Monday, January 24, 2022

Getting Lost and Transfers -- week 102

We have had another wonderful week!

First, our big news is that we are staying a week longer.  Original plan was to fly home to USA on 27-28 January.  We could go to Utah first, to see family and friends there, then drive down to Henderson and Las Vegas to see family there, then drive home.  We either needed to buy a new car, or pick up our old one.  But the two granddaughters who have the old one are very attached, needless to say.  It's a 2013 Ford C-Max Hybrid, pushing 100,000 miles, so we are ready for a new car anyway.  But we keep hearing about the car shortage in USA.  [No such problem in South Africa.  Why???]

With COVID so bad in the USA we don't really want to go home at all!  This week's COVID rate in South Africa is about 6 cases/100,000 people.  Utah is 337/100,000.  California is 284 cases/100,000.  

Also, our flights were Johannesburg to Atlanta and Atlanta to Salt Lake City.  We were worried about that second flight, because no one has to be COVID tested to fly domestically.  We didn't want to catch something on the flight and then spend the next week visiting family and friends, in and out of lots of homes and restaurants.  We could be our own super-spreader event.  Instead we asked Church Travel if we could move our flights.  Our house renters are moving out on 1 Feb, so we need to wait until after that to come home.  New plan:  We will leave on 4 February and fly Johannesburg to London, then London to San Francisco.  All are international flights so require all passengers to be COVID tested.  It's no guarantee, but it improves the odds.  We will go straight home and isolate for a week or so to make sure we didn't catch anything in the airport.  Since we are not going very far from home, we'll just drive Sue's 1956 Thunderbird until we can buy a "real" car.

Monday was more office work.  The Taylors really are wonderful.  We are not at all worried about leaving the mission in their capable hands.  They also gave us some cookies that they grew to love in New Zealand, and are also sold in South Africa.  The fun part is that the missionaries in New Zealand also "slam."  This was a missionary tradition in Russia, too.  They take a little bite out of the top and bottom of the cookie, and then put one end in their mouth and the other end into a cup of liquid (milk, juice, herb tea) and try to suck the liquid through the cookie.  When the cookie gets soggy you gulp the whole thing into your mouth before it falls apart on the table.  Hard to describe.  Messy to do.  Missionaries love it!

Elder & Sister Hubrich invited us off on an adventure with them on Tuesday.  They needed to visit a school an hour+ southwest of here, where the Church has funded some major repairs and renovations.  The Hubrichs are Humanitarian/Welfare missionaries, so they do these kinds of projects all over.

BUT, there are two routes to get to this school.  We started on the "pretty" route, but the road was closed.  No problem.  Google Maps happily rerouted us.  After about an hour driving over and around a river in the bottom of a valley, we gave up and backtracked and never did get to the school at all!  Maybe we'll try another day this week or next.

We are not sure how this road even got on to Google Maps.  We had to stop and wait for cows to move two or three times.

Sister  Hubrich stood up to get out of the bakkie to take a photo of us crossing this "bridge" over the river.  Her glasses were in her lap.  Oops.  Now her glasses are in the river?  No!  They had landed on a ledge.  She held Elder Hubrich by the belt as he leaned over and retrieved them.  Well done!

We crossed the river about six times in and six times coming back out.  All the bridges were just concrete paths.  Most of them were under three or four inches (8-10cm) of water.  There has been a lot of rain and serious flooding in eastern South Africa the last two weeks.

We did not make it to the school, but we did stop by to visit Pastor Victor.  He runs a drug-rehab facility and a church, just on his own.  He has about 50 people living on his property.  He feeds them and puts them to work and helps them get off the drugs.  

Walking into his small chapel, we could feel the good spirit that is there.  He is a gift from God.

Friday we went to the airport--twice.  The main group of Elders arrived in Durban at 8am.  But Elder Sellers had missed the flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, so spent the night flying from Atlanta to London to Johannesburg.  That meant he came in on a later flight to Durban.  We took all the new missionaries--just five others--and did all the photo-ops on the second airport run.

We always spend time waiting at the airport, because the Mission runs on PLT.  That is President Lines Time, where everything starts 10 to 30 minutes earlier than planned.

We still had Elder Bascom with us (second from right above).  It was his last day as an Assistant before he goes to spend his last three months as a missionary in Lesotho!  
We took this farewell photo in the office.

We also stopped by the Durban Temple for photos, of course.

And we took the opportunity to have our Farewell photo with the Lines at the Temple.  The building and the people have been such a big part of our mission lives.  We will miss both.

We did all their orientations on Friday afternoon, and then sent them to the Mission Home for dinner and overnight in the Bunkhouse.

Saturday was Transfer Day.  People drive all over the place picking up and delivering Elders.  Hubrichs and Taylors were schedule to drive a van and a bakkie with six Elders and their luggage to Bethlehem--four hours west--leaving Pinetown chapel at 6:30am.  We were scheduled to deliver just one Elder to Ladysmith, leaving Pinetown at 8am.  About 6:15 our phone rang.  "Where is breakfast food?"  Oops!  Sue had forgotten that she had said, when she and Sister Taylor bought the food for incoming Elders for Frida,y they would also buy food for transferring Elders on Saturday.  No 24/7 stores around here.  Sue went to McDonald's drive-thru and ordered 12 breakfast meals to go.  Everyone was sitting in the cars ready to go out the driveway when she arrived about 6:50.

While at McDonald's she also ordered 24 more meals to be picked up about 7:30 for those coming to the 8:00 transfer time.  She was back to pick those up at 7:35 and nothing was ready!  The shift changed at 7:00, and the word about the order got garbled.  The early shift person asked Sue to call a few minutes before arriving so they could have it all boxed up.  The later shift thought Sue was going to call and confirm the order before they made it.  Sue tried to call before coming, but the line was busy...   Mis-communications all around.  But they made the order, and we were out of Pinetown by 8:30.  

Still not smooth sailing.  Big 5km long almost dead-stop traffic jam between Pinetown and Pietermaritzburg. It turned a normal 45 minute drive into a 1.5 hour drive.  And then another, shorter jam further on.  We rolled into Ladysmith at 11:45--over an hour late.

But the trip was worth it.  It was a glorious day.  Blue skies, fluffy clouds, green mountains and fields.  The before-mentioned floods meant there was even more water spilling out of reservoirs.

We went to the home of Elder and Sister Lyon and they fed us a great lunch.  It was good to get out of the bakkie and stretch.  We were so busy eating good food that Ken forgot to take photos.  But someone "stole" his camera and took a picture of him.  He isn't in very many pictures.

Did we mention we were driving the Hubrich's bakkie?  They took the Mission van to Bethlehem.  We no longer have our little Toyota Urban Cruiser.  With the increase of missionaries, it was needed up in Richards Bay.  The only spare car in the mission now is the big H-1 nine-passenger van. 

Sunday we both spoke in Church at Molweni Branch.  It was supposed to be our last Sunday there.  The Branch put on a lovely farewell feast for us! 

Here are all the little kids lined up in the kitchen eating their treats.  Sue wishes she had the photo of them all carrying their chairs down the hall to set this up.  They are wonderful children. 

And we had to have one last photo of Sister Vuzane and her daughter, Emma.  Emma was a brand-new baby when we first went to church in Molweni.  Now she will be two in a couple of weeks.

The adults sat in the Relief Society room and enjoyed eating and visiting.

We took a photo of the whole branch in the garden of the Hillcrest Stake Center.  It's an historic time.  This was their last Sunday meeting there.  Starting next Sunday they FINALLY!! get to go back to meeting in Molweni area where they all live.  COVID shut down all church meetings for months starting mid-March 2020.  When they were finally able to come back to church they had to use the Stake Center, about 15km (10+mi) away, instead of the rented rooms in a school in Molweni.  Many people have not been able to attend because they don't have cars.  Public transport is expensive and runs infrequently on Sundays.

We left that party in time to get to another farewell party.  This was a good-bye to us and a welcome to Taylors and others who have recently moved into the block of flats.  There are 16 flats, and we had a good turn-out for the party, with lots of good food.  Koko the jazz man, who lives in #14 just above us, played his alto sax for all of us.  Sylvie, who lives in #6 below us, made a big pot of breyanie.  That's a favorite South African Indian dish--rice, curry, chicken, lentils, yummy!  Everyone else brought snacks, salads, etc.  We brought Sue's homemade English toffee.  She had a pound of pecans she needed to use up.  Sue's fun dress was a Christmas present from Jeanne, our office and house cleaner.

When we were in Lesotho, Ken met the man there who sews made-to-order suits.  He ordered one with a cheetah-print lining, just for fun.

We have nice guards who watch over our neighborhood.  Sister Taylor got a photo of herself with two of them.  The one in the middle is a woman, Boniswa.  We have at least one other woman guard, too. 

Next week is already upon us!

Sunday, January 16, 2022

Training and Playing -- week 101

It was a busy week training the Taylors.  They are so good, that it is not hard.  But there is still a lot to get into their heads.  They learn fast, and already know a lot because of a previous office mission in New Zealand.  However, showing someone new just makes everything take a little longer.

Monday morning Ken stayed in the office to keep it open while Sue took the Taylors grocery shopping.  We'd put a few basics in the flat before they arrived, but they needed to buy what they wanted for the week.  New stores are always an adventure -- how do things taste, how do they come packaged, etc?  They were pleasantly surprised at how low food prices are compared to USA.  We had been, too.  

The rest of Monday and all of Tuesday was just basic office work.  A small crisis popped up now and then -- a normal happening.

Wednesday and Thursday we took the Taylors and went to do boarding checks (aka apartment inspections).  We saved this for when they came, because it is a good opportunity to drive all over the south and west Durban areas to see where the missionaries live, and meet many of our wonderful Elders.  

Wednesday we started out south with the  Amanzimtoti and Illovu Elders.  We forgot to take a photo there.

Next stop was Orient Hills with the Umlazi missionaries.   Elder Lusuko and Elder Tom came out to the car to "shop" for cleaning supplies.

Third stop was Chatsworth.  It was good to see Elder McGlothlin and Elder Sampson looking so well.  When we were there just before Christmas we had to leave their gifts out on the curb, as they were down with COVID.

Last stop on Wednesday was Queensburgh to see Elders Dodgen and Weber.  

Thursday we drove out west to Molweni and worked our way back towards home and the office.  Again, we forgot to take a photo of Elder Hall and Elder Hulley.  They live in such a beautiful spot!

Next stop was Hillcrest.  That is the favorite boarding -- on the pond.  

Next stop was Umbhedula.  They live in Washington Heights, above Marianhill.  Gorgeous view!  We asked Elders Beck and Rader to find a good Zulu burger place and we'd take them to lunch.  They did!  Zulu Burgers are bought at a Tuck Shop -- neighborhood fast-food place built from a shipping container.  It is just a ball of fried bread dough, cut in half, and filled with chips (french fries) and sauce.  Sauce choices are tomato sauce (ketchup), bbq, or peri peri (very spicy hot!)  And for the Elders the best part is that they only cost R10 (about 65 cents). 

Last stop on Thursday was KwaDabeka to visit the Zone Leaders, Elder Griffin and Elder Hill.

Sue did the first couple of inspections, and then let Sister Taylor take over.  Ken and Elder Taylor also did car inspections.  There are always a few spots that could use more TLC, but most of the flats and cars look pretty good.

Friday was supposed to be a quiet day in the office catching up on all that had been missed on Wednesday and Thursday.  We wish!! Elder Rena do Canto Alviana was scheduled to fly home to Brazil on Friday afternoon.  He has a special place in our hearts. We picked him up from the airport when he arrived in Durban -- twice!!  He first arrived in the mission shortly after we did, and then came back after COVID evacuation.  He is the only one of the Brazilians who managed to get back here.  

He came the first time on 27 Feb 2020 and we picked him up with the Howells because  President & Sister Lines were in Zone Conference.  

He came back in March 2021 -- but came a day later than expected.  The Lines went to the airport, but no one could find him.  We finally heard from Brazil that his flights had been delayed by a day.  

He is also our Elder who was arrested by immigration for not carrying his original passport.  Church attorneys got him out in a few hours.  The immigration officer was wrong.  But while in jail Elder Alviana taught the eight others in his cell about the restored gospel of Jesus Christ!  He's a great young man.

He stayed Thursday night with the Assistants upstairs in our building, and the Hubrichs invited us all for breakfast at 7am for "Goooooooolden Browns!"  (you have to sing it).  Hubrich family pancakes.  Ken was already down at their flat watching BYU men's basketball get clobbered by Gonzaga.  The game started at 6am (8pm Pacific Time).


So, now we were sorry to see him go.  He came into the office on Friday morning to fill out paperwork for the flight.  We took this picture in front of the mission map, and he felt taller than we remembered.  Yes!  Look at the photo from two years ago.  He was about the same height as we are.  Now he is taller!  He has truly grown in the Gospel!

But we couldn't get him a seat assignment -- required for the COVID tracing form.  We called the airline.  His ticket had been voided because it wasn't paid for.  We got on the phone to Johannesburg Church Travel and they got him back on the flight!  

Then we went with President & Sister Lines to the airport to see him off.  His flight from Durban to Johannesburg was delayed 3.5 hours!  That meant he might miss the flight out of Joburg.  We called Church Travel again.  They called the travel agency and they made him an earlier reservation on another airline.  We went to that check-in counter.  Yes, the reservation had been made.  No, the payment did not go through.  The travel agency has a problem!  President Lines paid for the ticket with his credit card and all is well.  We saw Elder Alviana through security.  Sunday morning Sister Hubrich got a short video from his family showing him arriving in Porto Alegre, Brazil.  He is home, safe and sound. Transfers are not until next week, but his University semester starts in Brazil on 31 January, and he has to do 14 days of quarantine when he gets home. He requested to go home one week early so he didn't have to miss a whole semester of school.  Of course that request was granted.

Friday night we did date-night with the Hubrichs and Taylors.  Dinner at the Cape House Cafe here in Westville. We sat outside in the warm, humid evening air.  Good food and good company.

Saturday was our last P-day.  Preparation Day or Play Day?  We always tell the Elders it is Preparation Day for shopping, laundry, etc.  Sue designed her perfect Play Day in Durban.  Just three things:  Lunch at La Rosa, bike ride along the Durban beach promenade, swim and boogie-boarding.  And we did it all!  It was made even more perfect because wonderful old friends, the Hubrichs, and wonderful new friends, the Taylors, all came along.

LaRosa is our favorite Durban Mexican Restaurant.  (There are not very many.)  We've been there before, but needed to take the Taylors. 

After lunch we rented bikes and rode a couple of kilometers south along the beach and back.  It was very crowded.  This is the last weekend before school starts after summer vacation, so everyone is still out playing and partying.

This red brick promenade goes for 10 km along the amazing city beach in downtown Durban.  Water on one side, lots of high-rise hotels and condos on the other side.

There are some amazing sand sculptures along the way.

And we had to take a photo in front of the "California Dreaming" restaurant. 

Next stop was Thompson's Beach up near Ballito.  The Hubrichs and Sue are the water-babies.  

Ken and the Taylors were glad to watch. 

It was a glorious, beautiful, perfect day that we will always remember.  

Animal stories for this week.

1.  Monkeys again!  The Hubrichs had a 7kg (15.4 lbs) bag of onions left from the food distribution after the riots last July.  They left it outside to share with Taylors.  It sat there for two days undisturbed.  And then we guess the monkeys decided they liked onions after all.  They were all over the place eating them like apples.  

2.  When we were leaving the Cape House Cafe on Friday night we noticed a very large spider making a very large web on the back of the Hubrich's bakkie.  We figured it would blow off during the 100 kph (62mph) trip home.  Saturday when we got home from the beach trip we saw that the spider was still there working on her web!  We drove the van on Saturday, so she had all day with the bakkie sitting to improve on her creation. 

Sunday we went to church in Molweni.  They are still meeting in the Stake Center in Hillcrest, but we had a good crowd there.  So many people have a hard time making the 15km trip.  They don't have cars, nor money for taxis.  We hope they are back in their rented school-rooms in Molweni soon.  And the land has been purchased to build them their own chapel.  It all just takes time, and COVID has slowed down everything.

This is "Fifth Nephi."  He is such a cute kid!  His name is Nephi Vuzane, and there are four books of Nephi in the Book of Mormon -- so he is our fifth. 

We loved these sayings on the bulletin board outside the Family History Center in Hillcrest.  It's a good reminder that history needs to be recorded.

We have been teaching a temple preparation class for Marian Chipara (left) and Alma Mkhungo.  Here are Marian and her mother, Monica.  Next Sunday will be our last week in Molweni, and we will miss our friends here.

Getting Lost and Transfers -- week 102

We have had another wonderful week! First, our big news is that we are staying a week longer.  Original plan was to fly home to USA on 27-28...