It’s been one week (editors note: 1 week and almost 3 days if you add the time since I started writing this and haven’t had time to post)  since we left our home in Ohio and I have been so touched and buoyed up by all the kind messages on facebook, instagram, email and text, and too busy to barely acknowledge most of them. Forgive me please. It’s been a hell of a week. My thoughts are everywhere and my time is limited so I’m going to throw my observations down in point form as they spring to mind.
Before I start let me say that the flight went a lot faster than I anticipated. I was really tired by the time we got onto our last leg-the mere hop skip and jump of 14+hours and we had already been traveling for a full day.  Unfortunately I did not get much sleep but Ella did sleep a lot. I was puked upon but it was not too gross as it was in the second half of the flight and she had barely eaten.  If I can pass a tip along to other parents flying Delta long distance with a small person it would be that they do not furnish headphones that go over the head and we did not bring our own.  They give you the in the ear ones and they don’t fit inside little ears. I had a big stretchy headband so I rigged that up my iphone ear-buds which worked ok but I spend a large portion of my flight adjusting those so that she could watch shows. Not optimal.

  
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The dratted earphones                                                Our first glimpse of South Africa
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The sun was setting behind a South African Airways plane when we disembarked.  We didn’t fly SAA, sadly. Love that airline.
OK so here are my random observations regarding the last week:
1.Ella has been sick this week for the first time in almost a year. Impeccable timing. It has sucked. It has meant very little sleep and some isolation. Up until yesterday, the only places I’d gone was the kids’ school and the Dr.’s office.  Not good, not good.
  2. Being with family here is glorious. My little brother Luke even surprised me by flying in from Cape Town for a few days. It has been so cool catching up with everyone.
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Gracie and Finny bonding with baby Amelia on their first night in South Africa
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first family pic at the airport.
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Cute cousins Samuel and Michael playing with Finny, Ella and Gracie in the back-yard. 
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Sister in law Christina and my Marmie cuddling adorable Amelia (Thalia’s baby)
3. Being away from family there is terrible. Especially given the time change and my lack of togetherness regarding figuring out my phone, which has made finding times to communicate very difficult. This will improve but I miss my guys terribly.
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Parting is such sweet sorrow….Ella’s “Gaber” saying goodbye to his “Teeny”. *sniff*
4.South African “strangers” in general are warm and kind and will go out of their way to help you. From the moment we got on the plane and heard the accents of the lovely women behind us (one of whom I share a much loved mutual friend with and turned out to be a fellow  blogger with a very cool blog about parenting in South Africa (!) amongst other things  and the other who has a daughter who teaches a my kids’ school) I felt embraced and comforted. It all felt very much like a good omen.
5.Sunshine is not overrated. But here’s the weird thing. Whenever people here complain of feeling hot I am feeling very comfortable or even a bit cool. I’m not sure what that is about at all.  The weather here is a lot better. Bet you are surprised I said that.
6. Restaurants here are much, much better and much, much cheaper. Hospitality service in general is 100% better. This is true Southern hospitality.
7. Anyone who thinks we moved to darkest Africa needs to check out the shopping malls here. In just the little stretch of mall on the the way to the Dr.’s office I saw countless big time stores including Versace and Burberry.
8. This is a big, busy city. Traffic is pretty insane. If we stay here I don’t think I will ever drive again.
9. Going to my kid’s school (the school I went to) was beyond surreal and magical. Beyond. It is almost exactly the same. The smells are the same. The wooden floors are the same. Even one of the teachers there is the same. It’s the most beautiful school with the most gorgeous gardens. I am way more excited about it than my kids are.
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The day before school started, getting a tour and the first day of school. On granny’s patio in their school uniforms which are the exact same as when I was there 30 years ago…ack.
10. Speaking of school and Southern hospitality. I went to my first PTA annual general meeting. There was mood lighting and music, sandwiches, dessert, coffee and tea. I think I want to join the PTA. They serve dinner at their meetings.  South Africa wins when it comes to PTA meetings.
11. This has been a really tough week in many ways.  A few times I would have jumped on a plane to go home if I could have.
12. Sleep is not overrated. I have missed it. Jetlag sucks. Having a sick 3 year old sucks. Having a sick 3 year old and no husband and figuring out a new country for 3 freaked out kids sucks. 
13. The kids were very warmly embraced in their new school. One kid even arrived at school on Friday with a spare PE kit including swimsuit and towel for Finny in case he didn’t have one.  They are impressed by his soccer skills.  Gracie came home on the first day saying she had made lots of friends. The second day crying, the third day happy.  Finny came home the first day proclaiming he hated it, the second day was ok, the third day was good.  It’s a rough road for the poor little lambs but they are troopers.  I anticipate a lot more crying and it makes my heart hurt.  There is a lot more homework and they are stressed about learning a new language. Gracie’s Afrikaans accent is already quite good though. Finny is studying Zulu.
14. Ella misses school the most. (Sorry dad and bros although she was crying for them too this morning). We both can’t wait for her to start her new school on Monday. * Editors note. She started and had a great time. She is feeling better and acting a lot less needy too. Hooray for school.
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Ella’s first day of preschool with her darling little friend Nicole. Heather has been sending Ella videos from Nicole, her classmates and even her teacher for months so that it would all seem more familiar when she arrived.
15. I have not felt unsafe at all. Not even once. I hope that lasts. *Editors note: I did feel quite tense when my dad was driving us home from my sister’s house on Sunday night. We paused at a red light but did not stop for long.
16. The food here is good.  So very good. I am so very fat and getting fatter. Oh well. Although, the South African version of cheerios are the grossest thing ever, they now seem to have most American favourites and all of their own far superior chocolate etc too.  I can’t stop eating.
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My cousin’s babyshower at my aunt’s lovely home. I should have taken a close up of the spread. Yum. I ate at least 10 mini melk terts and finally got to sample my mom’s legendary meringues. The yummiest part though was finally being at a family event! So much fun.
17. The jacaranda trees are still in bloom. We saw them as we were landing. Gracie was delighted by the purple trees and asked if they were spray painted. This is a beautiful country.
 
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18. Having people (the sweetest ladies named Gladys and Frieda) who will cheerfully and beautifully iron my clothes does not suck.  Also? My incredibly kind sister in law Christina meticulously organized our insanely full closet all the way down to hanger colours. So basically all my most cherished housekeeping related dreams have come true.
19. I miss my Ohio friends so much. They are such great people and I get teary just thinking about them and I am so grateful to know that my guys are in their good hands over there. I am so grateful for my friend Heather over here. I’ve said it before. Everyone who is to embark upon a move like this needs a Heather in their life.   She has done so much for us to ease us in and make the logistics easier. It’s been a true blessing. My kids have been missing their friends terribly too but I remind them that before we came to Ohio we were heart broken about leaving our California friends. We are really lucky to have so many people in so many places worth missing so much..
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Our send off committee. They ran last minute errands loaded up our car, played soccer in the street, lay on top of the car,  and Griff even staged a protest by lying on the ground behind the wheels for about 15 minutes while Thompson stowed away inside the van so that we could not leave, but in the end they cried lots of tears along with us, hugged us hard and wished us well. I can’t imagine leaving these faces and all the other faces I love in BG forever, so whenever I think of them I tell myself that I will see them all after the holidays. Then Amy, the first person to befriend us in BG,  drove with us to the airport and was the last to wave us goodbye. **sniff**
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Our welcoming committee.  Heather and her husband and kids helping my family –mom, dad, brother Seth, brother in law Shaun with baby Amelia and little sister Thalia -to hold the signs and corral our millions of bags.  Once again we were blessed with South African friendliness and hospitality. A woman came up to me and asked me how many bags I was pulling off the luggage carousel. When I told her 8 (in addition our 4 rolling carry on bags, 4 backpacks and stroller she summoned assistance and three ladies had us all loaded up in a trice. Then, just like when we visited 9 years ago she rushed us through and told us to go and find our family while they wheeled out our luggage and stood guard over it.  Now tell me how that scenario would pan out for you at JFK airport. (Hint: not the same way).
20. I miss my simple, cozy Bowling Green life already.  I even miss driving myself around and being a normal independently functioning adult. I don’t miss the grey ugliness of BG that sets in at this time of year though.
21. Speaking of independently functioning. That for now, for me, is a thing of the past. There is no way I could do this if it weren’t for my family here who have been driving me around, taking my kids to school and picking them up, guiding my every move, making us food, babysitting, organizing our stuff, helping us to figure out cell phones and connecting our stuff to WIFI, washing our clothes, cleaning up after us, entertaining and counseling my kids through their freak outs, counseling me through my freak outs.  I am so extremely grateful, but I also  feel really guilty and sorry for them because we have pretty much taken over their entire lives. It’s been an incredibly stressful week for all involved, but now that we have fully unpacked and organized our mountain of stuff and are starting to establish routines, figure out how to charge our devices and getting jet lag behind us, I feel less on the verge all the time and hopefully life is a little more serene for them too.
22. I always anticipated that this would be rough. Some things have been much harder for me than I imagined they would be and I have been pleasantly surprised by my coping skills in other ways. I can feel the prayers that surround me. I’m hopeful that the trend will keep getting easier. I love it here. Despite the fact that we arrived home to a candlelit house because of rolling power outages and were without electricity for 20 hours this weekend, and the fact that on the first night in a week that my kid slept through the night I was up for 3 hours with the stupid alarm going off every 10 seconds due to said electricity loss, I love it.  I know I’m still in the honeymoon period but there is a magic here that cannot be denied. My bones are home. Despite the intense emotional stress and fatigue  of the last week, nothing that I have looked forward to has been disappointing or anticlimactic. I mean come on…we’re in SOUF (as Ella would say) Africa!

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