Sunday, July 31, 2011

Friends at Last
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:
  1. Singing almost the entire ABC song, Doe a Deer, Daisy Daisy and Little Teapot
  2. Saying the verse "We all like sheep have gone astray, etc." through to the end. 
  3. Jumping
  4. Throwing a tantrum that makes her bed jump and make a horrible racket against the wall.
  5. Take her shoes off by herself
  6. Climb in and out of her carseat, booster seat and stroller by herself
  7.  Rinse dishes: She hands them to daddy while they sing together

Monday, July 25, 2011

I don't understand...
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

Boxes and Kids

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.

Purse Stolen, Purse Returned

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

Freaky Experiences

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.
Water Woes
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

Do to Others
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

Pick n Pay has arrived
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!