Eureka, MO 63025
Festive Fall greetings from the USA!
Dear Family & Friends
Wow, the time flies. I have been meaning to sit down and write this letter for the last few weeks and I at last got to it. Once again I can't believe that 8 months has past since the last newsletter in February - and the scary part is that we haven't been that busy at all. Life has settled down into a comfortable routine and we are starting to feel less like tourists and more like citizens.
Our little family has been reduced to three in February when Snuggles passed away. She became very ill and we had to put her down and after 15 years, being part of our lives, she left an empty space in our hearts. Buttons adapted fast to being the only dog and he is now the King of the Hill. We thought of getting another puppy to keep him company but his reaction to the puppies was so negative that we decided against it. He has become my second skin and where I go there he is!
Tony started a new job in May and he is working very hard. Mercantile Bank is about the same size as ABSA in terms of its assets. He is responsible for Technology planning and he is finding the new job much more stimulating than at Boatmens.
Our summer was weatherwise very nice although a bit dry. After last years hot and humid summer this year was most pleasant. We only had a few weeks at the end of July that was very hot and humid, the rest of the time was great. Our few shrubs in the garden are starting to flourish as long as I keep them watered. I must admit that the garden is not wonderful because neither Tony nor me are gardeners! El Nino is also big news here but has an opposite effect than the drought back home. They predict a milder winter for the far north, a harsh winter for us in the Midwest and an even worse winter for those in the south. It is also causing flooding in areas that are very dry like in Arizona and Nevada. Los Angeles, which is normally very dry, is having a lot of rain currently.
As far as visiting places and doing fun things over weekends we still try to see or do something at least once a month in between mowing the lawn and cleaning the house - so we have been riding on "Jan Tuisbly se karretjie"! We had a week off in March and went on day trips around St Louis. Missouri is a very beautiful state with rolling hills covered with natural oak forests. There is a big lake in the middle of the state called the "Lake of the Ozarks" and it is a very popular destination for the locals. The lake is one of the biggest manmade lakes built in the 1930s by the local St Louis electric company and the powerplant provides electricity to a large area in Missouri. There are about 1150 miles of shores and is teeming with fish and bird life. We rented a little motorboat to go out on the lake and of course Buttons was with us. We forgot that he is terrified of water and he was not a happy dog sailing on the lake. At one stage he climbed up me and got wedged in the life savings jacket! Back on terra firma he acted as if nothing was wrong.
We celebrated our second "4th of July" under the arch. They have so much going on over the weekend we decided to stay over in a friend 's (old South African) apartment, which is across the road from the arch. He went to Charlotte to celebrate with his family. A big stage was erected under the arch and there were singers and bands playing all the time. The highlights were the air show by McDonnell Douglas and the fireworks. There were tons of food and souvenir stalls. On Saturday morning there was a street parade with colourful floats. It was also one of the coolest Independence Days ever - 18°C instead of middle 40s!
In September we went on our first official holiday or rather vacation as it is called here. We planned a traditional road trip and enjoyed it very much. Buttons went with and he is now called the "accidental tourist" by the neighbors. Our round trip was 2930 miles and we traveled through 10 states: Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky and Illinois.
Our first stop was Memphis, Tennessee where we visited Elvis' home, Graceland. We couldn't believe that 20 years after his death there are still so many fans and visitors visiting his estate. We waited for two hours in line to see the house! The house is still exactly the same as when Elvis lived there and was redecorated just before he died. Everything is the Seventies style and some rooms are very gaudy with even shag carpeting on the ceilings.
Thereafter we traveled south to New Orleans, Louisiana and stayed in the French Quarter, which is the big tourist attraction. The architecture is very different and the nightlife in the Quarter is not unlike the old Hillbrow - not a place for a family with kids. It was pretty busy when we were there and I can just imagine what it must be like in February during Mardi Gras. We've heard that it can become pretty rough and rowdy. We even saw some transvestites! They call New Orleans the "Big Easy" and everything is very laid back and everything goes. The locals pronounce it Naw'lins and the city is modern with high skyscrapers. Buttons picked up a few Naw'lins fleas which made life a bit of a misery for him, fortunately there was enough cats in the backyard of the guest house where we stayed, for him to chase.
From there we traveled East around the gulf coast to Florida and spent some time on the beaches doing nothing but swimming and eating. The first beach was at Panama City and then at Clearwater Beach in the Tampa area. The sand on the beaches is amazing; it is pure white and has the consistency of sugar. We visited Busch Gardens, which is a wild animal theme park (more like a giant zoo), and massive big roller coaster rides. I don't have a burning desire to ride these any more after our first visit to Six Flags, which left me feeling, nauseated for the rest of the day. Tony was all gung ho to ride them but in the end he got cold feet. From Tampa we went on to Disney World in Orlando where we visited Epcot Center, Universal Studios and the Magic Kingdom. Mickey and Minnie Mouse send their regards and Buttons got to pose for a photo next to a Mickey Mouse.
From Orlando it took us 2 days to drive back to Missouri. The two weeks flew by and now it doesn't even feel like we were away on holiday!
At the moment everybody is busy preparing for the big holiday traditions. First comes Halloween and I am getting caught up in the decorating hype. I have got orange coloured lights and Frankenstein skulls around the front door, a wreath made out of artificial fall foliage on the door and a lit up pumpkin face - ready for all the trick or treaters that will be knocking on the door on the 31st. The next holiday will be Thanksgiving and we hope somebody will invite us for turkey and mash potatoes. Then onto Christmas and New Year. Tony will once again decorate the house with lights and the neighbors plan to get together and then walk from house to house to decide which house is the brightest and prettiest. This Christmas is going to be the first here in the US on our own and we will try and make the best of it.
Last weekend we had a rodeo in our town and we had to go and watch the cowboys do their stuff. They had wild bronco riding, calf roping (I cheered for the calves), barrel racing (cowgirls racing on the horses around barrels) and bull rides. They also had an event where they tie a ribbon on a calf and then get all the kids in the audience into the arena. They let the calf loose and the kids chase him. The kid that gets the ribbon gets a prize. The evening was going pretty well until the bull ride event. The second cowboy and bull ride ended in tragedy - the bull threw the cowboy and mauled him a bit and during the scuffle the bull broke his hind leg. It was so sad to see the magnificent big animal in agony like that. The organizers assured everyone that they will do their best for the bull and that something like that rarely happens.
We are also planning to go on 2 bicycle rides in October to see the trees in their autumn colours. There are a lot of bike trails to choose from and we selected one that runs in the forests and the other one runs parallel next to the Mississippi River. At the moment the weather is still unseasonably warm and we hope that it will stay like this for the rest of the month.
Thankyou to everyone that have written to us - we can't tell you how much it means to us to hear from friends and family. It has become a daily ritual to wait for the mailman and hoping there will be a letter from home and it is always exciting to see the airmail letters! We receive the daily SA news via E-mail, so we are up to date with the news of our country and we would love to be so up to date on the news from our family and friends! Please write soon - we miss y'all very much!
Annelise and Tony Buttons