Savoring Southern Africa Sights

Missionaries from across West Africa traveled to South Africa for an encouraging and refreshing conference last week. Three friends, Sharon, Judy, and Annette, and I decided to take advantage of the occasion to savor the spectacular Victoria Falls and a safari in Botswana before the conference, which was in picturesque Cape Town. God provided some amazing sightings of a wide variety of animals and beautiful sights during those memorable days! I love seeing God’s majesty and creativity in the things He has created! Just as fun was photographing it all, as I had gotten a new long lens just for this trip and learned a lot from my pro-photographer colleague, Judy.

Our adventures began in Victoria Falls. We enjoyed the beauty of the worlds largest waterfall from the air and from the ground. Fun fact: The local tribe’s name for the falls means “The Smoke That Thunders” because of the continual mist that fills the roaring waterfall and creates a constant rain, along with rainbows, along the falls.

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Our safari started right on the hotel grounds, where monkeys played in the trees and baboons, warthogs, and even elephants wandered around the town.

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From there it was on to Botswana!

We have hippos in Mango, but I’ve never seen them so close up! DSC_5382

Often found near water, these antelope called red lechwe ran like the wind and leapt unbelievably high in the air over the water.

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Giraffes often dotted the landscape as we toured the bush.

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Zebra were also plentiful. One day we stopped at a water hole and multiple dazzles of zebra showed up over at least a half hour. Even our guide was excited about seeing so many of them! Hundreds of animals just kept on coming, each group taking turns to drink and run or even fight in the water. DSC_2929

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From the deck of our second camp, we could watch huge herds of elephants passing by. This one included a baby elephant that was likely less than two weeks old.

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This young elephant is “putting on sunscreen,” as our guide liked to say.

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The warthog is one of “The Ugly 5” (a list that’s a spin-off on the Big 5). But I think they’re kind of cute and so funny when they run!

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Wildebeest are another of the Ugly 5. We actually saw all 5 on the list (the others are the hyena, marabou stork, and vulture).

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We spotted (pun intended) this leopard crossing the road and followed him for a while. He was hunting impala and was trying to sneak around unseen.

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Impala, a.k.a. lion snacks, gathering in the shade of a tree during a hotter time of day.

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We saw many lions during our drives. This one was part of a pride of 7 or 8, including several adolescents. We watched the whole group playing in the grass just before sunset on our first day. It surprised me that we could drive up right next to lions in our open vehicle and they would not bother us. Apparently, they do not see six very vulnerable individual humans in a vehicle, but instead they see a large vehicle as one “animal” and think it’s too big for them to attack.

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Later on, we came across this majestic male lion hunting a herd of cape buffalo. Three times he started racing after the beasts, but he couldn’t made a kill.

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These are the cape buffalo our lion friend had his eye on. They were very aware of his presence and stayed alert but were a little stuck between him and a swamp.

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This beautiful antelope is called a kudu. Each twist of his horns grows over two years, so this guy is six years old.

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We came across this pack of wild dogs running along the road. They have intriguing markings and big round ears.

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Each evening after sunset we would search for nocturnal animals as we made our way back to camp. One evening we spotted this, an animal I didn’t know existed until then. It’s called an aardwolf, and it is such a rare animal that the last time our guide saw one was 15 years ago.

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This guy is called an eagle owl, which is the biggest owl in Africa.

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There were so many beautiful birds along the way, but I won’t bore you with pictures of all of them. The multi-colored bird on the left is the Lilac-Breasted Roller, and they were so plentiful we just started calling them LBR’s for short. The one on the right is a bee-eater. Birds

This is a red-billed hornbill. They were also very common, so we started calling them flying chili peppers!

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Small wonders: a butterfly on a pretty flower.

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We prayed for days to see a cheetah, but up until our last 24 hours it seemed like God wasn’t going to answer that prayer. Then we came across three of them on our last evening, a mom with two adolescents! The next day we saw the family again! They were searching for a meal but didn’t get close enough to an impala to make a run for one. Not 30 minutes later we stumbled upon three adolescent cheetahs laying on the side of the road!

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From Botswana, we headed to Cape Town to join up with all the other ABWE missionaries from West Africa. This was the view from our hotel as we enjoyed time fellowshipping together away from our usual work, and growing in God’s Word.

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We enjoyed opportunities during the week to get away together and enjoy God’s creation. A friend and I climbed up Table Mountain while our other colleagues took the easy way (cable cars). In this view from the top, you can see Cape Point off in the distance.

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And this is Cape Point close-up.

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Some of my friends and colleagues at Cape Point.

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Just because we had left Botswana doesn’t mean we were done seeing animals! A short boat ride brought us to hundreds of seals sunning themselves and swimming on an island just off the coast.

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South Africa is home to a large penguin colony, and we got to watch these cute birds waddling and swimming at the beach.

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Spectacular Southern Scenery

The region around Tsiko, home of the southern hospital, HBB, is filled with jaw-dropping beauty! While taking some time away from Mango, I love seeing evidence of God’s creative hand as I enjoy His creation.

Most mornings around sunrise, I take a hike up the mountain just beside the hospital. The sunrises and views often interrupt my exercise with their beauty!

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The mountains are sprinkled with bright red flowers this time of year.

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Another thing we don’t have in Mango is waterfalls, so I enjoy seeing them when I am in the south. This small waterfall is a short, easy walk from the hospital.

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And this waterfall, the tallest in Togo, required a treacherous ride down a deteriorating road followed by an hour and a half hike up and then down a mountain. It was a great Saturday trip with a couple of friends!

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Here’s a view of the top of that waterfall as we descended the mountain towards the base:

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The mountain views from this hike were equally spectacular!

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Rainy Season in Mango

Rainy season is my favorite time of year! For June, July, and August, the temperatures are usually quite comfortable (for Mango anyway), and the landscape turns a brilliant green.

I just love the way dew drops cling to the grass!

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These grasshoppers are so pretty, I always think God was working His creative skills with a fine-tipped paintbrush when He created these guys!

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Big beautiful baobab trees come in all kinds of twisted shapes!

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It took wading through a thigh-high overflowing creek with our bikes to get to this long lake out in the bush.

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This is the closest thing you’ll find to a forest around Mango. Elsewhere they are cutting trees faster than they can grow but these trees are protected.

Moved in!

Woo hoo, I am finally living in my new house after the better part of a year working on it! The porch in the picture below will soon be screened in, just in time for mosquito season.

 

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Living room (with lots of extra space for having company!):

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Kitchen (at least three times the size of the cubby-hole kitchen I had been using!):

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Solar panels on the garage roof (No more power outages, I feel so spoiled!):

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The dépendance-almost ready for the arrival of short-term nurses in a few weeks!

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This is the living room/kitchen in the dépendance. I’m thankful for a Togolese guy who is building the cabinets!

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So now I’m ready to give you a place to stay if you ever want to come out to Mango for a visit!

 

Construction Update: Almost there!

Things are really starting to come together on my home!

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Paint on the walls, tile on the floor, electric ready to go, plumbing nearly completed…just a few steps left before I can live in the house!

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They’ve started putting stone on the exterior, it’s a maintenance-free and beautiful material collected from mountains a couple hours from Mango.

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The big project being wrapped up soon is putting a tin roof over top the slab roof, that will keep the house cool since the tropical sun won’t touch the concrete.

 

Installing tile and concrete floors in the dépendance

Construction Update: Details, Details…

My house is starting to look more and more move-in ready, although many details still remain.

P1050224Crepissage (plastering using cement)

Tiling: First they mix sand and cement, then add water as they place the tile.

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Before cabinets could be installed, the backsplash tile had to be mounted and the walls painted.

Kitchen Cabinets! I am thankful a friend from my home church, Mike, could come out and build and install the cabinets. I pitched in with a lot of sanding and varnishing when I could.

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Septic tank: My property includes about 12 inches of loose dirt, beneath that is an extremely hard rock called laterite. This guy put weeks of back-breaking labor into breaking that rock up!

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Tin roof: This week they are setting up pillars that will support the tin roof which will keep the sun from baking the house.

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OK, this has nothing to do with construction! This was one of the last flowers to lend its beauty to the landscape before everything dried up and turned brown. We won’t see another drop of rain for several months.

Construction Update: Pouring the Slab Roof

Preparing for the big day: The masons arrange concrete blocks on the roof, then the electrician arranges all the electric conduit. 

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Dozens of workers descend on the construction site to get the whole slab done in one day. Some haul the sand, gravel, cement, and water, others fill the buckets with the mixed cement and pass them up to others on the roof. 

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My job for the day was getting a meal together for workers-I recruited some friends to help!  

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The finished product! The concrete has to be watered for a few days. 

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Masons pouring the floors

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Now that the shell is up, the workers been making door frames, cementing them into place, and putting plaster on the walls. So much has been done, yet so much work yet to go! 

Construction Update-August 2017

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This is the dépendance (apartment) going up. It will have two bedrooms with bathrooms and a living/kitchen area (which is the farthest away) where short-termers can live.

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This is the dépendance again, several weeks later. They will soon be pouring the floor and then the roof.

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How do you pour cement high off the ground? One bucket at a time!

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To prepare for tons of cement being poured on the roof, the workers mount a frame upheld by wooden posts.

 

 

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After all the electric conduit and some plumbing are installed, things will be ready for the roof to be poured! 

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This might not be construction related, but I can’t resist sharing some of the beauty of the Mango countryside! I came across this beautiful big tree on a recent bike ride.

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A lovely rainbow over the hospital last month, reminding us of God’s faithfulness.

 

The Beauty of Rainy Season

I love this season when the rains produce lush green in the savanna around Mango!

P1040483P1040494.JPGLadies washing laundry and getting water at a nearby lake

P1040503.JPGThese perfect little flowers grow on a plant that produces the rennet-like liquid used to make local cheese.

Butterfly-Bird of Paradise 2.JPGThe bushes I planted at my property a year ago have grown and are producing bright flowers that attract dozens of butterflies.