Sunday, March 30, 2008

Looking Back

This was the nursing students’ last week with us in the Mucombeze bush and though they still have a few more days to go, they are in the final phase of their activities. While I spent a bit more time working close to home, they exercised a bit more independence, which is why I don’t have pictures of all that went on last week. They brought back very good reports of their participation with the Health Department’s immunization blitzes, community consultations with socorristas as well as exciting, interactive class times at the school.

They have been conducting a First Aid Course with 2 separate classes at different sites: the mission station and the mission school. They decided to combine the two classes at the mission school for the final day of the First Aid Course. The course participants came ready for their final exam and certificates and were delighted to find that the final exam took the form of a game instead. The group was split into two teams who competed against each other to answer questions covered in the course material. I was surprised by just how intense the competition was! The teams tied in the end, then enjoyed refreshments and receiving their certificates.

Having fun with newly learned skills (vapour inhalation for cough by the way :))

The certificates looked so good I wished I had received one too!

Here is the happy group: course instructors and proud certificate owners!

But the fun wasn’t over yet. We then had to pile the van to capacity for the trip home. First, some happily obliging people had to drink the left-over juice that was splashing out of the big pot over every bump (and believe me, there are many of those). Then the Canadians and Mozambicans took turns singing songs that were fun or close to their hearts...even national anthems all the way home! It was a heart warming time for everyone.

On Thursday night another group arrived from Polokwane, South Africa (coordinated by Francois & Alta), who will be here for +/- 5 days. The two groups have had a chance to participate in optional weekend activities together.

Oh, and let me not forget our video & birthday party night when everyone watched the Lion King and ate their fill of popcorn and chocolate cake. And, yes, sang to our hearts’ content.

Monday and Tuesday will be busy with orphan home visits to deliver food, final packing and farewells both for the USASK team and for us. We will drive the girls to Beira on Wednesday for their Thursday flight. Then we return home for last minute work wrap up before our trip to South Africa on Friday. From there we leave for Brazil on April 8th for 3 weeks to participate in the Brazilian mission’s (Mount Horeb’s) annual general meeting as well as giving input on further internal policy development. My parents (Earl and Ruth Trekofski) are already there busily working on things, so the added bonus will be some family time for us!

Next week’s blog will be decidedly different since we will be in transit between continents, but as always, I will do my best to keep you updated on the latest sights and events.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Inclement Weather and Goodbyes

Last Sunday we decided to head to Selva with the students. It had been hot for the previous 2 weeks and they were all very ready for a good swim in the pool. But as luck would have it, it clouded over and turned very cool and windy about the time we left home! So instead of cold drinks and a swim we had coffee, wrapped up in capulanas to stay warm, and moved inside. Ah well.

Believe it or not, we (already) said goodbye to Dave and Joanne (the nursing team's practicum placement coordinator from USASK and her husband) this past week. We enjoyed having them as our neighbours, even if just for a short while, and we already miss our evening discussions with them! Having Joanne here was great for me as we got in lots of nurse talk along with other talk...and work too of course. Having Dave around was like having my dad around: give him the right tools and he can do anything :). One of the jobs he tackled while here was wiring the office and getting the ceiling installation started (that is by no means all he did). Here's a picture of him and Gabriel hard at work. The office looks MUCH more official now so we definitely feel like we're keeping up with the Joneses. (Whoever they are :)). Getting the plane ready to fly.

Rice fields near Beira--the city lies below sea level.

The plan was to fly Dave and Joanne to Beira in the Cessna 182 since the highway between here and there is riddled with pot holes which makes it a rather laborious and long drive. On Monday the weather was still overcast and rainy, but thankfully by Tuesday the skies had cleared enough to allow us to fly. Next week we'll be making the same trip with the students as their time with us is nearly over. But we'll have to take the pot-holed ground route since 8 of us won't fit in a 4 seater plane very well. I expect it will be a great time together despite the poor roads. I also expect to hear some singing of songs from favourite Disney animations ;)! They seem to have become the order of the day when we're all in the van together.

House update: Yes, those are actually walls going up on the far side of our house--our bedroom on the right and the guest bedroom to the left. It is exciting to see things taking shape and feeling more like a house than an empty foundation. More of the floor has been poured since this photo so things are progressing. We'd like to be able to move in by August this year so Rick and Heather can move into the place we're in now.

I don't even have a snake or bug story to close with this time, so I'll just sign off with warm wishes for a Happy Easter!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Week 2...a busy one!

Last week was a blur of activity so let me try to give you a quick run down of some (but by no means all) of the highlights. Monday kicked the week off with a First Aid course for teachers, pastors and health care workers. These classes are being conducted at two sites: the main mission station and at the primary school. There is always lots of interesting discussion that takes place.

On Tuesday while one team went to the nearest health post, the other team went to the school to teach a lesson on safety for grades 1, 2, 3, & 5. Here one of the school children is identifying something unsafe on the home made activity poster the students made up. Very innovative I thought!

They took a "break" between classes to help dish up lunch for nearly 200 kids in a kitchen that's about as hot as a sauna. When they were done, they too got to enjoy some of Fernando's good food. Fernando's food is appreciated by LOTS of people!
Wednesday was Hospital Tour Day. We went to visit our nearest hospital in Vanduzi, then went on to visit the district hospital in Manica. It was a very informative tour and a good time of exchange between Canadian and Mozambican nurses and health care workers.

On Thursday the team cooperated with the health department in conducting an immunization day at the mission's primary school. Prenatal consults were also done for expectant mothers. Somehow amid the sea of bodies and a fair bit of chaos, order emerged and all who needed shots and check-ups were attended to. It was a tiring but fulfilling day. On Friday we received a compliment from one of the community leaders who said, "What you are doing at the school is a very good thing!"

So that pretty much wraps up our work week. On the weekend we plan to get away from the bush for awhile so may take the team to a nearby dam that has a pool and crocodiles to see. And no, the crocs don't get to swim in the people's pool. They have their own. Although the people are welcome to swim there any time!

Oh yes, and last but not least, last Sunday a Mozambique Spitting Cobra dropped in for a quick visit. He just slithered right into our house uninvited and went unnoticed until he bumped into my foot (it was his tail whipping around I think). When I saw that it was a snake that had bumped my foot I called Dwight who thankfully wasn't too far away. As the snake disappeared under the couch we grabbed our glasses (for eye protection), a broom and a shovel. We very carefully moved the couch and as Dwight tried to pin him down with the broom (so we could see what kind of snake he was) he suddenly spread his hood and reared up ready to aim into our eyes. That little offense pretty much sealed his fate. We immediately took our trophy to show to our guests who weren't terribly excited at the sight of a snake! Either way, they had a little teaching session on local snakes.

If we weren't all keeping our doors closed and tents zipped before this little drop-in visitor arrived, I can guarantee you we are now afterwards!

Sunday, March 09, 2008

A change of season

I noticed on my calendar that “Daylight Saving” begins today in Canada. That means it's also near Easter time which to me signals the change of yet another season. The heavy rains that ushered in our summer and nearly washed us away in the process are now a thing of the past. Our rain quit fairly abruptly at some point in January and we’ve had very little since. According to CNN there is a cyclone in the Mozambique channel that threatens to douse us once again-- should mother nature decide to direct the system our way--but judging from the still weather outside, it’s almost hard to imagine!

Even though this is still officially our summer, there is a hint of fall in the air—not only because the rains seem to be gone for good, but also because our nights are cool enough to start thinking about using blankets once again. According to George who helps source and distribute supplies for the orphan program, this is the best time to buy blankets. It’s still warm enough that the masses aren’t out there shopping for them yet, so there is ample supply. We took his advice, seized the day and stocked our orphan homes with warm fuzzy blankets before the cold winter nights barge in uninvited! This is the youngest orphan boy (above) from one of the families who recently joined the program. It is probably quite accurate to say that this may be the first blanket he’s ever owned. Snuggling in a warm cuddly blanket on a cold winter night is certainly one of life’s finer moments.

Last week we were able to purchase school desks for the mission long last! Although I wasn’t there for the joyous event, Francois reports that the arrival of the long awaited desks were welcomed by squeals, peals of laughter and much rejoicing by the children. Thank you, thank you and thank you once again to those who participated in this Unique Christmas Gift item. We still need more, but the 40 we now have certainly have helped ease our “writer’s cramp” :) Other news:
Student nurses got stuck into their practicum this week by visiting health posts, making “hut” calls to those in need of help, and teaching health classes in the school, community groups and women’s classes. Next week promises to be just as busy with more of the same kinds of activities plus a few extras like a school/community immunization day thrown in for good measure. (Below: helping deliver food to a widow's home and delivering a lesson in preventive health through an interpreter.)

I have not witnessed as much homesickness and “cabin fever” (alias “bush fever” here) as I had expected considering these girls stepped right out of Canadian society and into this remote setting where there is little in the way of entertainment or luxury. There have been a few screams here and there over spiders in tents or beds, but that’s to be expected. And on that note, I’ll end. (Funny how the last paragraphs often have the bug stories—it’s not always planned that way, honest.)

To those of you in the Northern hemisphere: enjoy your lighter days. To those of us here in the heat: enjoy the cooler nights—at least for now.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Team Work

I'm pleased to say that the two teams who were due to arrive this week arrived without any hitches. The Mercy Air team was the first to arrive and they barely had half a day to settle in before we handed over all the tools, paint, glass and window putty, etc. for them to start work with. They showed alot of spirit and gumption and got stuck in to their work right away even though we knew their heads were likely reeling with the shock of the realities of bush life! They even invited us for supper at their cottage at the end of each long, hot day. We had lots of good laughs. Their 5 days here were very packed indeed as they not only worked hard at their different tasks but also had the chance to squeeze in visits to orphan homes, ladies groups, the mission's primary school and even the bustling Vanduzi outdoor market! (Above and below: painting camp facilities and working in the woodshop.)

One of their jobs while here was to fly to Beira to pick up the team of nursing students who arrived from the University of Saskatchewan 2 days ago. The Beech 18 and the Cessna 182 are certainly a whole lot smoother and quicker than that old pot-holed highway in a van! The girls were pretty tired and quiet on the evening of their arrival but they have certainly perked up after a few nights sleep!
Today both teams packed into 3 vehicles and headed to Chimoio in order to drop the Mercy Air group off at the airport (to return to South Africa) and so the USASK team could go on their first shopping expedition. Our first stop was at our famous and pretty much only grocery store "Shoprite". It's a mind-boggling experience to shop in a new country with strange new brands and prices for entire team who will not have a handy 7/11 nearby. After Shoprite and lunch (that we're pretty sure had to be hunted down first) we headed to a few of the local markets in search of fresh vegetables and a few other items. Local markets here are always a buffet of variety for the senses from the deafeningly loud music to the unforgetable smell of salted yes, some nice fresh veggies as well!

For most guests the night sounds here are rather alarming so we do our best to inform them of what sound is what ahead of time so they can concentrate on getting their sleep rather than imagining what beast or activity may be going on outside their tent! It's surprising really how noisy the nights here can be with drums beating, owls hooting, bats squeaking, bush babies shreaking and in their season--Christmas beetles churning out their steady, high-pitched "zweeeeeeeee". We don't really notice the sounds anymore though. To us, these are wonderful sounds of silence pleasant to sleep by. I'm not so sure that our reassurances always help our guests sleep much better when they first come, but when days are as packed with activities as the last week has been, I think sleep has a way crowding the noises out!