Saturday, December 10, 2011
“Living with a gun in your bedroom, is like sleeping with a snake, one day it might just turn around and bite you.” Bishop Denis Sengulane, Anglican Church of Mozambique
“To ‘live without resort to arms’ is a spiritual, a practical and implies also a political position.” Rev. Dr. Olav Fykse Tveit, General secretary, World Council of Churches
I am working with the Transforming Arms into Ploughshares (TAE) project of the Christian Council of Mozambique (CCM). TAE was one of CCM’s responses to helping build peace after the war ended in 1992. The churches were involved helping people reconcile, welcoming their friends, neighbors and family members back to the community, even when they fought (voluntary or conscripted) on opposite sides of the war. As a way to promote peace, TAE emerged as a means to collect weapons from people. They deactivated the weapons they received, offered material rewards for the weapons (metal roofing, cement, bicycles, etc) and found a number of artists interested in spreading the gospel of peace by creating sculptures with the decommissioned arms. As I work with TAE, I am learning some of the vocabulary of weapons.
Sunday, December 04, 2011
I don't quite understand the ATMs here in this country. It is wonderful to have ATMs. They seem to be on every other corner in Maputo, a sign that people have more disposable income and the country is moving up in the world. They are well lit and usually have a guard. Our closest bank is right across the street next to a market and a huge dumpster. The market is probably the seediest place in the area, especially at night, but at least the ATMs are on the opposite side from the market.
This is what happens when I go to get money out. You wait in line, sometimes quite a long time. When you finally make it to the ATM you want to be quick because people may get upset behind you if you take too much time. This is, of course, aggravated if the computer is not working well and taking time. This used to happen to me when we lived in Chimoio but less here in Maputo. People still get upset even if it is not your fault and attempts to explain that the ATM was slow can fall on deaf ears. Most ATMs will make loud 'beeps' when you are pressing in your code announcing "Yoo Hoo" to everyone that you are entering into your account and calling all would be theives to your whereabouts. You quickly type in 'levantamento' which means you are taking money out. It takes about 30 seconds, you look around and in the mirror to make sure no one is watching. And if they are not, the ATM makes sure that everyone is by making a loud 'whoommmpf' as your money comes out. Jenny assured me this noise can be heard on the otherside of the divided main street even when there is traffic. This noise does not happen when you are paying bills, looking up the account balance or any other numerous transactions that can be made, only when you take money out.
Friday, December 02, 2011
We recently passed our five year anniversary in Mozambique. Five years sounds significant; but for me, it’s a reminder of how much transition we have gone through since November 2006. We have lived in three distinct places (not even counting the three months we spent in Beira for language study or the three months we were in Johannesburg, South Africa waiting for Nadia to be born). We started our assignment in Gondola and two years later moved to Chimoio. A little over a year later we moved to Maputo, where we’ve been for almost the past year and a half. My job has changed as much or more than we’ve moved—first working with the women of the Mennonite church in Gondola and the Women’s Society of the Christian Council of Mozambique in Chimoio, to savings groups through the Women’s Society of the United Church of Christ, to the Peace Building Department of the Christian Council of Mozambique to now the Transformacao de Armas em Enxadas (TAE—Turning Weapons into Ploughshares) of CCM. Our MCC team has been changing—adding people, subtracting people and now after 5 years, no one except for two Mozambican office workers, are the same people with whom we started. Our family has changed—adding Nadia in 2009 and the anticipation of our second child in early 2012. About the only things that have remained constant through the change are our steadily improving our Portuguese language skills and the constant search for finding God and relevance in a culture different than our own.
We have one more year to go, completing six years in Mozambique. It hasn’t been an easy journey. Would I do it again? I’d have to seriously think about it, though I have known the whole time this is where God wants us to be. I’ve wondered what it was like for people as they anticipated leaving their assignments/Mozambique. Now I’m at the point where I find myself thinking ahead to October 2012 and our leaving more than I think about where I am. I struggle being present beyond the details that daily living demands. I have a lot of questions of where we will go, what we will do, what it will be like to return to the States in our mid-30s with two children, having left only being a couple—DINKS (double income, no kids) as someone once described us.
What have I learned these five years that I will take with me? (in no particular order)
- God is good
- God is faithful
- Sometimes being present is all I can do and though it doesn’t feel like it, it is enough
- Showing up is skill
- I like the challenge of finding recipes based on seasons and produce locally available
- Children open and close doors
- I really value running water—with hot and cold as options—though a bucket bath with warm water outdoors is nice
- One of my favorite things is having tea outside (black tea in a teapot with a bit of milk, occasionally some sugar)
- As my mother used to say, “attitude follows action”
- I’m okay with having basically only one hobby—reading and need to always be involved with a book (I’m really looking forward to libraries in the States!)
- We waste resources whenever they feel unlimited, no matter our station in life
- Being poor is NOT glamorous or happier
- Mozambique, for as poor as it is, is a really expensive place to live—I feel for those who do not have enough
- Food security is huge stress on a family, community and society
- Clean water from the spigot in one’s house is a luxury for many people
- Walking, as opposed to driving to places, can be a radical choice of discipleship
- Forgiveness is freedom
- There’s a lot of value to insulation and crawl spaces between ceilings and roofs.
- The story of the little boy giving his five loaves of bread and two fishes to Jesus to feed the crowd of over 5000 people makes a lot more sense when I’ve eaten small fish and rolls and it’s a common meal for local people.
- The beach is a livelihood for some people; for others it’s a place for vacation
- Many people who have grown up just a few kilometers away from the ocean do not know how to swim
I know I’ve learned a lot more these five years. I wonder how I have changed. What will it be like to open the boxes of household goods that we’ve stored at my parents’ when we get back? Will I be astounded at what I chose to keep? Will I find joy in sets of matching sets of sheets? Will I feel overwhelmed by American culture? How will these six years in Mozambique affect my outlook and my lifestyle? My faith?
Saturday, November 19, 2011
So I was traveling in some beautiful country in Massangena this past week. It is near the Zimbabwean border and on the other side of Kruger National Park, one of the largest game reserves in Southern Africa. It was virgin territory and quite beautiful. As we drove through the virgin forest savannah, a little animal darted across the road and bounded up the tree. It looked a lot like a squirrel. Jon, disagreed with me so we thought we would ask our Mozambican colleagues from the area. They said it was a locally known as a 'skiiroll'.
Ok, that was not very helpful because we needed to know some more information because it obviously was not a Portuguese word. We asked them to describe the animal a bit more. They said it was a cat like creature. Jon and I debated what it could be, a mongoose, cervet, bushbaby, lizard, we were not sure. I still thought it was a squirrel. We asked them some more questions to figure out what it is. They said that it lives in holes in the trees and eats nuts. Aha, I was sure it was a squirrel. Jon, however, was surprised to know that it existed in Moz or Southern Africa. I said that I had seen them before near Beira but they were times when I saw the animal up close and an English speaking African was able to confirm it. I had also seen them in the guide to Southern African mammals.
But skiroll, what kind of a name....wait...skiirowl...squirrol...squirrel...aha!!!
Turns out it was the same word but from Zimbabwean English. Yet adding Portuguese and African Indigineous pronunciation to the word and you get some unrecognizable form of the same word, for the same animal we know in North America.
We had a good laugh.
Sunday, November 13, 2011
I just returned from Massangena, a small town in the far north-west of Gaza Province to scout out the possibility of sand dams and agriculture work in the district. I will fill in more details later but I wanted to give a picture of a typical trip in Mozambique as I have experienced it over the past 5 years.
We were told it would be at worst 14 hours drive, depending on the roads. Fortunately our partner decided to meet us at Macia which would cut 3 hours off the drive. Jon, our engineer, and I left at 4 in the morning from Maputo. We arrived at Macia just a little after 6 and waited half an hour for our partner. Our partner arrived but needed to fill up with fuel. Why this did not happen yesterday, I do not know. We enjoyed time playing cards for 30-40 minutes and then followed their car to the Anglican Church which they said was a secure place for our car to park during the week away.
On the road again we headed to Chokwe about an hours drive past a large canal system built by the Portuguese and a monument of a crashed plane, a Rhodesian plane that was shot down after it bombed a bridge at the nearby Save river. Apparently our colleague was teaching there at the time it happened. It was not all that was bombed. It so happened that money had not been advanced soon enough for our partner to purchase food prior to the trip so I had brought money along. We spent the next hour purchasing food and grabbing some quick sandwiches and soda pop at a café. We finally got on the road at 11:00. The next 5-6 hours were spent on a dirt road where we were tossed to and from in our seats. I am well used to this by now and can usually doze with the flow of the rhythms of tires hitting bumps and the lurch of the car. Fortunately Jon had brought his I-pod and we listened to at least 3 episodes from Car Talk, passing the time. Mid-way through the trip it became clear that the tailgate has trouble staying shut and on hitting a bump flew open and we lost one cooler full of soda pop and juice. Figuring it was long gone we tied things back up with rope and headed on. It happened a second and a third time in which we tried to manage. The fourth time we heard a bang and all of the fuel containers flew out the back. We went back to survey the damage and two fuel containers had broken and were slowly spilling diesel all over the ground. The lid on the second cooler was also gone. We wrestled with the knotted mess of rope to get the containers untied and proceeded to fill our fuel tank with a make shift funnel made from a water bottle. This was quite an ordeal which left us all dirty and we ended up having to flush out our friend’s eye with water because diesel had splashed in it. To further complicate things, there was still fuel in the containers and could not be hauled in our truck with bedding and food. We ended up picking a spot in the trees to hide the two containers for the way back and Jon marked the coordinates in his GPS. We stopped in the next village and bought some rope to tie things down better.
We headed on with the tailgate securely tied. By the time we reached the crossroads at Mapai to catch the road to the interior past national parks and virtually uninhabited country, it was 6 PM. After 4-5 more hours we pulled into the town, ate some quickly made spaghetti and went to bed.
Of course this was just the trip up.
Fortunately the week went well and we did not have trouble when visiting the villages. We had to patch a tire at some point but it was easily done by someone in the village who had a makeshift tire repair garage under a structure of wooden posts and leafy branches. We headed home on Friday at 6, hoping to visit a few communities on the way out and to reach my car soon enough for me to go home.
The village visits took longer then expected, as usual, though it was some virgin territory and truly beautiful so all was forgiven. We traveled the rest of the way to the crossroads at Mapai but mid-way the RPMs started revving up and down when our colleague shifted gears. I had seen this problem before. It seemed like a clutch going bad and had already happened to me twice in the last two years with our own MCC cars. Fortunately we made it just to Mapai and barely made it over the little hill going over the railroad tracks and into town. Had the road been hilly instead of completely flat, things would have been worse. It was noon and before long the car was under a tree with 5 mechanics under it. Apparently there other cars waiting for service in front of us, as we found out later, but someone had told them that we needed to catch a plane the next day. This was untrue but I guess this is their way of speeding up the process. Jon and I retired to a café for lunch and a couple rounds of Cribbage. We threw Frisbee, worked on our computers, took walks, stood in line at the pay phone to communicate to people back home and Jon entertained practically the whole village when he suddenly jumped up on hearing a train to put a penny on the tracks.
It was well around 8 in the evening when we were eating supper that our car pulled up and after explaining to the woman serving us how to make omelets instead of just plain eggs for supper, we ate and were on our way. The ride went fairly well with only one stop for us to retrieve our fuel containers under the tree and fill the tank up with the remaining fuel. We took a detour to take Jon to his lodging. He was to meet Samaritan’s Purse personnel to do some studies with them the next day. I rolled into the village where my car was at 4 in the morning. My colleague was driving kind of funny as we drove in with an inconsistent speed, clearly too tired to think and to drive effectively. I had whiplash from falling asleep and my head getting yanked as the car flew over bumps. I curled up in the car and went to sleep right away.
Promptly at 6 AM I was ripped from sleep when my phone rang…Aaargh…
The head of the Gaza program wanted to know why I had not stopped by to give him a report on the trip and visit their office, an important thing in Mozambican hierarchical culture. I quickly explained the breakdown and the inability to communicate without cell phone service. Never mind that it was not me who should have been in communication with him anyway.
I pulled myself up and drove from Macia to Maputo to home at 9 AM. My wonderful wife had breakfast made and waiting. Bless her heart!
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
Saturday, October 01, 2011
I meant to write weeks ago about my trip to Tete and Manica to see the sand dams and agriculture but life got in the way. I had a wonderful time riding around on a motorcycle with Jon, except for our accident at the end which left us only a little bloodied but with the joy of pushing a broken motorcycle 8 kilometers to the main highway where help could be found to fix it.
We walked across the river to Mandie and I saw Thichira. Again, this community is in the second year of rains but it seems that the water will be around all year round. What is so remarkable here is that I could see the line of green of the vegetables, fruit and trees with leaves in the valley in contrast to the leafless trees and dormant, dry grass in the surrounding landscape. This extens up the valley as far as the eye can see, meaning water is conserved up about a km under the surface of the sand and soil.
These are the things that encourage me. It has been 5 years here in Mozambique but the fruit is beginning to show.
Last night I was awoken in the middle of the night suddenly by light. It was about 12 o'clock and I realized that the light was on and Jenny was looking at me.
She said,"What did you do that for?"
Strange, I thought. Why would she be asking me that question. Did she not see that I had just woken up. I asked her why she turned the light on.
"I thought you did," was her reply.
Again, strangeness. My first thought was, "Then who did?".
I believe her thoughts were the same because we both looked toward the door. Suddenly we realized we were not alone. There was a third person in the room. We almost yelled with fright at the strange ghostly outline of.......
To give you some background. We had just passed a milestone. We took out the crib and she has begun to sleep on a mattress until we can get her a proper bed. So she can now get out of bed and she apparently walked over to our room and turned on the light. But she did not say anything and after we regained our senses we noticed her lower lip protruding, clearly with fright about ready to cry.
"It must have scared you," Jenny said to Nadia.
"Scared", she mumbled.
Jenny held her a bit and took her back to her room. Apparently the mosquito net fell down. Poor thing! That must have been awful. I would have been scared, or frustrated, either one would create a protruding lower lip.
We put her back to bed, thankful it was not a ghost!
There is a man that lives on our corner. He is not mentally right. I am not sure what is wrong but he is not right. He is always around and people know he exists but most of the time he is left alone to do whatever it is he does. It seems like he goes around and picks up the trash in the area and puts it into the trash bin. I have noticed that in Maputo the homeless or those mentally handicapped seem to each have their territory in the city. I have been told by people that he picks up trash for the businesses. I am not sure if he gets paid food or what for doing this but somehow he has clothes and somehow he gets food. I hear him wondering around at night sometimes hitting the trash can.
This has been a huge weight on me because I understand Jesus message of justice for the poor and needy but I fail to see what role we can have in such a man’s life and honestly, in my flesh, I am scared to do anything or commit to anything. There are so many questions I think about. What if I talk to him, will he understand? Will it make any difference? Does he need food? I know in my heart I am not willing to give him a room to stay in and am afraid to do these things. Why? I suppose it is the uncertainty. Maybe he could hurt me. He could be on drugs. Does that mean I am not willing to follow Jesus to the utmost? I suppose it will always be a struggle and has been every time I meet someone as such. I am not sure if it is the same scenario as the Good Samaritan. The man on the side of the road could have been a normal guy that was robbed and not mentally handicapped and somehow I find it easier to think of helping someone like that then someone who is not right mentally and society has no place for him. Maybe it is because I do not know what to do. What is my role in that? One thing is for certain, it is hard to do it alone.
This morning it was raining and I was on my way to work. There were fewer people in the streets but I passed him. He normally sits next to a shop on the corner in the mornings cutting up cardboard boxes to put in the trash. As I walked up the street I heard a noise of shouting and beating. I turned around and a young man was yelling and beating him with a stick. He was groveling on the ground and his pants started to fall down. How degrading. I suddenly felt the surge of adrenaline and got really angry. Why are they beating a helpless man I thought? No matter what the cause it does not justify this. I suddenly found myself walking toward him and thought in my head that I am crazy for mixing in this business but I was too angry at the injustice of it to care, I needed to say something. I asked the guy, “What is the problem, why are you beating this man? He was very angry walking back and forth said something about him leaving trash on the sidewalk in front of the store. This was probably a just reason to be angry but not for beating someone. The only thing I could think to say was, “Do not beat him like this. Do not beat him.”
I suppose I should have picked the guy up and taken the trash and put it in the trash can but I didn’t. Maybe I did not think about it. Maybe it was because I had vented my anger and position against the injustice and was not willing to do more. Was it enough to salvage his dignity? Was it enough to call attention to the fact that this is a man and not an animal? I will never know and always be left wondering if I should have done more.
Wednesday, September 28, 2011
Today the forecast was for the temperature to be 24 Celcius (about 76 F). I talked with a friend of mine in the UK who was joyful because this week was hot. I asked her what hot was--today was supposed to be 26--"It's the hottest it's been all summer!" I told her I was rejoicing because it was cooler today. Later, as another MCCer and I were talking about the beautiful weather, she told me that as she was walking with a Mozambican colleague who commented, "It might be 26 but it feels like 49 (120 F)!"
Monday, September 19, 2011
I often do not have things in common to talk about, our cultures being so different, North American vs Southern Africa, individualism vs the communal, direct vs the indirect, etc. Often the only subjects to talk about in depth are about work, kids and women (our wives of course) but only to a point since the way we raise our kids and gender roles are clearly different. But sports are universal. They have the same rules. Sure there is some different ones, netball, andebol, which are common to Southern Africa, but I can still understand the objective and the language of these games. I can still cheer at a well hit volleyball, a goal or a winning swim.
The games are over but they were fun while they lasted. Sadly, Mozambique did not win one gold medal. South Africa took the cake with something like over 150 medals. But Mozambique had a good showing. The women's basketball almost made bronze, the men's silver. Karate, boxing, canoing, swimming, chess all took bronze. Most importantly the games happened in a country that is still desperately poor and with an infrustructure that makes such events difficult to host. Hooray Mozambique!
I made enchiladas for supper tonight according to the recipe in the More with Less Cookbook. I’ve been thinking about them for several months, so this week I decided to make them. Making them was a four day process. On Monday, I made a double recipe of tortillas. On Tuesday, Joél bought a kilo of dried beans. Yesterday, I soaked the beans and we cooked the beans in the pressure cooker. Today, I made refried beans and assembled them. We ate them for supper. They were good but I don’t think I’ll make them again—took too much work!
15 September 2011
The seasons are changing. Officially it is from winter to spring, but here it’s known by the cool season to the hot season. However, having spent the majority of my life where spring exists there are a few marks of spring.
There’s the smell of spring—that smell of opening the house up after having it closed for several months. There’s the feeling of wanting to get outside to enjoy the beautiful weather and not complaining on a hot day because it actually feels nice. I am reminded of the glorious spring days at EMU in April, trying to finish up papers, yearning to be outside instead of in my room studying—I wasn’t able focus if I tried to study outside like many other students were. There are the flowering trees, with fragrance filling the air.
Our apartment is cool; the outside is warm. I wish I could hold this coolness in but time keeps marching closer and closer to the hot season where the ceiling fans are on all the time instead of just in the evening when the house is cooling off. The sun is gradually creeping closer to the position for the hot season. Last year when I saw the sun beginning to shine in our apartment at 4:00 in the afternoon, I marveled and thought it to be my favorite time of the day. This year, watching it come in, I wonder how long will it be until it is coming in at noon and heating up our apartment for the day. Our tans are starting to come back. The familiar stripes from my Chaco sandals are becoming defined as I wear my sandals walking around the city.
Ironically, some of the trees are changing its leaves and losing them. So we see huge bright red leaves littered on the sidewalks and streets as these trees transition. The huge tree across from our apartment building in the Catholic Church’s yard is losing its leaves; in a few months it will sprout new leaves. Though the calendar reads September, for my northern hemisphered mind, I wonder if it shouldn’t be Lent and we should be preparing for Easter instead of in Common Time in the church liturgy, finishing the liturgical year.
12 September 2011
Monday, September 12, 2011
I opened my e-mail this morning and this is the message that I received:
We received the tragic news this morning that Joshua Mukusya, the CEO of Utooni Development Organization, was attacked by thugs early this morning and was shot and killed. Details are few at this point but it appears as if Joshua was traveling to his shamba (field) in Simba (about 40-60 km from Kola) when he was attacked and killed
Joshua was the man who dedicated his life to building sand dams in Kenya for the past 20 or so years. He was a passionate Christian man who dedicated his life to others to bring them water and food. He was the one who took us around in 2006 to visit the sand dams and encourage us to try in Mozambique. We knew him. He is the face we see on the videos from Excellent Development. He is the one who inspired us. He is the farmer who by his own two hands figured out that this could be done. He was the one who told us that it would be the church that would save Africa.
"Hard pressed, but not crushed, persecuted not abandoned, struck down but not destroyed." II Corinthians 4:8
May we carry on the vision.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Thursday, September 08, 2011
Thursday, September 01, 2011
It's starting to get warm again. In preparation for sandal weather, I painted my toe nails over the weekend. When Nadia discovered my dark pink nails, she wanted them too. Her feet were terribly dirty and we were in the midst of getting ready for the day, so I promised her that I would paint her nails another time. Today I came home from work and Rabeca, our househelp/babysitter told me that Nadia had gotten into the white-out and painted her own toe nails.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
It rained today, so Nadia and I were not able to make our usual trek to the park. So we made cookies instead. Here's Nadia decorating our creations.
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
- Walking with my daughter to the park and listening to her sing “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” and the alphabet song
- Nadia’s version of the alphabet: A, B, C, D, E, F, G, H, I, K, K, lmnop, Q, R, S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, Z
- hanging laundry on the roof of our apartment building and enjoying the breeze and quiet solitude of being alone high above almost everything around
- buying fresh vegetables from street vendors and conversing with them
- seeing my husband’s excitement to try new recipes from his new wok cookbook and searching out the ingredients to make them
- a quiet evening at home—Nadia in bed, Joél practicing his guitar, me writing and our neighbors not making noise
- washing dishes in warm water and the resulting clean kitchen
- cup of tea
Child development says that children between the ages of 2 and three start developing an imagination. Nadia is 2 years, 1 month and 1 week. Today I saw her imagination.
We had grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch today. She often will eat the soft bread of a sandwich before (if) eating the crusts. Today as she worked on one of the crusts of a quarter of her sandwich, she said to me. “This is a kitten.” Then she held it to her chest protected by her bib and proceeded to pet it. Then she told me, “The kitten is soft. I yuv [love] it.” This happened for a few minutes until the crusts separated from each other. I felt awkward because I wanted her to finish eating her sandwich but didn’t want to encourage her to eat a kitten or to stop her imagination. When the crusts broke apart, she told me, “The kitten broke.” Then carried on eating her sandwich with no more comments about a kitten.
Then later on in the day, she went to the potty. She sat for a while then stood up, and proclaimed, “I made mud!” (poop in her words). Then as she looked at it, she told me, “It’s an elephant!” “It’s a snake. Sssssss.”
Welcome to the world of imagination!
Sunday, July 31, 2011
Nadia finally made friends with Jon in our past visit to Beira. From the beginning, Jon has been the only one that Nadia has not warmed up to. For being such a nice, warm guy, we cannot figure this out. Maybe there is something untrustworthy in his big smile. Who knows. But they finally made friends, or at least for a couple days and than she was back to avoiding him like before.
Besides resisting Jon's advances, Nadia's other accomplishments of late:
- Singing almost the entire ABC song, Doe a Deer, Daisy Daisy and Little Teapot
- Saying the verse "We all like sheep have gone astray, etc." through to the end.
- Throwing a tantrum that makes her bed jump and make a horrible racket against the wall.
- Take her shoes off by herself
- Climb in and out of her carseat, booster seat and stroller by herself
- Rinse dishes: She hands them to daddy while they sing together
Monday, July 25, 2011
I don't understand the apartment two floors below us. Our apartments are not well ventilated nor do we have varandas off of them. But they still insist on cooking in their kitchen with charcoal. They had a fire in their kitchen at 3 AM on Sunday morning. And this morning, the smoke from their charcoal wafted through the chimney into my kitchen.
Sunday, July 24, 2011
The news of Haiti's earthquakes was fresh in my mind last year as we moved to Maputo into a 5 story, cement apartment building. I understand why disasters of such are terrible for the third world where everything is made of cement and is often not made or cured properly. What never really crossed my mind was fire. Ok, maybe I gave it a brief passing thought. Our apartment is completely sealed with iron bars to keep out theft. This makes sense but I doubt it would pass fire code in the US. I remember in school getting little stickers of firemen that we could put on a window that is our escape route in a fire. Fat chance here, I would need to sleep with a bolt cutters under the bed. I guess our best escape is out the door and down the stairs which makes the most sense anyway.
So fire was an option but not really much of one given my understanding that cement does not burn as much as wood :). I had come down with a cold last night from our long trip by bus from Beira. These colds following the long trip to Beira are becoming a habit. I guess getting up at 3 in the morning and spending time on a bus with 30 people from Beira for 15 hours increases the chance of catching cold. Duh! In anycase, I could not sleep and decided to get up for some medicine for my headache. I went to the kitchen in search of water. I noticed the windows were fogged up and I heard a funny noise. I decided to open up the window and it was a good thing because to my shock my head stuck out into smoke and sparks coming from below.
"This is not good," I thought. If verbalized it would have been the understatement of the year. I instantly thought of all we ever owned in Mozambique going up in smoke in our apartment in Mozambique.
"Oh, well" is what I thought. "Nothing I can do about it. I had better get Jenny and Nadia out."
Thankfully the smoke had not penetrated any of our rooms but was just beginning too. We grabbed our shoes, documents and Nadia and headed downstairs only stalling to get a couple of buckets. I thought it could come in handy. Jenny grabbed our entire cash box and stashed it somewhere on her person. She did a good job of concealing it because I never noticed it.
We joined other onlookers on the street to see the window of the apartment two flights down on fire. I remember it was the one that usually cooks with charcoal in their window and sends smoke up to the second level. It must have caught the plastic that they were using to conceal it. Jenny used to always complain about the smell and the stupidity of live fire for cooking in a building such as this. We had already taken a child to the hospital in Gondola because of the fumes given off by a charcoal fire in a closed house. So it was not a complete suprise to us that this was the apartment that was on fire.
The fires had actually diminished by the time we got down but I did not know it. Someone had already knocked on the door but no one answered in the apartment. I thought surely they would be harmed by smoke inhalation. My first thoughts were to get water and climb up the veranda and put it out. I had seen people get up there before. Call it heroism if you like, but in the moment I was mainly thinking of how to save our apartment. A couple who had passed in their car, had actually called the police and the fire department. I knew none of this, so he and I ran up to my apartment to get water in hopes of getting the people to open it up. I knew that they did not have water piping in that apartment. By the time we came back down the owners had woken up and were putting the fire out from inside just as the police, and surprisingly a nice looking fire truck and team of firefighters arrived.
Fortunately no one was hurt. Us and our neighbors in the apartment below got out soon enough. We went back to bed with a fan blowing to take out the extra smoke that was stinking up our house in the kitchen and veranda. It was not enough to have hurt us but it did leave questions lingering had it been a bigger fire. The thought did occur for us to look for a smoke detector. Could they exist here? They might. We finally resigned ourselves to the fact that with all the smoke coming up from normal cooking, it would be going off every 15 minutes and decided to place ourselves in God's protection instead before going to sleep instead.
Saturday, July 23, 2011
I can remember many times loving the odd box to play with. When mom would get a new refrigerator or other large appliance we would always get the box. Who needs a washing machine. We were not interested. GIVE US THE BOX!!!
I have fond memories of me and my brothers creating castles and forts, complete with draw bridge. We would fight like nights of the round table and attack the ramparts of our box castles. Nadia is no different. We put a new hot water heater in and soon like a little boy I started cutting up the box, putting in a door, a window and most exciting for Nadia a mail slot and stove elements and dials on the side and top. Oh what fun we had. Especially the mail slot. Nadia spends lots of time putting her birthday cards through the slots.
And to prove that Bunny was not stolen in Beira, the proof is in this video.
We went to Beira this past week for team meetings. Three of our year-long colleagues, participants in MCC's SALT and YAMEN programs ended their terms, so we had a going away party for them and attached team meetings to it.
Joel, Nadia and I risked the bus again, fortunately this time it took the normal amount of time instead of 26 hours like the last time. Our country rep picked us up from the bus terminal. Nadia and I took our carry-on luggage to Melanie's truck while Joel waited to pick up our suitcases from the underside compartment. We loaded everything into the truck. Just as I was about to strap Nadia into her car seat, some guy who must have been watching our movements and lurking in the shadows, swiftly grabbed my purse from my hands and took off through an abandoned field hidden from view by a tin roofing fence on three sides. I yelled my surprise: "That guy stole my purse!" Joel, ever the gentleman, tried to run after the guy, but the thief had the advantage of surprise and night. Joel and I looked all over the field, hoping to see my purse; we talked with several guards of business establishments bordering the abandoned field. But to our dismay, no one had seen anyone running with the purse.
Melanie took us to the police station who told us we needed to go to a different precinct. Upon arriving at the proper precinct, a police officer took the information he needed: Name, daughter of, place of birth, nationality, and finally asked, "What documents were stolen?" He dutifully wrote down what documents I lost and then considered the case closed until we pressed him on the additional items missing.
Documents in Mozambique are notoriously difficulty to get--very time consuming and for foriegners, the immigration processes are not always very efficient. In my purse, I had my residency document, Nadia's residency document, my Pennsylvania driver's license and my international drivers license. All important documents. While Melanie worried about the loss of my documents, Joel and I worried about a more important item--Nadia's beloved Bunny. She loves her Bunny. She would take Bunny everywhere with her if we would allow her. She wakes up in the morning and Bunny is the first thing she plays with; she sleeps with Bunny; she gets hurt and first wants to be comforted by me then wants Bunny; she converses with Bunny: "Como esta, Bunny? Como esta, Nadia? Estou bem" Bunny is Important in our family.
When it came to going to bed, Nadia must have sensed our apprehensive mood and reacted to a new place. She didn't go easily. We told her that someone had taken Bunny. All night long, I worried about losing Bunny. I pictured Bunny like the Velveteen Rabbit, left alone, cold and lonely, abandoned on some random street. I prayed that God would miraculously return Bunny (and my documents).
At 6:30 AM, both Joel and I received a phone call from the same number. I quickly called it back, hoping to hear something about my purse. It was a guard from the Catholic Cathedral School. He said that at 22:00 hours the night before "banditos" left a purse with documents and glasses (my prescription sunglasses). Thank you God! Joel went and picked up the purse from the honest guards. Everything was in the purse, except for the money (about $15.00 USD) and two flash drives. We had Bunny again!
I talked with a Mozambican colleague about how the purse was left in front of the church school. He said that banditos often do that. His wife had the same thing happen. They steal purses, take the money and leave the purse in front of a church or police station, as if they know people need the other things they keep in the purse. Seems they could generate income in less violent ways.
Saturday, July 09, 2011
So you may have seen my earlier blog about the visit to the camp outside of Gorongosa and the wonderful time we had there during our last MCC team meetings. There was one story that I did not tell you but it is worth writing down because I know my mother is printing all my entries in some sort of journal. Thanks mom!
This place was remarkably quiet for Mozambique, no noise whatsoever except for the sounds of animals at night because it was in a forest next to the park. It happened to be the third night we were at the camp. A thunderstorm rolled through in the evening when we were sitting around the fire. Thunderstorms are incredible in Africa with little light from artificial sources, lightening rips through the sky reminding me of one of my favorite childhood stories about a Kenyan man who shoots down the rain. I even read this story to the MCC team before putting Nadia to bed. We went to sleep peacefully with the sound of rain in the forest and on our tent rather than the radios and cars that I usually hear in Maputo.
It must have been about midnight when I woke up from a heavy sleep. I thought it was 3 in the morning. I happened to hear the sound of a man walk by the tent. The camp seems like it is open in the middle of the forest without any protection. In my half daze I sat up and started listening. Before long I started to hear footsteps around the tent on all sides. It sounded like people surrounding our tent from the back to the front where the lights are. All of a sudden all the lights went out. I sat bolt upright a million images going through my mind. I thought of the times in Gondola when gangs of thieves had attacked peoples houses on the outskirts of the town, terrorizing them and stealing their valuables. We had spent nights worried that we could be next. I remembered our regional MCC representatives who had much of their stuff stolen while they slept in Zambia in a tent in a similar situation. I also thought of all the movies which I had seen of Africa where atrocities happened. And worst of all I thought of William, our mechanic who recently spent 2 hours holding his door against a gang of thieves who had surrounded his house, beat him with machetes and left a hole in his skull.
I got really scared and got out of bed asking Jenny if she heard the people outside. She said she didn't.
"Don't you hear the footsteps, or see the light go out," I said whispering.
"No," she replied starting to get a little scared herself.
I got my pants on really quickly and stood by the door ready for anything, more terrified then I had ever been in my life. I tried to peak out the door but could not see anything. The noise of footsteps getting louder. I prayed.
I yelled, hoping to scare them away but the footsteps kept coming. I finally decided I had better warn the others because no-one else was making a noise. I yelled to my colleagues in the tent next to us at the top of my lungs.
"Cybelle," I screamed, "Are you awake?!"
"Yesss!" was her reply.
That is weird. It sounded angry and confused, not scared. Why is that I thought. The fog that my mind was in suddenly cleared and everything became clear. The sound of footsteps were not people it was huge drops of water falling off the trees. A sound like I had never heard before in Mozambique or any other forest I had been in. They were huge drops. It just so happened that I had woken up as the guard went past to shut off the lights at 12 midnight like he always did. All the coincidences happened at the same time. I was hugely embarrassed but also still terrified that I had been so crazy. I went to Jenny and practically bawled feeling like an idiot but still shaking and scared from the images in my head.
Then I heard an owl, hoot in the trees in the back of our tent. Piet, the owner, had said that there is still a lot of witch craft in the communities beyond the camp. Owls are usually seen as witches in animal form. Could it have been some evil. Maybe, it is not unheard of here. This area was the rebel stronghold of Renamo when all sorts of atrocities occured during the war. 20 years ago surrounding a community and massacring everyone was common practice during the civil war. This evil may not be competely gone.
We had a good laugh in the morning over the whole episode. Piet said that he is friends with the communities and that there is no fear of danger. It is true that the camp is not guarded and is open to the forest but there is no danger. I told him the story and he laughed.
But for the moment, it was very true in my mind and that is just as scary as the real thing. I hope it never happens again.
It's been cold lately. Our apartment is often alot cooler than it is outside, but there's often a breeze so it's not much warmer. We live in a cement apartment building on the south side, which means that during the winter we do not get any sun.
For the past three months we have had difficulties with water. Fortunately they have not affected our supply or use of water. But they have caused some frustration. The first problem is still on-going and our neighbors, whose problem it really is, are not affected by it. Our apartment building has 12 flats in it. We are flat #12 (in case you wondered) and are on the top floor. We share a floor with flat 11. Flats 9 and 10, which are said to also be on the third floor are half a story below us, which means that their roof is in the middle of our wall. Our roof holds a number of water tanks (because the city water is only on from about 3 AM to 12 PM and so people have storage tanks for the time water isn't supplied by the city) and most of the tanks are directly above our bedroom. Our neighbors' tank overflows daily. They have a bouy in it that should signal the city water to stop filling the tank when it is full; but it doesn't work. For the greater of 2 months, we would hear a cascade of water landing a little above our ears at some awful hour, like 4:00 AM until we woke up around 6:00. They tried to fix it but it still runs, thankfully now, only starting the cascade at 6:00 instead of when we are sleeping. The neighbors whose tank it is, live below us and are not the ones receiving the water fall on top of them. In moments of weakness, we have contemplated routing the water from the overflow pipe into their windows so they are affected by the water. But we haven't and have tried to go through the proper complaint channels--the commission of the building.
Our second water problem lasted a few days. We got new neighbors in the flat whose roof joins our wall. He did alot of remodeling, including working on his tank, located above our bathroom. However, somehow, he hooked up an empty tank which, also had overflow issues. But instead of being limited to a waterfall outside the wall, the water began raining in our bathroom. The mass of water leaking also caused a small piece of cement to fall off our ceiling. Considering that he was in the midst of remodeling and seems to be a responsive, responsible sort of man, he fixed it in a few days. I think the ceramic tiles in our bathroom are still drying out because a number of them are still discolored from the water and the grout between them has bubbled.
Our third water problem is hopefully getting fixed this week. The only source of hot water in our apartment was a small electric shower head, frequently informally known as a "widow maker"--makes sense water + electricity... We have had a number of problems with our widow maker and had several electricians in to fix it. Most recently, we have replaced the heating element, only to have the water either scald or be cold. So we had another electrician in to work on it, who said that it wasn't wired properly, in fact there were several inches of exposed wire, taped to the metal tube holding the shower head with electrical wire. So he fixed the wiring and for some reason, then after showering in pleasant temperatured water for about 3 minutes the breaker would blow. We got fast at showering! Then once when Joel was showering he heard a POP! and saw sparks. That was the end of our using the shower head.
This week, a plumber is going to install a water heater--a geyser, as they call them in South Africa, I think we call them a hot water heater in the States. I'm so ready for it. Like I said it's cold, like in the 50's F in the morning, which does not make taking a bucket bath pleasant.
Sunday, July 03, 2011
One of Nadia's favorite songs is a cute little song we have from a tape that says, "Do to others as you would have them do to you". So it just so happened that today I was playing with her and one of the two of us passed gas (I will not let on who it was). In anycase, I said something like someone tooted. Immediately she smiled and started singing, "Toot to others as you would have them toot to you." :)
Saturday, July 02, 2011
We had the most amazing experience today. We walked into a brand spanking new Pick n Pay. It was an incredible experience. Of course this means nothing to anyone that does not know Southern Africa but it is amazing to us. It is a big nice South African grocery store. Not that we did not have good grocery stores. We have Shoprite, also a South African chain, but also several local grocery stores which would be similar to smaller town grocery stores in America. But Pick n Pay is like walking into Johannesburg, South Africa on your doorstep. Biltong, Twinings tea, bohrworsts and other beautiful pieces of meat, afordable cheese, cottage cheese, bran and much more. Amaaaazing!
For anyone who does not believe Africa is not a good place to invest I beg to differ. The place was packed with people. Not only this, but it is the second big grocery store opening in the last month and all the stores have tons more people shopping than I have ever seen in grocery stores in the US. Of course, it is a huge switch for people who are used to informal markets to have organized stores thrust upon them in less than a decade. It is a lot more hectic, but obviously they have money to spend and there clearly is not enough grocery stores yet. Maputo also has a beautiful new mall with bowling alley, a beautiful new Radison hotel on the beach, not to mention a lot of other developments.
And to think, 10 years ago there was hardly a clothing store, people walked around without shoes and had trouble getting toilet paper. Now I can hardly think of anything I cannot get hear except for the wonderful smoked sausages that I get from relatives in the US. Maybe Africa will rise yet!
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I woke up this morning and I was truly cold. I thought of how I must really be a wimp after all these years of living in Sub-Saharan Africa. How my body had changed because of all the heat and how Julie and Heidi must have though us funny when we were in fleeces and they were in shorts and T-shirts walking around town.
Then Jenny looked at the temperature. 38 degrees! And with cement walls and no heating in the house this is bone chilling cold. This is the coldest it has been in Mozambique since we got here. I went to church wearing double socks and flannel pajamas underneath my pants.
Saturday, June 25, 2011
Maputo. In general we like the city. It is a very safe, walkable by African standards with a mediterranean feel to it. I was thinking about returning to the US and one of the things I will miss most is the slow pace of life and the ability to walk almost anywhere. I enjoy being able to walk, though most people here, especially expats wonder about my choice and why I often do not take the car. I guess it makes me feel normal. I have always liked the excercise and exploring the world. That is why I was a hiker. And it costs nothing, uses no gas and usually I do not have to take myself in for repairs. The more I use the car the more I have to fix it and that is definitely not simple in Mozambique.
I understand it takes more time but life seems simpler. Why do we have to rush so fast through our lives anyway. I have determined that I get a much fuller sense of life the way God created it and of the lives of people when I walk. I get to feel the air on my face, the sounds of, well, cars of course, but the sound of people, markets as well. I get to see their lives, to experience what it is like, to understand a bit though the divide is still great. It gives me a stronger basis to minister Christ to people. To share in their lives. I get to see that life is not just about getting from point A to point B but actually enjoying the journey, the intricacies along the way. To enjoy the sight of vegetbles, books and fish being sold next to the street, the flowers in people's yards and the new construction and reabilitation that often gets missed in the broken buildings. Sure, I have to avoid the dogpoop, not mentioning what else ends up on the ground, and broken glass bottles. But this seems more of a challenge. I personnally enjoy cement that is broken and heaved hither and to by the tree roots or simple neglect. It breaks the monotony of cement and gives me a challenge, somewhat like hopping along boulders in the mountains.
Plus, it just makes me feel good! So I will walk.
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Passeio above Delagoa Bay in Maputo
They spent a lot of time exploring Maputo, including the Natural History Museum which turns out does not keep anything in secret but shows birds of prey and other such animals attacking others in very vibrant and gruesome ways. I suppose it is for effect. People want excitement not just in movies but from stuffed animals in an exhibit. Somehow, though, it does seem to ruin thoughts of living in a Peacable Kingdom or trying to get back to nature. It looks downright vicious, even horrifying! They showed us the pictures. We did have the privilage of spending time with them a few days when we did not have work to do, having coffee at the European style cafes and trying the Portugues pastries.
On Sunday, we headed to Xai-Xai. It is one of the few beaches in Mozambique where I have actually been on the open ocean and not a bay or inlet. Since it is the low season during winter, there was virtually no-one there on this stretch of sand that goes for miles and miles with towering sand dunes behind it. There is an incredible reef running like an asphalt highway horizontal to the beach. It is under water at high tide and creates a little swimming area next to the beach that is protects it from the waves. It breaks up in some places into big chunks and the
waves crash into them sending spray up to 20 meters in the air. Truly a beautiful sight.
We stayed in a house all by ourselves just 100 meters from the beach. It was cold but still fun to be in such a beautiful setting. Nadia herself could not get enough of running and jumping in the puddles left by the low tides.
Sunday, June 05, 2011
MCC Mozambique Team
Despite the long 26-hour trip back to Maputo, I want to write a little bit about the wonderful time we actually did have in Sofala Province which indeed is the reason that we were able to handle with patience the long trip afterwards. We were to have team meetings in Beira like we usually do every 3 months but this time, on someone's suggestion, which I might add was wonderful, we decided to spend some time at a camp just outside Gorongosa Park and have our meetings in this rural bush setting. For those of you who do not know, Gorongosa Park is probably the best game reserve in Mozambique and if it weren't for the war, it would be one of the best parks in Southern Africa if not Africa for seeing game. At this point you can see warthogs, baboons, vervet monkeys and any number of antelope and gazelle. The lions and elephants are coming back and the setting is very much more rugged and wild than anywhere else I have been in southern Africa and the vegetation and forest savannah beautiful. The park borders Gorongosa Mountain which is unique in its own right. It is a single mountain in the middle of flat savannah plains but full of wildlife and a unique forest on top.
We spent our time in a camp run by a South African couple just outside the park. They are working on there registration for there tourist business and so they have lived Swiss Family Robinson style in a house that looks like a labrynth beautifully made of bamboo, reeds and grasses while they build there more permanent house. The bamboo opens up to room after room as you walk back with furniture and paintings that look like it came from 'Out of Africa'. It is in the middle of the forest and quiet but completely open. Anyone could walk in and not be noticed and there is no security. I asked Piet how they can live without walls or security remembering the gangs of thieves that used to scare us in Gondola, which is only 2 hours drive away. He said they have been here 8 years and nothing ever happened to give them concern. They get along excellently with the neighboring communities who offer them protection and the community benefits because their land is protected from logging companies that want to come in and exploit the land. This is conservation and tourism at its best.
They have a number of daughters and one of them is in charge of tourist trips. She speaks Portuguese, Afrikaans, Sena and English with perfection and is as comfortable with the locals as she is with us, running around in barefeet all day. She is 16 and has been driving since she was 11. The government tried to stop her at one point but they realized she is a better driver than a lot of other locals and so she drives for the government people as well. What an amazing life. She took us one evening to see the stunning sunset over the Pungue River valley. I had been there before with Brooke and Sara but this time we had food, soda and a guitar. As the song goes,"No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that rock I'm clinging. If love is Lord of heaven and earth, I cannot keep from singing." So we sang.
Jon and I hiked up a steep footpath about 50-100 meters up to the top of the fall. We did it in barefeet and I was seriously precarious at times. I felt like I was in virgin territory exploring the deep of the jungle in a remote corner of the world. Actually, we were. This is little known territory but is sure to be known as the tourism grows in Mozambique. The rest took turns jumping into the cold water. I have done that enough in my life, I decided I did not need to do it this time. We all ate lunch there at the waterfall.
Each day we ate lunch and dinner together which was cooked by the mother in the bamboo house. It was some of the most amazing meals I have ever had. Especially the gazelle stir fry. We slept in tents with hot showers and spent the evenings sitting around the campfire, playing guitar and laughing. The last evening we spent with Piet and Ria but I was so exhausted that I did not get to talk much. Piet said my face looked familiar from my days in Chimioio. He must have seen me in town somewhere. That made me miss Chimoio so much. If we still lived there we could easily come visit them for vacation.
On Saturday we had a very meaningful worship service and communion together with Piet and Ria. Piet became a Christian sometime in the 90s and they are very humble people. They are also working some with conservation agriculture so we will probably connect in the future now that MCC has translated some materials. They have a heart for the community around them and that is so good to see.
We all voted that we would love to come back to this place. We felt so refreshed spiritually, emotionally and physically that going back on the 26 hour trip to Maputo was not as bad as it could have been. It teaches me once again how important it is to take care of ourselves when doing the kind of work we are doing.