Category Archives: Travel

Graduation – Friday, Saturday, Sunday

 

Graduation was lovely. The American International School of Johannesburg does it well. The ritual is spread over two days which makes it extra special. Friday there are several practices for both Friday and Saturday, a senior’s class luncheon and the awards presentation. I liked having the awards given out at a separate time from the diplomas. Our Jenna received Athlete of the Year. There were a multitude of awards for academics, service and sports. The kids had a very busy day.

They also received their red envelopes on Friday. Family and friends had been asked to write letters, send cards, pictures etc. to support their beloved student. Jenna will keep those letters always. Hopefully when the tough times come, as they do for all of us, she will be able to read them and gain courage as she soaks in the love that came with those letters. It is a lovely tradition.

Both Friday and Saturday the sun shone filling our hearts with a sense of well-being. God was smiling and celebrating with us. Saturday afternoon we gathered once again in the auditorium. There were the usual speeches. A musical interlude by a student acapella singing group added to the occasion. The final speech was fantastic.  One of the teachers, chosen by the kids, spoke to them from her heart. She did a wonderful job. She closed her talk with a popular song that she had rewritten just for the graduates. She had all the teachers join her on the chorus. We were all in tears. She brought God’s blessing of love to the grad’s. She was my choice for angel of the day.

The presentation of the diplomas was unique. As each student’s name was called they came forward and stood facing the crowd while the vice principal read out the student’s message for parents, grandparents, siblings, friends. They had 40 words, no more. There were many thank you’s and future plans. Some were entertaining. All were important. It gave each student a moment in the limelight before they received their diploma. I liked it.

The afternoon ceremony was followed by an elegant dinner in the ballroom of a local hotel. The students paraded in and then joined their family circle at a table. Champagne was provided for a toast. A milky way of tiny lights turned the hall into a magic place. The meal was delicious. The students were excited about the dance that was to follow.  Once the graduates dance with their mother or father was complete, the music volume increased. We took one look at the overcrowded dance floor and gratefully accepted a ride back to Dave’s. Dave and Jo followed about an hour later. Over the years our opportunities to celebrate Jenna’s special days have been rare. We are so glad we came.

We crawled into bed early and slept well. I rose and shone at 6:30 Sunday morning. We returned to All Saints Anglican church for worship. Everyone welcomed us. Nourished in the Spirit, we climbed into Dave’s car and headed out of town a bit to participate in a music and wine tasting festival with Dave, Jo, Lee, Russell, Steve and John. The day was warm and sunny, the music far enough away to be enjoyable, the wine and food delicious.

We could have packed Sunday night but just weren’t up to it. So we packed this morning and left for the airport at 3:00.

Who were are angels. Certainly Jenna, first and foremost. Lee and Russell, drove us home from the dance, and welcomed us into their circle. They helped make the graduation special for us. And then there was Noni. I’ll write a separate blog about Noni. And also at the top of my angel list was Jenna’s lovely mom, Joanne. She is so generous and loving. At the festival she wanted to buy everything I looked at. We need to buy the things that people have made. They are trying to make a living and we want to help them was always her excuse. She is an amazing woman.

 

An Amazing Opportunity!!!!

Hi Friends,

As you know, we are in Johannesburg, South Africa with my son Dave and his family. Dave and Jo teach at the international school of Johannesburg. Granddaughter Jenna graduates grade 12 this year and will be returning to Canada to study at Queens in Kingston.

This letter is about one of Jenna’s classmates and sports teammates, Noni   Dube .

Noni is an amazing young woman. At the end of grade 7, in her township school, Noni earned a scholarship to the International School of Johannesburg. Her courage, intelligence, enthusiasm and hard work, have now earned her a 4 yr. tuition scholarship to Trent University in Peterborough. For a foreign student to study in Canada, they must have the money up front to cover accommodation, food, return flight, books etc.  Noni lives in one of the “townships” of South Africa.  Although her single parent Mom, is hardworking, she could never amass that kind of money.

Noni wants to study overseas because she understands that an international education will empower her to help her people. Already she is part of a program to help young girls from her township stay in school. Obviously a top student, excellent athlete and team player, Noni is loved by everyone around her.

I believe that education is the first step to world peace.  As Mother Theresa so wisely said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.  This is our opportunity to share our abundant blessings through supporting Noni.

Noni’s teammates have opened a “Go Fund Me” site for Noni.

Please click Noni’s page  .  Read about Noni and her accomplishments. Please contribute to this beautiful young woman’s future. She needs your help, to help others.

 

 

Arrival in Joburg – Days 3,4,5

It’s Tuesday morning. I have three days to catch up. Our flight Friday night was excellent. I know that because neither Tom nor I slept at all. This time Tom had an aisle seat, praise God, and I was right next to him. We read, watched movies. I wrote up Day 2.

We chose to be the last off the plane. It meant we had lots of time to gather our stuff and hobble down the skinny aisle. Waiting for us as we stepped off was not one wheelchair, but two. I gladly appropriated the second one and collapsed into it for a long ride. Our wheelchair angels kindly stopped for a bathroom break along the way.

Luggage came through quickly. With our baggage in hand, they wheeled us to Dave and Joanne. After big hugs all around and a Canadian money tip for our angels, (all we had at the moment. They gave us huge smiles.  Probably was more than usual when exchanged for African Rand), we loaded into the car and drove to Dave’s. The weather of course was lovely – warm and sunny. We sat and talked on their patio for about an hour, then sank into bed. I slept two hours, Tom a little more.

Once awake, Dave made us a delicious supper. This is a vegetarian household. One of the blessings in that is both Dave and Joanne are excellent cooks. We managed to stay awake until ten.

Sunday morning was great. We started with Dave’s hearty breakfast.

Back home we had searched out on Google, the closest church. Dave and Joanne were busy that morning so Dave summoned an Uber driver to ferry us to All Saints Anglican Church. As you can see from the pictures, the architecture is a little different from home and quite beautiful. Inside everything was familiar except for the rows of clear glass picture windows that looked out on their parklike grounds. Being at Sunday worship grounded us. Anastasia, their new priest is a gracious and an excellent speaker. The highlight came at the end of the service. Anastasia invited one of the more senior members of the congregation to lead us in an African praise and blessing. The people’s voices came alive as they sang.

After church, we were welcomed, loved and fed, coffee, tea  and sandwiches. At one point, I looked out the window of the spacious reception area and spied a special visitor. A spectacular peacock had come to worship.

We didn’t have to call Uber to get home, because one of the congregation offered us a ride.  We were invited back  for our second Sunday. As always happens back home,Tom was told he was needed to help with the singing.  We will see what is on the agenda. A lot will happen between now and then.

We slept Sunday afternoon and enjoyed one of my favorite meals. Jo laid out a huge wooden tray filled with cheeses and sauces and crackers and bread and fruit and …..  We watched a little tennis with her while we ate.

Jenna stopped studying long enough to join us for supper. She is in the midst of her final exams. She’s in the International Baccalaureat program and a top student. Already she’s been awarded a scholarship to come to Queen’s in Kingston next year and study Kinesiology. We are delighted to have her back in Canada.

Monday was a quiet day. Jet lag had set in,V in earnest. We slept til ten, had a slow yoghurt breakfast. In the afternoon, Tom and I walked to a strip mall to the bank machine to fill our pockets with South African Rand. Problem: Back home in Canada I had been given the names of two banks that would accept our debit card. Neither bank was represented in the four machines available. We walked back to Dave’s. A Google search revealed the friendly Scotia Bank representative had given us the names of one bank in Senegal and one in Australia. Google told us to use Absa bank in Johannesburg. By this time, Dave was home from school and drove me back to the mall. My hip has been doing a lot of complaining.

The driver, Victor, for the next day’s excursion, arrived to check out Dave’s car and get his instructions. Victor is the father of a colleague of Dave and Joanne, a Phys. Ed instructor at the International School. He is also a retired driver for government celebrities coming to South Africa.crazy tourists. We will be in good, experienced hands.

That finished, Jenna, Jo and I slipped away to shop for a grad dress for Jenna. Of course, I had a grand time with that. It’s always a pleasure to take one of my granddaughters shopping. Once the dress was chosen and purchased, we relaxed at a restaurant for supper. I had crushed sweet potato and pine nuts on a delicious tangy white sauce and vegetarian falafels with avocado dip. Totally yummy.

We returned home to pack and get to bed early. Departure this morning was 5:30 a.m.

Angels, I didn’t mention our angels. Well, Dave, Jo and Jenna are certainly filling that role. It felt as if we attended a church full of angels on Sunday, especially the generous woman who drove us home. In some ways, Tom and I were visiting angels there as well. I did bring a couple of my books as gifts.

This morning we’re driving into the sunrise. The grasses covering the land alongside the highway are dipped in gold. This 3 day adventure to Lesotho and into the Drakensberg mountains to hear the Drakensberg boys choir has begun. The air is misty. The moon is nearly full. We are truly blessed.

That’s it for this morning.

Airports and “Old Folks”

Day Two

Flying is amazing and can be tough. Assigned the middle two seats in a row of four in the centre of the plane,  we slid our sceptical bodies into place. One saving Grace was the 1/2 inch of clearance  forTom’s knees with the seat ahead. Our dreams of Tom pacing up and down the 18 inch aisles every time his hip started to complain, were the first to take flight. The youngish man, who sat on my left, smiled and said hello, as he sat down. So far, so good, I thought. He took one look at both of us and said, “Just wake me up anytime you need to  get up. I’m going home and I don’t sleep much on planes anyway.  He did get up willingly and with a smile, each time we asked. Now that’s an angel. I’m sure the quiet young man seated on Tom’s right  who slept for most of the flight, would have wakened If we had asked. Thankfully, we didn’t need to disturb him. We scouted over to my left and stood up as needed.

We arrived in Frankfurt, Germany at 11:05 Frankfurt time on Friday. We had lost 6 hours in real time. Neither of us had slept for even five minutes. Maybe it was excitement about the trip or maybe not. Regardless we felt like we were about 110 years old.

Tom hobbled off the plane and sank gratefully into the wheelchair.  We piled a carry-on and a knapsack on Tom’s lap. A friendly and strong young man, pushed Tom’s wheelchair and pulled a carry-on, down the endless corridors to the elevator. I limped along beside, my knapsack secure on my back. At the elevators, our wheelchair angel, passed us on to another angel, Katie, an enthusiastic youngish woman.  She looked at our papers. “Shaking her head,” she said, “You’ve ten hours to wait! We’ll go to the wheel chair lounge.”

“But we’re flying economy,” I answered.

“No matter.” She helped us settle on the two lounge chairs, organizing our luggage.  She pointed at the corner, “There’s coffee and tea right over there.  I’ll be back to take you for supper. If you need anything just ask at the desk.”

God’s angels certainly are caring for us, I thought.   The chairs were made of plastic wood, a little hard, at least we could stretch out. We slept for about an hour. My trip to the washroom revealed the children’s corner and a small bed. It was just big enough for me to curl up. Best of all, it had a slightly soft, one  inch thick cushion on it. I slept another hour, at which point both of us woke. Once again, Katie the wheelchair angel appeared. This time she whizzed us off in a golf cart, gave us a riding tour of that part of the airport and finally, deposited us at a Bavarian restaurant.

Of course, I took pictures of both food and restaurant. The meal was good, sort of. I ordered the traditional meatloaf slice and potato salad. The slice tasted a great deal like a giant hot dog. Tom, of course, reminded me that hotdogs are skinny frankfurters. Tom fared a little better with his pig’s knuckle. The best part of the meal was a sweet mustard sauce that transformed everything.

Our meal over, we retired to the nearby movie lounge. The big soft chairs, and charging station meant we could power up our technology and connect to the internet. Several hours passed. Tom laid down on the floor to sleep with his legs up on the chair, as he does sometimes at home.  I posted yesterday’s blog and answered a few emails. I couldn’t stay awake any longer. We gathered up our luggage and started to walk back to the lounge.  In less than a minute, angel Katie appeared, her golf cart a gift from heaven.  Two solid hours of sleep in the kid’s bed helped a great deal. When I woke up, I noticed a sign: “This area is only for unattended minors.” I chuckled and thought, that might describe the state of me at the moment.

At 9:00 p.m,. Katie ushered us to the gate for our flight for Johannesburg. We flew off into the sunset. This flight was longer, but more luxurious. We even had real stainless-steel cutlery with our late night dinner. It reminded me of flying Ward Air years ago. Of course, there was wine, beer and liquor aplenty to drink. The meal was served on formica dishes, not plastic. It tasted pretty good, too. International flights are radically different from Air Canada’s domestic ones.

David will pick us up at the airport in Johannesburg. I think I’ll sleep all day Saturday. It’s not the jet lag it’s the inability to sleep. Years ago, when I was flying to New Zealand the seats were bigger and the flights weren’t full. Yes, it was forever on the plane, but I could stretch out across three seats.

More angels tonight. They lifted and lugged suitcases, brought us headphones that actually worked, and helped us work the controls on the on-board entertainment system. I watched a movie, wrote this blog, read my book and just stayed busy instead of sleeping. At that point, I had become to tired to see the angels that surrounded me.