Sunday, September 30, 2007

Getting Things Fixed

(Here's a shot of a beautiful Jacaranda tree. They're in bloom now in South Africa. Apparently they're considered a weed, but most people like them.)

Well, our week in South Africa has been a busy one. Our vehicle needed some urgent attention and apparently it's 'very tired'! After over 250,000 km of bad roads and being used to haul just about everything imaginable...I'd be tired too! We repaired what we could so it can take us a little further, but I'm afraid its days are numbered. We will need to look at a replacement for it in the near future. Mozambique is no place for 'sick' vehicles!

The day we arrived here, it began to rain. Apparently it had been very hot the day before...up to +40 or so. But then the wind began to blow and cold, rainy, dreary weather settled in and stayed for the entire week we were here! It warmed up briefly one day mid-week, then promptly clouded over and poured rain the next. I only packed 2 thin jackets and brought NO closed shoes. This is hot spring in Africa after all! Well, I survived the experience, but certainly drank my fair share of hot tea with a warm cat on my lap.

I was the other one who needed some fixing while we were here. Tylenol had become part of my daily diet for the previous 3 months due to a tooth that was ailing. Oh the joys of growing seems that between Dr. and dentist visits, I keep pretty busy (when we're here at least)! Anyway, I had another root canal done and it was a particularly sore one. I told the dentist I have very unhappy teeth. He just chuckled. I wasn't laughing though. I think the only place in the world where I would rather not be in the reclining chair is in a dentist's office!
All in all it's been a productive week. The vehicle has had its 'face lift', I'm now off Tylenol, and we've been able to pick up some much needed items for the work in Moz. It's been great to see our Mercy Air family again too. So yes, tomorrow we cross the border into Mozambique again. We'll produce those same very official travel documents that the nice immigration official gave us. Then, once back in Chimoio, we have to face the music (begin the process of getting those important stickers in our resident's permits). Oh, we heard of another fellow-missionary couple who also missed the announcement to go through the expatriate census process. They're Canadian too. Hmmm.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Border per usual

This trip started out just like any other. “Do we have our passports? DIRE’s (foreigner residence permits)? Details of any parts we need to source? Charge cords for computer/cell phone/etc? “ When we were pretty sure we had it taped, we headed out on our usual 2 day road trip to South Africa. Not soon after we left, we realized we had left a few things behind. That seems to be the norm with us (are we the only ones??). But by then we were too far to turn back. None of the items were TOP priority anyway. We stopped at our usual little place to overnight near Maxixe.
The 2nd day of this trip is a good 9 hour one and this trip was no different. By the time we had cleared many kilometres of bad patches of road, we were thankful to finally hit the smooth stretch of toll road close to the border. The border is always a bit of a challenge with its long line-ups and chaos, but that’s old hat to us now. Then amid all the familiar routine, we ran into something new. After I handed the immigration officer our passports, resident’s permits (DIRE’s) and forms, she flipped through them quickly and announced, “They haven’t been ‘census certified’”. Oh? What now? She passed our documents to another immigration officer. Apparently it was his job to deal with such issues. “You don’t have the sticker to prove that you’ve been through the census procedure. Your home may have been included (which it was), but there is a separate census for resident foreigners. You’ll have to go back to Maputo (40 min. Drive) and go to the main immigration office first thing tomorrow morning. Don’t worry, it’s a simple thing...” He said this rather apologetically and then smiled weakly. “It’s simple”, when it comes to immigration issues, usually means there are long, dark days ahead! This registration of foreigners had been included in the recent nation-wide census, but since we’re rather isolated out in the bush, we hadn’t received any clear information about it. We were long overdue, and we wondered what we would be told back in Maputo.
We over nighted in our usual Maputo-sleep-over spot, ‘The Oasis’. The missionary lady who runs the place and who has been in Mozambique since before the war, listened to us sympathetically as we explained what had happened. “Well, I hope they’re lenient with you” she said as she went on to describe their own ordeal. We hoped so too. At best Dwight hoped to be breathing at the end of the it all. Seriously, we expected at least to pay a heavy fine and possibly be sent back home. At worst we imagined ourselves handcuffed and deported, involved with our mission from afar! Dwight called our family and asked them to pray.
In the morning we were at the immigration department early. We followed the signs that read something like “Foreigners’ census registration”. When we spoke to another foreigner (who also missed the deadline) and the office secretary, we learned that we would have to produce our working contract plus a letter from the local entity confirming the nature of our work here. Hm, We were on a short time frame on this trip, and this was starting to sound like a fair bit of red tape. Our official working contract was sitting in our house...a 2 day drive away! We were told we would have to see the Sector Head. When we explained our plight to him, he said, “We cannot process your paperwork here since you were originally registered in Chimoio. You can only do it there.” We were at a loss, and then he referred us to the department Director.
The woman in the Director’s office was dressed in a crisp uniform and was very stoic. She meant business! Once again, we went through our story of how we missed the national summons to all foreigners because we live a remote region, etc., etc. Her face was like stone as she listened. Then suddenly she said, “Do you live near Vanduzi?” “Yes!” we said. “It’s a stone’s throw from there to where we are. We’re on the old ADPP farm.” Her eyes lit up and she said, “Oh! My husband is from Vanduzi. His brothers still live there. You’re my family. Come, let me help you!” With that she made a quick call to her superior and told him of our predicament. Her embellished version had the desired effect. When she hung up she said, “We’ll do up a letter for you so you can get through the border this time. It’ll be good for 90 days. You don’t have to pay anything for this service since we are the ones at fault here. If you have problems at the border, just call me and I’ll sort it out for you.” You could have pushed us over with a tooth pick. Thank you God! We quickly exchanged names and phone numbers with her and were out of there so fast you couldn’t see us for the dust (AFTER we got the letters that is).
The border still exacted its toll, but this time only in the form of the sea of humanity=eternally long line-ups. In terms of the paperwork though, it went through without a hitch. Just as if it were usual fare! This is just the first chapter in this whole process of course, we still have to face the process of getting that little sticker on our permits...but for now, we feel as free as birds!

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

When Friends Come Calling

This week, Ron Wayner and co-pilot Nate from Mercy Air came to spend a week with us. They flew a short term group out to visit a mission that’s about 2 hours from us. And although they could have stayed with the group, they decided to come spend time with us and help cut wood. Our chain saw had been repaired in South Africa, so they flew it up in the plane. Nice! They also brought our mail (including birthday cards from my parents/in-laws that arrived in the bush, in Mozambique ON MY birthday. How do you like that? One would never even hope for such a thing. Anyway, Ron and Nate have been very busy making lots of noise, sawdust and wonderful progress cutting some huge trees into usable wood for all our building needs. Thanks guys! Bonus for them...they ‘get to’ stay in our many stars, mobile accommodation (read ‘tents).
Here’s someone else who came calling:
This is a Mozambique spitting cobra. ‘Spitting’ because they prefer to spit their opponent in the eyes before resorting to biting. I’m not sure which I prefer, not that I would prefer either! They have deadly aim and can spit a length of a few meters (yards). See the bands on his underside? Those are his identifying marks. So this isn’t the kind of snake you want to hanging around nearby. Anyway, our little dog started acting odd, barking alarmingly at tin roof sheeting that was leaning up against the wall outside. I immediately knew it must be a snake. So I got a broom stick and slowly pulled the roof sheets away. And sure enough, when I had flipped the last one over, an olive coloured snake, about 2 feet long or so, slithered very quickly, around the corner to the front of the house. Although I wanted to follow him to see where he went, I knew I had to first get the dog inside. If he saw the snake, he’d be after him like a shot and I would be nursing seriously sore eyes for a week. I called two of the staff who were nearby and they came charging over, sticks in hand, at the word ‘cobra’ (Portuguese for ‘snake’). We searched and searched...very carefully...but couldn’t find him. Hm. Then I noticed the drainage pipe that runs under our sidewalk. I know they like to hide. So I got the water hose and started flushing from one end. Sure enough, that motivated him to come out of hiding. Then the whole scene was a blur of sticks flinging through the air and bits of bark, grass and dust flying in every direction. I think the first blow pretty much guaranteed his ‘exit ticket’, but they guys like to make sure. So after about the 5th blow I stopped them. I needed to get a picture, after all! Then before I could scoop him up with a stick, the dogs grabbed him and gave him a real good angry shaking. Like, ‘take that you bad snake!’. ‘ Okay dogs, everyone, we’re good now.’ I expect but don’t hope to see more snakes this season. Haha.
Other friends we’ve had hanging around of late, likely because we’re the only island of unburned land for miles around, is some Guinea Fowl, Bush Babies and Vervet Monkeys.
Here’s a Guinea Fowl feather. Intricate, hey? I wonder if there are other birds with polkadots on their feathers. God thought of everything didn’t He?
The monkeys are smart and keep a good distance from us (not from our garden though). The Bush Babies are very cute and curious. There are a few that hang around in our trees at dusk. Their silhouette against the grey sky is really quite comical since they have long bushy tails and round, goofy, Mickey mouse ears. With features like that, you KNOW when they’re looking at you! I like to talk to them. So far they haven’t been brave enough to come down closer.
Otherwise, the routine friends we can always find around are bats and owls. Oh, and insects of course. Now that our days are warming up, we’re seeing more and more of them. Soon we’ll have to move our dining room table inside so we have some peace at mealtimes!
We’re making a trip to South Africa next week. A bit of business to tend to plus a sore tooth of mine. I’ve been on Tylenol for 2 months now, so it’s time to go see Mr. Dentist again. Yay. My favourite trip!

Thursday, September 06, 2007

Back to School

September and January mark the times when kids nearly everywhere in the world ‘go back to school’. Generally speaking, in the Northern Hemisphere, September is the beginning of the school year. But for us way down under, it’s mid-term reports time. Today the mission’s primary school held a meeting where general announcements were made and students received their mid-term final grades. Some did well while others...need to try harder.

As with most school meetings when you’re a kid, there were some times when it was fun
And times when it was boring!
Another event that took place today was the official first-time production of our own blocks with the newly donated block-making-machine. Over the past month or so, there was quite a bit of gathering of soil samples and mud-cake-making in order to find just the right type of soil for making blocks. Once the right soil was found, it then had to be watered down to loosen it up so it could be dug out, hauled to the block-making site and spread out to dry out a bit (tip #1: Soil that is too moist = muddy bricks once compressed). By mid-afternoon the soil was about just right, so two guys went to work shovelling the dirt into the hopper. The machine pumps out 1 brick every 2 seconds, so there isn’t much time for standing around...just a bit! These unbaked mud bricks will be used for construction of main walls. Once up you tack chicken wire onto them then plaster, and voila! (Apparently) For foundations, we need to use these locally made baked bricks. They’re much stronger. You may notice the charred background in this picture. A few days ago we came home from town late in the afternoon to find fire scattered along the mission farm’s one boundary. It had been discovered at 1 p.m. or so and the staff and Nat and Salena had spent until 5 p.m. working to beat it out with water and green leafy branches. Although the fire came close to some of the mission’s buildings, nothing major was damaged and it was otherwise successfully diverted to a safer area to burn itself out at nightfall. It seems the fire crossed through the dry river bed (which has reeds). But now that the fire has burned there, it seems as though all our boundaries are now clear fire breaks. Even if they had to be cleared by burning themselves!