The adventures of the Els family, who immigrated from South Africa to the USA. Els family in Texas.

Latest News

These are some of the things that have happened in our lives over the past few months. The latest news is at the top, so if you want to get the whole story, start from the bottom.

May 6, 2009

I have been so busy with my other websites and consulting that I have shamefully neglected this site! Today I added a Twitter box to the home page. It shows my last 5 postings (called "tweets") on Twitter. Follow me on Twitter to stay updated with our latest "adventures", if you can call them that!

May 2004 to September 2006

Wow, a lot of time has gone by since I last posted any news. This has more to do with being busy than anything else.

The biggest news right now is that we reached our 10-year milestone in the US this month. I posted an article about that to our blog.

During this past summer we visited South Africa for the first time in 5 years! On the way to South Africa we also stopped off in Italy for 5 days. The whole trip was a wonderful experience. I posted some photos from that trip on our photos page.

Other news is that I stayed with the job at the University of Texas (mentioned below) until last month. I have now quit that job to turn my attention our company fulltime.

December 2003 to April 2004

Quite a bit of time has gone by again since I last updated this page, but luckily this time it was not because of job woes, but rather because of being so busy at work that I couldn't get to this. A nice thing to be able to say...

My job at the University of Texas is working out very well. In December 2003 I was offered a management position that I took. It has been a very interesting change, with some challenging times and some rewarding moments. I am still doing programming too, but right now it seems like my management role is taking up more and more of my time.

In February we had a fire at the house! It wasn't a huge fire, but it left a 8 ft by 10 ft hole in the front of the house, and the smoke damage was significant enough that we couldn't live in the house. So we had to live in a hotel room for 9 weeks while our house was being repaired. We moved back in in the middle of April. It was a frustrating experience in many ways, but the silver lining of this dark cloud was the amazing support we received from so many people here in Lago Vista.

March to November 2003

After the layoff in February, we started a pressure-washing/deck-sealing business as a way to make some money while the IT industry is in a slump. The business did fairly well, and at least helped to keep us alive during those tough times. Then an opportunity came up to do some programming contracting work at the Bureau of Economic Geology, a research unit of the University of Texas. This went very well, and has now turned into fulltime employment. I'm enjoying this very much, and the job has many opportunities.

Johnny had an amazing time with Tae Kwon Do during this time. He participated in the World Championships in Little Rock, AR in June, and won a 1st place for his Form, and a 2nd place for his Weapons form. Then he participated in the Fall National Championships in Orlando, FL, and won a 1st place for his Weapons form, a 2nd for his Form, and a 3rd place in Sparring. He also received his Black belt in a beautiful Candle Ceremony earlier this month (November).

February 2003

My fears about the company came true this month. All of us contractors were given 5 days notice and finished up with the company on Feb 28. The sole issue was money... they couldn't afford us any longer. This is my 4th layoff in 2 years, and it's starting to get a little old now.

January 2003

We started the year on a high note with a nice New Year's party. Danie & Aneria Craven, school friends from South Africa, spent the first week of the year with us. During this time, Danie introduced fishing to our household, something the boys really enjoy.

My fears about the job continue, and were confirmed on January 2, when the company laid off one of the guys in the development department due to a lack of funds.

Some Good News: This was also the month in which we finally got our US citizenship! After 6 years and many trials and tribulations, we finally made it. I added a special section about our citizenship.

December 2002

Merry Christmas all! The job's going fine so far, but I'm constantly worried that it may end soon. The company seems to be in a "not-so-good" financial situation. Johnny broke his collar bone for a second time in 3 months, so his Christmas break was a little subdued.

February to November 2002

As you can see, I didn't spend too much time updating the news section this year. It's a shame, but so much happened that it was hard to keep up. Mom, Dad, and Lindie (my sister) visited for almost two weeks in March. After spending the first three days looking for their lost luggage, we all had a wonderful time together. The rest of the year had its moments, but was not all that great as a result of the current bad state of the US economy. Johnny broke his collar bone in September, but it was luckily not too bad. Halloween was great this year. We all got together at Trevor and Christina Schwartz's house for a short party, and then went on a hay-ride through the neighborhood, taking the kids trick-or-treating. I started a new job in November, and I'm really enjoying it.

January 2002

We had a great time New Year's eve. We started off at the party at James & Wanda Roberts' house, then went to a great party at Bill Wallace's house, then went to see our friends Paul & Dianna Wallace at their home, then went back to the Roberts party for the midnight celebrations, and then back to the Wallace party, and finally got home at around 3 a.m. What a way to start 2002! Happy New Year!

Johnny's doing well in Tae Kwon Do, and was selected to join the club's SWAT team. They are expected to work harder at everything taught in the club, as well as being assistant teachers with the Tiny Tigers (the little guys). He's having a very good time with this.

On Saturday, 26th, the Lago Vista Chamber of Commerce had a fund-raiser dinner/gambling evening. Dinner was served at 7 p.m., and then the gambling started. Despite the fact that they had real gambling tables operated by real casino people, it wasn't gambling in the true sense of the word... $1 bought you 10 Lago Vista dollars, and 1 Lago Vista dollar bought you 10 casino chips. So I could play and lose money the whole evening and only spend $5. It was a lot fun, and I learnt how to play Craps. Esmé made several trips to the stage to sing karaoke as part of the Kocurek Girls.

December 2001

This was the holiday season, or that's what I'm told! It went by so quickly, I hardly registered it. We never really got into the mood either since I had to work throughout most of it (I only had Christmas day off).

We spent Christmas day with our good friends, Phil & Debbie Read. As usual, Debbie cooked a great meal, and a day that was threatening to be a non-event for us, turned out to be a very nice day.

We hope y'all had a great Christmas!

November 2001

This month was Thanksgiving, which is also the start of the Christmas holiday season. Several families got together at Phil & Debbie Read's home, with each famliy bringing their favorite dishes. We had a feast!

Michael started at a new play school. His previous school closed down two months ago, and he was very happy to get back to playing with some friends twice a week. I attended their Thanksgiving dinner with him. He was of course more interested in the desert than anything else.

We had a spell of rough weather early in November. First we had vicious thunderstorms that lasted for two days. During the first day a tornado touched down about 1 mile west of our house. It rained so hard that it caused flash floods during which several people died, and Lake Travis rose by 20 feet to go above its normal full levels. A week later we had our first cold spell for the winter, with temperatures dropping below freezing. Our deck had a layer of ice on it.

Some may have noticed that I introduced themes to our web site. During certain months in the year, the colors on the site will change. The theme for November was Fall (Autumn) colors (brown, dark red, orange, and yellow), and December's will of course be Christmas colors (red, green, and white). I'll be creating more themes for other times in the year, so keep an eye out for them.

October 2001

Esmé had her Mary Kay business debut on the 7th. It was a great success. Lots of people showed up, everyone had a great time, and the guests bought lots of cosmetics! Most of the work in establishing the business has now been done, so Esmé is now at a point where she can have fun with the business and focus on serving her clients.

Johnny had a Tae Kwon Do grading this month. He moved from a yellow belt to a camouflage belt, which is a transitional belt between beginner-levels and advanced levels. He's having a lot of fun with it. See the photos.

Michael's vocabulary has expanded a lot. He learns a lot from Johnny and by watching his favorite TV shows like Dora the Explorer and Blue's Clues.

I finally developed the photos taken when Dennis Hill visited us in August. Here's one of them.

September 2001

September 5 was our 5-year anniversary of living in the U.S.! We now officially qualify for U.S. citizenship. We've already filled out the forms and went through all the materials for the U.S. history exam we have to take. I'll send our applications to the INS sometime during October. It's supposed to take six to nine months for the process to be completed.

Esmé's business is coming along nicely. She still needs to do some work to get everything in place, but she's already added a few clients and made a few sales! Mary Kay gives a lot of support to get new consultants going.

Johnny had three visits from the Tooth Fairy this month. The result? Johnny is rich and the Tooth Fairy is quite poor. The last tooth to come out this month was the first one to come in... on the beach at Mossel Bay almost seven years ago.

My sister, Madeleine, and her husband Johannes, who lives in Graaff-Reinet, became the proud parents of their second baby girl on September 20. Baie geluk!!!

Most of September was dominated by the horrific terrorist attacks on the 11th. Like everyone else, we were stunned by it. The most positive aspect to us was to see how unified Americans suddenly became in the face of such terror. People donated millions of dollars to relief efforts, donated so much blood that some had to be turned away because storage facilities were full, donated so much food that the Red Cross asked people to stop sending food because their warehouses are full. People attended church services and supported one another. People bought so many U.S. flags that big stores like Walmart had a hard time to keep up. This unity made us proud to be a part of this great nation.

August 2001

After almost 2½ months vacation, the schools finally opened again on August 9. Johnny started 2nd Grade, and was quite happy to be back in school. Sometimes it amazes me what these kids learn at such a young age. He's doing stuff now that I only learnt around Std 2 or 3.

Dennis Hill visited us for 6 days. He and Esmé used to work together at Nissan in Port Elizabeth. He's been visiting relatives in Washington D.C. area. After leaving us he'll be visiting some more relatives in the Los Angeles area, and then he's going on a 2-month road trip through several states in the north west USA. Dennis brought us some much-needed rain too. Unfortunately the pictures from his visit are still in my camera.

Big News! Esmé has started her own business as a Mary Kay Cosmetics Consultant. Everything is still in the process of being set up, but Esmé is very excited about the prospects of running her own business.

July 2001

Wow! What a month! It started off with a weekend trip to Fiesta Texas, a massive amusement park, in San Antonio, about 70 miles southwest of Austin. Johnny received a free entry pass through a school program that required the kids to read 600 minutes. Unfortunately his pass was misplaced, but we went there for the weekend anyway as a reward for Johnny having read ±900 minutes. We had great fun riding roller-coasters, water slides, and swimming in wave pools.

On July 19 we went on a short vacation to Rolla, Missouri to visit friends. We stopped at the Oklahoma City National Memorial on our way to Missouri. (This is the memorial built to honor the victims of the April 19, 1995 bomb blast.) It was a very moving experience to be there, and I think one can only get a true feeling of the devastation (physical & psychological) caused that day by visiting the memorial. We've created a special section describing our visit to the memorial. We also spent 3 wonderful days with all the Reads in Missouri. On day 1 we did some floating and swimming down the Little Piny river outside Rolla, on day 2 we did a 10 mile canoe trip down a river in the Ozark mountains, and on day 3 we drove to St. Louis to see the Arch. Thanks to Brooks & Ann for being such wonderful hosts. Go see the photos!

On our way to Missouri, we had a surprize phone call from old school friend, Danie Craven, whom we hadn't seen in at least 8 years. A week later he was travelling to Florida, and spent two days with us on his way there. It was very good to see him again, and we spent many hours catching up on news.

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Copyright, John Els