Saturday, September 20, 2008

A very long post of updates

I've decided that it would be easiest to keep this blog for folks to check rather than continue sending weekly updates. Below are the weekly emails from the past 7 weeks of being here!

Week 1
I've spent one week in Africa and it really wasn't until today that I've started to get a touch homesick for friends, church, and Sunday brunch. ha! But we're about to get out of the house and maybe go see a movie and have dinner with some coworkers. That will help!

Here's the week in review:
-- Spent all week in training, which meant no time in my actual office, which means all work from the busiest time of the year has just built up for me to tackle tomorrow. YIKES. But the training was good and I enjoyed spending time with my SA colleagues and meeting colleagues from Uganda, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe!
-- We have ventured into the supermarkets to find while some things are the same, some things are very different! Produce here is relatively inexpensive and I've found that buying the "specials" on meat can save quite a bit. It really is almost as cheap to go to a restaurant as it is to go to the store and make meals. We've made a couple good meals while one or two things have been a big "whiff" (i.e. boerwors sausage really tastes like Christmas and can't be paired well with Italian... sigh).
-- I'm surprised to report that I enjoy TAB. Will thinks I should find some leg warmers and watch Flashdance while I drink it, but seriously, its GOOD. Buy it the next time you're at publix (although it may be different here as coke is different here...).
-- It looks like we will be purchasing a Volvo station wagon. Who knew I'd be riding around town in a station wagon? But the one we like is AWD with great tires, an automatic transmission, sunroof, CD player, and a gate divider for the dogs. Most importantly, its in our price range. It looks like we'll most likely share a car here so it would be a great pick for us as it is sporty, gets great gas mileage, and can tote around a lot!
-- One of my coworkers invited me to a guacamole contest on Friday night, which was great for Will and I. We got out of the house, met some new folks, and had guacamole and nachos. YUM. We also got to watch the opening ceremonies of the Olympics, which was pretty interesting. And for the record, Will came in 3rd with his guacamole (I'd like to throw in that the guac really didn't have time to mesh well and develop its flavor - ha!).
-- Last night Will and I walked down the street to a really yummy (romantic) italian restaurant. The food was outstanding plus they had TV's playing the Olympics so we got our fill of TV and good food.
-- I am inches from becoming "pro" in Wii golf. :) Who knew I'd like it so much? We are still in a temporary house with no car, TV, or internet. Work has loaned me a laptop and a 3G card so I can get online at home. We have no idea when we'll be in our permanent house, but are hoping that it is soon so we will have access to Skype and Vonage and can communicate with all of you! It also sounds like we will get a rental car this week, which will help with Will being 100% sequestered at home while I am at work.
All in all, its been a pretty good week. Work is just incredibly overwhelming right now and I can't wait until September 10, which is when we close down for the end of the fiscal year. Until then, it will be workworkwork and hopefully a move into our new house. We are blessed to find that Stephanie will be joining not only for Christmas but for Thanksgiving too. YAY for family! We cannot wait to celebrate the holidays with friends and loved ones. We think we may try to get over to Cape Town at Christmas since it will be summer here and we will have time off to travel.
We have been asked what items we would want in a care package so I will list them here. We can accept boxes of a max of 14x14x14 (easily found at the UPS store). We cannot accept liquids over 16 oz. or anything in glass containers.
Here are some things we're starting to miss!
-- Orbit gum (bubblemint or sweet mint)
-- Spanish rice and fat free refried beans
-- Cookies (chips ahoy, milanos, oreos - they don't exist here)
-- Dryer sheets (they simply don't exist here)
-- Doritos (cool ranch/nacho cheese) and baked tostitos
-- Salsa
-- Grits
-- Maple & brown sugar oatmeal

Mexican food does not exist here and what they do have in terms of it is terrible. BOO. I'm also surprised at how much items like dish soap, hand soap, aluminum foil, plastic wrap, and other regular household items cost. Usually these items are about $1 at home (well, the kind I buy) but here they are like $4-5, which is insane. In terms of sending a package, I was surprised to find how inexpensive it costs to ship the 14x14x14 boxes. At the UPS store, I think the most expensive one that I sent was about $12 and that one weighed 25 pounds. On average, they cost about $8-9 for a 15 pound box of stuff. I've also updated my wish list to reflect these items so they are easy to find (just go to, hit "wish lists" and type or my name). Anyway, that's it for now. I'm working on updating the wedding website, but that's an undertaking with the internet I have right now. Thanks for all your thoughts and prayers. We certainly need them in terms of us being placed in our permanent house and for Will finding a job here. I hope to hear from you, even if its just a teeny blurb to catch me up on your life.

Week 2
Its week two already! I'm getting ready in just a minute to try my hand at making spaghetti. Its hard to buy tomato sauce when you don't read Afrikaans! I'm also making it with pork sausage, which I've never done before. But I think I have all the ingredients. Keep your fingers crossed it turns out well or I guess Will and I will have to go out to dinner!

So the week in review...Its been a busy week! We spent some considerable time at the U.S. Embassy here this week doing the formal in-processing into the diplomatic world. We have our badges, which means we can get into the Embassy now sans escort. YAY! This is big news. It also means that we've met some really great folks outside of my agency. Not that anything is wrong with my folks, but its nice to meet some new faces on our own.

Work on its on is insane. I found out this week that I can't access several of my much-needed applications from my computer here. This stinks, understandably, as it meant that work I needed to do had to just sit there. Its just not the best time of year for this to be happening. I think things are cleared up now, but it took a week to get them done. Blah.

We were assigned our house on Friday and are happy to report that its awesome. We've just driven by it and don't know when our official move date is, but I think it will be some time soon. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers as this housing issue has been very complicated.

Will and I have a rental car so we can get out of our house now on our own watch. I cannot tell you how liberating it is! Its also amusing to watch Will turn on the turn signal only to flip on the windshield wipers. He does it EVERY time and it sends us both into peals of laughter. :) We went to a wine & cheese event hosted for diplomats last night and met some great folks. Again, its nice to get out of the house and meet people (and try other people's food!). One lady I met brought some amazing homemade raspberry scones. YUM. Afterwards, we went to Prosopa, I think our official favorite restaurant here, and I had a delicious chicken/tomato/mushroom pasta dish that was phenomenal. Will had a steak with "chocolate" sauce which was similar to a mole and fantastic mashed potatoes. Best of all, it wasn't so expensive!

Today we went to the ambassador's house for Family Fun day. We ate traditional braai food (I still don't like it at all. boo. I tried.) and joined Virgin Active gym. It ain't cheap, but its right by my office so its very convenient for us. We got a deal and free gym bags and shirts if we signed up at the thing, so we did and that's that. Everyone says its a great gym and they have a pool, classes, free weights, etc. so it really has everything we need. I also signed up with a running club here as I've seen several running about after work, which leaves me wanting to jump out of the car and join them. I may run a 5K in a couple weeks if my foot heals. That reminds me.

I sliced my foot open completely on one of the stairs in my house (no, I don't always walk around barefoot, but happened to be barefoot at the time of the incident). The edge sliced my foot like a butcher knife. It was TERRIBLE, but fortunately Nurse Will is fantastic. Its a deep cut underneath three of my toes, but thanks to Will, its not infected and will heal.

Will and i went to the super grocery store today where I found Frosted Mini Wheats and Special K Red Berries. I was super excited to find cereal (its rare to find anything but corn flakes) and then saw the price - $10 a box! WHAT THE?!? All cereal here is extremely expensive! Even plain ol' corn flakes. Ew. Again, its so weird what's expensive and what isn't so please add to the "List of Things Valerie Can't Get" cereal! We like Crispix, Frosted Mini Wheats, Cocoa Puffs, and Smart Start. Will would like to add that he likes "tasty" cereal so if you ever see cereal that's "tasty" - he'll eat it. haha.

Speaking of food, here's something new I tried this week: chakalaka! It is AWESOME. I had it mixed with baked beans and served cold and oh my goodness, it was heaven on earth. Spicy, tangy, tomato-ey, yumness. I will bring home some cans of it as it is awesome!

We also found out this week that there is no such thing as breakfast sausage or italian sausage here. Our recent scouring of supermarkets has determined this to be true. I will have to figure out recipes for both to make with plain sausage and try my hand at making my own. Wish me luck. We also tried making burgers twice this week and both times were failures. The meat here is just gross. It tastes like meat that got freezer burned and was then defrosted in the microwave too long so that it cooked on the outside but not in the middle. Was that specific enough to let you know its gross? Its just a weird yuck flavor that bless Will's heart, as good of a cook as he is, he can't over come it. I'm hoping it will be better for tacos or chili, but as a burger, yuck. Its terrible. This coupled with the nasty chicken legs (YUCK) and boererwors (yucky South Africa sausage) that they always serve at braais is leading me the vegetarianism, slowly but surely. Crazy. So that's that!

We're excited about moving into our permanent home soon. Keep your fingers crossed/prayers that we can move next week. Our air freight is here with all of my clothes and other items we were expecting to see after two weeks and we can't have it until we're in our permanent home (makes sense - I don't want to unpack 450 pounds of stuff, repack it, and unpack it again anyway). Thanks to those of you who gave me a shout out this week. Once we get into the permanent home, I can get on skype and can hook up vonage so it will be so much easier to communicate. In the mean time, I am on gmail chat so if you have a gmail account, look for me next time you're online. Hope everyone is well and enjoying the last bit of summer! Love you all more than sweet tea from Chick-fil-a!

Week 3
Its week three and I can't believe it. Time is just flying by! Here are the highlights from this week: WE MOVED! (pictures to come soon)

We moved on Friday to our permanent house in Waterkloof ( I am just around the corner from my friends at the Bohemian House, the fantastic place I stayed in February/March. We are also extremely close to my favorite little shopping center that has a Woolworth's where they know us now, a great Italian cafe where they'll let me buy italian sausage, my favorite fancy Italian restaurant that has opera nights, and my fave restaurant of all, Prosopa. Those of you who come to visit will certainly visit these places and enjoy the rolling hills of Waterkloof.

Back to the house... We are in a tuscan style house, complete with golden stucco walls and spanish tile roof. Its a large two story house, especially for being just a two bedroom home! Yes, that's right. We have two master suites (the one downstairs has a twin bed which we can change out for a queen if we know you're coming!) with full bathrooms. We have two other toilets, one inside the house and the other on the side of the house, which I'm guessing is for the gardener. There are two other rooms that can be used as bedrooms. One is a tiny study, where I am now - it just has a desk and two bookcases. The other is a formal living room that also has a desk so we'll probably put another bed in there if we have more guests. The entire house is tiled in this fantastic dark stone tile. It is GORGEOUS. The cabinets are all dark cherry hardwoods and the countertops are a dark granite. Everything else in the house is cream so the house is very bright and sunny. It is absolutely beautiful. There is a really fantastic bar area, which Will has already stocked in the hopes of having people over soon. All the cabinets have fantastic recessed lighting, which leaves me wondering what on earth I'll put in them to display. We have a nice kitchen with lots of storage space and a huge fridge. We love the open layout of the house - the kitchen, dining room, living room, and patio are all one continuous space yet separated by levels and I love that. We have a skylight in our foyer, which is very nice.

Our master bedroom is huge, with so much closet space and a beautiful balcony off of the room that overlooks Pretoria. Our bathroom is amazingly huge with our favorite feature of the house: a shower that heats up in 20 seconds and has great water pressure. The temporary house had no water pressure at all (seriously - it was like someone was spitting on you!) and the water took FOREVER to heat up. I must also say that our wedding bedding (heehee, that sounds funny) looks so beautiful. It was so great to crawl into a bed made with my own linens last night! It makes a huge difference to put a mattress pad on these hard as rock beds! Our yard is really nice too. Its not as big as the yard at our temporary house, but it is plenty big for Muddy and Sanford to enjoy. We have a beautiful stone tile patio with a big grill. It overlooks our pool, which we think has a waterfall when its working. Its not a huge pool, but it is big enough to lounge around and enjoy.

Our yard has a lot of work that needs to be done to it, but it does have interesting cactus. We have several "bird of paradise" ( in the yard, a huge rosemary bush, and most importantly, a lemon tree! You all know how much I love lemons and now all I have to do is walk outside and pick one of the (thorny) tree! Yay! I forgot to mention: we have a two car garage, a deep freezer, and a brand new washer and dryer that make me ecstatically happy. So this is all to say, we are fantastically happy in our house.

First, we must get our phone line so we can FINALLY get our vonage so we can talk to you folks! After that, we must get internet, which I've heard is an undertaking as you have to purchase a DSL line and then purchase an internet provider. They cap internet here so you are only allowed a certain Gig amount a month. There are unlimited packages, but the ones I've seen cost $100/month, in addition to the DSL line, which is about $50/month. However, Will and I are seriously considering not purchasing satellite TV here so perhaps that cost savings could justify the unlimited Internet? Plus we purchased a sling box before we left so we could watch TV shows from the states here. Don't ask me how it works as this technology is beyond me, but somewhere we can watch TV on Will's parents TV and get UGA games, The Closer, etc. To me, if we are using this, it makes sense to have the unlimited internet and no TV. We've also heard we could get a projector here and just display the TV show that way so it doesn't have to be watched on the computer. All to be decided soon... phew.

Another next step includes buying a car. We have 3 weeks left with the rental car before we have to start paying for it so the clock is ticking. We're heading to a car show in the morning (why they only do these things in the early hours of the morning are beyond me... nothing is open past noon!) so wish us luck. We were going to go to church, but its a 9 o'clock service and we rationalized that to go to church, we need a car so... car first. sigh

We are also "expected" to hire a housekeeper, gardener, and pool person some time soon. We get two free weeks of the gardener and pool, but after that, its up to us to find someone. We've found a potential housekeeper who will come one day a week. One of our friends here hires her and apparently she is working for work. She comes one day a week and would clean up dog hair, do laundry, clean, whatever. The monthly cost? $100. Seriously. Will and I are going to try and plant a small herb garden, but there are plenty of spots in the yard that need help from a professional gardener. Wish us luck in finding one that isn't scared of dogs as EVERYONE here is scared to death of Muddy and Sanford (and yes, the housekeeper loves dogs).

We haven't had any crazy food mishaps this week, which is good news. I just made beef stroganoff and it turned out pretty well. I used sweet onions which made the sauce sweeter than I would care for, but otherwise, it was really good and reminded me of home. I did find that they don't have egg noodles here, but that's okay - I just paired it with some noodles I had on hand. Wait. I take all this back. Will attempted chili one night this week. I left it up to him as he had bought all the stuff for it. I will say this: he did a good job, but my strange consistency issues got the better of me. It was... runny. And had big steak chunks in it that made me think "pot roast," not chili. Fortunately, Will is accustomed to my picky-ness and after watching me attempt to eat it to please him, was incredibly understanding when I abandoned it for other things in the fridge. Oh well. Live and learn.

In good/bad news, we did get our air freight on Friday. We're extremely worried we're missing a box as we got clothes from one portion of one closet labeled air, plus Will's fishing tackle is missing. We're hoping they just changed their mind and didn't put it on the air freight as maybe it was too heavy. However, all the clothes that I was expecting to get in my air freight are not here and the clothes I did get are extremely random. Keep your fingers crossed that this stuff is on its way and not missing somewhere in the air as that would be terrible. We put all of our clothes on air freight so we'd have them and now all we have are formal suits and other things that aren't day-to-day wear. We're also missing our box of pots and pans that we shipped the day we left. I'm thinking that the glass bowl inside the box made the box be sent back, but I don't know where it was sent to (and am hoping Will does). I didn't know at the time that you can't ship glass in the diplomatic pouch so please - don't ship glass to me!

Other news here...Everyone speaks to us in Afrikaans. I know no Afrikaans aside from "dankie" which is thank you. Very weird and it really makes me wonder what they said to me... There are mimes that entertain you while you're at traffic lights. Its very strange as I don't care for people in masks or paint anyway and they come up to your car and do a crazy dance or a little act and it scares me more than entertains me. Needless to say, I 100% avoid eye contact! Other entertainment at traffic lights today included girls in hot pants passing out Coke Zero. Crazy! Coke Zero is new here so I guess they are trying to get the word out. I kept my Coke Zero and gave it to a guy on the street begging for food.

That's another thing. At almost every traffic light, there is someone asking for food. Some have signs, some look clean, some look desperate for a meal, some offer to take your trash in your car in exchange for change, but all are throwing themselves into crazy traffic to get food, money, clothes, whatever. I routinely save parts of my meals so I can give them to people on the side of the road. Before you think that's unsafe, believe me - (1) Will is always with me and just as everyone is scared of the dogs, they are even more scared of Will as he is extremely tall/big compared to the South Africans and (2) I give them stuff in broad daylight and to people who really look like they need a meal and who I know won't hurt me. Its a simple exchange - as soon as I give it to them and the thank you is exchanged, they are off. Bottom line: I can't help it. It breaks my heart to see people starving. Anyway.

So I had an idea today. I always save my stuff for the people I think need it most as I usually only have one thing to give per day, if even that, so I usually give it to people that are barefoot. I can't imagine begging for food in the street barefoot. There is glass, trash, dirt, grease - you name it - and they are standing in it, looking so dirty and skinny and carrying signs that say "3 dependents - please help with food or clothes" and it breaks my heart. So I was thinking (and if you've read this far, kudos to you... I didn't meant to send such a long email!) - this time of the year, flip flops are on sale everywhere for like 50 cents (like Old Navy, walgreens, whatever). If you happen to see some for super cheap, would you send them to me? I will keep them in my car and pass them out so they can have at least something to put on their feet while standing in the road. It won't be much, but could provide them with the temporary relief that my coke zero or piece of bread provides. I just feel that when I'm in the midst of such poverty, this is at least one small thing I can do to make someone's day a little better. So that's it for now - and its a lot!

Its 9:00 and I guess I'm going to go watch more episodes of "The Closer" with Will and try the strawberry/vanilla ice cream we got today at the store. Dessert here STINK - did I mention that? It all looks good, but it tastes like blah. So I'm hopeful this ice cream isn't a major whiff... As always, if you'd like to opt out of my weekly updates, my feelings will not be hurt. I don't want to be clogging anyone's inbox! As time progresses, these may get few and far between. But for now, its my way of saying "Hi!" from across the ocean. I hope everyone is well. I miss you all very much and hope that you will consider making the journey here soon.

Week 4
Can you believe we've been here one month (and are already missing UGA football? Go Dawgs!)??? Here's the run-down of the week:

Work: INSANELY busy! I've been working 10+ hour days almost every day this week. Ick. The good news is that things are going off my desk and it looks like the only time I will have to put in weekend hours is next weekend. Not bad, I think! I've been earning comp time which is good as Will and I will be spending the week after Christmas in Cape Town with Steph and our friend Christy so I won't really have to use leave to take vacation. Nice, huh? I'll be glad when September 10 gets here as that is the cut off day to get my work done.

Home: While its been great moving into our new home, we've had NUMEROUS issues with our new house. Its a good thing Will has been home during the day as we've had someone at the house fixing something every day. Whether its been the electric fence around our house, getting light bulb fixtures fixed, having the gardener come by and clean up the yard, having the pool guy come and fix the screeching pool (so weird), etc. etc. etc. Nothing major and nothing that is threatening our security, but I guess it just goes with the territory of moving some place new. Sooner or later we will have all the carpets replaced in the house and I am NOT looking forward to it at all as I'm sure it will take longer than it has to.

Dogs: Muddy has discovered that lemons are tennis balls. It is the funniest thing to watch him chase lemons around the yard! He will carry them around in his mouth, eventually biting into them, and then makes the funniest face, like "WHAT is that?!?!" hahaha. Sanford got a bath on Monday, which was interesting as I had to get in the shower with him and lather him up. He was SO HAPPY after he got bathed, it made me want to give him a bath every day! He was hopping around and playing like a puppy. So cute. Oh - and Will found out we can't leave the dogs on our balcony when people come to the house as Muddy figured out how to get on the roof! Fortunately, he was adept at getting down off the roof but phew. What a mess.

Food: The food is getting infinitely better here! Will made a fantastic "drunken chicken" this week and it has to be the best chicken I've ever had. He used rosemary and lemons from our yard and rubbed the chicken with cajun spices and oh my goodness, YUM. We also did better on round #2 of spaghetti, so that was good! Will also made sweet tea this week. YUM. Social life: Last Sunday night we joined some folks that we had met at the embassy orientation for a braai. I ended up meeting two other newlyweds my age and we hit it off. I had been craving girl time and while no one can replace my wonderful friends back home, there is just something nice about having a girl to talk to! Anyway, they are all coming over tonight - we're having our first "party" and the menu is so strange - pork ribs, sausages, steak, hummus and tzatziki with pita, samosas, guacamole and tostitos, corn on the cob. Hmmm. The others are bringing side dishes so maybe it won't be so random if they bring a salad or something. Ha! I'm looking forward to it. Last night we also went out to the embassy "Night on the Town" event, which was at this Lebanese restaurant with belly dancers. The food was good and so was the company and it was nice to just spend time with folks outside of work.

Utilities: Well, we're signed up for Internet, but it will be 3 weeks before we get it, which means 3 more weeks without Vonage/Skype. One day, one day!

Car: Will took me car shopping this morning and we're also going car shopping on Monday, my day off. Will is INTENT on getting a Land Rover Defender 1-10 and we found one in our price range. We took it for a test drive and I wish I could get as excited about it as Will gets. Its not my dream car, but it would make him so happy if we got it - plus you can't get one in the states. Its a very man car and is very bare bones on the inside - not so cushy and comfy. It would be great for toting the dogs around and anything else and it drives really nice. We'll see. We're also going to look at Hyundais, Kias, and Jeeps on Monday. Apparently Hyundai and Kia make their cars differently here and they're really good? So we'll see. Will has x-nayed all plans for a Volvo station wagon so that is off the table. I am so indifferent when it comes to cars - I just want something safe, air-conditioned, and that will sell when we leave. That's it! Once we get this car thing settled, we'll finally have weekends free to go somewhere and see things. There are several game parks closeby and I told Will I'd like to do a safari on horseback. That would be fun! We'll see. I hope everyone is well!

Week 6 - I can't find the e-mail from this week, but the update was - we got a Land Rover Defender!!!

Week 7
Time really flies here! I can't beleive we are already 7 weeks into our life here!

The major life update of the week is that we finally have internet at home! YAY! We got the router yesterday (they pronounce it as "rooter") and the filter (they pronounce it as "faulter") which made for some very interesting "lost in translation" IT discussions. Will set up the internet and had it working perfectly. When he tried to set up our Vonage, that's when it all started to derail. One of my friends from work (an IT guy) came by and tried to help and they still couldn't get it to work. Will spent the better part of yesterday on the phone with the internet folks trying to fix it. Of course he asked me to spend today working on it. I hook it up and bada bing! It works like a charm. The only thing I'm noticing is that my Gchat is disabled, which is annoying, but not the end of the world. I think that may get fixed sooner or later. So what does this mean? We now have access to Skype and our slingbox (haven't tried either yet, but will soon...), but we don't have our Vonage hooked up yet. I will let everyone know once that is working. Anyway, we're just excited to finally have Internet at home! YAY!

This means are "to do" list is dwindling down. I still have my medical visit to make - its my last thing to check off the embassy in-processing list. I take care of that on Tuesday. Sometime next week we will get the Diplomatic plates for our car, which gets us one step closer to claiming the VAT on the car purchase (14%!). We also need to change our gym membership, which I think we'll be doing today.

That really only leaves the biggest thing - getting our household goods shipment! I found out that our shipment was delayed a week due to inclement weather in the Atlantic Ocean but it supposedly made port in Durban on Thursday. It usually takes about a week to get things to Pretoria so I'm hoping that by this time next week, we'll have a closet full of clothes, a kitchen full of plates, pots, and pans, and cabinets stocked with goodies. I'm tired of wearing the same clothes and shoes for the past two months! And to be 100% honest, I can't wait to get our pizza pan so we can make yummy pizzas at home. I'm craving one!

And speaking of cravings, my craving for sushi and thai has been satiated! The "thai restaurant" (that's what the sign outside says!) finally opened on Wednesday right down the street from my office. Will and I decided to go for dinner and sit outside in this little gazebo since the weather was nice. We got a sushi starter and thai entrees. The sushi (a tuna roll) was seriously one of the best I've ever eaten, even at home! Our thai entrees were awesome, except mine was so spicy it made my nose run! But it was so tasty I ate every bite. I went again for lunch yesterday and got a different appetizer and sushi roll that were equally amazing as my dinner, which sums it up that this restaurant may be my new favorite! We're going again tonight with our newlywed friends (but I think I'll just stick to a thai soup and entree rather than sushi...). Anyway, its just nice to find a place with incredible thai and sushi (and the prices are so reasonable! $5 for a spicy tuna roll with 8 HUGE pieces).

I've been CRAVING seafood so badly here as its impossible to find in the grocery stores and when I do find it, it makes my stomach turn (think of all those articles that advise how to purchase fish and what NOT to get - and that's what they have here - smelly fish with cloudy eyes and open mouths - EW!). Its hard to find shrimp here - instead, there are prawns which are massively huge shrimp. I liken it to eating a shrimp steak as they are so very big. You really only need two prawns to feel full. It grosses me out for some reason... probably because in addition to it being like a huge white shrimp steak, they serve the prawns with their heads and antennae on. Ew. I can't explain it, but its just gross to me. Anyway, sushi helps to meet my seafood craving. I also ate dinner last night at a place and got a Madagascar prawn curry, which was quite tasty.

Mom and Dad have been absolute rock stars and helped stock my pantry with things I've been craving from the states - black beans, chili beans, refried beans, salsa, all sorts of 100 calorie packs of cookies, mac & cheese, orbit gum, etc. etc. etc. My dear mother-in-law also sent an amazing goody box with yummy tea, chewy chips ahoy, blessed blessed grits, and more. Its been so nice to peek into the pantry and feel like there are more options when it comes to dinner time. Chelsea also sent a huge box of flip-flops, which I have started to hand out to people on the road. Yay! And the sweet Little Friend sent so many hangers - thank you! I appreciate everyone sending us something little. It does take time to get here, but it really makes our day to open letters and packages together at the end of the day.

Speaking of dinner time, I am ecstatic to report that Will successfully made ostrich burgers this week! The beef mince here is so terrible that our previous two attempts to make burgers were deemed such failures that we resigned ourselves to not have burgers for two years. Sad, right? Since finding that ostrich meat is so tasty in tacos and sloppy joes, we thought, why not? We did add a little beaten egg to the meat as ostrich is VERY lean (less than 200 calories for a pound of meat!) and has almost no fat so in order to make a burger patty, it needed something to help bind it together. Mine still fell apart, but I just got out a fork and ate away! It was so good and again, if I didn't tell you it wasn't beef, aside from it falling apart in chunks (which maybe you would blame on poor grilling technique), you'd never know you were eating a humongous bird! Yay. Wow, this really is an email about food. Hmmm. Guess you can see how we entertain ourselves here!

Our housekeeper came for the first time this week. Her name is Maria and she's an absolute rock star. She told me she was so happy to become a part of our family. :) I never realized how dirty this house must have been until I came home that evening and saw a sparkling house. It makes me realize how much I don't clean even though I'm pretty neat (i.e. I haven't used wood polish in who knows when and its nice to see a sparkling dresser and nightstand!). I told her it was the floors that always concerned me as the dogs track in dust and grass and shed hair. Not only did she vacuum and sweep, she mopped and polished our beautiful stone floors. Amazing. Its really weird for me to have a housekeeper, especially when Will and I can do all these things, but I'm expected to have a housekeeper and gardener. Plus it makes me happy to know I'm helping out someone. She was looking for work and I helped her out. We also hired her adopted son to be our gardener. She has four adopted children. As I get to know her, I will share her story with you, as I know her life is so different from ours. She's just such a kind person and I am very glad she's in our life.

We did go see Tropic Thunder last night. I think too many people hyped it up for me as I thought it was just okay. I did laugh quite a bit, but it wasn't what I thought it would be. I am still trying to get Will to see "Mamma Mia!" but he refuses. Hmmm. Maybe I can get some ladies together to go see it. And that's it! Thanks again for reading all the way through this. Please catch me up with what's going on with you as again, without the Vonage, this is my only method of communication with you. I hope everyone is well and know that we miss you very much.

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