Sunday, August 9, 2009

Update For Week Of July 31 - Aug 9th

I just realized a week has gone buy since I updated my blog. The week went by quickly. Last Friday night, (7-31) we drove to a small game park in Swaziland called Hlane Royal Game Park. (Hlane is pronounced shlanee and means wilderness.) It’s only an hour away from Manzini. Gary, Jeri and I spent the night there. The camp we stayed in had very nice cottages with screened in porches, hot and cold running water, a gas stove and refrigerator, but no electricity. And the best feature of all is that it was very close to a watering hole where Rhinos, hippos, warthogs and antelope hung out. At night we could hear the Lions growl in the distance. We went on a night drive and Gary was able to see his first Lion and since this trip was his birthday treat, it was even more special. The park doesn’t compare to Kruger National Park, but it was so peaceful and the best part was that it was only an hour away!

On Saturday morning, we took what we thought would be a small drive through the park to go look at the other camp. We took a wrong turn and ended up driving over 20 km of a small bumpy thorn infested road before we finally found the camp. The cottages there have electricity and are newer and nicer, but the atmosphere wasn’t near as Africany (is that a word?) as the camp we stayed in. The worst part is my car immediately started over heating again and there was nothing we could do but keep going and then drive back to the camp we had stayed at. We did find a more direct way with a better road to come back on.

My car has had periods of overheating over the last 4 or 5 months. No one knew why and when we got back to the camp and then started out onto the tar road the temperature started going down. From the game park, we were driving across Swaziland to Nhlangano in the Mahamba circuit to attend a fund raiser they were having. We literally drove across Swaziland which can be done in a little over 2 hours. The car seemed to be doing okay. We were halfway to Mahamba when it started over heating again. But it seemed like we could control it. We checked the water and oil and the levels were fine. By the time we got to Mahamba the family day fundraiser was almost over. But we could see that everyone was having a great time. They had inflatables for the kids to jump in and a big game of volleyball going on. There was playground equipment for the children to play on and the women had cooked up food that could be purchased. This is the first time since being in Swaziland that I’ve seen anything like this done with the Methodist Church. And to think it was being done in the most rural and poorest circuit; amazing. The sky was threatening rain so we stayed just long enough to say hello to the people I knew and give them a donation. Then we drove to the Mahamba gorge which was only about 10 minutes away. We stayed a little longer there so the car could really cool down and so that Gary and Jeri could take in the beauty of the gorge while we ate our PBJ sandwiches. We headed home with just enough light to get to Manzini right about sunset. The car was really overheating the entire way home even though the car had cooled down and everything looked ok. The most puzzling part is that it didn’t seem to make sense when the temperature gage would go up and then come down. One second it would be in the red and the next it would be normal. We got home just before it started raining which is very unusual at this time of the year. (Winter, which is what we are in now, is the dry season.)

On Sunday, during the pouring down rain using Gary and Jeri’s car, we went up to Mbabane to attend the Healing Place Church. It was their final week in a 4-week series on HIV/AIDS stressing the importance of knowing one’s status because as scripture reminds us in John 8:32: “Then you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.” On Sunday they had arranged to have testing organizations such as Baylor Clinic , a free clinic for children and their mothers who are HIV+ run and funded by Baylor University in Texas, and PSI (Population Services International) which provides HIV testing and prevention products and education to come and test those who wished to be tested. The choice to be tested or not was an individual thing and the results were confidential. I chose to be tested not because I had a fear that I had contracted HIV, but because I wanted to know about the testing process and know what it felt like to be tested. How can I suggest others be tested if I haven’t gone through that experience myself? I found it very interesting that even though I had no doubt I would be HIV-, I was still a bit nervous especially as the tester started asking me questions such as if I got a positive reading would I be able to tell people and ask for help and who would those people be. That question really made me pause. Yes I know a lot of people who are very familiar with HIV/AIDS and I have many close friends and a good circle of support. I know it isn’t a death sentence if one knows their status and takes care of themselves, but to actually think about whom I would tell and what their reaction might be? Who would be the first, best person to seek spiritual and physical guidance and support from? WOW.

Monday morning I started the process of taking my car in to find the problem. The shops and even mechanics are so specialized and not necessarily specialized along the same lines as they would be in the States so it is hard to figure out where to go for help. But luckily the radiator shop that replaced my radiator about a year and a half ago told me about a mechanic that he refers everything to. He turned out to be a very nice guy. He’s Portuguese. He said it sounded like possibly the cylinder head cover may be warped. I choked at the possible costs of the various scenarios, and left a bit stressed but also very grateful that Gary and Jeri were still here so I wouldn’t be stranded and have to go through this alone. I HATE dealing with car problems. Oh, one little side note. While I was at the radiator shop, after the owner told me where to take my car he noticed a thorn sticking out of my tire. He reached down and pulled it out before I could stop him. Yep, the air came flowing out of the tire. Luckily there was a tire shop next to the radiator shop and they plugged the tire. And luckily it was only one thorn and not as big as any of the three thorns that were pulled out of my rear tire a month or so ago. I’m praying this plug holds because I’m really not in the mood to buy my seventh tire in two years. Not yet.

Monday afternoon Bethuel and I went to Lomngeletjane to talk with John the builder about some issues we both had with how things were being done. It turned out to be a good meeting except I am overwhelmed when I think about all of the additional things that have to be done to build a house: flooring, cabinets, shelving, plumbing, electricity, geysers (hot water heaters), etc., etc., etc. I pray the funding will come so we can finish this.

After our meeting, I did have a small task to take care of which gave us, or at least me, a feeling that I had accomplished something positive on that day. When the Nashville team was cleaning up the worksite around the latrines, I found that there were some rolls of used fencing left over from what was donated by the US Embassy last year. I had asked John to dig it out of the weeds last week because I had a use for it. I was amazed to learn that he actually did that. I wanted to take some to Tiphelele’s mom so she could grow vegetables without the cows, goats and chickens eating everything she plants. I was very impressed to see that she had already gathered many poles. So using alternative means, as is always the case here in Africa, we tied a roll of it to the bumper of Gary & Jeri’s car and dragged it to her house! She was so pleased. We also took a couple of smaller rolls to the storage/office building to be stored safely so that when Mthokozisi and his sisters moves to his grandparents homestead we can take it to him so they can grow a garden. By the time we were done it was close to 4:00 and of course we hadn’t had lunch yet. It’s not like one can run to the corner McDonalds and grab a quick bite. Oh well, TIS (This is Swaziland.)

Tuesday was a special day for me. It was the third anniversary of my mom’s death and the second anniversary of when I arrived in Swaziland. I borrowed Gary and Jeri’s car so that Thoko and I could go to Lutfotja Primary school to discuss the progress of the children that are part of Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu and leave transport money for those children who are either sick or need to go get their monthly (ART) medication. We then went to Salukazi and talked with the head teacher there about what we had found when we did home visits on the children she recommended for the project. We were surprised that at a school that has one of the higher OVC (Orphan and Vulnerable Children) rate that we didn’t find children that were HIV+ or very sickly. The children recommended needed financial support and wanted their school fees paid, but unfortunately, that is not the primary purpose of Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu. We discussed the possibility that since the community is so rural and isolated and appears not to be as educated as other communities that perhaps we needed to rethink our strategy at this school and try to arrange to get an organization such as PSI to come out to the school and do education on health in general and HIV/AIDS specifically and then follow it up with testing, spiritual counseling, etc. While we were meeting with Ellen, the head teacher at Salukazi, we heard this rather irritating and loud noise that was being produced by some children outside. I got up to see what was making the noise and found a high school boy playing with a “toy” head had made. It was made out of a long stick, a small wheel, some copper wire (no one wants to know where he got that from!), string, a tin can and a couple of corn cobs. It was really ingenious. He would push it along the ground and use the corn cobs handles as if they were gear shifts on a motorcycle. As it rolled along the ground it would make noise which was carried up through the wire to the tin can and amplified. It would make a louder or softer sound depending on what he was doing with the handles. I was so amazed. Imagine out here in the middle of no where a kid that is that smart and talented. I pray that somehow that child gets to college because who knows what he could become! Alas, I doubt very much if the child will be able to have that opportunity based on where he lives. But one can always hope and encourage him to keep at it.

That evening we had a Lutsandvo Lwa Krestu committee meeting to discuss our findings and plans. When we have these meetings at night, it means that I need to take Thoko and Thini home because they live so far from Kombi stops and Kombis are very unreliable at that time of night anyway. Because of the heavy rain on Saturday night and Sunday and the fact that we were using Gary and Jeri’s little VW Citi-gulf, I had to go the long way to take Thoko home. The long way means we don’t have to cross the river and the road is better but it is probably at least 45 minutes of driving one way. Once again, I thanked God that Gary and Jeri were still here when my car was out of commission so that all work didn’t have to stop and I wouldn’t be stuck at home.

Wednesday was a light day. Since my car is out of commission I can’t really schedule a lot. I accompanied Gary and Jeri to Mbabane to pick up their new passports and then did a couple of errands I needed to do up in Mbabane.

On Thursday morning, I knew I would be stuck at home which I was actually looking forward to. I got up and made my coffee, checked my e-mail and started getting motivated to get a lot of things done, including this blog. Unfortunately about an hour later I was freezing, realized my stomach was very upset and I started aching all over. Yep, I got some sort of a 24 hour flu. I stayed in bed under multiple covers feeling too bad to sleep and too cold to move other than to take Tylenol and thank God for the makers of it. I felt better on Friday but not great. Matter of fact, it is now Sunday again and I’m still kind of out of it. Not having a car and being in limbo doesn’t help. The good news about my car is that they didn’t need to replace the cylinder head cover. They only had to grind it down and put on a new gasket. They were also replacing the thermostat because though it worked, it was a bit sluggish and then they would check into the mystery of why the fans don’t seem to come on to help cool the engine. So the cost could have been much worse. Unfortunately, they couldn’t get it finished by Friday afternoon. Oh well, I can be patient.

So it wasn’t a very glamorous or productive week but it was still a week of challenges. They were just different than they normally are. Next week we are heading off to meet Richard in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. It is only about 3 hours or so from here along the Indian Ocean. We are going to look at a couple of projects and spend some time enjoying another bit of God’s beautiful creation and spending some time in retreat to renew and refresh ourselves. This part of South Africa shouldn’t be as dangerous as the other parts I usually go through and we are taking limited things of value. Please pray that this will be a safe and renewing time for all of us.

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