Sunday, February 28, 2010

Africa Is Not For Sissies .....gfh

We saw that saying on the back of a T-shirt yesterday. That says so much. I don’t know that sissies aren’t welcome here however, which I am glad of. Living in Johannesburg South Africa is not as comfortable as we’ve been used to. But Hey! That’s okay,too. It’s part of our mission adventure. Rusty did say the other day that it makes him think that another 2,000 mile cross country bike ride would be an easy thing compared. He’s already making plans.
There seems to be quite a mixture of modern and tribal. There are so many things that I want to get pictures of but we are usually zooming by in the car and I miss my photo opp. I love the way the mothers wrap their children up on their backs. No just little babies but toddlers maybe three and four years old. They use a large rectangular blanket/towel/sheet type of thing and cover the child with it and then the mother ties two ends together under her arms and around her chest and the bottem two ends around her waist. Can you picture that? The child is very secure, snug and cozy. They don’t wiggle around…probably no wiggle room. Sometimes a little head is barely peeking out. The last week that little head usually has a stocking cap on it because the weather has cooled down quite a bit especially in the mornings.
Speaking of little children, today in church the front row was just little children the oldest couldn’t have been more than six. I’m not sure yet who belongs to whom but there were no parents with them. They sat so quietly throughout the entire sacrament meeting and with hymn books in their laps sang every song. There are quite a number of children in the Branch enough to cause quite a ruckus but the only child you hear might be a tiny baby fussing or cooing. I think it is amazing as I compare it to what I am used to in the States.
Also occasionally people are carrying things on their heads while walking through town. Not just the women but men also young or old. I have seen shopping bags, what looks like bundles of clothing and also a bundle of sticks balancing on heads. I think it is a great way to carry and I’m sure it is very good for the posture.
The people wear bright colors, the men more so here than in the states. People carry umbrellas more than they do in Oregon. Umbrellas are used for the BIG splashy rain storms and for the bright sunshine. Some women wear their hair wrapped in turbin type scarves and some women actually shave their heads.

As we are getting more and more comfortable driving on the left we are able to notice the scenery around us more. Have you seen the movie “Out of Africa” ? On some of our drives the country side looks just like that…miles of grasslands. But also there are gorgeous bright flowers and trees with lush vegetation. The birds are also amazing. Every once in a while we’ll catch a glimpse of a bird that looks like it came off of the glossy pages of a "Birds of South Africa" book! And we have a real coo coo bird that lives close by and sings “coo coo” to us in the mornings.
Johannesburg is a bustling city. The traffic lights are called robots and seem to not be very dependable. IF the traffic is really tied up we have come to figure it is usually because a robot is out up a head. Friday evening during rush hour traffic we hit an intersection that would have been crazy even with the lights working. It was a bumper to bumper tangled mess with cars trying to work their way through no matter what. There were two times when a young man jumped out in the middle of all that and tried to direct the traffic a bit. It helped. I was certain that our church car would end up with a bump or dent and we’re trying really hard to make it through our mission without that happening. One senior Elder in charge of cars for the mission said that in a year and a half there will be enough fender benders to equal one per mission car and that is about 70 mission cars. Some of that is due to the crazy traffic because we often see accidents along the road BUT I’m surprised there are not many many more accidents with the South African style of driving.
We’ve mentioned before that there are vendors at the busy intersections. The same ones are there every time. It must be their “place of business”. As we drive to the office in the mornings one of the main intersections we pass through gives us the opportunity to buy a morning paper. There are several “paper boys” walking among the cars showing the headlines into your car window. I have a favorite paper boy who is dressed in bright red overalls and many mornings is dancing in the middle of the cars. He is very fun to watch. Maybe it helps him sell papers or just makes his job more fun!
As we shop for groceries I want to try all the new things I see. Rusks or biscuit cookies are very popular here. They are a shortbread that is dry and crunchy. Must go with the tea they drink a lot of. I’ve really taken a liking to them. There are wonderful smells coming out of the flats as we come home from the office. There are a number of East Indians in Johannesburg and some living in our building. The smell of curry is very dominant. I’m looking to try that.
Another thing that is different is there are no electrical outlets in the bathrooms. I guess it’s because they use such high voltage electricity…I don’t know. But no place to plug in one’s blow dryer or electric razor or whatever. We’re finding we can live quite nicely without that convenience. I believe we mention the no air conditioning or central heating in the flats? We’re told we’ll get one space heater per person and the mode of use is to hang on to it and take it with you wherever you go in the flat. We’re not home that much so we’re going to be fine. At least we think so.
Now one thing that is sad is the crime. Anyone with any kind of nice home has a fence or big block wall around it. Sometimes those fences have pokey, jabby things on top and are wired with electrical wire. The windows have bars on them and most businesses have gates with a gate keeper. One of the sisters we Home Teach said that about every December she is robbed and cleaned out of all her appliances and anything of value. She said “that’s South Africa”. She has a high fence around her place but they dug under the fence to come in while she was gone. She’s grateful that they come when she and her family are not home. She has never been harmed but knows people who have been.
Then on the other hand we are surrounded by young men and women who are serving the Lord in this great country. There are people accepting the Gospel here by the thousands each year and lives are changing. One of my jobs is to answer the phone and take information from people who want to be taught about the Gospel. Last week a man called and said “I have just met two servants of God who gave me this number to call.” What a sweet experience!
Africa may not be for sissies but it is filled with wonderful people who are seeking the truth and we hope to be able to help them find it.


  1. Reading about S. Africa from your reports makes me remember Paraguay with fondness. So many similarities. WOW, your mission is put into perspective if Rusty would prefer the 2,000 mile bike trek. If S. Africa isn't for Sissies then the prophet chose the right couple for the job! Take Care and Be Safe!

  2. We have added Johannesburg weather to our Google home page. You mentioned the weather several times in your journal entries so I thought I would check it out. Here is the forecast for the upcoming week.

    80° | 62°
    Chance of Rain
    80° | 59°
    Chance of Rain
    71° | 59°
    Chance of Storm
    75° | 59°

  3. Thanks for the rundown. Sounds like a very interesting place.
    Larry & Maurie McKenzie

  4. Wow! It's interesting to hear some of the same things from you that we experience here in the Congo. We love the children. They are amazingly calm and reverent. We still can't figure out why.
    The pagnias (wraps for babies and all other uses) and the things on peoples heads are just African. Here in the Congo we all wish to go to S. Africa where it's so nice and comfortable. You are right that Africa isn't for sissies. But it's quite the adventure, isn't it.

  5. The lack of security in people's homes is very common to Venezuela, as well. It was a common theme in hearing from my ex-daughter-in-law. They never left their home unoccupied for that reason. They also had a big fence around their home and dogs. Miss you two.