Saturday, March 29, 2008

Easter 2008

This is what we did for Easter. We went to sort of a resort with a restaurant, playground and a pool to eat and spend Friday with fellow missionaries. We had a grill where we each cooked our own meat and shared salads that we had brought. We had a worship service and played volleyball. We did not swim as it was quite chilly that day and I would have been cold.

I will tell you about our long and lively Easter Service at Gondola Mennonite. It was not as loud this year so it was more enjoyable for me. It starts at about 10:00 in the evening. Everyone and sings and dances for about an hour or so. Usually a lot of Jovens “youth” come because it is a very social occasion and they come mainly for the dancing and singing. It is a very interesting thing to watch. They looooove to dance. We had a time for testimonies followed by singing and dancing from each of the different church groups that had come. They get quite creative and the singing is beautiful and each with a different dance step and sometimes acting. The youth in this country love singing and dancing in front of people. It is one of the activities that bring the youth to church. Half the people leave as soon as the dancing stops. I guess a lot are not really interested in church. I suppose it can be a kind of outreach for the church but it is hard when you get up to preach and half of the people leave. I (Joél) had to preach this time because the pastor turned out sick and they asked me. When everyone was leaving I almost went out and invited them to come back in but I thought it would be to distracting. I had to preach on the spot so I spent a lot of time trying to think of what to say and did not catch a majority of the singing. I preached on three different people at the resurrection. Simon, the one who carried the cross, and the two robbers and how they reacted in the situation. It was all I could think of but it went over really well. I took a man from the congregation and crucified him against the front of the church. They really liked this. After that we celebrated communion and then they sang for another few hours and drank their fermented corn drink “maheu”. I left after a few drinks at about 3:00 in the morning and slept until 7:30. Jenny came early in the morning and helped the ladies make “Sadza” and we all ate a meal together. Half the people were sleeping with their heads on the table because they had stayed up all night. I enjoyed this service more than last year and I understood more so it made it more meaningful. Jenny and I then sang some songs at home.

In the afternoon we decorated Easter eggs so it felt a little bit more like we had a piece of the Easter that we were used too. We also did a lot of sleeping.
Notes on life

If you ever dye Easter eggs, use white ones. We used brown ones and the colors did not come out as brilliant.

It’s sugar cane season again. The ground is littered with chewed pieces and discarded skins from the cane.

The women at church let me cook with them today for Easter breakfast. Albeit, I did not cook much, just cut tomatoes and onions and stir them, but it is a start. They also let me eat with them after everyone else had eaten and only gave me a short chair next to the grass mat (instead of either eating with the men or on a normal chair far away from them) and a tin plate of my own (instead of nice glass one).

There have been a lot of funerals lately. Every day we see a truck go past with a coffin and people walking beside it. Our neighbor says that he used to go to two funerals in six months, but now goes to nine. He didn’t say why the increase.

The rainy season is coming to a close. I think there are two seasons here…dust and mud.

African bees sting and for two days the spot itches and swells.

African centipedes hurt worse than bees. Hurts for one hour. Even after taking Benedryl.

Gondola is digging trenches to put in a public water system. For 25 meticais ($1 USD), we registered our house to be hooked up. They estimate the cost will be 75 meticais a month when it comes, though they can not give a time frame for hook up.

We use our horn more here in a 50 km round trip to Chimoio than we did for a year in the States. People walk on the sides of the road without much thought to the traffic and do not get over when a car comes. Bicyclists, too, use the side of the road instead of the shoulder and sometimes we have to beep several times for them to get over. There does not seem to be much awareness of the power of a vehicle and how it can quickly have an accident.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Sand Dams with Water

Tchinda Site Before

Tchinda Site After

I have just returned from a week in the bush with a reporter and photographer. We were out to see the Sand Dams and to do interviews for the “Common Place”. It was quite an interesting tour for a number of reasons. It is the end of the dry season and two of our dams have been completed and catching water. The other two will be finished later. I was anxious to see the success or lack thereof and to see how things have changed. It was a good deal more difficult to arrive at the communities as there is now a river in between our stop overnight in Mandie and the communities of Tchinda and Thangera which we were trying to reach. A new road had been cut through the bush to get there. We spent two hours in place of the one hour it used to take us on this journey. The road was quite difficult with large rocks and trees to avoid in the grass on the edges of the road. We faired better than I thought we would when all was said and done. We visited Tchinda first and were very excited to see that the dam was finished and quite pretty to look at. It is functioning well and already has roughly about a meter of sand on the upside. The sand had risen in the river almost a quarter of a mile behind the dam and you could see that the water was infiltrating into the banks of the river and around the edge of the dam. A few minor adjustments will have to be made such as putting a wall on the one edge and planting grass to slow erosion on the downward side of the dam. The leaders of the village were quite positive and about wanting to do a second so we are to visit them in a few weeks and talk with the whole community about the possibility of starting a second. I noticed people looking much healthier this time as it is no longer the hungry season. The kids did not pile around us as they had in the past. They were all much cleaner and dressed nicer. We saw people taking baths below the dam and getting water there.

Thangera Site Before
Thangera Dam
Other View of Dam
We then went to Thangera the second day. Thangera’s dam had water behind it and the people are seeing the benefit of watering their animals there in the community and not 15 km away in the Zambezi River. We had a few interviews with some families which was quite interesting. One family was headed by a single older women. Her husband had passed away. She said that she spends about 6 months a year searching for roots and fruit in the bush for her family to eat in the hungry time. She would like to have a goat but she does not have the conditions to pay for someone to take 15 kms to the river every other day to water it. With the new dam people are watering there animals this month in the dam where normally they can’t. She hopes to have a goat sometime when the dam is mature and holds water longer throughout the year. She also has to get up at 2:00 in the morning to go down and stand in line for water in her own village. There is so little water that every time they fill with water they have to wait for it to raise again. Because there is people coming from her community and other surrounding communities to this one spot she has to wait four hours for water and than return at 6 in the morning and immediately leave to work in the field. If she is late she has to wait longer and than she may not even get to the field that day.

A neighboring community heard of the benefit of the Thangera dam and approached CCM workers about building one in there community. This is a good sign. It means they are seeing the benefit and we will be able to help more people. Time will tell if people will start to plant things in these streams, grow crops and dig wells. We hope things will change.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Settling in

We’ve been back in Mozambique for almost two weeks. It’s hard to imagine that we ever went to the States. We looked forward to our trip for months. We dreamed about the people we would see, the food we would eat, the things we would experience. We wondered what it would like to be back, to interact with our families, to go shopping, to go to church. We wondered if it would feel overwhelming. And when it came to the trip, we anticipated the plane trips and how it would feel to be greeted at the airport by our parents and then go out into the cold weather. And now it’s two weeks after all of it and it seems hard to imagine that we ever returned because it seems like a dream.

We arrived at JFK airport in New York and it felt so normal in many aspects. There were things that struck me—how the bathrooms smelled clean, how the immigration agent was friendly(!), asking us what we were doing in Mozambique and welcoming us back to the US, how big and modern the whole airport was. And then we got out of customs and walked with the rest of the people from our flight out to the waiting area and there were my parents, waiting with our winter coats. We got in the car and as Dad began to drive, we taken aback at the side of the road he drove on, though we struggle (mainly me) here to know to drive on the left.

We got back to my parents’ house and it was so nice. We celebrated Valentine's Day with my parents (see above picture). Unlike when I came back from a year in Russia 10 years ago, things seemed more normal and I didn't have much of a jolt adjusting to the differences. We went shopping and the stores, though stocked with many times the amount of merchandise as here, didn’t seem as overwhelming as I though it would feel. One thing different I did notice was, here in Mozambique there are people or living creatures (goats, chickens, dogs, etc) everywhere, in the States, there was always something somewhere. We decorate public spaces, probably because we have a lot more disposable income.

We arrived in the States on Wednesday; on Friday, we traveled to Harrisburg for my brother’s wedding. We met my sister-in-law for the first time and went to a Mexican restaurant (it was such good food, if anyone opens a Mexican restaurant in Moz, we’ll come!). In the evening was the rehearsal dinner. The funny things about being the groom’s family, is there’s not a whole lot to do, except show up and smile at pictures. I’ve done more at friends’ wedding (who were the brides) than I did at my brother’s wedding. That said, it was a lovely wedding and gave us a glimpse of who they are as a couple. Here’s a picture of the happy couple.

We spent time with both sides of my family. And then flew to Nebraska to be with Joél’s family for a week.

We soaked up the time with our families. It felt so good to be able to talk with people who have known us for longer than our MCC term, who will be with us after it and who are support us while we are here. Again I was struck by how nice the house was. Not that we do not have a nice house here, it’s just a different nice. We laughed and played games quite a bit with Joél’s siblings. We caught up on National Geographics. The time passed quickly but at the right speed.
We shared some of our experiences with people at both Joél’s parents’ church and my parents’ church. We were pleasantly surprised how interested people were in what we are doing. It was a good opportunity to connect with some of the people who are praying for us and who support our parents while we are so far away from them. This is a picture of Joel, his brothers and our sister-in-law.

Now we’re back in warm Mozambique. We are realizing that there are two season here—mud and dust. It didn’t rain much while we were gone, so now it’s dust season. The seasons are changing. It’s getting cooler in the evenings and the length of daylight is lessening. People are beginning to harvest their corn and avocados and guava are in season. Pumpkins are finishing and other squash like things too. Beans are coming into season. It’s nice to know more what to expect for seasons, now that we are on our second year. Soon it will be citrus season, then harvest time and then time to plant lettuce for the cold season, then we’ll watch the leechies ripen and the mangos and another year will have passed.

Things I notice in the States after being in Mozambique for over a year (and things I forgot about):

- Decorations on walls in people’s houses
- How tight houses are (The average house in Moz has holes where you can see through and wind comes through and windows are not tight) I really feel like I’m inside.
- How easy it is to drive—no potholes, not many pedestrians, definitely no goats, chickens or toddlers beside the road
- How rapidly technology is changing – cell phones looking like Windows operating system, how the internet is present in people’s lives, digital cameras everywhere
- How big the houses are and how nice the kitchens are (the stoves and refrigerators are really big!)
- People match and even worry if their sneakers are the correct color to go with their outfit
- The landline phone rings
- Voice mail
- People are on-time
- Strangers say “thank you” to each other
- Laughter (that I can understand)
- Disposable income
- How quiet it is (so lovely!)
- Wearing socks in the house without worrying about getting them dirty (even the soles of my shoes are cleaner from walking outside and in public places than if I wear them in Moz)
- Exhaust fans in bathrooms
- Strollers for babies (and not a lot of babies)
- Women wearing make-up, doing their nails, wearing jewelry
- Men and women talking together
- Planned, thought-out worship services

written February 20, 2008

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

It was supposed to be easy...

This week, I mean. Yesterday, I was supposed to go to the cardiologist and then in the afternoon after briefly meeting with our MCC Rep to add official MCC emails to our computer, after which, Joel and I would be on the road to return to our house in Gondola. That was the plan. But as plans go here in Mozambique, it didn't happen that way.

The cardiologist appointment is happening in segments. Day one (yesterday): The MCC Administrator and his sixth-year medical school student daughter, got me an appointment with the cardiology department. This happened and day one included going to the hospital, waiting to be called, being ushered into a small (but air conditioned room), the technician shooing everyone, including Joel out of the room, getting an EKG, then waiting more, then the med student giving me two papers with appointments--one for the lab and one for an echocardiogram to be done on Wednesday! So we went to the lab to get the blood work done. They too gave me an appointment for another day - Tuesday! So much doing it all in one visit. Day two (today): I showed up before the appointed 7:30 time, to find a waiting room of 20-30 people also having an appointment at 7:30. I gave my paper to the lady and waited. Finally after about 15 minutes of various people walking in and out, carrying various papers, they called my name, gave me a small beaker with my name on it and told me to go to the other side of the room. There I waited until my name was called and then went and sat down at a chair with an armrest where the student nurse tied the plastic tube tournequet (like they use in the States) and tried to find a vein. I thought my little blue veins would have been easier to find against my tanned (for me) skin, but it took her two pokes and some pain before she got blood. In the meantime, I tried not to panic that it hurts, I'm in a Mozambican hospital (though very thankful she opened the brand new syringe in front of me), and there's a needle in my arm, but not very successful and so begin to black out. I didn't completely black out and was able to communicate that I was not feeling well. They told me to move across the isle and there I sat until I felt not so woozy. When I felt nearly ready to leave, I asked the student nurses when I could pick up my results--tomorrow afternoon. So elongates the saga. Day three (tomorrow): I will be at the hospital for an electrocardiogram (sonogram of my heart) at 6:30 AM. In the afternoon, I will pick up the results from my blood tests that the cardiologist ordered. I don't know when I'll actually meet with the cardiologist. Probably Thursday, the way things seem to be going.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

The cardiologist

We went to Maputo a day before our flight so that I could see a cardiologist. Once a year, I visit a cardiologist to monitor my corrected congenital heart condition. I haven't seen a cardiologist since August 2006. We had heard that there was a heart clinic in Maputo, so our MCC office made an appointment there for me. My appointment was for 9 AM, Monday morning. Joel and I woke up in time to eat breakfast and double check our directions to the clinic with the hostess at the guesthouse where we stayed. We opted to walk (always good to get exercise) and arrived 15 minutes before my appointment. The previous week, our office had tried to confirm the appointment, but no one answered the phone. We set off in good faith that I still had my appointment.

We arrived at the clinic and when I told the receptionist, "Eu tenho uma consulta as 9 horas com Doutor Dinesh" (I have a 9 o'clock appointment with Dr. Dinesh) she looked at me quizzically, as if not understanding my Portuguese. So I repeated it. She then told me to follow her and we went back to another receptionist's desk where she pulled out the cardiologist appointment book. There it was: Monday, Feb. 11, 9:00 Jenny Kempf. But here was the problem: "O doutor viagou esta semana" (The doctor is traveling this week). They offered me an appointment on Thursday to see the other cardiologist or come back another time. After consultation with my MCC Rep who had valiantly tried to confirm the previous week so something like this wouldn't happen, I opted to come back another time without making an appointment. Our plan was to try to see a cardiologist in Beira which we had just found out about one that opened up since making the appointment.

Turns out our own MCC administrator happens to see a cardiologist annually. So now his 6th-year medical student daughter can get me appointment for Monday here in Beira. So we shall see how it goes.
The luxury bus had a flight attendant

It did. There was a guy who came around serving: tea, coffee, water and juice. He took our orders for lunch, told us when to get off the bus when we arrived at the restaurant for lunch, told us when to get back on the bus, adjusted the temperature settings (cold air conditioning!), and took care of his passengers like a flight attendant. Joel laughed at me for calling him a flight attendant but what else would he be called? A stewardess? He was a male. And bus attendant just doesn't give the novelty of it. I should have taken a picture of him.

The ride was lovely. We had all of our leg room without having to make room for anyone else's baggage, chicken, child or anything else that is usually taking up one's space on a chapa. We arrived without any problems, reaching Maputo from Beira in 16 hours. It was air conditioned. Definitely the way to travel should we have to go to Maputo again. And we saw the country...once again beautiful and each part very unique in land, vegetation and architecture.