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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Jan. 21, 2015.
    Holy Moses, but time has flown. It is already almost three weeks since the last blog and lots of water over (or under ) the dam. Well, here goes...During that first week of Jan. I went down to Mthatha to celebrate the final  vows of Sr. Pauline Makoro whose first assignment is to be the "farm manager" of the convent of Glen Avent. Usually most youngsters don't want to get their hands dirty but his young woman has earth blood in her veins and will happily take the place of Sr. Ignatia (she was still driving the tractor at 83 yrs. of age) who felt that she could now die, which she did, because Pauline was there to take her place.
     I stayed with Fr. Guy and the boys at Sabelani while I moved around Lansend and Bedford to see how things are going there. Because of your generosity, I was able to help Nothemba at landsend with help for tuition for two of her kids. I also was able to help Sinovuyo with his sewing project. He is determined to make a living for himself and help others to learn as well through his sewing and designing of carrier bags, Afro-shirts, and just about anything else you want to order. He deserves support. Also I was able to help Nomonde with some funds for servicing her car and helping to pay off some other debts. She is overloaded with problems. Hopefully she can retire in two or three years and go back to running her preschool. She is a fantastic teacher. Siyamthanda is doing well in her studies and that was the big concern for Nomonde. She is still trying to swallow the tragic death of her son Lita.
     The Bedford project which was meant to generate income for our province is going along but needs more input from the Mthatha community, I think. Fr. Guy and his guys helped once more by cutting the grass so that people are happy to live in what is like a nice park with mown lawns and lots of nice trees.
     A friend and board member of Sabelani Home invited Guy and I to lunch one day as we all were, happily, together before heading off in our different directions again. But he had a trick up his sleeve. After the lunch, which included a few mutual friends and Fr. Malinga, our canon lawyer, who came up to join us for a day or two, Mr. Rod Allen, representing the Rotary International presented to Guy and me a kind of citation that recognizes the work that we have done in the Mthatha community in trying to uplift and improve the life of the Mthatha community. Fr. Guy is the one who deserves it much more than me. Guy would never have come if he had known that Rod had this trick up his sleeve. It is also interesting to note that the
Church never recognized the contribution that Guy made through Sabelani home and its activities for the community, nor did Mariannhill, the religious community that we both belong to , recognize his work with the community. It had to take a civic organization, with its eyes open to what Guy was doing there at Sabelani home and in the neighborhood, and to encourage its continuation by paying this tribute to Guy, e.g. the Rotary International. Some achievement. So much for our church and religious communities.
     After the return to MD (Mater Dolorosa--the retirement home here at Mariannhill), I managed to terminate my contract with Mweb since it was costing me R299 a month for unlimited access to the internet, which was beautiful, but which had the hitch that the MTN signal here is so poor that it couldn't be used. I filled in the form that was given to me earlier but when I took it back to that office they said it was no longer done that way but had to be done on the internet. Ha! More fun and games. After an hour on the phone to try to get things moving in that direction, I was told to enter my password. Have you ever had that experience. Hell's teeth. It is two years since I opened that contract and I don't even remember having a password. After jumping through a few more hoops, we finally got that done. Now i have to make sure by phoning them that they really and actually termnate the contact and stop relieving my account of the R299 a month. They will continue unless you follow up and stop them
     I also stopped to visit a few families along the way on my way back from Mthatha and renewed old friendships that go as far back as 1966. I think that is my feminine side coming out. I really appreciate and treasure relationships. 
     I was also involved in a beautiful house blessing (the parish priest whom I help by taking his outstation several times a month did the job with me accompanying him with a pail full of holy water and a big brush used when laying blocks for a sprinkler, you would have laughed). We blessed, I am sure, at least 6 bedrooms, each with en suite bathrooms, toiilets and showers, and lots of other rooms. It was the biggest house I have ever been in in Africa. The woman whom I have known since she was a kid, who is now the wife of the owner, came from the typical 4 room township house together with her 7 siblings and parents. So this is really an achievement for her. I am sure that with the customary extended family, many of those rooms will soon be put to good use.
    I also managed , with several hitches, to get a new contract for R69 a month (instead of R299 a
month) for 1 GB a month, which, I think, will be sufficient for me. I had to go back three times to have some corrections and adjustments made to the modem but it is finally working now. How can we live today without access to email, Google, etc.???
    Yesterday I went back to the eye doctor who took the pressure in my eyes and found that it has come down dramaticallly and she (they  and me) is happy with the low, low pressure, thanks to the drops I put in each night. But, another cataract in the left eye is starting to grow and it won't be long before I will need that done as well. We shall wait and see.
     I saw the most horrible photo, gruesome, that I have ever seen in my life yesterday while I was looking for information about the saint of the day. I don't know how I got onto this but there was an article about ISIS and how it is trying to frighten the Christians in its path into becoming Muslims. There as a photo taken of a group of these ISIS people, holding a woman down while they were cutting her throat and catching the blood running out of her neck into a bowl on the floor. Ugly, gruesome. Hard to believe. I can't get that picture out of my mind. Another picture, almost as bad shows a father lifting up his 8 yr. old child, with a beautiful dress, but without a head. It had been cut off. Oh my God! We are told, over and over again, that we abhor violence and that violence begets violence, but can one just stand by and let this happen? Holy Moses!
    The Pope is making headlines these days with his nuancing of contraception and encouraging, so it seems, peolple to use their heads when it comes to planning an economically viable family (we are not, he said, expected to breed like rabbits, or something like that). We will have to see where this goes. I was also touched to see how he was moved to hug the little girl who asked him how God could allow such terrible things to happen to little children who were innocent, like her, who had to eat out of garbage cans and sleep on  a piece of cardboard while fighting off pimps who want to exploit her or get he onto drugs. Her life, she said, was a nightmare. The Pope tried to explain about suffering, but what can you say to a hurting and suffering child to take the hurt away. An attempt at explaining, philosiphically or theologically, the deeper meaning of suffering is going to do what???
We know that God hates the suffering ten million times more than we but how do you help to hearl this poor child.
     Hey, I have been asked to go to the hospital to anoint several people who may be taking the last few steps of their journey here on earth. What a privilege to accompany them like this and to remind them that the need not be afraid. A loving father, a forgiving father, a compassionate father, is waiting for them with open arms. Have a great 2015. Cas.


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Blog-Jan. 2, 2015
Hey, but I want to swear. I was updating my blog and got to the end of November 2014 when I punched the wrong key, whatever it was, and it just wiped out everything that I had put in for the past half hour. Damn! Excuse the expletive. I am tempted to just leave it but I am already so far behind, that won’t help. So here goes.
   I am using MS Word because I know how to get something back in case I do something like that. With Google, email, etc. no such luck. It just goes forever. I will just paste this when I am finished.
    November was grass cutting month. Lots of rain so lots of grass growth. I usually start at 5am and go till 6:30 and then again, after the morning dishes, from 9am to 10:30. It’s best then because it isn’t that hot then. Once or twice I continued in the afternoon but that was pushing it. It meant about 4 ½ hrs. of cutting a day. I get tired but it is good for me. Keeps my back in shape. I taught one of the novices, Palabre, a Mozambican, to use the Weed eater, as Stihl, great machine. I did so reluctantly but was pushed because there is lots to cut and I have other things to do as well. But I take my beloved machine like my wife, and no one sleeps with her but me. I have had experience of loaning it to someone who claims to know about machines and wound up paying more than R1000 each time. However, he seems to be doing OK. However, the novices get shifted around so one never knows when he is going to come again. I think that he was here maybe 5 times since we started. Not enough.
     I also have 4 steady customers for hair cutting. No one has run away yet or has died or been humiliated. One of them is my African Brother, Brother Lloyd. His is the easiest. All off. Clean as a cue ball. He is a satisfied customer.
     I had some funny stuff going on on my right arm and went to our family doctor. He gave me a prescription for some salve but after a week or so it got worse instead of better so I had to find a dermatologist. Dr. Naidu. At first he thought that it was just the result of too much sun, but I told him that my left arm was out in the same sun but was quite OK. At first he was going to have me put on some stuff for his first assessment but then, he had a re-think, and took me into another office and scraped a bit of skin off my arm and the back of my neck, put it on a slide and took a look at it through a miscroscope (just like the old days) and told me it was ringworm. It is not a worm but a fungus that can be picked up anywhere. He gave me a prescription for some salve and some really ugly bitter tasting pills. It did the trick and  within 10 days, that fungus was killed dead.
     I also had my annual prostate checkup and came out clean as a whistle. No cancer. Good steady stream.
     I gave a short workshop on Stress the last Saturday of November. Ha. I asked how do you spell stress. It was from 9am to about 12:30. About 15 people. The liked it and thought that I am some kind of fundi but really they were the ones who explained how they cope with stress and what causes it. I just co-ordinated the responses. I did show them one way of meditating (when we drew up a list of how people deal with stress, they all came up with the first two, e.g. prayer and meditation). It is called the prayer of quiet. Usually a half hour,at least, or more if you can and have the time. I will explain it another time. but it is one of the best stress relievers I know, even though I don’t think much about stress.
     I had helped Mike Pillay to get his car running again after some major work on it and it is now running smoothly and well. But it is an old old thing and it is just a matter of time before something else happens. Mike is the leader of our Zulu community at Savannah Park and uses it to take old people to the hospital and other places and to visit the sick etc. I wish I had the money to get his some decent transport.
     I also manage to fetch the material that I had ordered for the sisters at Mthatha. The senior citizens, pensioners, are trying to make school uniforms and they need material. Estie Naidoo is a first class sower and knows all the places. We managed to order 120 metres of Navy Blue and 80 metres of sky blue. After several weeks, I phoned and he said it is ready come and fetch it. Now my Hyundai is about the size of a large wheelbarrow, but, when I put the seats down, We managed to get it all in. I took it to the convent here at Mariannhill so that when some of the sisters from Mthatha come, they can take it along.
    The last day of November, the 30th, we had a home mass at Estie Naidoo’s house for the Gabriel family and their spouses. November it the month when we remember all our deceased loved ones. After the service, I asked the guys to get my car out from the front of the queue (there  were at least 4 behind it in the driveway.) Someone noticed that I was trying to leave and they came and told me that I had to wait to cut the cake. What cake and for what? Ha! They had heard that my birthday was on the 28th and had a surprise party after the mass. I had no trouble blowing out the candles (I quit smoking  when I was in jail), but, lo and behold, the candles kept relighting. Ha! A dirty trick for an old man. We had a good laugh.
   So that was November, more or less. Lots of visits to hospitals in between. (I am going to stop now and will pick this up after supper.)
Ha! After supper. It is now Jan. 6th and I am in Mthatha to attend the final vows of Sr. Pauline who is a dyed-in-the-wool farm girl. She did agriculture and is one of the few young people who want to work with the soil. I am staying with Fr. Guy who is winding down Sabelani before he returns to Canada in March to see what he will do in the future.
So, here is Deccember 2014, in a nutshell
Dec. 3-4, Fr. Guy and Fr. Winfried visit me from Mthatha and I take them around Durban to do some shopping etc. Very nice. Also some visits to the sick at home in the afternoon
Dec. 5-confessions for retreatants at Retreat house. I am here in the monaster
y complex so when those who organize retreats need someone to help with confessions, I am  a logical person as I am here already.
Dec. 7, Mass and recollection at St. Mary’s hospital
Dec. 8, special mass and confessions at a nearby all Indian parish called Villankani, Our Lady of Health. I am helping out because the pastor is not well and his assistant is gone. A spare wheel comes in handy now and then.
Eye doctor, grass cutting, hair cuts and hospital visits in between.
Dec. 12, my brother’s birthday. I also took a box of cookies (Christmas gift)  to the laundry ladies who slave away in terrible heat and no one remembers their work for us.
Dec. 13. Baptism of Chisanga, the granddaughter of Theresa Chisanga who is head of the English Dept. at the University in Mthatha. This is the happiest, smiliest child I have ever seen. She delighted us all.
Dec. 17, Wedding of Nonhlanla Mabaso and Methenjwa Ngwenya. I have known Nonhlanhla and her family for donkeys years and it was a real celebration of joy. An all Zulu affair except for myself and the parish priest and his secretary, but no one thought about that because we were too immersed in the joy and happiness of the occasion. The parish priest asked me to preach in  Zulu as he knows Zulu but doesn’t feel comfortable preaching. Ha, I march in where angels fear to tread. I was moved by the Holy Spirit and sang them a song—Love one another, as I have loved you! They were happy and surprised and so was I . I had no intention of doing that. It just came.
Dec. 18, the court case of the murder of one of our priests, Fr. Ernst Ploechl. It was to be the sentencing of the 4 accused but turned out to be the final plea for leniency from the defenant’s lawyers and a plea for the full weight of the law from the Prosecutor. The final verdict came the next day when I was unable to be there because of other commitments. They have already been in jail, awaiting sentencing, for 5 yrs. so the sentences were, I thought, light. 10 yrs. for three and 7 yrs. for the one who planned the crime (stealing lots of money), but wasn’t there when the priest was murdered.
Dec. 20th, another baptism, some people who were having a family gathering from all over the place including Uruguay, Vienna, Australia, etc.  How do I get roped into these things???
Dec. 21. After Mass at Savannah Park, on the way home, my engine is overheating and I have to stop at least three times to let it cool off before I can limp home. It puts a crimp in my plans. I am afraid to drive the vehicle and put in several bottles of water. I ask a friend about what to do. I happens that I intend to visit someone who needs a visit in Durban and I am hoping that I can make it if I just keep stopping along the way. He asks where I am going and then says that his workshop is just down the road from there to bring the vehicle to him and he will see what he can do. Drama. To cut things short, he winds up taking the thermostat out and I have to limp home, on the expressway, stopping several times along the way but make it home OK. But now it is Christmas eve and all places are closed. I get picked up for the Christmas Eve mass as I don’t trust the car especially worried about getting stuck at night on the road.
Dec. 25, After mass at the hospital at 11am I visit two families and join in the festivities, including jumping in a swimming pool. The temperature was 43C, e.g. about 110 F. Holy Moses, it was hot.
But at the second family visit, another friend has a look at the troubling radiator and advises me to turn on the heater when I notice that the temp is going up and it will suck the heat away from the engine and help me to get where I want to go without having to stop. It works and I get home. But he says that I should bring the car to him the  next day and he will clean out the radiator and engine, and he does, and after that it is much improve.
    In between all this, I have visitors and mange to drive them around without any major difficulties.
Dec. 28, Sunday. Two Masses. One in the late morning at Savannah Park, mostly Zulu and the other at 5pm in Pinetown, all English ( a kind of relief because I can tell jokes that people will understand).
Dec. 29, I take the car to Silverton Radiators who test it and find that there Is nothing wrong with the radiator (it has been thoroughly cleaned with a pressure hose, as well as the engine), so they fit a new radiator cap and put in some coolant, and since then it runs like a champion.
    I am too wordy, but you get the picture. Never a dull moment. I had a Mass at Savannah Park at 6pm on New year’s eve. Unusual, but a good start to somehow counteract all the nonsense that will be going on that night.
   More hospitals visits and the old year ends.
I come to Mthatha to celebrate with the sister who will be taking her final vows today, Sr. Pauline. She will be taking the place of Sr. Ignatia who was still driving a tractor at 83yrs of age. Pauline will take her place in providing the convent with all the veg etc. that they need.

    And that is enough for now, even too. Much. We have started the new year. I took some bags of old clothes out to Landsend Mission for Nothemba to distributed and visited Sinovuyo and his family. He is the one who is the tailor and is now looking for markets for his goods, which includes designer bags, Afro-shirts, etc. I will try to help him in that way.