Monday, June 12, 2006

A WEEKEND TO OURSELVES, THEN SOUTHWARD

Sunday in Johannesburg had two very interesting parts for us. Sunday morning we attended "Rhema Bible Church" in the suburb of Randburg. With 38,000 members, it is one of the largest churches in the world. I'm guessing that the 10:00 service we attended probably held around 6,000 or 8,000 people. It was exuberant worship.

Waterfall at botanical gardens near Johannesburg.Then Sunday afternoon, after a nap, we went to some botanical gardens to the northwest of our B&B. They had a beautiful waterfall and a lot of very interesting birdlife. Some photos are attached.

After a pleasant weekend in Johannesburg, we have finally "fled the big city." This morning we checked out of our B&B in Johannesburg and drove southeast about four hours to a beautiful area of South Africa known alternately, in Afrikaner, as Drakkensberg, and in Zulu, as Okhashlamba (check sp). This is a geologically dramatic area of high plateaus rolling hills, long placid lakes, and ringed to the west by the beautiful mountain ranges of Lesotho.

We are staying in a central town in the region, called Bergville, where World Vision's Okhashlamba Area Development Program is headquartered. We have met the manager of the ADP, Joseph Dladla, and he is going to very kindly show us the various projects that are a part of the ADP over the next two days, starting at 8 a.m. tomorrow morning.

Until then we have some time to settle into our B&B, which is called Anthony's and is just off the main road. It is operated by a very gracious Afrikaner named Carol. Once again we are protected by a very large German shepherd, this one MUCH friendlier than the last two. Every chance he gets he wants to lick our hands and be stroked.

The B&B itself sits on a hillside overlooking a valley between us and the dramatic mountains I mentioned earlier. We are grateful that it is farther off the beaten path than the last B&B, and therefore quieter. We have a lovely cottage with a central living area and kitchen and two attached bedrooms. Mandy is happy to have her own bedroom this time, she says she has had a hard time sleeping the last two nights on account of my snoring. (What, me snore? Yeah, right.)

The cottage is made of stone or concrete and very cool inside, so there are electric warmers in each room. At first we thought we wouldn't need them, but after we turned them off it became apparent why they were there as it grew cool quickly. Remember that it is the dead of winter here. But it is still quite pleasant outdoors until the sun goes down.

It was very quite breezy here this afternoon. We have a large pecan tree off our front porch so the porch is now covered with leaves ... and nuts. There are pecans lying all over the porch, just waiting to be picked up and cracked. They are delicious.

After a nice nap I went on a brief walk with "Shepherd" out as far as the main road. I disturbed some sort of large bird, the size of a goose but with a long curved bill, to one side of the driveway, it squawked angrily and flew over my head to land on the other side of the yard. It stalked around as if it belongs here. Maybe a pet? The dogs didn't seem to bother it.

Darkness has just fallen and as I was sitting out on the front porch and typing this, I suddenly got swarmed by mosquitoes. The first I've seen since being in Africa. So I quickly retreated inside to finish this.

Well, I'm back, but not until after a wonderful dinner. Carol, the woman who runs the B&B, has a long history with World Vision and its project here, and she is full of interesting information. Among our B&B mates are two women from New York who are working on a documentary about AIDS sufferers and anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs). Very interesting. I'm going to enjoy this place a lot!

Early tomorrow morning, we join our project staff and we'll see what the day brings!

Thanks for reading, and for praying. I have lots of photos, but Blogger is still not letting me upload. So check back!

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