Thursday, May 31, 2007

Kruger Park and Swaziland

After singing every night for a week, we were ready for a break. We traveled by bus from the Joburg area north east to Kruger National Park. Before entering the park, we sang a fireside for a local branch nearby. Firesides have been one of my favorite parts of the tour. We basically sing our sacred music for local members of the church and share our testimonies. It's also a great opportunity for missionary work. Many church members bring investigators and friends to our firesides. The firesides have also greatly strengthened my testimony because I see the strength of the church in another country besides my own. I have finally realized that the church really is worldwide. I feel at home in their chapels and in their meetings. I recognize the Spirit there and feel the strength of their testimonies.

After the fireside, we entered the park and spent the night at the lodge. We work early the next morning to begin our safari. I was so excited! I felt like a little kid visiting the zoo except that this time there were no fences or fake scenery. We were entering their homelands. Our tour guide drove us around in a jeep while we snapped pictures and giggled at the live animals. I saw everything I had hoped to see except for leopards and hyenas but apparently they're hard to spot. I hope you enjoy the pictures. I also took a number of videos that I'll have to share later. The safari lasted all day as our tour guide took us far out into the park and told us story after story. He was an old, grizzled man who knows the park like the back of his hand. He's been doing it for 50 years.

Back at the lodge, we swam, ate, and rested. The lodge is actually quite cheap. Actually, touring in this country isn't that expensive. It's just the cost of the flights down here that would stop me from coming again. The next day we spent traveling to our next city of destination, Durban. We had to pass through a country within a country: Swaziland. This independent country is mostly all black and quite poor. It's ruled by a monarchy government. But it sure is beautiful. We made one stop in the country to eat and sing for one of their primary schools. Once again, their beautiful children loved hearing us sing and they sang for us in return.

We traveled all day and finally got to Durban where the mission president of the Durban mission hosted us to our first braai which is a South African barbeque. We ate and drank to our fill and then met our host families. My family actually never showed up. I ended up staying along with another tenor with the mission president and his wife. After staying with native host families, it was quite a surprise to be staying with an American family. It was weird because I felt at home right away with them.

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