Things have been very busy here in South africa. We are getting ourselves settled into Tzaneen and trying to get adjusted to where things are and how to get around. Finding places is somewhat difficult, especially in the villages because you really don't have addresses. You just have to have someone with you or find someone that knows where people are and can point to the proper dirt road and tell you how many places to pass before you get to the one your looking for. We have been spending considerable time visiting with members of the church both in Tzaneen and in Motupa which is the dependent branch for the Tzaneen Branch. It didn't take long to realize that our point of reference and our cultural understanding can be very different from what we are seeing and experiencing. We are trying very hard not to act shocked when we are told something about the culture that just sounds too far out and unbelievable to our ears. It has been very nice to have the young Elders help us get around. Loretta and I are getting somewhat bolder and actually made it to the grocery store yesterday on our own. Previously another missionary couple who has been here awhile took Loretta for the first time to help her with the shopping she needed to do. One can find many of the types of food you find at home but they are called different things and labeled differently and often times taste different from what you would expect for that particular product.
The people are wonderful and beautiful and Loretta and I are falling in love with them already. Loretta has especially taken to the children. They have such beautiful, cute faces and as you might expect they readily respond to Loretta's overtures.
Monday was P-day and we had the opportunity to visit Krueger national park, the largest game preserve in the world. The young missionaries are not allowed to go to the park unless they are serving in the Tzaneen area (because of its proximity) and they go with a senior couple. None of the missionaries in Tzaneen at this time had been to the park and since transfers are coming up on the 23rd they asked if the senior couples would take them to the park before transfers took place. There were four senior couples that went and each couple had two Elders in their care with them. It was a very long day. We left Tzaneen at about 8 am and reached the park around 10 am. Once you enter the park you are not allowed out of your car and your can't drive any faster than about 28 MPH. Driving slow however, is important because you have to keep your eyes peeled for the animals you are hoping to see. We saw all the animals we wanted to see except for the Lion and the Cheetah. We got some wonderful pictures of the animals and it was wonderful to see them in their natural habitat. We didn't leave the park until about 5:30 pm when the park gates were closing and didn't get back home until about 9 pm. We stopped to eat at a place called Spurs, which is a favorite of the young missionaries and when you eat out in South Africa it is not a fast experience. Eating out is a journey and not fast at all. Shortly after you get your food you need to start asking for the bill because it may take quite awhile for it to come.
We have the opportunity to feed the young missionaries on a fairly regular basis and when they are finished eating they like to sing us the mission song. It is fun to have them around and to help them out.
Finally one certainly begins to realize just how blessed we are in the U.S. with our church facilities and beautiful places to meet. Here the folks are grateful for the bare minimum. The little building in Motupa is an example of their humble meeting place.
The building is very simple and the round metal mesh you see is the supporting structure for the portable baptismal font. This is taken outside and the liner is added in and then it is filled and a ladder is placed to get over the top and into the font for the baptism.