A Missionary Doctor's Autobiography
Move to South Africa - (Written in November 2007)
Since completing the previous 21 chapters, we have had two more moves. (I have just totted up the number of moves we have made since we got married and came up with twenty-seven. We should be experts in "moving" by now!)
In chapter 21, I mentioned that we usually managed to make a trip to South Africa during the year-end holiday; the purpose being to visit our family out here and also to escape the long, dreary English winters.
In 2005 we started thinking about the possibility of moving to a warmer climate. We felt that we would like to be near one of our daughters -- Switzerland was too cold, and the cost of living too high, while South Africa seemed to be politically stable and had a pleasant climate.
The next year, we looked at various places in the Little Karoo region. That is where our daughter, Mary, and husband Dick have a stud Dorper sheep farm. We found a retirement village, called Millennium Park, built by the Rotary Club, in Oudtshoorn, which is only 46 Km. from Mary and Dick's farm.
This town is famous for the Cango Caves and for ostrich farming. Many of the fine old houses in the town were built by the "ostrich barons" of the nineteenth century, when the plumes of these giant birds were in great demand to decorate the hats and dresses of the aristocracy of Europe and America. At present, the feathers are used for making feather dusters, while the meat is considered to be healthy and ostrich skin products (shoes, handbags, etc.) sell for high prices.
Oudtshoorn is also renowned for hosting the KKNK. This has nothing to do with the KKK of America; but stands for Klein Karoo Nasionale Kunstefees. Basically the KKNK is a celebration of South African culture -- arts, music and craft, with an emphasis on the Afrikaans heritage. The Festival virtually takes over the town for a week, over Easter. It is a bonanza for the hospitality industry and business people, but the residents who are not involved in the festivities heave a sigh of relief when it is all over.
We have often been asked, "Isn't the Karoo very hot?" Yes, January is hot and February has been called "suicide month" as the temperature can get over 40ºC on occasion, but for the rest of the year the climate is very pleasant. Winter can be cold, with slight frost at night, but the days are usually sunny.
While visiting Mary and family in Jan 2006, we were offered a newly completed house to rent in the Park. We thought it would be wise to rent first and rent out our house in England, until we made up our minds that we wanted to make a complete move.
So we returned to U K and, through an estate agent, put our house up for rental. We got a tenant for our house within two weeks, we were able to sell our car, I was able to get a South African passport and we were able to pack and ship our goods. There were so many things to do but the way doors seemed to open convinced us that we were following God's leading.
In April 2006 we flew out to George airport, where Mary met us and took us to our rented house, which had views of the Swartberg range. The house was partly furnished, as our landlady provided all we needed until our shipment arrived some six weeks later.
As public transport is either non-existent or rather unsatisfactory in most of South Africa, one of our first concerns was to buy a car. After an unhappy experience with a very "second-hand" Daewoo car, which we nicknamed the "Red Dragon", we were glad to trade it in for a Toyota Corolla, which has given us good service.
After a year we decided that we would make our move permanent. So we put our UK house on the market and it sold very quickly for a good price. Then a two-bedroom house, in the Park, came on the market and we were able to buy it for what seemed a reasonable price. On the 15th September, 2007 we moved to our present house and have been busy since then, doing renovations, getting unpacked and trying to put our own "stamp" on the garden.
When we first arrived, our main "project", after getting settled, was to help Mary and Dick with odd jobs on the farm. We sanded and varnished furniture, doors and windows, and their frames, did painting and various minor repairs. Then when we got our own place, they helped us move and have provided ideas, plants and muscle power as we are in the process of giving our garden a make-over.
There are two nice Adventist church buildings in Oudtshoorn - a White Afrikaans-speaking one and a Coloured bilingual one in Bridgetown. Although formerly separated, members often visit the sister church and are welcomed. We attend the one on St Saviours St. where we have been warmly welcomed by the approximately 30 members. (I have been elected as Church Treasurer for next year.)
It is sad that we are so far from our family in Switzerland and the U K, but we try to keep in touch by e-mail, letter and phone calls. We hope that we will have the health and finances to make a trip to Europe before too long -- preferably not during the northern winter. We had planned an overseas trip last June, to attend to the sale of our property in England, but that was not possible, as I'll explain.
In May '07, suddenly Lilian developed a swollen and very painful left lower leg. Friends have suggested that it must have been due to a spider bite but we never saw one and there were no bite marks. Our G.P. diagnosed "phlebothrombosis" and prescribed elevation of the leg, in bed. The pain was so severe that Lilian had to crawl on hands and knees to get to the bathroom.
After ten days she was admitted to hospital, seen by a surgeon, who said it was an abscess and advised urgent surgical drainage, under general anaesthesia, in George.
After removal of about 50 ml of pus, there was some relief of pain, but then Lilian collapsed and fell in the toilet and it was found that she had a pulmonary embolism ("blood clot in the lung") as well a cracked rib from the fall.
Convalescence has been slow with gradual and erratic improvement. As I write, Lilian is having a course of physiotherapy to try to break down the scar tissue in the leg. We have resumed our early morning walks and hope that things will soon return to normal.
In addition to her other problems, Lilian's sight has deteriorated over the past two years. She enjoys reading but recently has only been able to read LARGE PRINT books. This is due to cataracts in both eyes and she is booked to have one cataract done next week and if that is successful, the other one soon thereafter.
So that is the story of our lives up to now. We don't know what the future holds but I am sure that God holds our future. And we trust Him.
There is little that I can add to my conclusions at the end of the previous chapter, except to reaffirm that, in spite of all that has happened, "God is good."