Monday, July 27, 2009

Leave of Absence

Sorry for taking such a long leave of absence.  My time has really not been my own for quite a while.  Baseball ate up our spring.  Planning all that goes into an international trip (including the shopping lists of your parents who can't get their favorites over there) and the planning that goes into leaving half the family behind and all that they'll need while your gone, hosting visitors, refinancing the house and a fairly demanding calling has eaten up most of my time lately.

So I will try to post bits and pieces as I can squeeze it in.  It's also a bit overwhelming to have hundreds of photos and have to try to narrow them down and figure out what you want to say in each post.  I'll do my best.  It's also hard because we took both video and still photos so some of the things we did or experienced are only on the videos and we are still working to learn how to up load those.  Our videos are always too big to post.

These pictures are from our first day there.  We actually left our home around 5 pm and drove to Queens, NY on Sunday June 20th.  We got to our hotel around 9 pm after driving through lovely Staten Island traffic and quite a rain storm.  We stayed at the DoubleTree which allowed us to keep our car there for 14 days with no parking fee.  The cost of the room was cheaper than leaving it in long term parking at JFK for the 11 days we were gone and we didn't have to wake up at 3 am and drive 3-4 hours never knowing if you'd make it time with traffic on Monday.

Monday, June 21st, we got up early and took the shuttle to JFK.  We were there by 8:15 am and checked in.  Our plane left at 11:35am.  We met the cutest "almost 3 yr old" twins while we waited for our plane.  Inilay and Zinzilay from Botwana.  We have very cute video of them.  They were on our plane but not in our area so we didn't see them again once we got on.

15 hours and 15 minutes is a long time to spend on plane.  We flew South African Airways which was a very nice airline.  The best part was that each passenger had their own personal video screen in the seat in front of them.  You also had your own remote so you could watch one of 25 movies, play games, watch TV shows, listen to an array of music or watch the flight plan with constant updates of where you were, how high you were, how fast you were going and what the temp was outside, etc...  We gave the boys benadryl but Chase didn't sleep at all.  I took a WHOLE sleeping pill, which I never do - I usually take 1/4 and still didn't really sleep - I would doze off for 20 mins here or there but nothing lasting.  Didn't help that the last 4 hours or so we felt like we were on a boat.  The turbulence was constant - not scary but very bouncy.  Many people on the flight were getting sick.  MacGregor was one of them, poor guy.  Dan also assisted a mother traveling alone with 3 children all of whom were getting sick.  I felt very nauseous but never threw up.

We landed at around 8 am local time ( about a half hour early) but our bodies only felt like it was TWO IN THE MORNING.  Yep - great way to start the day - in the middle of the night.  We got through customs, found our sweet missionary couple and got in the rented Mercedes Vito van. The most plain jane, most uncomfortable Mercedes you ever saw.  We made a quick stop at the apartment to drop off the luggage and headed straight over to the Africa Southeast Area Office.

Here we are looking so alert.  We are on the office grounds which overlooks a large portion of Johannesburg.  Looking up from this point you can see the temple.

Here is the garden of Eden, that's what they call it there.  If you look very close you can see a bee inside this perfectly formed, naturally growing calla lily.
This garden grows right on the grounds of the office.  It was so lush and beautiful even in the middle of winter.  Yes it is winter in South Africa right now - this was their December.
I love my little MacGregor even when he's beyond tired and sick from the airplane.
Here is the picture of the Area Presidency's offices and home.  There are apartments for the couples on the second floor and their offices and meeting rooms are on the first floor.  The other departments have their offices in a building adjacent to this one but I only got that building on video.  That building includes Perpetual Education, Employment, Humanitarian, Medical, Public Affairs, Travel, Finance, etc...

Sorry so much detail but I need to try to remember everything for my own sake.  Hopefully more to follow soon.