Monday, June 29, 2009

Baby Hiccups

For those interested...the hospital has a picture of Nadia (at 2 days old) posted on the web. You can find it at:

Our Best Picture So Far

We were actually a little thrilled this morning to see our daughter almost smiling at us. If she isn't, we will believe that she is anyway because it makes us feel good. In any case, this is the best picture that we have taken of her up to this point so we thought we would share it with the rest of you.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Nadia Grace Kempf

Nadia Grace was born at 5:30 in the morning on June 26. She was 6 pounds,m 12 ounces. Everything went well and mommy and baby are healthy. Daddy is healthy too, but quite tired.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

South African Health care

One of the things that has hit me most since living in Mozambique is the difference in level of health care that one receives and how vital that is in our lives and a vital part that is missing in the lives of the poorest. Life is so fragile in Mozambique and death so common. It is not only the lack of supplies, staff or hospitals but that I have not found hospital staff to be overly friendly in Mozambique which adds to the sense of emotional stress for the sick. One of the reasons we chose to go out of Mozambique to South Africa is that men are not allowed in the delivery room in Mozambique. As I sat through pre-natal class the other day and listened to the nurse-teacher tell us how vitally important it is for the men to be involved and to be the cheer-leader for the woman during labor, I realized how much more difficult it would be, emotionally, for the women of Mozambique who go to the hospital alone to give birth. South Africa is Mozambique's neighbor and several hours drive from Johannesburg. So how is it that the health systems differ so much in capacity and outlook?

There was more I noticed as we sat through class. Epidurals, Cesarean operations, television in the rooms, baths, showers and other stuff to entertain. All things that help to make the woman comfortable in labor and create a comfortable atmosphere. None of which is available to the woman in Mozambique. Not that it is bad to be comfortable. I believe that this is the mandate of the medical institution, but I am always reminded of our broken world in countries like Moz where the institutions do not have the capacity, are stressed or where many of the staff see the job as a paycheck instead of a calling to care for the sick and ease their suffering. Jenny, reminded me that she watched a woman walk from the hospital to the ambulance that was to take her from Gondola to Chimoio because she was in need for an emergency Cesarean operation. In South Africa they would wheel you out in a wheel chair. It is not that this does not exist in Moz, but often there is not enough supplies or the nurse just decides that he/she does not feel like doing it that particular day. In Moz, if you ask questions about what is happening to you, you get yelled at because you are not trusting the doctors, yet we are sitting in a class where the nurses are telling us everything we need to know so that we are aware of everything ahead of time. I do not want to be to hard on Mozambique because I know the problems are much deeper but there is some truth to what I am saying.

What is more, in Johannesburg, the hospital will put a package together of everything you need for the first two weeks and make a cd that we can take home with us. Wow, so much care. It reminds me that the way we are treated by our medical institutions can make a huge difference in our experience.

I guess I could either be depressed or thankful. For now I will be thankful.

Toward the end of class I heard the nurse mention, "Theatre"

"Wow, even a theatre," I said.

Jenny let me know that in South Africa "Theatre" is the word for operating room.

Rats, I could use a good movie right now.

As if my article on the 'Ol Geezer' was not enough to get some of our readers rolling on the floor with laughter, I can assure you it is a never ending adventure. Today is my birthday and on our way back from Jenny's appointment with the doctor we decided to pass by the Mugg and Bean (a coffee shop chain in Southern Africa)to get some coffee and some lunch for something special. There is nothing like a never ending cup of coffee to lift ones spirits and to kick the cold that I was welcomed with as my ship landed in the temperate world again. I enjoyed a wonderful burger topped with bacon and blue cheese which made the stop worthwhile. However, my cold continued to interrupt my meal with sneezing and blowing until I was all out of kleenex. I kindly called our waitress over and asked her if she had and "napkins". She paused and gave me a funny look but then said, "Ok" and went to the back of the restaurant. It took one second to look at the scared look on Jenny's face to realize the possible mistake I had made.

"I hope that 'napkin' in South Africa is not that women's thing that nobody talks about," I inquired of Jenny a little scared.

"Maybe?" she replied sheepishly.

I gained my composure and kindly asked my waitress what a the thing she brought me is called in South Africa. Saving my pride she smiled, laughed and said, "Serviette".

I still do not know what 'napkin' means.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Apartheid Museum

Yesterday, we visited the Apartheid Museum. It wound around various corners telling the story of how Europeans came to South Africa and how society moved to the point of apartheid in the mid-1900s to its dissolution in 1994. It is a sad story from whatever perspective one looks at the history because of how people devalued others and chose not to see ways to work together or see each others’ inherent worth. It is also a story of tremendous reconciliation as the leaders worked together to bring about a more just society without the violent ends that could have errupted.

I am struck by the way that we often do not think of the larger systems at work. I am sure that there were many people who lived in Apartheid who did not approve of it or were indifferent but did not do anything about fighting against it, either because they did not care enough or did not have enough time or desire or knowledge how to fight against it. Furthermore, sometimes we benefit from injustice and do not see the injustice and how it affects us. What systems do I benefit from that cause someone else to suffer?

For the past few weeks I have been thinking about a poem that I read several years ago and rediscovered recently. The poem was written by Martin Niemoller, a pastor in Europe during World War II. It goes as follows:

“They came first for the communists, and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a communist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I didn’t speak because I wasn’t a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak because I was a Protestant.
Then they came for me, and by that time no one was left to speak up.”

It makes me wonder if I would have spoken up if I had lived in South Africa during Apartheid. But even more so, it makes me wonder what are injustices that I see that I do not speak against?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Dumb Questions

The Farming God's Way training which I attended this past weekend was in Bloemfontein about four hours drive southwest of Johannesburg. As I flew in I noticed that it did not look all that much different then the great plains, especially eastern Colorado, Wyoming and western Nebraska. Bloemfontein is a major agriculture producing area in the central plateau of South Africa. It has extreme temperatures like the Great Plains and the major economic activity is farming wheat and corn. As we approached the eye could see large circles where the central irrigation systems made their path. A man in the seat in front of me was visiting South Africa doing articles for the BBC. He commented on the central irrigation systems, pivots we call them in Nebraska because they move around a pivotal point in the center of the fields and water the crops, making large circles on the plains. He was incredibly fascinated by these systems and had never seen them before. This was quite interesting to me since they were almost a natural part of the landscape where I grew up, almost to the point that it might be worth considering putting them in those National Audubon Society books that help identify wildlife on the plains. I can see the description: "Large, multi-legged animal that has a habit of running in circles, though is not very fast. Mostly lives on the ground but will occasionally spend time of climbing houses or grain bins. Largest preditor is migratory thunderstorms and tornados." This all reminds me of how diverse the world is.

On arriving to the airport, which is getting a make over for the FIFA World Cup next year, I sat down to wait my ride which was on it's way from Lesotho nearby. I happened to overhear the neighbor lady talking in Portuguese. English, which is one of the official languages of South Africa and many of our other neighboring countries, I was actually a little surprised to hear Portuguese spoken.

I said hello in Portuguese and said, "Where are you from? I did not expect to hear Portuguese spoken in South Africa."

"I am from Brazil. The Brazilian soccer team came in yesterday for the FIFA Confederations Cup and you will hear a lot of Portuguese spoken here," she replied.

In Southern Africa where soccer is king, I realized my question was like asking why people are wearing red in Lincoln on Husker game day. I ended the conversation there and realized I need to pay attention to the news.

Needless to say, while I will not be able to attend the games it has been a joy to watch teams like Brazil, Egypt, USA, South Africa and Italy play on TV here in South Africa and to feel like I am almost there.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Joel's Prayer
Sometimes Joel falls asleep during our nightly prayers and says funny things unknowingly. Tonight his prayer was as following:
"Dear Jesus, I pray for the health of our baby. Help us to find a good market for French fries."

Farming God's Way

Observe the forest, it is a marvelous creation of God. The trees tower above the ground defying gravity. Their leaves and fruits fall and lay on the ground. The grass hides the seeds, protected by a covering of leaves, needles and other dead decaying matter. It is only a matter of time and the seed springs new and produces a new tree which will grow to become a towering tree and again drop its leaves and seeds in the endless cycle of life.

A number of questions come to mind when observing the forest, the prairie, the African bush. When we prepare a field why do we burn the fields? Why till the grass and leaves under? Why do we expose the water in the soil to drying air? Why do we need a clean field? Why do we need to till the soil for the seeds to grow?

This is the questions we were asked at the Farming God's Way training in Bloemfontein, South Africa. The people spearheading this movement believe that Africa could be the breadbasket of the world and that God had provided everything that is needed for the poorest of the poor to do this. There effort consists of no tillage, thick mulching, composting, minimum inputs of fertilizer, manure and termite mound soil, appropriate spacing, weeding on time and practicing good stewardship of the land that God gave us. These are all techniques that the poorest subsistence farmers are able to do and do even better than larger commercial farmers to produce more corn per acre. And the results are phenomenal. Where farmers have been dealing with larger and larger fertilizer inputs into poorer and poorer soils, farmers are reaping the benefits of yields 2,3 even 10 times the amount of past years.

Look at the way God grows the trees in the forest and the plants of the field. He covers them with mulch, he does not till the ground. The rain falls and is conserved under "God's blanket" of mulch and the seeds germinate and grow.

If the poor can learn from observing God's creation Africa truly will be the breadbasket of the world.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Ya ol'Geezer

Today was a rainy cold, cold day in Johannesburg. Actually the last three days have been overcast and cold. It is amazing how cold it is when the house you are in does not have a heater. I believe we have been in the 40s and 50s Fahrenheit, but we have been running the space heaters consistently.

Anyway, I did not start writing to talk about the weather. The reason I am is that I finally worked up the courage to step outside to go get the mail in between rainy spells. On the way I met up with the manager of the complex, a really nice guy who has made us feel quite welcome here. In the midst of the conversation I asked what he was up to today. He replied that he was working on an old geezer.

I got to thinking that if Jenny had said to someone that she was working on her old geezer I might feel a little unnerved. Somehow through the rest of the conversation I figured out that he was talking about a water heater that had quite working. He asked me what I called it and I said, "a water heater". He said 'Geezer' was an 'older' word.

"Clearly," I thought.

He went on to say it is an older English work for those things we have in America that shoot water from the ground.

"Oh," I said, "You mean Geyser." He affirmed my joy at figuring it out.

So that was my introduction to the word for water heater, pronounced 'Geezer' in the English in this particular part of the world.

He went on to show me the 'old geyser' that he had just removed from a town home and was about to install a newer version of the 'old geezer'. Somehow I wish it was that easy to fix us. Or maybe we are just replaced with a new one?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Getting ready for Baby

The countdown is really here. In a matter of weeks (I'm 37 weeks pregnant) we will get to meet this little one who has made our life more interesting with his/her squirming and daily multiple bouts of hiccups. We will also get to know if we are having a boy or a girl.

I think we have all the stuff. This small human requires alot! Yesterday we bought a carseat. I've sewn 24 cloth diapers and we have several plastic panties to put over them. Last week we found a bassinette that we will use here in Johannesburg. It reminds us of a casserole carrier but is for babies to sleep in. Back in Mozambique, we scoured the used clothing markets and came up with a decent wardrobe that only cost us between 2.5 meticais and 15 meticais per garment ($0.09 to $0.54). This doesn't include all the ointments and wipes! Plus, my mom is coming from the States after the baby is born with more stuff--books and toys, brushes (to use if he/she has hair, which if he/she takes after my mother, won't have hair for a year) and nail clippers and probably alot more that I don't know about.

Babies in Mozambique do not have this much. Their car seats are the capulanas tied to their mother's body (sometimes an older sibling). Diapers depend on the family's socioeconomic status, whether they have plastic panties or not (it frequently is risky to hold a baby in Moz). Most babies, I think, sleep with their parents initially. And becuase their little bums are not encased in water proof material, I doubt that many deal with diaper rash. From what I've seen, mothers douse a liberal sprinkling of powder all over their little brown bodies which shows up as white lines in the creases of their fat wrinkles, warding off diaper rash?

One thing that is common despite the discrepancies in amount of stuff is that babies are loved.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Just to let everyone know that we are in Johannesburg South Africa for the next two months. This makes it easier to update our blog and flickr account with more pictures and even a couple videos so check it out.

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dzunga Vegetables

Dzunga Dam with Water Behind it

Vegetable Gardens with Banana Trees

Once again I have returned from Dzunga, Tete Province to visit our partner the Christian Council of Mozambique in their quest to bring food security to the people in the district of Changara using a mixed package of sand dams and food security initiatives. I was again quite excited at what I have seen develop in the communities. I also had the privilege of practicing my motorcycle driving in the rough terrain. Anyone who drives motorcycle will tell you that once you are on you are hooked. I can tell you there is nothing more thrilling then riding motorcycle through the foot trails of the African bush, dodging rocky outcroppings, mud houses and baobab trees.

Anyway, back to the visit.The 3rd dam is now just completed in the third community (I cannot remember the name of it at this point). All three communities are in the process of dividing off parcels of land for vegetable farming, fencing off the parcels with logs to keep the cattle and goats from the fields. Dzunga is the only community to have received vegetable seeds at this point but the hope is that the other two will be receiving them within the week. In Dzunga the dam is still conserving an incredible amount of water beneath the sand. Last time I visited was in March and the last of the rains had fallen the week before. It has not rained since. The water is still visible when you dig a hole at about 10 cms below the surface and as I trekked several kilometers up stream I counted about 5 or 6 wells that had been dug by farmers in the river or on the banks for irrigation. The construct the wells using local materials such as reeds to make a ring to keep the dirt and sand from caving in. The most exciting thing to see is that when we dug in the fields above the river banks you could feel good moisture in the soil about 20-30 cms (1.5 feet below the surface. At this level it is easily accessed by plant roots like corn and beans Farmer Fetching Water for Irrigation

and fruit trees that require a little more water will be able to survive through the long dry season. I walked the river with the field staff and counted 34 fields of 0.3 to 1 acre in size of which had vegetables growing in them to some degree. There is at least twice that many parcels partitioned out for other farmers, many of which are still in the process of clearing and fencing off their fields. Keep in mind here that in the past years only a handful of farmers had experience and were doing vegetable farming. It is an incredible change to the landscape and is incredibly hopeful to see people taking advantage of this opportunity. Many fields had banana shoots planted, papaya trees, and a few mango seedlings. I saw cane sugar as well which tends to be a more water needy plant. Many of these trees and some of the vegetables were not delivered by the project (though there is the intention of delivering fruit trees at some point) but because of the humidity farmers are finding ways to get plants from other communities, transplanting from those that already had these plants in Dzunga or finding seeds
in Zimbabwe. I also saw a multiplication field where the CCM field staff have planted Manioc to multiply and distribute. Manioc has never been grown here in Dzunga and is very rare in the district though it is a very appropriate plant because of its drought resistance. The people of Dzunga are very interested (though they have no present experience or opportunities to acquire seed).
Terraced Vegetable Plots

In the fields, many farmers were utilizing animal manure in the fields (good sign to see). Many were learning from the CCM field staff how to space plants appropriately in zigzag patterns which maximizes plants per available space yet allows the plants sufficient area to develop fully. I also saw suckers being trimmed off of tomato plants in fields where people have had training in tomato production. There was some pest problems (caterpillars) but the extension workders have been active in helping the farmers to use insecticides in order to protect there investment. Care was also taken to teach farmers how to terrace the planting beds following the contours of the river bank.
One farmer who recently moved back to the community from Dzunga was working in the field as I passed by. I took the opportunity to talk with him in English which I rarely get to do. I asked him what he hoped for in the next few years and why he was growing vegetables. He said, "I want to be able to eat and not be hungry." I asked him if he had cows or goats. He said that he did not but would like to sometime. Many people we talked to are those who moved to Zimbabwe during the Mozambique war and have returned recently because of Zimbabwe's crisis. They are vulnerable because they do not have animals, land or are yet well established in the community. Animals are like crop insurance here. If a family loses its crop they sell the cattle and goats for food. If a family has no animals they have no security in times of crop failure. It seems like this project is giving people like this man an opportunity to rebuild his life and make it better.
As I walked up river there was still areas where water was exposed to the surface and cattle were clearly coming there to drink. It will be interesting to see it in a few months (August-Oct) because we will really be able to see the changes but I am quite sure that there will be sufficient water for irrigation in the next couple of months and a great opportunity for change in these communities.