WORDS WORDS WORDS! This post will be MUCH longer and more detailed than normal because I am trying to answer as many questions as possible from friends and family 🙂
We had a shuttle meet us at Brants fathers house and filled it up full of our luggage.
Hayden was really stressed out- so this was the best we could do for a family shot!
Once in Atlanta we had a 4 hour layover so we let the kids run around by the gate to get out their energy before boarding our 7pm flight out of Atlanta headed directly to South Africa.
The flying time was scheduled to be 15 hours and 50 minutes but I was told we made better time. I honestly can’t complain about the flight. The company flew us here first class and we literally had beds that could lay down flat. The space and privacy was fantastic (but it did make it hard to check on the kids so Brant and I didn’t actually sleep very much). The kids did sleep the majority of the flight which was very helpful. I’ve been pondering ways to forever upgrade to first class… giving myself excuses that it would be much easier to go home by myself with the kids since they are able to give you so much attention and help out- but I doubt price difference will never be justifiable, unfortunately!
When we arrived in South Africa it was almost 5pm and getting dark. It is winter here so I was afraid it would be very cold, but stepping outside for the first time felt absolutely amazing. It was just the right kind of cool and very refreshing after being in a stuffy airplane and long customs lines. A big shuttle was there to help us with our luggage and one of Brants co-workers came with his wife to welcome us. They were very helpful and we caravanned out to our temporary housing situation. I did experience some pretty intense vertigo after flying- first time it had ever happened and it was odd!
Our housing situation is kind of unfortunate right now. They have us in a one bedroom guest house/hotel kind of situation in Silver Lakes Golf Estate. There is one king bed and two twin beds. It is cramped to say the least (especially because all of our luggage also has to fit into this room.
The views are from the front balcony of our room. The room is currently not this messy (thank God) because I was able to unpack somewhat on Friday so we can shove suitcases we are not going to use in a corner…. But I still hope we do not have to stay here very long. I may go stir crazy. Everything here is opened up during the day to the outside. All the windows and doors are left open and it really like bringing the outside inside- very in tune with nature. Below are some pictures of the hotel where we are staying.
There is another company family downstairs that has a child one year older than Hayden and thankfully they play very well together and have been keeping each other entertained while we are here. Our friends from Amarillo, Jen and Eric, are also staying here so that has been great for us!
Out and About:
We arrived Wednesday evening and our Stepping South contact Kathryn arrived at 9:30 on Thursday morning to begin showing us around. Thursday was VERY busy. She drove us to Tyger Valley College for a tour (for Hayden). Brant and I thought it was absolutely AMAZING. We were so very impressed with how loving of an environment it was. [Let me pause here and explain that there are a lot of differing ideas and opinions on what expats should do in regards to their children’s schooling— do you use the American International system or a local school? For reasons I will probably outline later in another blog post, I will just say for now, that we have decided to not even look at the American schools and we are going to select a private South African School.] Next, Kathryn drove us to Crawford College, which is a school popular with diplomats because of its high academic standard. While very impressive, Brant and I both felt it was exceptionally cold (especially after just leaving Tyger Valley) and decided to mark it off of our list.
This is a good place to insert a cultural note- in South Africa kids appear to be barefoot all the time. No socks just barefoot. Even in the “winter” the majority of the children we saw at both schools were running around without socks and shoes.
We had a fantastic lunch at a restaurant that had a play area for the kids (most of them again were barefoot). The play area had a monitor (who you tip) that watches the children play so the adults can try and eat in peace. It was an actual restaurant too- not a fast food Chick-fil-a type place. Very awesome- and America needs more of these kinds of places! At this point we were all battling jet lag pretty badly but were trying our best to stick it out so we could overcome it as fast as possible. The menu had a ton of items I did not recognize and had to ask Kathryn for an explanation. I also had to ask the waiter to repeat himself several times because even though he speaks English very well, his Zulu accent is VERY thick and it will take some time to get accustomed.
After lunch we saw 2 houses in the Silver Lakes Golf Estate community. Neither were contenders but it was fun to look!
Then we went to activate the unlocked iPhone I purchased prior to leaving the states. Since we do not have permanent accommodation we are not allowed to get a cell phone contract and can only buy a pre-paid sim card that we use and top up with minutes and data- and again I had tons of trouble understanding the slang and was so thankful for Kathryn). Kathryn left us after that and plans to meet us on Monday for more out and about. It was exhausting but informative.
The hardest part of Thursday was jet lag. We all felt cloudy and stupid- comparable to a hangover I guess.
Everything we’ve had so far is fantastic. The service has been amazing. Condiments and things are a little different (much less processed) but the meat and eggs are so fresh and it just tastes awesome. Everything is very affordable. There are lots of local items that I am unsure of what they even are yet and lots of local slang (piri piri means spicy!). I am trying to be adventurous.
The weather is really nice here even though it is winter. It is REALLY cold first thing in the morning but warms up fast as soon as the sun is up. You can wear short sleeves during the day and a light sweater in the evening. In the morning you need a jacket but only until about 9-10am. Yesterday it rained for the first time in months and apparently that means the summer is about to begin. Hooray!
Driving is on the other side of the road. I really tried to mentally prepare myself for this and thought it would be really easy. However, it was MUCH harder than I thought. The first time I drove was Thursday night to meet friends for dinner at Mozambik restaurant (which also has a kid play area that is monitored- amazing! http://www.mozambik.co.za/) near our temporary housing (check out the menu!). It was already dark when I tried to drive and Brant and I were both on edge dealing with the traffic and jet lag. I did not anticipate the fact that being totally unfamiliar with were you are going, in an unfamiliar car, makes it 10 times harder than just driving on the other side of the road. Half the time I go to turn on my signal and I turn on my windshield wipers (they are reversed in the car). It is constant focus to see if you are going to enter a traffic circle the wrong way or dealing with these crazy taxis that will drive 100mph and just dead stop to pick someone up or let someone out. Just insane. But I’ve driven about 3 times now (Brant is currently trying it out alone for the first time as I type this) and it gets easier each time. Once I learn my way around it will help.
I highly doubt my future posts will be this long and drawn out but I really wanted to try and answer in one post many of the questions I’ve been getting from everyone as possible. I am looking forward to beginning our challenges but that will probably wait a week or so while we continue to get settled in. We have had some progress on our housing search. On Friday we were able to see the home of another co-worker of Brants who is moving. We really liked it and he is going to talk to the owner about us moving in and him moving out- but I want to wait to post more info about that once I know how really official it is- but keep your fingers crossed for us because we really really liked the place and it would be awesome to be OUT of transition ASAP!