Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Great Zimbabwe, Church and Projects

(Written by Sister Bean with Elder Bean’s input)

Dear Family and Friends:

We have had an interesting two weeks in Zimbabwe. We are responsible for two branches of the Church; one is located approximately two hours away in a town called Kadoma, which is a little south west of Harare. The church building is very nice and looks like a regular LDS church. There were 121 in attendance and the meeting was well organized. Last Saturday we left Harare to attend the Masvingo branch, which is our second branch to visit. It is located approximately four hours away. We had to leave on Saturday in order to be there at 9:00 am on Sunday, since we do not want to drive at night. We arrived in the town of Masvingo early afternoon Saturday and went on a tour of a very interesting world historical site called “The Great Zimbabwe.”

This is the site of some very ancient ruins thought to be at least 800 years old or older. It is the site of an ancient civilization that appears to be fairly sophisticated. The country of Zimbabwe received its name from this site. In 1980 when Rhodesia gained its independence from Britain, the country was then renamed Zimbabwe, which name was taken from this ancient site. The symbol of the bird on the Zimbabwean flag was also taken from an ancient soapstone carving found in these ruins.

Elder Bean checks out the Flora
We hired a guide and she took just the two of us on the tour. It was fascinating. We climbed on ancient flat topped stone steps laid in regular patterns that wound up to the top of a very very very high structure built on the top of a cliff. The walls of this ancient structure were stones placed one on top of each other in a very systematic order without the use of mortar. We can’t imagine how they have withstood the test of time without toppling over. We climbed what seemed to be forever, sometimes through very narrow passages that only one person could barely get through. I was worried about climbing down after reaching the top, as the steps were very hard to stand on and very uneven and some loose and broken. The guide said not to worry that she would take us down the “modern steps” on the other side, which were very easy. On climbing down I asked, “When do we get to the modern steps? The guide said, “Oh, we are there”. I then asked, which I shouldn’t have, are there any snakes here? The guide said, "oh yes, the black mamba, the cobra and the python, and the python is considered sacred by our people and we do not like to kill it. They are all here."

"The Great Zimbabwe"
The site is very large and covers many hectares. We went to the huge round coliseum like structure where the king and queen lived and it was also very large, high, very thick walls and made with these same stones placed one on top of each other. The guide said this was the second largest structure in Africa, only second to the Egyptian pyramids. We really enjoyed this site and want to read more about it.

We stayed at an inn called The Inn of the Great Zimbabwe, and it was very lovely. The gardens were beautiful and it was situated above a beautiful lake. The dinner was served very elegantly and properly with waiters in uniforms, white gloves and we dined in a beautiful room. There was just one other couple and their little six year old boy staying there. The man was in charge of a big game park on the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique and we had an interesting conversation with them. The child was delightful and very intelligent. He is being exposed to a very interesting life style. The only trouble with our stay was there was no heat or power. We went back to our very nice cold room, lit a candle and brushed our teeth in a cold bathroom and crawled into bed for warmth.

We attended the Masvingo branch the next day, which is another very nice church building. Around the exterior of the church, the members had planted a well kept vegetable garden with onions, carrots, tomatoes, etc. The interior of the church was very clean and the branch president is a very intelligent, impressive man. The congregation was singing as we entered and it was beautiful harmony. We didn’t sing because we just wanted to listen to the beautiful music. The African’s sing the same hymns that we do, but they have a different cadence, kind of lilting –different and very beautiful. Since there was no power, everything was sung without the keyboard. We were asked to speak and share our testimonies. The branch president taught Relief Society and the lesson was about the organization of the priesthood. He did a wonderful job. The members were very friendly and loving and wanted their pictures taken with us before we left. We really enjoyed it. We of course were the only white couple in church, but felt very comfortable. This is the area where they make the beautiful baskets and we want to buy a few the next time we visit the Church.

It took a long time to drive back to Harare, with a lot of big trucks on the road transporting fuel and goods from Johannesburg, which made driving slow and passing tough. There were several toll stations along the way and many policemen standing along the road. They may motion you to pull over, which might be a problem or might not. They waved us through.

The country side is very dry, since the rains don’t come until November. There are hundreds and hundreds of acres of empty fields full of tall yellow grass; some have been burned to keep the grass down. These are the sites where the Dutch farmers once had their farms. There are acacias trees dotted here and there or in groups all over the fields. These are the trees that we always associate with the landscape of Africa, trees that you see in books and movies about Africa. We are sure that at one time long ago these fields and savannahs were filled with elephants, giraffes, etc. The wind blows a lot and so far it has been very sunny, but cool. I am very grateful that a coat was left behind for me by the departing senior couple.

A latrine? Or someone's house?
We are scheduled all this week and next to look for sites to drill for boreholes or bush pumps as they are called here and build latrines, so we will be spending much of our time in the truck. I made a terrible foot-in-the mouth comment a few days ago when we visited a village up north to check out existing sites of latrines and boreholes and where new ones might be needed. We had two of the men from the village in our truck and they were taking us around showing us the locations. We came to a very small narrow structure made with old brick and I said “Oh is this the community latrine”? The man then said: “No this is my mother’s house”. It was terrible and I apologized over and over, while Elder Bean was almost splitting his sides trying not to laugh. Then a woman came to the car and I said to her “Oh are you his mother?” and she said, “no I am his sister”. So in just a few moments I managed to offend the whole family. You can imagine when we returned to our apartment, Elder Bean practically fell on the floor with laughter and he hasn’t let me forget it since.

We are busy and happy, but we miss all our family. We are very sad to not be there for Torri’s wedding in the Seattle Temple and the gathering of the family, but I know it will be wonderful and I will be with her in my heart and thoughts, but would rather be there in body.

New things to buy!
This is a very interesting and fascinating mission and we have met some very interesting people in our travels. We can’t wait to visit Zambia and Malawi to assess their needs and understand we might even be going to Botswana. We are still adjusting to driving, weather and culture, but feel we are really needed here. The new term we have learned here is: traffic lights are called “robots” So we should turn left at the next robot… Pretty cute I think.

Thanks to all of you for your prayers.

Love Elder and Sister Bean

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

First Week in Zimbabwe

Dear Family and Friends:

We have been in Zimbabwe for almost a week. We left early Saturday morning on July 31st from the MTC and arrived in Harare, Zimbabwe Monday, August 2. It was a 24 hour travel endurance test. We changed planes five different times. We were very tired when we finally arrived. We were met by President Dube, the mission president. He is the first African to be called as mission president in this mission. He is very nice and wanted to make us feel welcome and comfortable. He drove us to the mission office where we met the people we are replacing, the mission office couple and the CES couple. We had hoped to look a little better when meeting the group, but guess they had all gone through the travel endurance test and understood. The mission office and meeting house are next to one another and are quite nice. They both have a great security system with guards and gates. We were then taken to our apartment/duplex to get briefed on how things work and to finally get some sleep.

Our new residence is a duplex with a very pretty fenced in yard. The grounds are very nice and well maintained. It turns out that we pay for that well maintained look. There is one man who mows and another who weeds. We also have a housekeeper, who not only cleans on Wednesday, but washes and irons or whatever you want her to do. Her name is Beauty. The apartment is nice enough, but does not have any heating system. The power has been off each day since we have been here for at least 8 hours or so, so even the small stand alone heater does not provide much warmth. We were surprised at how cold it still is here. We have been told that summer will be coming soon and then it will be very warm. We also have a wood burning fireplace, which we haven’t used yet, but it is nice to know it is there. We have two bathrooms, two bedrooms, a large front room and a kitchen. The other side of the duplex is occupied by the CES couple, who are originally from SLC.

Zimbabwe is not as tropical as Uganda, and it is still quite dry on the sides of the roads and the fields. We are told when the rains come that it will green up and we will see a lot of beautiful flowering trees and bushes. Harare, the capital, is a little more modern than Kampala with paved streets, stop lights, two way traffic and quite a few cars on the road. However, when the power is out, the traffic lights do not work and you proceed at your own risk. As in Uganda, they drive on the left side of the road, with the steering wheel on the right. We will have to get used to that again. Elder Bean is handling it quite well though.
We have hit the road running. We haven’t had time to recover from jet lag, so we are trying to ignore it.

The humanitarian couple we are replacing are Elder and Sister Bullock from Calgary, Canada. They have lined up many things for us to do before they leave. On Tuesday we did project reviews in their/our office at the mission office, met people, had lunch at a place called Blue Banana, did some grocery shopping and were treated to dinner by the Mission president, his wife and the Bullocks that evening at a restaurant called Leonardo’s. We were pretty tired upon arrival at our place and found that the power was out.

We went to a handover on Wednesday at a school called Danangwe, outside the village of Chegutu. This project consisted of providing the school and the village with a grinding mill. One of the chief crops here is maize and in order to turn it into flour they need to grind it. They have been walking great distances to have their maize ground and paying a big sum of money as well. We enjoyed seeing the people and the children and also watching the first sack of maize ground. We were introduced as the replacements for the Bullocks, and as is the custom, given a gift, of two giraffes eating on the top of an acacia tree. This is a statue made out of some sort of soapstone. It is so generous of them. We heard all the speeches, witnessed African dancing by the school children and heard poems of thanks and gratitude from them. We then enjoyed a meal of squash, chicken, greens, sudza, which is like porridge made from corn and a soft drink. The little children are wonderful and Brother Bullock is wonderful with the kids. He played all kinds of games with them and they loved it.

We are planning on doing a large water project on the border of Mozambique, so on Thursday we went to the office and interviewed people to help with the drilling of the boreholes, the site monitors and people to head up sanitation committees. We have met so many interesting and great people. We are driving next Thursday to the area these boreholes will be located in to check out the potential sites. We understand it is quite desolate and very poor. We are taking two men from this area with us and are considering them for our site monitors.

We spent some time on Friday finding out where the market is, the bank, and other necessary things and we have again shopped for a few things we forgot to get and have spent the rest of the day at the office. Our next door neighbors came for a short visit on Friday night and it was great to get better acquainted.
We attended church on Sunday. It was a two and a half hour drive from our apartment, and we will be responsible for helping out there, along with another branch in the opposite direction. The church building was very nice and quite large. There were about 120 people in attendance and the teachers that taught were very well prepared. We were asked to say a few words and give the opening and closing prayer, and Elder Bean spoke again in Priesthood meeting. That evening we had a nice Sunday meal at our neighbor’s apartment and the four couples that are serving here got together and found out about each other. We really enjoyed it.

A fun thing happened today in front of the mission office. We were returning from lunch and there was a young African woman sitting on the grass. As we got closer we could see that it was a girl that had been in our branch in Uganda. Her name is Faith and she led the singing while I played the keyboard. She is now serving a mission in Zimbabwe. We hugged and chatted and Sister Bean noticed that she was wearing one of her skirts that she had left in Uganda. That made her so happy that it again was on a mission, but this time on a pretty African woman. Small world.

We miss everyone and were so happy to hear that Kami and Brent’s little daughter, Sarah Kate, at long last legally belongs to them. It has been a 13 month wait and worry, but it is finally done. There have been a lot of prayers and fasting regarding this event. We feel so blessed, relieved and thankful that it had the desired conclusion. We miss all of our children and pray for them always. We thank all of you for the prayers on our behalf and ask that you continue to remember us in your prayers.

Love, Elder and Sister Bean

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Arrival in Zimbabwe!

Hi Family:

We arrived Monday afternoon in Harare.  The flight from Johannesburg to Harare was 10 and a half hours.  It was brutal, but we made it.  We have met the Bullocks, the couple we are replacing.  They are very nice and we have spent the day with them.  We have been grocery shopping and working in their/our office.  We are getting up to speed and finding out about water projects among other things.  Our apartment is interesting, but has a very nice yard with a patio.  It is quite cool here and the apartment doesn't have heat, but they assure us summer is on the way.  Zimbabwe is quitte a bit drier than Uganda, but is still quite pretty.  So far all is well, except we are suffering from a little bit of jet lag.  We will be doing some projects in Malawi and Zambia so this should be intersting and fun.  We miss you guys TERRIBLY!!!  We will send more information when we get set up with our computer.  We just wanted you to know we arrived safely and miss you.