Two funny things…Another fantastic goodbye with friends at Jabula!…Five hour layover in Johannesburg until 17-hour red-eye to Atlanta…

Norman, with his mouth open a little as if he’s talking back to me. He will be dearly missed.

We are seated in a restaurant with less than stellar food, the only place open at this hour close to our gate. We’re boarding the plane in 70 minutes, so I must rush through this.

A few funny things happened in the past 24 hours. One occurred when we were at Louise and Danie’s house before we headed to Jabula to say goodbye to more friends. We were seated at the bar in their lounge, and suddenly, I heard the funny squeaking noises that mongooses make.

I ran out the back door, and there they were, our usual band of mongooses. Now, I should say there are several bands of mongooses in Marloth Park. But, when they saw me, they stood up on their hind legs and stared at me. Out of context, they didn’t know what I was doing at this other house. I made our usual little clicking sound, and they got so excited they started coming into the house and running around.

We all laughed out loud. I didn’t have paloney for them, but this morning, when they reappeared while we were finishing the packing, I was thrilled to see them again. This time, they got little chunks of cheese and savored every bite. When we left several hours later, we left nine eggs in the garden that we hadn’t eaten. They will undoubtedly wonder where we went, won’t they?

Then, we hadn’t seen Norman since last Wednesday, before I went to the hospital. I was hoping to see him once more time before we left. But with the holidaymakers in the park, we doubted he’d return. He had surely been eating “people food” and had little interest in his healthy diet at our place.

Wouldn’t you know, about 30 minutes before we were to head out the door to drive to the airport, there stood Norman in the garden with that little smile on his face. I squealed with delight! I couldn’t have been more excited to see him. Immediately I ran to the kitchen to cut up the remaining apples and cabbage I’d left for him, just in case.

I tossed the food to him. but he didn’t seem interested in eating. Oh, he nibbled on a few pieces of apple I’d cut for him in his preferred small piece. But he only ate a few. Instead, he stood there looking at me, relishing every word I said, almost as if he knew exactly what I was trying to convey…plain and simple…love.

He stayed quite a while, and after I stopped chattering at him in my high-pitched voice, he finally wandered off. “Bye, Norman. I will miss you and hope to see you when we return in 14 months. Be safe from the lions and take good care of your little family. You’ve brought us both such joy for quite a long time.”

Then, there was last night when several couples stopped by Jabula to say goodbye one last time. The kindness and love couldn’t have meant more to us. Of course, Dawn, Leon, and David offered us an outpouring of love that’s hard to describe. It was all so unique.

This afternoon at 2:00 pm, 1400 hrs., we stopped at Louise and Danie’s to drop off the key to the house, and once more, the warm embrace of loving friends filled our hearts. How did we get so lucky?

Now, as we’re seated in this restaurant at the Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, we are ready to move on. The long flight is ahead of us, but as always, we’ll get through it with optimism and hope for the future.

Thank you for sharing this life with us, day after day, night after night, and country after country. It’s been quite a journey.

Be well.

Photo from ten years ago today, April 29, 2013:

There was no photo on this date as we sailed on a ship through the Strait of Gibraltar. For the story, please click here.