Wednesday, November 21, 2007

It never rains, it pours

After extending our stay in South Africa by over a week so we could attend to all the business items that needed to get done, we finally left to come home on Monday. The plane was packed as usual with not much weight leeway to spare. With air travel, weight is more an issue than space. But that’s not news since we all know how commercial flights cram passengers in like sardines, right?
(Above: Fuel check and taking off at Kruger Int'l Airport)

After an uneventful trip we landed in Chimoio at around 3:30 pm. The van was in the hangar collecting dust and mice while it patiently awaited our return. Unfortunately, the battery was dead as a door nail, so we had to remove the plane’s battery to give it a boost. After much hoisting, heaving and sweating, the plane was inside the hangar, the bags and boxes of goods transferred from the plane to the van, and the heavy hangar doors drawn shut and locked. We then ventured into Chimoio to pick up a few things. Since it had been a long day, and it was supper time by the time we were finished, we decided to grab supper there instead of arrive home to the mammoth task of unpacking AND cooking. We went to our used-to-be-favourite restaurant, “Mario’s”. It used to be a great place because they had good beef which is a rarity around here. And they cooked it to perfection...comparatively speaking. Things recently seem to have taken a downward slide, but we decided to try the place out again for lack of any better place to eat.

When we arrived, we were the only ones there. That's NOT a good sign. The waiter was very friendly and seated us in our favourite spot. When he brought the menu, we asked him what on the menu was or was not available.
“Oh, we have no fish and no prawns.” He said appologetically.
“So, you have beef then?” We asked.
“Yes, we have beef and chicken.”

Goodie! We didn’t have to think twice about ordering our usual Pepper Steak. He took our menus and quickly disappeared with our order. In about 3 minutes however, he returned.
“I’m sorry, but we have no beef. We have chicken. Roast chicken or Zambezian chicken.” That was the information we expected after our first question. We ordered the Zambezian chicken because it sounds more exotic, but in my estimation they are the same dish.
(Mozambique coastline near Vilanculos)

Arriving back home in the bush is always an interesting event. This time, because our generator was still ‘en route’ from South Africa somewhere, we had no electricity for light to unpack the vehicle by or for starting up our little freezer (We had brought a 2 month supply of frozen meat--remember--we have no decent beef here + Christmas time is comin’!). We have a little putt-putt of a generator for our lights and battery chargers, but our fuel was all gone since it gets used for other mission work as well. So while I started to unpack in semi-darkness, Dwight went to borrow fuel from our co-workers, Francois and Alta. Thankfully they had some that they willingly parted with to help us over the first-night-back hump.

The following day was chaos as we tried to get caught up on all that had happened and was currently happening. We learned that there had been a heavy downpour in our absence and the little dam in our river had experienced a flash flood. This is not good since during the very dry time, we had to move the irrigation pump further into the river to reach the dwindling water reserve. When the torrential downpour came, the dam filled so quickly and unexpectedly that there was no time to retrieve the pump before it was submerged completely under water. It was a lengthy rescue ordeal, but they managed to release it from its base, pull it out, then open it up and dry it out. (Landing at Chimoio Airport)

Joao, one of our sponsored students and a very willing volunteer, had also just arrived from Maputo to spend his summer break working with the mission. He had been sick in Maputo for the past month or so and looked very thin, but he was at devotions in the morning looking spry. We both had work to attend to immediately, but agreed that at 10 a.m. he would come by for me to see him. In the meantime I scrambled to finish unpacking and got busy cleaning the cobwebs that tend to form overnight. In this case they’d had over 2 weeks to form! At 10:00ish when Joao arrived he listed his symptoms. It took me about 1 minute to identify that he had a raging pneumonia! Fever, chest pain, the whole bit AND he had been on a two day bus trip AND out working like that. The 2 courses of antibiotics he was given in Maputo hadn't touched it, so I knew I needed to get some of the better antibiotics in town.

Dwight returned from his morning ‘rounds’ at about lunch time and announced that we really needed to go back to town for fuel for the little generator so we could do some work. The alternator for the main generator wasn’t expected to arrive for a good week yet, so we'd have to make do. I needed to buy medicine for Joao anyway, and in less than 5 minutes we had a list of at least 6 items we needed to tend to on this trip! So I dropped my housework and off we went to town. It was a productive trip thankfully. I actually managed to find the recommended antibiotics, the pump we took in to have checked apparently was fine and not damaged by its very wet ordeal, we got fuel AND even were given a box of apricots for free by a farmer! That was God’s hug to us that day. On the way home we stopped to see our Mayor as we’d heard that the Governor wanted to pay us a visit. I just hoped that the visit wasn’t for the very next day! Turns out it wasn’t. Phew. A Governor’s visit means feeding and touring about 20 people around since there is always an extensive entourage wherever he goes.

Today, it’s not pouring--literally or figuratively. And I’m glad. We need to catch our breath before the next downpour.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

November Tradition

The mission’s Cessna 182 has its annual inspection each year in November. This is when the plane gets stripped of just about everything that renders it dignified. Every nook, cranny, crevice, dial, lever, etc. is microscopically inspected to detect recent cracks, corrosion or malfunction of any kind. Since the Cessna is Canadian registered, a Canadian aircraft mechanic needs to inspect it. For the past 8 years or so, Gary Hillman from Red Deer has been willing and available to come do this service. It takes about a week to complete, so by the time he’s nearly recovered from jet lag and the 9 hour time difference, it’s time to head back! On Gary’s first trip out, we took him to Kruger National Park ( for a day to see some of Africa’s fabulous wildlife. Since then, making this scenic day trip into the park has become tradition…much like eating turkey on Christmas day.

On the very odd occasion, Gary hasn’t been able to make the trip. This year was one of those, so Dan Thomas (and his wife, Mavis), currently serving the aviation program at Prairie Bible College, were able to come instead. (Pictured above left to right: John Herbert of Mercy Air, Dan Thomas, and Dwight!)
They have a passion for missions and their first stop was in Botswana for 2 weeks to serve Flying Mission. They then came to us for their last week before returning home. The guys worked feverishly on the plane while the ladies spent the week doing other activities like visiting a rural clinic, cooking and…shopping! When the work was complete, there was a little time left for sightseeing so we headed out on our traditional visit-to-Kruger-Park-with-the-aircraft-engineer. This time, I had a lady friend along too! We saw some amazing sights, the kind you never get tired of seeing.
This one was a little sad though. This very young baby elephant was lost without its mom or the herd. This is highly unusual since elephants are very protective of their young, travel in large matriarchal herds, and have no predators to fear when they are together. But some how this little guy got stranded and wandered onto one of the roads in the park. In very short order there was a sizeable snarl of traffic since we were all drawn like magnets to this lost, lonely little soul. I’m sure we all just wanted to hop out, scoop him up and take him home, but the thought of a very large angry tusked mother cautioned otherwise. We knew that if she should suddenly appear, we would likely be reduced to scrap metal and flat people! After about 10 minutes of ‘awww’ing’, shaking our heads and scanning the surrounding bush for the large, angry mother, we managed to extricate both our emotions and the vehicle from the spot. We’re not sure what happened to this little orphan, but I believe the park’s rules are generally to let nature take its course. In this particular case, I wasn’t very happy with Mother Nature.

Yesterday, Dan and Mavis left since their week was up. The plane is now pretty much back to it’s dignified self again and we should be ready to return home within a few days. The generator should soon be back to its old dignified self again too! We’ve received some much appreciated help from wonderful people in purchasing a new unit here in South Africa and shipping it to Mozambique. It should arrive there about the same time we do. So Dwight will have some Humpty Dumpty work on his hands right away—putting it back together again!

It’s hard to believe that it’s already that time of year. The month before Christmas! This is usually the trip when we do our Christmas shopping here in South Africa where there is more available. You know, nice little gifts, a turkey, cranberry sauce, mosquito repellent, antimalarials, any needed animal vaccines/medicine, farm tools, etc. You know, all one needs for keeping with tradition!

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Red Baron from Germany

That song “Snoopy and the Red Baron” from way back in the 50’s or 60’s stubbornly went around and around in my mind yesterday. We made our usual stop in Vilanculos, Mozambique, to clear customs before leaving the country in the Cessna 182 yesterday. The stop is usually a busy-ish one since our objective really is rather to be en route so we can reach our destination before dark or before thunder storms hit. So while Dwight had the plane fueled up, I ran inside to get a fried egg sandwich for his lunch. Then it was downstairs to the dispatch office to fill out paperwork and pay fees. While we were there, a friendly gentleman came in and struck up a conversation with us.
“Are you flying the Canadian registered aircraft?” he asked in a German accent.
“Yes, we are. Are you in the German registered one?” Dwight responded (Canadian accent of course).
“Yes...where are you headed now?”
“Oh, me too. Do you want to fly ‘in formation’?”
“Sure, we can fly together. Are you ready?”
“Let’s go!”

With that we headed out, with the Red Baron from Germany behind us! He and Dwight talked back and forth for most of the flight and got to know each other. His business is flying and his son is also an airline pilot with Emirates. He tailed us the whole way and occasionally came up on one side or the other. Here’s a shot of one of those times. When we got to Nelspruit, we parted ways but exchanged details.

For the next week now, our mission’s plane will be stripped for its annual inspection. We’re expecting a Canadian mechanic (and his wife) to arrive next Monday to do the work and sign it off. The job will take several days…it’s lots of work checking all those cables, wires, etc. That’s okay…take your time and check that stuff well!

It was like a step into the past last week as we tried to cope without our big generator. We do have a little putt-putt that is capable enough to run lights, the TV and a little freezer, but it can’t quite drive our Speed Queen washing machine. Soooo, I ‘got to’ bring my old Hitachi twin-tub up to the house to use. We’ve had this little jewel for about 14 years or so. Before that, it belonged to Dwight’s folks. And they had it for at least 10 years. So this machine is rather ancient. It held together very well for a long time, but now it’s spinning tub is broken and the pump doesn’t really know which way to pump anymore.
It’s kind of sad. I guess we’re all growing old. Anyway, I stood and surveyed the machine for awhile to decide if I thought it was worth the effort. Finally I decided that at least it had an agitator that still worked, so that would save me scrubbing the clothes one by one. I filled it with soapy water, then I filled a separate tub with rinse water and hunkered down to the ½ day job of pulling clothes in and out of water, wringing them, and hanging them. I’ve never minded this job much, somehow. But it used to be more fun when the spin tub worked! I wonder how much more mileage we’ll get out of her? …the Hitachi, that is.