Back in Johannesburg – so many new things!

It has been a week, since I left Maine to come back to Johannesburg to join David. It was time for me to return. As many of you know, I was here from the last part of April until the end of June. I returned to the states to attend my nephew’s wedding and was scheduled to return to South Africa on August 6.

Right before I left, the South African government changed their visa laws and required ex-pats to apply for residential/employment visas from their home country. Our visa request were in the process of being applied for in South Africa but that was canceled with this new law. It wasn’t really a problem for me but more so, for David as he had not planned to return to the states while I was away. In order to apply for his visas, he made plans to return to Maine at the end of July.

When I arrived home in June, the very next day, I was filling out paperwork to apply for a background check from the FBI for both David and me…..it is one of the requirements for the South African visa. They don’t want any criminals coming into the country and I can’t say that I blame them. Plus, I had to send my passport off for extra pages. In order to get a visa, they require you to have two blank pages side by side and mine didn’t have any.  David arrived home at the end of July and we proceeded to organize the paperwork to submit for the visa. We procured the company CIBT to help us through the visa process. Shortly after David arrived, we received the FBI reports….or I should say, David did. The FBI sent my request back as they could not read my fingerprints, which had been done by the South African police. I had to go to the local police station to have another set of prints taken to submit. This time, I had three sets done and sent them all off. It would take another month for me to receive my background report.

We submitted David’s paperwork to CIBT and they, in turn, submitted it to the South African embassy in New York City. Then, we waited and we waited and we waited. On Wednesday, September 10th, six weeks later, David received his visa. He returned to Johannesburg on Friday, September 12th.

I continued to wait for my report from the FBI. I waited and I waited and I waited…..finally, I went on their website to see if there was a number I could call to get any information. Of course, there wasn’t a phone number but there was an announcement on the website saying that a new computer program had been installed and due to glitches in the program, all background reports would be delayed eight to ten weeks.

By this time, it was October. David is supposed to be finished, on this phase of the project, by the end of the year. If I waited for the report, then applied for the visa, he would be finished in Johannesburg and I wouldn’t need the visa after all. David and I decided it would be best for me to return on a tourist visa which is good for three months.

I must say, if this had to happen to us, thank goodness it was for me and not David. I cannot imagine how he would have handled it if he had been “stuck” in the states for several months waiting on the bureaucracy of the governments to work! It was bad enough during the six weeks while we waited for his visa to be processed.

My trip back was long, long one. David’s office made the arrangements. The first itinerary that they sent me gave me an hour and twenty minutes to transfer at JFK airport in New York. That isn’t nearly enough time, so I refused it. Then they came back with a second offer that gave me 5 hours to transfer in Dulles Airport, Washington DC. That was much better and I accepted. I was just concerned with the transfer time for the international flight.

A couple days before I flew out, I took a closer look at the itinerary….I left Portland, ME at 6:00 AM and flew into LaGuardia Airport, arriving at 7:40 AM. At 10:00 AM, I flew from LaGuardia to Dulles where I had a 5 hour layover. At 5:40 PM, my flight left for Johannesburg and with the time change, I arrived the next night at Johannesburg at 6:00 PM. There wasn’t any information on my itinerary about the 2 hour layover in Dakar, Senegal for fueling. I discovered that, right before I boarded the plane. Thank goodness for business class! I have made a mental note to myself to really pay closer attention to the details of my itinerary the next time I receive one!

David was waiting at the airport for me. It was WONDERFUL to see him. It had been two months since he had left. When I left Johannesburg in June, it was still winter – since we are below the equator, we are on opposite seasons from the northern hemisphere. Leaving winter in Maine in November, I returned to balmy, summer days in South Africa. When I left, the landscape was dead and brown. Now, everything is green and there is color everywhere with all of the blooming plants and trees. The temperature is about 70 to 80 during the days and nights it drops to about 65. Often, there is an afternoon rain shower or thunderstorm.

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                             Our new home

Also, right before I left for the states, we were offered a new place to live. If you recall, we were living in an apartment complex, which was nice but on the weekends, it was noisy as people entertained on their balconies. The company was renting a house for another employee who was being relocated. We gladly accepted the offer and before David left in July, he moved here.IMG_0518

It is a little “Shangri-La” in a big city! Our new home is the guest house to a main house. The main house, before it was purchased by the current owners, was a nine bedroom bed and breakfast. The current owners did major renovations and now it is a beautiful home for their family. Our little home is tucked away in the corner of the yard surrounded by a lovely lawn and garden. If we sit on our porch, we cannot see the main house. As I type this, I am surrounded by flowers, green and beautiful bird singing.IMG_0520

Our landlords, Deborah and JJ are extremely nice and down-to-earth. They have 3 children…Jordan, 17; James, 15 and adorable Emma, 12, 3 dogs (!!!!) – Titus the Golden Retriever was the teddy bear face and humongous paws, Eagle who is a mix of a Golden and some kind of terrier and then there is Tara, a 9 month Bull Terrier who is a “holy terror”!!! She keeps us all on our toes but makes us laugh.

I love it here! It is so peaceful….a nice break to revive after the busy few months back home. I get up each morning with David. He is usually out the door by 6:00. After a cup of coffee, I head out for my daily power walk. Although it is a different area, the streets look the same as in my last neighborhood. I wind through streets of grandiose houses tucked behind high security gates of concrete and electric wire. I rather like the route as it is mostly on these side streets where there is very little traffic. My walk last for about 40-50 minutes. Back at the house, I do an exercise DVD for another half hour, take a shower, eat breakfast and start my day.

The days seem to fly by. This week, I have been busy organizing our Christmas trip to Namibia. That is where the project site is that David is overseeing the engineering for here in the Joburg office. He needs to go to the site and we decided to take advantage of his business trip. We will leave December 20th and fly into Swapkomund where we will spend 4 nights. Swapkomund is on the coast and we have a hotel that is overlooking the ocean. Christmas eve and Christmas day, we will be in Sossusvlei which is next to the Namib-Naukluft National Park. This park is famous for the high red dunes of the Namib desert. I have seen pictures of the dunes and they are just incredible. The last couple of days will be in Windhoek, which is a city in the interior of the country. We will return to Johannesburg on December 28. I am very excited and can hardly wait to share the trip with you.

Other projects that I need to attend to are getting my two blogs up-to-date and start on my next children’s book. Actually, I did start to write a little of the book this week.

I made the difficult decision to stop the printing of the hardcover version of my children’s book, Brave Nellie. Before I left the states, I was having issues with the printing process of the hardcover. I had hoped that it was resolved when I left but when I arrived here, I received word that things had not improved with the quality of the book. I couldn’t sell a book that didn’t meet my standards and expectations, so I stopped the printing. I will share more details about my plans for Brave Nellie in my “author” blog within the next few days.

We had a little excitement at our new place last Friday. There was a bees’ nest inside the valve box for the sprinkler system, which was in the ground near our house. The owners were aware of it and had called someone to take the bees. I was impressed that they arranged to have someone come and rescue the bees to be relocated rather than kill them. Deborah said that the bee population in the world has decreased by 20 to 30%. I was aware that the honey bees were in decline but didn’t realize that all of the bee population was threaten. So, kudos to them for making the effort not to have more bees killed.IMG_0511

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Also, last weekend, David and I were out riding around. He took me to the race track that he discovered while I was away. He had watched Ferraris, McLaren and motorcycles races there. On the day of the McLaren races, he somehow ended up in the VIP section where he enjoyed adult beverages and delicious food. He struck up a conversation with a man standing next to him who happened to be one of the race car drivers. This nice man offered to give David a ride in his McLaren. What an experience and great memories for David…..even the fact that he got a little motion sickness going around the curves at 150 mph!!! Glad I found out about it after the fact 🙂

From the race track, we ended up at Forest Hill City Mall which we just happened upon. We are not really interested in walking around malls but I needed to look for a couple of things and this was convenient to get to compared to the malls closer to us. This mall has an ice skating rink in it! Am I back in Dubai where they have the ski slope? I just didn’t expect an ice skating rink in a mall in Johannesburg in the middle of summer. IMG_0225I snapped this picture of these two women carrying their babies on their backs. I have seen this often when I was in here in May/June but I didn’t feel comfortable taking a picture of it. The moment presented itself and I snapped this picture. Is it not the cutest? I think it is interesting how they carry their babies like this.IMG_0224

Stay tuned for more happenings from Johannesburg…..

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