I know, I know. I have really been slacking off on our blog. Last night I told Darin that I am determined to do better at keeping up with this thing just so that we can have a record of our time here in South Africa. So, some of what I write may not be very interesting to any of you, but maybe if I just try to write stuff down for our family’s sake, I will actually be able to get back into the blogging groove.
Two weeks ago, we celebrated Thanksgiving twice. The first time was on Thanksgiving and we got together with some other American families from church to celebrate, and by celebrate I mean eat a lot of amazing food! As most of you know, I made green bean casserole, something I had never made before, and it actually turned out! I shouldn’t just say that I made it because it really was a team effort between me and my dear husband. He is the man. The next night we celebrated again with our cell group. It was kind of funny to be eating a traditional American Thanksgiving meal with people from Austria, England, Northern Ireland, Greece and South Africa. In addition to pigging out on turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie and more we also played a White Elephant game. We have done White Elephant gift exchanges with our small groups in the states for years, but it was more difficult to know what would be considered an appropriate gift in this diverse group of people. Sometimes I forget how different we all are culturally because when we are together, we all speak English, but we really are a diverse group!
The week after Thanksgiving was pretty quiet. We did some school with the kids, went swimming and played with the kids across the road. We also spent a lot of time cleaning up our house and packing. We had planned to leave for a holiday to the coast with our friends, the Streckers, on the 1st and when we returned from our trip, we were going to be housesitting for some other friends, the Gibsons, in Pretoria. We ended up not going on holiday because the weather on the coast was not looking very nice at all. Instead, we moved into our temporary digs on December 2nd and have been living it up ever since : )
Truly, we have been having a wonderful time. The house we are staying at is close to a lot of our friends, so we have been able to get together with people more frequently. There is a pool and a trampoline in the backyard, so the kids are in heaven. They are in and out of the pool from 10 in the morning when the automatic cleaner turns off until 6 at night when we want to get them ready for bed. Sometimes they go swimming in their bathing suits and other times they are in their birthday suits. Yes, we are raising skinny dippers! We are living in a very classy security estate, so watching my kids run naked through the backyard just makes me smile. Feys really know how to class things up!
In addition to the swimming pool and trampoline, this house has cable TV! Our whole family is loving it. We’ve been watching shows on TLC, the Food Network, Discovery Channel, History channel and more. It has been so relaxing to watch shows that we have seen in the states. In Michigan, we had basic cable, but whenever we went on vacation (or to either of our parents) we loved watching all the shows on the extended cable package. Man vs. Wild, Pawn Stars, Cake Boss, Mythbusters and more! I will say that while I am loving the TV right now, I am thankful that we don’t have a TV out in Hammanskraal. It is so easy to get sucked into these shows and we all find it hard to turn off the tube and do other things like read and play games. Still, it really has been great to just veg out in front of the TV at night.
The main reason we are staying at this house is because our friends own a cat and needed someone to watch it. It is kind of odd that we said yes to staying at a house with a cat because Darin is allergic to cats. For the first few nights here it seemed like Darin and the cat could peacefully coexist, but after laying on one of the sofas for several hours one night, Darin has been a sneezing, watery-eyed mess. Poor guy. As long as he stays on the leather couches and no one pets the cat near him, he’s fine. The kids are loving the cat and last night Tyson prayed that we could have a cat just like Tabitha. Sorry buddy, but I am guessing your daddy will never be on board with this.
On Saturday, we spent a bit of time decorating the house for Christmas. When we were packing up to move to South Africa, I made sure to pack some special decorations that we set out each year in December. I have my metal Christmas trees, my Styrofoam snowman and woman with their crochet covered bodies and hats, and some of our favorite Christmas ornaments, which we used to decorate the Gibson’s tree. We also brought the Little People Nativity set for the kids to play with. When my parents came out, they brought a lot of Christmas surprises along for us not only from them, but also from Darin’s family. It is fun having special things under our tree.
On Monday, Darin wanted to watch the Vikings game online. We are very excited to have a lot more internet access than we have in Hammanskraal, but it isn’t unlimited, so to watch the game we headed over to the Streckers. While Darin taught Alex all about American football and the kids played, I helped Mirjam make German Christmas cookies. It was a lot of fun. I am hoping to make some Christmas goodies over here in the next few days, I just need to sit down and make up a grocery list first.
On Tuesday night, our friends the Van Gilders were kind enough to watch the kids so Darin and I could go on our second date night since we’ve been here. It was wonderful to have a night away together. We headed to our favorite restaurant, Baobob. We have been to Baobob several times over the years that we’ve visited South Africa and we were happy to be going back again. We had so much food that we were able to eat the leftovers for dinner the next night. When Tyson saw my plate of leftovers, he said “That looks like something from the Food Network”, which just made my night.
Yesterday we ventured out to the Pretoria Zoo with the Streckers. It was kind of a hot day for walking around the zoo, but it was still a pretty fun day. Sadly, quite a few of the zoo exhibits were shut down for maintenance, but we didn’t know the exhibits were shut down until we walked, and walked, and walked and walked to get to them, which was a bit disappointing. The zoo had a bigger variety of animals than the John Ball Zoo in Grand Rapids has, but the John Ball Zoo is just a much nicer zoo. We did see elephants, lions, leopards and cape buffalo, so with the rhino that we’ve seen out by our house, we’ve now seen all of the Big Five!
It is December 8 today. Next Tuesday will mark 6 months of our family living in South Africa. That’s half a year, which seems like a really long time in some ways, but hardly a drop in the bucket in other ways. Preparing for the holidays in the Southern hemisphere is kind of an odd thing. Our family is used to celebrating Christmas in the winter, which for us meant snow and cold. In South Africa, it is currently summer, which means beautiful days that are hot and sunny. In all honesty, I don’t miss the cold weather, but it does seem strange to be eating watermelon, swimming and listening to Christmas carols all on the same day.