Thursday, March 27, 2014

My Life as a Vegetarian (well almost)

This is my butcher, and yes, he is just as happy as he looks in this picture.  I was "warned" when I came here to buy my meat at the PA Butchery rather than the grocery store. " O.K. says I.  Do I want to know why?"  No one has ever answered that question for me, but it's off to the the Butchery I go.  This jolly man greets me each time I go in.  Once I got over the smell of the butchery, I had quite a time there.  I usually go right to the back to pick up my kilos of "mince" (hamburger).  In the meat case I see a variety of other items that look pretty scary to me.  Read on….

He is holding a package of a variety of different innards.  (is that even a word?  This is a mixture of the insides of different animals)  The meat case is full of them.  I can barely look at them let alone cook them.

This is a tasty package of liver with a generous portion of fat to cook it in!!!  Okey Dokey.  Not me.  No thank you.

 Now this delicacy is lunchmeat.  When I think of lunchmeat, I generally think of Paradise Bakery, Kneaders, Jimmy John's, etc.  Anyone want to venture what might be in this mixture???  I won't be serving it up on a sandwich any time soon.
 Balogna.  Yup.  It is Baloney.  Africa loves Balogna.  When I was a little girl, my mother used to buy a chunk of baloney, grind it up in the meat grinder, add miracle whip and pickle relish and serve it on a sandwich.  I loved it.  I just can't bring myself to grind this up.  No thank you, not me.
 And in case you were looking for 7 heads and 14 feet of a chicken…PA Butchery is the place to go.

And finally….Biltong.   South Africa's version of Jerky.  They use all kinds of animals to make it.  Chicken, Beef, Fish, Shark, Ostrich, Kudu, Springbok, Ostrich, etc.  It is eaten as is, or chopped up in to pieces about the size of an M & M for a snack, or used in all kinds of recipes from muffins to main dishes.  Maybe one day I will try it.  

But for now….I am thinking a Vegetarian diet may be the way to go.  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

"From The Factory"

When we tell the members here that we were born and raised in Utah, they tell us "Oh, you are from "The Factory".  We had some visitors in our Flat that were returned missionaries that had served here in Port Alfred before we came.  I told them that my Great Grandfather on my Father's side was a companion to the Prophet Joseph Smith.  This former Elder had quite a sense of humor, but imagine my surprise when he "literally" fell off his chair and pretended to worship me.  

Last night I had a "From the Factory" experience.  Our RS Presidency is planning the RS Birthday party activity.  Since they don't have access to a computer, they asked me to check a couple of things for them and come to their meeting last night.  They were looking for activities.  I found one called RS Bingo.  It was created by a ward in Utah.  I showed it to the Presidency and explained how the game worked.  In each of the Bingo Card Squares were written phrases that the sisters were to find another sister who had experienced what was written.  They read through it and looked at me with questions in their eyes.  Some of the things that we "Factory Mormons" know as commonplace, they had never heard of.  Here are some of their questions.
  • Sista Wheeler, can you tell us what "skis" means
  • "Likes Artichokes".   Sista Wheeler, what is an artichoke.
  • "Participlated in a Marathon".  Now this one is just hilarious to the members here.  Given the fact that they walk EVERYWHERE they go, it seems ridiculous that someone would walk/run for the sport of it.
  • "Drives an SUV".  If they have a car, it is a miracle.  No idea what an SUV even is.
  • "Lived in Utah".  We scratched that one off.  I told them they could leave it on and everyone could get me to sign that square.
  • "Makes jello salad".  In Africa they call jello ~ jelly.  I explained.  They left it on the card.
  • "Went to BYU".  Sista Wheeler…what is BYU.
  • And here is the best one.  "Have you ever washed clothes by hand?"  For these sisters, there is no other way.
I am grateful for my "Wasatch Front/Mormon Factory" background.  But more than that, I am forever grateful to be among these wonderful pioneers in South Africa.  They are the Lucy Mack Smiths of this country.  They bless my life!!!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Xhosa Funeral

We had our first experience with a traditional Xhosa funeral on Saturday.  The funeral was conducted by the "New Apostolic Church of Zion South Africa".  It began at 8:00 am and concluded at 2:00 pm.  There are several components to the service.  At 8:00 am they bring the body in to the home.  The women have their own meeting at which time they pay tribute to the deceased.  Click on the video to listen.

We were in a room about 12 X 12 feet.  There were over  75 people in the room.  There was a smaller adjoining room where the family members sat and watched over the deceased.  In the center of the large room was a woman who played the drum.  Those rich beautiful voices I sure were heard in heaven.  The female authorities from the church would speak (in very loud voices) and their were many hallelujahs and amens.  The service was all done in the Xhosa language.  There was dancing, singing, swaying and praising God.  

Those dressed in the white an blue robes officiated. There seemed to be two women who communicated to each other.  Any woman could take a turn praising.   I tried to find information on Google about their beliefs and came up with nothing.  The women's portion lasted about an hour.  The men sat outside.  When the men came in, the women said their final goodbyes and their was weeping and wailing.  The funeral was then moved to the local church where more speaking, singing, dancing, and swaying occurred.  Then the burial.  The conclusion is the meal back at the compound.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

America has Funeral Potatoes & Ham…Africa has Tripe, Intestines and Rooster Brood

This is our first experience with a traditional Xhosa funeral.  And yes, it was an experience.  After a two week mourning period the family makes preparation for the service.  The service is generally held on a Saturday.  Some of the members of the branch called me and asked if I would like to help with food preparation on Friday.  I jumped at the chance.  The meal that is served after the services is not only for family members, but for anyone who would like to come.  When people in the location find out that there is a death, they know there will be food, and no one is turned away.  Considering the poverty that they live in, you can imagine the amount of people that show up.  Food preparation takes days.  
We gathered in this outdoor courtyard area and peeled and chopped five gallon buckets full of potatoes, onions, and green peppers.  The feeling there was very similar to a quilting bee.  Our mouths moved in a rhythm that matched that of the potato peeler.  It matters not where in the world you are, women do not lack for subject matter to chat about.  When I am among these girls the subject of America always comes up.  It is fun to say that I am from Las Vegas, Nevada.  Everyone has heard of Las Vegas which opens the door for many great conversations.  By the time we had finished, the girl in the middle of the above picture told me that she and her daughter were going to come to America, work in the casinos, and become millionaires.

 I was not the "only" white woman there.  Ruth Cockbain (in the blue) and Helen Dell (with the cane) were my buddies.  I love these women so much.

 Now, we must chat about the food.  These women work hard.  They cook on open fires in these three-legged pots.  No microwaves here.  In one of the pots they were boiling potatoes for the potato salad.  No funeral potatoes here.  The other two had meat in them.  See pictures below.
 The meat of choice is Tripe which this good sister speared for me out of pot #2.  Now in case you are not familiar with tripe let me just tell you.  Tripe is the stomach of an animal.  Usually a cow or an ox.  They cook it in boiling water with salt and eat.  YUM!?!
 And then if you are still hungry you can feast on this delicacy. Pot #3 contains Intestines!  Yum, yum, double yum.

This is a traditional South African samp (mngqusho) and Beans (mbotyi).  Samp is the same as hominy, except the kernels are cracked into a few pieces.  They soak overnight along with the beans, season with onions and salt and pepper and "they" say it is delicious.  

Roosterbrood.  Pronounced Ru Wuh steer the "r" at the end is expressed.  These, my friends, are worth the trip to South Africa.  This bread is served at a "Braai" better known to Americans as a BBQ.  The Braai is a South African tradition that has been past down from generation to generation.  Roosterbrood was originally made out of necessity in the more rural communities where there was only two ways to bake bread; in a cast iron pot in a clay oven or directly over the coals on a "braai" grid.  
So, if you haven't already had your fill of Tripe or Intestines, then head for the Roosterbrood.  You won't be sorry.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

It's A Missionary Life For Me…East London Zone Conference...

Here are just a few reasons why we LOVE serving a mission.

  1. No one ever has to say "Smile for the camera".  Serving brings pure joy and we are smiling all the time.  
  2. You meet some of the best people you will ever know.  Granted, you may have to travel a long way to meet them, but it is worth it.  The association you build with other couples is precious.

 3.  Instant Gratification.  It doesn't matter what you put in front of these young men or even how good it is.  They will love you for life for feeding them.

4.  Free Entertainment.  Skits, Haka's, Musical Numbers, and poking fun at the President of the Mission and getting away with it.  Oh, and did I mention laughter.  Lots and lots of laughter.  (The Elder in the wig is portraying President Wood)

5.  You get to hang around these guys.  (Some missions have Sisters.  Ours is just a lot of Testosterone).  You get to be dazed and amazed every day as you watch them teach, preach, minister, learn, grow, expound, develop leadership skills, and goof off a bit.  You get to witness first hand the miracle of missionary work.  Ahhhhh.  Nothing can compare.  Oh yea, and you get to do the very same as they do.  It's powerful stuff!

6.  And then, at the end of the day, after you have worked harder than you have ever worked in your life, you offer a benediction and you ask the Lord to help you do it all over again.  We bear testimony that He does help and bless and guide and instruct.  Oh yes.  It's a Missionary Life for us!

Port Alfred Branch Conference 2014

Branch Conference for Port Alfred was held Sunday, March 16, 2014.  Auxiliary Training was Saturday, March 15th.  The theme of the conference was Strengthening Home and Family and Temple Covenants.  We created this board with a picture and name of each of our branch members on it.  We are missing a few pictures for several reasons, one of which is that i misplaced the camera that I had them on.  Oops.  The three pictures of the teens in the photo above are our investigators.  Pending parental approval, they should be baptized soon.  Chwyita's mother is being taught the lessons also.  She came to church for the first time on Sunday.  We are hopeful that we can have a mother/daughter baptism.

 The Mission Presidency
From left to right;  President and Sister Hogben.  Natives of South Africa.  Converts of 42 years.  President Hogben is 80 years young.  He has been a Stake President and also the Johannesburg Temple President.  President and Sister Boyce.  Missionaries from St. George, Utah.  We have become very good friends with them and will miss them terribly when they leave in two months!  You know the next two.  President and Sister Woods.  They are from Fairbanks Alaska.  In a former life, he was a Superior Court Judge in Alaska.  He will be leaving in June after serving four years in South Africa.  He served his first year as the Executive Secretary in the South Africa Area Presidency and then was called as mission President to Cape Town.  His knowledge of the scriptures is remarkable.
We had dinner at "The Pig and Whistle Pub" after Auxiliary Training Saturday.  I wish I would have taken more pictures.  The Pub is charming and claims to be the oldest Pub in South Africa.  The food is great!

On the left is Elder Bohn from Mesa, AZ and Elder Tonge is from Bountiful, Utah.

 Axillary Training Meeting on Saturday was represented by each of the Women's Auxiliaries.  
 Our youth performed a special musical number on Sunday.  It is the theme song for the 2014 Youth Curriculum entitled "Come Unto Christ".  This is a pix of their practice.  They performed Acapella and nailed it.  Sometimes I wish we could record in the chapel.  You would have loved it. 

The Branch Presidency
Left to Right:  Bro. Canny Nobebe, President Wheeler, Ncebazakhe Hola

The Wearing of "The Badge"

If you have worn "The Badge" of a missionary for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints you know that when you pin it on it is an instant conversation starter or conversation shunner.  We have had every imaginable reaction that you can think of.  Our favorite came this past Tuesday.  We had traveled to East London (about two hours from Port Alfred) for a Zone Conference.  We had decided to stay at a B & B Tuesday night and do some shopping in civilization on Wednesday.  When we checked in to "Porky's B&B" the owner greeted us and took a close look at what was written on the badge.  "Oh, she said".  You are representatives of a church."  " I thought it was an Alzheimer's badge.  In case you got lost someone would claim you".  Maybe it was the white hair that tipped her off.  Come to think of it, that would be a great lead in to the church.  "Let us tell you about someone that we know that can claim you".  I think I will try that next time!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Xhosa Traditions

Sunday morning we received a phone call from our branch Relief Society President, Sister Nomsa Nteyi) informing us that her 88 year old father had passed away Saturday.  He was not a member of the church.  He is part of the Xhosa tribe. (Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu are both from the Xhosa Tribe)  He had two wives, both who have preceded him in death.  From the two wives he had fourteen children.

We went to our three hour meeting block.  It was raining on Sunday, so attendance was poor.  We combined the Gospel Essential Class and Sunday School classes.  President Wheeler taught them because the teachers did not show up.  We also combined the Aaronic and Melchezidek Priesthood and the Young Women and Relief Society.  After church the members were lingering a little longer than normal in the chapel.  They were speaking Xhosa so I could not understand, but I just like to be with them so I just sat and waited.  I saw one of the members pull out a piece of paper and begin to write a little devotional type of program.  Opening song, prayer, speakers, etc.  They asked me what I thought an appropriate hymn would be.  I asked, "A hymn?  What for?".  They then explained to me what was happening.

There are many rituals that occur when someone passes.  Prayer circles are held by many different religions.  Our branch was planning a prayer circle.  It is tradition for the Xhosa people to express sympathy in the following way.  

 We all piled in to four cars and drove to Nomsa's father's home.  When we arrived we entered a room which had completely been stripped.  Nothing on the walls and new linoleum and been laid down.  We stood until Nomsa and her brothers and sisters came in. Brother Nobebe took charge.  We sang an opening hymn, had a prayer, there were three speakers, and then a closing song and prayer.  The service was performed in the Xhosa language and so I did not understand.  I was told after that the three speakers bore testimony of our beliefs.  All in all the service lasted about 30 minutes.  We shook hands with members of the family and left.  I was told that this would be repeated by different denominations throughout the coming 12 days of mourning.  

Nomsa's father lived in the location in a little compound with homes similar to this.

Because he had two wives there were three of four homes on it that were similar to this one.  One of the homes was converted in to a kitchen.  Over the next 12 days of mourning they will have family and friends come to stay and eat.  And I mean eat.  They will cook, and cook, and cook.

Xhosa people believe the departed continue to live in the beyond.  Early on the day of the funeral, an ox is slaughtered in prep for the "ukukhapha".  The men cook the meat with no spices, outside in boiling water.  The meat must then be eaten outside the house.  The ritual is intended to help the spirit to the beyond so the deceased can return as an ancestral spirit later.  During the days leading up to the funeral, elders will have been in constant communion with ancestral spirits, preparing the way for the deceased to be accepted into the beyond.  Death is a highly sacred occurrence in Xhosa culture.

Xhosa men preparing to slaughter the ox.

This was our first experience with a death and Xhosa tradition.  Interesting.  

God Bless America…Grocery stores that I love!

When you think of Africa, you most likely picture a safari.  Well, can I just tell you that a trip to the grocery store here is the most adventurous hunt I have ever been on. I will preface these pictures by telling you that I think I must be destined to live in small towns.  One claim to fame that I often share is that I come from a town with no stop light.  (Logandale, Nevada).  I now am serving in a town with ONE stoplight!  (Port Alfred, South Africa) Woot, woot!  Living in small towns definitely has it’s advantages.  One of them is NOT the shopping!  Logandale had one grocery store.  Port Alfred has two (and several other little small stores that I would not dare go in to unless Bruce Willis was there as my bodyguard).  And so, when I have the opportunity to shop in civilization (any town with more than one stop light) my little heart just races with excitement.

Last Saturday, President Wheeler and I traveled to Port Elizabeth (90 minutes away) to pick up a car for the mission.  I was told that if I ever get to civilization (which is anywhere but the towns I live in) I must check out Fruit and Veg City.  Well I did.  I am still smiling.  Check out these pictures.  My little heart could barely take it.  I nearly cried. 

 Look at this gorgeous fruit.  I must say also that my little quilting brain thought of all the color schemes I could go with in my next quilting creation.

 I hardly knew what to do, so I bought some of everything.  I don't care if it spoils.  It was there.  It was beautiful and I was a maniac!

 This is the first time I had seen red onions in Africa.  My only regret is that President Wheeler was with me.  It was sort of like shopping in a fabric store with a man.  They needed to have a husband chair in this store so I could spot him and just wander.  I don't think he appreciated my excitement over a red onion.

 There are many pineapple farms in South Africa.  They have a small variety that is about as big as a pint jar.  They call them "pines".
And these, my friends, are pumpkins.  Yep.  The thing you make Jack O Lanterns out of and the best pumpkin pie you will ever eat.  You can not buy canned pumpkin in Africa.  I will probably never buy canned again.  Fresh is so much better.

The next two pictures are from the bakery.  How fast would the Health Department in America shut these guys down???  Everything was out in the open.  I didn't want to think of how many people had handled these items or how many bugs had been circulating over, above, and through.  As good as it looked, I couldn't bring myself to buy.

Our friends the Boyce's came to pick up the mission car that we had brought back from P.E.  They told us they were bringing us a care package.  LOOK WHAT THEY BROUGHT!!!  American food products.  These are all items that they had their friends visiting from America bring to them.  They are leaving in two months and had some surplus items.  Real mayonnaise, real mustard, black beans, cake mixes, danish dessert.  I'm just telling you….Paula Dean would never make it in Africa.  We knew we loved the Boyce's.  They just cemented our friendship with a packet of Ranch Dressing.
So the next time you walk in to a grocery store in America, just sing a chorus of God Bless America and think of me.  

And check out this picture of the fresh fish department.  I was afraid.  Very afraid.  In another post I will share with you why I will probably become a vegetarian while in Africa.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Ta Dah….

WE DID IT!!!  Our district was the first district in the Cape Town South Africa Mission to memorize "The Living Christ".  716 words.  Four people.  President Wheeler is great at memorizing.  I have very poor recall and did not think I could do it, but I did.  I thought I was doing good to memorize D & C Section 4 and when the challenge came for "The Living Christ", I thought, no way.  I took the fifteen cards with me as I was walking each morning and would recite them as I went along.  I am sure people thought I was a little cuckoo.  I am positive they thought I was when the spirit touched me as the words of this inspired document touched my heart and I was not only walking and talking to myself but crying.

I have a copy of these fifteen cards and would love to e-mail them to you if you would accept this challenge.  It is life-changing!

God be thanked for the matchless gift of His divine Son.


Our members are always talking about going to visit their family on "The Farm".  President and I decided that we should go see what "The Farm" is all about.  We drove to Southwell which is one of the many farms here.  Africa is rich in history.  Southwell is part of that history.  There is not much left of it now except what you will see in the pictures in this post, but it was once a thriving community with schools, shops, and a bustle of other activities.  Our favorite part of the "remains" was this church.  We were not able to get in, but you can just imagine it being the center of the community.  Isn't it charming!

Oh, and by the way.  We did see farms on our drive.  Both agricultural and cattle farms.  More on that later.  

We thought we might have an "Alice In Wonderland" spotting while we were at Southwell from the size of these mushrooms.