Friday, August 27, 2010

Our First Two Weeks

Friday, August 27, 2010

We have been in Africa for just over 2 weeks now. It has been an interesting 2 weeks for us. We left Salt Lake City on August 9th at about 11:00 A.M. and flew to Atlanta, Georgia. It was a 4 hour flight and was quite uncomfortable and so we were really beginning to dread the 16 hour flight to Johannesburg. We had a layover of about 3 hours which gave us a chance to stretch and get something to eat as the Johannesburg flight indicated that we would only have a dinner and we were afraid we would get hungry. Our flight itinerary indicated that we were to be sitting together but when we checked in they had us separated. I was concerned as both our seats were middle seats and Yvonne needed to be able to get out so she could walk around a little, with her leg problems. They changed us and then we were together but we were way in the rear of the plane which really concerned Yvonne. When we finally boarded about a ½ hour late, we were in the back but our seats were in a two seat row. How great is that? There was a young woman just behind with a toddler and an infant and the children were very restless but since there were only 2 seats she wanted to move to see if she could get to where there were 3 seats and she was able to make the move so now we were set. They did serve a dinner but they also served snacks several times and drinks so our fears were in vain. It was a long flight but actually less uncomfortable than the Atlanta flight. We only slept for short periods but we did fine. When morning came we looked out and we were just off the coast of West Africa and we were surprised to see the coast was actually a desert with little if any vegetation at all. We arrived in Johannesburg about 5:00 P.M. and were approached by a missionary couple waiting for a couple, who flew over with us who are on an auditing mission for all the southern half of Africa. They showed us how to get through customs and then we went to our gate for Durban. While Yvonne was in the restroom a young African lady approached me and asked if I was here for a conference. I told her we were going to be serving in the South Africa Durban Mission and I was just waiting for next flight. She explained that she worked at the airport and was a member of one of the Johannesburg wards. We boarded our last leg of the trip on South African Airways which was virtually empty and had a good flight and were fed a meal; we were well taken care of.

We were met by our Mission President and his wife, President and Sister Von Stetton. We stayed the night in the mission home. Were we exhausted! The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast prepared by Sister Von Stetton and then went to the mission office across the driveway and received some instruction by President Von Stetton, the mission Secretaries, Elder Cunguara and Elder Christopher and the office couple, Elder and Sister Davis. We went out to lunch with the Davis’ and headed out to Richards Bay about 2 ½ hours north of Durban, driving on the right side of the vehicle and on the left side of the road (scary). The Davis’ thankfully took us there, they led the way in their car.

We arrived at our boardings (house) about 4:00 P.M. and were met by the District President’s wife, Sister Baldwin and her mother who were making our bed. About that time we could have crashed right then. Everyone soon left and we were alone in a strange house in a strange country and we were tired and lonely. Now, what to do? Well, first we needed some electricity and here you buy your electricity before you use it. So we went down town (with our GPS) to buy electricity but the office was closed and now it was dark. The roadways were teaming with people just wandering around and we had dropped the GPS somewhere on the floor of the car and we couldn’t find it and we didn’t know how to get home. We couldn’t just stop and get out to look for the GPS; we began to panic. Finally, we found a lit place where there weren’t any people and we got out and found it, put our address in and went home and locked ourselves in and basically hid for the night. We went to bed and died.
All locked in!
Brick walls surround all the homes with locked gates. 
Thursday, August 12th was a new day and we had lots to do. First on the agenda was to go back down town and buy some electricity. Then back to our place and start making it ours. We at first didn’t know if we really wanted to stay in this house as it is a lot bigger than we really need, about 2400 sq. ft, I imagine. It is a 3 bdrm, 2 bath house with a yard. It is the most expensive boarding in the mission and we thought perhaps we should find something smaller and less work. We finally decided to stay. That actually took a few days to decide but we started to get this place fixed up the way we want it. We changed furniture around, cleaned and cleaned, bought rugs, some tables, a vacuum, towels, pillows, linens etc. to start. We moved the office equipment from the back bedroom to the dining room and started going through all the supplies.

Our Living Room

View from the living room looking into kitchen.
Our kitchen - note the sink is in the next room.
Clyde calls it the scullery.
The front gate was not working and we needed that repaired as we felt very vulnerable. The house has a 6 ft brick fence around it with an electric gate, a security system, bars on all the windows and iron gates on all exterior doors. We needed to get our internet up and that required a phone system. Now you just can’t go down and sign up for everything, you have to jump through numerous hoops, which requires numerous trips down to the office after each step is completed. Today after over two weeks we are supposed to get our internet, we are keeping our fingers crossed. Our mission president told us how we could get internet temporarily (expensive) by purchasing a portable modem that you plug into a port and it works off the satellite, about the size of a pack of gum, which we did. You buy G’s of service, how much a G is we haven’t figured out but we bought what they said would be enough for a month. Yvonne spent a part of one evening trying to get it to work and we couldn’t, DRATS! The next morning I went in and noticed the SD card wasn’t pushed in all the way and IT WORKED! Yvonne got on the internet to see how we were doing financially and all of a sudden the Skype started ringing so we quickly hooked up the camera and answered it. It was Nicole (2 A.M. her time) still online and she noticed Yvonne had gotten on the computer, somehow. Well, we were elated, we were feeling a bit down and isolated by that time so we talked and saw them. Isn’t this an amazing time to be alive! Later that evening (for us), in the morning for them Nicole called again and the girls wanted to see us, so we talked again until something went wrong and it went out. We went down to the store and told them and we had used a months worth in one day. Skype evidently eats MG’s like candy. Oops! Lesson learned.
Our next door neighbors - the monkeys!
Now, what you say have they done as far as missionary work so far? Not much really. We met with the District President and he said that he wanted us to visit all 6 branches in the next 6 weeks, report to him and then he will make our assignments. We have visited 3 branches so far and we have spoken in all 3. The Richards Bay branch is fully functioning branch with a very nice chapel. The others are remote and very humble, two are in township libraries, one meets in complex of three portable buildings (Church owned), one is in a wooden shed about the size of a single car garage (Church owned building on a member's property) and the one furthest away (200 kl) we have no idea what it is.

We have gone down to the hospital to attempt to do volunteer work but we have to go back down and meet with the hospital admn. and show our ministerial certificates and passports and have an interview and then they will decide.

Being Senior Couple Missionaries isn’t a matter of just showing up and filling all the needs on the job description; we have to create the job. We had all 10 Elders over for dinner last Sunday and will continue to do this every other Sunday. What a great bunch of young men! Next week we will go out and visit all the Elders and do boarding and car inspections. I think that brings you up to date on us. Keep us in your prayers. Just returned from seeing Telkom (our internet provider) it won’t be hooked up until sometime next week they say. Oh well, we shall see. . .

MTC Experience

MONDAY, August 02, 2010

Greg and Gayle arrived at about 8:30 A.M. to pick us up and take us to the MTC. Off we went to begin this adventure. We had to be there between 10:30 and 11:00 and we arrived early; my feet were killing me. The kids let us off and unloaded us, we had to say some more hard goodbyes and we were on our own. (Greg and Gayle said that we had come full circle; we dropped them off on their way to the mission field and now they us).
Greg and Gayle pick us up to go to the MTC.
We had a short orientation and then had lunch in the large cafeteria with a sea of young missionaries. That was an experience in itself. You can’t believe how much those elders can eat! The food is good and unending so you have to have some self control. We ate breakfast, lunch and dinner there for the seven days we were there.

In our room with all our belongings.
Where  in the world is Durban, South Africa?
After lunch on Monday we again met with 25 couples in a large meeting room and met with the MTC presidency and our young return missionary trainers and started to work. It was a busy 5 days. With training starting everyday at 8:00 A.M. with short 10 to 15 minute breaks about every hour or hour and a half and a lunch break and then back to work until 5 P.M. and a study assignment for the evening. We had to learn teaching techniques and then use them in presentations the next day (it was scary but fun too). One evening we had a devotional that was good. We were broken down into 4 couple groups and worked with them the entire time. I was our district leader. We survived and they didn’t send us home on Friday, so we took pictures of our entire group of 50 and said goodbyes, some of them were leaving immediately, but we weren’t leaving until Monday morning so we stayed at the MTC for the weekend.

Elders and Sisters Lee, Mayo, Nuzman and Wright.
Our Group
Our Trainers
Saturday, we did laundry and then about noon, Jeremy, Nicole, Aurora and Eve arrived to take us to lunch. We had a great lunch at Mimi’s and then bless their hearts they took me to a SAS shoe store. I bought two pairs of shoes and Yvonne bought a pair of sandals, HEAVEN! Then again some more hard goodbyes and off they went. The rest of the day we packed, unpacked and adjusted bags so we wouldn’t go over the weight limits.
Jeremy, Aurora, Nicole and Eve
Sunday, we went to church and two great gatherings and listened to talks from the MTC presidency and their wives and also from the Kendricks an emeritus Seventy and his wife. It was super. The rest of the night we played with our luggage and got ready to leave at 6 A.M. on Monday morning.

Monday, we got up a 3:30 A.M., got ourselves ready and out the door by 5:30 for a 6:00 A.M. departure to the airport. We arrived at the airport early and Greg met us there. It was so good to see him as we were frazzled and he had a calming presence. He stayed with us until we boarded our plane at about 10:30 A.M..