Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Christmas Fun

So we looked out our window and down where the bananas are usually sold was our very own Mozambican elf selling Santa hats for all to wear. They must have sold quickly because he was gone in a matter of minutes. We will be looking for the hats walking around town, appearing above the mangos selling in the markets, floating in fishing boats in the morning and entering and leaving the little mini-buses that pass through the streets of this tropical city. Actually, this begs a question. I wonder how Santa lands his sleigh in Moz?
African Travels

Yesterday was an interesting day. We were stuck in Johannesburg after retreat for a few extra days. Despite the damage the lion did to our tire, the fan belt broke while a group was traveling in downtown Jo-burg to the Apartheid museum. We have gotten used to staying places longer than planned. It usually happens that some mechanical problem or other detains us and we keep 'hanging around'.

That said, we were on our way to pick up the car and were stopped at a stop light where we watched (in slow motion of course) a truck fly through the intersection and smash across the front of a car who had pulled out too far. Fortunately no-one was hurt and we left the scene where the one driver was hugging and consoling the second.

We managed to get the car fixed and a new tire to replace the one that the lion found so tasty and headed out of Jo-burg. We were fortunate to have the opportunity to pass by a pack of monkeys while we hurried down the N4 heading toward Nelspruit. However, they were quite near, actually on the shoulder. I was happy we did not have a chance to really examine our similarities as primates with a head on encounter. From there the trip was fairly uneventul until we reached the almost 2 hour entry into Maputo. The traffic was especially odious as we entered downtown near our house. At one point we were stalled at a light where a big screen shows films and advertisements on a smaller scale than Times Square. Aside from this entertainment we watched as someone else felt like entertaining us by running up to the car in front and yanking the cell phone from the drivers hands while she were talking. Of course, we were not so much entertained as astonished and rather shocked. Not that we were overly suprised because this sort of thing happens but it had never happened right in front of us. We promptly rolled our window up so as not to let it happen to us. We then thanked God for safely brining us home.

Thus another normal yet abnormal trip in Southern Africa.
Hungry Lion

We always used to laugh at the South African chain next to the supermarket in Chimoio which seemed to be imitating the ever popular American fast food chains. The food, though we never tried it, was said to be less than appealing but the name, 'The Hungry Lion' seemed very fitting.

It was especially fitting this week. We were in Johannesburg for Southern Africa retreat this past week. It was a good time but we had a few mishaps. Each day activities were planned for people to participate in, going to the apartheid museum, hiking, and such. It so happened that one of the activities was visiting a lion park. It was said to be fascinating but this particular time the lions were more interested in our cars. I was no with the group but as it was told to me, one such lion chose the spare tire on the back of our car for its affection. The driver said that he felt the car shake and in moments the lion had bit through the tread and sidewall, deflating the tire. Thank goodness he chose the spare.

I guess our car fared the better. A lion jumped into the back of the second car, puncturing the tarp and scratching the side. Apparently it had been feeding time and that car looked similar to the one that brings the meat.

It seems that we had heard of a similar instance where some other MCCers a few years earlier had been to the same park before going camping, marinating barbeque meat and all in the back of the trailer. I guess they had quite a pack of lions following them through the park. I guess we should have learned.


Picture to come




Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Summer has arrived
Well actually, it should probably be called springtime. The Jacarundas with their deep purple, blue flowers in contrast with the red, orange of the Flambouyant Flame acacias line the streets of Maputo. The leaves are coming out of the trees and people take to spending countless hours on the verandas and terraces of their buildings or the sidewalk outide their apartments, offices and houses as the sun climbs higher and higher in the sky piercing the flowers in the trees and landing on the concrete pavement. Yes, it is beautiful, colorful, green and hot. My biggest fear from our apartment was either that the leak would continue in the rainy season despite the quick fix job of cement laid on the terrace above our apartment or that our apartment would heat up and not let the heat dissipate. I guess the second came true. Since the arc of the sun is higher in the sky, the sun beats down on all sides of our apartment at various points throughout the day. This made it quite cool in the cool season but quite hot in comparison with outside in the hot, season especially in our bedroom whose walls seem to trap the heat in the large expanse above the doorway. We have ceiling fans but they seem to just push the warm air around. Fortunately the air in Maputo is a dry air and not the humidity in Beira or it would be unbareable. Nadia's hair is continually wet with sweat. We wonder where she gets it from. She seems to even sweat at lower temperatures. As much as I want to cuddle with my daugher it does not encourage affection. It could be worse and I thank God that we do not have to put buckets down and clean mold of the walls which would be the case if we had a leaky ceiling.

Actually, I should be more then thankful. Our colleagues are suffering in Tete with over 100 degree temperatures and we for the most part have been comfortable. The office in which we work has airconditioning, which may make the heat feel worse when we arrive at home but it brings the releif throughout the day.

Next week we go to Beira for meetings. I think we will be ready to return after a few days and probably Maputo will feel amazing in comparison.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The “Signs” of the Kingdom


Last Sunday in church I was listening to the pastor preach about the fall of man, the broken world and how we continue to live in broken bodies that decay but that Jesus brought hope of a new earth, new heaven and new bodies. He spoke of the deposit, the ‘Holy Spirit’, that Christ puts in us that will be completed the day Christ returns. He also spoke that for a while Jesus healed and performed miracles but he did not heal everyone nor did he focus solely on this with a broader mission in mind. These were ‘examples’ of what it will be when Jesus returns and restores our bodies, the heavens and earth. These were ‘signs’ of the kingdom to call people to his larger mission.

I struggled with that a lot. I felt like what he was saying was that the healing the physical brokenness, which I have come to believe and am putting my energy into here in Mozambique as an integral part of Christ’s ministry is only a ‘sign’ as opposed to part of Jesus mission. I know he was not exactly saying that and what he was saying was right in the context it seemed to hit a chord with a struggle I have had the last few years. I have always struggled when living in the US where Christianity permeates and taken for granted in our culture (at least in my experience) and there is a lot of 'speaking' the gospel and the great commition. While these are good and necessary, I have always felt there are not enough people concentrating on ‘doing’, for example, feeding the hungry and demonstrating the love of Jesus, including myself. Here in Mozambique, I have struggled with the fact that there is such a deep spiritual poverty. Christianity is fairly new and there is much work and discipleship that needs to happen but not enough workers and a lot of the problems are stemming from this spiritual poverty. I suppose that the same can be said in the US but I feel like our challenges are different because in the US we have ‘heard’ a lot but need to ‘do’ or spend the time doing. In Mozambique people need to ‘hear’ and ‘do’. But the question is always how do you ‘do’ if you have not ‘heard’. I have often struggled in my life as well because I feel like I am a better ‘doer’ than a ‘proclaimer’ of Jesus message and salvation and that my gifting and desires are more concentrated in what I am doing with MCC. But I have not been without my doubts and questioning. I have questioned at times whether I am doing what God wants of me when everyone else seems to be evangelizing and discipling in Mozambique. I have struggled whether by 'doing' we really do anything sometimes when there is so much spiritual poverty and when the doing does not always work the way we had desired. To add to my struggle a fellow missionary asked me a year ago what the ‘mission’ of MCC was. I tried to tell him and he proceeded to ask how it was different than a secular organization working humanitarian assistance. Inside I felt like I wanted to shout, ”We are doing it in the name of Christ, that should make a difference.” And “Many secular humanitarian organizations have Christians working in them.” What I was really feeling inside was the opposite of affirmation for the mission which I have always felt a desire to and had felt God had put there. His comment really added to my struggle and made me doubt myself and my work and whether my gifting and desires were really in line with what God wants for my life. This has caused considerable pain for some time.

In light of this history I thought a lot about what the pastor meant by a ‘sign’. I was reading in Matthew 15 where Jesus heals the Canaanite woman and then feeds the five-thousand. The very next chapter the Pharisees and the Sadducees come to Jesus and ask him for a sign from heaven.

Jesus replies,”When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’, and in the morning you say ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.”

Somehow it just jumped out at me. Here these men are asking for Jesus for a sign from heaven and the signs are all around. They are clearly stated in the chapter before. They maybe even came to Jesus while he was doing these ‘signs’. By doing this he was fulfilling scripture and proclaiming that the kingdom was near. They were unspoken signs. These men did not get it though it was all around them. Of course Jesus is not going to tell them anything. They were looking for something else.

Then it dawned on me. I am one of many people in Christ’s body who are working to feed the hungry, heal the sick, bring water to the thirsty and release the oppressed. When we do this we are showing the ‘signs’ of the kingdom. We are ‘proclaiming’ and ‘fullfilling’ scripture that started with Jesus. These are the ‘signs’ that say to people, ‘Draw near to Jesus, come, repent, join the kingdom of God for it is near’. I have always heard this said over and over in sermons and Christian writing but I do not think I really understood it. I was ‘seeing’ but never ‘understanding’.

This was one of the most affirming realizations for me and what I am doing. Honestly, I cried. It was as if Jesus was saying, no, you are proclaiming me. Continue to do so.

Joel
Vacation

We went on vacation for two weeks to South Africa. We spent a few days in the Drakensburg Mountains, exploring the natural beauty and the rest of the time at Mercy Air's hospitality house in White River. We didn't do much. We visited a number of a waterfalls and read alot. Here's some pictures:

Joel and Nadia in front of a water fall.


Joel and Nadia at "Potholes" (circular holes in the rocks in this canyon dug out by the river)


Jenny and Nadia on the trail.


Nadia at the Lowveld Botanical Gardens

Joel and Nadia relaxing. Notice, Nadia has Daddy's phone in her hand. Every morning, the first thing she did was grab his phone and jabber away. She'd talk a bit then hand it to one of us to talk then want it back.


One of our picnics outside. We took advantage of the space to eat outside as much as possible. In the background is a trampoline where Joel and Nadia spent many happy times bouncing.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Learnings
Two years ago, I wrote a list of some of the Things I’ve learned during our first two years in Mozambique. Considering that two years has passed since then and we have two more years of our contract, here is my list at the year four mark:
- Living simply is complicated and not easily understood.
- Sometimes dressing nicely matters.
- Having a child opens doors and closes others.
- A child creates space for many conversations that I ordinarily would not have.
- A child changes one’s perspective.
- If I am generous with myself, I am more apt to be generous with others.
- God is faithful.
- The African sun is a powerful bleach for diapers.
- I’ve wanted to be involved with MCC for a long time and now after four years in it, I still don’t know what I want to do in it! But I enjoy what I do.
- Beauty matters to my personal happiness.
- God is good. Even when life isn’t.
- Prayer is necessary for my sanity.
- Clean feet feel good.
- It is a lot easier to be self-sacrificing when it is for my child.
- Laughter helps keep perspective.
- My favorite things about Mozambique are still the same—Mozambicans’ smiles, lily pads and bananas.
- Tea tastes better if it is made in a tea pot
- Nothing else matters to me when my child is sick.

Many of my learnings from year two still apply…

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Strappy Sandals
I bought a pair of strappy sandals this afternoon from some guys who sell used shoes on the sidewalk. They cost me 120 meticais (about $3.33). In an earlier post I questioned the purchase of such sandals. I justified them today with the rationale that working in the national offices of CCM, I need look professional. Plus from my American perspective, $3 black leather strappy sandals is a bargain.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Riots over for now

A week has now past since we were stuck in our apartment while the city was in uproar. Things have pretty much returned back to normal. In the wake of everything it seems that at least 12 people were killed and hundreds injured. It also appears that the police were not prepared even though they had 3 days warning and had been donated protective equipment this year from Portugal. It also appears that they had used tear gas and rubber bullets in ways that were in appropriate and real bullets at times.

At our prayer meeting on Monday each person told of the things that happened in their neighborhood and how the situation was. One lady told of their pastor’s son who had been shot innocently for being on a scene where police were chasing after a group of teenagers who had hi-jacked a car. He died. Another woman told of rescuing a Portuguese woman who was walking with her suitcases from the airport into town. She also told of the tear gas that ended up in her neighbors’ house burning people and furniture. A third, who had been with me in the morning of the riot, had to walk 33 kms back to his house. I asked him if he had suffered along the way because of the rioters.

“No, but I suffered when I got home because I was so tired,” he exclaimed.

I told my story of how Jenny almost ended up in it and how I had to look up in the dictionary what the word ‘greve’ meant at the CCM office before realizing the seriousness of the situation. That story is going around because people have found it quite funny.

I guess the government has been in meetings and has decided to lower prices back down for fuel, electricity, water and wheat. This should be satisfactory to people. What is more is that the government decided to reduce some of the personnel subsidies they receive. What I have heard is that they have decided to pay for food out of their own salaries and diminish the amount of fuel they have available per week for their cars (which are bought by the state). Yes, it is true, up till this point they have received a salary, had all food paid for, receive their own car and 70 liters of fuel a week paid by tax payer money. So you can see why people would be striking on food costs. But, I am impressed by the steps the government took. One person said that it does not make a difference to them and shows how much they are making. But realistically, how many of us would reduce our salaries and lifestyle for the sake of others. Maybe we should not be so quick to judge. Would our government do that for the sake of its people?

Yes, there is still great disparity and the Mercedes, Audis, Hummers and BMW’s keep driving around Maputo but I am happy to say that maybe this government knows a little bit about what it means when Mozambicans say, “Estamos juntos!”, “We are together!”.

At least for now.
Maputo Riots September 3

I was listening to conversations within CCM this morning on the situation. According to my colleagues, this riot was worse than the last one in 2008 and there was a more violent response from the government. 10 people died this time, many shot by police, and a lot more destruction happened to stores, banks, fuel stations, etc. It is calm for now but the government response was not very good yesterday (September 4). It appears that it is mostly youth but it is not over and people are saying it will get worse before it will get better. I guess messages are circulating to start again at 12 so we will see what will happen. Otherwise it appears that things are getting back to normal today. Buses are running, shops are opening up and even mini-buses are starting to run. I think they may be opening schools.
Maputo Riots

September 3

It’s looking like the protests have stopped for now. They started on Wednesday and gradually calmed down yesterday afternoon. People were in the streets, burning tires and throwing rocks. The police intervened. The road between Maputo and Matola was one of the main protest points and until this morning the road was blocked. Today, public transportation (big buses) resumed and chapas (mini buses) were more sporadic. There were rumors going around that the protests were supposed to start again today at noon, but we haven’t heard of anything significant. The government met yesterday to consider the crisis. People are not satisfied with the government’s response to the protests against the price increases (not sure what their response was but it wasn’t what the people wanted). Things are exacerbated by the fact that government workers get all their expenses paid for so are not affected by the increases. Life seems to be resuming back to normal from our vantage point.

September 1

This morning, as we were getting ready, Rebeca (Nadia's nanny) called me and said that there weren’t any chapas running, so could I come get her. I got Nadia ready and started driving to her house. As I entered a neighborhood near her neighborhood, there were a lot of people in the streets and they started telling me to turn around. I stopped and talked with two women who said that if I didn’t turn around, someone would burn my car. I could see smoke ahead so turned around and tried to go a different way. That way too had smoke in the distance so I decided to go home and tell Rebeca to stay home. Joél, meanwhile went to work and only a few people came into the office. Someone mentioned something about a 'greve'. It is a word we have always confused with 'grave', which means grave. Joel had to look it up in the dictionary which said it means strike. They had the radio on and would tell Joél what was happening. It turns out that someone organized via SMS texts a protest against rising food, fuel, electric and cement costs. Various places around Maputo turned violent and people were burning tires, throwing rocks at cars and breaking into stores and warehouses. Joél had some meetings scheduled for today so wanted to stay at the office but (thankfully) came home for the day. I didn’t feel safe alone, more emotionally than worried about actual threats. His co-wokers said that our area of the city (and where the office is) is pretty safe. As the day went on, we saw fewer and fewer people on the streets and all the businesses near us were closed. We watched the news on TV which has been analyzing the violence. We talked with our next door neighbors who said that they were staying home too. During the morning, the kids in the building seemed to relish in a day off from school, running up the stairs and all over the roof but by the afternoon, they were in their apartments. When Joel came home he went up on the roof to look. He said that it looked like there was a ring of fire around the city about a half mile to the north and west. By the afternoon we knew that things had calmed down a little when one of our neighbors who like to play their music loudly started their stereo; I guess they too stopped watching the news. We called the MCC rep to let her know what was happening (and the SALT participant who lives in Matola, a suburb of Maputo also affected by the protests, who couldn’t get a bus into town so went back to her host family).

We’re safe and not in danger. We keep praying for peace and it confirms to us the relevance of MCC’s work with systemic programs. It seems so sad. I keep thinking that people resort to violence when it’s their last resort or feeling powerless. They are angry with the government because it’s allowing the price increases, but here it seems, people riot or join in things without thinking. So I wonder how many people were swept along with the wave of emotion without thinking through things. I’m thankful we’re safe.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Living Simply

I’ve been doing some thinking lately about living simply. It is a concept that though my parents never (that I remember) explicitly said we are trying to live simply, is something of their faith that I adopted for myself. And blessedly, my husband too, believes in living simply. We have tried to live without a lot of stuff. But since moving to Maputo we have had to reevaluate what living simply means for us.

One reason we’ve had to re-examine it is because we had to furnish an apartment, which made us feel like we were buying a lot of stuff (we were but that comes with the territory). One of the key questions was the durability of whatever we purchased, thinking ahead to whatever MCCer comes after us and inherits our purchases. An important factor for me in living simply is the difference between frugality and cheapness. Something might have a low price tag, which appeals to my wanting to be a good steward of MCC’s money, but if it isn’t good quality, it really isn’t worth buying.

Another reason that causes me to think about ‘what does it mean to live simply’ is encountering wealthy Mozambicans. Recently, I arranged a host family for our new SALT participant. Katie, the SALT participant, will be here for a year. After CCM sending out a letter requesting volunteers for host family, the only one that volunteered was a woman in Matola, a suburb of Maputo. The family has money and I know she does not understand MCC’s desire to live simply. In their house, they have multiple televisions in one room, several guest cottages out back and a couple of gazebo-like places for hanging out outside. They are definitely not the norm of Mozambique that I know.

For most of my life I have thought about living simply as an attempt to identify with the majority of the world’s populace—living simply so that others my simply live. Embarrassingly, only recently has the idea of living simply occurred to me as a spiritual discipline, like prayer or fellowship with other believers. Living simply, as spiritual discipline is a means for pursuing a closer relationship with Christ because I am not burdened by a lot of material things.

Living simply as a spiritual discipline opens the discussion to the poor. If I live simply in order to identify with the poor, it doesn’t make sense to those who are poor and could be construed as patronizing. A spiritual discipline opens the door for all to enter and journey together, drawing closer together and to Christ. So then for me, as I am coming to understand it, living simply is living with enough and being content with what I have. It can also mean taking into consideration what others have and eliciting others’ advice about purchases and lifestyle decisions.

The concept of enough is an odd one. It doesn’t make sense to my selfish desires of wanting more or hoarding what I have. Having enough means different things for different people. I’m sure that some people think that Joél and I live a bit too austere and other people think we have too much. It’s probably a little of both. But I am content with what I have? Not all the time. For example, I would really like a new pair of strappy sandals. I can easily justify it, especially since the ones I have just broke this morning. I could easily go to a cobbler—there are two within a block of our apartment to have him sew the strap back onto the shoe, but really I want to use it as an excuse to buy a new pair of sandals. If I would ask people I knew in Chimoio, what to do, they would recommend a cobbler and our nanny here would too. I don’t know what our new work colleagues would recommend. Friends and family in the States, would recommend I buy a new pair of shoes—it’s not worth hunting down a cobbler in the States to repair 10 year old shoes. I hear both sets of advice in my head.

Yesterday we took Nadia to a park where she could run around and play outside. We left the park feeling very alone. We don’t really fit in at the park, though it is filled with other foreigners, their children and nannies. There is a really nice café, a play ground, soccer field, and paths for walking or riding bike. We feel like we do not fit in at the park because we bring our own child and watch her instead of bringing our nanny (who only watches her when I’m at work). Also, we chose not to go to the café—it’s a bit too expensive for our taste—where all the adults hang out. So we are on the grass, playing with our daughter, where the nannies are congregated, looking after other people’s children. We normally walk to the park, though yesterday we drove. Our car, a MCC car with its bush road wornness, does not compete with the shiny new luxury SUV’s. Going to the park makes us feel lonely and like we are doing something odd in trying to live with enough. However, when we get home to our apartment, it feels like we are making the right decisions for us—choosing to live in a Mozambican neighborhood, choosing to live in a small apartment with primarily locally made furniture, choosing to buy the majority of our food and groceries from street vendors and local shops.

I am also coming to understand living simply as how I govern my time. If I try to live with fewer material goods in order to not be encumbered by things in my pursuit of a relationship with Christ, the same should also be applied in how I spend my time. Living in Mozambique has given us the luxury of a lot of family time. We do not have evening engagements very often which take one of us away. I have found that I really value the long dark evenings (the sun goes down early year round) with Joél and it’s been good for our relationship. Living in a different culture has its challenges and for Joél and I who are processors, there have been many evenings when we have talked about what we are experiencing, trying to understand, and ending in prayer.

A spiritual discipline is something that is a process. One does not attain perfection or reach a place where one can say that he/she accomplished it. Thankfully, in pursuing a relationship with Christ, he walks along side of us and teaches us what we need for our own journey.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Jenny is always texting on her phone to friends, colleagues and for work. Guess who else is texting.
Navigating Maputo
This week we had the 2 SALT and 1 YAMEN participant from Brazil arrive here in Maputo. Jenny did the orientation for them this week. We had fun taking them to the market, to the beach and around town on the weekend. In the market we passed by people selling everything from shoes, toenail clippers, hair extensions to baby toys. It was backed with people shouting out their wares, people sorting through clothes and people dodging one another. It was one of those times, however, that I realized that I have aculturated because I am totally comfortable there and I have no fear anymore. It is as if I were in a mall on a Saturday afternoon and totally relaxed. I wonder how the new people who were with me felt, however, being there first days here. We sent two of them on there way and Jenny organized a language teacher, conversation partner and host family for the SALT participant who is staying in Maputo to work with me in the CCM Programs Department.

Katie, the SALT participant in Maputo successfully navigated the chapas with one of her host sisters. She is staying outside of Maputo in a town called Matola which can take 1 1/2 hours in rush hour to get into the city. Since the host sister was not available to take her home we had to figure out a way to get her home. After various questions to colleagues and acquaintances we were successfully managed to find out where we needed to go to catch the bus but no-one was willing to help and no-one could tell us what the schedule of the buses was. This is not surprising. I was surprised there was a schedule at all. So in any case we decided it would be best to go down and wait at the bus stop.

Now Maputo is a lot larger then Beira and Chimoio which we are used to. A LOT LARGER!!! There are so many buses going all over the place and the bus stop downtown was packed with people going to the miriad of places where they live in the city. Beira had only a handful of chapa routes and Chimoio, only 2. Fortunately, after 4 years in Mozambique I am used to large crowds of people where I stand out and chaos and I no longer fear it. People called me 'White' and tried to sell us stuff as we passed and I smiled because I felt at home. We asked around and I finally was able to locate where the spot was. We watched as people crammed themselves into the back of the buses.

"How are we going to get you in?" I asked Katie.

"Oh, that was the way it was this morning, you just have to push and shove," she said.

After a while a nice woman asked us if we it was our first time here. She seemed trustworthy so I said yes, we are getting a bus for Katie. She directed us toward the train station about a half mile away. By this time it was getting dark so Katie and I walked to our car and drove there as fast as we could and drove down just in time to catch the bus which was about to leave. We were lucky, I would have ended up taking her out to her place in which I would have missed supper and probably arrived late in the evening. I was glad to leave because as the dark approached I knew that the place where I was would get more dangerous for a person like me if I hung around.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Maputo's Cafes

Maputo is known for a little flair, for it's African Jazz, for it's outdoor cafes and, you guessed it, coffee. So, those of you who know me, would understand why I could easily come to like this place. Yes, I do miss the beautiful green forests and pastures of Manicaland but each place has its blessings. Jenny and I have decided to take each saturday and test out a new cafe with its plethorah of sweet rolls, donuts and good coffee (tea for Jenny).

Nadia sharing a cup of java (er, I mean sippy cup with water) with me at Cafe Cristal

Maputo-Beira-Maputo: Second time, second verse, a whole lot of driving, thankfully, not worse.
I never did report on our trip to Beira for team meetings. The trip was a whole lot easier with out the breakdowns we had when we moved to Maputo. It was quite enjoyable driving through the country laden with palm trees and baobob trees. We stopped overnight in Vilanculus on our way. Unfortunately, it is still the run down town we initially thought it was and any lodging is either way over priced or cheap and run down. So, what did we do. We stayed in a run down place and saved our money. Fortunately the food in the evening was excellent. Jenny and I had crab curries and it was the best I have had in Mozambique. It will have to be a stop on our next trip and we will stay in the rooms at this restaurant which were cheaper and nicer.


Enjoying some leisure time in Maxixe

We enjoyed the 'despedida' or going away party for Steve and Cheryl in Beira. Our wonderful cook, and Steve and Cheryl's maid, Aziza, did the preparations with lots of good food and sodas to follow. Many of our local partners were invited and we enjoyed good conversation. I noticed that it was one of those times when I realized that I had made friends in that part of the country. We sat down and had many a good conversation over world cup football which was in the later stages in South Africa.

Aziza cooking food


Cheryl with the food all prepared

On our way back, we passed through Chimoio for one last night and mourned as we said once again goodbyes to our wonderful staff, the beautiful terrain of Manica and our wonderful house and yard. Life is full of goodbyes for us.

On our way back we stayed in Maxixe in a house that was occupied in the past by MCCers. It is a guesthouse for the Anglican church and is set among the coconut palms along the banks of the bay between Maxixe and Inhambane. Truly a restful sight and much better then any hotel we could have found.

View of house toward bay

Nadia exploring the yard around the house in Maxixe

The next day we arrived safely back to Maputo after taking advantage of a few stops along the way to buy some excellent Piri-Piri (hot sauce).

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Food
I find myself thinking alot about food lately. I am constantly on the search for new recipes to make with the fresh foods I am able to get. My problem is two fold: 1. I don't like to repeat recipes much and 2. Alot of recipes, though they may not be difficult, when using vegetables are time consuming because of how much chopping is involved. So I am on the look out for new recipes that do not take much time to prepare. Sometimes that cannot be avoided given that pre-prepared vegetables do not exist (there are some canned ones, but few frozen and definitely not pre-prepared ones).

It's greens season now. The other day I tried a new corn bread recipe that a friend had sent me over a year ago that has spinach in it. It was really good. But the recipe called for a 10 oz. package of frozen spinach. I don't have 10 oz. of frozen spinach. I have a random amount of fresh spinach, which after soaking in water and bleach to sanitize it, I chopped and boiled to prep it for the corn bread. Mozambicans prepare greens (mostly collard greens) with ground peanuts and coconut. It's quite yummy and is a complete protein when combined with rice or shima (corn meal mush). But I like to try new recipes and so am constantly perusing my cook books for a recipe that calls for any type of greens that I can. In the past week, we've cooked a mashed potato-greens dish, a spicy potato and greens dish, a sumptuous curry vegetable-chicken soup and a chick pea-greens salad with tomatoes. Joel wonders why we can't just prepare the same thing on a regular basis. I like variety in my meals, to the detriment of my husband who would like to eat things multiple times. My parents had/have similar conversations. So if any one has any good recipes for greens, send them my way!

Maputo has a plethora of fresh fruits and vegetables. I was afraid I would really miss the 25th of June market in Chimoio, which was 2 blocks from our house. I miss it but for different reasons than availability of produce; I miss the vendors and how low key shopping there was. Across the street from our apartment here in Maputo is Mercado Janet (named after the American wife of one of the heros of the Mozambican independence movement). The vendors have their produce beautifully displayed, as if it is a grocery store or a market like the Reading Terminal in Philadelphia. The first time I went, I was shocked at the prices. I'm not in Chimoio anymore! I'm in the capital city and though, Mozambique produces alot of fruits and vegetables, it seems like the majority come from South Africa. So now, instead of buying 15+/- bananas for 10 meticais, I pay 20 meticais ($0.75) for a kilogram which is 6 or so bananas. Perhaps the prices are more realistic for the labor that goes into the cultivation and harvest or perhaps the prices are elevated because of the location in the city. I just have to adjust my thinking to these new prices.
Sometimes it is difficult to make purchases, knowing that people in North America donated the money to support our life and work here. We expected higher prices than we had in Chimoio and yet the reality is an adjustment to renegotiate prices in my head.

I've read that the majority of the world spends a significant amount of their income on purchasing food. We in North America might complain about food prices but in reality the amount we spend on food in proportion to our income is relatively low compared to our neighbors around the world. For example, our housekeeper in Chimoio took out an advance against her salary equal to 2 months' worth in order to buy corn for the year. This will not be enough for her family of 5 and does not include breakfasts or accompanying stew or rice (for variety). She tried to plant a field last year, but because the rains were delayed and she was helping her parents cultivate their field, she lost her crop. It's sobering to think about it.

Sunday, July 04, 2010

For the past two months in Chimoio, internet access has been touch and go. For two weeks shortly after we returned to Moz from the States, we did not have any cell phone and thus internet access because we used the cell network to get online. When it was finally fixed (a huge fibre optic cable in the ocean was damaged), the network coverage was still sketchy. Below are a few posts I (Jenny) wrote during that time.
More Savings Group Impact

Another update about savings groups written by Steve Hochstetler Shirk, MCC Co-Representative in Mozambique:

Dona Cristina was in our office again this week for some work on reporting. Some items that came out of our discussion:

- A group in southern Mozambique just sent photos of 8 chairs, some cups, and jars that they had bought for their local church, after distributing their savings at the end of a cycle. When people have money, they start looking around and seeing the needs right among them, feeling that they have the power to do something rather than feeling poor.
- These groups motivate people to get moving, because people think, "I've got a Savings meeting coming up; I need to have something to put in." So they get busy selling or making something, doing a job, "move here, turn there, mix it up there..." (mexer aqui, mexer aí, mexer aqui). Whereas before, she said, many people just sat around or even "would be sleeping," thinking that they are poor and don't have a job and therefore can't do anything.
- A group in central Mozambique just did its distribution. They had collected 41,700 MT (approx 1400 USD). This was their second cycle, and in the first cycle they'd collected some 4000 MT. People start out with a certain suspicion that the people organizing this will in some way walk off with their money. When they discover that it really is their money, for them, they get motivated - in this case they increased their savings by 1000% from one cycle to the next.
- She noted with a laugh that there is money that "it doesn't hurt to give away," referring to the separate sack of money from interest (from loans) and fines (from members who violate group rules). No one knows how much of it came from where, so it doesn't hurt to give that money for other purposes. Even so, groups have had members voluntarily give from their own savings to improve the local church facilities or help needy people.

Finally, she said that they are no longer going to speak of this as a Women's Society activity (of the United Church of Christ), they are going to speak of it as the Family Development program. There are women who are sitting around doing nothing, but they can think "I'm part of the Women's Society." Also, not everyone wants to save regularly. On the other hand, everyone has a family, and everyone can think and needs to think that "My family's development begins with me." Savings groups are one way people can foster that development, but they are not the purpose of the activity, they are merely an instrument toward other ends.

15 May 2010
No “Rede” (network)

It’s amazing how much two days without “rede” (cell phone network coverage) working makes me (Jenny) feel isolated. We are waiting for the network to get back up and running and it feels like it has been a long time since we had a signal, when in reality it has only been since Sunday (it’s now late Tuesday afternoon). We get our email through the cell phone and so we have not been able to check email and hear from any of our family, friends or work colleagues for two days. We are waiting to hear if all of our luggage came into Beira from their gallivanting in Europe without us. I long to text a friend to ask her to go out for tea sometime and catch up with her after three months away. But there’s no rede.

Tomorrow, Joél was scheduled to go on a trip to visit the sand dams in Tete because the prime minister was going to visit. But it was canceled. The funny thing is how we learned his trip was canceled. The Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM) in Tete was hosting the visit and when the visit was canceled, the director tried to call Beira to let the MCC rep (also going on the trip) know. However, the cell network is down and it seems like most landline phone lines are experiencing difficulties in these central provinces. Sr. Tiago finally was able to contact his CCM counterpart in Beira who then physically went over to the MCC office to inform the MCC rep of the change. Steve, then tried repeatedly to call the CCM Manica office to tell Joél (we don’t have a land line phone). He tried all morning and around 11:30 got through to the office. After talking, Sr. Moriane then drove to our house to inform Joél.

And when we get rede, I will post this.

Tuesday, 27 April
Immunizations

I took Nadia to get her measles vaccine this morning. When we first arrived back in Mozambique with her, I asked around about where to get her immunizations. I was referred to the public health center in downtown Chimoio. So, since then, I have been taking Nadia there every month. Some months she gets shots, other times, just weighed and measured. The Center is open from 7:00 to 12:00 every week day morning.

Mozambique offers free healthcare and childhood vaccines. My understanding of the Mozambican health system is that people get to the clinic really early in the morning and wait until the nurse calls them, for whatever ailment they have—sickness or immunizing their child. My experience at this clinic was service without having to wait very long. I learned today that that is my service.

This morning, we went earlier than usual because I wanted to get Nadia vaccinated before her morning nap. The clinic waiting area, an outdoor area with cement benches shaded by a roof in a courtyard of a larger health center, was full of women and their babies already at 8:15. We showed up and waited in the line for weighing babies. It was about 7-8 women and babies long which was plenty of time for me to wrangle Nadia out of the baby carrier she was in, undress her completely and finagle her into the sack from which she is hung to be weighed. Just before we weighed her, she peed, soaking the sack, my pant leg and the floor beneath us. I guess I looked apologetic because the nurse said something like, “It happens” (I know it does, I just didn’t want my child to do it!). She weighed 8.8 kg (19 lbs 5¾ oz). Then we stood in line to have her length measured. I attempted to dress her while she wiggled and tried to touch all sorts of interesting things in the cramped line (people’s hair, other babies). When it was our turn, I laid Nadia down on a board that had a measuring tape stuck to it. I held her head next to the top of the board and the nurse held her feet and moved another board to the end of them. She was 70 cm = 28 in. I asked the nurse where to go to get Nadia vaccinated. She replied that I should wait on the benches because the immunizations hadn’t started yet. I found myself a spot on a bench and waited. Nadia fell asleep and they hadn’t begun vaccinating.

Waiting gave me an opportunity to observe, having already disrupted the norm by showing up to weigh and measure my child. In the months I have been taking Nadia there, I have never seen another foreign woman, as light skinned as me (there could be but never at the same time I go or could be darker skinned). Women of all economic classes were present at the clinic. Babies had all sorts of different diapers—some were disposable diapers, some had the normal terry cloth diapers and some had just a folded up capulana. Most all the babies were bundled up (except for when they were weighed) and several people asked me if Nadia’s feet were cold because she didn’t have socks or shoes on (it was in the low 70’s—cold for here). I found one woman’s question ironic because her child wore shoes and socks but had bare legs, where as Nadia was wearing long pants and was barefoot. Babies of all ages were present and surprisingly though there were numerous present who could walk or crawl, all were held by their mothers.

After sitting for a while, I decided to go home. Nadia was asleep and I could bring her back later in the morning, get some work done and avoid the long line for vaccines.

When we returned, the head nurse with whom I usually related asked me where I had gone. She said that she had looked for me. She promptly got Nadia’s vaccine and filled out the information needed for documentation. Then she gave Nadia her shot. I told her that I had gone home instead of waiting in line. Her response was that I do not have to wait in line, because I am a foreigner.

I don’t know how to take that. On one level, I am thankful that it takes less time for us to get Nadia’s vaccines and I don’t have to sit and wait. On another level, it saddens me that I get such prompt service and others have to wait. It feels like cheating. And yet, it feels like that is what is expected by the average person—foreigners, like myself, get to go to the head of the line. I don’t know if I should fight it. I do some by waiting in line to weigh and measure Nadia. I don’t completely because, frankly it works to my advantage and in my foreign mentality time is money/less time waiting around allows me to do something else. However, waiting gives me opportunity to talk with women with whom I normally wouldn’t see and ask them about their babies. Though it seems rare that women come by themselves and their babies, or perhaps they meet people they know at the clinic. So I am the odd one with no one with whom to talk.

Every time we go, the head nurse works with us. I don’t know her name and she always forgets that Nadia is a girl, but she knows me and treats me kindly, converses with me, and offers advice and direction in a confusing place. And for that I am thankful.

Monday, 26 April
Sunday
It is sunday and another day not knowing where to go to church. We have found a nice fellowship in the eveining that nourishes our souls. The worship is good. It is composed primarily by people from the US with a scattering of a few others and it is very close to our house so that we can easily walk there.

But we would like to plug into a local congregation. How do we do this? Where are the churches? It was normal in Manica to be invited by our coleagues to church. There the problem was being able to say 'no' when it was too much. It is much more western here and no-one has invited us to church. I even asked if I could go with someone and they gave me the feeling that this Sunday was not a good time without telling me directly. Last Sunday we went to a church that was in English and was mostly Africans from English speaking countries. Unfortunately it was at 11:00 which is not a good time for Nadia because she gets hungry. It was nice but not quite what we were looking for. We would also like to go to a service in Portuguese and with one of our colleagues so we can build relationships as representatives of MCC. So I guess we will have to start hunting. It is hard to hunt because there is no time to walk around and just look for churches. We can ask people but we often find the directions difficult to follow until we know Maputo better.

We go to Beira this week. That will give us an opportunity to participate in one of the churches we are familiar with. Maybe afterwards we will start the 'hunt' again? It seems such an aweful word to use. What is a church that we have to 'hunt' for one? Sometimes we talk about 'shopping' for a church. I do not like that word either.
God, give me Love overflowing that
I can't help but Love Others...
...give me Wisdom to guide that Love
so that it truly Helps Others...
...give me Courage to show people that the
Wisdom and Love comes from
knowing You...
...that all will Praise Your Name!
Amen

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Maputo, here we come!
So we have not written a while on our blog. It has been a hassle to be able to write in the last few months with the business, travel and frankly, just poor internet. Apparently in the month of May a cable was severed in the Pacific Ocean which basically shut down all communication for about 2 weeks. The internet and phone systems have never quite been the same. Now we have moved to Maputo and we have finally bought ourselves broadband internet. Now after 3 years we have re-established communication with the outside role.

Our move to Maputo was a fun time. We ended up hitting an owl while driving at night. We stopped at a gas station and the attendant told us that we had hit and killed a great witch doctor. The rest of the trip was almost a nightmare. Our clutch went out before we reached our destination. We then spent the next day fixing it. Fortunately we found a really nice hotel not far from where we broke down. The next day people told us that it would take us 5 hours to get to Maputo. What they forgot to tell us was that their was road construction which we hit as it began to rain, turning the road into a flowing river of mud, soaking our things in the back and dowsing mud on them. The trip in fact took about 9 1/2 hours. We straggled into Maputo at 10. Fortunately the nice ladies at the Koinania guest house welcomed us in and gave us supper and a bed for the night. The next few weeks was the adventure of getting things together for our house, buying furniture and kitchen ware, a fridge and fixing the water system. The owner put in a shower heater for us. The only thing that seems to need to be done yet is to fix the leaks in the roof. I am not sure how or when that will happen.

Work has been good and we have just hired a nanny for Nadia so that Jenny can work as well. Overall, Maputo is a nice city with lots of flavor, places to eat, stores, museums, even movie theatres and malls. Unfortunately the nice mall has just been deemed off limits to American citizens because supposedly the President has declared that the owner is involved in the drug trade. Someone said that it is actually trade in Uranium but that they use drugs as a cover up. Who knows. What I do know is we are told to use cash if we go there so I think it is best we steer clear.

We can take walks here and the road to 'Costa del Sol' (the Sun Coast) along the beach front is beautiful past big fancy houses of national and international government people. There is plenty of art sold on the sidewalks and parks to stroll around in. The only downside is that we can't play in the grass.

In any case, we are feeling more settled and happy to be in one spot for a while.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Returning
We just got back to Beira and I (Joel) was reminded of why I do not like to drag so much stuff around (suitcases, bags, computers, baby stuff). The humidity hit me like a ton of bricks as I left the airplane and by the time we had written filled in our entrance forms I was sweating profusely. When getting to the office I had to lug our bags and the car seat up the 3 flights of stairs to the MCC office. Needless to say by the end of that I was already for bed and a good cold shower. All that and we do not even have our suitcases yet which are stuck in London because of bad weather in Washington and a volcano in Iceland. Welcome back to Mozambique.

Needless to say it is good to be back and to feel the thrill of getting back to work even if the conditions are not ideal. It will get better once we are settled into our home in Chimoio and back to normal. I was reminded over the past few days of some of the wonderful things over travel from the US to Mozambique.
  1. Wonderful meals that I do not have to pay a cent for and endless orange juice that is brought to your seat over night by the airline hostesses.
  2. Smiley friendly airline hostesses that make you feel like you are the most wonderful person in the world.
  3. Beautiful airports world class airports.
  4. Chocolate cheesecake, chocolate and cheese for dinner.
  5. The perfect climate and flowers in Johannesburg.
  6. Seeing the hoards of wonderfully diverse people.
  7. Watching the coastline of Mozambique from the sky.
  8. Choice of movies at your seat on the trans-atlantic flight.
  9. Wonderful food in Johannesburg (thanks to Lois)
  10. Endless hours to spend with our daughter.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Conservation Agriculture Potential
We are in the midst of planning a Conservation Agriculture training for personnel from each of the Christian Council of Mozambique provinces. It will happen in the end of May and is quite exciting because it shows some real possibility for smallholder subsistence farmers. To read a little bit more about Conservation Agriculture and what it can do, go to Zambia's Farming Revolution. This story really shows the potential it can have.