So far this year has been a year of extremes. We started off with a colder than normal winter. We went through just about every type of 'cold', starting with floods which washed away one end of our road, to an ice storm which turned all the trees into an icy wonderland and left everyone except us without electricity for a few days. (Although our one and only tree did give up and split in 3, one third didn't make it and was turned into firewood). The ice coating turned the entire landscape into a crystal and glass ornament which was beautiful to see. Agilene thought that it was just like she had imagined the US would be when we first arrived here; with the streets of gold and silver exactly like in the movies.
In-between we had lots of snow. I knew it was bad when I went to work one morning, a little before sunrise, and there was a snowplough stuck in the middle of the freeway. I was pretty much out on my own (even the traffic lights had given up) when suddenly I hit a tree lying in the middle of the road. Despite braking as hard as I could we didn’t quite make it and the van still has the scars to show for its run-in. The good part was that we finally had enough snow to make a whole snow-family, although the neighbourhood
kids were quick to behead the poor chap.
For a treat we took the kids to Castaway Bay, which is a heated, indoor water park. In the meantime Agilene had her own adventure making her first Christmas turkey. At least it was better than the Christmas tree which only had the top half decorated. Keesha kept removing all the ornaments she could reach!
After so much cold we were just getting ready for a nice refreshing spring when we leapt into summer instead, and daily temperatures shot up to around 35 ºC (95ºF). Despite Agilene's watering it, our grass is so brown it looks like a bad Transvaal winter.
Two of our friends, Dan and Jane, hosted a girl from Belarus for eight weeks. So the kids have been spending lots of time together at places like the water park and the zoo. We discovered that Happy Meals are also a firm favourite with Russians.
Dan and Jane also invited us to their house at Buckeye Lake for the 4th of July fireworks. This was a huge improvement over fighting the crowds in downtown Columbus like we did last year. We got to sit on their porch, right on the water's edge, and watch the fireworks from there. And the kids could run around and bounce up and down as much as they wanted without us having to worry about where they were or weren't.
We also went camping at Lake Erie at the beginning of July; once again the government hadn't managed to renew my contract on time. The kids spent lots of time swimming and fishing (a sport which I still can't get into. I keep imagining those hooks whirling around [something which they do way too much with the kids] and lodging themselves in someone's [my] skin. Cutting those squishy earthworms and having their stomachs squash out all over the place doesn't make it any nicer). Anyway despite my revulsions the kids were very successful at catching fish. For the moment Iago's biggest complaint about camping are all those 'buqsquitos' (I hope I spelt that right).
Job wise very little has changed for me. I have started to think about ways to regain the independence I had working in South Africa (i.e. freelancing and having only 4 bosses instead of the one I have right now) or at least doing something where I could see the sun every now and then. At least we have received our permanent residence so that should give us a bit more freedom to do what we want.
I eventually decided to go for guitar lessons with Amy from our church (I told you I needed professional help!). Real lessons are more frustrating than trying to learn on my own since every lesson I feel like I go backwards as Amy has to undo all my bad habits. I did however play a couple of times for our church home group. This is a huge step for me, even more so because this requires actually singing!
On the fame side I am now an internationally published writer, I wrote two articles for Borland, here and here and, in case you can't understand those, they have been published in German too ( hier und hier) so you have absolutely no excuses. (There will be a test with my next newsletter.)
Agilene has recruited Yuri to help her learn English which is really amusing. Although I really have to be careful with what I say; I actually had to ask someone at work to help me with Yuri's homework. He had to circle words with the same diphthong [paired] vowel sounds; I think I got about 1 out of 10. Maybe I need Yuri to give me lessons too.
Keesha is also learning to talk like an American and will often say, in her best American accent, something like ‘The car was fa
st’ (as in a
pple). If I ask her, in a good South African accent, if it went ‘fa
st’ (as in ‘ca
r’) she will say 'no it went ‘fa
st'; This is a game which can carry on indefinitely
Agilene is also eager to start earning some money now that she is finally legally able to.
She has also got her US driver’s license eventually, although not without giving me many grey hairs or breaking down in the middle of a busy road with a broken side-shaft. We were really glad that some people we knew from church stopped right behind us and spent several hours helping us get everything sorted out.
Keesha is definitely part monkey. She insists on climbing everything and keeps our baby sitters on their toes. Just the other day I found her, having climbed a chair onto the counter, where she was standing on the microwave, looking for candy (her favourite food) on top of the fridge. Maybe she'll become a mountain climber one day; she certainly has a passion for it.
Sometimes she can be a real lady, in a Lara Croft kind of way, and changes her clothes as often as she can. This pretence usually lasts a couple of seconds until she finds another climbable object or just takes them off and runs outside ('neck-ed
' as the boys would say), and with much consternation from us when we discover her.
While we have green cards, she is now a real American and has a brand new American (I should say US before I get in trouble with Agilene, she insists on reminding people that she is also an American.) passport to prove it.
Yuri has just started 3rd grade. It is scary how fast he is growing up. I took Yuri to his class on the first day of school. We walked past class after class of kids all bouncing around and screaming but when we got to his room all the kids were sitting quietly in their seats. I sure hope Yuri survives this year and doesn’t get into trouble with all his energy.
At the end of last year the school had a party for the children. One of the competitions was a burping contest (Really). Unfortunately, in spite of our protests, the kids, and especially Iago, have decided that burping is funny (Yuri did however win the Hula-hoop competition after some training by Agilene. We were secretly happy that he didn't do as well at burping).
At least we can consider this is an improvement over what they have learnt from our neighbour's mom. She showed our kids that they could make themselves glow in the dark by catching lightning bugs and squashing their luminescent guts all over themselves.
In February he got his first filling (I think this is more of a rite of passage for us than it was for him).
Yuri loves to sing (and act) and even makes up his own songs. He often gets to sing in front of the church with the other kids. The children’s teachers haven’t yet realised that Yuri seems to deliberately position himself right in front of the microphone and should instead be placed as far away as possible. The normal result is that he drowns out the other kids and the sound engineer eventually gives up and turns off the microphone while Agilene and I try not to roll onto the floor with laughter.
Recently, after one service, he cornered the pastor and sang one of his own songs for him. As a result he was invited to sing in front of the whole church, all on his own. This is the only time we have ever seen Yuri nervous in front of people, although he still did way better than I would have and only forgot a couple of words.
Like Yuri, Iago also had a first, he had to have stitches when he tripped and cut his head on the stairs. Iago is definitely the most accident prone of our children (We go through at least one box of band-aids every week, although this is largely due to the fact that Keesha knows how to climb up the refrigerator). The upshot was that Iago went to the emergency room and got 5 stitches without even a tear.
Iago also decided that he wanted to ride like his big brother, without training wheels. So after a week of constant falling we know have two racing fans in the family. I am just glad that we live in a cul-de-sac. Now Keesha thinks it is her turn to graduate from her tricycle.
Unlike Yuri, Iago appears to be becoming more introverted each day and at times will anchor himself and refuse to move or start squirming down onto the floor. At least one of the kids is taking after me.
As you may remember our kids were given a female dwarf rabbit last year. This year our neighbour asked if we wanted his rabbit since they were moving. Since it was also a female we accepted. It didn't take us more than a couple of days to discover that it wasn’t a female after all. Needless to say we now have four baby dwarf rabbits (Free shipping included if anyone wants one. It is hard to believe how difficult it is to get rid of them, everyone would love to have one but no one will take them). Agilene had promised the kids they could keep one if was white (both parents being grey.). Well I don't need to tell you what happened, but if you really are curious you can go and look at the photos
Agilene has signed the two boys up for soccer lessons (Keesha being too small, though not unwilling). We are waiting to see if the Brazilian genes will show through. Iago’s group is hilarious to watch as they all toddle around with their clothes being bigger than they are. We are finding watching them very therapeutic
Yup, the van is definitely green.
Since Agilene got her driver's license we needed another car. Obviously Agilene needed the van because she will have the kids during the day. So after much procrastination I scraped out the bank account and went and bought myself the car I have been dreaming
of for the last 8 years. After having encouraged me to buy it Agilene now tells me I'm selfish! Anyway despite the fact that it is not 'practical' I am thoroughly enjoying it.
After almost 5 years it is fun to have a vehicle that drives; the Turtle performs rather like a sluggish bowl of lime jelly. Driving the Miata is more like trying to drive a SCUD missile, skimming just above the ground and trying not to hit anything. It’s also very sensitive.
On a slightly different note. Here are some of the things that we enjoy about being in the States:
- (Cheap) Mexican Food - This has to be the best reason to live here.
- Cookie Dough Ice-Cream
- Being able to forget to lock the door or close the windows (This is Agilene’s favourite).
- Real snow, sometimes even lots of it.
- The friends we have made here - OK, this is really the best thing about the USA.
Although we had originally planned to visit South Africa in July when Yuri was on his summer break we decided it would be better to come in December, even though this means fighting the school system. Despite what anyone might tell you this has nothing to do with the availability of Litchis, Sultanas or even Avocados, but was simply because we can spend Christmas with our family the and the weather is better. (Although not having to buy proxy Christmas presents might just have a little bit to do with it). We also plan to spend a couple of days in Johannesburg in the middle of January and intend to have a braai for anyone who wants to visit (My sister doesn't know that we are planning on taking over her house yet). So mark your calendars for this important event (January the 14th).
If you happen to be in the UK instead we have a good lay-over at Heathrow for those who have defected there.
We hope to see as many of you as possible and don’t forget you can find lots more photos at: www.marcrohloff.com/Live/Photos.aspx