We have had quite a few milestone birthdays in our family this year. Sarah reached double digits (10), David became an official teenager (13), and Debbie reached 40. The year-end has brought with it a few other changes too. David has now completed primary school, and has managed to earn himself a scholarship to Redhill High School (about 7 km away). Sarah will also be moving to Redhill, to the preparatory school, in order to synchronise school holidays which otherwise would have overlapped only in December. So we say a fond goodbye to Rhema Christian School (now known simply as the Christian Academy) just down the road, and move on, with some excitement, to new things next year. We have some really happy memories of the school and were really involved too. This year our hiking club outings included a visit to Sterkfontein Caves in May, and some rock climbing and abseiling at Roodekrans in September. Debbie has worked with the Grade 7 magazine club, who have produced a newspaper each term called 'Watz Up!'. They have learned interviewing skills, journalism, and photography, and have produced some truly lovely, if somewhat funky, work. Apart from their usual schoolwork and sporting activities, David and Sarah also took part in the Eisteddfod and the Mathematics Challenge.
Talking of schools, it's hard to believe that it's been 25 years since I (Rod) finished high school. To celebrate this anniversary, I started putting together a website with pictures and contact details of as many of my old school friends as I have been able to contact so far. For those interested, the site is at http://home.global.co.za/~rtjones/GHS1976/ I am sure it will continue to develop, as more people are contacted. I continue to enjoy working with computers and digital photography, and especially enjoyed photographing both the lunar eclipse in January, and the solar eclipse in June.
I managed to fracture my hip (by falling off my bicycle, I'm embarrassed to say) at the end of January, but I am very pleased to say that it has recovered completely. After a couple of months of 'treatment by skilful neglect', including eight weeks on crutches, I was soon back to enjoying my running (and cycling) again, even managing to do a few runs of more than 20 km.
We had a very enjoyable holiday at Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg mountains in April. It was autumn and a really beautiful time to be in the mountains. David and I hiked to the summit, 3004 m high, and back in nine hours. We also did many short walks and gentle strolls along the rivers, often ending the evening by lying on a blanket looking at the stars - we saw many 'falling' and 'shooting stars'. During October, we spent some time at Mountain Sanctuary Park in the Magaliesberg, definitely one of our favourite spots. We had some great walks and some wonderful times wandering along the river, and swimming in the deep rock pools. The children went on some school camps as well. David went on a Grade 7 camp to Gwala-Gwala in May for a week, a soccer tour to Durban in June for a week, and a farewell outing to Sun City at the end of the year. We took Sarah and a few friends for a birthday outing to Warmbaths in April, and they had a great time sliding down all the water slides, jumping the waves in the wave pool, and relaxing in the hot jet pools, but they often had to fight their mothers and fathers for the tubes and I doubt they did the slides more than their parents did. It was a day for letting one's hair down, and we all had enormous fun. Sarah also went on a Grade 4 camp to Kwaggarus in October. Both children loved their camping experiences and did some challenging, but fun things.
I (Deb) got to thinking this year, that Rod often goes on business trips to interesting places, and the children have fun camps and sports tours, that maybe it was time I went on tour too. I decided to take myself off to Cape Town, which I did in October and had a truly wonderful week visiting Renet (my mother) and meeting other family members that I have not seen in about 35 years. I met some wonderful people that I feel really happy to know, and had some quiet time to catch up with Renet. I also had many long walks along the beach, mountain strolls, and much contemplative time in and around Kirstenbosch. In all, I came back rested and uplifted.
During the year, we had quite a few visitors (including some very close friends) from faraway countries including Australia, Canada (Yakov), England (Wolf and Shelly), Germany, Malawi (Elliott), Spain (Jose and Pablo), and the USA (Adrian). It's wonderful spending time with people from around the world, but always sad to say goodbye to friends moving further afield; and this year we said one of our saddest and hardest goodbyes to Sue, Jo, and Sam as they left for Scotland. It's wonderful to hear their snowy news, but they are really missed at those occasions where they would have played an integral part.
Work at Mintek has been particularly busy this year (again!), and I (Rod) have also done quite a bit of travelling around Southern Africa. I visited the Chambishi furnace in Zambia during commissioning of the 'cobalt recovery from slag' process in February / March, and also gave a presentation on this process at a conference at Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe in July. I attended two conferences (one geological in June; one metallurgical in November) on platinum in Rustenburg, and presented papers on platinum processing, and on our newly-patented ConRoast process. I also visited Botswana twice in August and September, jetting in and out within the same day. The most interesting (and disturbing) trip of the year was to the Democratic Republic of Congo in August. It was sad to see how a country with such amazing mineral deposits has been politically and economically ruined over the years (by Arab slave traders, King Leopold of Belgium who 'owned' the country but never visited it, the corrupt dictator Mobutu Sese Seko supported by the USA, and the present civil war supported by Zimbabwean troops).
I (Deb) finally completed my BA Honours (Psychology) at the beginning of this year. The four UNISA exams in January made for a very stressful time indeed, having to study through all of last year's Christmas holidays, and spending many nights working until dawn. I am really relieved they are behind me. I continue to work quite regularly at Life Line. I am still involved with the counselling, but am finding the training to be very stimulating. I enjoy the facilitation of small groups that form part of the new counsellors' course. I also ran a CAIR (Christian Adults In Recovery) course at the Valley Vineyard church that we attend. This is a ten-week course for those interested in finding healing for past experiences and changing the behaviour patterns that have resulted from them. It was a deeply meaningful experience for all those who participated. Later in the year, I became involved in a Christian outreach (called 'Kairos') into the Johannesburg Women's Prison. This involved many weeks of training, and bonding as a group and finally being at the prison from Thursday afternoon until Sunday night. We slept at a nearby Methodist retreat, but spent the rest of the day at the prison. What a life changing experience! I went in feeling very apprehensive about what the women would be like, how I would manage and how effective the effort would be. I think that many of the residents (prisoners) felt the same. Although they all said they came on the weekend to learn more about God, they admitted at the end, that they had come primarily to get out of the main prison, stay up for longer, do something, and eat different food. Many of these women share a cell with roughly 40 people, in which there is one shower and one toilet - no doors and no privacy. They eat breakfast at around 7am, and are locked up in their cells at 2pm for the night. I cannot begin to think what that must be like. The weekend involved many talks, from the choices we make, to forgiveness and salvation. Following each talk, there is a discussion in small groups. I facilitated one of these groups with a few other members of the team, and we had many times of laughter, and many times of tears, a lot of sharing, praying, and healing. I don't believe there were many residents who left the weekend without feeling God's touch in some way, and for many, it was an opportunity for a new beginning. For me, it was an amazing privilege to be part of what God is doing there. We now go back the first Saturday of every month for a year, to help them form support groups and just to work through some of the growing pains. I am really looking forward to the next one, which is scheduled to happen with the ladies in the maximum-security prison.
Sadly, Bardy our much-loved dog died in June at age fourteen. In November we brought Kayla, our border collie puppy home. Sarah is enjoying taking Kayla to puppy training classes, and we are thoroughly enjoying her antics. She is beautiful, and a delight to have around. Her boundless energy encourages us to take her on long walks and we have been visiting places like Emmarentia Dam and Delta Park. We enviously watch other people walking along, with obedient dogs walking off lead, not far behind them. We spend most of our time trying to encourage Kayla to come back to us, as she happily follows any new dogs or people we pass along the way. David and Sarah are particularly getting quite a lot of exercise out of this as they run back and forth to encourage her in new directions. Kayla has also been experimenting with swimming in the river and dam at Emmarentia, and is continuing her efforts at home in the swimming pool, after which she runs around the garden, attracting a lot of dark mud, and then tears through the house, spreading the new colour around the tiles, carpets and furniture liberally.
We are now looking forward to a quiet holiday season at home, and hope that all of you have an enjoyable Christmas and New Year.
Rodney, Debbie, David, and Sarah
1. Lunar Eclipse
2. Cathedral Peak
4. Shelly and Wolf
6. Pablo and Jose
8. Jo, Sue, and Sam