Monday, June 29, 2015

I'm still here...

Hey guys, sorry so long without a blog post! I'm writing this from my phone as the babies sleep, so it won't be very long or include pictures...hope to do one of those soon!

I can't believe I've been here a month yesterday!  (And that I'm already failing at blogging...) The time has flown and I really am still settling in. I'm on a regular work schedule now - Monday night, then Wednesday, Thursday, Friday  and Sunday.  We still have four babies.  I'm doing lots of shopping, organizing, driving people places, etc., and spending a lot of time with friends  (easy to do when you work with them and you live at work!) Of course I am missing you all at home so much but I feel equally at home here and for that I am so grateful!  I do wish I could put all of you in one place!

Well, typing with one's thumbs is tedious at best and I need to sleep but I will write a real post soon!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

My Week, or, The Quest to Get My Car Inspected, or, Killing One Bird with Three Stones

I've written far too many blog posts titled "Catching Up" or "Settling In." I'm struggling to find good names for posts that don't have a specific theme...

I've rather neglected my blog lately! I've been pretty busy here around the baby home and out and about in Pretoria.

Yes, out and about, because....

I have a car!

Meet "Sunshine," the newest member of the MBH fleet...and my new baby. ;) Actually, the first car I've had that I really love! She's a tiny Hyundai Atos who's great on gas ("petrol") and easy to maneuver into little parking spaces and the nonexistent space between bumper-to-bumper traffic during rush hour. She's also my first stick shift car and is a lot harder to drive than my dad's Dodge Neon! We stall a lot. We're working on that.

Don't let her small size fool you! She has plenty of space for transport. I got a call on Sunday - it was Heather letting me know that my roommate Joy's sister had missed the taxi. "Can you give Gertrude a ride?" Well, long story short, instead of just me and Gertrude it ended up being me, Joy, Gertrude, Gertrude's two kids, their other sister, and their cousin. Family is rather an exponential thing here in Africa. No, kids often do not ride in car seats here. No, we did not put anyone in the trunk (unlike a certain other friend who shall remain nameless). No, people probably did not have adequate room to breathe. The ride home also included thirty eggs and various Sunday school crafts. This is fun.

It's been quite the process to try to get this thing insured. Here in South Africa, insurance is not legally required. I'm on my friends' insurance, which is totally the bomb because there are so many cars on the policy we get GREAT rates. I budgeted a lot more for insurance, but am only paying about $31 a month for COMPREHENSIVE. (Which is a good thing to have in a country where people aren't legally required to have car insurance.) So, my process to get the car insured goes like this.

Tuesday: I bring the car home. Heather calls to put me on the insurance, and we tell them I have smash-and-grab window treatment because I'm going to get it done on Thursday (since I work Wednesday). (Smash-and-grab window treatment protects against criminals who, as the name suggest, walk up to your car at an intersection, smash the window, and grab whatever they want. It's some kind of a coating that makes your windows just crack instead of shatter.)

Wednesday: I'm working so I can't do anything.

Thursday: We think that I'm covered by insurance. I decide to take interns shopping over the hill first since I need to go shopping too, and I don't know how long the treatment will take. We get back late. Crystel and I drive around looking for the window place. Our quest is futile and I end up accidentally driving over the big hill again. By the time we get back, it's too late. I have to work at 4. Ok, I'll go first thing Friday.

Friday: Twin #1 is up all.night.long. So much for first thing Friday. I crash all morning and plan on going in the afternoon. But wait! We have to go to the thrift store first. And before that, I have to make something to eat! And so on. And so forth. I do finally manage to find the place and get my windows done, but there's no time left to go to the other part of town to get inspected...barely enough time to make it through evening rush hour and get home in time to make gingerbread for youth group - gingerbread that I decided to try to cook in the gas oven downstairs during youth group - the gas oven that ran out of gas halfway through baking of said gingerbread. Thankfully we have an electric oven upstairs, so we did have warm gingerbread with whipped cream, although it was served rather late.

Saturday: We went to Pilansberg (a game park about an hour away). More on that in a later blog post!

Sunday:  Work. Church. 1Hope meeting (which is like a big family dinner and awesomely fun). It's not as hard to be away from family when you're with family.

Monday: I'm going to run errands today! Oh wait, I have to do one thing first. I have to pick up meds at the hospital - just some heartburn medication for one of the babies. No problem, they open at 7, I know it takes a while, but we'll be out of there by 9 or 10 at the latest...not. We get there a little late (7:30). By 12 or 1, we've finally made it through reception. 

The process goes like this: wait in line at the first reception desk. This isn't long...10 minutes maybe? Get a number. Wait for your number to be called at the second reception desk. We're number R212, but there aren't solely 212, they're also calling a second set of numbers WAY below us, a set of numbers with PR in front of them, and random numbers with other initials. In the meantime, stop at the hospital cafeteria and buy vinegar popcorn that you assume tastes like salt and vinegar but actually tastes more like pickles. Hours later, they've finally called your number! Walk up and hand it in, then ask what to do. Oh, you thought you could go to the pharmacy? Now you have to sit and wait for them to find your file - a manilla folder full of hospital documents. An hour or two later, they have it. Proceed to the pharmacy. 

By 3, we're still waiting in a room full of probably 100 people at the pharmacy. We're number 387 I believe. The numbers (of people who are completing the initial step of turning in their files) are up in the 500's and 600's. Our name is nowhere near being called. Hundreds of people are after us and many of them are getting their prescriptions, but we aren't. Let me remind you, we're waiting for something as simple as HEARTBURN MEDICINE. Our phones are dying. I have a nasty cold and definitely ran out of tissues hours ago and probably look like I'm there to be admitted myself. I have to work at four. Britt, bless her heart, has me come home an hour and a half before my shift and sends Crystel to relieve me. I take a MUCH needed nap for 45 minutes or so. Through another long and complicated turn of events (this is already getting too confusing) I end up having the night off, the girls come home with the medicine around 4:30 or 5 (apparently ours was one of the last prescriptions filled), I got a good night's sleep, and there was a happy end to a rather unpleasant day. I plan to have my car FINALLY inspected for insurance coverage the next day.

Tuesday: I drive to Hatfield. Oops, it's a public holiday. I'm sure these are totally legit holidays, but they are so inconvenient and happen when you least expect them. I'm sure they are nice for some people. Although I've been informed the way people celebrate being off of school is by wearing school uniforms. *scratches head* I also don't get my phone fixed (I can't call anyone or change my sim card) since the Cell C shop is also closed. I did go to Clicks and buy a rainbow whisk. I also figured out how get to Hatfield, so I suppose the trip wasn't a total loss. 

Wednesday: I work until 4. I should be able to get there in time to get it inspected - it's open till 5 or 6. I grossly underestimate Pretoria traffic. In a city where so many people don't drive but take public transportation, how can there be so. many. cars.?? I get a lot of practice with my car's stiff clutch. I pull in the parking lot at about 5:01. The place looks deserted. The sign on the door says they close at 5. A gas station attendant at the adjacent gas station informs me that (despite the sign on the door) they are actually open until 4.


Now I really know my way to Hatfield.

I've also gained a lot of confidence by driving during rush hour...driving this tiny little yellow thing who likes to stick her nose in places and is going to be owning the road before too long. ;) Except Sunshine got cut off by a turquoise Chevy Spark, which is possibly one of the few vehicles smaller than her...

So if anyone wonders why I've possibly been driving without insurance all week long, life has been happening!

Including plenty of time with these cuties...

Snuffy chilling while auntie does laundry

Grumpy twin, happy twin

"I'm holding a girl's hand??!"

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Babies, etc.

I've been settling in here at the baby home and started shifts this past Wednesday. These are the faces that greet me early in the morning!

Lots of twin time lately. They are still small enough that I can carry both of them around at once. Sometimes I can feed both of them at the same time. ;) Mama Patricia says they are synchronized in all the wrong ways! They like to cry, eat, and poop at the same time. But they are sweet! They aren't identical but it took me a few days to be able to tell them apart. Once I still mixed them up because I didn't realize they slept in either cot and couldn't tell in the dark...I thought Grace was Peace and Peace was Grace all night. Oops.

I still know how to tie a baby on my back. I was afraid I might have forgotten but I guess it's like riding a bicycle - you never forget. =)

Happy enjoying his porridge

I walked with Crystel, one of the interns, to my favorite little thrift shop (about a mile away). It's the first time I've been since I've been back. I wasn't sure if Elizabeth, the lady who runs it, would remember me, but as soon as I walked in she exclaimed, "You're finally back!" She made us tea and sandwiches, showed us pictures of her grandchildren, and continued her attempt to teach me Afrikaans. It was fun. The store is in a bigger room now and has all kinds of things - it reminds me more of a small rummage sale than a thrift store. I dug through a rather gross bin of mismatched plastic containers and lids until I found some that went together. This was what I ended up with after I got home and cleaned them with a LOT of bleach:

I also found hangers for my wardrobe:

And from Facebook: this was my Thursday adventure:

"African adventure of the morning: jumble sale at the church around the corner. Although garage saling is about my favorite thing ever to do at home in Ohio, I rather got the impression that white people don't go to jumble sales here. Like, ever. At least not at this church. I'm all for happily breaking stereotypes, but it was a little awkward. The sale was behind a gate (as is everything here in Pretoria). It took a bit of explaining to get the guy manning the gate to realize that yes, I actually wanted to come in to SHOP at the sale. Even once I was in, people kept walking up to me with confused looks on their faces and saying, "Can I help you?" My deductions were that a.) only black people shop at these things, which is fine, I'll go ahead and do it too, because I don't really care, or b.) this is some sort of charity not for any racial group in particular, but for poor people, in which case, oops. I did get two pairs of jeans for my rug for R5 (> 50 cents) each, and a rather well-used muffin tin. It was in a big bag of random containers, etc, that I didn't want and couldn't be split up, so I asked the old lady who was buying it if she'd take R10 for the tin, and she was more than happy to oblige..."

So yes, I am getting on with life here, and it is good. Joy is one of the best roommates ever. =) (I still miss Alyssa - "Lulu.") We've been busy with various events - soccer ministry (that no one came to this week), Bible studies, a baby shower, etc.

Oh, and I put down a deposit on the car I am going to buy! I'm so excited. You all will have to wait to see it until next week when the wire transfer comes through.

Keep in touch! Miss you all!

Monday, June 1, 2015

Settling in

Finally getting a chance to sit down and blog! I've started this post about three times, only to cut it off from loading the pictures each time because I had to go do something else. 

I'll show you the baby pictures first, because I know that's what you all want to see! I only have pictures of three of the babies thus far - we have four.

(All names have been changed for confidentiality purposes.)

If you remember from a while back, I told you the baby home got twins! Here is one, little Grace...

...and here is her twin (but not identical) sister, Peace.

Here is our thriving preemie, Snuffles - so named because he had some kind of difficulty breathing - he was in the hospital for a few weeks when he was younger. He still snuffles and snorts a lot but is happy and healthy!

I will have a picture coming soon of our fourth little guy, Happy!

So what have I been doing instead of blogging and taking baby pictures? (I don't start working until Wednesday....)

Moving in, among other things. Here is the room that I share with my Zimbabwean friend, Joy. We are doing our best to make things fit...I'm open to storage suggestions for living in a small house/room! We are coming up with a few ideas. It'll help when I get hangers and can get that final large cardboard box out of here...

I did bring lots of things from home, but they do make it feel more homey. I brought the quilt (purple one on the left bed) and afghan I made last winter/spring, among other things.

The one thing the room does have a lot of, is curtains! It was built onto the corner of a patio, so only two sets of curtains go to an outward window (the right wall on the picture above). The ones straight ahead sliding glass doors into the front apartment on the baby home (apartment is kind of a loose term, as nothing is completely separated - all of us in the building share a kitchen). The ones to the left cover a window into the baby home sitting area. Both of these windows are covered on each side for privacy.

Since we are certainly not lacking in curtains or curtain rods, I'm doing my best to use them to my advantage! The purple ones at the head of my bed hide the cardboard boxes I traveled with (folded flat). Below, you can see that the curtain rod makes a very efficient scarf hanger! I've also tucked seldom-accessed items behind the wardrobe and curtain on the windowsill. The sill is slanted - I'm trying to think of some way to lay something across it to make it slightly more efficient storage space.

This end of the curtain rod holds my hats, bags, and coats. Functional, but perhaps not terribly efficient choices, as I was too lazy to take off my shoes (so I could climb on my bed), and ripped the lining of my black coat trying to pull it down. Not irreparably, but perhaps I need to hang something else there.

I found this beautiful cactus succulent on my nightstand when I arrived, along with a sweet card from my auntie Patricia and friend Idelheit. I briefly considered moving it somewhere besides my nightstand when I realized it was a highly effective deterrent to hitting the snooze button...=)

Just when I unpacked three of my four boxes (the box with yarn is at my friends' house at the moment), I realized I still had to unpack EVERYTHING I packed up last year when I left!

Oh, dear.

Apparently I put on quite a show...

(Actually, I think Mama Linda and Deborah were just waiting for a ride, but still. Lol.) It turns out at least one of the bags was miscellaneous pillows that didn't belong to me, and several of them were full of kitchen things. I felt so silly packing up some things last year, but I am so glad I did! Without even having gone shopping, my pantry looked like this:

Some of those tins are empty, but I had rice, beans, popcorn, wheat flour, maple syrup, peanut butter, cornmeal, bran, LOTS of spices, and quite a few other things. Admittedly, it's hard to survive on things like, oh, three cups of poppy seeds, but it helped to not have to restart my pantry from scratch!

I found many other interesting and useful objects I'd half-forgotten about while unpacking, including but not limited to:

a butter dish
a mismatching platter and serving bowl (both beautiful, if you don't try to use them as a set...)
a towel I bought at the thrift store
cleaning rags
a cooking scale
two glasses
two mugs
a miniature strainer
a two-inch-high grater that is useful for practically nothing
a handful of Kleenex 
waxing strips I will never use
bike shorts that are too tight
jeans that I saved for scraps (possibly a rug in our future, if I can find some more...)
Scrabble in French
half-used bottles of shampoo and conditioner
my favorite Easter egg skirt
more yarn

I frequented our small, local thrift store last year and picked up practically anything useful I could find, including those gorgeous tins in the pantry photo above. (It's also where I got French Scrabble...) No, there aren't many thrift stores in South Africa...but I discovered this one about a mile away, and even one is a big blessing! I showed it to a few of my African friends, who apparently go there all the time now and say it's a lot bigger. I plan on walking there tomorrow after Ladies' Bible Study.

Since one cannot survive on poppy seeds and coriander powder alone, I had to make a trip to the corner convenience store to grab a few things to tide me over until someone with a car could take me shopping.

In case anyone was wondering, this is what approximately $14 USD gets you at a convenience store in Pretoria, South Africa.

One whole chicken, one liter of milk, one small bottle of sunflower oil, one kilo of white potatoes, 10 (?) oranges, a small block of cheese, 250 grams of butter (about a cup), one loaf of wheat bread, a tin of apricot jam, and a cucumber. Not bad, but prices have gone up since I left - the price for real butter has raised roughly $1 to $2 a pound!

I've been fighting a nasty cold that hit me almost as soon as I landed. One of the hardest parts of being sick in a new country is not knowing what medicines to take. I brought Advil, Nyquil, and Airborne, but I needed a daytime medicine that was a mite stronger than Airborne vitamins. Thankfully a friend recommended this. It tastes roughly like drinking baking soda and salt mixed in water, but hey, it works great...

I have spent the last few days blowing my nose, visiting with friends, going to various and sundry parties/events, blowing my nose some more, unpacking, trying to make my Blackberry work (having problems accessing the internet...), and, as of today, car shopping. (You'll note that cooking has not featured significantly in there. Grilled cheese, eggs, toasting my bread before I make peanut butter and jelly. So far the only "real" food I've made was chicken, rice and beans.) 

Anyway, yes, car shopping - a rather overwhelming and slightly terrifying experience. It is made infinitely better by having the 1Hope handyman, Randy, to take me - he knows practically everything about cars and the purchasing thereof. This won't help me, though, when I eventually have to drive a car myself in Pretoria rush hour traffic, where buses like to push you out of your lane as a matter of course, taxis honk at you, and people run into the street in front of your car. Yes, we have traffic rules, lanes, etc, just as you would expect anywhere in the Western world. No, we don't have cows in the road, but we might as well for as well as people follow aforementioned traffic rules. I've been assured I won't die. I hope they're right. I plan on driving about fifty laps around our small, quiet suburb before I venture out into the main city...although, I don't have a car yet. We only looked at two today, including a little yellow one I was in love with, but that didn't have power steering. Calling around about cars was certainly a step into "adulting" for me, but 


And I'm sure they say the exact same thing about me.

Did you know "panda" rhymes with "Honda?"

Me neither.

I think that's about all for tonight. My sweet roommate assured me she doesn't mind the light on while she's trying to sleep, but still. I think it's time to call it a night. Please pray for me as I get all this adulting settled. Stubborn phone. Car shopping. Not dying while driving. Developing a budget. Cooking healthier meals (I do NOT want this year to be a repeat of last year's 20 pounds...) Re-fitting into life here in a different role (caregiver and not intern, doing pretty much the same thing - baby care - but still different).

Love you all!

Auntie Abbie