well. Their entrance was super low-key and they didn’t try to hug or smother him or overwhelm him with questions. They said hello and smiled and admired his Legos (which he was showing off nervously). After a few minutes, MAM took Hedwig out of her carry on. The smile on Tisetso’s face was simultaneously surprised and delighted. He grabbed Mr(s). Owl and didn't let go the rest of the day.

We decided to do an easy lunch of sandwiches to allow time for Roger and MAM to get a little rest in the afternoon. Unfortunately, the bread was moldy. Food with little to no preservatives (as they do here) means you have to eat food quickly. We had missed the window of opportunity for the sandwich bread.

After our weird lunch, Roger and MAM took a few minutes to unpack. Brian, Tisetso, and I were headed to the mall while they got a much-needed nap. At the mall, we rented a car cart for Tisetso, Roy, and Mr. Owl. They had a grand old time while we got our shopping taken care of. One store we stopped at was a mixture of craft store and stationery store. I was in heaven. We managed to find a ton of stickers (seems to be a tall order around here) and found a mask Tisetso could use for playing Batman. I saw a wall of pens, but having a seven year old in the cart who was eager to go or touch everything, we opted to go.

Tisetso appeasing his mom by taking this picture.

Tisetso appeasing his mom by taking this picture.

A WALL OF PENS!

A WALL OF PENS!

At one point, Tisetso was making a ton of silly faces and I was sneaky enough to capture them with my camera. Not only was he silly, but he utilized the horn in the car (called "hooting" here) to alert people they were in his way and they should move. At one point, while walking behind Brian who was pushing the cart, I saw a women look lovingly at Tisetso (he is adorable). Then he honked at her and exclaimed, "You there! Get out of my way!" Her expression changed and she quickly sidestepped the cart.

After getting back to the flat and unpacking everything, we walked a couple of blocks to a restaurant called Ocean Basket. It’s basically like the South African Red Lobster, but we had been told it was a place we couldn’t miss. Unfortunately, they only had fish on the menu. Tisetso does not like fish, so his meal consisted of only chips (french fries) and a little rice. Our meals were good, but I’m not sure I’d label the restaurant a “don’t miss” in South Africa, especially if anyone in your family dislikes fish.

Beautiful sunset on our walk back.

Beautiful sunset on our walk back.

The rocky beach in front of our building.

The rocky beach in front of our building.

Walking back was pretty breezy. Thankfully, we didn’t blow away and I attempted to check out some of the tidal pools. I didn’t get very far as the tide had brought in a lot of seaweed and left it to bake in the sun for some time. The smell was less than pleasant. We also saw a dragonfly on the sidewalk. Grandpa Malcolm picked it up to take it to safety (a plant). Tisetso was intersted, but not interested enough to touch or hold it.

As with all nature, Tisetso was skeptical.

As with all nature, Tisetso was skeptical.

Posted on February 12, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 29, Strand and Khayelitsha

Wednesday, February 3

Our day started off even earlier than yesterday. We had to get up, dressed, showered and out the door by 7:15. At 7:15 (as we were leaving), Tisetso asked, “What’s for breakfast?” Oops! New parents coming through! After quickly cutting an apple and grabbing a granola bar, we were on the road! We had to meet a social worker from Wandisa (our adoption agency in South Africa) and another family (our friends, the Saarela family) at the offices. We were all going to drive together to the Department of Home Affairs. Our objective: get passports for our kids!

We had been told that one of the social workers went to the Home Affairs office to stand in line for us and that it could take all morning. I was expecting to have to stand in a line for most of the day. Thankfully, we were in an out in just under a couple of hours. 

We went to the Home Affairs that is a little more rural. It is on the outskirts of a huge informal settlement (massive town of shanty homes). It was encouraging to see that a really nice hospital and new mall were being built right there, too. That combination of poverty and nice options would not sit side by side in the States. We parked our car in the parking lot (sand and rock area where other cars were congregating) and trudged to the building. Thankfully, this was a different office than the place where the social worker has to wait in line for hours on your behalf. We were able to walk right in and sit in our spot in line. The line was about 50-70 people in front of us. Whenever the line moved, you’d get up and move a few spots, then sit back down in the corresponding chair.

While waiting in line, I decided it was worth bribing Tisetso to get him to wear his bowtie in his passport picture. I was willing to go up to R5, which is one large silver coin, (worth just over 25 cents) to make this adorable thing happen. After getting all the way up to the R5, Tisetso was unmoved. Improvising, I grabbed all of the cent pieces I had in my wallet, totaling R1.50 (5 coins total). I won! Tisetso wore his bowtie in his passport photo! I’ll be sure to add a picture when we get it.

At one point, while waiting, some dude randomly came up and pushed Tisetso out of his seat, then sat down in his spot. I almost momma bear’d that dude. (That’s a verb, right?) Luckily it took me by surprise and after a beat, I had Tisetso come sit with me. 

Another fun experience was the restrooms at this place. I excused myself and went to the ladies' room. After seeing two stalls were out of order, one with suspicious liquid all over the place, and two occupied, I decided to take my chances and wait for an occupied stall to open up. The first one open had a male security guard walk out. This took my by surprise. The next surprise? No toilet paper! Thankfully, I came prepared. I later found out that you are supposed to grab a pre-portioned wad of toilet paper before entering the bathrooms. My confusion was justified as the toilet paper was nowhere near the bathrooms and happened to see it much later upon leaving the building. I'm filing this one under fun adventures in Africa.

After the picture, we had to get our information input into the system. There was almost a big issue (miscommunication), but thankfully, the social worker was able to sort it out. After a little waiting and some copies made of our paperwork, we were done! It was pretty painless (Aside from being out R1.50). 

We were watching the flight info closely as Roger and Merry Ann got closer.

We were watching the flight info closely as Roger and Merry Ann got closer.

We headed back to our flat via Woolworths to get some groceries. After that, we did school (T played educational games on the iPad) and got ready to welcome grandma and grandpa Malcolm! Their flight arrives around 10:30 tonight. They will be staying in a hotel close to the airport and Brian will pick them up tomorrow morning at checkout time (hopefully after a full night's rest).

The windows on this side of the building need a good clean, but I wanted a picture of the clouds rolling over the mountains.

The windows on this side of the building need a good clean, but I wanted a picture of the clouds rolling over the mountains.

I love the sun setting behind the mountains.

I love the sun setting behind the mountains.

Posted on February 10, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 28, Strand and Cape Town

Tuesday, February 2

New view from our new flat.

New view from our new flat.

Today started super early. Too early, even. We hopped out of bed around 6:15 and began packing. We wanted to be out of the first flat by 8:30 (and could check into the new one at 2:00 p.m.). Because Brian had twisted his ankle the day before, he was unable to carry as much as usual. Thankfully, there were carts available in the parking area for use in just such situations. I was able to make two trips to the car before we took our luggage downstairs. The company we were renting our new flat through said we could store our luggage there while we waited to check into the new unit. 

While we were there, the receptionist came up to Tisetso and tickled him (with no warning) and rubbed his head. I was honestly taken aback because it all happened so quickly. Tisetso did not like it! He pulled away and walked quickly over to me. We noticed very early on that Tisetso does not like being touched by people, especially strangers. Getting him to be ok with hugs or holding hands with us is still an ongoing process. In this culture, children are seen as a blessing (and a slightly communal one) and everyone can just come up to them and touch them, rub their back, or talk to them. I think Tisetso will enjoy America where random strangers touching your kids is cause to call the police.

After running our refrigerated stuff to our lawyer’s office (they had some space in their fridge we could use), we headed to Cape Town. The ride in was uneventful (a little traffic), but parking ended up being the issue. We found the parking garage we needed to be in, but parking was scarce. After driving around for 15 minutes, a kind attendant on a bicycle had us follow him and showed us a spot. We gave him double the going tip rate for his help. We were very happy he helped us!

We got a little lost on our way to the immigration doctor’s office because the building was super confusing. Thankfully, we found it (after a kind stranger who worked in the building pointed us in the right direction). The office was packed. Brian and Tisetso waited in the hall while I worked quickly to fill out forms. While I was still filling out paperwork, they called Tisetso’s name. Brian took him back and, unbeknownst to me, they gave him a shot. Poor kid. We hadn’t prepared him for it and, inevitably, there were tears. After the sudden shot attack, they returned to the hall to wait for our appointment. 

Tisetso entertaining himself in the hallway.

Tisetso entertaining himself in the hallway.

The doctor was thorough and quite type A, just like us (well, I’m more type A- or B+, but you get the idea). She is the only doctor in South Africa who is medically allowed to clear people to enter the US through a visa. She spent most of her practice in London, but came back to South Africa where she is from. We were glad she does everything herself as we’ve experienced a lack of attention to detail in other matters. The visit at the doctor (including waiting for our appointment), lasted about 2.5 hours. We had been told it would take no more than a little over an hour. While we were in the meeting, Brian received three calls from the company we rented our flat through and they left voicemails saying it was urgent and to please call back. Brian called back, but the gal was out of the office at that time, so he left a voicemail.

We decided to grab a quick lunch at the V&A Waterfront before getting Tisetso’s x-rays. Thankfully, Tisetso decided he wanted a hot dog after we saw a fancy stand (this ticked the “quick” box of our lunch). While eating, he noticed a man in silver paint and clothes. He got excited. “A clown!” He told us he was going to steal the clown’s money to buy sweets for the kids at the care home. We told him we would buy the sweets and he didn’t/shouldn’t steal the money. (This kid.) After inhaling lunch, we stopped to watch the clown (human statue) for a minute. I gave Tisetso R5 (about 25 cents) to give to him. After tentatively approaching and putting R5 into the man’s box, the human statue popped into action. Tisetso did not like that much and it was time to go. Now.

We were able to find the second medical clinic for the x-rays without issue. While I was filling out paperwork, Brian got a call back from the rental place. Apparently they had double-booked the apartment we were set to move into that afternoon. An employee had apparently double booked the flat, then quit without telling anyone. Through Brian’s masterful negotiation, he got us into a bigger, nicer flat. And because they felt so badly (and had screwed up royally), they offered to help us move our luggage into the new flat. Double score!

This is how you transport a bunch of stuff from your car to your flat.

This is how you transport a bunch of stuff from your car to your flat.

The x-rays went well and then we were quickly back on the road. We were able to pick up our refrigerated stuff and luggage without issue and finally got to our new flat around 5:30. The view is wonderful! One side faces the mountains (different mountains than the last flat) and the other side faces the bay. The only downsides are the crazy wind noise and the weird furniture. There is this weird huge brown cushion (like a permanently sculpted bean bag?) as part of the seating and a couch that is so low, you’re basically on the ground. Bonus: It has the BBC channels included in the cable TV package.

After getting our refrigerator and freezer stuff put away, we drove to a nearby pizza place. I couldn’t wrap my head around cooking dinner tonight. Thankfully Brian and Tisetso were on board. We bought a couple of pizzas and noted a giant, plastic ice cream cone just up the road for future reference.

With Tisetso tucked in bed, we unpacked and took a breather by checking out Top Gear on BBC.

Reading the  Jesus Storybook Bible  before bed.

Reading the Jesus Storybook Bible before bed.

We made it to the end of the day!

We made it to the end of the day!

Posted on February 8, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 27, Strand

Monday, February 1

Sunset

Sunset

We started the day off with breakfast and school. While planning what we were going to do on Wednesday (the cheetah park), we got a call from our lawyer’s office. They wanted to meet with us that afternoon at 2:00. Our first round of paperwork had been processed and had arrived. Apparently (I wasn’t on the email so I found this out later), our paperwork arrived later than expected because it had showed up a few days before…with two mistakes. They had misspelled our last name and someone forgot to sign a piece of the paperwork. Oops! After the errors had been pointed out, the paperwork was sent back to Pretoria, fixed, then shipped back to Strand. A lot of work for two errors!

The paperwork was filled out by the government reviewing our adoption. It reviews the process we went through, the training we completed, and makes sure the requirements leading up to Tisetso’s adoption were in line with the Hague Convention (a document written up and signed by many countries to ensure children are treated fairly and entrusted with the best possible care). We had to have this paperwork in hand to move forward with anything.

After not finding our lawyer’s office for a good while and driving around in circles (literally and figuratively) we arrived. It was great to meet all of the wonderful people who have been so diligently working on our case for so long. They were all excited to meet Tisetso, too! 

While there, we were able to learn more about the process that is coming up. Now that we’ve got Tisetso’s adoption papers back, we can apply for his passport. This is one of two final major things we have to do before we can leave. How quickly we get the passport determines how long we stay here. We will be doing Tisetso’s immigration medical and X-rays tomorrow and Friday in Cape Town. Wednesday is the big day for applying for his South African passport.

After being at the office for over two hours, we headed to the mall. Before we could meet up with our friends for dinner, we had to get Tisetso’s visa and medical photos (think passport quality—no smiling, small size, and general bleakness). Tisetso does not particularly like getting his picture taken. He usually sees it as a negotiation. He tried to get us to agree to one photo. Because we couldn’t promise that, we said we would take as few as possible. Thankfully, the woman only had to take two photos total. While we waiting for the pictures to print and be cut, we ran to a store across the way.

With photos in hand, we headed to a restaurant we’ve seen many times but always shuddered to notice: "Spur."

This place is so incredibly politically incorrect (Native American kitsch)  it made me uncomfortable at the thought to be there and give the company our money. BUT we were told we had to go. It was part of the South African experience. Thankfully, our new friends accompanied us, so we weren’t alone in our politically incorrect adventure.

We were told the best day to go was on a Monday. It’s buy one burger, get one free night. The place was packed and it seemed about half of the customers had a birthday. At Spur, they just pipe this catchy birthday jingle through the sound system instead of bringing all of the servers over to sing. It saves them time and energy, but means that, by the end of the night, you’ve heard the song nine times (I counted) and you can’t get the blasted song out of your head!

Another interesting aspect to this place is the massive kids play area. There were five employees specifically watching the kids and doing face painting. We only saw Tisetso and his friend, Julia, when food was at the table. Tisetso especially enjoyed the Xbox One with the motion bar. He was playing a rafting game when we went to fetch him.

The food was ok. The dessert was hot (I had chocolate mud slide cake). The company was great! We really are so thankful for Dan and Julie. Their heart to reach out to adopting families is absolutely wonderful. I think we get along so well because of our mutual love for hospitality. When our food had been consumed and I could handle the birthday jingle no more, we left. 

Back at the flat, we had to pack everything up. Our time at this flat ends tomorrow, but we’ll be in the same building, different floor tomorrow. Getting our stuff out and things stored while we go to the medical will be a feat of organization and timing. 

Caution! Politically incorrect photos following!

The "guacamole" that came with my meal...........

The "guacamole" that came with my meal...........

This was the stained glass in the middle of the restaurant. On the ceiling.

This was the stained glass in the middle of the restaurant. On the ceiling.

Posted on February 8, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 26, Strand

Sunday, January 31

Roy's recent surgery.

Roy's recent surgery.

We had a great day today! Our day started with the beach and a braai with our friends Pete, Lexi, and their two girls. We met them at the beach around 10:30 and played there for an hour and a half. Tisetso and Brian had a fun time riding Chris the crocodile on the waves (well, Tisetso rode the waves on Chris and Brian helped). It was really, really great to watch. I love seeing their relationship grow and develop. 

Heading out to have some fun!

Heading out to have some fun!

I was able to talk with Lexi quite a bit while the girls (and sporadically Tisetso) worked on a sand castle. It has been so nice to have friends here while we’re away from our family, friends, and church family. It really makes a huge difference!

Hard at work building sand castles.

Hard at work building sand castles.

Our lunch was cooked on the braai (grill) by Brian and Tisetso. We had chicken kabobs, steak, and boerewors (farmer's sausage). We also had some corn on the cob, pineapple, kiwi, nachos, and bread. It was quite the feast! My personal favorite was the boerewors. It’s super flavorful, unlike any sausage common in the U.S., and just hits the spot! Add the desert course of peanut butter chocolate chip cookies (baked by Tisetso the evening before) and we were stuffed!!

After our friends headed home, we spent just a little time picking up and washing dishes. With most of it taken care of, we headed off to church. The church we decided to visit is attended by our lawyer and social worker, as well as some other friends we've met here. It wasn’t until our arrival at the church when we realized how hot it was today! We have the breeze coming right off the water in the bay to our flat, which keeps things moderate even when it's 95°. Leaving that area increased the temperature significantly! And much like the rest of South Africa, there was no air conditioning in the building. For the whole time there, we were sweating away. I felt like I was melting!

Church was really enjoyable. We felt very welcomed by the people there and the pastor. They are used to having international families who are adopting from South Africa visit their church. It was interesting because here we noticed in a big way that Tisetso does not like to be touched by strangers. In this culture, kids are free reign for touching and hugging and tickling, etc. Tisetso is not a fan! He really pulled away from people when they would come up to him and start touching him. I think, especially in this regard, he’s going to like America and the personal space!

After a hot and sweaty church, we headed back to our flat and the cool sea breeze.

Today was the hardest day for me as far as homesickness. We've been gone well over a month (including our London trip), and I think today was a culmination of missing our home, missing our church, and missing our people. I am ready to go. I think the one thing keeping me here (other than legal paperwork needed to exit with Tisetso) is the fact we return to winter. I like having to put on sunscreen (or forgetting to put on sunscreen) in January. It's hard. This is a long time to be gone. So much has happened and I am longing for familiarity. I am thankful Roger and Merry Ann (Brian's parents) will be coming this week to visit and meet their grandson. I think it will help break this trip up.

The beach got more and more packed as the day went on! Many people had tents set up.

The beach got more and more packed as the day went on! Many people had tents set up.

Posted on February 6, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 25, Strand

Saturday, January 30

Our low key day started with a big milestone—Tisetso’s first donuts! He had picked out a chocolate donut at the grocery store the day before. I’d say his first donut experience was not the best. He picked at the chocolate, tried one actual bite, then left and asked what was for breakfast. I’m sure once he’s tried donuts from Harner's, our local bakery, he’ll be hooked.

Donut enjoyment before it fell flat.

Donut enjoyment before it fell flat.

For the better part of the morning, Brian and Tisetso went to the mall to pick up a few things we needed for the next morning (beach towels and beach toys). I enjoyed a couple of hours to myself and folded laundry, picked up, and wrote. 

Lunch was a good time as Tisetso grilled our hotdogs. He had watched Brian grill (braai) the day before and was interested in helping. It was great to see the two of them working together to get the hotdogs cooked. Tisetso enjoyed being the "braai master."

In the afternoon we did a session of school, tried to convince Tisetso to go to the beach (especially as he had had so much fun the night before), and saw a film crew on the beach in front of our house.

We ended the evening by watching the first part of Up. It reminded me why I never watch that movie—I was crying within the first 10 minutes. Ridiculous.

Posted on February 4, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 24, Strand

Our morning started out pretty low-key. Tisetso played on his iPad while I finished up yesterday’s blog post. Brian booked a flat in the same building through the 13th of February. It’s kind of crazy to think we’ve been here 24 days. We’re about half way through our time here (hopefully). 

We needed to get more groceries, so we headed to a mall. Before we hit the grocery store, we stopped by a pharmacy which has the mystery Lego packets. Tisetso filled his school sticker sheet and earned a new Lego person. It ended up being a Native American woman with a baby. The baby was quickly tossed aside and forgotten. The Lego did come with a fun little poster of the other Lego people Tisetso can collect as he earns more stickers. 

After the store, we headed back to unpack our groceries. Brian said he had to take care of something and excused himself from the apartment for about 15 minutes. When he came back, he told me I had a manicure and pedicure appointment in a half an hour and a massage appointment the next afternoon. I’m not one for doing things like that a lot (I usually get a pedicure before we go to Florida), so this was a treat.

Downstairs in the salon, I sat for 2.5 hours talking with the gal doing my nails. As it happens, she is also a Christian! It was so nice to talk with her for so long. She was such an encouragement and a breath of fresh air. It also just made me miss my church family all the more! Freshly buffed and polished, my nails were done. 

I returned to the apartment to find Tisetso and Brian playing with Legos (surprise). Brian was building a ground vehicle for the astronaut and Tisetso was playing with all of the people. They had had a good time while I was away, which was a good thing! I joined them in playing for a bit before making myself a grilled cheese for lunch.

After Lego time, Tisetso set his head on the table. He hasn't done this before so I asked if he was ok. I asked if he was sad. He nodded his head. I asked if he missed his friends. He nodded. This was big because before he's attempted to cover up the fact that he was sad. I rubbed his back and told him it was ok to miss his friends, that I was sorry he felt sad, and that I missed my friends in America, too. I also told him to let us know if he felt sad again. We wanted to know so we could sit with him. When he had nodded his head, I offered to see if there was anything good on TV (always up in the air). Shrek happened to be on right then. This was a big deal because he has been asking to watch that movie for two weeks!

Watching Shrek beat up the bad guys.

Watching Shrek beat up the bad guys.

Our afternoon and evening went by with Legos and Shrek. Brian and I wanted to take a walk on the beach after supper, so we had to drag Tisetso outside. Once we were there, it was clear that he was the one having 99% of the fun! At first, he didn’t want to put his feet in the water. Then, his feet got wet because of a massive wave. After that, he was “washing” his legs and shorts with the water. Then, it was full on laying down as the water came in. He was COVERED in sand, but had a good time. Brian was able to find a shower at the beach and rinsed him off before we walked back to our flat on the paved walkway.

Before he began throwing himself into the water.

Before he began throwing himself into the water.

Throwing rocks was a favorite on our walk.

Throwing rocks was a favorite on our walk.

As we were walking back, Tisetso started playing with his shadow. He would crouch low and hop up. I believe it’s from our recent viewing of Peter Pan. I definitely remember doing the same thing after watching the movie when I was a kid. It made me smile and love him more! 

Tisetso "driving" our elevator to the correct floor.

Tisetso "driving" our elevator to the correct floor.

Back inside, we were careful to avoid getting sand everywhere, but I’m not sure how successful we were. After a shower, we finished up Peter Pan (for the second time this week), then tucked Tisetso in for the night. For the past few nights, I have laid in bed with my son until he falls asleep (per his request). I love this time because it shows a measure of trust. It shows he trusts me enough to keep him safe. 

I wrapped up last night with a call to my parents, watching the Top Gear A-Z special, and trying to get the dryer to work. It was a good day. It was one of the first without the silent treatment from Tisetso, which is something to rejoice about. We still had a couple of pouts and folded arms, but nothing major. Thank you, Lord!

Posted on January 30, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 23, Strand and Simon's Town

We had a wonderful day! This morning we took care of school right off the bat. Tisetso got his fourth school sticker, so he has earned a Lego person. We’re going to pick up his mystery Lego tomorrow when we pick up groceries. Brian had a meeting with an agent to look at a flat we are considering renting while his parents are here next week. It seemed like a good fit, but was a little smaller and much less modern than the one we are in now. Brian asked the agent if she had anything else that would work, just to weigh the options.

We packed up and shipped off at 10:15 this morning. We spent an hour in the car following the bay, then headed down the Cape Peninsula towards Simon’s Town. Our mission: to see penguins in the wild! Another fun aspect to our trip was meeting some new friends who are also in-country from the United States finalizing the adoption of their 5-year-old daughter. 

The ride down to Simon’s Town was beautiful! We passed so many mountains, beaches, and little tourist beach towns. There were easily a hundred surfers at one beach. I cannot describe to you how beautiful this area is. Thankfully, I took lots of pictures. Tisetso enjoyed little of this as he was finishing up Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on his iPad.

Lunch was a great time! I met Lexi on Facebook through our adoption agency. She and her husband are adopting for the second time here in South Africa. Thankfully, we are in Cape Town at the same time! We met with this great family for lunch and for some time seeing the penguins. I was glad to finally meet Lexi face to face. We’ve talked for hours on the phone as we’ve walked through the waiting, planning, and meeting phases of our adoptions. I’ve not been one for making friends on the internet and then meeting them in foreign countries, but I’ve done it twice in the last few days. Thankfully, neither meeting ended in my murder. (Pessimist to the end, here!)

Our new friends.

Our new friends.

Brian and Tisetso had a fun photo shoot while right when we got there. Tisestso does not like his picture being taken much, so him asking to have a picture taken is an opportunity to snag!

Look at these handsome guys! Tisetso wanted to dress up for the day.&nbsp;

Look at these handsome guys! Tisetso wanted to dress up for the day. 

After a delicious lunch and meeting with our new friends, we walked down to the beach next door to the restaurant. It was especially great because the crowds were at the next beach over, where there is a walkway and you can’t get terribly close to the penguins. There were penguins right on this beach, so we were able to get as close as we dared and able to see them with significantly fewer people milling around. What a dream! Playing on a beach with penguins!

Livin' the dream!

Livin' the dream!

This was the closest we could get him to the penguin.

This was the closest we could get him to the penguin.

Brian and his feathered friend.

Brian and his feathered friend.

When we were done, all of us headed back up towards the parking lot. There was a little market where we could buy some gifts for our families. The market was a new, overwhelming experience. You weren’t really allowed to browse and look at the different wares. Instead, people running the booth would come from all sides and start telling you what you needed, that they would give you a good price, and then hand your 7 year-old panpipes which he immediately puts into his mouth to make shrill whistling noises. After pulling the pipes from his lips and insisting you don’t need any of these items, you move to the next booth where the process begins anew, only this time it’s drums. It’s like these people aren’t part of a family where they would hate hearing all of these noises 24/7!

After buying some postcards, we walked back to the very first stand where there wasn’t a pushy salesman. We bought Tisetso a cool leather bracelet that says ‘South Africa’ and I bought a gift for my parents. I was able to do my first bargaining, which I found fun. After that, we said goodbye to Lexi, Pete, and their girls. Our ride back was uneventful, but beautiful. We even saw our apartment building from the other side of the bay, which was fun. Tisetso started his Harry Potter movie over again (this kid!). 

This was one of the more alarming signs I've seen during our stay.

This was one of the more alarming signs I've seen during our stay.

Back at our flat, Brian discovered there was another rental agent on the ground floor in our building. He ran down there just before they closed for the day and was able to find another flat very similar to the one we’re in currently and in the same building (we really like this building, and that "move" will be pretty low-impact). After that, Brian wrapped up some work and Tisetso and I had a little heart to heart. 

One thing Tisetso has vocalized many times over is that he doesn’t believe I love him. He vocalizes this (usually) because I love Brian. In his mind, it’s impossible for me to love both of them. Unsure of any new arguments I could make, I asked him how people show they love each other (thinking I could then follow his own recipe). He said Christmas. Ugh. Well, seeing as we have 11 months before I can do that, I asked if there was anything else. Nope! Christmas. He asked what we did for Christmas. I told him we spent the day at Grandma and Grandpa Malcolm’s house with his cousins and auntie and uncle. 

Feeling prompted, I also shared that in the morning on Christmas Day, I walked into his room and missed him. I told him it was silly, I know, because we didn’t even know him at that moment. I told him how I prayed he would be happy and healthy. I told him how I wished with my whole heart that he had been with us on Christmas morning. At this point, I began to tear up, because I remember vividly the pain I felt of empty arms on Christmas morning. This took Tisetso off guard. He said (and this is a paraphrase), “What’s coming out of your eyes? Why are tears coming? Get Daddy Brian!” It was pretty funny. It made me thankful he is a part of our family forever! What an answer to prayer.

Sunset from the balcony, bay side.

Sunset from the balcony, bay side.

View from our balcony, mountain side.

View from our balcony, mountain side.

With the plans in place for next week at the new flat, we made dinner and wrapped up our evening with Tisetso in bed and us sitting on the balcony. The sunset was so beautiful. I love that we’re able to enjoy these sunsets one night after another. It is a luxury we don’t have back at home. Life seems so much busier there. Here, in our flat on the beach, it feels like our biggest “responsibility” is to become a family.

Posted on January 30, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 22, Strand and Cape Town

This morning was a fun time. Up at 6:30, we started our day by navigating stickers and Legos. Tisetso got a new sticker and coloring book, so he was set! This kid makes up so many stories that go along with his drawings. At one point he had a sticker with a guy and a dog sled surrounded by other stickers that looked to be in pursuit. He told me the dog sled guy had stolen the dogs and the other people were chasing him to get their dogs back.

One thing Brian and I have noticed along with his creativity is his limited vocabulary. At the home where he came from, all of his Aunties spoke English as their second language. They spoke it well, but I’ve noticed that Tisetso doesn’t have a vocabulary for when he likes or dislikes something. It’s either "nice" or "not nice" or "ugly." These terms are used broadly for anything. He doesn’t want toast? It’s "ugly." He would like another cookie? It’s "nice." You get the picture. So today, when he would use one of these phrases, I would ask, “Do you mean it tastes good?” or “Do dislike that color?” I hope it’s helpful and haven’t gotten any indication that Tisetso is tired of me for asking these questions.

After breakfast, we did a quick session of school. After playing an upper-case/lower-case matching game, I discovered that Tisetso doesn’t have all of his lower-case letters memorized. We will be working on that over the next few weeks. I’m sure he’ll love it!

After school, we headed to the Two Oceans Aquarium. If you know me well, you know I love aquariums! Our drive into Cape Town lasted about 45 minutes. Tisetso fell asleep on the way, which I think helped make our day more successful. On our way, we passed miles and miles of small shacks where people live. It was a hard thing to not be moved by this view. Scattered intermittently were toilet structures, which I’m guessing everyone shares. South Africa is a country of extremes. Not far from these shacks were beautiful sprawling homes with barbed wire around the perimeters. While driving in, the mountains were covered in clouds, but thankfully things cleared up when we arrived. 

Our view at lunch. V&amp;A Waterfront and Table Mountain

Our view at lunch. V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain

Monument to those who helped overthrow the apartheid.

Monument to those who helped overthrow the apartheid.

At lunch there was a seagull (who we named Steven) lurking in the shadows while we ate. It provided entertainment and terror for Tisetso (he does not like when nature gets too close). From our table, we had a beautiful view of the V&A Waterfront and Table Mountain. Brian had a meat skewer (crocodile, ostrich, warthog, springbok, and other assorted game sausage) and I had springbok filets. (Tisetso had his customary cheeseburger and chips with tomato sauce.)

Brian and his giant skewer of various meats.

Brian and his giant skewer of various meats.

Brian looking nervous about Steven.

Brian looking nervous about Steven.

With lunch taken care of, we walked to the aquarium. It turned out the be a great decision to go! I was able to pet some sea life, we watched penguins, sea turtles, and sting rays being fed, and Tisetso surrounded himself with clownfish. As with every other animal experience in this country, I could have pet anything that wasn’t in a tank (and even some of that were in tanks)! The penguins were contained two feet away by a tiny fence. 

I think he was pretending to shoot the clown fish at this point. Boys.

I think he was pretending to shoot the clown fish at this point. Boys.

While inspecting their website for information this morning, I found something they offer called the "Penguin Experience." It’s where you pay $20 and you get to hang with the penguins (including holding and petting) for an hour and a half. I’ve convinced Brian this is something I need in my life and wil be signing up soon!

My best friends.

My best friends.

When we were spent from hanging with the fishes, we packed up and headed back. The rest of our evening involved Cars and Peter Pan, dinner, and Tisetso stalling at bedtime telling me he was waiting for Voldemort to show up! This kid! Our plan tomorrow is to go to Simon’s Town and visit Boulder Beach which has wild penguins! 

These two sharks came right up to Brian and lingered...

These two sharks came right up to Brian and lingered...

Sea kelp forest.

Sea kelp forest.

Huge barge being repaired.

Huge barge being repaired.

Random pirate ship on the side of the road.

Random pirate ship on the side of the road.

Posted on January 27, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 21, Strand

Brian's panoramic photo of the sunset, the skyline, and the mountains.

Brian's panoramic photo of the sunset, the skyline, and the mountains.

Today was a day of firsts for Tisetso and I. In the morning, I could tell doing school would not go well, so I offered to read him the illustrated version of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. He got very excited. His excitement was soon abated as he realized there weren’t photos on every page and that you couldn’t just skip around and read random sections. Surprisingly, we got through two chapters before he had had enough. I definitely choked up reading this passage to my son:

Harry Potter rolled over inside his blankets without waking up. One small hand closed on the letter beside him and he slept on, not knowing he was special, not knowing he was famous…He couldn’t know that at this very moment, people meeting in secret all over the country were holding up their glasses and saying in hushed voices: ‘To Harry Potter—the boy who lived!’
— J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone

After my moment and Tisetso getting annoyed, we headed to the mall. We had a huge list of things we needed and things we needed information about, so we went to the closest mall. While there, Tisetso got an Avengers water bottle and two washcloths (Star Wars and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles). Very exciting and actually on the list (not specifically the branding, but the items themselves).

After the mall and a quick lunch back at the flat, we dove into our lesson. When I thought he was not wanting to do more, he said, “More school, please.” I obliged. He did a great job with his maths (as he calls it) and I was able to assess an area we can work on at a later date.

With maths out of the way, we got down to the real work—making chocolate chip cookies. For those of you that don’t know, my family is one for baking and cooking. I have a grandma I’ve called Grandma Cookie since I was little. I’ve learned baking from my grandmas and mom, and learned to love cooking as an adult. Baking with my son for the first was a big deal to me.

Our little baker.

Our little baker.

Not unlike other bakers, you tend to memorize the recipes you use a lot. These cookies were no different. Thankfully, we were able to find all of the ingredients. I thought we were going to have an issue finding brown sugar, but we were able to find something very close to it, which ended up working. 

Mixing!

Mixing!

Watching the cookies (he calls them biscuits) bake. In a tie.

Watching the cookies (he calls them biscuits) bake. In a tie.

Tisetso loved helping with each step. The only thing I did was scoop and level the brown sugar (which was far more unruly and stick here than I was used to). He loved that he was able to watch the cookies baking. He kept saying he was Auntie Florence (the awesome cook at the care home). It was great. In the end, they did taste different than what I’m used to, but still delicious!

After cookies, we lounged around. Tisetso playing with his stickers and Legos. I used the time to catch up with some blog posts. Brian was able to get some work done. Dinner was a delicious pepper steak pie with veggies. Unfortunately, Tisetso didn’t want to eat—he just wanted to play with his food. Determined that he should eat something, we sat around for a while before he obliged and ate.

Our bedtime routine.

Our bedtime routine.

Our evening wrapped up with finishing up Peter Pan, Tisetso asking to go to bed early (we thought that would be ok), us getting to watch a gorgeous sunset on our balcony, and me getting to talk to my friend, Lexi, and my grandparents (separate calls).

Last night really was such a beautiful sunset!

Last night really was such a beautiful sunset!

Posted on January 27, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 20, Strand

We stuck around the apartment in this morning. We’ve been trying to establish a routine which will help Tisetso feel more settled here. Sometimes he thinks he’s in America already, which we tell him will be a much, much longer plane ride. 

We did our first day of school today. After only getting 2/3 of the lesson done, we stopped for the morning. Tisetso wasn’t a fan of doing school, but I think he’ll get used to it as time goes on. Our long term goal is to have him in public school. The South African school system operates on a different timeline than the American system. In South Africa, schools typically run from mid-January to late November. Grade R (our Kindergarten) focuses on play learning, basics such as numbers and alphabet, and simple math. Because American schools have already started, Tisetso, based on his age and completion of Kindergarten, would be placed in first grade, half way through the year. We don’t want him to start off struggling and behind, so for the next 7.5 months, we will be home schooling to catch him up. My hope is that he will be ready for second grade in August.

During lunch, Brian and I decided that we would do a rewards system for school. If Tisetso finishes a lesson, he gets a sticker for his reward sheet. After collecting four stickers, he gets to go to the store and pick out a mystery Lego packet (comes with a Lego minifigure inside). It’s fun because he loves playing with his Legos, and especially his Lego people. That was incentive enough to finish his first lesson!

After lunch and finishing school, we packed up and headed to a braai. A braai is the South African version of "grilling out" at someone’s house. There is a family here who graciously offered to have us over to their house for this staple event. I met Julie through the Bethany (our agency in the United States) South Africa adoption Facebook group. She and her husband, Dan (originally from South Africa), live just 15 minutes from our flat, up the side of the mountain!

Wait for it!

Wait for it!

Boom! Steaks, chicken kabobs, boerewors (farmers' sausage).

Boom! Steaks, chicken kabobs, boerewors (farmers' sausage).

It was a really nice break for us to have adults to talk with and Tisetso had fun as they have three kids (and toys new to him). He especially enjoyed playing with their Captain America and Spiderman figurines. Julie and Dan’s house has an indoor braai so we were able to talk and smell the delicious dinner cooking at the same time! We loved talking with them and look forward to grabbing another meal with them soon.

After dinner we got back to the flat, watched 15 minutes of Peter Pan, and tucked Tisetso in for the night (it took a while as he was a little crazy).

The clouds looked so cool on top of the mountains. It was as if they were pouring over the peaks. Also, the tall, white building with the pointy hat is the one where we're staying.

The clouds looked so cool on top of the mountains. It was as if they were pouring over the peaks. Also, the tall, white building with the pointy hat is the one where we're staying.

Posted on January 27, 2016 and filed under adoption, In-Country Time, South Africa.