Thursday, January 12, 2012

Ready or Not, Here Came 2012!

Can you believe it, 2011 is over and in our past now.  Welcome 2012!  We last wrote approximately a week before Christmas and we thought we should probably write again.  The school year here ended the first week of December and it is now summer vacation.  People leave for holiday during Christmas so we have had a lot slower pace and things don’t pick back up here until mid-January.

Our Christmas Eve breakfast at Mugg and Bean.
Starting at the left:  Elders Shipp, Wark, Bangeter, Wynder (hidden)
Shelton, Moxon, Puso, Jallah, Atoya and Shibambo

left to right: Elders Wark, Bangeter, Sincreah, Wynder,
Shelton, Moxon and Puso

Who are you reserved for, Elder Puso?

Going out for breakfast is easier than cooking for twelve elders!

We had the priviledge of having these two traveling elders join
us for our Christmas Eve breakfast.  Elder Shibambo from South
Africa (on the left) and Elder Wynder from Australia (on the right).
Both these elders will be going home soon.
We had a very quiet Christmas, basically alone, we didn’t even put up a tree this year.  Yvonne put out two African nativities but other than that there wasn’t much to indicate it was Christmas.  I mentioned that we were not exchanging gifts and we stuck to that but several members remembered us, which was so sweet.  We do have some wonderful people here and will truly miss them when we return home but we don’t want to think of that now.  We still have much to do.  They have told us that seminary has to be taught 5 days a week to be counted.  That is impossible for us to do as the two classes we have been teaching are too far apart to make it work and the K (mileage) limitations we are under makes it impossible to do.  We are sad about that but we will teach once a week in one branch if they want us to. We did hold a seminary graduation and recognition activity this year. The free time opens us to other work and so we will step up on the reactivation of less active members. 

Like we said, Christmas was quiet.  Christmas morning we woke up to no internet, thus no Skype; that offered to be very disappointing.  We had been downloading conference so we could watch it at our convenience and that used up our internet.  (We just found out that Telkom decided to take us down to 8GB from 20GB without notifying us - thus the problem!)  The missionaries were to come over after meetings and call home but that was out.  We did the Christmas program out in one of the branches, Nseleni, as it was only an hour sacrament meeting.   It went fine.  The elders all used the district internet to call home and ran the district out of internet for the remainder of the month; good luck with tithing settlement!  We were blessed by the Dave and Sam Gardner family when they invited us to use their internet to make calls home to our family.   

The following morning, Dec. 26th, we started for Swaziland to be with our good friends the Blackburns, the missionary couple there.  On our way we went to Kosi Bay where a group meets and they needed their supplies for the new year.  It was about four hours out of the way and we got lost once but we made it!

This is main street in Kosi Bay.
Some of the local businesses
Typical open-air shops along the street.
When we arrived at the Blackburns they had prepared a beautiful Christmas dinner.  They  saved Christmas dinner so we could have it together. 

Christmas dinner with the Blackburns!

Tuesday morning we left for Johannesburg to be with a young couple from Kenya who were being sealed.  The young man had been a missionary here and served in Swaziland.  He had been home for 4 months; his bride also a return missionary is a girl he had dated before his mission.  It was a wonderful day.  We attended a session and the sealing of three couples, two with children. 

The Christmas Nativity in front of the Johannesburg temple.

So great to be at the temple again.  We have missed being there.
We stayed at the Saffron Guest House which is
about ten minutes away from the temple.
Clyde needed a rest after all that driving!
Mr. and Mrs. Victor N'ganda from Kenya.  He
served a mission here; she served in Zimbabwe.
The Ohanga family from Kenya who were sealed. 
He served in  our mission a few years ago.  His
brother is serving here now.  This family would never
have been able to come if it weren't for the new patron
temple fund to which many of you contribute.
Great families, great friends, a great day!
We all went to Mike's, a local institution there, for a wonderful meal!  The food is excellent and portions are way too large!

This is Mike's Kitchen.

This is a hamburger at Mike's!
Johannesburg is a very large, beautiful, city.  It is known for all the beautiful trees.  We are so grateful for our GPS.  We went to the distribution center there and stocked up on many needed items.   We also took in the African Craft Market and the huge Chinese Market.  The Blackburns are great traveling companions and good sports. 
We thought we'd try breakfast at the Chinese Market.

Eggs, sausage and something kind of between a tortilla and a pancake.

This place is huge!  Probably 8 buildings . . . prices are fantastic;
quality is about what you pay for.
The following day we drove to Pretoria, an area Elder Blackburn served in 50 years ago.  Much of the city had remained quite unchanged and we found his apartment across the street from the Union Building (equivalent to our Capitol).  Pretoria is another beautiful African city.

This park is part of Church Street Square.  Note the beautiful
old  building on one side.

This is a monument to Paul Kruger who in 1898
as president of the Transvaal Republic named a
government wildllife reserve which later became
Kruger National Park

This building is on the opposite side of the park.

This is a view from the grounds of the Union Building.

This is a very small part of the Union Building.

Another view from the Union Building.  The red-roofed building
on the left in the first row of buildings in the distance is where
Elder Blackburn lived fifty years ago as a missionary.
We left Pretoria and headed southwest to the Ndebele Village (Mapoch).  The people were moved there in 1953.  It was a very closed society and did not welcome people outside their tribe.  The women wore copper rings around their necks and legs. This village was a major tourist attraction in the past.  Now it is nearly abandoned with less than 200 inhabitants, many of them women and children.  They do occasionally dress in native dress but use plastic rings instead of copper.  When we arrived it appeared that no one was there; but very quickly ladies started bringing out their mats and blankets and all their beaded things to sell.

The village of the Ndeble tribe

One of the things they are known for are the colorful designs
painted on their fences and walls.  Originally this was done with
a mixture of cow dung and water and dye.

The toddler in this photo taken many years ago is now the
Sangoma (medicine woman) of the village.  Note the
copper rings on the woman behind her.

Sister Blackburn, the Sangoma (the child in the previous picture)
Sister Nuzman and the Sangoma's mother

Some of the wares they were selling.  The Ndeble tribe were the
tribe that started the beading that the Zulu women have adopted
and are known for today.  Originally the beads were dried berries
and small stones.  Now they use small beads.
These are the kind of roads we had to navigate to get to the village.
Outside the village we saw many of these corrugated iron houses.
We drove back to Johannesburg as we had been invited to have dinner with a humanitarian missionary couple, Elder and Sister Nielson.  They live in Duke's Court, an apartment complex near the temple where Carolyn and Nate Adamson lived when they served their temple mission. The Nielsons serve the whole southeast area of Africa and have travelled everywhere.  Sister Nielson took the following picture.

Isn't this an incredible picture?
We left Johannesburg on Friday morning, December 30th, and headed for Swaziland.  On our way we went to the Cullinan Diamond mine, where the world's largest diamond was found.  It was found in 1905 and was 3106.75 carats.  It was given to King Edward VII on his birthday.  He had it cut into 9 pieces.  The largest stone (the Star of Africa) was set in the King's Scepter and the next largest piece is in the Imperial State Crown. They are part of the Crown Jewels, which we viewed in London several years ago.

All aboard for the tour.

Entrance to the mine area.
One of the walls of the hole.  The Cullinan Diamond was found
where you see the heart shape.
The tailings from the mine have created large mounds.  They are
now in the process if reprocessing these tailings as the technology
is so  much better today.  They have actually found some large
 blue diamonds in these waste mounds.

This kudu was standing with his herd on top of this mount.
We arrived back in Swaziland and spent the night before heading home on New Year's Eve.  We awoke to monkeys on the porch of the Blackburn's boarding.

We never tire of watching the monkeys!

We arrived home on New Year’s Eve and did see 2012 make its debut here.  A few brave souls did set off fireworks; it was lightly raining and we enjoyed the coolness the rain can bring.  We decided to stay off the roads in the evening as festivities here include much drinking and some drivers are very reckless.  Sometimes the mini-van taxis are referred to as coffins on wheels.  Around 1200 people lost their lives on South African highways during the month of December alone!

The next day, being New Year’s Day, we attended the Richards Bay Branch.  Attendance was down as so many families were out of town.  We had a baptism.  Since the meeting was only an hour long, the font couldn’t be filled in such a short time so we used the Gardner’s swimming pool.  Actually, it was very nice with a small group of people in a beautiful setting.

left to right:  Elder Sincreah, Dave Gardner, Sibusile, her mother
(Khethwe) and Elder Moxon
It has been a somewhat difficult last couple of weeks for us.  It has been slow as was mentioned and the heat and humidity are also getting to us and the worst is yet to come.  Oh well, these people thrive, so we will most likely survive, as well.  We will never again take central air conditioning for granted!  We both managed to catch colds and haven’t felt quite like we should but we are getting so much better!  It is starting to be very smokey as they are burning the sugar cane fields everywhere and that will go on for months.  We have been missing home but now that the holidays are over, we can get back on track and focus on what is really important right now.  We had a Temple recommend interview with our mission president and then went out to dinner with him and his sweet wife.  We had Thai food which was good and also had a very enjoyable evening with great people.  Being a Mission President is a very difficult calling; visiting with him makes us thankful for our callings as simple missionaries.  Elder Nuzman was requested to participate in two District disciplinary councils with the hopes of reinstatements.  He has been involved in many in the past but from the other end of the process.  This was a much more uplifting assignment.  We are so grateful for the Gospel and the promise of happiness it has for all people.  If only all people could just see that.

We love beautiful Africa and know that our lives will never be the same after having served here.

One of the beautiful South African trees now in full bloom.