This past weekend marked our monthly visa-renewal trip. Some of us got stamps the previous week when we went in search of prom accessories. However, we were all in need of entirely new visas, rather than just stamps, which is a fun excuse for a road trip. The children have reached a traveler's milestone, in that it's time to add new pages to their passports -- never mind that all of their stamps have been from the same three countries over the past nine months. So, I'll have to make appointments at the embassy for them. How fun!
Before heading to the border on Friday, we stopped by our favorite cafe so the girls could attend a surprise birthday party. It was such fun to see Julianna approach the counter to place her order and see her friends hiding behind it!
Morgan, Julianna, Caelyn, Baylea, Elizabeth, Chantel
Victoria, Baylea, Julianna, Caelyn
After the cafe, we fetched our two extra travel companions, Sheri and Kenyon. Sheri recently replaced a staff member at Craig's office (who has gone on to do relief work in Haiti), and Kenyon is her husband. We had a blast with these guys!
Our time in Nelspruit was a bit more leisurely this trip, since I had done most of my shopping the previous week. We were able to visit the new mall that had opened one day before we arrived. It has all that's found in the old mall, plus a few very nice extras. A bonus for Craig came through serendipity. As I passed by one of my favorite stores, I noticed a fabulous coat in the window, which I found hard to resist. I made a bee line inside the store, where we met the owners, whom we learned are Israeli. We so enjoyed talking with this sweet couple, and it gave Craig an opportunity to practice his Hebrew. We learned that we share a common acquaintance, as well. The next day when we visited the store again, they gave Gabriela a complimentary pair of earrings. How sweet! (I'm still thinking about the coat, unsure of whether or not to buy it.)
Most of the weekend was spent driving around, admiring the scenery, and deciding where to eat. Nelspruit is no foodie haven, but we can at least get a decent omelet, sandwich, or salad. Our accommodations are very comfortable. There are a few Bed & Breakfast options, and we call around ahead of time to see which one has space available for our medium-sized family. ;-) We ended up having to split our stay between two places, while Sheri and Kenyon stayed somewhere else altogether. The hosts at all three places are so pleasant and hospitable.
We managed to squeeze in a movie while the children stayed behind at the B & B. I won't say which movie it was, as everyone has different taste in movies, and I don't wish to do a review. It was entertaining, with a few spots that I could do without. I'll leave it there. Before the movie, though, we all gathered in the children's unit and played games. (Well, they played games while I called my parents.)
When we were leaving the parking garage after the movie, we experienced something that I'm convinced can only happen in Africa: our paid parking pass couldn't be read in the meter, so the gate wouldn't open for us. It was after midnight, so no attendant was available to let us out. My husband, the Problem Solver, drove over the barrier to avoid spending the night inside the parking garage. God was merciful -- we didn't get arrested, and the tires didn't go flat.
Saying good-bye to our hosts, Toby and Luki, is like saying good-bye to family. They treat us very well. However, they wouldn't agree to a photo so early in the morning, so I snapped a couple of their garden, instead.
The weekend passed quickly, as always, but we had a delightful time. Aside from the mean lady at the border station, our trip was uneventful. Apparently, she had a problem with a mother who holds all of the passports in order to avoid having any misplaced by young, distracted hands. She proceeded to slap them on the counter in front of us, individually, yelling in broken English that we must each hold our own. I'd love to have taken her photo, but I'd risk having my camera stolen if I were to bring it out into the open at the Moçambican "frontiera". Anyway, I was relieved that the customs officer decided to stamp our gate pass without searching our vehicle this time.
When we return to the States, I plan to hug the first police officer I see and thank him, right before I drive back and forth over a state line a few times, just for kicks. It'll be refreshing not to have a traffic cop try to bribe us for liquor money. While we're here, though, I'll continue to appreciate hearing so many different languages spoken in one place and seeing such spectacular scenery.
I'm going to Michelle's now to see what everyone else did over the weekend. You should, too!