Monday, August 26, 2013

Goodbye South Africa. Hello America!

There are many more stories and photos to share.  Today begins a new adventure.  We have seen our last sunrise in the Southern Hemisphere.

Goodbye South Africa.  Hello America!

We are "so much grateful" (as the Africans say) for this absolutely amazing opportunity to serve Heavenly Father's children in this beautiful country. Thank you for your interest and prayers.  Please continue them until we "kiss the ground" in the good 'ole USA.

Try serving a mission.  You'll love it!

Sunday, August 4, 2013


Bryan was our safari buddy on a trip to Kruger Park.  We stayed in a hut in the Skukuza Rest Camp in what is considered the capitol of Kruger Park.  We didn’t know what to expect but we knew what we didn’t expect – to stay in a bat cave!  When we arrived just before dark, a bat had already claimed residence in our hut.  It actually flew right into Bryan’s camera when he was recording it on video. All attempts to coax it out of our living space were in vain.  We finally called the ranger for help.  Had it been the Lone Ranger, we would have been rescued.  However, the park ranger sent two African’s with a long pole with a filthy rag tied to the end of it.  They swung it back and forth over the thatched roof and succeeded only in bringing down all the dirt and bugs housed among it’s tightly wound branches.  Still, the bat eluded our efforts.  Finally, I prayed that the frightened little beast would find the exit door and he was never seen again.  Thus, the frightened big beasts could enter the hut and prepare for a night’s rest in anticipation of a day in the bush.

When dawn pointed a ray of light to our outdoor kitchen, we witnessed the pitter-patter of little feet scampering around stealing our food.  Monkeys and baboons fearlessly crashed our breakfast menu and opened the refrigerator to claim the spoils without a battle.  We were introduced to “self-catering” Africa.  We didn’t realize that it included the predator primates!

After going to a restaurant for some breakfast, hopefully uncontaminated by monkey paws, we drove out of the protection of the rest camp and into the game park.  On the way out, some overly zealous baboons taunted us and tried to jump in our windows.  We sped off having no time to stay and monkey around there.

Here are a few of the photos we captured as the animals roamed freely through the bush, across the roads and along the rivers.  One rogue elephant tuned up his trunk trumpet and belted out a sound that could only mean, “Run for your life!”  I photographed him heading for a direct hit on our windshield just as Chuck’s stunt driving enabled our escape.  That was even more thrilling than the bat attack!  The bigger they are the bigger the scare, I guess.

By the end of the day, our gratitude for this beautiful earth and its amazing Creator increased a hundred fold.  And, of course, it was all the more fun shared with the companionship of our courageous son who flew more than 50 hours to visit us.  Part of the Africa experience seems to be visiting famous Kruger National Park.  It was a fun time!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Soweto Story

Soweto is an acronym for South Western Township.  It evolved when a combination of mass migration to the Johannesburg gold mines in the thirties and the forced removal of multi-racial townships led to the creation of townships on ethnic lines.

We know and love many wonderful people in Soweto and have taught dozens of them in our Career and Self-Employment workshops.  The Soweto Stake President is our director of Welfare Services in the Area Office.  Nelson Mandela had a home in Soweto.

On one of our days off, a group of missionaries toured some historical places in Soweto.  One was a famous church, Regina Mundi (Queen of the World) which is the largest Roman Catholic Church in South Africa.  Within its walls, people took refuge during apartheid and were shot at inside the church.  There are still colored glass windows that bear the scars of those bullet holes.  We visited with school children at the church and enjoyed their happy spirits.  You can see an albino child in one of the photos that is whiter than I am.  They take care to avoid the sun whenever possible.  I suppose their skin is even more sensitive than mine.

(Michelle Obama's name on top page in the middle)
At one point, the Catholic tour guide, whose face was shaded by his “Smirnoff” cap, told me to stand at the center point on the raised area at the front of the chapel.  He made a very big deal about how sacred and special the spot was where I placed my two feet.  I expected a version of an eminent story of some spiritual being appearing on that very place.  I listened with rapt attention for the ensuing story to unfold.  Then the words came tumbling from his lips:  “Michelle Obama stood on that very spot you are standing on.”  I stepped aside and moved on.  He later proudly showed us her signature on the guest page, along with Hillary Clinton’s.  After we signed the registration page, I told the guide that he could now include in his narration that “Joy Basso walked through the church and signed the guest page.”  He wasn’t particularly impressed.  Neither was I.  The tour was all part of the Soweto story we were grateful to experience.

We also visited the Hector Peterson Memorial.  That’s an unusual name for an African compared to all of those we have met who have tribal names.  The Pitso family changed their name to Pieterson or Peterson so that they could be perceived as “colored” instead of black for the purpose of better advantages.  “Colored people” here are those who are not black and not white, such as Indians and others who are sandwiched in the “color” spectrum between black and white.  When my eye caught a glimpse of the date on the commemorative stone tribute, I wept.  It was 16 June 1976.  In the summer of 1976 America celebrated the bicentennial of our freedoms and the beginnings of the United States of America.  On 16 June 1976 our hearts were filled with joy as we celebrated the arrival of Heather, our beloved third child.  It was especially exciting for Chuck because it was our first baby born after he returned from the Viet Nam War.  He was finally allowed to be in the delivery room and be part of the welcoming committee for our beautiful, healthy daughter.  He held her close and wept.  We both did!

As we celebrated the joyful birth of our daughter, parents on the other side of the world were mourning the death of their son.  On the very same day in South Africa, black youth rioted for what they felt were more favorable educational opportunities and police responded with tear gas and live bullets.  One of the first students to be mortally wounded was 13 year-old Hector Pitso/Pierterson/Peterson.  He became the symbol of the Soweto uprising.  June 16th is a holiday here called “National Youth Day” and is commemorated as a memorial day to remember those precious young people who were killed trying to bring attention to their cause.  The black and white photograph of Hector’s lifeless body is etched in the minds of all who view it.

Today more than 1.3 million people call Soweto home.  Many of those homes still have no indoor plumbing and use a common outdoor water spigot.  Christianity is the main religion in the township and many churches can be found there that meet in large tents or marquees, as they called.  A photo is included of the first LDS Chapel built in the area.  Some of the original church pioneers still exist in that area and have happy hearts and tender testimonies.  They will forever be part of the Soweto story.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Three Planets Lined Up in a Celestial Triangle

Rare Spectacular Triple Planet Conjunction

While working in Gaborone, Botswana, I saw an amazing three-planet show starring Venus, Jupiter and Mercury.  It reminded me of “Three Stars Will Shine Tonight,” the theme song of a popular TV show back in the day called “Dr. Kildare.”

In the early evening, I walked out on the roof of our hotel to observe the sunset.  There, I met a star-gazing couple cuddled up on a bench.  The man was looking at his iPad with an astrology app mapping the western sky.  When I heard their American accents, a conversation ensued that revealed he worked for the State Department.  The girl had graduated from Cerritos High School where Chuck and I had taken a ceramics class many years ago.  She had attended Cerritos College across the street from the Stake Center where we attended church for 37 years.  It’s a small world in this vast universe God created!

Triple conjunctions are relatively rare, according to NASA.  Mercury is 105 million miles from Earth, Venus is more than 150 million miles away, and Jupiter is a whopping 565 million miles away.  It was exciting to see this heavenly phenomenon that was so bright that I could see it even with my nearsighted, blurry, unaided vision.  Right before the three planets appeared, a “fireball” with two tails could be seen.  I loved seeing three bright planets and meeting two nice friends.

Friday, June 21, 2013

South Africa Has the Largest Mosque in the Southern Hemisphere

The Nizamiye Turkish Mosque is the brainchild of Ali Katircioglu, better known as “Uncle Ali,” a Turkish businessman who singlehandedly funded the R210 million mosque or about R1.3 billion for the entire complex.  You see him in the following photo with us.  He was very kind to us and invited us for “tea” in his special room where he entertains the world’s presidents.  We declined the tea but enjoyed visiting in the VIP room.  The guide that took us through the tour of the ornate complex said that some visitors appear somewhat hostile.  He said that when he approached us, he felt a great peace and knew that he would have a good experience with us.  It was an enriching time for all of us.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Last (spider-bitten) Leg of the Journey

It was so much fun having Bryan visit us.  I was getting homesick for the family so seeing Bryan was a great blessing.  His visit gave me the hope I needed to survive our final stretch of service here in Africa.  Everywhere we went, people loved Bryan and wanted to talk to him.  He took us on some wonderful adventures that we would not have otherwise been able to enjoy.  I’m slow getting photos processed and experiences ready for posting because on the final leg of our adventure in the bush country, I was bitten on my legs by a flesh-eating spider and a giant African tick.  I became deathly ill and required divine intervention to survive.  I was fearful of being bitten by a malaria-carrying mosquito as I am a mosquito magnet, but was unsuspectingly devoured by one of the multitude of spiders we encountered.  I was treated with Malaria medicine that seemed at times to exacerbate the symptoms.  As I endured the darkest and most difficult night to hang onto life I heard these strains of music and the words went through my aching head.

“Abide with me, ‘tis eventide,
And lone will be the night
If I cannot commune with thee
Nor find in thee my light
The darkness of the world, I fear,
Would in my home abide.
O Savior stay this night with me;
Behold, ‘tis eventide.”

I felt a calming presence with me throughout the night.  “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”  When the sun rose after the darkest night, I put my left hand across my right forearm and thought, “Hooray!  I’m still clothed with mortality!"  I was cool.  My many days and nights of pain and fever had finally subsided and I was on the mend.  

Thanks to prayers, priesthood blessings and ultimately the tender mercies of a loving Father in Heaven, I am finally well, though am still struggling to regain my full strength.  I’m grateful, so grateful to have lived to tell about it.  So I’ll be playing “catch up” for awhile regarding this leg of the journey here in magnificent Africa.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Bryan in the Lion's Den

We arrived at the Lion Park early in the morning and chose to drive our own vehicle through the game park.  This location is the home of the famous and rare white lions that have starred in several films.  The big cats are thrilling to see “up close and personal” - too personal at times.  The other animals there were the bonus part of the package.  It was fun to visit with a friendly giraffe and note that some of God’s creations are taller than Bryan!