Corona, Sally and Levi: Our Summer in the United States of America
It has been quite the summer in the United States. As we mentioned before, we came to the US in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. With rising reports of COVID19 cases in South Africa and a desire to be near family as we wait out the pandemic, we decided to return to the US. It was a challenging decision to make as we had developed quite the routine in Johannesburg and had created a ‘firewall’ for ourselves against the virus. But after three months in the United States and spending time with family, we are happy we made the decision. Unfortunately, in these difficult times, Sheila missed her brother’s wedding that took place on September 25. We knew that the coronavirus would probably prevent us from attending his wedding but we were able to follow along online.
Our summer in the US was also marked by three hurricanes that made landfall along the Gulf Coast. The Alabama Coast had two indirect hits, Marco and Delta and a direct hit with Sally. Sheila and I have been coming back and forth to the US since 2016 and this is the first time we have found ourselves in the direct path of a hurricane. For Sheila, Sally was her first experience with a hurricane and I don’t think she knew what to expect. Hurricane Sally made landfall at Gulf Shores, Alabama, a place where Sheila and I like to go to get our feet wet. An interesting hurricane face, Sally made landfall on the 16 year anniversary of Hurricane Ivan, coming ashore in the same location in 2004. I grew up about 60 miles from the coast so we often get wind damage but never the storm surge. The area between Mobile, Alabama and Pensacola, Florida took the brunt of the storm experiencing widespread wind damage.
After arriving in the US, we quarantined in my uncle’s house down the street for my parents. Even after our two week quarantine, we continued to stay in his house. As it became clear that the hurricane was making a bee-line for Mobile, Alabama, we decided to move in with my parents. The day before the hurricane made land fall, we packed up our items and moved in with my parents. It turned out to be a very good decision because the next morning I was informed that a tree had fallen within inches of my uncle’s house. It looked as if someone just came along and pushed down the tree. The roots were standing out of the ground.
Levi, while not a hurricane, arrived very similar to Hurricane Sally. He was slow and methodical and when he finally entered the world, left our lives changed forever. On October 5, 2020, we welcomed our first child, Levi Fletcher Nikuzwe Barnes. He arrived at 12:29pm weighting in at 6lbs 7oz. One of the most important reasons for returning to the US during this time was to be close to family as we expected our first child. The name Levi means joined together/harmony and speaks to that God has joined together and added to our harmony. In addition, in the Bible, Levites were descendants of Levi, a son of Jacob, priests dedicated to serving God. In the New Testament, 1 Peter 2:9 calls all of us “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” Fletcher is a name that has been passed down throughout my family since 1883 spanning over four generations. The name has been carried by my great-great grandfather, grandfather, uncle and first cousin. The name now continues into the next generation. Nikuzwe is a Kinyarwanda name which means “may he be glorified.” We are excited to welcome little Levi to the family. Like any new parent, we have been suffering from a lack of sleep and disruption to our routine. However, the coronavirus pandemic has already taught us that there is no such thing as normal so we are looking forward to our new life with baby Levi.
It’s hard to put 2020 in worlds. And it’s not even over. And November will bring its own surprises and suspense.