A Cold Spell

The place I now call home is Harrismith, a tiny town in South Africa. For those who need me to start at the very beginning (a very good place to start), South Africa is a country at the southern most tip of Africa. Countless people, upon hearing that I'm a missionary in South Africa, have asked me, "Oh, what country in South Africa?" Maybe because South America is a continent consisting of countries, confusion has arisen regarding the sovereignty of the nation of South Africa. Indeed, it is a country.

South Africa has nine provinces; we are based in the good, ol' Free State province -- as rural and hick as...well, I don't want to offend anyone so you can insert your own thought regarding a rural/hick place. Thankfully, Harrismith is located between four of SA's large cities; we are just about halfway between Johannesburg and Durban (so a movie theater is only about 3 hours away). As I drive through SA, I offer thanks to God that although Harrismith is small, it is at least pretty. Most of SA's small towns are ugly and boring, but our fine town is located at the base of Platberg (Flat Mountain) and is rather picturesque. There is an annual Mountain Race, where thousands of people flock to Harrismith to run up and down Platberg. This has been going on for over 100 years and had a rather humorous beginning.

For about half the year, we are seven hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time. The other half of the year, we are only six hours ahead. South Africa does not use Daylight Savings, so when America "springs ahead" an hour, we become an hour closer. I prefer this time of year, being only 6 hours ahead. Not only does it make me feel closer, but the decreased time difference makes it easier for us to connect and correspond with the States.

Because we're in the Southern Hemisphere, our seasons are opposite of those in the States. We are going into winter now and it has been freezing. Yes, it gets cold in Africa. In fact, we get snow here in Harrismith! This is our house, covered in snow...

We don't get as much snow as Michigan, but we get snow nonetheless. And without plows, our whole town just shuts down when it snows. The worst snowstorm we've ever had occurred right over September 11 (the original). The road leading out of town to Durban was closed (it's steep and curvy) and trucks couldn't get in to deliver more goods. Oddly, the three things the town ran out of was toilet paper, diapers, and whiskey.

Now the real challenge in winter is that we have no indoor heating. Not just us, but the entire nation. It's a foreign concept (literally), and many people in our area die each winter just because of the cold. It is typically just as cold indoors as it is outdoors, if not colder. Most nights (and mornings), we can see our breath in our bedroom while sitting in our bed. Yikes - that's cold. It's something I have never gotten used to about living here... We run space heaters where we can, but it does little to ward off the permeating cold.

The forecast for tomorrow is "mostly cloudy and very cold, with temperatures around 25 degrees Fahrenheit". Real stay-in-bed-with-warm-pj's-and-drink-hot-cocoa-all-day kind of weather, but alas, I cannot! I will, however, go jump into my warm bed right now... G'night!