Thursday, July 12, 2012

Welcome to South Africa


I arrived at the O.R. Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa on Monday, June 11 at 8:30am.  After proving to the authorities that I did, in fact, have a reservation to leave the country in a timely manor, I received the security stamp of approval.

I'm still not sure how it happened, but somehow I was approved at LAX to check two 50lb. bags with no additional fees.  Upon landing in Johannesburg, I faced the somewhat daunting task of hauling the two duffle bags, my backpack, and a purse to where Giana would be waiting for me.  I so appreciate the kind American gentleman who helped me with one of my bags (there was not a cart in sight).

I LOVED seeing Giana's beautiful smiling face. It'd been almost a year and I've missed that face!

We loaded the bags into the teeny tiny borrowed car Giana drove to the airport and we headed north to Lanseria.  It's very disconcerting to suddenly be on the left side of the road.  Giana has adapted so well to the rules of South African driving - even though said rules appear to be mostly optional.  Just two minutes from the orphanage where Gia has been volunteering we were pulled over in a random road check. Although Giana's visa had come through, she still had not picked up the actually physical proof, so the police gave us a bit of grief. Welcome to South Africa!

As we drove down the little dirt road to Refilwe Community Project, Gia informed me that my job as passenger would be to open and shut the gate behind the car once she drove in.

It took two 12-hour plane rides to travel from Los Angeles to Johannesburg, but I slept surprisingly well in the air and was therefore pretty well rested.  I was absolutely ready to get to work.  Instead, I spent most of the day just getting acquainted.

I was already in love with the kids, parents, and staff at Refilwe because they've loved my little girl for the past year. You want to win points with a mom - love her kid!  It was an amazing privilege and gift to finally get to meet the Refilwe family face to face.

I quickly met Giana's crazy and manic kitty cat. Her name is Cabbage, but Gia calls her "Lovey". Lovey immediately made an impression on me and left my arms and hands bloodied.  Awwww....Lovey.

Giana's Refilwe home

More about my amazing three weeks in South Africa to come in later posts.  But let me leave you with this thought - never EVER underestimate the power of love, don't ever give up, and do not stop believing.  Giana is most definitely a walking miracle and she has turned mourning to joy!