Watching conference is very different here in Africa. First of all, we are 9 hours ahead of Utah, so when the meeting starts at 6:00 PM, it is 3:00 AM the next day for us. I debated if I wanted to wake up early and watch it or just watch it later. I ended up watching it on Sunday evening after church. I went to LDS.org and right there just hours after the conference, I was able to watch it online. It was a very different setting than I have done in the past, but it was a very personal and spiritual experience for me. One that I won't forget. I loved that they focused on Faith, Charity, and the Doctrine of Christ. It was exactly what I needed to hear as a missionary in Africa.
This coming weekend is General Conference, and again, it will be very different. We will be having testimony meeting in one of the branches here, and then watching it the next weekend, on October 8th and 9th. Our missionaries in the Kampala and Jinja Stakes will watch it at the Stake Centers, and the mission branches will watch it at their church buildings. Some of the branches in Rwanda and Ethiopia will have interpreters, because a lot of the members don't understand English. I know we are all looking forward to hearing from our church leaders, prophets, and apostles, and our missionaries are inviting as many people as they can to come listen to conference. We are so blessed to have the technology to see conference online as it's happening, or shortly thereafter in our own meeting houses. I will always be grateful for the convenience of living in Utah, and driving to the Conference Center, or watching it on TV next to the fireplace in my own home.
Funny story... I have been in Africa for three months now. I thought the bugs here were supposed to be huge. I have seen a lot of bugs, but they have been very small. The ants, mosquitos, and even house flies are so much smaller than they are in Utah. I kept thinking that although they are small, they pull a big punch... Malaria, jiggers, intestinal problems, etc. Well a few days ago I saw something running across my floor. At first I thought it was a mouse. But then realized it was a cockroach! It was at least 1 1/2 to 2 inches long! And about an inch thick! It was huge!! It stopped in the middle of my floor. President Collings was in the middle of an important phone call. I am not one that is afraid of bugs, or spiders... At all! But this was not a bug, it was a MONSTER! Haha. I found a glass in the kitchen and put it over the cockroach, and immediately it ran in circles around the glass so fast!! It was even running up the side of the glass. I usually let bugs outside, I don't like to squish them, so I got a piece of paper and slid it between the glass and the floor, and picked it up. As I got to the front door, it was locked.... I had to get a key to open the door. As I was laying the glass down, the paper folded slightly and the cockroach got out and started running up my arm. I SCREAMED!! (Several times haha) Remember, my husband was on an important phone call... It fell to the floor and started to run, but I used the paper to block it each way it ran, and got the glass on it again. I left it on the floor and unlocked the door. I carried it outside to the security guard and told him there was an intruder in my house that he needed to kill. Thankfully, he did his job well and squished the bug. It was pretty funny. I guess I wasn't deceived, there are HUGE bugs here in Uganda! Haha. They came and sprayed the house a couple of days later!
We went to Ethiopia this week. Last time we were here, we were going to go to a restaurant where there was singing and dancing, but I ended up getting a migraine, and was so disappointed. The night we arrived in Ethiopia, I finally got to experience that. It was so fun. This restaurant serves enjeru, which we really enjoy, but also, there is singing and dancing the entire evening. The performers do songs and dances from all different countries in Africa. They were so fun! When you eat enjeru, it is with your hands. At the beginning and end of the meal, the waiter brings out a pitcher of water and soap, and while you are rubbing the soap on your hands, he pours the pitcher of water over your hands right there at the table. The atmosphere was wonderful. We really enjoyed the evening.
We had zone conference the next day with our zone in Ethiopia. Again, the zone leaders did training. They did a wonderful job, and the spirit was very strong. We have such good elders serving in Ethiopia. The Harlines are the senior couple serving there, and during our stay, President Collings set Elder Harline apart as a counselor in the Mission Presidency. It will be such a blessing to have a counselor in the mission presidency in Ethiopia. He will be such a support to the members of the church there. We have confidence that he will be able to follow the spirit, and help the members and missionaries in Ethiopia to progress.
While in Ethiopia, we decided to fly to Hawassa. We drove last time and it took 5 hours to get there. The flight from Addis is 25 minutes.
|Trying to watch the BYU game... it didn't go too well, he still hasn't seen it!|
It was really an interesting flight. When we were getting on the plane, there were 2 couples right in front of us, both with a baby. I'm pretty sure they hadn't been on a plane before because the two women with the babies sat in first class, and the men sat right behind them in the first row of economy. The problem was, the first row of economy was where we were supposed to sit with the Harlines (the senior couple in Ethiopia). When we tried to talk with them about it, we saw on their ticket that they were actually supposed to be on row 22. Kind of funny.
The flight was fine, and the 25 minutes went very fast, but then we started circling. The pilot got on and told us that there was fog on the runway, and they wouldn't be able to land. We circled again, waiting for the fog to lift, and then headed back to Addis. Wow! As we landed, the plane taxied to an area and stopped, and everyone just sat there in stunned silence. We weren't sure if the flight was cancelled, or if they would try to take us again. We had a very important church meeting in Hawassa in the morning, and driving at night is very dangerous (meaning you can't see the people, cattle, or terrible pot-holes in the road). So we figured if we immediately drove to Hawassa as soon as we get off the plane, we could make it just after dark. But they escorted us all to a waiting area, and said if they could, they would fly us there later. We also realized, our luggage was on the plane, so we were stuck.
After a couple of hours, they announced that it was time for us to board the plane again. We were so relieved. This was starting to remind us of our trip to Masaka earlier in the month. We were hopeful that the meeting would be powerful, and that someone was trying to stop us from getting there. Well, again, we flew to Hawassa. As we were approaching, I pointed out a city, and wondered if that was Hawassa, but we actually landed on the other side of the lake, so I was confused. As we were landing, there were people lining the landing strip just watching us land. No fence, but security guards every few feet, I guess making sure no people or animals walk out on the runway. We were on a landing strip in the middle of nowhere. They taxied to the end of the runway and just stopped. Opened the plane, and we all walked down a gravel path to the "terminal". I wish I knew we would be taking this long hike, I would have worn something different on my feet. Heels don't cut it on gravel! As we were walking this path, we passed the group of people who were walking the other direction to get on the plane.
|We wondered how temporary this really is. Haha. Notice all of our spectators, there were groups like this lining the entire runway.|
|The terminal is past the red trucks in the background. A LONG hike.|
Once we got to the terminal, which looked like two modular buildings made of cement, our bags were brought over to us in the back of a baggage cart. We just reached into the cart and grabbed our own bags.
|At the "baggage claim"|
We had a man waiting to pick us up in a van from the hotel where we would be staying. What a ride back!! Hawassa was on the other side of the lake. We drove through corn fields, through small villages, along the edge of the lake, and past herds of cattle. The road was very rutted, and there were puddles of water all over the road. This driver went so fast, Sister Harline called it Mr Toad's Wild ride. We were bouncing over bumps and going so fast through the puddles that water was spraying out from the wheels from every direction. Sometimes we would have to slow down to go past groups of people walking down the road, and the kids would put out their hands and chase the van yelling, "money, money, money!" It took about 30 minutes to get to the hotel in Hawassa. The next day as we were leaving, we had a different person driving, and it took us closer to 45 minutes. Quite a difference. Haha.
|Look how young these kids are, dealing with the donkeys.|
We met with the missionaries who are serving in Hawassa. Then they went to visit some of the branch members. There were 7 of us in all, and we were concerned that we would overwhelm them if we brought too many people to their homes, so Sister Harline and I stayed at the hotel. We were able to stream the final two talks of the Saturday morning session of conference, which was really nice.
|I snuck this picture in. President Collings with the Branch President translating.|
The next day we went to church, and the meeting was great. It was fast and testimony meeting. We and the elders had been fasting for the people in this branch. Fasting that they would reach out to each other in love and unity. There were people who came to the testimony meeting who hadn't been to church in a long time. The missionaries were so happy because the attendance at the meeting was double what it has been. They said that testimony meeting is usually very short because nobody bears their testimony. This meeting was not that way at all. It was very spiritual, and many people bore strong testimonies. After sacrament meeting, we had a special Sunday school meeting. President Collings spoke about forgiveness, repentance, and the Savior's grace. Which is not what he expected to teach on, but when you allow yourself to be led by the spirit, amazing things can happen. The miracle happened after the meeting as we saw the branch members embrace each other, and hearts soften towards each other. The branch members realize that they have every opportunity to help the church grow here, and it has everything to do with loving each other the way the Savior loves, and reaching out to those who have left.
We flew back to Addis, and then would be flying to Kampala that evening, after a 6 hour wait in the airport. We were in terminal 1 coming back from Hawassa, and we had to walk to terminal 2, the international terminal to get back to Uganda. I thought the sign was pretty funny.
|Not sure I want to go there... (Not sure he wanted me taking a picture either...)|
We thought that would be a good time to catch up on conference. It did't work. The Internet was too spotty to watch anything.
Here's another funny story, as we were going to the gate, there was a very long escalator we were supposed to take. There were 3 African girls standing at the bottom of the escalator, just looking at it. We had to kind of push our way around them, they didn't understand any English, but as we stepped on the escalator, I motioned for them to follow us. All three of them laughed and stepped on. They freaked out and one grabbed President Collings' suit jacket. I motioned for them to hold onto the handrail. After a bit, they were fine, but were laughing the whole time. Once at the top, it was hilarious watching them get off. I'm guessing it was their first time? So funny...
There had been some sort of a Muslim religious festival in Addis. They were all returning home that evening, and I saw more Muslims than I have ever seen at one time, there at the airport. We had a chance to talk with a young man, and had a really nice conversation with him. As I look around the airport, it was amazing to see the variety of cultures all in one place. Those dressed in the traditional Ethiopian dress, those dressed in African dress, Muslim, Indian, and Western. It's so fun to just take it all in.
Getting on the plane is so different. Personal space here is almost non-existent. You are taken in a bus to the airplane, and as you get off the bus, it's like a crowd of cattle getting up the steps to the airplane. You can go up the steps two people, side by side, at a time, and people are literally pushing their way in. You are being pushed from all sides, and just keep moving forward until your foot hits the steps. Walking up the steps, you are still being pushed from the back and sides. I'm sure people think I'm crazy, but I just stood in this slowly moving herd up to the plane, laughing. It was unreal.
We made it back to Kampala at 2:30 am. Now it's Monday morning, and I'm still hoping to be able to watch a few sessions of conference. We will be watching it with the branches this weekend, but I can't wait that long! We are so blessed to be here in Africa!