Their parents are longtime friends. Andrew was my first charter pilot on the earliest trips to Africa. He and his wife, Ingrid, have become dear friends… special people in my life. Naturally, I’ve known their daughters, Emma and Holly, since they were born…I visit with them in their South African town, East London, every couple of years! Fast forwarding, Emma was graduating from high school, so Michael and I offered to bring her to the USA to celebrate the milestone. It turned into a trip for both Emma and her younger sister Holly (age 12,) leaving their country for the first time, to join us in the United States for two weeks…and so, the adventure began.
Our whirlwind two weeks started the first week in December when we collected the girls at JFK airport and checked into our Manhattan hotel… right in the middle of the theater district and a stone’s throw from Times Square.
ACTION and AMAZEMENT were the keywords for our 5 days in the Big Apple. The skyscrapers, the crowds, the Christmas decorations, all the Starbucks shops (there are none in East London,) and the giant pretzels were just some of the most anticipated attractions. With YouTube, the girls came with some expectations, but everything seemed bigger and better in person!
We added a Broadway show…WICKED…to the mix!
We left Manhattan and drove for 5 hours to our home in a suburb of Syracuse, New York. We hoped to see some snow, as the girls were really anxious to have their first experience with the white, fluffy stuff! We did see a bit, but they looked forward to actually seeing it falling!
We decided to use our few days at home as chill time…we all needed it! The girls watched “American Netflix” (different from South African Netflix,) worked on their journals, explored the area a bit….and did see the snow falling. The Dollar Store was a tremendous hit… they don’t have anything like that at home. Our local art museum was hosting a Christmas Tree Contest…fun to see and the ropes course high up in Destiny Mall’s ceiling area was a scary challenge (for us as watchers…)
The weekend found us in Niagara Falls where we caught up with our daughter and her kids…the kids have all been social media friends for a while, but this was the first time they actually met. A visit to TARGET was another “must see” for the girls…they knew TARGET from YouTube! Our last couple of days at home we had snow, built a snowman (in spite of the fact that there wasn’t much snow,) and we celebrated Emma’s turning 18…again…(we celebrated in NYC, too. After all, you’re only EIGHTEEN once!!)
With a send-off from longtime friend, Martina, and her very sweet therapy dog, Poppy, we were off for the final leg of our collective journey …to Orlando, Florida for the Universal and Disney experience. I think Harry Potter World and all the scariest looking rides were the highlights…as was our hotel at Universal, the Portofino Bay Hotel…almost like being in Italy!
Emma and Holly were pure delight for Michael and me… responsible, smart, independent, sensible, and so much fun. We enjoyed talking with them, seeing things through their eyes. We’ll miss them as they return to their home and loved ones and look forward to seeing them again when we travel back to South Africa. We send them off with our always love and best wishes for the coming year.