In the morning, we went to the coffee shop with Brian. I didn’t bring anything with me because Tisetso said he wanted to do school. What he really meant was he didn’t want to do school and wanted to color. Thus I sat around for two hours entertaining myself with CandyCrush. (Insert eye roll here.)
After attempting to do school (getting him to write anything), we headed to Tisetso’s old primary school. Tahiyya had secured a meeting time with Tisetso’s teacher from last year (Grade R / Kindergarten), "Teacher Emmylou". When we arrived, it was a sea of cars, children, and waiting parents. Tisetso showed us the way to his classroom. Because Emmylou was still dismissing the children, Tisetso played on the playground with some of his school friends and Brian and I talked with Tahiyya. When all of the kids had been released, save for one boy who’s dad was running late, we pulled up some chairs and talked for a good while about Tisetso and his time in Emmylou’s classroom. (Tisetso played outside with the boy, who happened to be in his class last year.)
One thing that has been overwhelmingly clear from the beginning is that God has placed people in Tisetso’s life over and over again who have fought for him. Teacher Emmylou was no exception. There was a woman who came to the school to offer occupational therapy for kids and Tisetso was assessed by her. She told Teacher Emmylou Tisetso would never advance past where he was at that time. She didn’t believe he would ever be able to write or grow developmentally. Teacher Emmylou told her she was wrong and believed he would meet the expectations put before him. Over the course of the year, Tisetso was able to write, color, and do anything else another kindergartner should be able to do. That woman was proved wrong because of the determination and persistence of Teacher Emmylou.
One thing you have to know about Tisetso is that he doesn’t give his trust easily. Brian and I are working every day to gain his trust. Teacher Emmylou had to do the same thing, she just had less time in which to gain that trust. Her love for her students was very evident as she spoke about her job and working with Tisetso to help him. We are so thankful for her and the way she worked hard to help Tisetso learn.
When we were done talking with Emmylou, we headed outside to find Tisetso and his friend using wheelbarrows to transport dirt from one side of the playground to the other. Before we left, we snapped a quick picture with Tisetso, his friend, their wheelbarrows, and Teacher Emmylou.
In need of lunch, we stopped at KFC on our way to a bird garden. While I was waiting for Tisetso and Brian to bring the food over, a women who worked at KFC asked me if Tisetso was my son. When I told her yes, she asked if he was adopted. She then told me how fortunate he was. I was curious why she said that, so I asked. She said that there are few opportunities in South Africa and she knew there were more in America. She told me she has a son with disabilities and she was not hopeful for his future. Moments like this are hard. On the one hand, I hope Tisetso does have a brighter future because of this adoption. On the other hand, he is losing a lot—particularly his culture. We will work hard to make sure he understands and remembers as much as possible, but there is a loss.
When we arrived at the bird gardens, we had no idea what to expect. It was incredible! We enjoyed every minute (well, Brian and I). Tisetso had other feelings of skepticism concerning the thickness of the glass, structural integrity of the cages, roaming birds, and whether the birds and animals could get to him. This place was so opposite of America. I could have pet a lemur if I wanted to (and probably lost a finger in the process). There was one enclosure you could walk through and see some birds flying around from tree to tree. When we were walking around the enclosure, we heard this terrifying noise. It sounded like a mixture of growling, screaming, and laughing. It ended up being this very aggressive looking monkey hopping around within the enclosure people were walking in. I was convinced we were going to see people get their faces ripped off. Brian began filming for evidence. We later found a door to this enclosure in which the warning that there were “roaming lemurs” inside. No joke!
I loved this place. My nature ADD was off the chart here. I would really like to go again when we head back to Johannesburg for our embassy interview. At the end, we had about 30 minutes before closing. We found a little cafe with an awesome playground for Tisetso to play on. The whole experience cost around $5 and was totally worth it!
I enjoyed Tisetso sharing with me what a Hadeeda was (a larger bird that sounds like a shrieking child). I’ve been woken up by these blasted birds just about every morning in the guest house. It’s always fun when Tisetso shares with us something that is foreign to us, but common for him. It is one of the reasons we chose South Africa when we decided to adopt—we wanted to experience our child’s culture with him.
After a fun day, we headed back to the guest house. No day was complete without watching Harry Potter, which we did for the fifth time!