Day 21 – June 3, 1/4 way through my time in Africa

Today I went to the new branch I will be attending. The Branch President and his wife and children came in a taxi to pick me up. He has three girls – 5, 3, and 2 months. It’s interesting here, the baby was just laid across the mother’s lap even though the other children were climbing all over. Children here do not seem to be worried about like they are in the States. The 5 and 3 year old each took a hand and led me around the different rooms their father was showing me. It seems to be a much nicer building than the first one I attended. There is tile in the halls (outside between rooms), rather than gravel. This is great because my first week I scratched up my black patent leather heels badly and I’m hoping they’re reparable when I get back, but in the mean time this new building means I can wear heels to church instead of sandals.

The Branch is very unique in that a handful of the men speak English. One woman, Eve, who is the Primary President, also speaks English, but she is the only female who speaks well. (There are a few more women who speak a few words here and there.) She left Primary to sit with me through Relief Society today to translate and we made fast friends. She and her husband are being sealed in the Johannesburg Temple at about the same time that Jason and I will be sealed in the Logan Temple and we both thought that was so fun. She and her husband were married civilly (first) in South Africa (They lived there for 4 years while they were both in school) because the traditional weddings here are so expensive. However, her husband said he wants to marry her traditionally, which means giving her family a large dowry for her, and the ceremony is on July 7th. She has invited me to attend. Then she said I should bring a friend and when I told her about Jenny she said that she must come as well. I am very excited! We will travel with her from her mother’s house to her father’s village, which is supposedly very far away. (I don’t know what that means exactly here.) I was so honored she would include me and I am very excited to have a traditional event to wear my new African dress too.

Relief Society worked the same way as the first time. We started with 3 women at 9am and ended with 8 women at 9:50am haha We discussed  the role that women play in the Priesthood and primarily how we could encourage our husbands to be good Priesthood holders. It was interesting to have this lesson in another country. In the United States, when this topic is taught, it is always emphasized that we are equals to our husbands, etc Here, the women said that their husbands lead the home and that he should always have the final word. That we needed to listen to our husbands at all times since he has the Priesthood. There was essentially nothing mentioned on making decisions with the husband, having an opinion, sharing thoughts together, etc. I was surprised, but could see, especially based on culture, how the women here really would just take and do whatever their husbands say should be done. It was a very different opinion than what is normally mentioned in the United States. Here is a picture of the Relief Society room; this is actually a really nice one compared to some. The benches look comfortable, but I would rather sit on the metal chairs we have any day!

During Sunday School, the Branch President translated the second half for me and during Sacrament, another brother translated for me. During fast and testimony meeting, whenever the individual said “Bonjour…,” everyone else followed with “Bonjour” too. (It reminded me of Hawaii when everyone does the same thing with “Aloha.”) I have also noted that both the ward I attended and this Branch both have more male members, by far, than female members, at least out of those who are in attendance. The other interesting thing, that I’ve decided I really like, is that nursing is not a big deal here. The women are discreet, but they just nurse in whatever room they’d like. If they are in Sacrament right then, they do not leave the room, they just feed the child right there. In the United States, you will sometimes see that in Relief Society, but very rarely in mixed company. Here it doesn’t matter and the women don’t even use blankets to cover themselves. I think it is neat that nursing is just part of life here and not seen as something that must be hidden.

During Sacrament meeting, the Branch President announced my arrival to the Branch, that I would be there for 3 months, and that I spoke only English haha I was a bit red after that was announced over the pulpit. After church, everyone was very friendly and the Branch President even helped me find a taxi. I told him I was ok, but a few of the members were very frank about the fact that I was white and that I would get taken advantage of if I was not careful. These concerned members even started quizzing me to see if I knew how much I should pay from such and such place to ________ (another place). It was very sweet and supposedly I knew my prices very well 🙂 They were pleased haha

After church, I spent the afternoon reading and painting my nails. I have to admit, one of the very nice things about being here is that I can’t multi-task as much. There’s no internet at the house, no tv so no shows or news to catch up on, the telephone is expensive so I don’t talk to anyone other than Jason or my family, on occasion, since I try to save the minutes for that, you can’t really go anywhere since there is no where to go, you get strange looks just walking down the street, and taxis are much too expensive to just go for a ride to get out of the house. Therefore you are kind of forced to sit down and relax. I have not had down time like this in years. Generally I am always working on a project, paper, catching up on emails, balancing my finances, clipping coupons, planning out my schedule for the week, or the menu and shopping list for the week, etc. Here, life is much more simple. There is no multi-tasking. There is very little food to pick from so you don’t plan a menu. There is no internet, as I mentioned, so you don’t catch up on anything on the weekends. You run errands on Saturday and go to church on Sunday and all other free time is spent relaxing. I am getting through quite a few of the books from the long list I’ve been keeping haha

My fever came back again tonight. I was hoping that since I’d made it almost one and a half days without one that I was better. I have also  concluded that there is nothing worse than a cold shower/bath (squat in the bathtub to take a shower) when you have a fever, throbbing headache, chills, are already achy, etc. It just tenses everything up even more… :-/ Oh well, the fever can’t last the entire trip…

To celebrate bring 1/4 way through my time in Africa, I had a rootbeer. You cannot get rootbeer in the Congo, but one of Jenny’s CDC friends brought her a couple of cans. She doesn’t like the stuff, so I’m thrilled!

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