Allen and Gloria formerly lived in Everett, Washington. We are now living in Kokstad, South Africa. We arrived toward the end of Oct., 2008, and in 2014 we received our permanent residency.
Penguins are the mascot in our family. Enjoy these! Click on them, and move them around, or just move the cursor to bring out their herd instinct.
28 February 2016
The church keeps on growing stronger. Our fellowship is good. We have Bible studies in full swing. A number of people who left in the church split have returned. We have Communion regularly. A number of babies have been born. The school has grown this year by 50% over last year (an enrollment of more than 100 now). The Lord has been very good to us.
29 November 2015
Much has happened in the last three months. The Lord really has brought the church through the storm. In some ways I feel like we are a stronger church than when the pastor left. We had a vote today for new deacons, and now we have three. I am one of them. There is much work ahead, and the church will need much prayer.
30 August 2015
It is with a heavy heart that I have to say that our pastor resigned this morning. The church will remain and carry on, but the changes will be drastic. All of the deacons are also resigning and leaving with him and most of the congregation will also follow. That will leave only a handful of us to carry on. The pastor has changed and understands that because he no longer agrees with the church constitution that he must resign. I agree with him on that. The constitution has not changed, and it is still biblically sound. The Lord will bring us through the storm.
21 August 2015
Two and a half months gone since the last update! How did that happen? Much has happened in that time, though, and that is part of the reason for the neglect here. We were in the States in part of June and July. We got to meet Benjamin, the new grandson. We had such a wonderful time with family!
Our church in the States, Bethany Bible Church, has voted themselves out of existence. They merged with another church and gave away the property. Quite a blow to us.
Now, our church in Kokstad is going through serious problems. Our pastor has suddenly become Pentecostal and changed most of his beliefs. Don't know how all the dust and fallout will settle from all this, but it is quite a blow to have both of our churches disappearing or so unsettled. Good thing the Lord and His word never change!
7 June 2015
All of the term tests have been prepared. Now, the students need to do their parts and study. This is the week, and we're waiting to see.
We had some very cold weather on Thursday and Friday, and Saturday was forecast for the same. We were praying fervently for nice weather on Sat., though, because much planning and preparation had gone into a fund-raiser for the school that was held outdoors. The early morning was very cold and frosty, but by the time the activities began, it was sunny and warming. The whole day was beautiful, and the fund-raiser appears to have been very profitable. Many people came, and all had a good time. We are very thankful for answered prayer.
31 May 2015
Nearly two months without internet! It turns out that it was a suspended SIM card, but they could not tell me why it was suspended. In the meantime, I was told that it was a faulty modem. I sent that away to be repaired. Then, the internet service provider went on strike. Knowing how long these South African strikes can last, I opted to buy a new modem. When it would not work, the service provider finally started digging until they found the problem. They got it unsuspended, and now I am the proud owner of a new modem that I did not need. Such is life in South Africa. The Lord gives grace, and we love it.
We are getting near the end of the school term. Most of my students have not done well this term. I don't know the reason, but I am praying that they will study hard for term tests and try to redeem the term.
In less than a month we will be back in the States for a short visit. We are so excited to go and meet little Benjamin, the new grandson. He is so precious in the photos we receive.
6 April 2015
We had a very nice and very quiet Easter. There was a sunrise service planned at the farm of one of the church members. On Saturday, however, that got changed due to illness in their family. So, we met at church for the service that was supposed to be outside. It was very nice anyway. We went in the afternoon and had a nice visit with friends.
I finally received my South African ID document from the Dept. of Home Affairs. It took 14 months, but at least it came. It will not really change what we do, but some things will just be a little easier to do.
We have this week off from school. It will be quiet and relaxing, but I will be spending some of it planning lessons for the new term, which begins on the 13th.
22 March 2015
In Afrikaans it's Oupa 'n Ouma. In Xhosa it's Tata and Gogo. In Zulu it's mKhulu and Gogo. In English it's Grandpa and Grandma. Yep, little Benjamin Allen Brittingham, our first grandchild, exited the womb on 13 March. We have been getting photos on WhatsApp, and we agree with independent reports that say he is the cutest baby on the face of the earth! If you want to see some, just send a message on WhatsApp or an email, and we'll send some. We will be going to meet him at the end of June.
In other news, we have only a few days left in this school term. It will be a busy week. Students will be finishing work and having some term tests. Then comes figuring out their term marks and getting them on the reports.
8 March 2015
Today is the due date for grandchild #1! We talked to Kevin on Friday, and they are not sure when it will happen. Surely, it will happen soon. Kayla is really ready for it NOW. We're really looking forward to June, when we get to meet him.
22 February 2015
Half way through the school term! How did that happen already? Our enrolment is up to more than 70. We're thanking the Lord for that.
The big news for this week is that we have decided to make a quick trip back to the States in June and July. We have our first grandson due in a couple of weeks, so we will take our three-week holiday from school to go and meet him. We bought the airline tickets a few days ago. We're sure this is the cutest baby ever created, so we can't wait to meet him.
25 January 2015
School has begun. It's going to be a very good year. I get to focus more on science and less on math. Our enrolment is up a little, although not all who had enrolled showed up for school last week. That is typical here, though. On Monday it is almost a sure thing that a number of students will pitch up. That's all right. The more the merrier!
18 January 2015
We just returned to Kokstad yesterday after visiting friends in Richards Bay. We had a really enjoyable, relaxing time with the Ausfahl family, friends from the U.S. who are missionaries there. Richards Bay is roughly a six hour drive from Kokstad.
Besides a nice visit, one of the highlights was a visit to a game reserve. It was fantastic to see the wildlife there. We saw elephants, giraffes, cape buffalo, rhinos, impala, nyala, baboons, warthogs, and even dung beetles. The variety in God's Creation is truly remarkable and plenty of reason for praise.
7 January 2015
Isn't it incredible how time can get away from us? 2014 is gone, and 2015 has arrived. It, too, will most likely seem to slip away all too quickly. It could be quite depressing if it was not for the hope we have in Jesus. We KNOW that we have all eternity with Him, and even when a year slips into history, it does not diminish in any amount or quality the joy or duration of knowing Him.
Two months ago we moved into Mt. Currie Cottages. Senior housing in Kokstad. A beautiful place that we are enjoying. Our flat is much larger than we had before, and it is very convenient being in town. The people are very friendly, and the community is very supportive.
5 October 2014
School holiday is upon us again. We finished term 3 on Friday, and we return for term 4 a week from tomorrow. I will be spending much of the week planning for lessons for next term. Most of the students did better in their academics last term, and we were very pleased about that. The Lord is at work in the hearts of some, too, and we are also pleased about that.
20 September 2014
It has been such a long time since we updated this. Two months were spent in Washington State. We have been back in Kokstad for almost a month. It's back to school and all the other activities.
Spring has begun in earnest here. The days are longer, and flowers are blooming. Trees are getting leaves, and grass is turning green in places. We have not had any rain, yet, and it could get serious for the farmers if it doesn't start soon.
15 June 2014
Happy Father's Day to the dads. In just a week we will be landing in Seattle. Then, we will be able to see my dad. We'll be able to see many other people, too. We are very excited.
We have exams beginning on Wednesday of this week. We will see how the students do, but my impression is that they are not prepared and not taking them very seriously. My classes will be finished with their exams by Thursday.
1 June 2014
Well, things have settled down at school again. Fortune Macheri is back from Zimbabwe, and she is now the English teacher. A young woman, Kerry, who is new to the church has stepped in to teach the grades 2 and 3. All of us are settling into the new normal.
We got a call on Wednesday of last week from the Dept. of Home Affairs. They finally had Gloria's permanent residence permit! We went on Friday and picked it up. What a blessing to not have to ever deal with that again!
The days are flying by until we leave here for our visit to the States. In just three weeks we will be landing in Seattle. We are very excited, but there is a tremendous amount of preparation before that so that everything will run smoothly here for the school. Pray for us.
27 April 2014
Monday was a holiday, and school started for term 2 on Tuesday. What a surprise to receive an SMS on Monday night that our English teacher would not be coming back to the school! It made for a very difficult week. Teachers had to double up on classes, and none of us knew exactly what to do with the English students. Thankfully, the Lord gave us the strength, and we carried on, limping as we went. This next week is another week of school holidays, so we are praying for a new teacher very soon.
20 April 2014
He is risen! Happy Easter! Our church had a sunrise service at Crystal Springs Dam early this morning. It was beautiful, both the service and the location. It was a wonderful day to celebrate the Resurrection of our Lord.
14 April 2014
We are still on school holiday this week. Last week was quite a relaxing week. I worked on lesson planning for the beginning of term 2, but I was not rushed. This week I need to do some copy work to get ready for school again, which begins next week.
6 April 2014
The memorial service was yesterday for the two children who died. It was a wonderful service, and we hope it was a comfort to the parents and other relatives. The parents are from Zimbabwe, and they and others left in the afternoon to take the children's bodies there for a funeral and burial. They still face emotionally difficult days ahead, but the Lord is with them, and He will continue His work in their hearts. We are thankful that the children are with Him and will be forever.
1 April 2014
The last couple of days have been very difficult emotionally. The family of one of our teachers at school was in a car accident on Sunday. Both of her young children were killed instantly. Her husband sustained some injuries, and he was transported to another city to have surgery and treatment. She is really struggling to cope and understand. It will be awhile before the dust settles for her and her husband. Fortunately, there is a God Who loves them, and He is the God of all comfort.
23 March 2014
The equinox has passed, but it does NOT feel like fall. The days are warm and sunny. There are a few trees, though, that are beginning to turn colour.
We are still waiting for Gloria's permanent residence permit. Allen's was issued in December of last year, so we think it is strange that hers is not here. We might have to make another trip to Port Shepstone to shake them up.
Our school term is drawing to a close soon. There are some more term tests coming up this week.
16 March 2014
Oops! Looks like I am up to my old tricks of letting things slide on this website. I'll try to do better (again).
All of the fraud on the credit card is now resolved. We did not have to pay any of the charges, and the legitimate charges have been paid off, so we are thankful that the Lord and the bank have settled all that.
We are getting closer to the end of our school term. Some of my classes will be taking term tests this week, and the others will do theirs the following week. Then comes all the reports.
9 February 2014
Well, last week went a little better than the previous one. I am feeling all right again. I will go back to school tomorrow. I spent a big part of this weekend getting ready so that the week will run smoothly.
We were able to report the stolen credit card purchases online, so that should be taken care of. We talked with Dad, and he seems to be doing well.
2 February 2014
Happy Ground Hog Day! No one in South Africa knows what a ground hog is. It is something like a large dassie, but no one in America knows what that is.
The school keeps on growing. We now have 60% more students than last year. That's 64 students, and we hear that another is starting on Monday.
The last week has had a series of problems that began last weekend. I had a bad sore throat, and it was worse on Monday. Went to the doctor and got some meds. Continued to get worse, and went back on Wed. I was admitted and treated for pneumonia. I came home on Friday, but still felt awful. I checked our bank account on the Internet, though, and found out that someone had stolen our credit card number had had bought about $12,500 worth of stuff! We called and cancelled the card, and we will not be responsible for the fraudulent charges. Then, before we could deal with that, we got an email that my dad was in hospital and had to have a stent. Later we found out that he had probably had a heart attack. All of this happened while I was reading through the biblical book of Job. I gained comfort from the fact that God considered Job upright and still allowed the problems, but it makes me wonder if more is coming.
19 January 2014
There is plenty to praise the Lord for today. School has begun well. A count on Friday revealed about 55 kids in school, and there are a couple more that should be in school on Monday. That gives us close to 60 students. It may not sound like much, but it is about a 50% increase over last year!
We are also ready to begin building another set of classrooms. All the decisions have not been made about construction materials and design, but it looks like definite progress.
And the icing on the cake is the permanent residence permit. Allen's finally arrived, and Gloria's is on the way! It has been a series of setbacks and delays, lost applications, and false information for six years, but it has finally become a reality.
13 January 2014
The staff returned to school today. Everyone said it was a nice holiday, and it was so good to see all of them. We have one more day of preparation, and then the students return on Wednesday. We have an increase in enrolment this year. We had 40 students last year, but we are at about 50 for this year. That is a 25% increase, and we still have parents coming in looking for a school for this year! All the staff seems pretty excited about the year. We will see what the Lord is going to do.
5 January 2014
We had a good week here, and a good beginning to the new year. I had to buy a new cell phone, though. I was at the pool early in the week, not prepared for a swim. A little accident happened, and I was suddenly going for a swim, fully clothed with my cell phone in my pocket. Neither the cell phone nor I know how to swim! I got to the side of the pool with the Lord's help. The cell phone drowned, but I survived. So, next day I went shopping for a new phone. I got a Samsung Galaxy Fame. Takes some getting used to, but I like it. Next time I am at the pool, the phone will be sealed in a zip lock bag!
29 December 2013
We had a very nice Christmas. We were with friends on Christmas Eve and all day Christmas. We went to a very nice church service on Christmas morning. In all of it we kept being reminded of what Christmas is really about. The coming of God Himself in the form of a little baby to live among us and reveal God's truth to us. Christmas is wonderful.
Now, it's time to wish all a happy New Year. May 2014 be special all year long.
23 December 2013
Candy canes. One of the Christmas traditions that Americans take for granted -- Christian or not. It is just about impossible to find candy canes in Kokstad. Gloria bought one package of 6 a few weeks ago. But, recently we heard of a need for some at a Christmas Eve function we are going to, and then we heard that our pastor wanted to use some for an illustration for his sermon on Christmas morning. Silly us! We said we would bring candy canes to both events. There was not a candy cane to be found in this town, except for one tiny candy shop we found by word of mouth. Unfortunately, they have been closed for a couple of weeks! Last week, though, I had slipped a note under their door to give me a call. They did just today, so we fought the hoards traffic and people to get there and buy some! What a relief. It is amazing how the Lord cares for even the smallest of needs.
16 December 2013
Today is another public holiday. It is The Day of Reconciliation. At one time the whites celebrated it as a day that the Lord had given the Voortrekkers (pioneers) victory in a big battle, the Battle of Blood River, against the Zulus back in the 1800's. After Nelson Mandela became president, the day was changed to give a different meaning to the day, a day for the various ethnic groups in South Africa to be reconciled to one another. I am not convinced that the reconciliation has fully happened.
The funeral for Nelson Mandela happened yesterday. It completed 10 days of national mourning for the former president. He was revered by many here. It is almost, though, as if most revered a legend of the man rather than the man himself. The man was a convicted criminal who at one time was a terrorist. The legend was a man who unjustly spent 27 years in prison and then worked tirelessly to reconcile the country to a dark history and bring freedom to all. As usual, the truth lies somewhere in between. It has been an interesting time to be in South Africa.
1 December 2013
School is finished for 2013! We had our prize giving and said our farewells to students and staff. It was a good year. There were many changes in the school this past year, but we have come out on the other side a stronger school. We already have more students enrolled for next year than we finished with this year, so we are all excited. There will probably be even a few more enrolling in January. We can all praise the Lord for His goodness.
Gloria started decorating for Christmas after we got home today from church. Time marches on. We had a little Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. It was just the two of us this year, but we had so much to be thankful for. The Lord has been very generous.
24 November 2013
Exams are all done! It appears that all of our students will pass to the next grade, but some them did not do so well on their exams. This week we will be finalizing report cards, and then we will know for sure. The school will be growing for next year, too. We already have more students enrolled than we have had this year. Now, we just need to get a new building started for more classroom space.
18 November 2013
Exams are almost over. Students have finished all of mine. Results were less than I had hoped. Some students did all right, though. Now, we have to compile those results with marks from daily work and term 2 exam results to come up with final results for the year for each student. We'll be finished soon.
10 November 2013
It has been a busy couple of weeks. We have been preparing exams for all the classes. The students begin writing on Tuesday. There is a lot of pressure on students to do well. Some probably will do well, but some probably will not. We are praying for them.
We had to buy two new tyres (tires for Americans) for the front of the car. They don't last so long with our roads here. Like most things, I think they might be a little less expensive here than in the States.
We also bought tickets recently to come back to the States for a visit. We will leave here in June and return in August. We hope to see everyone at some point during those two months.
27 October 2013
The rains have finally arrived! Most farmers do not irrigate in this agricultural area because of the cost of setting up a system. So, the rains are very important for the livelihood of most of the area. The rains were late this year, but the Lord has begun to shower us with His blessings.
20 October 2013
Last week was such a busy week at school. It was also a rewarding week. The students had been working for months to get ready for a play about Creation up through the flood in Noah's time. Except for a few glitches, it went well. We had a good attendance by parents and church members. Getting ready for it was very disruptive for school, but it was worthwhile in the end. Now we can get back to "normal," at least until exams are scheduled to begin.
6 October 2013
School started last Monday for us, but the government schools started on Tuesday. Soooooo, less than half our students showed up! Most of them showed up on Tuesday, so we carried on from there.
Gloria is sick again. Whatever she has keeps coming and going. Hope it goes and forgets to come back.
30 September 2013
I was sick last week, so there was no update. We are finishing our week of holiday, so school starts tomorrow. When I was not sick this last week, I was trying to get ready for the new term. Trouble was that I was sick last weekend and at the beginning of the week, and then I was sick again at the end of the week. When I was not sick, Gloria was. At least we took turns. Today we were both well, so we took a friend out for lunch after church. Tuesday will be his 50th birthday, so we wanted to get a celebration in here somehow. Happy birthday, Greg!
16 September 2013
Yesterday was our anniversary! 34 years (and she is still putting up with me!) We went to church in the morning and to dinner in the afternoon at a restaurant that we had not been to before. It was a nice place. We had heard that it was very expensive, but the dinner for two came to only about R150 (rand), and that is about $15 in U.S. currency.
Today was the beginning of our last week of school for this term. School breaks up on Thursday, and we have next week off.
8 September 2013
This past week has really begun to look and feel like spring. Green, new leaves, flowers, chirping of frogs, etc. Snakes just might be the next thing coming out. We're prepared -- we have the screendoors that I built.
Debby, our school secretary, is doing well. She goes to get the next injection of chemo on Friday of this week. She has a great attitude, though. Pray for her. Then, there is someone else in our church who was recently diagnosed with cancer. He had his first chemo last Friday, and he was in church today. Both of these people are a real testimony of what it means to trust in the Lord __ it need not stop when times get tough.
1 September 2013
Today is considered the first day of spring in South Africa. They don't wait for the equinox. Last week felt like summer -- it was very warm. Then came a cold front on Friday. We had cold, rain, lightning, thunder! On Saturday morning we headed into town on some errands, and saw snow on the surrounding hills! Then, today is definitely spring-like. In fact we noticed leaves coming out on many trees, flowers beginning to bloom, grass turning green, and lots of sunshine again. I guess we don't have to wait for the equinox.
25 August 2013
The school is having a mid-term break. We were off Friday, and we will not go back until Tuesday. It has been a rather busy few days, so I guess it came at the right time. We have had a team at church from the Africa Evangelistic Band doing a series of meetings, and they have been very good. This is a "band" that does not do any music, but they do a lot of evangelism. They and a group from church we out on Saturday handing out tracts in town. South Africa is interesting in that the people are so open to spiritual matters but so closed to the gospel.
18 August 2013
I was able to see a list of topics that will be covered by the standardized test for grade 6 math. The only topic they have not covered is percentages. That is covered in their text, but only after the test, so I will be doing that with them very soon.
Debbie, the school secretary, will be starting her chemotherapy on Tuesday of this week. She will have that for a number of weeks, and then there will be radiation. Keep praying for her and her family.
11 August 2013
I'm sure that I updated this site last week, but I don't know what happened to it. Anyway, all is well. Friday was a holiday, but I worked on projects for church all day. It always feels good to have a productive day. Back to school tomorrow. I found out last week that the Dept. of Education is coming early in Sept. to administer some standardized tests to grade 6. It is a difficult class, so we will see how they do. The thing that concerns me is that the government's subsidy to the school will depend upon the test results. The school cannot afford to have a cut in the subsidy. Please pray!
28 July 2013
Debbie had surgery on Monday, and she came home on Friday. She is weak and tired, but she is her usual smiling and cheerful self. She has great faith in the Lord, and that will see her through upcoming chemotherapy and whatever else she has to face.
Through all of this it is possible that her husband, Paul, has put his trust in the Lord for salvation. If that is the case, I know that Debbie will consider it all worthwhile.
21 July 2013
We successfully finished the first week of the new term. Kids are working hard (with a little prodding.) Tomorrow we start the extracurricular activities. We will have drama practice on Monday and Thursday. In September there will be a dinner theatre, so they will have to work hard to be ready for that.
We have had a "surprise" happening, too, but not a pleasant surprise. The school secretary, Debbie, who is also our neighbour and friend, was diagnosed with cancer. She left this afternoon to go to Pietermaritzberg to have surgery tomorrow. There will most likely be chemo and radiation coming up. Pray for her and her family. She is happily married with three young children.
14 July 2013
I won't even apologize this time for the long delay since the last update. Let me just say "Merry Christmas" (for 2012), "Happy New Year," "Happy Valentine's Day,"Happy 4th of July," etc. You get the idea!
We are at the end of our three-week holiday from school. We begin our third term for the year tomorrow. We will be in our new classrooms, and we are looking forward to that. Gloria went with friends on a holiday to the Drakensberg Mountains during the first week of the school holiday. She had a wonderful time in a beautiful place. Allen stayed home and took neighbourhood kids to a holiday Bible club at church and worked on getting his classroom ready.
27 November 2012
Our Thanksgiving celebration on Sunday was very nice. We had lots of food, and we really enjoyed visiting with friends for the afternoon. We have figured out that most South Africans really have trouble learning to like pumpkin pie, though. We took a couple of them, and even though there were quite a few people, they ate less than one pie. (There were other desserts, too.) In South Africa pumpkin is always eaten as a vegetable, and most people cannot quite get used to the idea of using it in a dessert. That's all right -- I got to bring a whole pie home!
23 November 2012
Yesterday may have been Thanksgiving in America, but we will be celebrating on Sunday, the 25th. We will be with a group of South African friends who like the idea of a day set aside to give thanks to the Lord. We will have our turkey dinner with all the good stuff with it. We will be baking pumpkin pies tomorrow.
We are near the end of our school year. It has been a very hectic year, and we need the upcoming break. It may be something of a working holiday, though, as there will be much to do to prepare for next year. We are changing our curriculum and format for the school, and at this point, we do not have enough staff or classroom space. We are optimistic, though. It will be a good year.
8 October 2012
Our final school term started today. It went very well. It was very tiring for both of us, but over the next few days we will get back into the swing of things, and it will be easier.
24 September 2012
I am doing better. I keep coughing up nasty stuff out of my lungs. It must be good for me to get rid of it, but it is not much fun. I have two weeks until school starts for the fourth term of this year, and I am planning to be back then.
Some months ago we tried to get some health insurance, but we got blocked by not being able to open a bank account here. I was talking to our pastor, and he suggested seeing the banker he always deals with for the church account. We went to see her last week, and within about two hours we had an account! I guess it is true that it is whom you know, not what you know. Now, we have the application form ready to send in for the health insurance. We will be ready for the next hospital stay.
30 August 2012
Well, I did not make it back to school. If fact I got more sick and landed in intensive care at our local private hospital. I got excellent care, and I am now on the road to recovery. (We hope and pray!) The latest diagnosis is bronchial pneumonia. The doctors say that it will be a long recovery, so I will be taking the remainder of this school term off. It will put a real burden on the rest of our already small staff, but they have been very encouraging, understanding, and patient.
4 August 2012
Some of these African germs are really nasty things! Allen has been sick with a series of things for over two weeks! After three courses of antibiotics, some steroids, and lots of cough medicine, I am finally recovering. I missed two weeks of school, and I think the rest of the staff will be glad to see me come back. I should be there on Monday.
16 July 2012
School started today. After the move to the church we had no clue how the day would go. Most of the students showed up, and the day went relatively smoothly. There were just a few missing items, but we located most of what we needed. If you were praying, thank you.
11 July 2012
New news on the residence permit. All the applications are on hold while the rules change! Are we surprised? Wonder how long this will take?
6 July 2012
I just realized that I need to change the way I write the date. When using numbers only, the day of the month comes before the month, so I get confused between the U.S. and the S.A. way of writing it.
You will notice that it has been three months since I updated this poor thing. Amazing how time flies. We are now on our school holiday. We have made it half way through the school year. Last week we got the school moved to the church. We still have another week of holiday, and then we will see how it goes at the church. What we really need now is a buyer for the property out of town. Please pray.
The road has been graded TWO TIMES in the last week! Can you believe it? That never happens in South Africa. Now the road has been officially upgraded from horrible to bad. We have much for which to give thanks. I will try to get some photos soon of the new flat and the farm.
Poor website has been so neglected. We have begun the school year, and we are almost half way through the first term already. The new principal is working out very well, and the school is running more smoothly than last year.
We also got moved into another flat. We moved out of town to a farm where there are over 20 flats. It is quiet and peaceful. We have a little more room for the same amount of rent. We have beautiful open spaces and views of the surrounding hills. The road is a horrible African road, but it is for only a short distance, so we can live with it.
We have had a quiet beginning to our year. We are still on school holiday. Staff return to school on the 11th, and the students return on the 16th.
Christmas was quiet here, but it was also very nice. I think Skype was overloaded, so we did not get to talk to anybody until after Christmas. This has also been a quiet week. We are mostly just relaxing and doing a little reading. School will be starting up again in a couple of weeks, and then there will not be much time for relaxing.
Life can get just a bit complicated in South Africa. We have decided to try getting health insurance here. Much of the terminology and procedures for health insurance are different from in the States. We contacted a broker who helped us decide on a plan. Next, we need a bank account. We have been using our U.S. credit union account since we came to SA. We went to a couple of banks, and we needed proof of residency. They turned us down because our temporary residency permit expires in just a few months. We got the proof of residency from the municipality (local gov't.). At the third bank I waited in line in a very hot room (with what looked like thousands of people) for about an hour. I finally gave up for today, and I will try very early tomorrow. It all reminds us of Philippians 3:20, which tells us that our citizenship is in heaven. There we will not need a residency permit, a bank account, or health insurance. We are already citizens!
More than a month since the last update! Sorry. It has been so very busy, but the school year has ended. It ended well, too. Two thirds of Allen's students achieved honor roll, and it is the first time any in this class has. It is gratifying to see progress. Some of the girls in the class surprised us, too, by having a song prepared for our final assembly. They sang the Lord's Prayer, and it was beautiful! Another bit of good news is that all of the students in this class are returning next year except two. Most parents change schools for their kids every year or two, so this was a nice development.
Whew! It's been a whirlwind of activity. School is very busy, as usual. Today, we helped out at a fund raiser. We were selling things to earn money for an outing at the end of the year for students on honor roll. We have quite a number of students, so we need to raise quite a lot of money. Today, there was a street fair, and the school had two booths. A lot of people came by. The money has not been counted, yet, so I don't know how much came in. It was a beautiful spring day, and it was nice to spend it outside.
We have finished one week of our 4th term. It was a good week, and the students worked hard. I think they realize about this time of the year that we are getting near the end of the school year, and they suddenly realize that they need to get busy. Typical kids.
We are on our school holiday now. We have a week off. Next Monday we begin our last term for the year. It is a little shorter, but we still have a lot of work to do before the end of the year.
We are still waiting for the background check for our residency permit. I hope it comes today so that we can take it to Port Shepstone this week.
Our friends from Richards Bay, Joshua and Heidi Ausfahl, were in town last night. They had dinner with us, and it was so nice to see them and catch up on the latest. They are headed to George for a conference. They still have two days to drive in order to get there.
We are having weather this week that reminds us of northwest Washington in October. It is rainy and cold. Everyone else is really excited that the rains have come. We are ready for the sunshine to return.
Much has happened in the recent past. Nerina sold her house quite quickly. She has six months before she has to move, so we will have time to prepare emotionally. The purchasers really do want us to stay, and we were very happy about that.
We also went to Port Shepstone this week. We had an appointment on the 7th to submit our application for permanent residency. There was a bit of a mix up, though, and we had to go two days in a row. The second day was a wasted trip, but then, this is Africa. We got fingerprinted twice, and then found out that on one of them they forgot to do the thumbs. Now, we have to wait for about a month to receive a South African police clearance, and then the application gets sent off to Pretoria.
We were told recently that our friend, Nerina, would be selling her house. We rent our flat from her, so it was a concern, and we did not know whether we would have to move. Nerina received an offer this week, but the potential new owners will want us to stay and continue renting. That was a big relief. It sounds as if the new owners will not be raising our rent, and that is another big relief. The Lord is good.
We did not go to Port Shepstone after all. Last week we called and talked to the woman who does the immigration interviews, and the earliest appointment she had was 7 Sept. In the meantime, we are gathering all of our documents again to take with us. We should be able to get them, since it is a month away.
We called the Dept. of Home Affairs last weekend to check on the residency permit. We were finally told (after 3 1/2 years) that they would not be able to track our application. We were told to reapply. So, we jumping through lots of hoops to get everything together to take to the office in Port Shepstone (about a two hour drive) on Monday, which is a holiday for our school. We only have about 9 or 10 months left on our temporary residence permit. We're glad the Lord is in control.
We are out of school today. Snow started falling yesterday, and it has not stopped. School let out early yesterday, and it got cancelled today. It is beautiful outside, but so cold. We are very thankful for our heater. When I measured the snow this morning, we had about 10 cm, which is around 4 inches. You can see a few photos on the photo page.
We finished our first week of the term at school. Yesterday was quite a wild day. It started with shots from a pellet gun when we first arrived. Someone drove by and shot at a dog that belongs to one of the staff members that lives on the property. They missed the dog (and us, who were just behind it), and hit the roof of a house where another staff member lives. The police got involved, and it was an exciting time.
Then, later that morning there were two students sitting at tables and taking tests. While my back was turned, a fight broke out between them! I rushed in to break it up. Caused quite a commotion for the class. We never seem to have a dull moment at school.
We got back yesterday from a visit to friends in Ladysmith. We had a wonderful few days with them. A highlight was a trip to a nature reserve for a picnic. We had a beautiful, but cool, day and got to see some nice animal life. There are some new photos on the photo page. Take a look.
Ah, school holidays! What an opportunity to get fat and lazy! The second term ended last Thursday, and we have been taking it very easy since then. Our neighbor, Nerina, is out of town, so we are taking care of her house and pets until she returns on July 5.
We keep trying to find out about our application for permanent residency. It has now been 3 1/2 years since we submitted it. Still, no one can tell us where it is or what is happening with it. We heard from a friend, though, that as long as we have proof of payment for the application and proof that it is in process, we can stay in South Africa. We had not heard that before, so we will see . . . .
Happy Father's Day to any dads reading this. Since we don't have any kids in South Africa, some friends who are young enough to be our kids took us out for dinner. It was very thoughtful of them, and we had a wonderful time. We went to our favorite restaurant, Cassandra's. It is located at a beautiful bed & breakfast just outside of town. The restaurant sits in a building built on pilings, and it is surrounded by water and windows. It is a round building with a thatched roof. Views are stunning, and the food is excellent.
The months continue to fly by. We are very near the middle point of our school year. In about three weeks we will have a three week holiday.
Winter has definitely begun here. We have been at or below freezing for most days lately. When we get up in the mornings, it feels almost like it is also freezing inside! Our gas heater warms up the place after awhile, though. After the sun shines for a little bit, the world is much warmer.
Winter also means the lemons are ripe, and that means Gloria makes lemon bars! There is nothing quite like them when the lemons are freshly squeezed.
We are half way through our second term at school. Most of the students are motivated and working hard. The class has been growing in numbers. On Friday we took the whole class to a career expo down at the coast. They got to see exhibits and talk to people about a variety of career options. It was a good day.
The blood clots were short lived, and I am up and around again. School is closed for another week because of a few holidays, so there is more time to stay off my feet and build up my strength. We are thankful for answered prayer.
Well, Gloria is playing nurse, and I am playing patient. I've developed a bum knee and a blood clot in the same leg. A few days off my feet should do the trick. We're so glad we know the God who has the power to restore health.
Well, we never heard anything from Home Affairs. We're not surprised.
Yesterday was another trip to the Dept. of Home Affairs. It is about a two hour drive to Port Shepstone, so we took a day away from school. We arrived and got into see someone right away. She looked at our paperwork and started making phone calls, but could never get through to someone who would answer the phone. She finally asked someone else if the phones were down in Pretoria (the supposed location of our application for residency.) Then, someone else in the office said that he had heard on the news that morning that the phone cables had been stolen in Pretoria! That truly is a major problem in this country, but who would have guessed that it would happen then and there? Oh, well, as many say here, "This is Africa."
We made it home on Friday. It was a safe, but long, trip. We did not arrive home until about 7:00 in the evening. There are a few new photos on the photo page.
Sometimes, primate piracy can be real monkey business. A funny thing happened on Monday when we arrived at the resort where we are staying this week. About 15 minutes into our stay, I (Allen) looked into the kitchen, and there was a little gray monkey helping himself to a piece of fruit from a bowl sitting on the counter. I jumped at him and yelled, but before he took off through the open window he grabbed a second piece of fruit. He bounded for the drain pipe and made his escape over the edge of the deck.
That night Gloria was awakened by a noise in the kitchen. When she went to investigate, the garbage can was on its side with the contents scattered. We think the culprit came in through a different window to finish filling his belly. He was nowhere to be found.
It is a beautiful day as we sit on the deck and look out over the lovely, blue Indian Ocean. "In Kokstad," you ask? No, we're just north of Durban. We came through Pietermaritzburg yesterday to visit the provincial office of the Dept. of Home Affairs. We are trying to find out something about our permanent residency permit. We applied for it more than three years ago! We were told two things yesterday. One was that we should have gone to the office in Port Shepstone. The other was that they can't find out any information. Does this all sound very familiar? It is the sort of run around we have been hearing for three years! Oh, well, we will just sit and watch the beautiful waves and listen to them crashing. At least this moment is relaxing.
We have finished our third week of the term. My class has grown since the first week, but they have settled in well. They are working very hard. They have good attitudes towards school, and they are making good progress. I am really enjoying them.
School started this week. The staff returned on Monday, and the students came on Wednesday. I can't decide if it was a good week or not. The students worked wonderfully for their three days there. They were diligent, and worked quietly.
The secretary, though, who is the staff representative to the school board, went to a school board meeting on Monday evening. The meeting did not go well, and on Tuesday, she submitted her resignation from the school. We will certainly be sorry to see her go. She works very hard and does a good job. We will be praying for a good replacement, but that will require a big answer to that prayer.
I have been sitting on the phone for awhile now. (Well, not literally, as that would not be good for the phone or for me. ) I think I am getting the proverbial "run around." I have been trying to find out what has happened to our application for permanent residency in South Africa. It was three years ago this month that we submitted the application to the embassy in Washington, D.C. The Dept. of Home Affairs is notoriously chaotic, and I am understanding that more and more. Stay tuned for further developments.
We're having a relaxing week. I went to school for a couple of hours today, but just puttered, doing a few things in preparation for the beginning of the school year. Yesterday, we picked up a friend and her two small children and went to Cassandra's, a wonderful coffee shop located at a beautiful bed and breakfast just a few kilometres outside of town.
Happy New Year! We are hoping that your next year will be better than this one (even if this one has been good).
We have added a photo to the "Americans visit" album. Joe and Traci Castaneda and their kids visited SA, and we caught up with them as Joe was speaking at a youth camp. We put their photo up for any who may know them.
The end of another year is upon us. This has been a busy year. The school is on holiday, now, so life is much more relaxed for us for a few more weeks. We had a nice Christmas. We went to the homes of other people for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. We will most likely stay at home for New Year's Eve and go to bed at a decent time. That's our New Year's tradition.
At the beginning of the month we had to say farewell to a family who had become good friends of ours. They moved to Ladysmith to teach in a different school next year. We will miss them. We will go and see them at some point, but it is a drive of several hours.
We finally got some photos on the photo page from the time Bri and Nicole visited. We had such a good time with them. We just got an e-mail from some other friends, Joe and Traci, who will be visit South Africa in December. They will visit other friends, but we should be able to get together.
We made it through our first week of this last school term for this year. It was a successful week, and we look forward to the remainder of it.
Well, yesterday was the last day of the term. We always close with an assembly. Parents are invited, and we give out awards for various achievements. We did not have too many parents this time, but we had quite a few awards. It was a good term, and now we have a week off.
Today was a national holiday -- Heritage Day. We celebrated our American heritage by making a phone call to America! Then, there was a work day at church, so we went and helped with a few projects there.
Well, our visitors left on Sat. to go back to the States. We miss them, but this is the last week of the term at school, so there is not much time to think about it. A more complete update will be coming next week. We will have a week of holiday before out last term of the year begins.
These weeks that Nicole and Bri are here are very full and very enjoyable. They are a real blessing to us. They are a big help at the school, and they are adding a lot to our household and daily life as well.
They brought a game (Snorta) from the States for us. Last evening they showed us how to play it, and the four of us could not stop laughing. We had so much fun.
It has been nice to see them discovering South Africa. Our coming here was recently enough that we recognize much of what they are feeling. At the same time, we have been here just long enough that we have become somewhat accustomed to this place, and it is fun to see them experiencing new things.
It has been a quiet weekend. Yesterday, we took Bri and Nicole to a couple of shops to just look around. Then, we went to lunch at our favorite coffee shop. In the afternoon friends invited us to their house for tea, and we had a nive visit. There was church this morning, and this afternoon we will visit a "prayer garden" with our friend, Nerina.
We have had a wonderful week. Our friends, Nicole and Bri, arrived from the States on Saturday. It is so good to have them here. They are young and energetic (except for jet lag, which is better), and we have had a few good laughs. They are getting a crash course in South African cultures and languages, and that is always fun. The staff and students have been enjoying them for the couple of days they have been there.
We (Allen and Gloria) had a nice time last weekend in Durban. We visited the botanical gardens, and they were beautiful. It is winter, so some things had no leaves, and there were not very many flowers blooming, but we enjoyed it. The weather was perfect for spending a day in the park. We went to dinner at a very large mall, and then we went to the airport to pick up Bri and Nicole. We spent the night in a nice bed & breakfast, went to church on Sunday, and then came home.
It is Sunday evening after a very nice and restful day. There was church this morning. It was a wonderful service, and many people were spiritually moved by it. We had lunch with friends, read, took a short nap, watched a good movie made by some people we know. Tomorrow is a holiday, too, so even going into the evening is relaxing, knowing that we don't have to get up early.
There was a sports day at school today. All the students and staff were involved. Gloria and Allen were time keepers. There were races, relays, long jump, shot put, etc. -- events for all ages. The students were also divided into teams (Hebrews and Greeks), and there were competitions for singing and dancing, and each team had its cheerleaders. There was so much enthusiasm and fun. All the students behaved and cooperated so well. We were very proud of them. The weather was absolutely beautiful, too.
Today was the end of the 2nd week of this 3rd term. We have had a good beginning. We are trying some new things with a few students who have been struggling, and they seem to be working.
We will be taking just a few students to a science fair soon. A few of our older students have an interest in science, and we thought it would be good exposure for them to see what other students are doing. We may encourage some to enter an exhibit next year. Another option is to have a science fair at our school next year.
Church was at Rivermead Christian Academy today. It started with the church service. It has been one year since the school moved from the church building to its current location. Following the service there was a baptism in the river. A wonderful young man, Nsikalelo, was baptized. The water was very cold, but it was worth it. Then, there was a time of games and fellowship while lunch cooked. Lunch was a variety of potjies (pronounced POY kees), a traditional food here, cooked slowly in a three-legged pot over an open fire. It is like a thick stew, and it is delicious. It started off as a beautiful, sunny, winter's day, but during the games, clouds moved in, and it got quite cold. Spirits were not chilled, though. You will be able to see photos on the photo page.
Yesterday, we took a little driving adventure. We made a big circuit through the town of Underberg to the beautiful and quaint town of Howick. There is a beautiful waterfall there. We had tea and wandered through craft shops. Then, we went on to a large mall near Pietermaritzberg, the capital of our province. We traveled home late in the afternoon through Ixopo, tired and broke, but happy. It was a trip of around 450 km (about 300 miles), but the scenery was beautiful.
If you check this page from time to time, we want to thank you for your patience. For two and a half months, we were out of storage space, but now we have done some upgrading, and all should be well.
We have been on school holiday for three weeks, and we have another week to go. Then we begin the third term for the year.
We find life in South Africa to be very interesting and full of little surprises. Today, we went to visit a friend. While there, the electricity went off (a common occurrence). She wanted to fix lunch for all of us, so she went outside, built a fire in the yard, and cooked lunch. No electricity is really no problem for some!
School began last Monday, and we finished our first week of the 2nd term. The week began with a staff meeting to lay out the financial crisis to all the staff. It was indeed a crisis, and there was a possibility the school could have closed. Parents were forced to pay school fees that were behind, and the Lord provided generously through an anonymous donor in answer to much prayer, and on Tuesday the whole situation had reversed itself! God is able to do great things.
We arrived home yesterday from visiting the Aushahls in Richards Bay. We had a very nice time with their family. We celebrated Easter in their church and with some neighbors of theirs. We really enjoyed relaxing and getting to know them. They have three little boys who are a lot of fun.
While there we took two day trips. One was to Imfolozi and Hluhluwe game parks. There we saw many African animals roaming free, including elephants, impala, giraffes, a rhino, wildebeests, warthogs, zebra, a cape buffalo, nyala, baboons, and monkeys. It was beautiful. The other trip was to St. Lucia, a world heritage site, and we saw hippos and crocodiles. There are some photos in the African wildlife album of the photos page.
School closed yesterday for the end of the first term. It was a good term. There was an assembly, and parents came. Awards were given, and the principal had a message. It seems like everyone was ready for a break. We have two weeks off.
During the break we will be going to visit Joshua and Heidi Ausfahl, friends from the States. They live in Richards Bay, about a six hour drive. We have not seen them since we have been in South Africa, so it should be a nice visit.
The school term is getting close to the end. The students are working hard, and they are making some progress. Fall is in the air, too. Days are noticeably shorter and a little cooler. Leaves are changing. The hills are beginning to turn brown. Mornings find dew on the grass and the car. We still have our sunshine, though, and we love it.
We arrived back in Kokstad last evening. We had a good time with friends during the week. The accommodations were nice. We had a good view of the ocean, and we even got to see a lot of dolphins and a whale. We saw a few sights, too. One was the Sharks Board. Much to see there. They even dissect a shark for spectators and show the various organs. The purpose of the place, though, is to do research on sharks for their protection and for the protection of humans. The educators' convention was well attended, helpful, and interesting. We will be making application beginning Monday.
This week will be a midterm break for the school. We will be spending the week at a resort in Durban. The real purpose, though, is to allow the staff of the school to attend an educators' convention. There should be plenty of time for relaxing and enjoying the company of others in the school.
This has been a rather lazy Saturday. Allen went to the bank in the morning, while Gloria went shopping. It has been quite relaxing, though. Gloria is making pizza for dinner and milk tart (a South African treat) for dessert. We will share with our friends, Nerina and Chris, who live next door.
We also got the car washed today. There is a man who comes just about every week wanting a handout, and the car usually needs washing after driving on the dirt road to school all week. We usually give him R20 or R30 (rand) and a little parcel of food. That's the going rate for such work. He is happy and so are we. R20 amounts to about $2.70. The man's name is Michael, and he seems like a nice guy. He speaks only a little English, and we don't speak any Xhosa, so communication is limited. We are glad to help him, though.
This past week we have begun to notice the leaves on some of the trees beginning to change color. Fall is on the way. We still get some hot days, but nights are a little cooler, and there is dew most mornings.
Two months since the last update! Not our fault this time. We have had some truly horrible Internet service for most of that two months. This week I went to a different company. Now, instead of using my cell phone as a modem, I bought a separate little modem that plugs into a USB port. It works very well.
School has begun since the last update. We are now five weeks into the first term. Gloria comes three days per weeks and helps in Allen's class this year.
A couple of weeks ago there was a fund raiser for the school at a lavender farm. The students are trying to raise money to go to a student convention. We were there and got a few photos. You can see them on the photo page.
This Sunday there was a picnic after church. It was actually a farewell gather for a short term missionary who had been here for about two years. Lindsey has been teaching at the school, and we will miss her. Her plan is to come back as a long term missionary as soon as she can. There are some photos on the photo page.
After church on Sunday, a nice group of people gathered for a Thanksgiving celebration that was as traditionally American as one can find in South Africa. We had most of the traditional foods. Allen was asked to explain briefly what the holiday was all about. There was no American football game afterwards, though! You can see some photos on the photo page.
Today was the last day of school for 2009. Most students and staff were happy, but a few were sad to go. Allen's class had just a few things to finish for the year, so we had a party and watched a DVD after they were done.
Now, I finally have one year of teaching experience under my belt after all those years of waiting. It is quite a feeling of accomplishment. I'll miss these students over the next few weeks until school starts again.
One morning recently, as we drove to school, the car got surrounded by a herd of milk cows on their way to the milking barn. It happens many mornings. You can see some photos on the photo page under "Africa's 'Herd Instinct.'" It seems quaint and VERY African!
I was at school today (Yes, I put in time many Saturdays.) working on a big project, and I finished it! The government requires a portfolio of each student's work, and there is a form that accompanies it. I did not know how to do it until more than half way through the year. So, in about four months, I have done a year's worth of work on it! No wonder I'm tired of it. Now, I get to take a few Saturdays off (perhaps ). We only have two weeks to go before the end of the term.
Has it really been a month and a half since an update? Oops! Life is very busy here. We're winding down toward the end of the school year, which means that the amount of work for the faculty is winding upward. Why is the amount of work always inversely proportional to the amount of time available? There are less than three weeks of school left. Then, comes reports, planning for next year, ordering materials, etc.
We celebrated our 30th anniversary last Tuesday. We took a day out from our routines and went for a long drive in the country. We went up toward the Drakensburg Mountains and wound up in the quaint little town of Himeville. Along the way, we visited the Underburg Cheesery and bought some cheese. Yum! In Himeville, we went to the museum. It is a wonderful place and a very good use for what was once an old army fort, built for protection in case of a Zulu uprising. There are a few photos on the photo page.
We have neglected this site lately. We have been very busy. Gloria's flu lasted about two weeks, but she is well again. It is very near the end of the school term, so there have been many added tasks that have taken a great deal of time. Only three more school days next week, and then a week and a half break.
On Sept. 9, each class in the school was supposed to do something fun for nine minutes. Allen's class had a picnic (of sorts). It was quite cool outside, so we stayed inside, but it was fun. There are a few photos on the photo page.
It appears that Spring has sprung in Kokstad. Temperatures are much warmer, even at night. There seems to be new green everywhere. Flowers are blooming. Days seem longer. But, there seems to be a persistent winter flu bug lingering, and it has got hold of Gloria. She is feeling truly awful. There's fever, cough, aches, . . . the whole nine yards. (In South Africa, it would be the whole nine meters!) Hopefully, it won't last long.
I just posted some new photos on our photo page. There are photos of a chapel one sunny morning. The school no longer has an indoor area large enough for all the students and staff. Since this is Africa, nobody worries about that. We just meet outside. The accoustics are not the best, but the scenery makes up for it.
There are also photos from the birthday party that our friend, Nerina, had for Gloria. Everyone had a very nice time. We did a lot of eating, talking, and laughing. They served hamburgers for dinner, thinking that was the closest they could come to authentic American cuisine!
School was cancelled today! We got a reminder that it is still winter when we got up and had snow falling. Seems funny to look out the window and see snow on the palm tree! The snow didn't last long, though, and by mid-day the sun was reappearing. The afternoon remained cold.
My, how time flies! We have finished the fourth week of the school term. It is going well. We had a sports day on Thursday. All the students did some type of track and field events. At the end, the teachers had a race. It was quite a sight! Mr. B came in dead last, much to the amusement of the students. The next day, one of the younger students, Molobongwi, said to me, "Mr. B, you are too old to run. You are TOO slow." Out of the mouths of babes . . . . .
Gloria is now volunteering at the school three days per week. She is helping in the grades 2 & 3 class. She enjoys it, and the kids like having her there.
Gloria celebrated her birthday yesterday. There was a small party for dinner at our friends' house. They served hamburgers because they wanted Gloria to have a really American meal for her birthday. It was a very nice evening. Gloria wants to thank all those who sent birthday greetings.
We finished our first week of the third term today. It was a successful week. It appears that the amalgamation of the two schools will be quite a success. There are a few photos of the transformation of the classroom that took place over the last few weeks on the photo page.
By Tuesday afternoon, the classroom was ready for school! The students returned on Wednesday, and they thought it was wonderful. We had a fun day to welcome them back, though, so most of the day was spent outside for games and the like. Today, we returned to life as normal at our school. I hope to have some new pictures up soon.
This move to a new school has been interesting. We were merging two schools, each with its own distinctive character. Even the names had to be merged. Our old school was Crystal Springs Christian Academy, and the other was Rivermead Preparatory School. Now we are Rivermead Christian Academy. It will be a little while before it is no longer "us and them." The purpose of our fun day was to have opportunity for the students and staff from both schools to get to know one another in a relaxed, enjoyable way. It was quite a successful day, and this merge will be successful, too.
Most of the remodel in my classroom was finished yesterday. There are just some finishing touches to complete now, but it already looks great! Many have been working on it, and I really appreciate their hard work. Teachers report for duty for the new term a week from tomorrow, and the students will return on the 22nd.
The school's second term ended a week ago. Now we are in the process of moving the entire school from the church to Rivermead School, which is located a ways out of town. We are remodeling and updating classrooms. My classroom is getting a complete makeover, which it desperately needs. It is a lot of work, though. Each day this week we have been there moving, cleaning, painting, etc. When it is done, the room will have new paint, a new floor, new ceiling, new lighting, and new door. Most people probably never thought missionaries did manual labor, too!
When we arrived back from the States, we bought a kitchen stove. We had not had an oven before, other than borrowing the neighbor's. Gloria has been making good use of it. We have had a lot of delicious baked goods. South Africans love lemon bars, made from a recipe that came from a friend in the States. We have a lemon tree in the yard, and they are ready to pick now. We may have to start a campaign against obesity in Africa!
We went to a braai (barbecue) today in honor of our friends, Andries and Jeanette Bester. They are long time members of our church, and they have been very much involved in it. They will be leaving on Monday and immigrating to New Zealand. They will be greatly missed. There are pictures on the photo page of this site.
Allen has been back in the classroom for two days now, and it is going very well. The students seem to be working diligently, and they seem very glad that we are back.
Gloria led her Bible study again today. There were eight people in attendance, which is almost a three fold increase from before we left for the States! Is the Lord good, or what?
It has been a VERY busy week. We arrived back in Kokstad on Thursday, and we hit the ground running. There were many things that needed to be tended to, but we're getting through it all. We have seen many friends already, and that has been great. Today, we went and bought a kitchen stove, and we have even had our first batch of chocolate chip cookies!
We're soon to be "Proudly South African!" The passports with temporary residence permits were sent yesterday, and they should arrive today! Airline tickets are bought, and we leave on Monday, May 25. We have a room at a B & B a short way from the Durban airport and a rental car to get us there and then on to Kokstad. The Lord has done great things!
The news from this morning's call to the embassy is that our app. for temporary residence is being held until a decision is made on the permanent residence app. that we submitted more than a year ago. If a decision can be made soon, the permanent permit would be better. We're looking forward to getting SOMETHING soon!
We're still waiting, and waiting, and waiting . . . . . Each day we're told that we can find out "tomorrow" whether the temporary residence permit is approved. Don't know when we will know for sure. We missed an excellent price on airline tickets from yesterday, and higher summer rates go into effect on May 21. So when's it really going to happen?
Last evening we watched a DVD about a South African evangelist/farmer. His name is Angus Buchan, and he is very well known in South Africa. It was and very good movie. The title is "Faith Like Potatoes." Watching it sure made us homesick for our adopted country! We're looking forward to returning soon. No word yet on the residence permit, though.
In about two and a half weeks, we have visited many friends and family members. We have also renewed our passports and applied for a temporary residence permit that will allow us to remain in South Africa for three years. Now, the waiting game while we anticipate the arrival of the permit. In the meantime, we will continue to enjoy our visits with friends and family.
We arrived back in the States on Sunday. It was quite a trip. Two different planes had to be held so that we could catch them! Then, the luggage got lost twice! When we left JFK airport for Seattle, our luggage left for Atlanta! It showed up at SeaTac airport much later, and we got it after midnight on Monday. All is well, though, and we're recovering from jet lag.
Today, I (Allen) went to visit the new church being planted in the Horseshoe community of Kokstad. The people are all Xhosa, and very few speak any English. It was very interesting, but it was very different from anything I'm accustomed to. There were about 20 people there, but the numbers kept fluctuating as people came and went randomly. The man that I went with who was preaching probably preached the same message 3 or 4 times as people came and went, just so all could hear the message. The singing was beautiful, though, and the prayers were from the heart. (I could tell when prayers ended because "Amen" is the same in every language.) The service was held in a large tent, since no building has yet been erected. The people were friendly, even though I did not understand most of what was said. I'm reminded that God loves people of all cultures and languages, and Jesus Christ died for us all.
One week ago, our church had an open air service to dedicate a school and its property for the Lord's use. It is rather amazing how the Lord transferred ownership of Rivermead School from the hands of a Muslim owner to the hands of our church in a period of less than three weeks. Now the students will receive a proper Christian education, which is what the parents wanted all along.
Oops! I just realized that it has been a month and a half since I updated this site! Sorry. I keep telling myself to do it more often, but time is in short supply. I did not bring home much work for the weekend, so I have a little time to do some updating.
School continues on, and it is still challenging, rewarding, and enjoyable. The students have been working on creative writing in addition to their regular subjects. Somehow, most of my students have missed out on any instruction in how to write a simple paragraph. It has been a real struggle to help them understand the elements in a basic paragraph and then get them to be able to put their own thoughts into that basic paragraph form. We have been working on it for weeks, and there is still work to do.
March 2-7 was an enjoyable week. Most of the staff of the school attended a two-day educators' convention in Durban, a large resort city about three hours away from Kokstad. The school closed for a week for mid-term break, and we spent the week enjoying ourselves. Unlike Kokstad, though, Durban is uncomfortably humid and warm.
What an incredibly busy month! Not long after the month began, Allen had to begin preparing for the beginning of the school year. This being Africa, things never happen on time. School opened (a couple of days late), but the classroom was not ready. Student desks were still being built! The room was a mess on the first day of classes. Oh well, we just planned a field trip for the first week of school to give time for the workers to build some desks! So, our class went to the home of Andrea Terblanche, the teacher who works with Allen. She lives out of town on a farm, and she has a swimming pool. The students had a lekker (Afrikaans for "really good") time. They swam, played rugby, and had a braai (South African barbecue). It was a wonderful time for the class to get acquainted. We have finished a couple of weeks of school now, and Allen loves working with the students and staff.
We left South Africa yesterday! . . . But we came back. We took a tour up Sani Pass in the Drakensberg Mountains and crossed over into the little kingdom called Lesotho. What a beautiful trip it was! Amazing views of the mountains, and the road was quite amazing, too. Almost straight up a cliff with many switchbacks and hairpin turns. Had lunch in the highest pub in Africa at 2874 meters above sea level. Visited a couple of traditional Basotho villages and learned about the culture. There are photos posted on the photo page.
Happy New Year! We've had a good beginning to the new year. We went back out to the farm, and we had a very relaxing day. The baby blesbok has grown in the last couple of weeks. In the afternoon, a group of the younger people played a game of rugby in the yard. We were very good spectators.
After church, Gloria and Allen hopped in the car and went for a Sunday drive. We started just a few blocks from home at a bird sanctuary we saw on the city map. We walked around for a while and heard more Christmas beetles than we saw birds. Off in the distance we could see Mt. Currie, and Kokstad landmark just north of town. It beckoned us, so we drove up the road that way. In just a very few kilometres, we were in the mountains seeing beautiful scenery. You can see a few photos on our photo page.
Boxing Day! A holiday here in South Africa. Seems very quiet and relaxed. Yesterday was a very nice day, too. There was a nice Christmas service in the morning. Then, we went out to a farm and had our dinner with a larger group of people. The food was potluck, but it was all very delicious, and we ate entirely too much. The odd part was that we ate out on the large veranda of the large and beautiful old farm house. The weather was beautiful, and we ate in our shirt sleeves. No white Christmas here. The yard around the house is exquisitely landscaped, and there is a wonderful view of the Drakensberg Mountains. What a Christmas dinner!
Yesterday, we went out to the farm of some dear friends, Marais and Drinie Bester. They own Die Kroon (The Crown) Farm. We had lunch and a very nice visit. Then, we took a short drive out into the pastureland, where we saw some of the cattle and horses. A real highlight was seeing some of their herd of blesbok. They also are raising a little orphaned one. There are photos on the photo page.
Gloria and Allen arrived back in Kokstad yesterday from a week in the Durban area, called the North Coast by South Africans. We stayed in a little town called Salt Rock. Gloria enjoyed a relaxing week at the beach, and Allen attended a training course in how to use some curriculum materials. It is quite warm and VERY humid along this stretch of the Indian Ocean. We did not get too many pictures, but you can see a few on the photo page of this site.
Yesterday, Allen went with a group of 6th and 7th graders to a farm outside of Kokstad. It was a science field trip, and we had a wonderful chance to view a little of God's Creation. It was a beautiful day in a beautiful place. You can see photos of the day on the photo page.
The end of November already! December starts tomorrow, and Allen will be going on a field trip with a class of sixth and seventh grade students. We will go to a beautiful farm to try to do some "science" as we observe some of God's creation. The farm has a wonderful little lake (called a dam in South Africa), and there are many water plants and animals to observe. There should also be plenty of land animals and plants, as well as birds to observe.
We are about to head out for a fun day of shopping. There is a fund raiser at a place outside of town called "The Old Orchard," and several people from Crystal Springs Christian Academy will be there. We will see what is there and enjoy the time. The weather is beautiful today.
We celebrated an early Thanksgiving last evening. It was a little challenge to find all the ingredients for a tradition "American" Thanksgiving dinner in South Africa, but we did our best, and all turned out well. The friends from whom we rent requested the dinner before they had to leave town for a very serious surgery in the family. We were glad we could do something nice for them before they left. It reminded us, too, of how much we have for which we can be thankful. The Lord is the One who gives to us everything we have, and He is worthy of our gratitude and praise.
We are getting used to the car. Today, we drove out of town on a country road to a beautiful farm. Then, we had a wonderful adventure. We went with a small group from our church here into the "real Africa!" It was in a small village called Umzimkulu, and we knew we were in a true Third World country. There was a simple church service with a few Xhosa ladies and a number of small children. The service was all in the Xhosa language, so we did not understand any of it, but it was great to join them. The drive there and back was stunningly beautiful.
We got the car yesterday! It is very nice. It won't be as bad getting used to the "other" side as we once thought. I wish I could add pictures of the car to the photos, but I'm having trouble with that.
Today, I spent some time putting together a couple of pieces of furniture that I bought yesterday. I'm now able to use my computer at a real computer desk while sitting in a real desk chair. They came unassembled so I had to use my trusty screwdriver that came with the desk. It is the only tool I own in all of South Africa. I took a break in the labors, though, to do some work on buying a car. The salesman called right at the end of the work day to say that Gloria and I are the proud owners of a new car! He will come pick us up first thing in the morning so we can do the final paperwork and bring the car home. Now, we get to learn to drive on the "other" side of the road! Fun!
We have been in Kokstad for just over a week now. It has been a very busy week trying to get settled, and it seems like we still have a long ways to go. We're trying to enjoy the process, though. We escaped the fall rains in Washington, and the weather is really beautiful and enjoyable in Kokstad. We miss family and friends greatly, but e-mail and Skype are helping.
After weeks of moving out of our condo, we are spending a couple of days in a motel as we wait to board our plane tomorrow. Sunday was a truly incredible day. Our church had a wonderful service to send us off as their missionaries to South Africa. Things said to us and about us were generous and gracious. There were friends there, too, who are not part of our church, and we appreciated each one who could attend. Take a look at the new photos.
Yesterday was the last day of the 50th annual mission conference at our church. What an incredible blessing the entire week turned out to be. We had fantastic speakers and activities. The messages were challenging, and really seemed to touch peoples' hearts and lives.
Gloria and I found out at the end of last week that the applications for permanent residency in South Africa that are currently being processed are the ones that were submitted early in 2007! That was a little surprise. We thought they might be working on ours soon. Ours was submitted in May of 2008. Please be praying that the Dept. of Home Affairs can very quickly work through their backlog of applications or that somehow the Lord can move ours to the top of the stack.
I had the opportunity to make the Powerpoint presentation last Sunday, and it went very well. Of course, someone else had to connect the projector and get it going. And, yesterday was the last day at my part time job in the cytogenetics lab. Now we are completely dependent upon the pension. We're certainly thankful for that. It was a little hard saying goodbye to those I've worked with, some for many years. There are only a couple of constants in this world, and one of them is that things keep changing.
I (Allen) keep getting reminders that I am technologically challenged! I have been learning to use Powerpoint, and I was pleased with a couple of presentations I have prepared. In one week, I have an opportunity to present one of them, so today I tried hooking my computer to a projector to see what happens. Well . . . nothing happened! I could see my slides on the computer screen, but there was nothing on the big screen. Gotta get help this week!
Yesterday we celebrated our anniversary. 29 years ago, we tied the proverbial knot! Sure did pass by quickly. We had a nice dinner at a waterfront restaurant in Mukilteo, WA, and then we walked on the beach and watched a beautiful sunset over Puget Sound. Nice evening, eh?
More than a month since an update! Hmmm . . . sounds redundant. Sorry, but at this point, we're just waiting for that old residency permit. We have begun packing a few things, but there isn't any sense of urgency, so that is going slowly. Hopefully, I can report the arrival of the permit before another month goes by without an update!
More than a month since an update! That's unacceptable! Well, maybe it's because we're just waiting to hear about the residency permit. No real news on it, yet.
We are beginning to move a few things to the garage, though. That's where we plan to store our belongings while we live in Kokstad.
Gloria is on vacation, too. She is visiting her brother in Alaska. She left on 7/16, and she will be returning on 7/31. I imagine she will have a wonderful time. I'm learning something about why God said of Adam that it is not good for man to be alone!
IT IS COLD ! Today's newspaper shows yesterday's temperature for Seattle lower than Alaska, Minnesota, and even Siberia! We are ready for spring or summer!
By the way, we have a phone number now that is local to the Seattle area, even if we are in South Africa. There will not be a charge to call from a regular phone or a cell phone, unless calling Seattle would be long distance anyway. Find the number on the "Contact info" page.
We now have an account on Skype. "What is Skype?" you say. It is a way of talking with your computer over the Internet. It is free to download, and calls to other Skype users are free. You just need a microphone for your computer. If you have a webcam, we can even have a face-to-face chat. Our contact name is on the "Contact info" page. We have voice mail, too, so if we don't answer, leave a message.
The interview has come and gone! The interviewer was very pleasant and reassuring. She could not find any reason for a denial of the permit. Now, everything goes to Pretoria for final approval and the issuing of the residency permit. We have not started packing, yet, but we'll soon be on our way to new adventures.
Another e-mail came today explaining that the embassy's computers were down for a while. Therefore, they had not received our confirmation of the time for the interview on May 20th. Now, the appointment is set for the same time (11:00 a.m. Pacific time) next Tuesday, May 27. May I say that I am confidently hesitant ?
Well, we waited for our call for the interview. And, we waited. And, we waited. And, we waited. (I think we spent about three days waiting this afternoon!) Then, we e-mailed to suggest times on Thursday or Friday. So, we wait some more.
We now have an appointment for our residency interview. It will be with someone from the South African embassy in Washington, D.C. The time will be 11:00 a.m. PDT (2:00 p.m. EDT) on Tuesday, May 20. We're still not really sure what to expect, but we'll find out in just a few days.
Last evening was the last Awana meeting for this academic year. If you're not familiar with Awana, it is an international organization that works with children within the framework of churches. Gloria and Allen have worked with many kids over a number of years. We had really mixed emotions for our closing night. We were glad for a great turnout of kids and parents, but we realized that it was our last opportunity to serve in this ministry. There was a great group of kids this year, and we'll miss them.
Well . . . May 9 has come . . . and just about gone. We did not get the phone call that we have been expecting since March. I guess we wait some more . . . and keep expecting. We're a little disappointed. If we don't hear anything by the middle of next week, we will try tracking down someone who may know something.
May has arrived! That means, among other things, that soon we will have an interview with the South African Consulate as part of the process of obtaining the permanent residency permit. We should receive a call on May 9th to set up an appointment for the following week.
In anticipation of our move to Kokstad, we have been thinking about buying a new laptop computer. Of course, it will be much more portable than the desktop that we have. So, I have been checking the Internet and computer stores for several weeks. Today, I made the purchase. The checking account is currently writhing in pain! It was major surgery without the benefit of anesthesia!
Waiting can be difficult, especially if you're an antsy guy who likes for things to happen yesterday. We're in a waiting mode right now. Others have been asking us what is happening with our move to Kokstad, and all we can say is that we are waiting for our interview for the residency permit. It will still be about a month away. We should be receiving a phone call on May 9 to set up an appointment for the following week for a telephone interview.
We are waiting for an interview appointment with the South African Consulate. The interview is the next required step in the application process for a permanent residency permit.