Saturday, August 16, 2014

4-10Aug2014 Elisa,ElderDouglasLeft,Nespruit,Utopia,BotGardens,Cave

Although we had received permission in July to travel with Hobsons to Nelspruit, we had to wait until their truck was back from being repaired.  Last week Elder Hobson got his truck back, so the plan was to begin the trip early Wednesday morning, 6 August.  Since we wouldn’t be returning until Saturday afternoon, we all decided that we didn’t need to go grocery shopping Monday.   In the later morning, we took a walk and found the bakery the missionaries showed us a few weeks ago and purchased some bread and rolls which we needed.  

As we were leaving, a lady called out to us and we stopped.  We met Elisa, a very friendly lady, who said she was very surprised to see missionaries of our age group.  She has often seen the younger missionaries, but we are the first senior couple she has seen in Maputo.  Since she had once kept house for an English family, she spoke English quite well.  She knew where the Church was and said that she may come to our meetings soon.  When one of Elisa’s friends, from Zimbabwe, joined us we invited them to come to Church together!  It was fun talking to both of them.

Elder Snelson gave the spiritual thought at Staff Meeting about the importance of remembering.  He explained that the definition, from an 1828 dictionary, for the word “remember” is:  to bear in mind with reverence; to obey; to keep as sacred to observe – as in, remember the Sabbath day to keep it sacred.  He used an interesting series of scriptures.  He explained that “remembering” was one of 3 steps to avoid pride.  1) Be humble, 2) Pray faithfully, 3) Remember the great things the Lord has done.  (see Alma 62:49-51).  The Lord’s work, he testified, is never about us.  It is all about God and the great things he has done for us! 

Tuesday was Elder Douglas’s last Staff Meeting.  Elder Douglas has been one of the Mission Secretaries since the first week of November 2013, most recently with Elder Poyfair and Lourenço.  On Friday he will be transferred to Swaziland. 

Tuesday was the deadline for July baptismal fichas to be entered for the July CDE report.  So, that evening, in addition to finishing packing for our trip, I had about a dozen fichas to enter.  That night was pretty short as we were up and ready to go at 5:45 a.m.

As we made our way out of town, I realized, again, how many people travel to Maputo from outlying areas.  Three of the four lanes on one of the main roads out of Maputo were designated for in-coming traffic.  In addition, there are many people walking toward the city or waiting at chapa stops. We arrived at the border at 7:15; it took only 15 minutes to get through the Mozambican side.  

Then, at the South Africa border, the “fun” began.  We were told that the South African government was enforcing a regulation, which had been on the books a long time, for every person entering South Africa to have cash in hand, or proof of it in a bank account, 3,000 Rand (equivalent to $300 USD)!  If you couldn’t do that, then you had to turn around and return to Mozambique!  Since we had never heard of this regulation, we had to figure out a way to comply.  To make a very long story short, the officials agreed that they would accept a printed American bank account statement showing sufficient funds for 4 people.  Iphone to the rescue!  Richard logged into his UCCU account with his iphone, the officials showed him a computer he could use to print it off, and they held the statement at Counter 1 when we went through with our passports into South Africa.  Almost 2 hours later we were finally on our way again!

South Africa scenery reveals distant mountains, lush greenery, and cultivated fields of sugar cane, bananas, papaya and oranges. 

As we traveled I couldn’t help but think, “Heavenly Father, thank you for Africa!”  Occasionally we saw guinea fowl by the side of the road.  We also saw some monkeys and a few warthogs!  We arrived in Nelspruit about 11 a.m., and, after purchasing a few things at the I’lane Mall Pharmacy, had lunch at the Spur Restaurant.  Their chicken, avocado, mushroom, and bacon salad was the best!

Wednesday evening we stayed at Utopia in Africa! Everywhere you look at Utopia you saw that special care had been taken to put a homey welcome element, including flocks of “swallows” hanging from the rafters. The aura of the setting reminded me a lot of visiting my sister Karen's home in Portland, Oregon.

Each of the spacious rooms had their own veranda which overlooked garden areas where we heard and, occasionally, saw birds. The gardens immediately around this refurbished home had pathways and rock staircases.  Decorative jars filled with shells, rocks or small growing plants hung from the bushes and trees.  Beaded flowers punctuated the unique plants and flowers, a glass fairy sits under a toadstool, a ladybug rock peeks out from under a rock.  Inside the lobby there were vases of beautiful sun flowers and birds-of-paradise.   

The most unique thing, to me, was how quiet and peaceful it was.  You could sit out on the veranda, looking out into the forest, and the only sounds were twittering birds. 

There were no horns, sirens, calls to prayer, screeching brakes, car alarms, or yipping dogs!  It was a heavenly kind of quiet!  That evening, we went to the kitchen and had hot chocolate together with the Hobsons.  When I went through the living room, I thought they must have had a recording on of jungle noises, but I found out it was the loud serenading of Raucous Toads which were in the pond at the front of the house!   We’ll for sure be sending that recording off to a few grandkids!  From our room the next morning we had a perfect vantage point to watch a beautiful sunrise!  Got a few glimpses of colorful birds out to catch the first rays of the sun. 


Our delicious breakfast, which was served outside on the covered porch, consisted of scrambled eggs, bacon, sautéed mushrooms, and baked beans.  Sides included a variety of cereals and granola, toast, hot cross buns; beverages included hot chocolate, milk, and orange juice.  For the next time, if there is one, we all agreed we should stay at least two nights at Utopia!

We spent the morning at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens, which is located right in the city of Nelspruit.  It outdid all of our expectations.  It had stone pathways, wood terrace walkways through a rainforest, a huge bridge, waterfalls where the Nels and Crocodile rivers meet, and interpretive signs explaining the unique trees and birds which could be seen in the garden. 

Richard and I took the bird wlk trail (a combination of dirt pathways and rock staircases) down by the river. 

The birds were mostly elusive – we heard much much more than we saw, but it was an adventurous walk/hike and we loved it!  We took oodles of pictures.

We learned the difference between an epiphyte and a parasitic plant.  Ephiphytes grow on a tree or other plant, but do not take nutrients from the host plant.  Parasitic plants, in contrast, take nutrients from the host plant on which they grow.  We also saw examples of Lithophytic plants, plants that grow on rocks!   Who would have thought we would find a quote from Chief Seattle in a botanical garden in Nelspruit, South Africa!

We saw a Copperstem Corkwood tree (from the Myrrh family),  the Ficus Sycomore or Common Cluster fig (the wood of which was used to make coffins for Egyptian Kings), Thorny Rope, Cosi Palm, and the Candelabra Tree (called nature’s water bottle).  We also saw a Baobab Tree.

Exciting birds we saw were the Hadeda Ibis, Wagtail (like our Dipper), and Cape White eye.

We ate lunch at the Mediterranean Restaurant at the I'langa Mall and then went a short distance to check into our room at Stay-Easy Motel, which is within walking distance to the Riverside Mall and a strip mall across the street.  That afternoon we did some shopping for ourselves and for the mission.

At KFC that evening, we met a very nice couple, Jennifer and Elton, who were engaged to be married in November.  We were with the Hobsons and the couple was very impressed that we had been married for so many years – to the same person.  Hobsons have been married 50 plus years and we have been married 45 years.  What is your secret? They wanted to know!  I responded that one secret is “Not having secrets!”  “Patience” was Sister Hobson’s response.  The couple said that in Mozambique (we found out they live in Maputo and were in Nelspruit for a holiday just like we were) the men don’t stay with one woman.  I explained that this is changing in the couples in the Church and many are getting married and keeping their covenants to be true to each other not just for this life, but forever.  Richard had a pass-along card and Jennifer said they were going to come!  We later found out that they were staying at the same Motel as we were!

On Friday morning Elder Hobson and Richard and I traveled about 30 km to Sudwala Caves.

The caves are described as an “unplumbed complex of passages and giant chambers.”   We had only a 5-minute wait before the 1-hour easy-walking tour began.  There was the Crystal Tour, a moderately difficult 5-hour tour, but it involved crawling through tunnels in mud and water.  Too bad – we didn’t have reservations! :)  The caves were enormous and we kept going in and up to see the various flowstones, stalagmite and stalactite formations, which have been given unique names including Weeping Madonna, Lot and his Wife,  Fairy Land, and Screaming Monster.   There have been concerts held in the gigantic amphitheater chamber which can hold 500 people!

After the tour we walked to an overlook and, since we were looking out over the trees.

It was a perfect place to bird-watch!  We saw many Cape White Eye, and a couple of new birds:  Cape Rock Thrush, Yellow-Rumped Tinkerbird, and some kind of Sunbird, most likely the Amethyst Sunbird.

We had lunch at a fancy restaurant a few km outside of town called Zest.  Richard and I decided to share an interesting chicken, mango, and macadamia nut dish with a peppercorn sauce, slivered baby marrow (zucchini) and coconut cous-cous (tiny granules made from steamed and dried durum wheat). 

Zest is located on an avocado farm with about 200 avocado trees and has a beautiful view of the valley.  I had never seen an avocado bush/tree before, so it was very interesting to see so many!

Just down from the turnoff, we went halves to purchase a bag of avocados for 20 Rand ($2).

That afternoon we did some shopping for the mission:  specially made new vinyl maps for the transfer boards; sheets, pillows, and pillowcases for new missionaries, and office supplies. The vinyl map store was very difficult to find and, once we got there we had to wait 15 minutes while they printed the maps.  Then we found out they didn't accept credit cards, so then the fun began!  After finding the nearby mall, Richard went in to get money from an ATM.  In the process, the mission card was stolen...  A quick call to the mission office made sure the card was cancelled!  Back to the rest of the shopping (with cash)!

One thing we were not able to find is regular manila file folders.  They just don’t make them here.  You can buy dividers, but the closest they come to a file folder is a piece of semi-thick paper you can fold in half – but it doesn’t have a tab and it doesn’t hold up very well.

All too soon Saturday morning came.  We had to do a little mission shopping at the grocery store, as chocolate bars were on sale, but the mall didn’t open until 9 a.m. So, we did a little bird watching while we waited.  It was fascinating to watch the Southern Weaverbirds across the street from the Hotel. 

This active flock of weaverbirds were building their intricate round hanging nests.  A few minutes later all of the birds would fly away together.  We could only guess they were gathering more materials for their nests, as a bit later they would come back and there would be the chattering activity again. 

We went by Valencia, a fabric and craft store, on the way out of town, but so had hundreds of other people.  We didn’t stay long – the lines for cutting yardage were impossible.  Convinced myself I didn’t really need anything there anyway!

Our trip home went well. We stopped in Malelane for lunch at Fishaways (delicious fish and chips) and Steers (milkshakes).  When we got closer to Maputo we ran into back-ups due to road construction.  All in all, the trip has been wonderful.  It was nice to get away for a while, see some interesting places, and accomplish some mission shopping, too.

Sunday we split ranks.  I had promised to see Laura and her family at Maputo 1 and Richard went to Maputo 2, as the couple we met in Nelspruit said they were going to attend.  Laura came alone with her three children and the children were happy to see me.  I loved sitting with Laura and her family.  I can’t tell you about the speeches, but the Sacrament was administered with care, and it was wonderful singing the hymns together.  After Sacrament Meeting, I gave Laura the things I had brought and other New Member Family Kit items they hadn’t yet received.  It was good to see Maputo 1 members again – the Jamine family, Francisca, and many others I know by face, but not by name.   

At Maputo 2, Richard told me about their last speaker, the first missionary called to serve from Mozambique. Brother Jorge Mounga is the Branch President in the recently formed Mascarenha Branch (Beira District).  

He told the account of how he baptized the future wife of one of the current counselors in the Maputo District Presidency.  He also told how he had met a man in Maputo, from Beira, who was subsequently converted and baptized.  Elder Mounga challenged this brother to return home to Beira and to teach and baptize his family!  When Elder Mounga had completed his mission, one of the places he first went when he returned to Beira was to find this brother and see if he had met the challenge he had been given.  Yes, the man and his entire family were members of the Church.  Then the man said, “I’d like you to meet my daughter.”  Elder Mounga said, “Wow!  Was I glad I served a mission!”  This beautiful daughter became his wife!

So much enjoyed our Skype with Peter and his family as he told us about his July 26 - August 1 work service project trip to Ghana.

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