Wednesday, October 29, 2014

It's that time!

This past several weeks, we have been busy not only with our normal end of the month reports, but with making sure that every class is recorded correctly so that students who should be receiving certificates of course completions, diplomas or other recognitions will not be disappointed. This is not as easy as it might seem. We collect records from 26 different programs and they come in forms ranging from nice, neat excel files to very short text messages written in what seems to be half English and half some other language. Sometimes teachers don't have a way to scan or send them so we go to pick them up. Teachers who have home study classes are especially difficult to get the tally of assignments from, and to top that all off, the computer program isn't 100% accurate so we have to go back and check students one by one to make sure they are on the list to receive their awards. We are almost finished with gathering, emailing, calling and recording, and are moving on to making lists, communicating with the stake leadership and (hopefully before long) actually printing out certificates. When those are finished, we will be getting them to bishops for interviews and signatures and then finally focusing on the actual graduation program. Seminary and institute graduation is really quite a job!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Half Way!

We entered the mission training center on January 20 and today is October 20 so that means we are half way through our mission. In many ways the time has gone really quickly. We are loving our mission and are glad we are here. We're planning to have just as much fun and try to do just as much good as we can during the second half, but because we miss our family, we are also glad that our time left now will be fewer days that our time spent. Our grandchildren, it seems, have refused to stop growing while we're gone!

Definition--One half is the irreducible fraction resulting from dividing one by two (½), or any number by its double; multiplication by one half is equivalent to division by two. Conversely, division by one half is equivalent to multiplication by two, or "doubling". One half appears often in mathematical equations, recipes, measurements, etc. Half can also be said to be one part of something divided into two equal parts.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Elephant Mud Bath

On Monday, we decided to take a “p day” and go on another little excursion. Only about two and a half hours from here is a game reserve called Pilanesberg, not as large as Kruger but still large at 220 square miles. Like many of the game reserves here, it was once farmland, owned mostly by white farmers. Following apartheid in the early 1960’s the land was “expropriated” or in other words, taken away, from the white farmers to make more land available for settlement. That proved difficult because some of the land was still occupied by the native Bakgatla people, so nothing was done with the land until 1970 when it was declared a national park. On just a day trip, we saw only a small part of the park, but we were very, very lucky to catch this elephant family coming to a water hole. At first you can see they are drinking, but soon decide that a mud bath is in order. It’s easy to see the small elephants—maybe three and four years old, but watch carefully and you’ll see a tiny one that must have been born this year. He or she is very timid still, sticking very close to mama but you’ll see him a few times. Elephants are a matriarchal society, with a lead female that rules over the herd. You’ll see that matriarch at the end. Another fun thing to see is near the end as she let’s the youngsters know it’s time to go. When they don’t follow immediately, she turns impatiently and you can almost hear her saying, “I said NOW!” at which time they scamper after her, except the two sparing brothers who will probably hear about it later ☺ Even they hurry after her in just a few minutes. We’ll definitely go to Pilanesberg again.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

OSHA, South Africa Style

This post is for my son-in-law, Brian who is a safety engineer. I'm sure they must have some safety standards here, but it's hard to see evidence. We see guys standing up in trucks while they are speeding down the highways and running around on very high structures without safety belts. In the fourth picture, you can see the guy on the roof with the bundle of tiles balanced on his head--that was a four story apartment building and he came up a ladder all the while with the stack of tiles on his head before walking across the roof like that. My favorite was the last one where the guys are working within inches of that shovel. There are very few lawyers in South Africa compared with the US so I don't think people paying for labor are as concerned about safety standards.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Tzaneen, Limpopo Province

Last weekend, we traveled about five hours northeast to a town in Limpopo called Tzaneen. There is a set of senior missionaries there that does the same thing we do that we know from S&I meetings. Another couple also lives there that we knew from the time they were working with one of the wards that we attend. Anyway, we went to visit them. The area was really beautiful and tropical with lots of fruits and vegetable farms. We visited with the couples, went to a waterfall and to a spring festival in a little Afrikaans town there. We also visited what is supposedly the largest baobab tree in the world. It was big enough that there was a bar and a hat room inside the tree--they hadn't carved it out like I've seen in the Redwoods, but rather the tree grows with hallows inside. We also went through a pretty garden called the Cheerio garden. I asked several people why it was called the Cheerio garden, but they usually just smile and say yes to whatever I ask. 

On Sunday, we attended church at a little branch called Maputo. I taught a primary class of four to eight year olds who hadn’t a clue what I was talking about. I can’t remember the language they speak, but English is a second language learned when they get to school. Luckily, the lady you see standing there was translating, but you can imagine how attentive the little kids were with their short attention span and trying to figure out who to listen to. Even though they couldn’t understand me, they still wanted to stand by me and give me hugs. I just kept laughing because it all seemed pretty funny to me. We were also invited to the home of one of the African members. They dressed us all up in native costumes and tried to teach us a little African dance and I got to play with a cute little African baby. We had a fun weekend and enjoyed seeing another part of Africa.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

What Happened to Spring

I was going to post these pictures a couple of days after I posted the spring pictures to show what happened to spring, but our Internet has been out. Now that we're connected to the world again, I can tell you that just when the blossoms were popping and the trees were bursting with fresh green leaves, this ominous cloud rolled in. It delivered a violent hale storm that stripped the blossoms and leaves off the trees and beat down all of the pretty spring flowers. Big hail stones were coming down so hard that I was just waiting for our windows to break. You can see that the next day looked like autumn only instead of browns and yellows, there was green, purple, white and red all over the ground.

Nature is amazingly resilient though, and in a week the trees replaced their flowers and leaves, and the plants have all sprung up again nice and fresh. I think we could learn a lesson from that.