Sunday, May 13, 2007

Rio Savanne

This weekend we loaded up the cars on Saturday with all the MCCers as well as the country review team that has been spending the last two weeks with us in Mozambique and headed north to one of the many beaches on the Mozambican coast. This beach does not have the bluest waters of the beaches in Mozambique but it is not as well known and we had the beach to ourselves. We traveled an hour and a half through the palm forests and grass lands on a dirt road to a river. We crossed the river on a wooden boat. On the other side of a river was a bunch of buildings and wonderfully landscaped coconut groves. There was a restaurant, bungalows, cabins and places to camp all set in the midst of coconut trees, palms, flowers and miles of deserted beach. We were about the only ones on the beach in the afternoon. We had a little coffee in the morning and spent the morning on the sand and in the water. Jenny, Tony and I spent an hour developing systems to defend Jenny’s castle against the waves, failing in our attempt but finding much entertainment. The temperature was very moderate with a good breeze. The water was very comfortable for swimming and the waves were excellent for riding and playing. We ate a dinner of fresh shrimp and squid and spent the afternoon relaxing as well.

A bike and a little helper

We may have talked a little bit about our helpers around the house. We now have a few pictures to show you. Novencio is our water boy. We told a few people that we would have running water. We just didn’t know if it would be on it’s own or a boy “running” for it. Novencio comes every other day and carries four containers of water unless we have company when we ask if he would carry two more. He also carries any water that Noemia (our house help) needs for cleaning or washing clothes. Novencio is the oldest son of our Pastor here in Gondola. We are helping each other to learn Shitewe (the local dialect) and English along the way. I am also helping him to learn to type and to use the computer.

We also have another helper around the house (when he chooses to be). Noemia’s son, Delton. He is 18 months old and he goes around the house and shuts the doors and all the cupboard doors for us as well as rearranging the furniture for us. It has taken him a while to get used to us but now he finally comes to us when we call instead of running away to his mother.

Last week I finally bought a bicycle. I spent the following afternoon tightening bolts and adjusting the brakes to get it into top shape. We don’t have a car so it is important to have a bike in order to visit farmers’ fields that are a long way away or any other place we can’t reach by bus. We only have one bike so I am going to have to learn how to carry Jenny on the back like the other farmers or vice versa. She might have the stronger legs of the two of us. I am sure it will bring a lot of laughter, however, from all the people who watch us as I don’t see a lot of women carrying men on the back.

Joel’s Work

Gondola Typing School for Men – For anyone of you who have read “The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency” (A great series I would recommend) the fourth book is named “The Kalahari Typing School for Men”. I am doing just that. Teaching men how to type. Men of the church that is. On Mondays I am teaching typing to the leader of the Youth as well as another young man from our church. There seems to be a real lack of typing skills here in Mozambique and I see many people in the offices and even government who type with their index fingers. It costs people in Gondola one meticais every minute to use the computers at a store where they can type and print things. The young man is learning to type while he makes documents for the church. My hope is that in the future they can make their documents in less time with less cost because it is extremely expensive for the church. He also said that the church has more respect in the community if it can make type written documents instead of handwritten ones. They seem to be learning fast and are very interested in the rest of the computer.

Christian Council of Mozambique - My work as of now consists of helping the director put together written proposals for two projects that we will be starting in the next few years. They are both in the same area. One is a food security project which includes introducing new drought resistant crops, terracing land, AIDS and health education, introducing fruit trees, better farming techniques and much more in order to build the capacity of the community to withstand the next drought and feed themselves. We also have a second project to put sand dams in the same area to help with water needs. I have written more about sand dams and what they are in an earlier blog entry. Once we weed through the paperwork we hope to receive funding from Canadian Food Grains Bank and MCC and we will take a trip to the area (which is 5 hours away) to see the site and begin work.

Agriculture Work in Gondola - In Gondola I have had the time to visit a few farmers’ fields to see how they do things and to talk about their dreams. I have helped one farmer with a loan to buy seeds and a watering can so that he can grow more vegetables. Seeds are cheaper in the neighboring town of Chimoio but it costs money to get there so it is not always an option for farmers here. At times I bring things from Chimoio where they are cheaper.

Pastor Fernando and I have plans to start growing a few new plants for seed and experimenting in a little part of his field. It will help me to know how they do agriculture as well as to see what may work here in the future to help improve soils and crop production.

Igreja Evangélica Menonita - I continue to participate in the church and look for opportunities to support them in their growth and to walk alongside them as they try to follow Christ and grow. I preached for the first time ever and it went fairly well. Expectations do not seem to be quite as high since everyone is fairly young to faith and is learning at the same time. They have a time where the sick can come forward and we pray for them and I am often asked to do this.

We continue to look for ways to be involved. It is slow being in a new position but we ask that God would continue to show us how to serve.

Sewing machines, savings groups and slow-shows

I (Jenny) work with three different groups at the present time: a women’s group in Chimoio associated with the Christian Council of Mozambique, a group of people from the Mennonite church who are forming a savings group for themselves and the women of the church at the Mennonite church. Each group is vastly different.

CCM Women’s Group—This group of women meets every Saturday afternoon at 2 PM. Usually, it is me, the officers and a few other women, for about 8 women total. We take time to pray, to sing and someone usually shares a scripture and a brief message. The purpose of this group is two fold: to generate income for the women who attend by making and selling things and then to also make things for people (like orphans). We are in the process of getting sewing machines for them to further their work. They hope that by having several sewing machines that they will be able to make more things to sell and make some money.

They fear that not many women come because they are not doing a lot of activities. Their hope is that when they have the sewing machines then more women will join their group. We are working together to create some structure—like a calendar of activities, planning ahead for the sewing machine, and coming up with activities to do. My challenge has been learning how to ask good questions for planning.

The Savings Group—This group is in the beginning stages of this group. A savings group is a group of persons (usually 10-30) who gather together weekly to save money. Each week people bring a small amount decided on by the group to put into the savings pot. From the collective savings individuals can take out loans for about a month small business ventures. The group runs 8 months to a year and at the end, each person receives back all the money they saved plus any interest from the loans paid back (divided equally between all members). This is a way for communities to provide credit options for themselves when banks charge high interest rates or do not give small loans or loans without a prior credit history. Savings groups begin with outside help facilitating the meetings, but after one cycle are “launched” to independent groups who can decide to reconvene and start a new cycle. It is a way that people can save money for a significant event (wedding) or upcoming expenses (school supplies) without having the money in their house where they might use it or someone might ask for it from them.

The group at church has met a few times to understand the process of how savings groups work. They are at a point where they are going to talk with people and when they get a group of committed people together they are going to come back to me and we will begin the group. The process of explaining how savings groups work has used all my social work group facilitation skills as well as all my Portuguese vocabulary. I’m still amazed that they understood what I said and caught the vision!

The Mennonite Church Women—Each Thursday afternoon, women across Mozambique gather in their churches for a mid-week meeting. From what I understand, these meetings are for Bible Study, singing or teaching a craft or household things. The Mennonite Church in Gondola, too, tries to meet each Thursday. Apparently since the beginning of the church the women have not been able to consistently meet each Thursday. My experience has been generally one or two women come and we wait for others to come. A few times we have had about 6-8 women, we sang together, had a brief Bible study and prayer. Once they asked me to lead it. The topic they chose was how to respect their husbands! It was hard to know how to plan because I had only just arrived and barely knew their culture. We did a few dramas about how to show respect and they talked about what respecting their husbands means for them. They seemed to enjoy it.

I have enjoyed getting to know individual women as we have waited together for other women to come. It has been frustrating going, waiting, and some Thursdays no one comes. I am learning patience, to always take a book or something to do while I wait because often the women are arrive later than the 2 PM starting time. But like everything in the church, it is God’s group and we need to keep praying for guidance.

(Photo-a group of women walking past our house to the market to sell fruits)

Beautiful things

It’s important remember the beautiful things in life. Here is a list of things that I have seen in Mozambique that strike me as beautiful. In no particular order…

  • Delton - Our house keeper´s son. Pictured left. He´s so cute (boogers and all!)
  • Smiles—many Mozambicans have a beautiful smile with straight white teeth. They readily smile at me when they greet me on the street or I talk with them. We get big smiles when we give greetings in the local dialect.
  • Oranges—it’s orange season now (April/May). We’ve made fresh squeezed orange juice for breakfast several times. The air in market places is permeated with the smell of oranges because so many people are eating them.
  • Flowers—first the acacia trees that were blooming when we got here in November. The bouganavilla is continually blooming. Now we regularly see landscaped flowerbeds in Gondola and Chimoio full of marigolds. People even have plants around the outsides of their houses for decoration.
  • Road improvements—there are several sections on the road from Gondola to Beira with great big potholes and some sections where there isn’t any road at all. The last time we traveled to Beira, they are beginning to work on the unpaved parts to make it a better road. Even here in Gondola, they are working their way through a neighborhood where most of the stores are found, improving the roads. In Chimoio, they are fixing potholes and making sidewalks.
  • Youth singing—at church each Sunday, the youth who attended youth group on Saturday get up and sing. They enter the church from the back, singing and dancing. Then they proceed to sing 3-4 songs, dancing with each one. In our church it is usually only about 5-6 guys singing. They blend harmonies and sound beautiful!
  • Capulanas—the traditional fabric that is used for women’s skirts and head coverings. Women also use it to carry their babies on their backs. I also see people using capulanas to carry various objects, hang as curtains, as a jacket to wrap around them when they are cold. Every market sells capulanas—usually sold in 2 meter lengths—and the designs are different in every city.
  • Hospitality—when we visit someone’s home, they always offer us a chair and if they have food they offer that too. We are learning to have food available or if not at least tea or coffee with lots of sugar.
  • Multi-lingualism—most people speak at least two languages here-Portuguese and their “mother” or local dialeto (language). In our church (and other churches from what we are told) the service operates in the local language and Portuguese. Speakers can use either language and someone from the congregation will interpret (almost) simultaneously. It makes the service easier to understand, especially when the local language is used but sometimes difficult because the speaker does not give the interpreter adequate time to interpret. I have never ever seen people interpret so quickly.
  • Education—many adults have not finished high school. However the government has opened up schools so that they can go back and finish. So many adults take advantage of this. Each evening around 5:30, we see many people walking past our house, dressed in their best clothes, carrying notebooks, going to school. In our small church of 30, at least 5 adults are presently studying and several have plans to go back to school next term. People seem so proud that they are able to go to school and are determined to finish their schooling. There are even literacy classes that help adults learn how to read. After they finish the literacy classes, they are then able to enter the 6th grade and continue to high school. Since the war ended in 1992, several universities have sprung up in cities around the country and people are going to them as much as there is room for students.
  • Clean—Mozambicans are very clean. Each morning they sweep their yards clean of debris, trash and foot prints. Their clothes are always clean. They bathe several times a day when it is really hot and daily when it is not.