Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Beware of Hippos

After fourteen years and three months (and two very long plane rides) I am finally in my homeland of South Africa again. When we first arrived almost two weeks ago, I found things to be familiar yet foreign if it is possible to be both at the same. Now I am getting quite used to being back, although naturally there are many changes both in myself and in the country after such a long absence. For one thing, I’ve discovered how thoroughly Canadianized I am -- asking for ketchup instead of tomato sauce or fries instead of chips, pronouncing my “R’s” like a North American, and having to get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. But it’s been such fun becoming reacquainted with family I haven’t seen for more than half my life (which is a little surreal actually) and we’ve also made sure to have a true African experience.

We spent our first week in Hazy View, which is right near the Kruger National Park. We took one day to visit the park and while driving in our car we spotted all sort of animals including rhinos, giraffes, warthogs, and elephants right up close to our car. But we soon found we didn’t even have to visit the Kruger Park to see some animals. We were very amused at some of the warning signs posted around our resort warning us not to swim in the river due to the presence of hippos and crocodile and warning us that a fed money was a dead monkey. Our chalet backed right onto the river and although we were never fortunate to have any monkey visits, we did have some hippos grazing in our backyard after dark. I’m not even joking -- I watched from our patio while a hippo only a few feet away nibbled on the grass. It was quite remarkable. With that said, I was a little nervous to wander along the banks of the river in the day time because a hippo could easily nibble a person in half.

That was not the end of our adventures with animals. One afternoon we went out to Thorny Bush, a private game reserve, and went on a three and a half our safari ride from 3 - 6:30 p.m. Half the fun was riding in the open air Landrover over bumpy dirt roads and through the bush. I had to dodge all sorts of thorn trees and low hanging branches or I might have been knocked out several times. As it was I got stabbed by several thorns and today while I was hanging some clothes to dry I discovered holes in the shirt I was wearing. But I suppose it was worth it because our guide successfully tracked four of the Big Five, though at first I was sceptical. After fifty minutes we had only seen a handful of buck, a pocketful of monkeys, and a whole lot of very large animal droppings. But eventually we found the animals.

One of the highlights was driving slowly right into the middle of a herd of elephant. The elephants were quite comfortable with us and the one kindly showered us with dust as she was cooling herself off nearby. We even got to see her baby suckling. Then just as the sun was setting we watched a white rhino with her two children -- it doesn’t get more African than that. The last animals we saw were three lionesses who were feeding in shifts on a Kudu that they had evidentally just killed. That was pretty amazing as well -- we were only a few feet away! I could even hear the sound of flesh tearing as she ate from the carcass. I admit I felt a little nervous when she paused and looked straight at me because there was really nothing in between myself and a wild lioness. Anyway, watching her I partly lost my appetite, but at the same time I realized I was very hungry as well. By then it was dark and our safari was almost over. When we got back to our own car, our own animal instincts took over and we quickly devoured the rest of our Biltong (South African dried meat).

We are currently at the coast staying at Umhlanga having our relaxing African seaside experience. I have lots of photos which I will post as soon as possible -- unfortunately internet access is limited.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Please Mr. Postman

Well, the big white envelope finally came, but not without teaching me a little patience. I had calculated approximately how long the mail would take from Salt Lake and I started checking on Monday. I wasn’t too put off when I found nothing there; after all I wasn’t sure exactly what day it had been sent. On Tuesday, I didn’t even bother checking since it was Canada Day and I knew the mailman (or woman) had the day off to engage in patriotic activities. I took Wednesday’s empty mailbox in stride, but by Thursday when there was no sign of the letter I looked for I started to feel, I admit, a little impatient.

In the end, Friday turned out to be a happy Fourth of July, though thoughts of American Independence never crossed my mind. The evening before my dad decided that my mom had better luck and so I should let her check the mailbox. Call it childish, but I wanted to be the one to collect the mail when my call came and so I refused. In the end, my mom secretly checked anyway and then came back to tell me (while jumping up and down) that I should probably check the mail. Whether or not my mom is really good luck, I can’t say, but my call was certainly there waiting for me.

The family quickly assembled (my dad came home from work especially) and I reached my moment of truth. I opened the envelope and found that I have been called to serve as a representative of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in the Utah Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission. Naturally, I will accept.

My assignment, although I had joked about it, was a little unexpected. I lived very close to Temple Square and worked in the Church Office Building in 2006 when I did my internship with the New Era, and so I am surprised to be going back. Surprised, but very excited. Salt Lake City is not an exotic land, but the Temple Square mission is unique in that I will be able to share my testimony of the gospel with visitors from all over the world, and I can’t wait. I’ve posted a link (below) to an Ensign article about the Temple Square mission that my friend Andy wrote in case any one is interested in reading it.

Finally, I’m sure that everyone is as excited that I will be able to use my hair straightener as I am. (See previous post)

"Tours and Testimonies" (July 2007 Ensign)

Could today be the day?!

Yes it could!

Oh the suspense ...

Too afraid to look!

"You are hereby called to the Salt Lake City Temple Square Mission ..."

Salt Lake Temple