Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Update & Safari

Email to Everett,

Back from our safari to Pumba animal park.  It was quite the adventure riding in a safari truck that could climb rugged hills, ford streams, slosh through mud, go over uneven and rugged terrain plus plough over trees.  It was bumpy and bouncy but certainly an enjoyable adventure.  This was our first safari.  Our previous visits to animal parks were drive throughs in our own car.  What was interesting about this one was we stalked lions while they were stalking impala and zebras.  We followed two of them for about an hour.  The mother lion killed a warthog.  We saw hippos for the first time and baboons.  It was cold so the elephants were not out in abundance.  In fact, we only saw three.  When it's rainy and cold the elephants hide in the bush.  When it is sunny and hot they come into the open to graze.  It rained yesterday and today was cold, but we saw a lot animals of different species.  

The hippos are large creatures.  We descended a hill to a pool and river scaring off three hippos but two adults remained with their baby.  We drove as close as we could and the adults became defensive of the baby and moved about three feet toward us.  It looked like the male was going to charge.  Our African driver backed the truck up, turned and we left not wanting to disturb them more than we did.

The baboons hang out in groups of thirty plus as though they are a tribe or combination of several families.  Unlike the giraffes and zebras that don't seem to be bothered by a vehicle, the baboons move quickly away with little ones riding on their mothers' backs.  It's an interesting sight to see a group of them swarming across a hillside.  There are animal parks that have accommodations for those who want to spend a night or so, but they charge outrageous prices that seemingly only the rich and famous can afford.  I guess they pay for the privilege of sleeping in an environment inhabited by wild animals.

The Taylors are wonderful people and so helpful to us.  If it hadn't been for their help we would be at a total loss with this PEF job.  Elder Taylor's knowledge of computer technology has salavaged me many a time, plus his comprehension of the PEF program and how and what to do.  Sister Taylor is a great cook and makes wonderful spaghetti, Lasagna, cakes and cookies.  The seminary and institute students, and people in the wards and branches really love the Taylors. Elder Taylor has a great sense of humor and constantly cracks me up.  They are a great blessing to us and their living just two houses away has been most convenient.

The Arts Fesitival begins this Thursday and I've bought tickets for a lot of events.  Pumba is only about ten miles out of Grahamstown where the festival will be held so we went there after the park visit.  I wanted to familiarize myself with the town, its streets and location of various theatres before Thursday. Unfortunately, and to my chagrin, there are so many unmarked streets that even though we drove around for 45 minutes, I could not find one theatre or venue location for which I have bought tickets.  I now understand why the Festival catalogue says "Allow one hour between events."  It's going to take an hour to find the next event with so many unmarked streets.  We'll give an account of the festival when it's over.  Have a good day.

Elder S. 

June 26  Email Sister Stokoe 
From: everettyoung@juno.com

.  . . From your "On the Go" SmileBox it looks like you and Elder Stokoe have a wonderful relationship with the young elders.  (We do.  Went visited the Clarke's again last night with Elders Pack and Acton.)
      I am imagining on coming to visit you guys, hopefully in the February 2013 time frame and am excited to see the Elephant Park and hopefully also go on that safari to Pumba and the other national parks in and around Port Elizabeth.
     Thank you for the followup information on the blanket project.  Glad it was very well received by the people who had to actually do the work of purchasing, cutting and sewing.  It is even so much more meaningful to hear that they added their contribution of knitting hats and sweaters to add to the layettes.  Please THANKS all those who helped to make this endeavor possible.  I had no doubt that 100% of the money would be used properly.  Would the sisters be willing to do this again?  
     Note that Everett Young is a counselor in an Orem Young Single Adult Ward.  When they learned that newborns are going home from the hospital  wrapped in newpapers, the ward took up a collection to buy fabric to make baby blankets.  He gave the money to Janette Lake, Relief Society President of Lorraine Ward, when she came to Salt Lake for General Conference in April.  

On Sat, 23 Jun 2012 08:22:34 -0600 Diane Stokoe <dianestokoe@msn.com> wrote to Everett Young:

. . . We did not go to the missionary activity they sponsored last Saturday.  Nor to the Elephant Park.  Both groups of young Elders invited us to share that experience with them on their P. Day but we  had just gone the week before.   Too bad we missed going when the P.E. elders went.  It was a bright sunny day.  They saw hundreds of elephants.   It would have been nice to make a Smilebox of the baby elephant that fell in the watering hole.  Elder Southerland said all the elephants started trumpeting and running over to help get the baby out.  
We enjoy being neighbor to the Taylors.  They have really helped us understand our PEF assignment.  We visit informally with them two or three times a week.  However they  are very busy covering 29 different Institute and Seminary classes. Their teachers and are in place but they attend as many classes as possible each week as possible  They have monthly attendance reports to send in.   The  Van Sickle’s are also busy helping members  here and in Port Alfred, East London and other areaz find jobs.  They are often out of town.  We seldom see them unless they stop in to pick up post from Cape Town.  All mail goes to the mission office in Cape Town.  There it is boxed up and  flown to various locations throughout the  mission.   Elder Stokoe and I drive to the P.E. airport every Thursday afternoon to collect and distribute it.  Normally someone else takes it to the outlying areas. . .
Almost all of the 30 infant layettes the R.S. put together with the money sent from your Young Adult Ward are ready.  Last week Tom and I visited Sister Palmer who insisted on showing us the financial records to verify that every dime you sent went to the project.  Freda said that there is so much graft in government in South Africa that she wanted to assure us that all the money you collected went to the cause.  the Relief Society sisters really loved this activity.  Several knitted hats and sweaters from the yarn  purchased.  Each kit included a baby blanket, a hat and sweater in blue, pink, yellow or green, a cute card showing Christ with little children and a note about our church. . .

Senior Safari

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Setting the record straight

 Thomas Stokoe to Corinne Young, laraine Kent
Corinne & Laraine:

I need to set the record straight:  I am not directing "Joseph", have no desire to direct "Joseph", and will not direct "Joseph."  There will be no production of "Joseph."  It was mere discussion brought up by the Murdocks who had just arrived from the U.S. and been in this country seven days and are stationed in a city 300 miles away.  They are super enthused about their call as Public Relations advocates for the Church and are making the rounds across South Africa promoting "Helping Hands", projects where LDS church members and community groups work jointly in rendering service.

I was asked what I did in the U.S. and Sister S. replied I was a drama teacher.  Sister Murdock said she had been involved in drama, had choreographed musicals (one being "Joseph"), and had her own dance studio for 13 years. Sister S. mentioned I had directed "Joseph" 3 times and immediately Elder Murdock enthusiastically suggested his wife and I collaborate and produce "Joseph" and tour South Africa.  This could be a multi-denomination production, supported by elements of the community and churches involved, and be great publicity for the LDS church.  The fact  we are assigned by the church to dwell in cities 300 miles apart was ignored, the rehearsal time frame          
for such a production would necessitate daily rehearsal 5 days per week for practically 2 months, and the costs of mounting such a production and taking it on tour across South Africa would be outrageously phenomenal. Sister Murdock enthusiastically talked about costumes and Elder Murdock excitedly asked, "What role can I play?" to which Sister Murdock replied, "You can play Pharaoh."  Elder Murdock immediately started to warble a few notes and for all purposes the light turned green and the production was "go".  

Corinne and Laraine, it's a pipe dream, a figment of the imagination, a "seven day in Africa" expression of enthusiasm that will melt once reality sets in. I did not come on a mission to direct "Joseph."  I came enthusiastically on an African mission to serve as a Perpetual Education Fund educator. I am a loan officer.  Well, so much for dreams and enthusiasm.  Have a good day.

Elder S.


Public Relations & the Murdocks

   Last night we met Brother and Sister Murdock, public relations missionaries,  based in Durban.  They arrived  just seven days ago and are touring South Africa to help organize, promote and publicize the churches world- wide “Helping Hands Day” scheduled for August 18th,.  Traditionally, the church has not widely publicized all their humanitarian efforts believing that “the right hand should not know what the left hand is doing.”  However this policy has not served us well.  For example:  In his talk to the media the Mayor of New Orleans  recognized the two groups who did the most to help his city after Hurricane Katrina -  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and “Helping Hands Organization.”   He did not realize they were the same.  With Romney running for President and confusion in the press over whether or not Mormons  are Christians,  our General Authorities feel it’s time for a shift in policy.  They want us to join hands with communities, civic leaders, and other denominations to build a better world, and believe these efforts should be publicized.

  The Murdocks met Brother Wademan at Lorraine Ward, who also has responsibility for our PEF work.  They were introduced to and shared information with the stake’s high council.  It is their intent  to get  the public relations ball rolling here in P.E.  The day designated for all the world wide Helping Hands project is coming soon.  It’s August 18th.  It was fun to get to know this energetic young couple.  Sister Murdock is a dancer.  She  owned a dance studio in Pocatello for 13 years and has choreographed musicals.  She has done “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat,”  and would live to choreograph it again.  When Brother Murdock learned that Tom  had directed “Joseph” three times, he suggested that this musical could be put  on in P.E. as an LDS sponsored community project.  He asked Tom how long it would take to pull it all together.  He suggested “Joseph” could go on tour with performances throughout South Africa just like the Young Ambassador did in April.  We discussed  the possibilities of several performances in P.E. in December.  Both Sister Murdock and Tom are concerned with the logistics of such a huge undertaking.  It would be important to include the artistic community, include local actors and members of other denominations.

A couple of weeks ago I met the Reverend Julie Power from Long Beach, California, who left Kenya after the political situation deteriorated.  She is sponsored by several different relief organizations and is based in P.E. now.   I’ll call her and  get  some ideas for  Helping Hands.  On Tuesday we had lunch at Jackie’s which is a Mexican Restaurant.  While there we visited with a dozen young missionaries from the Church of Christ, based in Texas.  It was pleasant to hear American accents and comprehend what they were saying. We introduced ourselves telling them that we were from the Church of Jesus Christ with headquarters in Salt Lake.  They study the bible while traveling throughout Africa doing good works.  They are funded by members of various Church of Christ congregations.  These young people might be willing to help if we can contact them.  Next week Brother S. And I are going to the Graham’s Town Arts Festival.  Hope we can hook up with some of the local production people and actors that might be interested in helping.
We have a “PEF Fireside in Cleary Branch on Sunday and a meeting with young adults of P.E. Ward at institute.  Then we have done pretty much all we can with PEF in the Port Elizabeth Stake.  I’ll get Certificates of Completion for our students run off and handed out and then we will be traveling to some outlying areas.  We will be traveling to Knysna, near George, to present a fireside on July 8th.    After having all communications down for 11 days, I’ve finally got my blog updated and all the pictures posted.  Bless Elder Acton who stopped by to pick up some supplies and showed me how to get all the smile boxes  posted in my “layout” section.  We have a mail run this afternoon, we can stop by “Jackies” and ask Corolla, who works there and is investigating the church, to get some contact information for the  young Church of Christ missionary group. I really like the idea of partnering with civic leaders and co-operating with other denominations. 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


The most basic principles of the gospel are sometimes those least understood.  And one of these is repentance.  President and Sister Wood were taught in a recent missionary president’s training  to help the young missionaries “enthrone repentance” as they talk to investigators.  Many people do not clearly understand the principle.  So Sister Woods message at Zone Conference on June 5th was  the true meaning of  repentance.  In doing this she used Elder Theodore M. Murton’s Ensign article of August, 1988, “The Meaning of Repentance” as the basis of her talk which I’ve summarized below:

The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew, and the word used to refer to the concept of repentance is shube.  “As I live saith the Lord God, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from [shube] his way and live. (Ezek. 33:8-11) The Lord pleads with everyone to shube, or turn back to him and leave unhappiness, sorrow, regret, and despair behind.

The concept of shube (repentance) is also found in the New Testament which was originally written in Greek.  The Greek writers used the Greek word metaneoeo when referring to repentance.  The metaneoeo can mean air, the mind, thought, thinking or spirit depending on use.  Metaneoeo means a change of mind, thought or thinking so powerful that it changes one’s very way of life.  The Greek word metaneoeo is an excellent synonym for the Hebrew word shube.  Both mean turning from evil to God and righteousness. But the Greek word metaneoeo was then translated into the Latin word poenitere. The Latin root poen is words and is the same root found in our English word punish, penance, penitent, and repentance. The beautiful meaning of the Hebrew and Greek words was changed in Latin to a meaning that involved hurting, punishing, whipping, cutting or even torture.  It’s no small wonder then that people have come to fear and dread the word repentance, which they understand to mean repeated or unending punishment.

The meaning of repentance is not punishment, but rather change so that God can help them escape eternal punishment (regret and the emotional blocks that hinder us) and enter into his rest with joy and rejoicing.  If we have this understanding, our anxiety and fears will be released.  Repentance will become a welcome an treasured word (which supports health and healing.)

We can learn more about the meaning of repentance from the thirty-third chapter of Ezekiel, “if the wicked restore the pledge, give again that he had robbed, walk in the statues of life, without committing iniquity; he shall surely live, he shall not die.” (Ezek. 33:15)

At the age of 16 I received my patriarchal blessing.  It stated that someday I would “cry repentance unto those who know not God nor the purpose for which they had come to earth.”  This statement has always bothered me because I’m not a hell, fire and brimstone kind of girl.  I do not enjoy telling people that they will burn in hell if they don’t repent, change their ways and join the church.  I love my new understanding of repentance.  It squares with my training in Energy Medicine.  As a biofeedback therapist, I assist people in releasing the emotional blocks that creates disease in their body. I love this concept of repentance which builds, supports and releases rather than blames and shames.  This is the most exciting thing I’ve learned since arriving in South Africa.
                                                             Leadership Training Photos

Senior couples are often  invited to join the young elders in Zone Conference and or at their  Leadership training.  We provide the lunches and snack for them and often sit in on the training.  Sister Wood enjoys taking group pictures like the one below.  We were blessed to join them for leadership training on Friday, June 15th.   AP’s Elder Doxey and Elder McDonald (shown addressing the meeting) described an experience they had on a recent flight to Transkei.  They had prayed for an opportunity to teach the father of a big family who could become a “kingdom builder.”  They were surprised to be seated next to one of the grandsons of Nelson Mandela who was on the same flight.  They were able to bear testimony and tell him a little about our church.  They gave him their contact information and a pass along card.  He invited them to visit him when they were in Cape Town or when he was at his village in the Umtata District.

Providing Lunch for Leadership Conference

Hungry People & Polite Beggars

 From Elder S. To Everett Young
 On Tue, 12 Jun 2012 Thomas Stokoe writes:

After 11 days we are back in the world of communication; we are now internet-re-connected. Apparently we had to wait our turn in line to be serviced, hence the drought in communication.  The new house is nice both interior and exterior, and the lady of the house is very happy. She is constantly singing a song from the Broadway musical, "A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To the Forum."  It's called, "Everyone Should Have A maid" and she sings it daily with enthusiasm and a bright smile on her face. The maid, by the way, is a worker - fast, efficient, dedicated, constantly on the move cleaning every nook and cranny.  At the end of her work day, she asked me if she could have two pieces of bread to take home.  That told me a story right then and there: there's a lack of food in her house.  I gave her a whole loaf of bread, some ham, and a loaf of carrot cake.

Note from Sister S.:
Elder S. often exaggerates when describing my reaction to things.  i.e. Having a maid and his story of my encounter with the Rino.  Jessica came with our new flat.  When I learned we were moving, I felt bad for Talanna’s maid, thinking she would be out of a job so I invited her to work for us.  But Talanna’s mother had already secured her services.  She said she had a daughter, named Jessica who needed work.  Jessica’s African name means humble, which certainly describes her.  Jessica  lives in a township 45 minutes away with her two sisters, their children and her own son whose name is Lekimva.  It means “the future.”  We pay Jessica the going rate of 100 Rand plus bus fair each time she comes.  Elder S. always sends her off with extra food.

I think we take food for granted at times.  We have plenty, more than enough, even a surplus while others have less, virtually little, or maybe nothing at all.  I stopped at a red traffic light returning from a ward out in the bush area.  An old man was seated a few feet away on the railing beside the road. I could tell he was one in need.  We stock the car with little packets of peanuts and raisins.  As the light turned green and the car moved forward, I wound my window down and reached out to the man with a packet. He bounded toward me and taking the packet emitted the loudest "Thank you!' I have heard since being in Africa. That was an appreciative downtrodden man.

Tonight we went to Kwamagxaki ward out in the outlying rural area to deliver the elders' mail and teach a makeup class to a student.  I parked on the grass outside the church fenced yard and opened the trunk grabbing the plastic bag of mail.  There were young Black kids playing on the street.  Two little girls raced up to me and seeing letters in the bag one asked enthusiastically, "Can I have I have a letter?"  "I can't give you a letter," I said, "But I can give you something else."  I gave them each a bag of peanuts and raisins and immediately the rest of the kids came running. Fortunately, I had just enough to give each child.  They jumped and squealed with delight.  Then every single one of them came up to me and said, "Thank you."

I have noticed, even with the beggars, that people here are polite. Every single beggar that I have given a packet of peanuts and raisins to, or something other to eat, has said "Thank you."  Many have clasped their hands together and bowed.  I think we the rich in comparison to the poor have much to be thankful for.  When one lives in a tin shack, is unemployed and dependent upon the good graces of others, there is a great lesson in humility to be learned.  Well, have a good day all and I hope Youngs you are enjoying your vacation.  

Elder S.

Note:  Yesterday we stopped for a light in Walmar where the same 2 young boys always beg on the same corner.  We are not allowed to give money, so usually hand out raisins and peanuts.  At least they are getting some protein.  The locals tells us never to give money to children as there is always an adult somewhere in the background ready to collect it to buy drugs and/or alcohol.  We witnessed this on our air port run to pick up the elder's mail last week.  We saw a five-year-old begging boy hand his father the money he had just collected from a passer by.  There are social service programs here in South Africa to help every child attend and stay in school.  But there are also parents and/or guardians who have another agendas.  They are teaching their children to become professional beggars.  When these 2 boys saw us they came right up to our window and asked for their peanut treat.  I told Elder S. he should stop encouraging them.  But he was laughing so hard because they recognized us that he cheerfully handed each a treat.    
 Everett Young to Stokoet@hotmail.com,

With you telling us about moving and when I had not received e-mail from you, I kind of figured your Internet was not up and running.  Glad it's up and running again.... at your new dwellings. . .
It appears that Sister Stokoe is very much enjoying the maid services.  Sounds like the maid is a wonderful person and very pleasant to be around.  I'm glad you picked up on her food situation at her home and were able to help her. . .

On our way back home, about 45 minutes north out of San Diego, we made a 6 mile detour off I-15 and spent several hours at the San Diego Zoo Safari Park.  Sixty-five acres, fenced in perimeter and no fences inside these 65 acres, elephants, several varieties of gazelles, giraffes, rhinos, ostriches, etc. roamed amongst each other.  Lions and cheetahs were separated.  The management made this habitat as close as they could to imitate the Kalahari.  Made me think of the National Parks you have seen while there at Port Elizabeth. . .

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

News from the Billings in the Congo

Hello to our friends,

 We have been in the Congo for over three months now. Things are pretty much getting routine. We have adjusted into our lifestyle. However, we still see something new and amazing nearly every day. There is much to be critical of in this society but the people we meet give us much to praise as well. We are getting to know enough French that we can stumble through some simple conversations. It is actually kind of fun to try several different sentence structures and words in order to express ourselves. Sometimes it is futile but those we talk with seem to accept our deficiencies. They smile, shake hands, and tell us we are doing very well. If we do get several sentences in a row close to right they celebrate and so do we.

We have had meetings, with some key individuals, that have resulted in progress in each of our specialties. We met with the Church architect a couple of weeks ago and had the opportunity to discuss some redirection for the construction training. JoAnn has been able to help some of the local Family History Directors to get their work moving in the right direction. There are some terrific things in the works for the future of the people we are serving. Our first class of construction students will be completing their training in a few days. We will have a new class of ten students early in July. The students who are now completing will enter a second phase of their training where they will act as tutors for the students in our next class. They will tutor for half of each day and then they will work on one of the church buildings for the remainder of each day.  Another big difference in the first phase and the second phase is that the second phase students will get paid for what they are doing. It is a job! They are happy, beyond belief, about that.

We are healthy. We eat almost as well as we did in the U.S. There are a few markets that sell U.S. and European brands of food. That is where we shop. We have a very comfortable apartment. We have running water, flush toilets, electricity, air conditioning, and the internet. What else do you need? It might not always stay that way if we are moved to a different city but conditions are very good right now. There aren’t a lot of mosquitoes. However, the ones we have, they know right where to bite. We have had them make their attack at the precise location where The Red Cross would insert a needle to draw a pint of blood. They are well fed. We, faithfully, take medication to prevent malaria.

 We do miss a lot of things about home. We, especially, miss all of you. What replaces that is a one-time experience of a lifetime. Before long it will be over and we will be home. We feel fortunate that, at our age, we are healthy enough and have the means to be able to do what we are doing. We will be able to make a little bit of a difference. To some, it may even be a lot of difference. Who knows? Please take care of yourselves and each other. Also, please write back if you get a chance. Thanks to all of you who have written. With love, Elder and Sister Billings

  Reply from Sister S.

It’s so good to hear about your work in the Congo as many of your experiences there mirror our own. We are beginning our 13th week in Port Elizabeth and it’s nice to finally be in a routine. Though we did not have to learn a language, we still struggle to understand some people with heavy accents. Many of the English words used here have different meanings so I sometimes find it difficult to understand what is being said. However I have found people to be kind and helpful.

We enjoy working with the youth and visiting the units (wards and branches) of Port Elizabeth Stake as we travel around promoting the PEF program. We have been impressed by our “Planning for Success” teachers including Mosia in Cleary Estate Branch, Stokwe in Kwanobuhle and Ntshebe in Kwa Magxaki.. These black teachers are outstanding.  It is difficult to see so many in need of help and only be able to assist the few that are temple worthy and qualify.  We hope we are making a difference. It is a blessing to be a member of a church committed to blessing the lives of people. So many Africans want a better life but lack the means and opportunity that these programs can provide.

Our work reminds me of the story by Loren Eisley.   "One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, "What are you doing?" The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die." "Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!" After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said: "I made a difference for that one and  I can make a difference for all the others that I through back into the ocean.”

Saturday, June 16, 2012

White Rinos

                                   I Was Startled By a Rhinoceros Crossing the Road
                                          My experience as described by my husband

On the afternoon of June the 12th, 2012 my husband and I decided to visit Kragga Karma Animal Park in South Africa. We had been there two months previously and enjoyed viewing the various animals.  We paid our one hundred Rand entrance fee and proceeded through the park.  The park ranger had given us a map and pointed to areas of the road that could be challenging to navigate due to rain of the previous two days. “Avoid the muddy trenches,” he said, “and drive upon the grass along the roadside as needed.”  We knew from past experience that after a day of rainfall, wild animals like to emerge from the bushes to graze on grassland and enjoy the hot sun.  We were hopeful we would see many of them.

We followed the winding muddy road, parking to observe the zebras, wart hogs, and springboks munching on grass nearby. The wildebeasts were present in numbers crossing in front of us as well as behind. They seemed unmindful of the car’s presence and undisturbed by the two occupants taking photos with outreached camera from a window.  As we continued along the road I drank from a bottle of vitamin water until it was all gone. I like vitamin water; it has an appealing taste especially when thirsty.

In the distance, some one hundred and fifty yards, we observed three rhinos grazing facing toward us. We decided to park and see how close they would come in the hope of obtaining some good photos.  In the process of some twenty-five minutes, they drew nearer until they were but a few feet away.  We got some marvelous camera shots, something that would have been impossible had we not waited patiently and if other cars were present.  As they moved toward the rear of the car, I told my husband to backup and we would attempt to get more shots.  He did so and the rhinos continued grazing unheeded by the car’s presence and quiet purr of the engine. We took some more closeups until the rhinos moved away disappearing behind some bushes.

Pleased with the rhinoceros photo experience, we continued on our drive observing more wild life, enjoying the various sights and taking more photos. The afternoon had turned out to be a bright sunny one, and with no other cars around, the more ideal conditions for our photo taking.

 Soon, the effects of drinking the bottle of vitamin water began to take its toll and the need to answer the call of nature became more apparent. I was aware of the park rule, “At no time get out of your car.”  I knew it could be dangerous, that three weeks ago a woman had been attacked by a cheetah in this very park, but that was in an enclosed area. Also, last week in a different park, a man had been gored by a water buffalo. However, at this point I didn’t care. I told my husband to pull over by some nearby bushes. He did so and I descended from the car to answer nature’s call.

While pleasantly engaged in the attitude of relief and feeling better by the second, I was startled by a rhinoceros crossing the road a few feet in front of me.  So unexpected was this event that the shock propelled me backward and I became wedged between the door and the car. Utterly confused, thinking the rhino was an approaching car and that I would be in full view of its occupants, I attempted to stand and extricate myself from my entrapment. However, the more I struggled to stand, the more wedged, helpless and exposed I became. The noise of the rhino trudging through the bushes seemed like the car was drawing closer and added to my panic. After three anxious efforts I was able to stand and quickly re-compose the natural wearing of my apparel. I quickly entered the car, closed the door, and emitted a huge sigh, thankful that  I had not been gored by a rhino nor seen as a flasher by occupants of an approaching car.

We journeyed on through the park chuckling at this experience, mindful that park warning signs do serve a purpose and that rhinos do cross roads, not out of interest in a woman in the attitude of relief, but merely to get to the other side.  It was an eventful day entertaining, interesting and enjoyable.

Should you ever come to Africa and drive through an animal park, my advice to you is: never drink a full bottle of water for in answering the resulting call to nature, you may be startled by a rhinoceros crossing the road in front of you.

Monday, June 11, 2012

May 31st - Moving Day

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May 31 to June 11

The past two weeks have been hectic but I’m happy to report that we are now comfortably settled in our new flat.  Elder Stokoe went to Telcom two weeks before our moving day and  paid a 700 Rand deposit to get our land line in his name and to have our Internet connected on June 2nd.

On Thursday, May 31st, Byron from “Just Letting,” called and informed us that the new tenant’s truck had just arrived from Cape Town and that we needed to be out before 2:00 p.m.  We had scheduled the Elder’s to help us move the next day.  Although Talanna & Dave Evans were not out, they agreed to let us start moving in.  Three sets of elders canceled their afternoon appointments and arrived to help.  Luckily I had everything in boxes.  They moved all our stuff into the Evan’s living room.  They also helped Talana and Dave load the rest of their ceramic flower pots, clothes and kitchen items. I recruited Talana’s black maids to go back to #16 and clean so the church would not lose the 3,750 Rand cleaning deposit.  We finished by 5:00 p.m. and then took the elders to KFC for dinner.

Our “Planning for Success” Class at Kwanobuhle that night was cancelled. Brother Stokwe, the instructor, had the flu.  So we had time to set up beds and put a few things away.  Meanwhile Byron, the rental agent, called Cape Town to complain we were not out when instructed to leave.  Elder Oldham reviewed the church’s rental agreement with him which stipulated that we had until 8:00 a.m. the next day, Friday, June 1st to vacate.  We met Byron at #16 the next morning.   He went over the “condition of the flat” paperwork that indicated #16 had been rented by the church in 2008.  He carefully ticked off every scratch he could find.  He even complained that there were flecks of paint on the garage floor. Then asked me for the key pad which opens the front gate.  I said I’d paid for that pad myself and was not willing to surrender it until “Just Letting” reimbursed me for all the improvement we made in #16 (about $200.) Byron finally talked me out of the gate key claiming that the new tenant needed it immediately so she could move in.

All our new furniture arrived as promised on  Friday, June 1st.  However, the couch was too big to fit thru the front door, so we sent the three piece set back to the store.  (At the moment we are  using the blue couch that Elder Acton from Washington repaired and the large red chair that the people from the second hand store refused to take off our hands.)  Smitties, a buyer and seller store of second hand furniture, paid 200 Rand for the old desk and a book case.  This  was enough to pay the maids that did the cleaning.  Andre, a technician from Telcom arrived that afternoon and reported that #17 had no internet connection, that we would have to petition the Turnburry Body Corporate to run a line to connect our flat to the Internet box across the street.  Andre promised to return and hook us up as soon as that was done.  Our Friday night Class in Uitenhage on June 1st was cancelled so we had a few more hours to settle in.

Richard, the electrician, stopped by on Saturday morning and we told him about our Internet problems.   He explained that the entire compound was wired for Internet when it was  built and then showed us our internet connection.  It is in the garage.  Andre had missed it.  Tom called Telcom back and was told that they could not get out again until June 11th.  We spent the rest of  Saturday, June 3rd, in  Grahamstown which is about 130 miles up in the hills above Port Elizabeth, where we presented a PEF fireside and got home after dark.  Sunday, June 4th was spent at three different wards seeing students.  Monday night we visited the Clarkes, an inactive couple, whose records are in P.E. Ward.  We had visited them the previous week with Elders Pack and Acton.  Sister Clarke had the flu so we only stayed long enough to give her a priesthood blessing.

Every morning I wake up and thank the good Lord that we are in this flat and not the one next door.  It’s so spacious and beautiful.  We love it.  Talanna left two lawn chairs which I spray painted black.  We spent Friday morning while the weather was still nice out on the patio reviewing the PEF material which we received in Jo Burg.

Other than getting sick the second day of training there, that trip was sooo helpful.  We discovered that all the other PEF couples felt lost when they first arrived in South Africa.  Everyone agreed that a training manual would be helpful.  I’ll type up my notes from those meetings and forward them.  Technology was also a huge challenge for the other senior couples.  Since church headquarter is moving toward paperless accounting, new software is impacting everyone.  The joke in Jo Burg is that the security officer on the top floor where the seniors live is there to keep the office couples from jumping.

We had a zone conference with President and Sister Wood on Tuesday and along with the Taylors, prepared dinner for 40 young elders.  President and Sister Woods took us to dinner at the Blue Wave that evening.  President and Sister Woods began their mission as an office couple in Jo Burg and Kathleen Wood said she was counting the weeks until they could go home.  Then they were asked to serve as the new mission president in Cape Town. Sister Woods had her purse stolen as they sat on a bench on the beach when they arrived in P.E. last Monday.  It contained her pass port and all her credit cards so she screamed alerting everyone on the beach..  President Wood is a distance runner.  He took off after the thief and chased him across the street.  As he gained on him, the young man threw the purse into the gutter.  But President Wood did not stop chasing him.  Others helped run the thief down.  He was white, about 20 and certainly not in need.  He was likely on drugs.  As they hauled him off to jail the youth said, “I’m not that kind of person.”  President replied, “You must be or you would not have taken my wife’s purse.”  President Wood is a judge and agreed to press charges believing that people should be held accountable for their actions.

So far I’ve spent about $1,200 for furnishing including $193 for a new desk; $546 for a double bed with headboard, mattress and night stand;  $200 for curtains, towels & a  rug.  I spent about $70 at a garage sale for 4 paintings by a local artist, a vase, picture frame and other decorations and $20 for a map of Africa.  I’m going to buy a washer tomorrow which the mission has agreed to pay for.  I’ll give the old one to Elders Pack and Acton.  I’ll  look around for some used living room furniture to insure our continued comfort and help the senior couple that follows us.  As I would not want anyone to run into the situation we inherited when we arrived.

Veruschka, the colored ancologist (cancer specialist) who rented #16,  moved in a few days ago. I visited her on Saturday  night and invited her to dinner.   She said she had been living in P.E. for a month and had been staying with her cousin while looking for her own place.  She worked in Saudi Arabia for two years before being transferred to Cape Town.  She now works for a private company here and will travel to their other offices in Port Alfred and in George.  She asked if I would watch her flat while she is out of town.  I was glad to see that "Just Letting" had repainted, repaired the cracked tile in the living room and made the other repairs that were sorely needed.  I expected to host she and Janette Lake for lunch yesterday. Janette came but Veruschka had other plans so took a rain check.

Speaking of rain, winter is finally here.  It’s very cold.  It rained Friday night, all day Saturday and Saturday night.  Lorraine Ward Relief Society had planned an activity to make baby blankets for newborns but it had to cancel because of  flooding in Walmar.  I went to church with Janette Lake yesterday while Tom was out  helping students in Kwamagxaki Ward apply for PEF loans.  Wish we could have started our mission in this flat with the knowledge we have rather than going though the frustration and stress of our first three months here.  Two Telcom technicians arrived this morning and hooked up our Internet.  They found that our land line had been blocked which is likely why the phone never worked when we were living next door.  We are very happy to be in this flat and all our technology seems to be working now.

P.S.  On June 13th we visited Just Letting's Office and discovered that they had reimbursed the mission office in Cape Town for half of the cost of the improvements we made at #16.  However when we asked to be reimbursed for the gate key they said Byron told them that it would not work so no refund was due us.  Tom demanded to see Byron saying he would produce Richard, the electrician who sold us the gate key, to verify that it was working.  Shortly thereafter the company reimbursed  160 Rand, ($20), the cost of the key.