Sunday, April 27, 2008

2008 04 27 - Daily Life

Dear Everyone:

Today’s blog is a wild assortment of odds and ends. This is not to say the work isn’t moving along – it is, in wonderful ways. But real life is also moving along, and I thought you might enjoy hearing about some of it.

Load-shedding: I HEARD that the other night the power went off in Westville at 8 in the evening, and the mission president’s family all went to bed a little early. When the power came back on, the lights woke “mom” up (and no one else, of course) so she reset the clock and alarm, turned off the lights and TV, and went back to sleep. When the alarm went off at 5 am, she started the usual battle to get the boys up and out for seminary. Only trouble is, just before they left she discovered that she had set the clock one hour ahead... so it was actually 4 am that the alarm went off, instead of 5 am. So she had gotten the boys up an hour early for seminary? (How do you spell “My name is mud” in Zulu...?!)

Taxis: There are hundreds of taxis in KwaZulu/Natal. They are white vans (look like VW buses) with seating for 12 or 15. Everyone rides one (or more) to the nearest stop to their work or school, then they walk the rest of the way. There are often people crossing the highway to get to a taxi stop.

The owners (or syndicates, or mobs) are VERY possessive of their routes. Every so often there are “taxi wars” and people get shot. Taxis also own the road. They run red lights when no one is coming, cross one or two lanes to get to the shoulder when they spot someone to pick up, and will even come up between two lanes, like a motorcycle, if there is room. They have also been known to cause accidents by running stop signs. Needless to say, we don’t mess with taxis when we’re on the road.

Monkeys: We have a hammock under the cabana out by the pool (does that sound exotic, or what!) and I have wondered why it’s in such bad shape. It’s a rope hammock, so it’s supposed to have holes in it, but it looks like it’s been torn in several places. I have found out why! The monkeys love to play on it. They leap into it (and usually fall out), wrestle in it, and generally hang on it with their sharp little claws. I’m glad someone is using it – now we just need something to jump in the pool: it sits there empty all day, while the elders think up uses for it. Since most of these uses include wet missionaries, it will probably stay empty.

The following is an excerpt from a letter Steve sent to the parents of our missionaries, to reassure them that their sons are in a reasonable place, and to answer some of the questions the elders don’t pay attention to:

"Dear Parents,

From time to time we get questions from parents about the country and the mission. Unfortunately, too much of the information about Africa to the rest of the world comes from Tarzan movies, Lion King, National Geographic, or the evening news. South Africa is a modern, thriving democracy in a beautiful part of the world. We have fewer mosquitoes than Utah, I have not seen a snake, and the big animals are in the big parks and game reserves. Here are some answers to frequently asked questions.

1. TIME ZONES: Although South Africa is a huge country it is all on one time zone and does not have daylight savings. As a result when there is no daylight savings we are 9 hours ahead of Salt Lake. During daylight savings (now) we are 8 hours ahead of Salt Lake. If it is 10:00 am in Salt Lake it is 6:00 pm in Durban

2. SEASONS: We are on the opposite side of the planet so our seasons are opposite those in North America, the UK and Europe. We are just now entering our fall and it is getting noticeably cooler and the days are shorter. Around Durban it always stays pretty green and the temperature stays quite moderate, but in the western part of the mission it gets quite cold in the winter and occasionally they do get snow.

3. FIRST OR THIRD WORLD: South Africa is really both at the same time. There is enormous wealth in South Africa and you can find any goods you want. There is a terrific freeway system, everyone has a cell-phone and yes, you can drink the water. At the same time, there is enormous poverty and you often find the wealth and the poverty intermixed. Durban is a modern city with all the comforts of home, and right next to it is Umlazi, the second largest township in the country. (Umlazi, by the way, has two wards, both meeting in beautiful chapels.)

4. HARDSHIP: For those of you who may think your son was sent to a hardship mission, think again. This is one of the most beautiful missions in the world, most of our missionaries are in vehicles, the food is great, the people are even better, and the work is moving forward.

5. CULTURE: We have one of the most cosmopolitan missions in the world. KwaZulu Natal (the state or province that composes most of the mission) has the largest population of Indians outside of India (we have three primarily Indian branches). It is also home to whites of both English and Afrikaaner descent, and a mix of just about everything else. South Africa has had very open borders and so has immigrants from all over Africa and the world. KwaZulu/Natal is also home to the Zulu Kingdom, and as a result the primary tribal group is Zulu, although we have a mixture of all kinds of South African tribal groups. We also have a huge mix of religious beliefs, Moslem, Hindu, Christian of every kind, and native religions. One of the wonderful things here is to go to a shopping mall and see people of every color, religion, ethnicity, and nationality all living in harmony.

6. GEOGRAPHY: The mission is composed of KwaZulu/Natal and the Kingdom of Swaziland. We are bordered on the east by the Indian Ocean. Along the coast the temperatures and seasons are moderate. As you go west the elevation quickly goes up to about 5,000 feet and the seasons get more pronounced, and you move from tropical vegetation to plains and savanna. On our Southwestern boarder we have the Drakensburg Mountains (a World Heritage site) and the country of Lesotho. To our North, along the coast is Mozambique.
7. LANGUAGE: While most people speak at least a minimum of English, Afrikaans is widely spoken, especially in the western part of the mission. Zulu is the primary native language. Many of our missionaries learn Zulu and a few learn sign language and work with our deaf members.”

So there you have it: life in a nutshell. Our door is always open if you'd like to experience it first-hand. But book ahead: last night, while Steve was in Swaziland, we had 8 boys here overnight (including Hunter and Morgan): 3 from the rugby team, and 3 visiting from Zimbabwe. But they were all on mattresses and couches in the family room, so there were 3 bedrooms still free...

Love to everybody - and did you all wish Grandma Mann and Hayley Happy Birthday?

Grandma/Mom/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann/Youth Hostel Director


Devendra Sharma said...

Great presentation and writing. I liked the flair you have in describing things..., I too will be in Durban by September 2008 on job relocation so was going through various blogs. I too have studied in a mission school in India (catholic) so went on reading your post.

Keep it up.

Devendra Sharma

Julie said...

I can't believe I haven't been following this blog! I just saw it on my favorites (which I obviously don't check very often) and wondered about it. I remember not hearing from you at Christmastime forgetting you have a blog, apparently :) What a fascinating life. Eventhough we finished our office mission in Jan. 2006, I'm still hooked in a bit via the missionaries and the president and his wife being in our ward! So good to catch up on you all. You look great and happy.