Wednesday, January 8, 2014

30 Dec 2013 – 5 Jan 2014 NewYearsEve,Kruger,IsabelWedding

We greet you at the beginning of 2014 and hope that you all continue to experience good physical and spiritual health!

Elder Tidwell has been working at the office preparing for a visit by the South Africa Area Representatives for Public Affairs in February.  First of all, he coordinated with the counselor in the Mission Presidency and the Mission President to set the date.  Then, there were schedules, meetings and translators to arrange.  The representatives had a PowerPoint presentation they wanted to give and they needed Elder Tidwell’s input on the content.  Then it had to be translated into Portuguese.  Elder Tidwell translated other documents, too.  When he was first given this assignment, he was very worried that he would not be able to do everything that was required.  However, step by step, line upon line, email upon email, knowledge added to knowledge, the “light grew brighter and brighter” (D&C 50:24) and he has successfully provided for the visit.  There is time, since the visit isn’t until February 7-8, to make additional preparations that no doubt will come up. 

For New Year’s Eve, Sister Tidwell made a pumpkin dessert from a Mozambican pumpkin which we showed you a week or so ago. We shared it with the Hobsons and the sister missionaries on New Year’s Eve.  It really did taste like the recipe that we use at home.  Otherwise, New Year’s Eve was somewhat uneventful other than the all-night party that happened below and to the West of the apartment building. We could not see much, but it was sure noisy with loud music and a firecracker now and then.

New Year’s Day was not normal at all as we awoke at 4 a.m. and left by 5 a.m. with the Hobsons for a trip to Kruger National Park in South Africa. We had permission from the President to take the holiday outing. The park is only about two hours away to the northwest just across the border.

We are so used to looking outside the car at buildings and crowded streets, that it was quite a treat for our eyes to be able to look out over the green countryside and see sugar cane fields as we entered South Africa, and a banana tree orchard with banana in blue bags!  Amazingly, I looked on the Internet after our trip, searching for “banana trees and blue bags” and there were hits!  I found out that the bananas are protected from being bruised in a storm and from being eaten by insects and other pests while they grow in these bags.  The bags are half blue plastic and half silver to reflect heat so they can ripen faster.  The bag is tied to the bunch stem, at the top of the plant, and the bottom of the bag is left open.

Kruger National Park is a famous wild animal park that is about 36 miles wide and about 240 miles long. Needless to say, we could only see a small part of the park even though we stayed from 7 a.m. until 6 p.m., returning home before 8 p.m.  We entered the park at Crocodile Bridge. Note the Crocodile on the river bank.

We had high expectations to see many wild animals, including the elephant.  This picture was on the header of our blog for many months, but we did not take this picture!  

Our first sighting was a family of wart hogs, just outside the entry point.

If you can see the distant giraffe in this picture you get the idea that our trip included a lot of sleuthing as we looked out of the car windows at and through every bush and tree trying to see things that moved as we traveled slowly along each road.  We’re glad we had binoculars with us!

The Impala is the most populous animal in the park. It is estimated there are 152,000 in the park!  You could always count on finding one at almost every turn. They greeted us as we entered and said good bye as we left.

Early on our visit we saw a Vervet Monkey and her baby.

Later on, we came very close to Giraffes - a lot of them! You can see from these pictures how close we were to them!

This bird is a Hammerkop.

What a turtle!

We stopped at “Lower Sabie,” one of the main camps, and purchased a booklet that included a map of the park and pictures of the major mammals, birds and trees in the park. 

Each of the camps also has a blackboard where visitors to the park can record their recent sightings near that location.

In the parking lots we were able to see close-ups of the intricate nests of the Weaver Birds.  At one occasion, too far away to get a good picture, we saw a tree that was covered with these nests with swarms of Weaver Birds.

We next saw African Elephants, Chacma Baboons, and a Buffalo.

We also saw Rhinos and Hippos, but they were hard to spot in the bushes.  When the Hippos were in the water, they were mostly submerged and only their ears or nostrils showing!  Here is one in the water and all the way out of the water.

We do not know what these vultures were feeding on, but this group of about 40 vultures was not going away any time soon! 

We went to the location where lions had been sighted, and we found them, but they were sleeping!  Yes, the tan mounds in our picture below are the two male lions asleep, but alive.  We verified they were alive and breathing by looking at them through the binoculars and seeing their chests rise and fall.  We also saw them stretch a few times - but they slept on!  When we told Lyn about the sleeping lions, she commented that she had read that male lions sleep 20 out of 24 hours.

I just looked on the Internet searching for “sleeping lions” and found a fun children’s game!  In this game, all of the children (except one or two hunters) lie down on the floor in sleeping positions. Once they are settled, they are not allowed to move. The “hunters” walks around and spot anyone moving – that person is then out.  One site said it was a perfect game to play as a wind-down activity in a party or right before naptime!  Then, I found a little rhyme (, which I modified a little, that the "hunters" can say. 

Creeping through the jungle
What do I see?
I see sleeping lions,
Tired as can be.
Shall I try to wake them
With a little tickle-dee?
Tiptoe very softly
One, two, three!

On "three" the hunter tickles a child, and if the child moves or laughs, then he/she is out.  If you have lots of children, the "out" child could join the hunter to say the rhyme and try to get someone to move.

We really had a fun day.  There were many other birds which we saw.  The ones we could identify were:  Lilac-breasted Roller; Cape Glossy Starling; White-backed Vulture; Lappet-faced Vulture; Southern Yellow-billed Hornbill; Helmeted Guinea Fowl; Reb-billed Oxpecker; Weaver Birds; Barn Swallows; Swifts; White-faced Duck; Cattle Egret; African Darter; Goliath Heron; Blacksmith Lapwing; Wahlberg’s Eagle.  We’ll let you look these up on the Internet for pictures – it is really difficult to take pictures of birds – even large ones – because they are usually far away!

We were not surprised that one of our last sightings at the end of the day were the Burchell Zebras, for we truly saw birds and animals from A to Z on this special day in Kruger Park.

Thank you, Hobsons, for inviting us, providing transportation, being tour guides, and great company. Thank you, President Kretly, as well, for letting us have this experience while we are here in Africa.

We are beginning to experience water outages in our apartment building lately.  We never know when we turn on the tap if there will be water.  When you are out of water you can’t, of course, properly wash your hands, take a shower, wash dishes or clothes, and we always need to be prepared with extra purchased drinking water.

We had a great experience on Saturday as we attended the marriage of Isabell, who is President and Sister Kretly’s housekeeper. Isabell was the housekeeper for the former mission president, President Spendlove, too. Isabell’s daughter, Sister Guilamba, is serving a full-time mission in Madagascar. On the next day, Sunday, Isabell was baptized a member of the church. It was joyous occasion as friends and family gathered for these special events. We learned to love Isabell during our stay at the Kretly’s and our frequent interactions with her since that time at the Maputo 1 Branch meetings.

At testimony meeting today Sister Tidwell bore her testimony early in the meeting. That was wise as each month a large number of members bear their testimonies and a line usually forms. She walked up to the podium with confidence and no notes in her hand. I had no worries because Sister Tidwell always prepares for such occasions. She spoke in Portuguese clearly and expressed the feelings of her heart. She told them how, though she did not understand all the words that were spoken in the meeting, she felt their spirit and was humbled in their presence. She bore a strong testimony of Christ and His Atonement for us. She reminded the members that this was the start of a new year and that in reality each day is the first day of the rest of their lives. As such we have the opportunity to choose the right each day to experience happiness here as we prepare to return and live with God and experience eternal joy. God truly does love us and answer our prayers. I was so proud of her and grateful to feel of her spirit.
Sunday we saw the Smiths at church, back from their holiday trip to USA. They brought a few items from the USA that we will enjoy very much.

Sunday evening Sister Tidwell finished the monthly input of baptism fichas to meet the deadline. This is a monthly event where the APs collect all the fichas to document the baptisms that have occurred in the month. If they are not entered on the Church’s system, the baptisms cannot be counted. Looks like she just finished inputting the 110th baptism for the month of December 2013.

Today Elder Tidwell had an experience that he was not expecting. He was in the restroom that is located in a building behind the church. Another person exited the rest room and closed the door. When Elder Tidwell went to exit the handle was missing and the door was latched. He wondered if he would be in there a long time, but hoped someone would come soon. He tried to get some attention by knocking on the door and rattling it. Luckily the branch president heard him and let him out. As he did so, he showed Elder Tidwell that the handle was up on a ledge.  Using it could have easily solved the problem. It reminded him that often the solution to our problems and challenges are often close at hand if we will but pray, listen for answers, remain calm, and look for the solutions. He was reminded of I Corinthians 10:13 that says, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”

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