Our South African Journal

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Food in South Africa. We have only been here a month now but I am beginning to learn a little about the food here. When I first went shopping here I was a little bewildered about what to get. I am not familiar with most of the brands and when I find an American brand it is usually really expensive.
One of the first things I bought was peanut butter and jam. I wasn't worried about the jam but I was a little worried about the peanut butter. There are brands in the US I don't like so I can be picky about PB. However the brand I picked up (Pot of Gold) is very good so I will be a loyal customer. On my first shopping trip I picked up some Hunt's Vegetable Soup. The Hunt's brand is familiar to me so I thought it would be safe. The soup wasn't very good. I thought it was on the sweet side but maybe too many US processed foods are too salty. I don't know but I won't be buying that again.

The mayonnaise is more tangy than what we are used to. It is more like what we call salad dressing or Miracle Whip. I did see a jar of Hellman's Mayo which would be more like what we are used to but it was over $5 a bottle. I may buy it if I need to make a macaroni or potato salad. I was so excited when I finally found a bottle of ranch dressing. It was Knorr brand but it was not what I was hoping for. It was very vinegary - more like creamy Italian dressing. I may have to buy that expensive mayo and make my own ranch dressing.
Here they have long life milk. It can be stored in the cupboard until you open it and then it needs to go in the fridge. There are huge displays in the stores so it must be pretty popular. I bought a box of it but I couldn't bring myself to drink it so Elder Hind just used it on his cereal. 1% or skim milk are hard to find.  They mostly  have what they call full cream and low fat milk, which, judging from the way it looks, is probably 2%.

One of the few times I found 1%
Dairy prices are about the same here as in the US. The ice cream is good most of the time but sometimes we will get a carton of ice cream that has a grainy texture. I was told that comes from not keeping the ice cream cold enough during transport. Margarine is very popular here. There are dozens of brands of margarine but I had to look closely to find the butter.  And butter does not come divided into quarters. It is just a one  pound block.

Meat is a little cheaper here. But Elder Hind does not like the way they cut their beef. They don't cut it the way they do in the US and he says there is a lot of waste.  Also they never trim anything so there is more fat than we are used to.  However, we have enjoyed T-bone steaks a couple of times. That is one cut we recognize and it is cheap. They prefer the dark meat on a chicken here and chicken rarely comes boneless. No nice, neat, boneless, skinless, frozen chicken breasts. Sausages are very big here. There are all kinds in the meat counter. We have bought some breakfast sausages that were pretty good but I like the US ones better. We did eat a sausage on our Kotas. It tasted a little like a bratwurst, so I liked it. All the grocery stores make their own "biltong" or jerky. It is really big in South Africa. I am on the look out for some exotic biltong for Robert.

Baked goods are cheap here. That is not a good thing. For Easter Sunday I bought a large double layer round chocolate cake and it only cost  $5. A similar cake in the US would be twice as much. I love all their pastries except I haven't found a decent cookie. They are all too crispy for me, there are no tender chewy cookies. Elder Hind and I are going to have to resist buying their other beautiful baked goods or we are going to get fat(er). The other senior missionaries talk about their mission 10lbs. One couple told me they expected to lose weight when they came to Africa but they gained instead. They told me they only knew of one senior missionary that lost weight. He lost 20 lbs the first 2 months he was in Africa because he couldn't bring himself to eat any the food here. I am not crazy about their bread. They cut it very thin which is probably a good thing. I bought one loaf of white bread here and it was just too thin and wimpy so I stick to brown bread.

Donuts are only 20 cents each
They have a couple of familiar cereals here. They are good and we have noticed they are crispier here than in the US. They never get soggy in milk.

The eggs are always brown here. And they don't refrigerate their eggs. Even the elders have their eggs sitting on top of their refrigerators. Mine go in the fridge. I have noticed that their eggs have more things (specks, blood, ick stuff) in them. So I always crack them in a separate bowl, never directly into the pan or mixing bowl.

They have several nice big super markets here in Newcastle. The customer service is good and the checkers and other workers are always dressed in nice uniforms. There is a lot of variety and food over all is a little cheaper here.

There is a McDonald's just down the street and a KFC right next to it. We have tried them both and they are not too different from the ones in the US except they don't have diet Coke only Coke Zero. In fact I don't think I have seen diet Coke anywhere.
We did go to lunch one day at a restaurant recommended by the missionaries called Ocean Basket. I had fish and chips and Elder Hind had shrimp and stir fry. Everything was so delicious!  I told Elder Hind I want to go for my birthday. We were so busy we weren't able to go back there until a week after my birthday. We ordered the seafood platter for two. It had fish, calamari, shrimp and mussels, chips and rice. It was so good but we couldn't eat it all. It cost a mere $20 for both of us to stuff ourselves with seafood. I may have found my favorite restaurant.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

On Sunday, April 19, I was sustained and set apart as a Young Women's advisor. I went into the YW class for the first time and was surprised to find about 12 girls in there. That is a lot of girls for such a tiny branch. I am going to enjoy this calling. In Sunday School we had a new teacher. He must have been a preacher before he converted because I ain't never had a sunday school lesson like that one! Wow! The doctrine was spot on, so more power to him. I wish more teachers were that enthusiastic. We took a young woman and little boy to church today. The young woman is an investigator. When we dropped them off at home the little boy patted me on the back and said, "Good bye, Gogo." Gogo is the word for grandmother specifically and for old woman generally. It is a title of respect. It really touched my heart to be called that. Elder Hind gets called Baba all the time. It means father and is a title of respect.

I made sweet rolls for Family Home Evening this week and I was just waiting for the people to arrive when we got a phone call telling us that the 4 Madadeni missionaries were in a car accident. It was too late to cancel FHE so I called the Newcastle Elders and asked them to come right away to play hosts at our house. Then we jumped in our car and headed to Madadeni. It seems a drunk driver had cut them off. Everyone was alright. The seat belts and air bags had done their jobs. Except the elder that was driving complained that his pants were burned. I think it must have been from the air bag explosion. The drunks in the other car all ran away before the police got there.

poor little bakkie

The next morning we went to the panel beater (body shop) and took some pictures for the insurance company and to arrange for a bid on repairs. The man we talked to seemed to think it was a write off but we will see. It only had 30,000Ks on it. "

We went to our first and I hope last funeral on Saturday. We did not know the woman who had died but she is in our branch and well loved so it was right for us to attend. The funeral was mostly conducted in the Zulu language and it lasted two hours. The highlight was a duet of "How Gentle God's Commands" sung in Zulu. It was amazing. The rest of the songs were in english. Then we went to the cemetary. The family rented two buses so people without cars could go to the cemetery also. The cemetery was so crowded because most funerals are held on Saturday. We weren't sure which group was ours, then we heard people singing, "Come, Come Ye Saints," and we figured that was our group. The women stay back from the grave and sing while the men dedicate the grave and lower the casket into the grave. There is no vault. Then the men (family and friends) covered the casket with several wooden poles to protect it from the falling soil. They put the flowers in the grave also. Then all the men take turns shoveling dirt into the grave. Elder Hind took a turn also. The dirt is mounded about 3 feet high over the grave. After the burial everyone left. We didn't take any pictures of the actual burial because no one else was taking pictures so we felt it was not the thing to do. Although we did take a couple of pictures at the cemetery.

After the burial we went to the family's house for the funeral meal. The family had set up a tent in the yard. They treated us like VIPs, it was a little embarassing. The food was good and there was a lot of it. We enjoyed being there.

This is the VIP table. Everyone else had to hold their food on their lap. We are in a tent set up in the family's yard.

 Starting at the top and going right: Beef cubes in gravy, beets, mashed pumpkin,
chakalaka, potato salad, coleslaw, yellow rice.

Then we went with the elders to another home in Madadeni. They are sending their son off on a mission Wednesday. He has been called to Johannesburg. We have been arranging his travel because he has to go to Bloemfontien to be set apart and then to the MTC in Joberg. His family was having a party for him before he goes. I was invited to help in the kitchen, so I peeled and chopped tomatoes for the Chakalaka. This was the first time Elder Hind and I have been in a home in Madadeni. (We have been in several in Newcastle.) This was a VERY humble home although it was very neat and tidy. I feel reluctant to describe it anymore than that because it is someone's home and is therefore a sacred place. Anyway we ate dinner (I gave most of my food to the missionaries because I was still stuffed with funeral food.) and then had a short program. They asked us to speak and we talked about how hard it was to send our children on missions but how much our family was blessed by their missions and how our children grew during their missions.

We sat I the yard and ate dinner and talked.

The mom and her missionary

We ended the day by going out to visit a new member family with the Newcastle missionaries. Then we went home and literally fell into bed.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On Sunday, April 12 we went to the Madadeni 1st Branch and then we decided to go to the Madadeni 2nd Branch. They are a bigger branch. It was nice to greet the members there. We still need to go to the Osizweni Branch and to the Newcastle Branch. Today Elder Hind was sustained as the branch executive secretary. He is also the District assistant financial clerk. He is already busy with meetings and such.

The Newcastle elders invited us to dinner Sunday night. Elder Mebetha is leaving and he had promised to make "pap" for me. It is pronounced "pop". It is a white maize mush in the traditon of southern grits or italian polenta. Elder Mabetha makes his pretty stiff. He served it with a gravy made from ground beef, mixed vegtables and beans. It was good with the gravy but I wouldn't care for it alone. It was our first traditional African food.


We finally got a decent phone up and working. It took a few days and a couple of visits to the Vodacom store. We had to just buy another phone. They simply could not get the phone we brought with us from home to work. We are happy to have a phone we can use.

We had Family Home Evening again. Even more people came. This time I served ice cream and cookies.

Our family home evening group

Some one wrote this on our refrigerator message board. Probably one of the girls

We had to go back to the old missionary flat that we had just moved the elders out of to do some more cleaning. The elders notion of what is clean and our notion of what is clean just does not coincide. While we were cleaning some things out of the garage Elder Hind took a broken rake with a metal handle and tried to throw it over the fence. He forgot that it was an electrified fence so he recieved a good shock. Glad his heart didn't stop. Then we had to shop for a new stove, washing machine, microwave, dishes, pots and pans and other things because we had to split everything between two flats. Stoves don't come with the flat.

This week we had to make an doctor's appointment for a missionary and then meet him there to make sure he got the necessary tests and to pay for it. I am surprised how much time we spend helping the elders. Of course we probably won't ever have to move a missionary boarding again. That was a lot of work and it really stretched us because we have had to learn some things about doing business here. I really don't mind helping the elders. I feel like a mom or a nana when I am helping them.

I went with Elder Hind to the Madadeni Chapel because he had a meeting and I didn't want to sit home. I was sitting in a classroom studying and the 1st counselor in the Branch Presidency came in and asked me to be an advisor in the Young Women's program. Yay, I have a calling!

I made my first attempt at baking this week. I made chocolate chip cookies. First problem, can't find chocolate chips. A large Cadbury chocolate bar chopped up will do. Second problem, they have 3 kinds of brown sugar: light brown, caramel brown, and treacle brown. The treacle seemed the most like our brown sugar but was twice the price so I decided to use the light brown sugar. Also all the brown sugar is coarser than our brown sugar. That did affect the texture of the cookies quite a bit but the elders thought they were good and that is all that counts.

When we went out with the elders that evening I brought some cookies for the family they were teaching. I hope they liked them.


We went out to visit another family this week. As we went out to get in the car to leave a couple of drunks approached us. The elders got in the car, Elder Hind and I were a little behind them. The drunks wanted to shake hands. When one of them grabbed my hand he kissed the back of it. By this time I could hear the elders saying, "Get in the car! Get in the car." Meantime friendly Elder Hind is shaking hands with the drunks too and he also got the back of his hand kissed. The elders were a little nervous. They said they don't know what would happen but we just can't take chances.

We finally got our internet up and running. Turned out to be a bad modem. The mission office contacted a church employee and he found the problem. Happy day! We have not had WiFi the whole time we have been here. We hooked up the ethernet cord and had a few days of internet until it stopped working too. Now we have internet and a decent phone.

On Saturday, we worked in the community garden again and then attended a District Meeting in Madadeni. They discussed alot of the issues they are facing in the branches. Not the least of which is the poverty of the people. People who want to come to church can't because they don't have cars and public transportion is too expensive for them. The ones that live too far away to walk have to choose to come to church once a month because that is all they can afford. It makes it hard to staff auxiliaries if people can only come part time. Some of them walk for over an hour to get to church.

There are senior couples who are called as self reliance missionaries. Their job is to help people get out of poverty. They help with the Perpetual Education Fund and job training, employment and teaching people how to start a small business. But the needs are overwhelming. I heard on the local radio that unemployment is 24% but if you counted discouraged job seekers it could be as high as 40%. I hope we can make a difference in some small way. We won't solve Africa's problems but we might be able to help some individuals live better lives.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

On Easter Sunday we got up and put several pounds of chicken pieces in the crockpot and then went to church. In the states and some other countries it was Conference Sunday but here conference won't come for about 3 weeks and it will come in the form of DVDs. So we had a nice fast and testimony meeting. It was wonderful to hear the member's testimonies of Jesus Christ. Last week a young couple asked Elder Hind to bless their baby girl today. So he had the privilege of blessing little Zanokuhle Ariana Nxumalo. He had to have a missionary whisper the name to him. The vowels in the Zulu language only have one sound but some of the consonants blends are tricky.

We had the missionaries show up for dinner about eight oclock. They are busy teaching until then. We served them chicken, rice with gravy, roasted vegetables and rolls. They got cake and ice cream for dessert. We had managed to find some Easter candy. It was expensive and there wasn't much variety but we filled some little bags and passed them out. When we said the Easter bunny might come most of the elders did not know what we were talking about.

The rest of the week was very busy. We did our first boarding and car inspections Monday morning.We have to inspect the missionary’s cars and flats every six weeks. For us that is 3 cars and 3 apartments. Elder Hind found one dirty bakkie and wasn't afraid to tell them so. I on the other hand had a hard time being as firm as I need to be. However I did not buy the notion that the bug in one of the refrigerators was a protein source for the missionaries. All three flats failed in the refrigerator department. I walked into one kitchen and spotted two really dirty dishcloths hanging on the rack. I asked them if they had any clean ones. They told me those were the only good ones, the rest they had to throw away. If those were the good ones I would sure hate to see the bad ones. Needless to say, I went out and bought them new dishcloths and dishtowels and some bleach.

On Monday night we had our first Family Home Evening. We had about 15 people come, a mix of elders, investigators and members. I taught the lesson, some elders shared a game and I served pop corn, cookies and soda. I absolutely loved it! We will be doing this every week.

Playing a game

We have gone out with the Newcastle elders a couple of times. They like to bring us when they are teaching a family. We usually get a chance to bear our testimonies. It is wonderful to see the missionaries at work.

We did another walk through at the Meadowlands Flats where the Madadeni elders will be living. We arranged to rent a pick up truck. Some of the elders that work in the townships drive "bakkies", small trucks. So we had two bakkies and a regular pick up. On Friday all the missionaries in our area helped move the 4 Madadeni missionaries to their new flats at the Meadowlands. While they were taking the first load out, I stayed back and cleaned out their refrigerators. Bleeck!!!!

After two loads we took all ten of the elders to lunch at a tuck shop in the Madadeni township. A tuckshop is a tiny food shop that someone sets up in a shack in their yard. (Capitalism at its most fundamental) I don't think the health department is involved. The elders assured me they have never gotten sick eating at a tuck shop. They love to eat there because they get a lot of food for their money. We fed ten missionaries and ourselves for less than $25. We each had a Kota and a soft drink. A Kota is a 1/4 loaf of bread which has been hollowed out and filled with fries, a couple of kinds of meat and cheese and then a chunk of bread on top. Our kotas had a sausage and some kind of lunchmeat and cheese. You can get them with hamburger, and fried eggs and I don't know what else. The more that is in them the more you pay.

The tuck shop is the tiny building on the other side of the elder's bakkie

Cross section of a Kota

On Saturday we got up early to work in the community garden at the Newcastle Chapel. After working for 4 or 5 hours the Relief Society fed us lunch. We had chicken polony sandwiches, apples, cheese puffs, cookies and punch. Polony is a kind of lunch meat that comes in a roll that you can slice. They just spread the bread with margerine and put on the meat, add another slice of bread and there you have it, nothing fancy. But after working several hours in the garden everything tasted good.

We got a nice write up in the local weekly. There were a lot more people there but by this time they were serving lunch

That evening we went out to visit a new member family with the Newcastle missionaries. They consist of a mom and her 4 girls. Her mother and her aunt also live with her. We had a FHE with them and they served us a coke. The missionaries wanted to have their pictures taken with them and that made the family realize that transfers were coming up and that one of the missionaries might be leaving. The little girls started to cry. It was really a sweet moment to see how much the missionaries are loved.

We met the some of the other missionaries at McDonald's for ice cream and then went to the chapel to access the computer to see who was leaving and who was staying. I was surprised at how much tension was in the room until the transfers were announced. The were only 2 transfers among our 10 elders. Elder Mabetha is going to Bloemfontain and Elder Clayton is going to Lesotho. They were both happy with the changes.


Monday, April 20, 2015

I wish I had more pictures for this posting. I hoping for a picture of all the elders in the zone taken by some others. But I haven't gotten any yet. I just was not in picture taking mode. Too jet lagged and too overwhelmed. But if some pictures come my way I will update this post.

Our first week in Newcastle was a busy one. We hit the ground running with Zone Conference on Monday. Our zone is the Newcastle Zone.We have 16 elders and two senior couples. The other senior couple (Elder and Sister Taylor) live in Ladysmith about 90 Kilometers south of here. The mission president along with his assistants pretty much run the conference but the senior couples are in change of feeding everyone. The Taylors were kind enough to shoulder most of the burden for feeding the elders this time around but next zone conference it will be our responsibility.

 It is not too hard because the elders love pizza. So we just ordered pizza for them and Sister Taylor made brownies and cupcakes and bought ice cream. Let me tell you missionaries eat alot. We hadn't met some of the elders because they live farther away so it was nice to have an opportunity to get to know them a little.

The Taylors look after the elders in the southern end of the zone and we look after the ones in the northern end.  They are also Seminary and Institute missionaries so they do a lot of traveling around the mission and are very busy.

In the evening President Zackrison and his wife took us to dinner at the Pint and Pigout. That is a funny name but it was a nice place with kind of a pub atmosphere. We had a good dinner and a nice visit.

On Tuesday morning we went to watch the zone play soccer. They sure played hard. They managed to hurt each other. I didn't take a picture of the poor missionary gasping for breath because he got the wind knocked out of him.

Then we had to go meet with the mission president and the Newcastle District president. (A district is like a stake but it is what you get when all you have are branches. We have no wards in this area.) In the afternoon we met with the branch presidents in all the nearby branches.(Newcastle, Madadeni 1, Madadeni 2, and Osizweni.) We had to go to Madadeni for that meeting. We thought we knew the way but we got lost and wandered around for awhile. The GPS is useless in the township. In the evening we got together with the all the elders and the assistants and ate a meal cooked by one of the elders and then had a devotional before going home and going to bed.

On Wednesday we went out to Madadeni with the Taylors do a walk through on two new flats that we will be moving the elders into in a week or so. Right now the 4 Madadeni missionaries live in one large flat here in Newcastle because there were no secure places for them in live in Madadeni. Then the mission president found a gated apartment complex with security guards. It is so much better when the missionaries can live where they work.

We finally found some time to start cleaning our house, unpacking our clothes and doing our wash. We have had to spend some time trying to figure out our phone situation. The mission provides a bottom of the line cell phone for us but we can't use it. We need a full keyboard for texting and a larger screen that we can actually see. Also the wireless internet does not work. The password we were given is not working. This house stood empty for about 4 months between the last couple leaving and our coming. During that time the house was broken into and the TV, some piano keyboards and a computer were all stolen. I don't know if that has anything to do with our internet problems.

The Newcastle elders invited us to go along to visit a family they are teaching. We really enjoyed that experience. Then we took them to lunch. We invited all 10 of the nearby elders to come to Easter dinner at our house. We could tell they were hoping for an invitation to dinner. We haven't been doing much cooking yet so we will have to get busy and whip up a nice dinner for about 10 hungry young men.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

We live in a house that was probably built in the 50s.  It has been cared for, painted and new floors put down but outside of that I don’t think it has been updated in the last 60 years. It has no central heating or air conditioning. The washing machine and dryer are in the detached garage. I am deeply grateful for the dryer. (The elders don’t have that little luxury.) The shower, washing machine and sinks all drain into drains located in the back yard. That was a bit disconcerting the first time I saw that. Thankfully toilets drain else where.
Home Sweet Home
The kitchen is the land time forgot. It has no dishwasher or garbage disposal. It has fair cupboard space but very little useful counter space. The stove is little and so is the refrigerator. However Sister Taylor says my refrigerator is bigger and nicer than hers so I won’t complain.  Sister Cinquini told me that she lived in an apartment that had mushrooms growing out of the ceiling so I think things could be worse.
Faucets that come directly out of the wall are all the rage now days

I was a little concerned when I first got here and found cockroach bait under the sink. However I haven’t seen a single bug or spider in this house since I have been here so I think they must have had an exterminator in here recently. Thank goodness!

There are two bathrooms in this house. Both wonderful examples of bathrooms from the past. They are both off the hallway so there is not a private bath. Of course that does not bother us as we have the place to ourselves.  There are three nice sized bedrooms. One we use for our office.

 They do not have electrical outlets in the bathrooms in South Africa. Hair drying and hair curling take place in the bedrooms. Even in the nice resorts we stayed at there were no outlets in the bathrooms.

The house also has a dining room, living room and a nice little covered patio in the front of the house. The furniture in the house is good. In fact Elder Hind and I both sleep better here than at home. We think the mattress here is much better than our own. The drapes were all freshly dry cleaned and the showers have new curtains. All the house was basically clean  but I have been scrubbing it from top to bottom. When you clean something you make it your own,


 The main door to the house is on the side. The windows in the house all have bars on them. And there is a barred gate on the front door and one on the patio. In order to get in our house we have to unlock the front gate to drive in and then unlock the gate on the front door and then unlock the front door. It can be frustrating when we get in the car and then realize we forgot something.


We live in a nice lower middle class neighborhood. It is considered a safe neighborhood. And we do feel safe here. We go out walking in the morning and feel absolutely comfortable. But extra security is the norm here and we don’t want to be foolish.

We have a nice yard that is cared for by a landscaping company so we can enjoy it without the work. Although I think Elder Hind would love to do a little yard work. We have a little lime tree in the back yard. I am looking forward to harvesting some of them in a few weeks. It is approaching fall here. We have a tree near the gate in the front that looks like a palm tree. It is not. It appears to be a very large Aloe plant. The weather here has been very nice. We had one rainstorm since getting here. Other than that we have enjoyed nice days in the seventies and eighties.



Friday, April 17, 2015

We woke up Sunday, March 29th excited to begin our new life as missionaries. We had Cheerios for breakfast, yay! The missionaries came by so we could follow them to church. We have a GPS also. The Madadeni chapel is about 10 miles from our house.

We were almost there when we got confused about whether we were following the right bakkie. Translation: small truck. Some of the missionaries drive bakkies because they often drive dirt roads. Anyway we weren't sure those were the missionaries in front of us because the darn GPS was telling us something different. (We have since learned - the hard way- that the GPS is not entirely trustworthy in the townships.) However we quickly realized that we turned the wrong way and so we pulled over and the missionaries found us and led us to church.

The Madadeni chapel is a lovely little brick building. It is like Mormon church in miniature. We were told by the missionaries how to shake hands. They do it the normal way but they also do a shake, twist, shake handshake. They also do a thumb snap handshake but they said Elder Hind can learn it but I wouldn't be expected to do it. So Elder Hind likes to practice it with the little kids.

We were greeted with shy handshakes and hugs. Everyone was very nice. When we went into Sacrament Meeting we were surprised to see Elder and Sister Cinquini there. They are a Public Relations senior couple. They were in town doing some training for the local public relations people.

They don't do normal prelude music in this branch. One sister just starts singing a song and then nearly everyone joins in. Then someone starts another song and everyone sings along. As I sat in that little chapel listening to those beloved hymns sung with such sweetness and in beautiful harmony I realized I was finally on my mission in South Africa. This is why I came: to hear these voices, to share my life, my love, the gospel of Jesus Christ and whatever else I have to offer for the next 18 months. As I sat there the tears just poured down my face. This is where I am supposed to be. We were asked to introduce ourselves and share our testimonies. We managed to blubber through that also.

 Most of the service and classes are in English but some of the prayers and comments were in Zulu. I am determined to learn a little Zulu. I will begin by learning to pronounce their names properly.

After church I told Sister Cinquini I would love to have them for lunch but I could only offer them peanut butter sandwiches. She was gracious enough to say that that sounded great so they came to our place and ate sandwiches and apples with us. It was nice to have them here. We had a good visit with them.

 Some more of the local missionaries came by to introduce themselves. (I wished I had cookies to pass out to them) There are 10 missionaries serving in the immediate area. Two elders serve the Newcastle area, four elders serve in Madadeni and four more Osizweni (another nearby township).
There hasn't been a senior couple here for 4 months and one of the elders told Sister Taylor that he is glad we are here because he feels more secure when there is a senior couple nearby. So who is going to help us feel more secure?

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

So today I realized that a lot of people have been reading this blog and thinking to themselves, "Man if this is a mission, sign me up!" So I figured I better explain. Once or twice a year the senior couples in the mission get together for a retreat. Many of them are all scattered around the country and rarely see each other. So this is a time to get together, get instruction from the mission president and to share ideas and learn from each other. When the mission president realized we would be coming close to the time of the retreat he requested us to come a week early so we could participate. I can't tell you how much it meant to be with the other senior missionaries and learn from them. I would also like to add that all the senior couples paid their own way. Anyway, on to more adventures.

On Saturday, March 28, we got up early so we could go on a morning game drive. We had a cup of hot chocolate (the lodge was very accommodating) and set off in our trucks. We had fun even though no wild animals chased us. We saw a bunch of giraffes. They are so amazing to see in the wild. They are just so huge and so different looking. When one of them walked in front of our truck the music from "Jurassic Park" was playing in my head.

We came across a herd of Cape Buffalo. They can be very dangerous because they are so unpredictable. However our bunch of buffalo were peacefully eating and were only mildly curious about us.

Cape Buffalo

This time around we also saw lots of warthogs. We didn't get a picture of them because they are very skittish and run off before you can get to your camera. At one point our guide told us to stop worrying about getting a picture and just enjoy the moment. I think he was right. It is just so wondrous to see these animals in the wild that we need some time to just absorb the beauty and majesty of God's creations. Yes, even warthogs are beautiful and majestic. Well, maybe not, but their babies are kinda cute.

I am just glad there were no lions or elephants around when we got this flat tire. I am wearing a jacket because it was a cool morning and bouncing around the savanna in an open truck can get a little chilly.  

We didn't pet this cheetah

We got to see a cheetah in the wild. He was very big and beautiful. He got bored of looking at us looking at him so he got up and walked away.

Guinea Fowl

After another great game drive it was time to get back to reality. We went back to the lodge where they had a wonderful breakfast waiting for us and then it was time for all of us to head home.

Home? Well by this time we knew we were going to a small city a few hours drive northwest of Durban, called Newcastle. We would be assigned to a small branch in the township of Madadeni. But that is all we knew. Another couple, Brother and Sister Taylor drove us to our "boarding". (That is what they call the properties leased by the church for the missionaries.)  The Taylors helped us unload our luggage, gave us the keys to our car and house, offered us some last minute advice and information and then left.  We were alone in a strange house, in a strange city, in a strange country surrounded by strangers and no food in the house. So we got in our car and drove ON THE WRONG SIDE OF THE ROAD to a grocery store the Taylors had pointed out to us. I wandered around the store not sure what to buy. They had Cheerios, yay! I bought milk, bread, peanut butter, jam, honey, apples, bananas and soup. The young missionaries stopped by to meet us and we arranged to have them escort us to the Madadeni chapel in the morning.We ate our soup for dinner. Made our bed up with sheets and blankets we found in the linen closet, said our prayers and fell exhausted into bed.

Monday, April 6, 2015

On Friday, March 27, we left Drakensberg Castle and traveled about 2 hours to the Nambiti Game Reserve. We first were driven to the KWA Cheetah Breeding Project. Cheetahs are endangered species and so the program was developed to breed cheetahs and prepare them to return to the wild. Cheetahs are fast but they are not good for the long distance so they are often preyed upon by lions and hyenas. In fact this project will not release any cheetahs to a game reserve that has lions.

I can't say these cheetahs are tame but they are used to being handled by humans. In spite of this they are successfully training the cheetahs to hunt on their own so they can be returned to the wild.

They told us not to touch their paws or tummy

We made this guy purr while we were scratching his ears and neck.

Just want to you know this cheetah is actually alive

After the cheetah interaction we went to lunch at the Springbok Lodge where we are staying and then we were taken to our "tents".

This our "tent"

This is the inside of our "tent"

This is the bathtub in our "tent"

After getting settled in our "tents" we had lunch at the the lodge. Excellent food but not the quantity and variety we had at Drakensberg. Then our guide loaded us up in the truck and off we went in search of big game.

This isn't our truck but we had one just like it.

The first animals we saw were Kudu with their beautiful curved horns. We also saw Elands, Springboks, Blesboks, and lots of Wildebeests. Wildebeests are known for their stupidity. But they are great lion fodder. My favorite antelope was the Oryx Gazelle. It has beautiful facial markings in black and white and long straight horns that can be as much as a meter long.


We saw some hippos or at least the parts that showed above the water but we didn't get a picture. Next we came to a herd of elephants. We were able to  get quite close. There were mamas and babies and a rather scary young bull. When we first pulled up to look at the herd the bull took a somewhat aggressive stance and the guide turned off the motor and told us to be very quiet and not to move. After a few minutes he calmed down and we started down the road again only to be stopped by a cow elephant and her baby blocking the road and there was no way around them. So we had to just sit there waiting for them to move. Well, I guess the bull didn't like what we were doing because he just started stalking towards our truck. I was sitting on the outside back corner and he was coming right toward me and looking right at me. I thought right then either I am going to die or I am going to have a great story to tell my grandchildren.  He finally stopped but he was only about 10 feet from me. Again the driver turned off the truck and told us to hold still and be very quiet. After a few very long minutes he lost interest in us and started grazing. (tearing limbs off trees). We had to wait a few more minutes until the cow and her calf moved and we were able to get out of there. (sigh of relief)

the young bull getting amorous with his lady

young elephant with zebras

We also saw zebra and some rhinos. The rhinos do not have horns because they keep them cut off. That way they are protected from being killed for their horns. There is a great black market for rhinoceros horns.

It began to get dark so we headed back to camp and we came across a couple of male lions. We watched them for awhile and then decided to go back to our lodgings as it was getting dark. On our way back the lions cut across country and ended up sauntering down the road in front of us. Our guide decided to go around them. Just as he got around them one of lions decided he didn't like what we were doing and started to run after our truck. Again, I am sitting in the back and I yelled, "he is coming after us!" The driver hit the gas and we quickly out ran him.

We got back to lodge and had dinner, and traded game drive stories. We also took the following picture. The banners were made by some Public Relations missionaries. We received one and hung it at a busy crossroads near our house.

When we finally dragged our weary bones back to our tent we found this. Yep, that is a bathtub surrounded by rose petals, with candles floating in a bubble bath. There were also chocolates on our pillows.