Saturday, January 1, 2011

Summer Holidays

As we began December and the holiday season, our teaching of Seminary came to a close as the school year ended.  School will begin again the middle of January.  Many members leave to return to families in other areas.  Many visitors come to the coastal cities to enjoy the beaches in summer.  We had never considered Richards Bay a tourist spot but we do have quite a nice beach area.  The mall and traffic have proven that many people have come here.  Our new Elders along with their companions are working hard and continue to seek out investigators. 

top left to right:  Elders Castleberry and Fisher
bottom:  Elders Adams and Tualufo
We had a Richards Bay District Conference on December 11th and 12th.  President Von Stetten and Elder Hill, from the Southeast Africa Area office, came with their wives. The Worldwide Leadership Training and the All Africa Conference dvds were shown.  We were in charge of refreshments for the district YSA fireside held Sunday afternoon.  We baked Christmas cookies and served them with a mixed berry ice cream and soda drink which was enjoyed by all in attendance. 

The following day was Elder Nuzman's 65th birthday.  It was P day so we took a game drive.  Elder Nuzman said he wanted to see an elephant and his birthday wish came true!

Bronze statue of a black rhino and the birthday boy!

The elephant on the other side of the river.
Can you believe how big these white rhinos are?

September 15h found us in Durban to atttend Zone Conference and our Mission Christmas party.  We again stayed at Little Haven with our new friend, Grace Rawlins. 
Mission Christmas party catered dinner

Mission Christmas Party

Our friend Grace Rawlings, owner of Little Haven
September 18th we attended the wedding of Richards Bay Branch members Mark Schwartzberg and Breeze Stander.
The Wedding Party
The groom's father and stepmother, Breeze and Mark
Then it was off to Swaziland for our mission couples conference.  Elder and Sister Davis and Elder and Sister Zweifel picked us up in the Opel van, referred to as "the box".  It was about a 3 hour drive to the border and then another 2 hours to where the conference was held. We stayed at the Timbali lodge in Ezulwini, Swaziland.  There were thirteen couples, including the mission president and his wife.  We had so much fun. We shopped at the local craft markets, took a game drive where we saw several animals we hadn't seen before, visited the cultural center there and ate and ate.  The weather turned very hot but we had a most enjoyable time.  We traveled back to our boarding on Christmas Eve just in time to get to the packed grocery store (there weren't even any trolleys -- shopping carts-- left to use) to purchase last-minute items for our Christmas dinner with the Elders.

Big John carving our drum

top:  Elders and Sisters Berry,Davis, Zweifel, Nuzman and Hudson
bottom:  Elders and Sisters Ward and Allred
Our hosts, Elder and Sister Blackburn, serving in Swaziland

Swaziland Cultural Center - dancing for us

Beautiful Swaziland

A village at the cultural center

Entrance to the Mkhaya Game Reserve

An endangered species of antelope
His horns are covered as it is rutting season

Our means of transport on the drive

The white rhino or flat lip

Taking a mud bath on a hot day

The black rhino (much more rare) also called the hook lipped
rhino.  Much smaller head than the white rhino

The mighty elephant

White rhino and baby coming out of the river

Notice how close she is to the side of the land rover.

Blue wildabeests

Albino wildabeests (very rare)
A pod of five hippos

The beautiful resort, Summerfield, where we had dinner

Do we look sunburned or what?

President Von Stetten showing the drum the couples
presented him.  It has the names of his family carved on it.

President and Sister Von Stetten

Typical rural Swaziland houses
President Von Stetten wants us to focus on training the various members of the branches as to what their responsibilities are in the organizations to which they are called.  This usually is done at the district level but he needs the couples to assist. This will be a challenge for us as we are helping in five branches and one group and many of the organizations have only a leader or president with no counselors, teachers or secretaries.  Adapt, adapt, adapt is what we will have to do.  We are losing new members within a few months because there is little or no fellowshipping, no home or visiting teachers, etc.  So we will be busy.  We will also be teaching Seminary in the branches if there is no teacher called.  That will begin the latter part of January.  We think we will try to spend a particular day of the week in each area, visiting, fellowshipping and teaching as necessary.  This looks great in planning but then we get distress calls from our Elders who have vehicle or other problems.  But we can never feel that we aren't needed.

Christmas was very quiet.  It was strange not to have children and grandchildren with us but we really enjoyed Skype!  How we admire the couples who served years ago with no means of communicating with their families except by letters!  They really sacrificed!!
Stockings for the Elders

Christmas Eve with my giraffe from Swaziland

Playing games on Christmas

More strippling warriors

Just relaxing at Christmas time
Following are a few pictures of interest:

Swazilsnd road sign
Watch out for warthogs!

Watch out for wildabeests!

President and Sister Vilane's baby girl, Nosipho, which means "the gift"

Isn't she the sweetest?  She is about the same
age as Mike and Natalie's, Eleanor.
Our Richards Bay and Nseleni Elders treated us to pizza on New Years Eve. They brought it over so we could celebrate together.  It was so sweet of them to think of us.  They had to get back to their boarding prior to the beginning of 2011.  We were entertained by the miriad of fireworks (crackers, they call them) set off by our neighbors.  There were all sorts of bottle rockets, etc.  It reminded us of years ago at home when anyone could set them off.  We were glad it had rained most of the day and everything was quite wet.  So here we are in a new year, 2011!  HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!