Posts tagged #Cape Town

Links for All of the Days We Were in South Africa

If for some crazy reason you find yourself wanting to read all of the days in order (bless you), here are all of the days, linked up for your convenience. Thanks for reading our story!

Day 1: Pretoria

Day 2: Pretoria

Day 3: Pretoria

Day 4: Pretoria

Day 5: Pretoria

Day 6: Pretoria

Day 7: Pretoria

Day 8: Pretoria

Day 9: Centurion

Day 10: Centurion

Day 11: Centurion

Day 12: Centurion

Day 13: Centurion

Day 14: Centurion

Day 15: Centurion

Day 16: Centurion and Atteridgeville

Day 17: Centurion

Day 18: Centurion and Strand

Day 19: Strand

Day 20: Strand

Day 21: Strand

Day 22: Strand and Cape Town

Day 23: Strand and Simon's Town

Day 24: Strand

Day 25: Strand

Day 26: Strand

Day 27: Strand

Day 28: Strand and Cape Town

Day 29: Strand and Khayelitsha

Day 30: Strand

Day 31: Strand and Cape Town

Day 32: Strand and Cape Town

Day 33: Strand and Cape Town

Day 34: Strand and Simon's Town

Day 35: Strand and Cape Town

Day 36: Strand and Cape Town

Day 37: Strand

Day 38: Strand and Khayelitsha

Day 39: Strand and Stellenbosch

Day 40: Strand, Cape Town, and Somerset West

Day 41: Strand, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Sandton

Day 42: Sandton

Day 43: Sandton, Pretoria, and Centurion

Day 44: Sandton

Day 45: Sandton

Day 46: Sandton

Day 47: Sandton and Johannesburg

Day 48: Sandton, Pretoria, and Johannesburg

Day 49: London, Chicago, and Home

Summary of our Time in South Africa found here.

Summary of Our Time in South Africa

It was the biggest, most impactful trip I've ever taken in my life. I have been collecting random thoughts, observations, and photos from our time in South Africa, some while we were there and others after we got home. Some are meaningful and some are superficial.

I loved the road signs in South Africa.

I loved the road signs in South Africa.

Speed cameras were everywhere! Note: It's not 120 mph, but kph. Sadly.

Speed cameras were everywhere! Note: It's not 120 mph, but kph. Sadly.

Drivers were more considerate in South Africa than America. The drivers are less selfish and more willing to drive with kindness. On the highway, if you're not going the speed limit, you would drive in the left lane (slow lane). Merging on the highway was not an issue because people would let someone in without anger, unlike what you find here.

More in Gauteng than Cape Town, we found Bidvest was EVERYWHERE! They did car rentals, banking, staffing, apparently baking (see photo), and even toilet paper supplies. Brian and I decided if Bidvest ever went under, the whole country would stop working properly.

More in Gauteng than Cape Town, we found Bidvest was EVERYWHERE! They did car rentals, banking, staffing, apparently baking (see photo), and even toilet paper supplies. Brian and I decided if Bidvest ever went under, the whole country would stop working properly.

Malls are on every corner! For every mall that closes its doors here in America, one is reborn in South Africa. They are huge, confusing, and packed with people. In fact, the Mall of Africa (a mall we drove by on numerous occasions while there) recently opened.

These sounded so gross, I almost lost it.

These sounded so gross, I almost lost it.

I died laughing in the check out line when I saw this. I showed Brian and he suggested throwing it in the pool. From that point on, I was tearing up from trying not to laugh out loud in the line. If you're wondering, I bought it and it was tasty.

I died laughing in the check out line when I saw this. I showed Brian and he suggested throwing it in the pool. From that point on, I was tearing up from trying not to laugh out loud in the line. If you're wondering, I bought it and it was tasty.

Shoes aren't as big of a necessity in South Africa. In America, we have signs warding off people without shoes from shopping in stores. In South Africa, it's not uncommon to see people without shoes (mostly children).

I really liked the license plates. I only got photos of these two, but there were many kinds.

I really liked the license plates. I only got photos of these two, but there were many kinds.

Driving on the left takes about three weeks to get used to. Even then, you’ll still have terrifying moments when you think you’re about to die in a fiery car crash.

I was trying to take a photo of this terrifying road sign, but also managed to capture a speeding taxi in our rearview mirror.

I was trying to take a photo of this terrifying road sign, but also managed to capture a speeding taxi in our rearview mirror.

Taxis (12-passenger vans) are devil machines that do not adhere to the laws. They’re so pervasive that not even police mess with them. I decided that if we lived in South Africa, I would purchase one of those vehicles so I wouldn’t have to follow the rules of the road.

Almost every house has a gate around it with either an electric fence (pictured) or barbed wire. Security is definitely an issue for home owners.

Almost every house has a gate around it with either an electric fence (pictured) or barbed wire. Security is definitely an issue for home owners.

There are people everywhere. Living in America, where you can look out your front window and not see anyone walk by for a good bit, is so contrary to South Africa. People are walking everywhere, even on the side of the highway.

Diet Coke (the best beverage on the face of the planet) is called Coke Light, in case you're wondering. It was hard to remember at first, then hard to switch back when we came home.

Common things to see in homes are the electric meter (you pay in advance for electricity and purchase more at local stores) and water heater information. Water heaters are typically on the roof to utilize the sun's helpful rays.

Common things to see in homes are the electric meter (you pay in advance for electricity and purchase more at local stores) and water heater information. Water heaters are typically on the roof to utilize the sun's helpful rays.

Sizing of food was a bit different (smaller) in South Africa. The tic tac box on the left is from America and the one on the right is from South Africa. 

Sizing of food was a bit different (smaller) in South Africa. The tic tac box on the left is from America and the one on the right is from South Africa. 

ATMs are everywhere! There were whole sections of every mall with walls and walls of ATMs. We used mostly cash while we were there, but it seemed to be a common thing for many of the people, too. 

There were way too many people in this truck. Eek!

There were way too many people in this truck. Eek!

I definitely take the internet here for granted. It took so long to upload photos and, at times, was impossible. I missed listening to music because I hadn’t thought ahead and downloaded some before traveling. Most of the time you have to purchase internet as you go, which got to be a little frustrating. I spent two months of my life without Netflix and survived. Barely. I should get a badge of bravery or something.

It was clear, through our conversations with South Africans and through observation, that there aren’t enough jobs for people in the country. It was heartbreaking to see mothers, with their children strapped on their backs, begging for money and food on street corners each day. It is something we are not faced with seeing every day. In South Africa, it is part of life.

People would be walking these huge carts on the side of the road/highway. It broke my heart because I am guessing with the amount of work put into filling and transporting the carts, it wasn't a lot of payback.

People would be walking these huge carts on the side of the road/highway. It broke my heart because I am guessing with the amount of work put into filling and transporting the carts, it wasn't a lot of payback.

South Africa is such a huge country! We stayed in two provinces while we were there. Even within the two provinces, it was clear that there were many cultures (some of which were combinations of others) and languages represented in the country. 

A walkway bridge made out of scaffolding. Eeek!!!

A walkway bridge made out of scaffolding. Eeek!!!

It is such a beautiful and interesting place to visit. I would highly recommend adding it to your lists of countries to visit! We loved our time there experiencing the culture and scenery. There is truly no place on earth like South Africa. We are thankful for the time we spent there as it was an amazing time, where our only job was to be a family. Because of the experiences we had and friendships we made, we feel like a little piece of our heart was left there.

If I had to sum up our trip, here’s how it would go:

8 weeks,
8 hotels/apartments,
6 cities,
6 flights,
6 suitcases,
5 cars,
3 traffic stops,
2 stamps in our passports,
all to meet 1 amazing son…
…and we’d do it again in a heartbeat for him!

Posted on May 25, 2016 and filed under In-Country Time, South Africa.

South Africa: Day 41, Strand, Cape Town, Johannesburg, and Sandton (Big day!)

Monday, February 15

Today was a full day! We were able to get out of the flat in a timely manner and get our luggage into the car (a true feat as we have three huge duffel bags, three backpacks, one carry on, one booster seat, and the three of us). We had to swing by the flat rental place as we weren't able to pay for the additional days on Saturday. After paying, we headed to the office of Wybrow Oliver/Wandisa. 

This was a hard goodbye. Brad and Rose had walked with us through so much. They are the ones who believed Tisetso would be a perfect match for our family (and they were right!). The staff at Wybrow Oliver/Wandisa were like a family away from home. Saying goodbye was harder than I thought it would be. We gave hugs, exchanged social media info, then headed to the airport. 

Once there, we returned our car quickly. With that taken care of, we got our luggage wrapped (recommended for in-country flights to prevent luggage damage and theft), and checked in. We stopped at Mugg & Bean for lunch. We were all hungry and made short work of our meal. My only regret is that I didn’t get the chocolate chip cookie dough hot chocolate. I fear this decision will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Until next time, Cape Town!

Until next time, Cape Town!

After lunch, we boarded our plane. One thing that has been really different from America is prevalence of Islam. I counted five women wearing hijab and two women wearing full burkas in the line for our flight. I couldn’t help but think if this happened in America, there would be a lot of (unnecessary) hullabaloo. 

Getting acquainted with the emergency procedures.

Getting acquainted with the emergency procedures.

Our plane had a camera attached to the tail. We got to watch the flight from outside the plane. It was amazing. Brian and I want to know why this isn't on EVERY plane.

Our plane had a camera attached to the tail. We got to watch the flight from outside the plane. It was amazing. Brian and I want to know why this isn't on EVERY plane.

While flying, I took some time to meditate and draw out some verses my sister had send me the previous day. I have been having a difficult time with Tisetso for the past few days, and she had sent me Scripture to encourage me. It was the perfect activity for the plane. Our flight landed quickly and we didn’t hit any turbulence (my least favorite anxiety causing activity).

Tisetso excited to see home.

Tisetso excited to see home.

JoBurg.

JoBurg.

When we landed in JoBurg, we had a surprise waiting. Our plane was parked (do planes park??) far from the terminal. We disembarked via staircase and had to take one of many buses to the main terminal. Of course the bus didn’t have air-conditioning. We were far from the sea/bay, so the temperature was a good 20° hotter. Add too many people crammed into a stifling bus and we were wilted by the time we collected our luggage. We were thankful to find all four pieces had arrived safely.

Right before our sticky bus ride.

Right before our sticky bus ride.

One entertaining aspect to our picking up the car was we made the same exact wrong detour in trying to find the car rental place as when we landed January 6. We followed the signs and arrows and ended up in the wrong place on the wrong floor. Signage is not very clear here (arrows point in vague directions, there are sometimes misspellings, or just plain wrong). We’ve experienced that time and time again and are still surprised when it fails.

After getting to the car rental place, we had to figure out renting a car for one day. Brian had accidentally rented the car starting Tuesday. The calendars here start Monday, contrary to ours which start Sunday. Brian had clicked the second day of the week (Tuesday) and went on his merry way. Thankfully, we were able to secure a manual transmission Honda. Brian had been wanting to rent a manual while we were in South Africa (significantly cheaper and a bit more fun), but I suggested it might be a bit much trying to do right hand drive on the left side of the road, in a foreign country, with a kid. Thankfully, I am married to a reasonable guy and he obliged. After one day with this car, he was happy to get the automatic transmission for all but that day!

The drive from the airport to our new flat was ... interesting. We hadn’t fully experienced JoBurg rush hour traffic until this point. It was rough. We were amazed at the number of cars and the number of people on the highway. The shoulder (apparently) turns into a 7th lane when desired. It was a cultural experience, for sure. Along with that, our GPS decided to take us the scenic (read: scary and possibly a bit unsafe) route. 

When we arrived at our new flat, we were thankful to have made it in one piece. It is a beautiful, modern, furnished two-bedroom apartment with a kitchen and super fast internet. Like even faster than at home, which is refreshing and kind of amazing. With our bags unloaded from the car, we made a quick drive to an awesome restaurant Tisetso had picked out when we were in Pretoria called Tasha’s. There was a location super close to our new flat. We tried to eat and leave quickly as it became apparent very quickly that Tisetso had had enough of the day. It had been a long one and he needed sleep.

We got back to the flat, got him changed into pajamas, and into bed. One surprise of our new flat was the 10,000,000 channels it has! One of them shows House Hunters International every single night from 8:00pm-10:00pm. Needless to say, I have a feeling Tisetso will be in bed, lights out every night before 8:00pm...

Posted on March 5, 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 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. 

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. 

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 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 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&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.