Minnesota Farmer

What’s next?
September 3, 2017, 9:30 pm
Filed under: church, Minnesota, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

So I’ve shared all of my trips to South Africa’s Ondini Circuit with you.  If you are not a long time reader, you can find the first two trips in February of 2011, and August of 2014.  These exchange trips have been going on between the Shetek Conference and the Ondini Circuit since 2008, but what’s next, how do we move along further in this relationship.

Change has seemed to be almost glacial in the Ondini.  There are many societal reasons for this, and change takes time.  In some of my conversations with the younger Lutherans in Ondini I know that they are chaffing at how bad things are and wanting more for their people, but change is also frightening.  We here in Minnesota see something that needs to be done, and do it, in the Ondini, that does not happen.


We have spent years now developing a relationship.  It is expected that we will show up every few years to renew that relationship.  Now it is time to step our game up to another level.  We need to spend more time with each other so we can really have a chance to change things.  Two things are being worked on to make longer relationship building happen.

First we are researching ways to get younger residents of the Ondini Circuit who have potential to spend time in Minnesota.  There is a program that brings Africans to the U.S. to work at bible camps.  We are researching how these young people are sourced and placed.  If we can get that information to our friends in the Ondini Circuit, it is hoped that they will come up with candidates to work at our own Shetek Bible Camp.  This will develop a core of young people trained in Christian education to work in their home area. We also plan to help those young people find their way around the Shetek Conference and support them however we can.  That support could also include gardening and health tips to take home with them.

Second we are hoping to place an advisor from the U.S. in the Ondini Circuit to help them expand and improve the projects through out the circuit.  This advisor would have to have an understanding of management, gardening, livestock production and building projects.  They would have to commit themselves to staying on site for at least three months.  Ideally this would be a retired individual or couple with a lifetime of experience to pass on.

Our partners in the Ondini understand their problems.  Pastors and teachers are doing their best to bring the needed change, but they have other jobs to do and personal lives to live.  We need to empower some of the younger people to carry on the changes they envision.  Whatever we can do to keep the best and brightest minds in the rural areas, we must do.  Only when young people see hope where they grew up will the people of the Ondini stay and create the jobs needed to benefit all of Africa.

Of Camping, Host Homes and Hotel Rooms
August 26, 2017, 10:08 am
Filed under: church, house, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

Travel in a foreign land can give you an opportunity to see how other cultures live and play.  Our stays at the Kwazamokuhle Diaconal Centre were a bit rough by our standards, but sufficient.

The guest house we stayed in is more like an older bible camp building than a house.  There is a small “suite” on one end that has its own kitchen, bath, living area and bedroom.  The middle of the building has a kitchen, bath and living area with three bedrooms down the hall.  In front is an open porch with an entry to a toilet and shower area on one side and the “bunk house” (bunk beds for 7) and a bath tub room.  There is another bunk house room around back.

All of the rooms were small.  Each sleeping area included a wardrobe and beds but not much else.  The water heater was slow and water pressure could run out if you were there at the wrong time.

Electricity on the grounds was of the older “Type M” plug, not part of the standard power converters. We had two power converters in our group, and it looked like we would not be able to use them, but Andy had found a 3-for sale on type M plugs and saved the day.  Newer outlets could have a different configuration.

Others on the grounds lived in small houses, or even storage rooms.  Rambo invited me into his bachelor’s quarters in one of those store rooms.  By the time he put in a bed, wardrobe and table the room was full.  He was just happy to have a place to call his own.

When we went exploring in the Champagne valley (upper left on this tourist brochure) we got a look at how tourists live and play in the area. The road goes into the Drakensberg mountains.  The paved road is narrow, and becomes more so as you reach its end.  Along the way you pass restaurants, shopping areas, B&B’s, the Champagne Valley resort, The Drakensberg Boys School, and high up at the end of the winding road is the Monk’s Cowl Wildlife area.  There is a lot of luxury along the way only a few kilometers from concrete huts.

The end of the road has hiking and some tourist shops.

There are campsites available in some really fantastic scenery.  The campsites were more suitable for tents, but a smaller caravan (camper) could make it up to road and stay here.  We also saw campsites at Weenen game park, again primitive, but great scenery.

If you clicked the link for the Champagne Valley Resort, you know they have some really nice hotel rooms.  There are also self-service type lodges in the area of many different types.

I have been honored to visit several homes in my visits to South Africa.  They have been homes of ministers, teachers and government agency employees.  All have been compact and well-kept.  Since most housing in the area is of block, brick or cement, they can have issues we are not used to.  Any wet can cause paint to peel off of cement, so bathrooms quite often had peeling paint.  I saw some really wonderful kitchens in these small homes, especially if they’re in the city.

Every home has a fence.  In rural areas it is just a wire fence to keep out roaming livestock.  Fences in the city got more ornate as you climbed the income ladder.  To have a garage or carport was really upscale.  A larger home would have a remote-controlled gate, or even a gate guard if the grounds were larger.

Kitchens in the country were a bit rougher.  This is the stove area in the Centre’s dining hall.  They had a central prep area and a cleanup area on the opposite wall.  Cooktops were bottled gas.  They did have a small oven, but most cooking was done on a gas stove top.

Living areas in homes tended to overstuffed couches and large screen TV’s.  There were also some massive sound systems in these small homes.  Dining areas would fit the table, chairs and not much else.  Decoration tended toward large posters and calendars of school, church or family events.  Running water was available in all of the homes I visited, but not always a water heater.

I never got into any of the smaller homes in the area.  It is easy to imagine by their size that they do not have much.  When you live in a concrete or steel house that is only about 12 feet square there is not room for much.  If you have no running water or electricity, cook your food over a wood fire and use an outside toilet, I suspect the living is rough.

There is a large difference in how people live in the Ondini Circuit.  Those with some get-up-and-go have either left or live as public servants and make a living the best they can.  Those without money live on government payments and often live very rough.

In town, the unemployed may have staked out an area of street or a parking lot where they give parking directions for tips.  Since parking areas are small, or nonexistent this help is welcome.  Pan handlers are scarce, but around.  Many a job we would use a machine to do, they have laborers to keep busy.

South Africa is trying very hard to make its way into the first world, but with so many to employ and such a difference between haves and have-nots, they have a long road ahead of them.  That the government is run by one party, the African National Congress controls 80% of the votes, does not help them get much better.  When things get tough, the people will rise up and get free water, electricity or more government money.  It is a government run by protesters, and our South African hosts are trying to change it.  I wish them luck, it will not be easy.

Food, Glorious South African Food
August 25, 2017, 7:26 am
Filed under: church, food, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

We were well fed on our trip, our South African hosts saw to that.  The food was differently spiced, long on protein and starch, and filling.

Breakfast always included eggs, whether scrambled or hard-boiled, bacon, more of a Canadian style and more meaty that we use in Minnesota, and toast.  Sometimes there was oatmeal or something like the grits of the southern U.S.  Hot dogs, served cold, might also be part of breakfast.

Drinks would include some type of fruit juice, hot chocolate, tea, instant coffee or cappuccino.

Milk in much of the rest of the world is processed differently and is shelf stable, so it is not refrigerated.  That was the case here.  South Africans like lots of milk in their coffee and tea, so there was always a pitcher of hot milk at meals.  They would also have white and a crystalline brown sugar as well as honey to sweeten your tea, coffee or porridge.

Water was always bottled.  We bought it in 1 or 2 liter jugs.  Aside from the fact that drinking tap water in a foreign land is usually suspect, the local tap water had a sulfur smell to it.

Soda brands are different.  The largest selling soda is Iron Brew.  Other brands include Appletiser and Coo-ee.  Sparletta is the local branch of Coca-Cola.  Sodas come in flavors we do not usually see like pineapple, pomegranate, orange, ginger beer, grape, lemon / lime, cream soda, lemonade and raspberry.  It is possible to find a Mt. Dew there, but not easily.  If you want it with less sugar you order your soda lite.

Main meals usually included rice or potatoes, and a curried beef or chicken.  It was also possible that the noon meal included sandwiches or cold hot dogs on a bun.  Sausages (bangers) of many different spicing types could appear at any meal.  Their ketchup was called tomato sauce and was differently spiced than ours is.  For more festive meals they barbecued sausages or a thin cut of beef, usually from the front shoulder, that cost less than what we might buy.

Different combinations of foods were often served.  There was a carrot and white bean dish that was really good.  Beets were served at most meals as was some type of cabbage dish, both were recently harvested from area gardens.  Potatoes had also recently been harvested, other times of the year, white corn would replace it as the starch.  Also on the menu at times was squash, served sliced after cooking.

What they call dumplings, a type of bread made with cake flour and cooked in a double boiler, was a common side dish.  It was too crumbly to use as bread except to soak up some meat juices, but they were good.

We did eat at restaurant chains if we were on the road.  McDonald’s and Kentucky Fried were in the area, but we avoided those.  Kentucky Fried Chicken is the largest restaurant chain in the country.  South Africans do love their chicken. Even burger and pizza joints had menus that were more chicken than any other protein.   Other grab and go food services included Steers, Whimpy and Debonairs Pizza.  

Just 10 km down the road was Thokozisa Center.  The restaurant had a decent menu and free internet.  Menu items could include wild game like ostrich and antelope, plus sea food, pasta and pizza.  There were also some small stores that sold clothing, furniture and touristy stuff.  We stopped there on both of our free nights.  For cool nights part of the restaurant was inside, but most of the seating was outside under thatched roofs.

For as close as it is to the Diaconal Center, I surprised to find that I was the only one who knew about it.  Thank you Simpewi for introducing it to me.

Castle and Hansa became our beers of choice when in South Africa.  Bottles and cans of the size we are used to were common, but you could get your beer in liter bottles.

My most unusual South African meal was served there years ago when I was served boiled beef on a large wooden tray.  It was a Sunday noon meal, and I was eating outside with the men.  There had been a wedding and the family was gathering to eat one of the dowry cows.  With little refrigeration, the whole clan was called in to help eat it.

That and the beef head served this year tell you a lot of the difference in culture that we have around food.

It is plain to see the influence of both England and Germany on the food we were fed.  Bits of India and Asia appear in the spicing and the Americas in the presence of corn, potato and squash.  Eating was always an international adventure in South Africa.


The Kwazamokuhle Diaconal Centre is home base for us when we visit the Ondini Circuit.  It is a cluster of buildings and land near Loskop.  As is the case with so many lutheran centers, this area also includes the Phangweni congregation (The largest we know of in the circuit) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Southern Africa, a cemetery and a school.  Also in this complex is a home and school for handicapped children.

The Centre was at one time a mission outpost of the Lutheran Church.  It is obvious that it was once quite an operation, today it is but a shadow of its old self.  Cattle and goats roam freely on church land outside the fence, and dogs have drug used diapers out of the garbage pit.

When Apartheid ended the missionaries who ran the center were asked to leave.  They left a huge leadership vacuum that has still not been filled.  On top of it all, no one really knows how much land the church owns here.  Despite it all, they are trying hard to make a go of it.

When we were there this August the gardens sat mostly bare.  There had not been enough rain to keep the garden going, and the hookup to the reservoir that was meant to irrigate the gardens had been drawing too much water off so they had been asked to stop.  Three and a half years of drought have put a strain on all water supplies.  That being said the place was busy.

Ladies are still working making communion wafers and shipping them all over the world.  Seamstresses still are making robes and stoles for the pastors, and bead work and basketry are being done in the workshops and in homes.  These items are for sale on the premises.

The rooms all over the compound are being rented out.  Some small storage areas have been converted to rooms for single African men.  Small houses are available for families to live in.  A library and study rooms for school children occupies most of one building.  Pastor Nkosi is staying in the guest house while his house is being built, two German girls who volunteer at the School for Handicapped children are in the guest house apartment, and then there are the ten of us.

Lazarus, the old Massey tractor was started and a few jobs were done with it, but a leaky fuel pump kept us from working it too hard.

An old tractor powered hammer mill was checked out and deemed ready to make corn meal flour.

The pork project, which was only a dream 3 years ago, is now up and running in the old hog barns.  There are also pigs at the school, and Mxolisi has been hired to manage that project.  He still has a lot to learn, but we must think back to how our grandfathers raised pigs to understand the level they are at.

Pastor Nkosi is hoping to resurrect a chicken rearing operation that was started and then abandoned after a wind storm damaged the buildings.  Because the operation was not guarded, some of the equipment has disappeared, but the bones of the operation are still there.

A new enterprise is in the building stage.  Just west of the centre’s compound a Community Centre and Rental Rondavels are being built.  For now there are just four rondavels, but more are possible if these work out.

There are plans a brewing, and deeds being done to help keep the activities of the circuit going.  The people of the Ondini Circuit are not standing still, they are trying, and we wish them the best.

Getting a bit of South African culture

Again South Africa surprises.  On my third trip to South Africa we did many things that I have not done before, in particular, we got in on a little bit of South African culture.

On our first tour day we made a stop in Ladysmith for an elementary school music and dance contest.  Something totally new to us.  I really wish I could show you the videos from the contest, but you are going to have to see me in person for that.

What was on display that day were native dances and songs from the history of Southern Africa.  Boys did acrobatic dance moves, and girls sang and danced behind them as drums beat out a rhythm.  Historically correct costumes were directly out of early National Geographic stories.  Performances were both inside and outside of a community center.  We were treated as honored guests and given VIP badges for the contest.  It was all quite impressive.  After viewing these dance routines I can see where many of the dances used during church come from.  Music and dance are part of the African soul.  They cannot sit still while music is being sung.

On Wednesday, August 16 we took a trip into the Drakensberg mountains to see the Drakensberg Boys Choir.  Wow, what a vocal and visual treat.  If you check out their Facebook page you can see pictures from the concert we attended.

The school sits in the Champaign Valley just a few kilometers south and west of the Diaconal Centre at Loskop.  The stunning setting hosts a boys school that is turning out musicians for the world.  Sorry, no pictures here either, but you can check out the website in the link above.

As a pensioner, I got in to the concert for 145 Rand ($11.00), regular admission was 160 Rand ($13.16) a real bargain.  The concert started with Mozart, went through some Japanese folk songs, the Lion King, and the first half ended with a Justin Timberlake song.  The second half was a celebration of African wildlife and a plea for the rhino.  There was constant motion on stage, the music was fantastic, and the boys were charming.  If you are in the area check to see if they are performing.  It’s well worth the time.

The Grand Tour of Ondini Churches

When a delegation only makes a physical connection every three years concerns mount.  The folks in the Ondini had been wondering if we were still active and supportive of their efforts.  To help “show the flag” we headed off on what I called the “Grand Tour.”

Travel conditions, once you get off the main roads, are not that great.  Distance, and the fact that few in this area have cars of their own, mean that actual physical visits from members of the Minnesota partnership, may not happen.  So on August 10 we made the 96 km (60 miles) East to Muden, and the area churches of Mhlangana and Stendal.

Churches in the Ondini are usually made of home-made brick with a steel roof.  Newer ones, like this one could also be made of concrete block.  Muden had lost it’s building several years ago, so this was obviously newer construction.Interior walls are plastered over and painted. The floor is usually concrete, perhaps with tile on it.  It is rare to see a church with a ceiling, usually just open rafters.  Simple benches make do for seating.

This was the newest electrical connection I had seen in any building.  These two outlets and a few lights on the rafters are all the electricity they have here.  The ceiling lights were bare CFL bulbs of the push and twist type, not the screw base we are used to.

The men’s toilet was rudimentary, the women’s at least had  door on it.

Our next church was further into the hills.  Water was short here and barrels sat along the road for people to use in their homes.  The school across the road did have water, and a pump in the lot behind the church was available for use.

This church at Mhlangana was in the start of an expansion.  The home-made blocks were starting to pile up as they began the process of adding a kitchen.

The 14th of August found us heading off to the farthest out churches, those of the Harrismith and Bethlehem Parishes.  Harrismith is 136 km (84 miles) to the northwest, Bethlehem is 68 km (42 miles) further west, and Reitz another 48 km (30 miles) north.  Now this is not our plains area travel, this is travel through the northern reaches of the Drakensberg mountains.  The buttes and mesas reminded me of Arizona and New Mexico.  Thus is high dry country, but the area has several dams and reservoirs that provide water for the area.

Few of the mountains in this area top 2000 meters (6560 feet), but we did go through Van Reenen’s pass which is at 1646 meters (5400 feet).  Fantastic views were everywhere as we wound our way up and over the pass.  Today’s travel was mostly on the N3 and N5 so the roads were good.

The Harrismith church again sits next to a newer school complex.

The interior is nicely done and the benches have backs.  Being in a larger city has helped to keep this church building in good shape.

Signage like this is rare, again a larger city.

I liked the shape of the church at Bethlehem.  Visible in back is the pastors residence.  On the left side of the picture is the church garden.  The last pastor had been a diligent gardener and provided much of his food from this garden.  This church also has a young pastor in it now.

The interior of the Bethlehem church was also interesting.  Several members of this congregation provided us with lunch here.  One older lady was exited to see us again and had pictures of us from the induction ceremony at Emmaus.

Now we turned north to Reitz.  Here the country flattens out and farms are everywhere.

The church at Reitz is the oldest in the Bethlehem parish.  It had originally been the home of the missionary pastor for the parish.  That position later moved to Bethlehem.

The young lay minister in this congregation is the grandson of a former pastor here.  He is working hard to keep his congregation going and hopes to be ordained someday and follow in his grandfather’s footsteps.

These posters on the wall helped us get an understanding of the Diocese and Circuits of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Southern Africa.  Everywhere we went we saw large calendars and posters that showed pictures of bishops and deans of the church.  The churches of the Ondini are very proud to be part of a larger church and do everything they can to help their parishioners understand how the church works.

It was distressing to me to see holes in many church windows.  Vandalism is common and when you have little money and no insurance, getting church windows fixed is not on your list of things to do.  All church compounds are fenced, but unless the building is in a larger city, it is fencing meant only to keep cattle and goats out.

As you can see differences in church buildings is great.  A building in a smaller, poorer area is small and spare, but no less loved by its congregants.  Church buildings in larger towns show more of the European influence with high ceilings and rafters covered.  None of the church buildings have heat.  This area is a relatively benign area, with lows and highs never far from the comfortable stage.  Even in summer the congregants will wear their church uniforms and pastors will be in full regalia.

Well the grand tour is done.  We visited the churches and met the people of congregations of most of the Ondini Circuit this trip.  Our travels are not yet over, there is more to come.

Minnesota farmers visit South African farm

One of the requests we had made on a previous visit was to spend time with a farmer from South Africa.  Some of it is curiosity on our part on how agriculture is done in a larger scale, and the other reason is to get a baseline for what agriculture could be in the Ondini Circuit.

Understand, that this is dryland/irrigated farming on a scale not familiar to us here in southwestern Minnesota.  Everywhere we travel in South Africa agriculture is so different.  Timber, sugar cane and pineapple are foreign to us.  Corn, cattle, hogs, soybeans, barley, wheat and oats we understand.

Our South African farmer host also farms on a different scale than we do.  While many in our area farm with only family labor, he has a considerable labor force employed.  He, his daughter and son-in-law make up the management team.  They have 9 full-time employees and 6 part-time employees.  The operation produces white corn, soybeans for seed, black oats for cover crop, pasture and hay, wheat, pumpkins and squash for seed, and cattle to make use of land which can not otherwise be farmed.

Our host grew up speaking German, his daughters married English speakers, and his grandchildren speak Zulu with their friends and in school.  Most of his employees are native Zulu speakers.

Keeping employees is one of his hardest tasks.  To keep good employees he pays them above normal wages and builds a house for them in town.  Employee loyalty is rewarded by advancement as space opens up or need requires.

The 8 row, row crop planter he had in the shed has all of the latest attachments for no-til planting, fertilizing and spraying under GPS guidance.  While the size of planter was small by our standards, the availability of labor to keep that planter on the move made it just right for his farm.

The nearly new John Deere tractor in his shed complemented the other smaller and older tractors that populated the farm.

The John Deere combine and sprayer also looked familiar to us.

The truck configuration was different to what we use.  We saw very few hopper bottom trucks in our travels, but double trailer and straight truck with a trailer combinations, with steel rather than aluminum frames were everywhere.  Road conditions and local road laws are the most likely reason for this difference.

Land does not sit idle in this area of South Africa.  When one crop is harvested, the planter is already in the field to plant the next.  Irrigated oats keeps cattle graze in peak condition although they do have to add some dried hay to keep the cattle on green grass from getting diarrhea.

Irrigation water for this farm comes from reservoirs sourced in the Drakensberg Mountains.  Our host farmer serves on the local water board to help manage that crucial water.

Corn stalks are also used to graze stock cattle when available.

During the summer, when all of the irrigated land is planted to other crops, native grass pastures are used to keep the cattle growing. A feed lot is also on the farm, but it is presently only used for part of the year.  That is one place he hopes to make more use of.  Right now he only has cattle in the feed lot to meet the Christmas market when local prices are highest.

Most of the cattle he has on hand have bells on them.  Although all cattle must be branded to prove ownership, there is the potential for theft.  The bells are to help the night guards keep track of cattle movements.

One of our South African church hosts was along for the trip, and was very impressed with all of the science that was needed to farm.  That one fact is something that few who do not live on the farm understand.  If we are to raise food for the world we must use every bit of science at our disposal.  Margins on the farm are razor-thin, to make a profit so we can feed our families and pay our employees is not easy in today’s price environment.  That fact is true in South Africa as well as Minnesota.

Weenan Game Reserve
August 21, 2017, 2:41 pm
Filed under: Farm, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel, Wildlife

Weenen Game reserve is a smaller game park (4906 hectares= about 19 sq. mile) located 25 km north-east of Estcourt.  Its easy access for us meant an easy day trip to a game park rather than the longer trip to more famous game parks.

The park at Weenen does not contain elephants or lions, but it is well populated with ostrich, zebra, giraffe and bush pig (warthog).  They also have rhinos, but we saw none of those.  Several types of antelope are also in residence. 

Weenen is a drive yourself game park with some camping, hiking and picnicking spots available.  You can easily drive all of the roads in a day, but some of the roads are not meant for vans like we were driving.

I must tell you, that I was one of the drivers on this trip, as such I did not have the opportunity to take wildlife pictures on the road.  Also this was my 3rd trip to an African game reserve, so I have plenty of pictures of wildlife.

We stopped for pictures and a picnic lunch at the Bushman River canyon on the southeast edge of the park.

Looking west, down the river we looked into a wilderness that had no roads for tourist access. A truly wild magnificence of African thorn veld.  Grass growing between thorny trees and bushes abound.  A perfect place for the animals living there.

Looking east, we saw the valley open up into the farms and ranches the readily available water made so easy to irrigate.

As we made our way back to the exit we made a turn onto a one-way road that was not meant for our Hyundai 8 passenger vans.  Dale and I carefully navigated the ruts and cuts of a road that was truly magnificent in its views.  More than once we turned corners to see a road cut from the side of a cliff.  One time we had to remove an obstruction from the road before we could continue, and another hard rock-cut came so close to the doors we could not have opened them.

This is not a game park to visit if you are looking for the most dangerous of African animals, but the views are stunning and animals can often be right on the road in front of you.  The location just a short distance off of the N3 make it a convenient place to take a break on travels through the area.  Few visit this park, perhaps some day you will.


On to Ondini
August 20, 2017, 6:35 am
Filed under: church, Kwazamohkuhle, Ondini circuit, Shetek Conference, South Africa, travel

On Wednesday, August 2, 2017, ten members of churches in the Shetek Conference of the ELCA left for the Ondini Circuit in the Kwa-Zulu Natal of South Africa.  This group from Southwestern Minnesota included 5 farmers, a nurse, a food service worker, a pastor and two young men just headed off to college.  For 4 of us this was a return trip, for the rest it was a new adventure.

This trip was different from the ones from 2011 and 2014 in several ways.  First, this trip was not led by Pastor Mark, he had left the conference and is now teaching at a college in Iowa.  This meant leadership of the trip shifted from pastoral to lay led.  Our leaders were Dale Holmes and Bonnie Frederickson, Pastor Sarah Tade also took on some leadership responsibility, but this being her first trip she was very thankful for the returning leadership.

Our second difference was that we were flying into Durban rather than Johannesburg (Jo-burg).  This airport is much closer to the Ondini Circuit.  Flying into Durban did mean that we had fewer opportunities to see some of the historical sights available in Jo-burg.

Friday morning, August 4, found us at the Garden Court Hotel overlooking the Indian Ocean.  We gathered to have a South African buffet breakfast in the hotel dinning area before going off to tour the city.  Our hosts from the Ondini, Pastor Lee M. and dean of the circuit David Xaba first lead us off for a bit of time on the beach before we drove off to see the soccer and rugby stadiums and Shaka World.

We really did not have a lot of time to enjoy all of the opportunities for fun at Shaka World, but did spend some time shopping and looking at some of the sights.  By noon we were headed north.

We did make one stop on the way, at Howick, to visit the Mandela Capture site.  I encourage you to read the information link to get a history of why this is incident is important to South Africans.  The center piece of the site is an impressive sculpture consisting of 50 steel poles that when viewed from the correct angle shows the face of Nelson Mandela. 

Mandela in his younger years was a bit of a chameleon.  He took on persona that allowed him to travel about the world as a leader of the freedom movement in South Africa during the 1950’s and early 1960’s.  I had heard about the sculpture and was very pleased we were able to stop.  Equally impressive was the walkway to the sculpture.

The pathway is lined with flowers and bushes that help to make the long walk more enjoyable.

As you near the site the path turns and dips down.  The poles of the sculpture now appear, but still just seem to be a series of poles.

It is only as you reach the bottom of the trail that you realize something special is ahead.  A pair of benches at the bottom mark the best viewing site.  Only in this small area is Nelson Mandela the chameleon visible.

That evening found us settling in to our places at the Kwazamokuhle Diaconal Centre.  It is a bit of a homecoming for those of us who were there before.  We were looking forward to the changes, meeting new and old friends and the work ahead.  It was to be an interesting stay.

Ground Blizzard

This morning when they called off school the weather didn’t look that bad.  We had a bit of snow blowing around, but most of the snow was still staying put.  When our mail was delivered about 9 a.m. we were surprised, usually mail doesn’t come until after noon.  Now it is a different story.

Winds are holding at over 30 mph with gusts up to 50 mph.  We have ourselves a ground blizzard.

If you are out of the wind, temperatures are not too bad.  Step out into the wind and you have a different story.  I have trouble seeing across my yard with all of the snow in the air, and yet, when you look up there is the sun in a mostly clear sky.

I can hear a truck out on the highway but he doesn’t seem to be moving that fast.  I would not want to be in a car in these conditions.  This is the time I am glad for a warm house and plenty of food.  I’m hunkered down with a project or two and a book.  It’s great to live in Minnesota on a day like this and have nothing that has to be done.