Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Animal tidbits

Animal Tidbits:  Some interesting facts regarding these amazing animals.  (from the previous blog)
Cape Buffalo:  This is the top and bottom pictures.  This animal is the most powerful and hence the most dangerous.  Once when we encountered one on the road, he was not backing down and began to stalk us.  We hurriedly backed up and just drove cross country through the bush to go out and around him by 100 yards.  His skull is thick and bone structure so massive that the rangers say a bullet from a high powered rifle will ricochet off his upper head.  It requires a direct hit to kill one.  Rangers spoke of stories where the Buffalo came on them and hooked the front of the large transport vehicle and lifted it off the ground.

Elephants are also good looking but can be dangerous.  They came within about 40 feet of the vehicle.  We watched a big elephant use his forehead and trunk to push over a tree.  He then grabbed the tree with it's trunk, ripped it out of the ground and began eating the root system.  These are African elephants, just notice the shape of their ear, it resembles the continent.

Giraffes show up in groups here or there.  The game drive covers about 15-20 miles by 75 miles on rough dirt roads and sometimes, it doesn't look or feel like a road.  We lucked out and caught these several giraffes eating together on one tree.  The thorns on these trees, basically all the trees, are about 2-4 inches long.  The thorns are white.  At this same time we watched two teenage males sparing, or practicing fighting, so they are prepared for later in lift.  They swing their necks and hit the other giraffe in the hindquarters with the two horns on their heads.  Also, if they can knock their opponent over and he doesn't get up quick enough, the blood pressure in his head could end up killing him.  The brain and sensors monitor the blood pressure and reduce it briefly for drinking and dropping the head.  Otherwise, the head stays up in the air.

Lions hunt early in the morning and late in the evening and throughout the night.  They hunt 2-3 at a time.  They are lightning quick.  We saw in the deep grass an attack of two lions.  Some paws and heads above the grass now and then and in seconds it was over.  At night, we could hear them roaring to each other outside the camp.  Mostly the lions are sleeping or resting during the day.  They see the vehicle as one large animal that is not a threat.  However, when close to the lions, we don't speak or move quickly.  If we break the plane or boundary of the vehicle, the lion finds out the vehicle is not what he thinks and he may attack.  The lions have walked right towards us in the vehicle and turned about 5 feet from the vehicle and walked around it.

The Rhinos are huge animals.  These are really big.  They are grass eaters and not a great threat.  However, we don't want to bother them or get between mom and baby.  They could run us over in the vehicle.  All these animals are much faster than we can run.  Many clock in about 60 km/hr or 36 mph.  The horns are particularly valuable and are worth several million dollars used in selling potions.  Poachers will fly in with a helicopter, stun the animal or possibly kill it and then use a chain saw to cut off the horns.  It's a dangerous business.  Many reserve rhinos have their horns cut off to protect their life.

Hippos look so lazy during the day.  Lying around on the banks or bobbing in the water.  These animals kill more humans than any other.  Their teeth are HUGE!.  Their size is about the length from elbow to finger tip and about 2-2.5 inches in diameter.  Don't put it on the defense or get between the hippo and water or baby.  They run quickly and can split most things in two pieces with one bite.  They can bite a crocodile in half.  They sleep all day and walk all night.  About 30 km or 20 miles.  Eating a large amount of grass.  You can see they look pretty relaxed.

Zebras are about the most common.  They seem tame but can be pretty nasty up close.  They must be tasty since they are the favorite food for the lions.  These are Burchell Zebras and they have a faint brown stripe between each black stripe.  The stripes are like a fingerprint.  No two are the same.  They graze in groups and seem to get along with most animals.  Everyone's hearing and smell are especially good.  This helps them keep track of the cats or lions around those pars.  You can see a small herd with all their ears straight up looking around when a cat is within range.

I hope this is interesting to you.  Have a great day.  P.S. At night, Africa is truly the dark continent.  Lots of places where there are no lights.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Animals of Africa-Nov 2012

November 18, 2012

We apologize for not keeping everyone up-to-date.  We think of you often and apologize that we don't keep you more informed as to what's happening here.  We are at the tail end of Spring and it is getting very hot and punctuated with huge thunderstorms.  Since it is the best time of the season to visit game reserves, we'll share some ANIMALS we've seen with you.

There are two basic types of game parks or reserves, self-drive and private.  Self-drive means you drive your own car.  Our little Nissan TIIDA has felt like it was more of an SUV than a compact car sometimes. On a self-drive, one pays a low entry fee, 20-50 Rand/person ($2.50-6.50) and drives throughout the the dirt roads hoping to see some game.  Self-drive exclude, lions, cheetah, leopard, and usually elephants and giraffe.  It's enjoyable but limited.  Private reserves have converted Range Rover with big tires, heavy duty springs, and a raised 9 passenger seats up above the driver (about 6 ft off the ground) with a canvas canopy.  The cost is much higher in a private reserve but the chance to see the 'BIG 5" is much better.  The BIG 5 are those animals most dangerous to hunt because they turn and attack as a defense.  The BIG 5 are Lion, Leopard, Rhino, Cape Buffalo, and Elephant.  The most dangerous is the cape buffalo.

We've gone on a couple of game drives in May, one in July,  September and November.  It is a thrill to go with the other missionaries.  This past Monday we went as a zone and the young Elders were crazy and ecstatic.  Usually the Elders don't get to go on a game drive, let alone a private game drive.  I think we are running a test cast here.  We subsidized the game drive since it cost about twice as much as the Elders were permitted to spend.  We went in the evening.   We won't bore you to tears will all the photos but some shots from the times we went.  Our first time was the best since we spent two days and nights sleeping in luxury tents and listening to the animals at night, particularly those that hunt at night (lion, hyena, jackal, most cat family animals).  The lions roar to each other.

Most drives were close by and we went to the coast once on a trip to Durban and went to a wetlands sanctuary.  Lots of hippos, crocodiles, and birds.  In holding a hippos tooth, it is about 15 inches long and about the circumference  of a lemon.  Most people are killed by hippos.  If they get between the hippo and the water or a mother and it's young, they charge and bite about everything in half.  They can bite a croc in half.  They look playful, but beware.

On the game drives, when we get near lions or some large, potentially dangerous, game, we go silent.  No talking or whispering.  Also we can't move much or stick our arms, cameras or whatever outside the periphery of the vehicle.  The animals see the game vehicle as one large animal and they are used to it.  If they can discern that there is something else, they will attack.  We saw two lions stalk and then attack some animal in the tall turpentine grass in May.  They were about 50 yards apart and then bolted to the animals in the grass.  It was just a split second until we saw paws and heads pop up to the top of the grass.  In about 4 seconds, it was over.  Hardly any noise on that kill.  THESE ANIMALS ARE FAST, ALL OF THEM.  The slowest ones run about 60 km/hr or 36 mph.  The warthog can go from a stop to a full run in 2 lengths of its body.  Enough stories.  Now for the pictures.  Oops! Not so fast.  In looking through the animals we ended up with way too many for one post.  Animals are about 30 and birds will be the same amount.  So we will provide the Big 5 and a few more on this blog and send out another couple to capture some of the rest of the animals.  All in all we have taken about 5000 pictures so far.  It is hard to narrow the search to a small number but here's our best shot at it.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

April 2012

We are still catching up our Blog and this posting will feature some of the highlights of the month of April

Ezakheni Building w/Elder Miller
The Ezakheni branch meets in an old slaughter house owned by the city. The city lets the church use it at no cost, just to have it occupied. We went there to interview a brother to receive the Melchizedek Priesthood and to be called and sustained as Elder’s Quorum president.  He was a member of 6 months.  At 9:00 am, only the 1st counselor and his family plus the brother to be interviewed were at church. We started somewhere around 9:20 with about 40 people. By the time sacrament meeting ended we had about 90 people, including 6 investigators. Note the baptismal font in the rear of the chapel area. It’s a big fiberglass font or small pool.
Baptismal font in Ezakheni
Zwane family
Priesthood mtg in only availabel space
Interview room and Utilities
Priesthood meeting was held outside. The Relief Society and Young Women shared the chapel in different corners.  Elder Miller conducted interviews for priesthood advancements and temple recommends in this room.

As we exited the building after services, the young women were singing hymns as families gathered to walk home. We also had a cow grazing right next to our car.  Cows, goats and chickens roam most everywhere in the townships and along the roads and open land.
Unlikely church attendee
Ezakheni youth singing after church
We spent two days in April shopping with Renee Sabisa to outfit her for her mission to Uganda. She entered the MTC in Johannesburg on April 19, six weeks sooner than expected. Her mother does not have the money at this time, so we bought her luggage, camera, clothing, shoes and etc. We went to the new mall in town, but then we went to some shops in a shady part of downtown that we may not have gone into if we were alone. It was quite an experience.
Lunch after a day of shopping
Sabisa Family- Renee is in the center
Elder Jenks from the Osizweni District asked us excitedly, “Do you want to come to FHE with us?”  “Yes” was our immediate reply.  We had been hoping for a chance to visit some families living in the townships.  Being our first visit inside an African family’s home added more than normal excitement.  Osizweni is a township about 25-30 kilometers from Newcastle.  The country government set up townships where the citizens with little money or possessions could homestead.  Leaving about 6:00 pm, we drove Elders Jenks and Masvaya to the humble home.  It was getting dark and hard to see being that there were no street lights out there.  As we turned off the paved road onto a bumpy dirt road we spied the small home with a light on above the door.  After parking out front in the mowed weeds, we entered the home.  Upon entering we could see throughout the home.  A tiny kitchen/dining area adjacent to a small living room.  Two small bedrooms had openings into the living room with a section of fabric over each opening creating some privacy.  One room for the two kids, a 2 yr old boy and 6 year old girl.  The ‘master’ was the other room.  Escorted to a loveseat and couch snuggled tightly around a coffee table we got to know each other.
Sister Khumalo felt a need for religion in her life.  She didn’t want the flashy or demanding preachers, but something different, however she didn’t know what.  Each Sunday morning she watched a neighbor woman walking to church meetings just down the street in the school.  Finally she decided, “I’m going to follow that woman to church today.”  After getting herself ready, she walked to the school yard.  With more than one group there for church, she was unsure which one to attend.  She stood outside of the door.  The meeting was ‘Fast and Testimony’.  After encouragement, she stepped inside and sat towards the back.  The meeting was really strange to her, yet she stayed and felt something different.  Desiring to head home after the meeting, she was coaxed into staying for Sunday School.  The Spirit was present, she was touched and she accepted to receive lessons from the Elders.  Brother Khumalo came along more towards the end of her lessons.  She felt they both needed to be informed and involved.  As the missionaries taught him, he was receptive.  His prayer to God, asking if the church was true, came with a confirmation but also a tender feeling that he was speaking with a Father.  He had missed his earthly father his entire life.
Elder Jenks in Khumalo kitchen

The Elders, Jenks and Masvaya, gave a short lesson and we played short videos from our laptop.  It was getting late and time for dinner.  Sister Khumalo was striving so hard to ensure we were pleased.  Simple and tasty, steamed bread was the delicious beginning.  She set to rise in the sun during the day, then cooked on top of the ‘stove’.  The stove being a couple of hot plates on top of a small oven, looking like a microwave oven, only slightly smaller.  Tripe with beans as a sauce rounded out the dinner.  The sauce was spicy, and tasty.  Guests used the large plates, attractive but not matching.  She and her kids ate out of bowls, after all of us had been fed and she was sure that we had eaten enough.  We have to watch the Elders to make sure they don’t overeat.

Khumalo family with you know who
Picture time was next, then off to bed.  Sharing testimonies and life’s experiences had brought us closer together than we had imagined.  The kids were cute, but a little shy for pictures.  Legend has it here among some of the people, that when one’s picture is taken, it takes part of their spirit from them.

What a great experience for us.  Humbling and strengthening.  We developed a quick love for the Khumalo family and their beauty as a family.  Afterwards, the Elders mentioned that they were one of the ‘best off’ families in the area.  Not remembering beforehand, but realizing afterwards, that I had set Sister Khumalo apart as a Primary Teacher the prior week.  We had not extra rooms at the school, so the branch president and I stepped a little ways away and set her and another sister apart on a porch of the school.  She spoke so softly that I didn’t fully understand her name (on the third request), so the branch president said her name for me when I set her apart.  To complete our visit, we created a family picture for them and framed it, having not seen any pictures in the home.  Wrapped it up with little ribbon as a package, the Elders delivered it to the family for us.  We were told that Sister Khumalo was teary eyed as she unwrapped the gift.  She not only loved the picture, but it was the first wrapped present she had ever received.

We decided to take a trip into the Drakenberg mountains. As we turned off the road to head up the first valley, the road got rough and somewhat narrow. It is more one large lane than two. We drove through hills and past villages. In the villages, the people don’t have stores. We passed trucks stopped on the side of the road with 20-50 people gathered around and getting either bread or basic food items. Every so often a huge bag of maize meal or corn meal in a 100 pound sack was on the side of the road. I think the people came and shared it. We drove until we ran out of paved road and into the hills. The mountains are different yet beautiful. You can see the small groups of family houses on the hillsides. The life is rural, slow paced, agricultural, and family based. It was nice to see the people of South Africa.
shopping in the savannah
Drakensberg mtns - cattle grazing below

Family groups on a hillside
Goat herder high in the Drakensbergs

Off the beaten path
Rugged peaks of the Drakensberg mtns

Sunday, July 22, 2012

July 2011 thru March 2012

July 15, 2012 - We've been in South Africa for 4 months now. Life is very different and yet somewhat the same. We'll backtrack a little in time to provide more of a complete story. First we need to thank Rebecca for getting this setup for us and her friend for our background. 

July 2011 - The Boise Temple was closing for renovation and we decided we needed to do something better with our time. The plans started rolling. For the short and long of it, we met with the Bishop, filled out the forms, completed all of the medical included two eye surgeries, made initial plans for our homes, and completed our interviews with our Stake President, Pres. Zarkou, on October 2, 2011. He sent it in that night. We waited. We received a comfort survey a week or so later. Quickly we returned that. 

November 3, 2011 - We received a call from the missionary department asking if we had received our call. "No, has it been sent?" was the reply. Yes, it was in the mail and we needed to call them as soon as it arrives. On Friday, Nov. 4th, we returned from the Twin Falls temple with anticipation. We video recorded our mailbox visit, and opened our 'special' package from the Missionary Department. It was surprising and exciting to be called to the South Africa Durban mission. We were told to report on January 9th to the MTC and fly out on January 13th. Too late to call SLC. After telling family and close friends, we called the missionary dept. on Monday. Our entry to the MTC had been delayed. We were to report on Feb. 27th, 2012. He said it was to coordinate with the couple leaving. What we really found out was that there were too many things to get done before January 9th. Our FBI clearance took the longest.

Feb 27-Mar 6th: The MTC (Missionary Training Center) -
It is great to complete a week at the MTC. We are really pumped up about missionary work. We studied Preach My Gospel all week and did role playing to give us some practice. We had two great teachers, Elder Quinn Barney (mornings) and Sister Arce (afternoons). We are told to really use the Book of Mormon and that is our main source for scriptures in the lessons we teach. The emphasis is on teaching by the Spirit. We use the main discussions as a basis and adapt from there. We heard Elder Holland on Tuesday night strongly exhort us missionaries to come back as better people more grounded in the gospel and not to go back to our pre-mission ways. Today we had Sacrament meeting with the International branch. They almost all bore their testimonies. We had a mission conference and were trained by the mission presidency. At 5:30 we had a Departing Missionary meeting in which we were pumped up and counseled to be our best by the Mission Presidency. At 7:00 we had a fireside by Alex Boye’. He is a black convert from England and he sings with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. He described a strange and touching conversion story along with admonition to be the best we can be and to be committed.

It was inspiring to be with the missionaries, all 2000 of us, in the auditorium/gym. The sea of missionaries was bubbling with enthusiasm. Everyone sang with vigor and it really lifted our spirits. Tonight, we did a version of Called To Serve in which we went from soft to medium to loud to full voice as we sang together. Our eyes were moist as we felt the Spirit and the love of missionary work swelled within us.

We gained many new friends and developed a quick bond and love for them. We will miss them as we depart for places across the globe. We will be traveled with two couples to Johannesburg and there we part company as they go south and we go east.

March 13th

We have not quite been in So. Africa for a week now, but we have seen and learned many new things. We met our Mission President Von Stetten and wife at the Durban airport and they took us to a lovely Bed & Breakfast where we promptly went to bed after 25 hours with not much sleep! The sun comes up at 5:30 a.m. and we were awakened by the squawking of the Hadeda birds. Welcome to South Africa as they say around here! We dressed and went to the Mission Home where Craig was set apart as a Counselor in the Presidency then we took a tour of the city and Craig had a chance to show his ability to drive on the left side of the road.
.After a long and busy day of orientation, we had the delight of dining with not only the other couple missionaries in the office but a beautiful young woman from South Africa. She came from the coast not too far from Mozambique. Growing up in a township meant she worked hard and struggled to get ahead. Tomorrow, she would be on a plane ride to Johannesburg and into the MTC. She was quiet and soft spoken and very respectful. Her smile, however, was the brightest we’d seen in a long time. Her height put her almost a head above all of the rest of the Zulu people. Her frame was thin but one used to hard work. Probably being a main financial support for her family, it was difficult for her father to let her go on a mission. Besides helping her family, she had saved most of the money to support herself on a mission. At 23 years old, her maturity was very self evident. Her savings alone was probably close to the cost of supporting her entire family for the length of her mission. It was an honor and privilege to be in her presence.
 Thursday we left for Newcastle in our car and we watched the scenery change from tropical to rolling hills and grasslands. We have had days in the 80’s with electrical storms and rain in the evenings to cool things off. We spent Friday getting things unpacked and put away. We have a nice roomy home and we are very comfortable. The missionaries all came by to welcome us and we enjoyed getting to know all 10 of them. We have ventured out to the grocery store a couple of times and have gotten lost finding our P.O. Box and other places. We found out that there are few street signs and most are printed on the curbs with grass growing over it. Thank goodness for the Garmin that helps us find our home!! Things that are new to me: Kilometers, Rand (our money with animals on it), driving on the left side of the road, toilet flusher on the right side, military time, Celsius temp on the oven, locking everything up (gate into our drive way, gate into our house, the front door) and bars on all the windows. Everyone is Zulu and we learned a new handshake when we greet them. They have names like Phakamani Mbokazi, Nkululeko Myeni, Xolani Mbatha and Sanile Msibi. They speak very quietly and fast so we try to repeat what they say and hopefully we will someday remember their names.
Madadeni is a township 20 Km outside of the city of Newcastle. A township differs from a city in that it doesn’t have all of the public services or at least as well developed. Sewer, water, electricity, heat, air conditioning are seen in a small percentage of the homes in a township. Madadeni has seven sectors, each sector itself equal or greater in size than the central town of Newcastle. Stores are sparse and just here or there. Very few homes had cars and those cars were old and worn well beyond their years. In the midst of this township, is the small LDS church. It is surrounded by seven foot fences of steel posts with pointed tips. Razor wire circled around the top of the fence on the sides and back of the property. Kids were playing and young men were standing around talking. Just like any other church site. Today was a baptismal day for seven people. The chapel was adequate and air conditioned to a comfortable temperature. Two of the baptismal candidates were young men, preparing to go on a mission. (Ages 21 and 22). Two young women, and two women also had committed their lives to the Lord. One of the women carried a special spirit with her and you could feel the Spirit strengthening your testimony as you were in her presence. The baptisms were simple and sincere. Non-member friends and family supported these six. The one person who didn’t show up, is the one who missed out. Luckily, there’s always another chance. Their short testimonies afterwards were a perfect way to experience our first Saturday in the mission field.

March 24th

The Zulu's are very loving people, humble and theygreet us with an embrace. They have a special handshake that we learned quickly. The women’s hair is corn-rowed in swirls around the head or in clumps or tiny braids down the back. We soon found out that they have several wigs or extentions so each week at church they have a new hairdo.  The children are beautiful, a Hershey chocolate brown.

Shopping at the grocery store is hard. The Rand freaks me out when you pay 22.99 for a bag of oatmeal! Brand names and quantities are all so different. We had to buy an iron (529.98) and fry pan (110.00) for the Elders and a hair dryer (129.00) for me.

Our elders are great, we have 10 in our area that we love and care for. At zone conference we met the 8 from the down south of us in our Newcastle Zone and 16 more from Swaziland. Pres and Sis Von Stetten from Durban and the Hudson’s from Ladysmith attended and we fed all 43 Pizza for lunch.

We have had our power shut off twice and also our water. It seems to be a frequent occurrence around here. We went to the municipality to find out what the problem was concerning the power and hopefully got it resolved for the future. Everything is hard, but we are learning.

Relief Society Birthday commemoration: Madadeni 1st branch. It was a 4 and ½ hour ordeal with the District RS president reading from Handbook 1, 14 pages starting with the wearing of the temple garment to sealing adoptive children to parents for 1 ½ hours. We had singing practice for ½ hour and finally at 2 pm we had lunch and cake. Our first experience with African food: Paap, Chocolatca, and chicken. The cakes we decorated in Relief Society colors and was very good.

P-day Braai with the Elders at NCandu Falls. Luckily I made a big fruit salad and a chocolate pudding cake. The meat was provided by the Elders and looked like they butchered the cow on their way to the braai and brought these great big cuts. We had our own Russian sausages that we grilled. We had a great day together.

I have been busy sewing up Elder’s split out pants. Also they buy pants that are 4-6 inches too long and I have been hemming them up.

We had our first service project at the local Red Cross. We mixed up cement in an old wheelbarrow, sand, gravel from the driveway and water and concrete. The project is a fence to keep the cows out of the garden in back of the building. The Elders and Elder Miller set three posts in preparation of making the fence.