August 15, 2017

August So Far...

Since I last posted, we have managed to get CK assessed at two of the primary schools. The school year here runs from January to December with 3 school terms and breaks in between in mid-April to Mid-May, mid-August to mid-September and from early December to mid-January.  Since Term 2 was finishing up as we arrived, we had to hustle a bit to get assessments scheduled at our top 3 schools.  The first assessment was during our first week here, and that particular school was on the fence about whether to put CK in reception (for 5-6 year olds) or standard one (6-7 year olds).  Claudia's birthday is right at the cut off for that school and while she did an entire year of kindergarten and was ready to start 1st grade in the USA, she would be joining in Term 3 of the school year here.  So she either does Term 3 of reception (much like the work she did in kinder) or she would do Term 3 of Standard one (and be a bit behind).  Initially we thought she'd skip ahead, but after some tears going for the first assessment as she did not know what to expect, we realize that maybe letting her start in Term 3 of reception and start Standard 1 in the new year will give her the emotional confidence she needs to be at the top of her class instead of catching up.  Regardless, the assessors at the two schools both remarked at how clever she is!  In the end, we didn't get an offer for a spot at the first school, even though we called regularly for an update and were given the 'we don't know if we have space' mantra.  The second school she was assessed at offered her a position in reception for Term 3 the same day she was assessed. We prayed about it and slept on it over the weekend and payed her school deposit to secure her spot today.   Our alternative was to have her go at the beginning of Term 3 to the third school to have her assessed after school started or home-school her.  I'm so thankful she has a place to attend school and we can not feel in limbo about that anymore!

JW will be going to nursery school for Term 3 at CK's old nursery school.  In the new year, she'll be joining a different nursery school that has smaller class sizes and we hope she'll get some more one on one attention there.  Now it's just a matter of collecting all the school fees and paying deposits, buying uniforms for CK, and preparing for school to start mid-September.  In the meantime, the girls have been enjoying playing next door at the Recreation Center that the US Embassy has.  We became members so we could enjoy invitations to social gatherings and play on the playground anytime. It has been a great way to meet neighbors and fellow Americans and other community members.  This week they are also attending a school holiday program together.  I drop them there for 4 hours each morning and they get to play, craft, socialize, and get out of the house.  Our shipment has been delayed several times, but we just confirmed our container made it off the ship in Durban, South Africa on Sunday evening.  We still don't know when it will make it to our house, so the girls are enjoying having some play time since our house is pretty boring.

We have enjoyed seeing old friends, making new acquaintances, and finding our new normal this week.  I've started physiotherapy again, Jillian has her speech therapy appointment tomorrow, and Jeremy is back to work full-time.  We did manage to buy a car last week and have it serviced before the weekend, so we've been getting used to our new set of wheels.  I have never named a car in the past, but this one is special enough that I named her, "Ellie".  She's a gray color and apparently big enough that an elephant in Namibia thought she was snuggle-worthy.  Her previous owners said they were asleep at night and woke to hear an elephant squeezing between the car and their tent (which was up high on a wooden platform).  So, I figure the elephant thought Ellie was another elephant and thus the snuggle action.  Despite the whole left side of the vehicle getting dented and crushed from the elephant snuggling, the vehicle looks pristine from the repair.  Therefore, Ellie gets her name from the elephant encounter -- Ellie the Elephant.  We also managed to make Ellie sport our Ohio pride.  Thanks to whoever gave us our Buckeye magnet!

"Ellie" says 'Go Bucks!'

Here are some photos of our recent happenings around town....

First Baby Chino - (e.g. foamed milk with cocoa powder)

Pizza making at Dros at Riverwalk Mall

More pizza making - the restaurants really try to cater to kids when possible!

Loving the hand-pulled noodles at Eastern Crescent Chinese Restaurant

Maybe someone can tell me the church where all the people dress in white....

Reunited with our good friends and had a lovely dinner on the patio

His People Church - for those wondering what Sundays look like for us.  It is in the auditorium of Legae Primary School

The red light is called a 'robot' here. This is the extent of the Gaborone skyline.  Not quite Houston eh?
Overall, it is nice to be back and to settle in so seamlessly. Once our container arrives, we'll feel fully settled, but with a car, a network of friends, new acquaintances, new stores/restaurants to explore, and a slower pace of life where we get to soak up Daddy being home at a decent hour and lazy weekends, we are really loving this chapter of our lives.  Thank you for all your prayers and for reading the blog!  Let me know if you have any burning questions I can address. :)

August 1, 2017

Settling In - Gaborone 2.0

The last couple of days I've been busy looking at car advertisements; meeting our security guard, housekeeper, and gardener; and getting out to do a little shopping.  The transition has been a great one so far.  We moved into a house with minimal necessary furnishings, but with plenty of pantry goods and some refrigerator/freezer foods.  Our house help stayed on from the last family, so we have not had to search for domestic helpers.

My crazies sitting at the breakfast bar giving cheesy grins
 Monday was a day full of firsts.  We met Pearl, our housekeeper.  She lives in the apartment on our  property so she is what they consider a 'live-in' helper.  She is a really lovely lady who has worked for many US Ambassadors and former embassy employees before finding work almost two years ago with the doctor's family that lived in the house we are now living in.  We had tea yesterday morning to chat and get to know each other a little bit.  Throughout the day, I found myself high-fiving her because we are on the same page about how the house should run and the children should be cared for.  She agrees that sweets are a treat that parents should be asked if the children can have, and not automatically handed out at the request of a hopeful child.  (Believe it or not, that mentality was one of the hardest things we dealt with last time when our helper wouldn't follow our instructions.)

The girls were thrilled to meet the gardener, Mahama.  After about 20 minutes, CK declared she'd like to become a gardener like Mahama because it 'looks fun'.  The girls and Mahama set about the yard cleaning up the leaves and tree debris.  They were envious of his broom, so they collected all the twigs they could find and he made themselves replica brooms which they used to sweep up the yard (which is actually like Astro turf).  It was really cute how they played with him and he spent plenty of time pushing them on the climbing ladder as though it were a swing.

Pardon Mahama's back side, but his shadow shows the posture of how they sweep here.  Seems back-breaking.  The brooms are made of reeds.
CK & JW collecting sticks from the trees for making their 'brooms'

Mahama and the girls picking up the product of their sweeping work. 

Finally, we met our security guard, Ookeditse, who is a very nice young man. He was in need of a hot water kettle for drinking tea and keeping warm at night, so today (Tuesday) I managed to purchase him one.  Our housekeeper's heater was broken, so I bought one for her as well.  We were also running low on bread, so I bought some bread, juice and rooibos (a type of herbal tea that is made of a red bush from South Africa).  These food items are the daily requirements the house helpers would like me to keep in stock, so I made sure we had plenty.  Later this week or next, we will still need to purchase some boots for the security guard and uniforms for the gardener and housekeeper. You may be wondering why on earth I am buying all of these things for people we employ, and the answer is simple:  they make very little compared to minimum wage in America and so we take care of basic necessities so they can keep more of their income for their families.  Though we are their employer, they are like our extended family. We will help them and walk along side them with funeral costs for loved ones, weddings, illness, transportation (bus fare), Christmas bonuses, etc.

 As I mentioned, I went out today (Tuesday) shopping for some of the above necessities they requested. I also bought some things we needed.  I headed out in the rental car to Sefalana Hyper.  It is sort of like a Sam's Club or Costco, but there isn't a membership fee.  Since I last lived here, they've started a reward card program where you gather points, so I signed up for that today.  I managed to find a blow dryer (the American ones don't work here without a voltage converter), an air purifier that I can put my essential oils in, a small humidifier (the air is dry and the heaters dry out our noses at night), a hot water bottle for keeping our feet warm in our bed at night, a small potty for JW, and a few other food items.  I crossed so many items off my shopping list by visiting the Sefalana and Clicks (sort of like a CVS pharmacy).  The selection in each store was astounding especially compared to what it was like nearly two years ago when I left. I was shocked to find marshmallows (mini ones!), some of our favorite specialty sauces, and specialty foods like coconut flour, almond flour, coconut sugar in the shops today.  Normally a shopping trip requires trips to multiple stores (2-5 stores), but the Hyper and Clicks combo was a hit today.  Two stores and 3/4 of my shopping list could be scratched off!!  So, I highly recommend those two stores for folks new to town with a long list of things to buy!
Sights of Gaborone.  Driving on the left from the right side of the car in this part of the world.

Riverwalk was close to where we last lived; it is still a favorite shopping centre

Typical view of the entrepreneurial spirit of Gaborone - roadside car wash using a grey water tank and a lean-to (4 pole) shelter. Look at those tyres on the SUV though!  They sure do shine! 

Cashew nut butter, coconut flour, polenta, quinoa, almond flour... This is all new to me at Clicks!

Sefalana Hyper - like Sam's Club or Costco --without the membership
 Overall, the last couple of days have been swell.  We even managed a play date with friends next door at the recreation center for the US Embassy.  We were members there before and need to get a family membership soon, but in the meantime we love living so close to a gathering spot for Americans and other community members.  It helps that the best playground equipment in town is there as well, so we will be there frequently!  It feels good to live in the heart of it all.  Thank God for an easier transition so far!  I cannot stop marveling how when we follow His will how He knows exactly what we need.  Life won't always be sunshine and roses with Christ.  We expect there to be bumps in our path.  Those are lessons we can learn.  Right now the lesson is patience as one disappointing piece of news is that our container on the ship with all of our household goods is delayed and won't come in port in Durban, South Africa until August 10.  It was initially supposed to come to port on July 25, so we doubt we'll get our container until the end of August by the time they truck it through South Africa to Gaborone, Botswana and then it will have to pass customs which could take a few days.  Prayers for a speedy delivery once it is in port please!
Marshmallows & our favorite Hot Chocolate packets - more Sefalana finds

The girls were over the moon about their special treat - hot cocoa with marshmallows

Hot water bottle - kinda old school but my feet will thank me tonight - Clicks find

The air is super dry here - found a 'mini' humidifier and hope my nose wakes more happy tomorrow!

Tomorrow Claudia also heads to our number one choice for primary school to have an assessment. They don't technically have a spot for her, so they are going to 'see what they can do'.  Please pray that if God would have her there, that things would work out and if not, that we can get her a spot at our second choice school (which has yet to reply with an assessment appointment). 

I'll write more again when I can! 

July 30, 2017

It's the Little Things: Counting Our Blessings

If you've been following on our journey to Botswana 2.0, then you are aware that we just arrived the evening before last.  Yesterday I woke at 5:30 AM because of jet lag, but set to work unpacking our luggage to get settled.  I worked most of the day unpacking and enjoyed our very good friends stopping over first thing in the morning to help us get a rental car picked up and to visit.  They have two children (ages 4 &6 who are also our Godchildren) and they played nicely with our two girls (ages 3 6).  The wife also took me out to get some groceries which was a huge blessing.  We also met them for dinner at a restaurant with a playground.  It was a great first day!

As we settle into our new (old) lives in Gaborone, the little things keep hitting me.  I have to count them lest I become ungrateful for what God has done and is doing in our lives.  The 21 months between our leaving Botswana the first time and our return were a mix of hectic activity/chaos and slowly transitioned into a peaceful and balanced lifestyle.  Those nearest to me know that God took us through various trials when we left our friends, adopted our little girl in China, and moved to Houston all in a 3 week window.  The next 5-6 months were some of the toughest waters I've ever walked through.  So when the peace finally came, I cherished it.  It was such a blessing.  My soul was rejuvenated.   

However, we knew during the serenity that something was going to change.  It always does.  Life is nothing but change, especially if you let the Holy Spirit move in you and work in you.  If life doesn't feel like change upon change, perhaps you are in stagnant waters and your spirit may be suffering if you are holding on and gripping to keep change from coming.  You will only be stronger and better after you let the rough waters swirl around you and strip off any impurities.  Sure enough, the change came when the opportunity to return to Gaborone presented.  Our knee-jerk reaction was to resist.  We said 'No.'  Then we considered ways to get closer to Gaborone without being in Botswana.  South Africa made sense.  The more we researched, the more it didn't make sense in the timing we were dealing with.  We prayed.  We sought God.  He showed us we were meant to return here.  We were shocked at the way he changed our hearts and minds, and now we see what a blessing it is! 

This morning, I'm so grateful we let God change us.  The little things that have been hitting me since we returned 'home' have been accumulating in my mind.  I have to share them.  Our oldest daughter has spent more time in Gaborone than she has in the USA and she was beyond excited to see things again that she had forgotten, but most of all she was excited to see her best friend (our 6 year old Goddaughter).  When we told CK we were moving back, she immediately got excited at the prospect of seeing her best buddy.  Our youngest has never been here, but the people who walked the adoption journey with us are still here.  I don't have to explain who JW is and why she is a part of our family. They know and they embrace her as the one they prayed for and hoped for with us! 

The house we are living in this time is amazing.  With our return to Gaborone come some perks.  Perks that help make life manageable here.  We have no end date currently on our time here.  We are here as long as God tells us we are needed.  This move is a semi-permanent move.  I'll never say permanent, because our hearts and minds are open to God's moving and leading.  Nonetheless, the house is night and day better than our last living situation.  Had we not known the struggles of last time, we probably wouldn't appreciate the American-like amenities of living in this new house. 

The spectacular kitchen
 We have an amazing kitchen complete with granite, gas stove, two ovens and a microwave.  We have a scullery (a sort of secondary working kitchen/laundry area) that is complete with a washer and dryer and a dishwasher to boot!  You may recall that last time we had a small 3 BR/2 Bath flat that had no dishwasher, but a washing machine and a lovely clothes line for drying all of our things.  Thankfully it didn't rain much, but when it did we used an indoor drying rack and any surface we could hang something from to dry our clothes.  We didn't have a dishwasher, but we did have a domestic helper who came 3-5 days a week and that helped tremendously last time.  All of this to say that this kitchen blesses my socks off! 

Lots of windows.  This is the scullery & the dishwasher is behind a hidden panel to the left of the washer/dryer

Jillian's bedroom window overlooks the backyard.  We added some Target window clings
There are also many windows in this house.  The natural light pouring in uplifts me so much.  One of my favorite things about living in our small flat last time was the big window over the kitchen sink with the gorgeous sunlight.  I loved working in the kitchen, warming my soul by the window and watching the activity on our street (mostly locals walking by, the herd of cattle that typically escaped and munched on the grass alongside the road, and the vervet monkeys visiting like hungry raccoons seeking to knock over the rubbish bins for something to eat).  My kitchen doesn't face the road this time, but rather a lovely backyard where I can watch my children play. 

The fridge (and freezer) are hidden behind panels on either side of the ovens

A little of Mexico & Texas amidst the Nando's sauce (more on Nando's later)

All the bedrooms have built-in wardrobes

A couple of World Market kitchen towels so it feels homey (Thanks for the notepad Allison)

Another of my favorite things - electric water kettle.  Boiled water in 1 minute - genius
Remember to thank God for the little things.  Count your blessings and never take for granted the things you have.  It may not seem like your coffee pot is that big of a blessing until you are without it.  Then you realize that you NEED it and can't function without it.  Don't wait until you don't have it to be blessed by it (whatever 'it' is).  Thank Him every day for the little things and remember to share you blessings with others.  We were put here for a reason and we need to be a blessing to others and create fellowship in our lives.  Living out fellowship with others on Earth is a mirror of the relationship we crave with God.  Don't let fellowship with others take over that relationship with God.  Out of the relationship with the Lord will your fellowship with others blossom.  Until next time... Sala Sentle (in Setswana = Stay well).  

Blogging with a warm cup of chai and my laptop this morning.