Monday, July 23, 2012

Back in the States
We've been back in the States for a little over a month. The fog is lifting a bit, but probably just a bit--the past two weeks have been "hiding out", enjoying the quiet of Nebraska farm land. We drove from my parents' (Jenny's) in Pennsylvania to Joel's parents' in Nebraska. It was a long trip. It made driving from Maputo to Beira look like a short distance. The difference, though, here was despite the distance being longer and the time we drove longer, the roads were nicer--no pot holes(!) and plenty of gas stations and very little fear of other drivers driving crazy  and baby changing stations in restrooms and places to buy a cup of coffee and tea(!). I think all together our travel took 27 hours but we went 1200 miles--and that with a 3 year old and a 4 month old. In our family, so far, some of the keys to such a long trip is starting early in the morning (like 2 AM), fun little snacks (peanuts, craisins, etc) and lots of children's music.

Some observations about the States:
- America is BIG! Not just in miles and time it takes to travel, but cars (think double cab full size pick-up trucks and SUVs) houses, stores (big box stores), yards,  restaurant portions, cups (20oz cups), etc
- Alot of food is sweet--salad dressings, salads, cereals, juice
- High fructose corn syrup is in almost everything (Coke, for the record, in our opinion tastes much better made with sugar cane than high fructose corn syrup)
- America is very violent--not just the shooting that happened this past week in Aurora--but it seems like guns and other violence is norm in movies and on tv (I knew this before but am struck by it again after years of being away from it

I think that's all for now...excuse me as I go get a cashew-craisin-white chocolate cookie (homemade by my mother-in-law)

Friday, July 06, 2012

Immersed in Water
We bought a small inflatable kid's pool . For the most part, it's Nadia's but I like putting my feet in on these hot days while I'm watching her splash around in it. She's fun to watch, gleefully jumping in the water making splashes as much as 3 inches of water in a 4-foot diameter pool can make.

I am reminded of one of the scenes of one of "The God's Must Be Crazy" movies (I don't remember which one) where two children who live in a very water-scarce part of Africa come across an abandoned water tank truck that still is full. The older one, a girl, decides to see what's in the tank. When she discovers that it's full of water, she jumps in and invites her younger brother to do the same.The storyteller tells us that this is the children's first time ever being immersed in water.

I'm not sure why that scene has stuck with me. But as i watch my 3-year-old daughter play, I think back to Moz and wonder how many Mozambicans have had the joy of submerging their bodies in water on a hot day. I remember one weekend our first or second year there that we were stranded in the sand dams communities because our truck was broken down. We were so thankful that we were close to the slow, shallow Luenha River because we spent the greater part of the day floating in the warm waters, escaping the 48+ (way over 105 F) degree heat. Not all Mozambicans have access to water like that.

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Catching up
It's been a few months since we last wrote; we have some catching up to do. We are now back in the States. We've been back for two and half weeks, though out of Mozambique for a month and 4 days.

We left Moz well. As it seems to go for me, in the weeks prior to leaving, my work with the Transformacao de Armas em Enxadas (TAE--Transforming Arms into Ploughshares) project started having more work for me. During the months of April and May, they had collected weapons from several communities. One of the communities took great care for secrecy and security to surrender their weapons. From these communities, TAE received 500+ weapons at one time and received a promise for 400+ more when they are able to return. This weapons collection was especially poignant because at the same time, small riots were happening in Northern Mozambique and the communities could have sent their weapons there in support of the riots but instead relinquished them to TAE. I am reminded again of people's bravery to go against cultural norms to pursue peace.

Both MCC and CCM had really nice despedidas (going away parties) for us. In Mozambican culture, giving a woman a capulana is a sign of respect. A capulana (the 2 meter traditional cloth used for skirts, baby carriers, head cloths, picnic blankets, etc.) is the gift that traditionally if a man traveled he brought one back for his wife. It's also what Mozambicans give to each other as a gift to honor someone. Usually the giver wraps the capulana around the recipient--as if showing her how to wear it. All this to say, I received a number of capulanas during our despedidas and Joel received several shirts made from capulanas.

On our return to the States, we spent two lovely weeks in England visiting dear friends from our time in Gondola and Chimoio who now live in Leeds, England. We took in the sites--visiting castles, drinking tea, watching the Queen's Diamond Jubilee on television, enjoying the quaint villages and towns dotting the countryside of Yorkshire (which, ironically, is very different than York, Nebraska where Joel was born), learning to love cream tea (tea with scones, jam and clotted cream) and beholding the wonders of the developed world (scheduled, on-time public transportation, fast paced life, orderly driving). I've always wanted to visit England and despite it being freezing for my thinned-accustomed-to-hot-Mozambique blood (I wore two fleeces and my rain coat for most of the time), it was great (even with the rain most days--but isn't that what England is known for?). It reminded me again of how going to a country helps one understand its literature better. Though we did not get to where Jane Austin (with whom we fell in love with her writing during our first years in Moz), we did see the village where she died and feel like we understand more of the English culture that is described.

We had forgotten about long summer evenings. Now, after five and half years of heading inside after dusk for fear of the malaria mosquito bites and rarely having evening engagements, we are in awe of being able to be outside after putting Nadia and Luke to bed in the light. Of course, with the sun still shining it means Nadia's harder to convince that it really is her bedtime. In England at our friends' house the sun set at 9:30 PM; here in Pennsylvania it's setting at 8:30 but it still gives us a nice bit of evening outside.

There are little things that we notice of how we have changed. I feel like I talk slower. We are definitely not in a hurry and I'm sure the few times that I have gone through a checkout the cashier wonders why I am slow and acting as if it confusing. Often when I am out (most of my outings have been grocery shopping with my mom), I fell like I'm in a fog. There are so many choices! We haven't been out to eat yet, but I imagine it could feel overwhelming at all the choices on the menu and that for the most part they have all of them available, not like Moz where they often don't have all the items on the menu and chicken and chips (fries) are the norm.

I'm struck by how many trees there are here. My parents (Jenny) live in eastern Pennsylvania, outside of Philadelphia, where some people can trace their property rights back to William Penn. It makes the meaning of Pennsylvania, Penn's Woods, make more sense. It's not that Moz didn't have trees, it didn't seem to have as many just for shade or woods or in people's yards beyond mango trees and acacia trees. Joel might disagree with me, but I feel like there are alot of trees here.

We got a cell phone. I chose the simplest phone possible and it still has internet, app and email capabilities. Oh and a camera! When I chose it, the salesman asked if I was sure that I wanted that one. Apparently no one wants a "basic" phone anymore. It took him five minutes to find one in stock. And because it took a "long time" (over a half an hour?) to get it set up, he gave it to us free. Feeling Mozambican, I impishly asked, "And we get the rebate too?" No. Oh well, as I learned in Moz, it never hurts to ask! This "basic" phone lacks the flashlight that our super-antiquated phones in Moz had.