During our travel in Southern Kenya and Northern Tanzania, we have become familiar with the Masai People. The Masai are an Ethnic group numbering about 840,000 people. Most of the men wear what they call a shuka, (a colorful cloth that goes around their body and over one shoulder). They also carry a stick about four feet long, and a small sword in a scabbard attached to their belt. We don't know what they use the stick or the sword for. My theory is that they are part of tradition which has carried over from the past.
The women wear colorful long dresses, and what looks like a shuka over them. They usually live in small villages in small huts made of mud, sticks grass and cow dung. We visited one of their villages in the Masai Mara Game Reserve and got a feel of what their living conditions are like. The huts are small with no windows, and are very dark and hot inside with a charcoal fire that is used for cooking. The hut that we visited was, to me, very claustrophobic, and I did not stay inside very long.
Their primary occupation is raising cattle and other animals such as goats and sheep. The village that we visited was in a fenced in compound. They bring all of their animals into the compound at night to protect them from the lions, leopard, and cheetah, etc. Their wealth is determined by the number of cattle, goats and sheep that the family owns. When a young man prepares to marry, he must give so many cows to the brides father to 'buy' his bride, The number of cows or other animals the future husband pays is based on how many cows the father of the bride thinks his daughter is worth. I asked a Masai man that does lectures in the camp where we stayed, how many cows he had.He told me that he owned 29 cows, and that he was definitely not wealthy with such a small number. Their cows are considered to be very valuable and they don't take very kindly to anyone who would steal or kill any of their animals.
When we were driving along a highway in Southern Kenya, we came upon a group of Masai and some other travelers along with a car that looked to be totaled out with the front of the car all bashed in. As we approached the scene, we saw at least 10 dead cows (there were probably more) along the road. The car had apparently been traveling at a high rate of speed when it crashed into a herd of cattle. It was a scene of carnage and very sad to see what had happened as a result of a driver that for some reason did not see the cows. It is very common to see herds of cows, sheep and goats,etc crossing the highways in Kenya. We could only wonder how the Masai owners of the cows felt at the loss of so many cows, or how they felt about the driver that hit the cows with his car.
The Masai have a traditional dance that they demonstrated for us, The men form a group and while making some grunting and other strange sounds, alternately, one by one, jump about a foot off the ground. The women form a line and dance , but don't jump like the men do.
We have found them to be very friendly and proud of their ethnicity. When we went to a meeting house to train the leaders in a branch in a small town in Tanzania, we noticed that one of the counselors in the branch presidency was a Masai. My first reaction when I saw him in his traditional dress was to blurt out, "Oh you are a Masai". He just smiled and proudly said that "yes, I am a Masai".
We were grateful for the opportunity to learn about the Masai and about their culture and traditions.
We have been traveling in Africa since June 30th. We are getting a little tired of living out of suitcases and staying in hotels.However, we are having an adventure visiting many branches and wards and providing financial, auditing and membership record training and auditing some of the units that do not have auditors in their areas.
We are privileged to meet and get acquainted with branch presidencies, stake presidents, bishoprics and clerks. Some of the units are in large cities such as Nairobi,Kenya, and others are in towns and villages we have never heard of, such as Arusha and Mwanza, in Tanzania. These leaders are anxious to learn more about their stewardships and are concerned about carrying out their callings better. Mostly, they are humble, responsible, leaders. We have done the training in missions, stakes and districts in Kampala and Jinja, Uganda, Nairobi, Kenya, Bujumbura, Burundi,Kigali, Rwanda, and Arushi and Mwanza in Tanzania. We have trained ward and/or branch leaders in about 30 units, with leaders from one, two or three units in each session.
We have been traveling with Jadmaire Ndivo, who is the manager of the Nairobi, Kenya Service Center, a satellite office of the Africa Southeast Area office in Johannesburg. The service center manages Member and Statistical Records, Public Affairs, Finance, Travel, Church Educational System, and other church administration issues in Kenya and other surrounding countries. Jadmaire is also stake president of the Nairobi Kenya Stake. In local areas, He drives us in a church owned car, and when we need to travel to places such as Tanzania or Rwanda, we fly, because of the long distance. He schedules our training sessions and has been installing MLS (Member and Leader Systems) on the computers in some of the more remote branches that do not yet have it, as he travels with us.
Because he is a Kenyan, he is familiar with the various cultural differences and directs us through the beauracratic processes of traveling through airports and across borders from one country to another. He also keeps us out of trouble with passport issues as we travel. He knows where most of the meeting houses are located, so he gets us where we need to be. We couldn't have done what we did without his help. We have spent a lot of time with him in training meetings, in the car, on airplane flights, and eating meals with him, and he has become our good friend.
During our travels, we have tolerated bad roads full of pot holes, bad hotels, mosquitos in our rooms at night, bad restaurant food, heavy traffic, many security checks at airports, long hours in the car, etc. But the positives far outweigh the down side. We get to see some beautifual scenery, meet many good people, stay in some good hotels, enjoy good food in some of the restaurants, and even travel on some very good roads. We have learned much about African culture and about some of the problems that the church leaders experience in their wards and branches. We have opportinities to help them to become better leaders, especially those newly called, inexperienced leaders.
Attached are photos of us, Jadmaire and some of the branch leaders that we worked with. The man in the "native attire" is a Masai (a tribe of people in Kenya and Tanzania) He is a counselor in the branch presidency.
We are greatly blessed to be serving in Africa, and for the opportunities he have to do this work.
We are in Nairobi, and are now going to take a couple of days off and go to Masai Mara, a game park in southern Kenya that we visited once before. This time, we will see the "migration" which is thousands of wildebeests and zebra that migrate through thre game park this time of the year.
This is all for now. After Masai Mara, we will finally head back to Johannesburg.
When we arrived in Africa, we learned some interesting things about racial issues between black and white Africans. When we attend wards with mixed black and white members, we notice that, mostly, the blacks will sit on one side of the classroom or chapel, and the whites will sit on the other. This doesn't apply to the Pimville Ward that we usually attend, for obvious reasons, because it is an all black ward (except for us and 2 or 3 young white American missionaries that attend). Even though Apartheid ended in 1994, there is still a stigma of racial 'segration', in South Africa, although nothing like it was
prior to 1994.
While we were traveling in Zimbabwe, we were in the car with two black Africans, Kasnos Paradzai, a stake president, and Given Masetle, MSR supervisor in the Area Office.During our long trips, we had pportunities for interesting discussions about our different cultures and racial issues,etc.They feel that Black Africans are inferior to white Africans, generally speaking. We disagreed with them, but, nevertheless, this is how they feel.They told us about how it was during apartheid, for members of the churches or people that wanted to attend church meetings.The Black Africans were not allowed to enter
white churches, or sometimes any churches, but would, instead, sit outside near an open window and listen to what was being said. This included LDS churches, too. It was, not LDS church policy,of course, but rather Apartheid segregation policy. Eventually, they were allowed to enter the churches, but had to sit in the back of the chapel or classroom. Because of what happened in the past, many black Africans,
I think, still feel inferior to white Africans, regardless of how it really is.I asked them what they thought it was like when black people first were allowed to attend black and white churches (including LDS churches).They told us that there was much rejoicing by church members but it was somewhat bitter-sweet because of the Apartheid racial restrictions in regard to attending church meetings.I think that since Apartheid ended, and with new generations of black Africans, including more and more black leaders coming into the Church, racial predjudice is diminishing.We feel no predjudice whatsoever in the Pimville ward that we are assigned to.They are some of the finest people that we have ever met. In fact we have found that the black Africans, generally speaking, are friendlier to us than the Whites, in my opinion.
Then there is the issue of long distances to travel to temples.There are now three temples in Africa, but most Africans must travel great distances to attend a temple. Most African church members don't even own a car, let alone have the means to travel long distances to a temple. A district president in Uganda said in a talk that it took him 6 years to prepare and save enough money to travel to the Johannesburg temple to be married there. Many members only make it to a temple once in their lifetime, because of their financial means and the long distances to a temple. It made us realize even to a greater extent, how fortunate we are to have a temple nearby. We can actually walk to the Johannesburg temple from the area office, where we work.
Another interesting observation that we have made is that just about all of the black members of the Church here,are first generation members. Most of the branch, ward and stake leaders are young returned missionaries who have gained much of their leadership experience on their missions. They are the pioneers here in Africa and they are doing a great work here as they gain more experience. During
our training to church leaders, we have been greatly impressed by their leadership and committment to their callings.The church is thriving in most African countries.
These are few of our observations of the LDS church and the members in the African countries that we have visited.
Sharon and I had just spent about a month traveling to Uganda, Burundi, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Kenya.We were traveling with Jadmaire Ndivo, a Kenyan, who is a supervisor in the Nairobi Kenya Service Center, which directs church finance and administration in these countries. Our job was to train church leaders how to handle financial matters and membership records in their individual branches and wards. Jadmaire was very helpful in getting us where we had to be and to help us when crossing borders and keeping us out of trouble as we traveled. It was a lot of work, and now we were going to play for awhile.
When we finished our working tour in East Africa, we had scheduled a visit the Masai Mara Game Reserve. This would be our second visit. The first one was about three months previous when we were invited by a group of senior missionaries from the Nairobi, Kenya Service Center and the Kenya Nairobi Mission.
We were excited to go there again because this is when the Great Migration takes place. In July and August every year, it is estimated that about 1,300,000 wildebeest, 500,000 Thompson Gazelle, and 200,000 zebra migrate north from the Serengeti Plains in search of pasture. They migrate through the through the Masai Mara because of the plentiful grass that grows there. These animals, especially the wildebeest, are very vulnerable to the dangers along the way. As they cross the Mara River they sometimes jump from the high riverbanks into the river, breaking their legs in the shallow water, or falling on each other and drowning. If they survive these hazards, there are hungry crocodiles in the river waiting for an unfortunate wildebeest that may be down in the river. Then away from the river, there are hungry cheetah, lion, and leopard, and hyena that lurk along the way, just waiting for their next meal. We were excited about seeing the migration, but not really looking forward to the grisly scenes of animals being killed.
So we flew out of Wilson airport in Nairobi to the Masai Mara 'airport' in the little turboprop airplane, landing on a dirt airstrip. The 'airport' is nothing more than a dirt landing strip and a wind sock, but many small airplanes land and take off every day bringing safari clients in and out of the camps. When we arrived, a Land Rover picked us up and delivered us to the Intrepid Camp where we had stayed previously. Our 'luxury' tent was as nice as before, the food was great, and we were treated very well.
We asked for Reuben as our Land Rover driver, and fortunately he was available, We wanted him because of his knowledge of the animals and the Masai Mara. Also riding with us on the game drives was a couple from England with their 17 year old daughter. After lunch, we met up with Reuben, and headed out into the bush on our first game drive. It was as exciting as before as we saw and took photos of lion, cheetah, hyena, wart hogs, giraffe, elephant, cape buffalo, several species of antelope, including the small dik dik, (that looks like a miniature deer) and many species of birds, including the ever present vultures. Reuben seemed to know exactly where to go to find the animals and birds. He was always in contact by radio with the other Land Rover drivers in the area, as they worked together to maximize the sightings of animals. On one morning, we went out at 6:30 and at about 9:00 we stopped and had breakfast and hot chocolate that Reuben had brought along for us. One afternoon, a big rainstorm came in and Reuben hurried to unroll the canvas portable top and side curtains, but not before we got wet from the wind blowing the rain into the Land Rover. As a result of the rain, most of the animals disappeared into the bush, so we headed back to the camp. The next morning, as we were out on our early morning game drive, Reuben was driving through a wash, that, because of the heavy rain had turned into a quagmire. The Land Rovers can go just about anywhere, fording streams, crawling over boulders, and climbing steep slopes, etc. However as he was climbing the bank out of the wash, we got stuck. Reuben jokingly (or maybe seriously) told us that we may have to get out and help push. He shifted into 4 wheel drive and with all 4 wheels spinning, mud was flying all around, including into the open sides of the Land Rover. The wife of the family that we were riding with us took the brunt of the mud in her hair and face. She was good natured about it and we all had a good laugh. Meanwhile, we were still stuck, but after backing up and getting a run at the slope several times, we eased out of the quagmire.
As it turned out. we didn't see herds of animals crossing the Mara river and the carnage of broken legs, drownings or crocodile attacks that we had anticipated seeing. Nor did we see any lion, cheetah or leopard kills of wildebeests, zebra, or antelope. However, many of the lions that we saw, had full stomachs, according to Reuben and were just lying around, and sleeping. We did see, however, many dead wildebeests in the river, some of which were being eaten by vultures. Also in the river, were huge crocodiles, that looked to be about 15 or 20 feet long, just waiting for their next meal. In a big mud bog, a huge dead cape buffalo had sunk into the mud and it look like he had drowned in the mud.
In summary, this was a very exciting and interesting experience. The Masai Mara Game Reserve is considered to be one of the largest and with more animal and bird species than any other game reserve. We are grateful that we have the opportunities to travel around Africa, and for these experiences. We are very fortunate for the opportunity to be serving in Africa.
We have found that traveling in Africa, whether it be by air or ground can be exciting, challenging, and downright harrowing at times, but almost always an adventure.
We recently returned from Lubumbashi and Likasi, Democratic Republic of Congo. Our flight to Lubumbashi was uneventful except when we arrived in Lubumbashi. When we were going through passport control, there was a 'problem' with Sharon's passport. They somehow got her passport mixed up with another passenger who is white but has dark hair. Their decision was to not let Sharon stay and started escorting her back to the airplane to send her back to Johannesburg. Flavian, who was there at the airport to pick us up took the matter into his hands and tried to convince the authorities that Sharon was not the same person that they were having the problem with. Sharon asked one of the authorities, to look at her hair, which is definitely not dark like the passport photo of the other passenger. FInally, with Flavians help, the authorities were convinced that our passports were in order and that we could legally enter the country.
Returning to Johannesburg was another story. We had to extend our stay to take care of some unexpected business. Because of our extended stay, some problems with booking our flight back arose, The travel department informed us that the best they could do on Friday was to put us on standby along with 7 other travelers, to get back on Friday or to catch another flight on Monday (no flights on Saturday or Sunday). Being on standby with 7 other travelers in Africa is like no chance of getting on that flight.
The senior missionary couple in the mission office offered to let us stay in a mission apartment over the weekend if we couldn't get out on Friday. We then turned to Kot Flavian, a local Congolese young man that had been our driver, secretary and interpreter for the past week while we were doing an investigative (forensic) audit, to help us. He took us to the Lubumbashi airport at about 10 AM. He worked through a travel agency at the airport to get us a flight on Zambezi Airlines. (rather than South African Airways, that we were previously trying to book a flight with).The flight would consist of three legs, which was fine with us as long as we could get home on Friday. Flavian was very effective in breaking through the red tape and language barrier. We definitely could not have done this by ourselves, because of our limited knowledge of French and local customs, etc. (French is the primary language spoken in the D.R.C.).
So, we were on our way, or at least we thought we were. Flavian told us that he would stay with us until we were on a plane, although we suggested that he didn't have to. We were scheduled to depart at about 3 PM (about a 5 hour wait). Finally, we saw our plane arrive. We waited for our boarding call for about a half hour. Finally Flavian asked one of the security employees why we were not boarding the airplane. He was told that the pilot was tired and needed to take a short nap. About an hour later he apparently was awake, alert and ready to fly. We had to pay an additional $50 each, which they call an 'airport tax' and then go through a last minute 'security check' out on the tarmac before they allowed us to board the plane. We said good bye to Flavian and were finally, really on our way. The first leg was from Lubumbashi to Lusaki, Zambia, which went well. When we were on the plane ready to take off on the next leg to Harare, Zimbabwe, a security employee came on board and told everyone to get off of the airplane. The reason was that they had found a hydraulic leak and it had to be repaired. They announced that it should only take a few minutes, but it was not fixed until 3 1/2 hours later. Then, hydraulic fluid that had leaked onto the tarmac had to be cleaned up, so the airport fire department had to wash down the area before we could re-board the airplane
By this time, some of the passengers were getting a little edgy and out of sorts. We were worried whether Abraham, our driver in Johannesburg would still be waiting for us after all of the delays and changes in expected arrival times. Finally we boarded the plane once again and were on our way to Harare, Zimbabwe. When we arrived in Harare, we had to get off the plane again and go to the terminal and get boarding passes for the last leg of our flight. At last we arrived in Joburg and Abraham was there to pick us up, after waiting for us for 3 hours. We finally arrived at our flat about 12:30 AM. This trip, which usually takes about 2 hours in the air, took us about 14 hours total including waiting and flying time. It was just another travel adventure in Africa
This a follow up to my previous entry about our visit to Masai Mara in Kenya. Attached are photos of some of the animals that we saw on our game drives. It was exciting to see these animals in their natural habitat. We saw four of the 'Big Five', which were elephants, lions, leopards, and cape buffalo, but no rhinos,which are hard to find there. The giraffes in the photo are a family of the mom, son, and dad in that order. We woke up the lion as we drove near him and he didn't look too happy about it. The animals were familiar with the Land Rovers that we were riding in, but we were told never to get out because of the danger of being attacked, or charged, depending on which animal.
It was an unforgettable experience.
After three days of hard work in Nairobi, it was time to take a break. We had heard, previously, of Masai Mara, a very well known and one of the best game reserves in Africa. It so happened that a group of senior missionaries and the mission president from the Kenya Nairobi mission were planning a visit to Masai Mara, while we are in Nairobi. We signed up for the Masai Mara trip early on and they welcomed us along with another senior missionary couple from the area office in Johannesburg.
So we got together and boarded the airplane to Masai Mara, which was about a 45 minute flight south of Nairobi. Our plane was a 35 passenger turbo prop that landed on a dirt air strip near the park. We were picked up by drivers in their Land Rovers, from the Mara Intrepids, the camp where we would be staying. The ‘rooms’ we stayed in were actually luxury tents with all the comforts that would be expected in a 4 star hotel. The cuisine was very good and we enjoyed hanging out with the other missionaries. It was to be considered a ‘conference’ and a time for a little R & R from the rigors of serving as missionaries. The package included two nights in the camp, all meals, four game drives, and air fare to and from the camp. The rooms included mosquito nets over the beds, a hot water bottle in the beds to keep our feet warm, and hot chocolate served at 5:30 am as they made their wake up call. We were treated very well.
The game drives were very interesting. Reuben, our driver was very knowledgeable and provided lots of information about the animals in the park. We actually went on four game drives in the early mornings and late afternoons, when most of the animals were feeding and/or out in the open. We saw the following animals along with a variety of birds that were native to Africa and that we had never seen before. We saw elephants, lions, cheetahs, hippos, cape buffalo, ostrich, spotted hyenas, wart hogs, jackals, giraffes, tortoise and even 3 elusive leopards, which are very difficult to find. With the leopards, we have now seen all of the ‘Big Five’ in their natural habitat, (the elephant, rhino, lion, cape buffalo and leopard). The game drives each lasted about three hours, with three couples in the Land Rover and Reuben, our driver taking us to places where animals would most likely be, depending on the time of the day. The drivers would send radio messages to other drivers if they found an animal or group of animals of interest.
We also visited a remote Masai village and saw some of the Masai men perform their traditional dance. The Masai is a tribe of Kenyans that live in southern Kenya, mostly in small remote villages. They live in compounds of very small huts made of mud, with no windows and maybe 2 or 3 tiny rooms. We visited one of their homes, and when we entered it, we found it to be very hot inside, with charcoal coals burning on a stove like burner, total darkness, and a feeling of claustrophobia. I only stayed in it long enough to hear part of what our guide had to say about it and made a hasty exit. The Masai women also performed their traditional dance for us in their colorful native dress. h
Besides the animals, we enjoyed the beautiful Kenyan bush country, the sunsets, the night stars, the good company of our fellow colleagues and Reuben, our Land Rover driver, and delicious cuisine.
Attached are some photos of Maisa Mara, our 'room', the Masai people, and Reuben, our driver.
One day when we got to the office, we found on the floor, a paper that somone had slid under the door. It had a photo of a car on it along with some "Infringement Particulars" . It read as follows "The infringer, as idendified, while operating a vehicle on a public road, etc, etc, committed the following infringement(s) as shown by charge code 4549. The "charge code" read; "operated a vehicle at a speed of 91km/hr which is in excess of the speed limit of 80km/hr as was indicated in the prescribed manner on a road traffic sign". Penalty: R750. I though to myself, wow, some poor guy got nailed by the traffic camera and is faced with a pretty stiff fine. Upon a closer inspection of the photo, I thought to myself, wait a minute, that is the rear view of our car, our little Nissan Tiida, on the motorway, most likely traveling at a high rate of speed right past the traffic camera. Sharon sometimes reminds me to slow down and observe the speed limit signs more closely. Maybe I should have listened to her more closely.... In my defense, we have found that on the motorway (freeway) the speed limit signs go from 80km/hr to 120km/hr and back to 80km/hr and maybe down to 60km/hr within a distance of less than a kilometer, especially in construction zones. To make matters worse we have to either get out of the way or try to keep up with the Mercedes, BMW.s and Audi's that always seem to be speeding along about 30 or 40 km/hr faster than the speed limits.
Here is how it works: The cameras, which lurk along most of the streets and motorways in Joburg, snap the photo of a car, tagging it if it is speeding, or running a red light, etc.(like some cities back in the U.S.) The "infringement" (ticket) is sent to the church area office fleet manager, identified as to who the car is assigned to.The fleet manager, in turn, delivers the infringement to the infringer (me, in this case) with instructions to take it to the cashier and pay it.
I now find myself obeying the traffic laws more closely for obvious reasons. Incidently, the R750 penalty was discounted R375, so we only had to pay R375. (the exchange is currently about 7 rand to the U.S. dollar) Maybe it was because I was a first time offender.I probably won't get off that easy next time.