One month gone

Since I last blogged, we have been through 3 countries, flown in 4 airplanes, rode the train under the English channel, experienced all manner of public transportation in London and Paris, and walked miles and miles around the English and French countrysides.  We have been so blessed to have this short Sabbatical time to refresh and reflect on our last 10 years in South Africa.  We all feel recharged and ready for the next stage of our lives.  But our conversations remain full of South African idioms and memories that mean so much to us.  We want to publicly thank Hopeshares for making this rest time possible for us.  It has benefited our family tremendously.

We said our farewells and flew out of Durban on March 29. It felt a bit unreal — like we were just flying back to Canada for a visit — despite all of our good-byes and extra work to wrap up all the details of our South African life. The kids said it seemed like we were leaving for a few months, as we’ve done before. That made the emotions easier for us, which was a grace for the family.

Our little cottage where we spent our first week in England.

Our little cottage where we spent our first week in England.

English fish and chips on a pebble beach.  So awesome!

English fish and chips on a pebble beach. So awesome!

Beautiful little English villages

Beautiful little English villages

Sibling love...

Sibling love…

Marae shares my love of old graveyards!  We found many in the English villages.

Marae shares my love of old graveyards! We found many in the English villages.

My little criminals

My little criminals

The next few days were some of the best – just the five of us, staying in a little cottage in an English village. We rested, talked, explored the countryside and began getting used to a new normal, without the friends, colleagues and work that have made up daily life in South Africa. Over that week we also visited English friends who spent time with us at SOH.

Emma Camp, our former SOH volunteer, entertained us for a few days!  Thanks Emma!

Emma Camp, our former SOH volunteer, entertained us for a few days! Thanks Emma!

And another great volunteer - Rachel Varley!  Loved seeing her for a trip around Bristol!

And another great volunteer – Rachel Varley! Loved seeing her for a trip around Bristol!

And yet another!  A happy evening spent with yet another AFM volunteer - Natalie and her gorgeous little man!

And yet another! A happy evening spent with yet another AFM volunteer – Natalie and her gorgeous little man! We loved meeting her hubby too! Thanks for hosting us all!

The next week, we met up with Carl’s parents, who’d flown to Europe to join us for a trip to Normandy, France. It’d been a dream of Carl’s to see Juno Beach, where his grandfather landed on D-Day, and experiencing that with his parent’s was special. The kids, who had spent only about 3 weeks with their Canadian grandparents in the last 5 years, immediately hit it off with them and kept them entertained with South African stories.

Carl and his mom - posing in front of the beach where his grandfather landed on D-Day.

Carl and his mom – posing in front of the beach where his grandfather landed on D-Day.

Such happy days with family!

Such happy days with family!

Beautiful reunion with grandparents!  Made the trip even sweeter!!

Beautiful reunion with grandparents! Made the trip even sweeter!!

Remembering the soldiers who landed at this beach.

Remembering the soldiers who landed at this beach.

Honouring those fallen...

Honouring those fallen…

Family photo at Elephant Rock in Etitrat, France

Family photo at Elephant Rock in Etitrat, France

Photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower - a MUST if you visit Paris!

Photo shoot in front of the Eiffel Tower – a MUST if you visit Paris!

We had to push through all those crowds to get close enough to see the Mona Lisa!  Crazy!

We had to push through all those crowds to get close enough to see the Mona Lisa! Crazy!

One of the most beautiful places we have ever experienced!  Mont St. Michel...

One of the most beautiful places we have ever experienced! Mont St. Michel…

After a few final days in France, we said goodbye (for now) to Carl’s parents and returned to London, where we stayed with another former SOH volunteer, Hannah Green, and her husband Rowan. Four days later, we were on our way to Tennessee, to Michelle’s mom, and cousins for the kids!

What fun we had staying with Hannah and Rowan Green in London!  Thanks for awesome memories!  "Sally up, Sally down."

What fun we had staying with Hannah and Rowan Green in London! Thanks for awesome memories! “Sally up, Sally down.”

Spoiled by Grandma on our first morning in the States!  Waffles with the works!

Spoiled by Grandma on our first morning in the States! Waffles with the works!

This is my momma and my brother, Rob.  People used to think we were twins.  See the resemblance?

This is my momma and my brother, Rob. People used to think we were twins. See the resemblance?

My littlest brother - loving spending time with him and his amazing family!

My littlest brother – loving spending time with him and his amazing family!

An unanticipated blessing during this trip has been the chance to briefly enter new “worlds” at each step of the way. From rural England, to Normandy, to the big cities of Paris and London, and now the southern US, we’re finding ourselves adjusting and observing differences in how people live, relate and how things work. It struck us how helpful that’s been for our family — not merely jumping from SA to Canada’s contrasts — but seeing how different each place is, and putting this move into that context. I think it will make our adjustment easier knowing that everywhere you can go in the world is both “normal” and “different” depending on your perspective.

This week, we’re having joint birthdays for Marian Kelch (Michelle’s mom) and Elise (10th), and looking ahead to our arrival in Canada next week. Mish’s job search looms large, as well as the logistics of settling our family, getting kids into some sort of school/activity routine, admin details like health care and phones and receiving our boxes from SA, etc. In the midst of it, we look forward to beginning the process of reconnecting with family, friends, and looking to connect with a local church. The list seems to lengthen every day!

12 Responses to One month gone
  1. Paloma Reply

    Oh my gosh Michelle! What a wonderful trip! Have a great time with your mom.

    • Michelle Reply

      It really has been an amazing trip. Now we are just days away from arriving back in St. Albert. Surreal!

  2. Taryn Reply

    So excited to see you all and reconnect soon. I’m so glad you’ve been able to spend this time together transitioning to your new life. I too share your love of graveyards. It is so humbling to walk the same earth as so many have done so long ago – England had so many! What was the oldest date you found?

    • Michelle Reply

      Thanks Taryn! Looking forward to reconnecting when we get back to Canada, too!! I will have to check with Marae as she remembers better than me, but I think the oldest we found was late 1600s….. That we could read. Some of them, I am sure were older, but we couldn’t read the tombstones. The ones inside the churches were older and we could read better….

  3. Ruth Boyd Reply

    Amazing. Love all the England photos. What a dream trip home. Good on you guys for doing this transition so well.

    • Michelle Reply

      Thanks Ruth! We LOVED England! What an amazing country! It really has been the best way to transition! We all feel ready now for what is next – which we didn’t when we left South Africa…

  4. Mom Reply

    Michelle, you are amazing! I am loving having the family here. We have made great memories. I’m sure the kids will always think of the fun we have had working. The time is going too fast. The weather didn’t cooperate either for some of our plans. Love you all!!!!
    God bless as Carl works and studies, as you find a job, and the kids get settled in their activities. Mom

    • Michelle Reply

      Mom, we have loved being here with you! So very much! It has been just what we needed! And have loved that we got to see all the boys! Such special memories!

  5. Luana Reply

    Great blog. We were so happy to be a part of your trip! We had a wonderful time and are looking forward so much to having all of you nearby after your ten years away! Remembrance Day will never be the same for me after our time in Normandy! It was wonderful to take that trip with all of you! Love, Mom/Nan

    • Michelle Reply

      We agree. Remembrance Day has become more real to us now too. We loved our time in France with you guys!

  6. Viv Reply

    Wow that was an awesome read you seem to have had a wonderful holiday and special time with family.
    Enjoy and God Bless looking forward to reading the next blog

    • Michelle Reply

      Thanks sweet Viv! We really did have the most amazing holiday! And have enjoyed family tremendously! Our South African “family” are never far from our thoughts and hearts though.

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