2021: A Year in Review

2021 was a very challenging year for the Barnes Family. We started the year in Mount Vernon, Alabama, eventually made our way to Kigali, Rwanda and finally returned to our home in South Africa in October. During this time, we made three trips to the US and took a much-needed vacation to Dubai. Sentell also had to travel to Tanzania for work twice. A baby dedication ceremony was held for Levi at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church (my dad’s home church) in January and Levi had two birthday parties to celebrate turning one. Levi began to crawl at four months and he walked at ten months. We had numerous flight challenges which included extensive delays, a missed flight, delayed COVID19 test and rental cars being left in the parking lot.  COVID19 defined our year and we tried to make the best of a difficult situation. These are our top memories from 2021.

Levi Meets the Snow

We were late getting on the road to Atlanta for our Turkish Airlines flight to Kigali. It had been a stressful few days as we were trying to get a COVID19 test within 72 hours of our flight. We found a clinic in Jackson, Mississippi (Trust Care Clinic), a six-hour drive round trip from our home in Mount Vernon, Alabama. The drive was even longer because we were traveling with a four-month-old. After securing our COVID19 test, we were off to Montgomery for a quick rest break before making the final journey to Atlanta. We arrived at the airport with exactly one and a half hours before our flight. When we entered the airport, the line at Turkish airlines counter was chaotic! I needed to check in quickly and then return the rental car. The closer we got to the ticket desk; it was clear that our flight was delayed. I was delighted as I would have time to return the car. However, once we checked-in, I was informed that security would be closing at 10pm, even though our flight was now scheduled to depart at 1:55am (the originally departure time of the flight was 10pm). I had a call in a favor from my brother to come to Atlanta to return the rental car on our behalf.  It was also clear that we would miss our connecting flight in Istanbul to Kigali. As the plane descended into Istanbul, we could see snow on the ground. Once off the plane, we were informed that the next flight was in two days so we had an unscheduled layover in Istanbul. Unfortunately, we left all our winter clothes in Alabama and all Levi’s items for sleeping. We decided to go to a hotel that we had stayed in previously during a stop over in Istanbul to wait out our flight. After two days we were finally on our way to Kigali.

A COVID break in the Desert

After living in the homes of others, we needed a break. COVID19 made it difficult traveling to many parts of the world and we didn’t want to make the long journey back to the United States (only to be back in other people’s spaces). Dubai was encouraging tourist to return for Ramadan so, after some discussion, we decided to jet off to the city in the desert. We spent an entire week enjoying time at the pool, hanging out at the enormous shopping malls, and enjoying some time to ourselves. We were joined on this trip with Sheila’s brother Bob and his wife Vanessa. It was one of the nicest visits to Dubai that I have experienced.

Levi Turns One

Levi turned one in October 2021. It is hard to believe that he is already one years old. They often tell you that times flies by…and it truly does fly by. I think we were so focused on responding to his needs that when we finally looked up, he was walking and almost talking. Levi had two birthday parties. Since we had spent so much time in Kigali, we decided to throw a birthday for him in late September. Because of his love of animals, we threw him a farm themed birthday party. We had a second birthday party once we returned to Johannesburg. The South African birthday party was small and intimate with Levi having a cake to smash. We also took Levi to the Johannesburg Zoo on to celebrate his birthday.

Brenda and Freddie’s 50th Wedding Anniversary

On November 5, 2021, my parents celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. When we initially started planning for their celebration, we wanted to go all out and host a gala. However, COVID19 forced us to change our plans. In the end, my parents requested that we all be home for their anniversary. While Sheila and I did not want to travel back to the US for a second time in three months, we also did not want to miss this momentous occasion. It turned out to be a beautiful day, joined by family and friends. And in the end, my parents spent their anniversary with their two children, their spouses and three grandchildren.

A Wedding in Uganda (Round Two)

Sheila’s brother Bob and his wife Vanessa were married in September of 2020. Unfortunately, it was doing COVID19 restrictions so many important people were unable to attend, including Vanessa’s parents. They planned to hold a second ceremony in Uganda for Vanessa’s family to attend. After some discussion and waiting to see how the various COVID19 variants would play out, a wedding date was set on December 18, 2021. Despite the rise of the Omicron variant just weeks before the wedding, the happy couple decided to continue with their wedding date. It was a beautiful affair with family and friends in attendance.

Our New Home in Tanzania

Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

After two years in South Africa, most of it spent outside of South Africa, my organization decided to transfer us to Tanzania. We are sad to leave our home in South Africa. We really enjoyed our brief time in the Rainbow Nation. South Africa is a unique place. For an American, you can easily create a life that reflects a western style life. Fancy shopping malls, Michelin level restaurants, internationally recognized wineries, and exotic animal parks. But behind all of this is violent crime, poverty and racial divisions that continue to fester from the apartheid days. We only wish that we could have had more time to experience all that South Africa has to offer. However, Dar es Salaam is located along the Indian Ocean with breathtaking ocean views and sunsets. In addition, Zanzibar, is a short flight or ferry away from Dar es Salaam. Our offer still stands for visitors!

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