Saturday, July 21, 2007

Goodbye, Old Friend. Goodbye.

How do I start to write the story of our old Toyota bakkie (truck)? It’s been a part of our lives since our kids were pre-schoolers, before our move to Mozambique. In fact, this bakkie was purchased specifically because we had plans to move to Mozambique. Originally, it ran on gasoline which Dwight had to convert to diesel. Diesel was about the only fuel available in Mozambique at the time. The bakkie’s first major task was to move us from South Africa to Mozambique in April, 1993. That was when our adventures in Mozambique began!

In 1993, Mozambique was a country recovering from many years of war. It seemed as though everything everywhere was broken, especially the roads. The jolting and jostling of a drive ANYWHERE pretty much killed the joy of the trip. In the words of a friend, it was cruel and unusual punishment to bounce over sand roads and pot-holed streets in what felt like a tank. The Toyota took to our new life like it was born to it. I, on the other hand, clearly was not!
The poor suspension issue (and some “side effects” of the conversion) aside though, that vehicle outperformed any Dodge Ram or other widely acclaimed 4X4’s out there.

(Hauling stone)

Besides serving as our one and only family vehicle for many years, it bushwacked in place of a bulldozer, pulled trees down then drug them into place for bridges, hauled everything imaginable from crops to building stone to livestock--even a ram who proved his status by bashing out a window. Now that's "ram tough"! It often was our home-away-from-home and was slept in and slept on. We once pitched a tent on top of the canopy so we wouldn’t be sleeping down among the snakes. Essentially, it was a faithful companion and ultimate versatile piece of equipment through the thick and thin of our first 10 years in very difficult circumstances.

(Pulling logs)

(Hauling school benches)

(Hauling people)

Considering the fact that the bakkie was 10 years old already when we bought it, the old thing had been getting pretty tired for the last few years. How does that old saying go... “If it’s not workin’ it’s not breakin’”. That’s what the last several years have been like. My dad, who is a heavy duty mechanic, has fixed it a number of times on his visits to Mozambique. On his most recent visit he said, “I think it’s time to sell the Toyota”. That day will go down in history since my dad can, will and always has fixed anything. When he says, "sell it", you KNOW things are bad! I guess he saw that over the years the old beast was doing alot more breakin’ and a lot less workin’!

(Not workin')

We thought quite a bit about my dad’s suggestion before we actually made the final decision to sell. It took no time to find a new buyer. He complained a bit about the price, as all buyers of used cars do. But Dwight assured him the price was fixed, and should it take too long to sell the thing, he may even change his mind! We felt like we were selling our old friend. The buyer didn't hesitate. His crew of mechanics spent a few days on it and managed to get it working again. There were many smiles on faces as they drove off with our old treasure.

We’re not sure what will eventually replace our old Toyota bakkie. But whatever it is, it will have to be a very versatile work-horse! Farewell old friend. We’ll never forget you!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Cement, Chameleons and Curtains

What do these have to do with each other? Not much other than the fact that they made up part of last week for us.
A few days ago we decided to kill two birds with one stone; try out the new cement mixer and pour sidewalks to help shed the water during rainy season (our walls are made of compressed mud blocks). What excitement for the bricklayers and their “assistants” and us of course, to see this machine go to work. It’s amazing when you see what a machine can do! If you can’t identify with that, you haven’t tried to limp along without one of your machines yet! The bricklayers’ assistants used to do all our cement mixing on the ground by hand, with shovels. Now they shovel it into the mixer and pause to watch it go ‘round, and ‘round, and ‘round.
A few days after our sidewalks were poured while Dwight was out checking the sidewalks, this little guy came teetering along the ground. Chameleons don’t scurry across the ground like lizards, they walk very slowly with their funny little toes and teeter from side to side. They can easily be mistaken for a leaf blown by the wind. Sly disguise. Chameleons are the reptiles that can change their colour to blend in with their surroundings. You can see from the photo below how this guy has changed his dark spots in an effort to blend in with Dwight’s shirt. To answer your question, no, they don’t turn any colour of the rainbow. Depending on what background they're on,their spots will either darken or fade, and their green colour can change from vibrant to very pale (for sleeping at night). After picking him up, admiring him, stroking him and photographing him, we let him go on his merry way. Slowly. Feeling each step with those funny little toes.
And this is where the curtains come in. Voila!
This little place is slowly becoming a home. Hanging curtains certainly added the warm touch we were missing. The nicest part is that we don’t feel so much like fish in a bowl at night. That’s not to say anyone was actually on the outside looking in, but you do tend to feel conspicuous without curtains in the dark bush at night when your home is lit up like a Christmas tree!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

The Colours of Winter

While you in the northern hemisphere enjoy the green of summer, we in the far South are entering our winter season. Our four seasons here aren’t nearly as distinct as they are in North America, but thankfully we have something more than simply “rainy” or “dry” season. Oh yes, we also get “very hot” and “fairly cold”! And if you’re thinking, “Right. How cold can it get in Africa?” just ask some of the Canadians who visited here recently! At devotions time in the morning, they were the ones bundled in layers of blankets holding their mugs of steaming coffee. This time of year also marks the beginning of “Fire” season. But more about that another time.
Dwight and I just returned from a trip to South Africa. We took a short break amid days of business and dental work (note to self: take next holiday on isolated Mozambican beach). It was good to be away, but it was good to get back too. I haven’t had time to hang curtains in our new little home (among other things) and my “to do” list is very long. My schedule right now isn’t quite as jam packed as it has been for the past 7 months, so I’m very ready to finally tackle some of the work I haven’t been able to get around to.
One of the jobs currently underway is the construction of our house. Here’s a picture of Dwight and the builders discussing foundation wall layout and other very important issues one must decide BEFORE the walls go up. One of the important lessons we’ve been reminded of in the last few months is: Build from the bottom up. Finish from the top down. This is a simple concept, but if you ignore it, you’ll certainly kick yourself!

Other news: Good news is, the school roof is on and the walls are painted! And boy does that school look spiffy out there in the bush. These pictures are of the Stellenbosch group visit last week. Many hands made finishing this job possible, and our sincere thanks to all who participated in one way or another. You’ve made many happy hearts.