Saturday, November 19, 2011

Cat Like Animals

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

A Day in the life of Traveling in Mozambique

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!

TravelA GaT

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

The Heat
It’s getting hot again. Today’s forecast is for 38 C (99ish F). Living on the top floor of a cement apartment building with little cross ventilation, we feel the heat. I’ve often wondered why Mozambique wasn’t on a different time zone. At the height of summer (December), the sun rises at four-something in the morning and sets by .  Last night as I watch the waning stretches of the sun’s rays leave our walls at , I thanked God for the relief in the heat. I went around to all windows and opened the drawn curtains to let the breeze flow more freely. In the winter, we do not have any sunlight in our house. In the summer it starts creeping in at and come in the afternoon, if we did not close curtains, it’d be more than sweltering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still hot, but I find relief in finding ways to prevent the sun from entering.