Today's date reminds me of a Christmas story I forgot to share: one of Morgan's friends came over during the holidays, and greeted me with "Hello Mrs. Mann. Compliments of the season."
I heard that a few times. Most of the boys are very polite - they always come find me to say hello, and Are you well? when they arrive. Sad to say, the jocks are less thoughtful, but they are very good about saying thank you for rides, and when they leave.
We've just finished a mission tour with President and Sister Watson. It was really great. We had zone conferences in Newcastle, Hillcrest and Berea. Steve used a sailboat (surprise!) simile for pulling together all the different aspects of missionary work. The Watsons were very upbeat and encouraging with the elders. It was especially interesting to hear stories about their family, and about President Watson's experiences as secretary to seven different prophets. It was nice for the elders to learn about the prophets who were before their time - which is practically all of them!
There was a little time this tour to show the Watsons some of the local sights, so I took full advantage of it. We stopped at Howick Falls on the way to Newcastle, and visited some of the shops on the Midland Meander. Our only disappointment there was not finding the Belgian Chocolate Factory. We found it on the way back from zone conference, but for some reason (our health, probably) they were closed early that day. Rats. I promised to bring some chocolates to the May Mission Presidents' Seminar.
The Newcastle zone conference, with Swaziland and Newcastle zones, is always easy for me because the couples there prepare the lunch. It's the only zone conference where we have home cooking. It is so nice having couples in the "away" zones of the mission - they really take care of the elders and keep us on top of things. Example: Saturday in Richards Bay one of the elders was doing service cutting back some tree branches, and started getting a rash and swollen hands. The elders headed for the hospital, and without our asking, the Bartholomews joined them there. I don't know if they have any poison ivy type plants here, and they're not sure of it was a reaction to the tree or to some tick bite medicine he took (doesn't this all sound unhealthy! he's fine...) but he took something different, and is now fine. Sister B called to let me know, right before he did. This was nice because sometimes the elders don't give me any follow-up on their doctor visits, and I have to chase them down. I always try to go to the hospital when the elders go in, so it's nice to have another "mission mom" out in the field to represent me!
Swaziland, by the way, is now entirely Swati. The only white family in the Church there, the van Moorsels, has moved to Dubai.
At the Berea conference (Durban, Richards Bay & Umlazi zones) Sister Mickelsen gave me another example of hot, humid weather. She had a package of gum from home, and the sticks had melted so completely into the foil wrappers that they were "indivisible". That's probably the reason all the gum here is in the shape of Chiclets, and each piece has it's own airtight compartment in the package - like taking pills!
The conference in Berea is our largest, and I'm becoming quite blase about calling up and ordering 40 pizzas to be delivered. (FYI, former elders, when it's Scooter's pizza we now allow 6 pieces instead of 4. Romans' is now 5 - it's a lot more substantial.) The couples really help out in Berea with the logistics of lunch for 60.
This has turned into quite an essay on food, so I might as well continue on that theme: We always try to take our visitors out to dinner with the couples, so they can get acquainted. We have now found restaurants with round tables that can handle 10 to 14 people, so it makes it much easier for everyone to talk to each other. As usual, we discovered lots of connections. Sister Markums grandparents live next door to President Watson's family in Spring City; Sister Watson is a far-away cousin to Steve; the Sessions live very close to one of the Watson's daughters and probably went to her wedding reception (the Watsons have 12 children by the way, but we have one elder who topped that - he is one of 13 children). Then there are all the people we all find we have in common. It is so fun looking for possible ties. For example, my dad was on a committee that worked upstairs, and sent all their reviews and recommendations downstairs to then Brother Watson in the First Presidency's office.
Well, back to the tour. We were able to visit Victoria Street Market, always a good source of things to send home for Christmas, and also uShaka Sea World. The aquarium and dolphin shows were major hits, and the Griesemers, Markums and Mickelsens joined us, so although the Moya didn't have a round table, we had another great couples' meal. It's nice to be able to visit in less harried circumstances occasionally. When the Mickelsens were on their previous mission in Florida, there were only a few couples, and they were quite spread out, so they couldn't get together and share ideas and experiences very often. Missionary couples don't have a lot of people to talk to who can really relate to what they're doing, so I'm really grateful our couples can see each other reasonably often.
The wards and branches are starting the member missionary training this week. The practice runs with ward and branch leaders have gone very well, and everyone is excited. The members especially like seeing people they know appearing in the video examples and interviews. In one instance, the group was practicing giving away a Book of Mormon. A participant who had asked for a Book of Mormon at the start of the practice, asked for 3 more when they had finished. It was suddenly much easier to envision situations where he could give them away. That's exactly the kind of reaction we've been hoping for.
Morgan and Hunter started school Wednesday. Grade 10 is more like home - the students move from class to class. And instead of being in the A level class or B,C,D,E,F,G,H (there are lots of students) for every subject, boys are placed in classes based on last years marks. Hunter made the A history class, and Morgan is in the A science class. I won't bore you with the other classes...
They're starting in at the gym, with rugby practices and fitness. Morgan is also going out for debate. I can't wait to see him compete! I think if we can find a club that meets with students from the girls' high school, we might get Hunter out for one.
The boys turn 16 on the 31st, and Hunter has been saying for months that we can expect him to be much more mature and reasonable after that. (We should be so lucky.) I'll be happy if they can just stop chirping each other!
I'll be back in February!
Love, Mom/Grandma/Sue/Susan/Sister President Mann
ps President Bricknell of the Durban Stake was telling me about his children the other night. He said his girls are just wonderful, but he thought the boys would probably "give them the wobblies." I didn't have a chance to get a definition on that one!