Saturday, July 26, 2008

Family visit and a new bicycle for Bero

On Sunday, we made a trip that we’re quickly becoming accustomed to—the way to the Beira airport. The badly pot-holed patches along the highway didn’t seem quite so bad this time around. Maybe there had been a few repairs. Maybe we’re getting used to it. Or maybe, we were just excited to see our family again. Steve (Dwight’s older brother), Karen and Kim arrived dog-tired and one suitcase short, but otherwise fine considering the 33 hour trip. It’s taken them a few days to get over jet lag and get sleeping at the right time, but I think they’ve been busy enough that they haven’t thought about it too much! We spent the first few days showing them around, seeing the different mission activities, all of which Steve captured on video. We ladies were busy chatting quite a bit, so I think he captured some of that too!

Karen sewing some much-needed white board covers.
Dwight describing the layout of the proposed training center. Steve, capturing it on video.

One of the week’s outings included a visit to some of the more recent orphans who were added to the orphan sponsorship program...aren’t they cute?

A quick visit to a nearby preschool the mission is refurbishing. (Steve, capturing it on video).

This week marks the last week of winter break for school kids here in Mozambique, and most of our older sponsored kids have come to do some volunteer work at the mission. Bero is one of those. He lives about 10 km down the highway from here and on his first day of volunteer work, he walked all the way! He was badly burned as a toddler and struggles with upper body contractures, so we decided that if he felt he could handle a bicycle, it would be a great help to him getting him back and forth. When we presented the idea to him, he smiled real big and said, “Oh yes! I can ride a bike AND I have a bicycle rider's license!” (These are required by law here as is registration for any bicycle.) So that very week, when the mission truck went into town, a shiny, new bike for Bero was on the list of items to pick up.

Giving it to him was a happy occasion which Steve and Karen got to be a part of. And yes, we captured that on video too J.

I'll sign off with shot of us on a rock outcrop--the highest point on the mission. It was a bit of a hike up there, but the view was it always is!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crocodile Story

Before I forget...I better tell the croc story that I promised to post this week. Last week, when Dwight was in Mutarara, he met a man who runs a crocodile hatchery. Basically, he harvests croc eggs along the Zambezi River bank, then hatches them out. He feeds the hatchlings high-protein pellets, and when they’re big enough to fend for themselves, he sells them to croc farms in Southern Mozambique and South Africa. (They’re raised for their hides.) Last year he hatched out 19,000 baby crocs!

Besides being a great breeding ground for crocs, the Zambezi River is also a vital source of water for many people. With a scenario like this, as you can well imagine, there can be some serious croc-human problems! So, every now and then, the government has to send in someone to hunt down problem crocs. Apparently, the witchdoctors (traditional faith healers) in the area “own” their own crocs, which they use to fish for them and or carry out “missions”. Before the government sends anyone in to croc hunt, they first meet with the community and tell the witchdoctors to be sure they “call” their crocs in so they’re not mistakenly killed. Only then is the hunter allowed in to the area to do his job. I guess you could say that these are no ordinary crocs!

Tip of the Day: Did you know that if you turn a croc egg upside down, the embryo will die?

And speaking of reptiles—much smaller reptiles, this week we discovered Les (click & scroll down) still lurking in the plant beds by our house. One of the guys was watering around our place the other day when he called me, quite excitedly, to see the chameleon that we rescued from certain stoning about a month back in a local community. This guy had, of course, already wet Les thoroughly because initially he didn’t see him. I’m not sure if his colouring here is a result of feeling threatened or trying to blend in with the leaves below him. Maybe a bit of both.

Who says you shouldn’t look back while running away??

Non-reptile news: There has been some fairly good progress on the house in the last few weeks, though it’s hard to capture it all in a photo. Most of the brick work is done, and the plastering and wiring are now underway. The trusses will be assembled as soon as those skilled to do so have the time (you know there’s too much going on when...).

We decided to help Furede, an employee of many years, to build a stronger retirement home. This week the window and door frames for his home were completed. He sure was pleased!

I’ll finish off with some art work and a sunset. This is the beautiful paint job done in the mission’s primary school by a team that visited from South Africa 2 weeks ago. They did similar work in the nearby preschool that the mission is rehabilitating. I’ll try to get photos of that up next week.

And here’s the most beautiful art work of all. God's.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Pot holes (again), the Zambezi River and a furry spider

I’ve written about the potholes on Mozambique’s EN1 highway several times on this blog, but writing about them never seems to do them justice. Taking photos of them through the windscreen doesn’t either since they just look like divets on a golf course green. On our return trip to Chimoio last week, I told Dwight that when we come across one of the bigger potholes, I wanted to get out of the car and get a picture of me actually sitting in one. That would give a much better idea of the size of some of these nasties along the way. I thought it was a splendid idea. Dwight thought it may prove to the world that we are, in fact, crazy! His word of caution didn’t dissuade me in the least. We passed a few real doozers that we didn’t stop for because there was too much traffic. (Passing other vehicles on bad roads is a bit of an undertaking when everyone is swerving all over the highway to avoid potholes, bicycles and pedestrians. When you finally manage to manoeuvre past another vehicle that's zipping back and forth, you think long and hard before stopping for anything!) So here you have it. Not the widest or deepest pothole on the road, but a respectably sized one. (Note photo with bus to see just how riddled the road really is with these things.)

And as an added bonus, when we pulled off to take this photo, I noticed that we just missed this huge hole on the side of the road by a few inches. It was hidden by the long grass. Wouldn’t that have been fun to drop into :(It’s nice to see some repairs taking place. Mind you, it’s one at a time along a 50-60 km stretch with thousands of potholes. Roadside shot: This shot only captured about 1/6th of the entire street. One day I’d like to get the entire scene. All the yellow shops’ (bancas) paint jobs were sponsored by MCEL, Mozambique’s biggest cell phone company (whose colours are yellow and green). The newly emerging blue bancas are evidence that Vodacom is starting to elbow its way into the cell phone (and in this case, promotional banca painting) market as well.

Before we left to return home this time, I was asked by someone if our car was once again packed right to the canopy roof, like it often is on such trips. I thought for a moment then said, “No, as a matter of fact. We’re not hauling quite so much stuff for a change. It’ll be nice to be able to see out the rearview mirror.” I spoke too soon. On our way through Maputo we spotted this wicker furniture that we’ve wanted to pick up for a long time but it’s not always easy to find. Besides, space for hauling it is always an issue. We didn’t really have enough space to haul it this time either, but the guys selling it were bound and determined we could, and would, fit it on/in our vehicle somehow! After much pulling and pushing of boxes, rearranging of luggage, wiggling chairs in that wouldn’t fit, taking them out, moving stuff around then wiggling them in again...we finally managed to load it. The guys who had been so determined this could work, beamed with pride when the job was done. We were a little concerned the couch may lift off once we got up to highway speeds, but it didn’t. Don’t we look like the Beverly Hillbillies?

This week Dwight went on a 2 day (overnight) flight with the Cessna up to the Mutarara area on a trip with 2 other guys. They landed in Caia, then rode by pick-up for 60 km on bad roads to Sena where the Dona Ana railway bridge crosses the Zambezi River. Here they walked for a stretch then caught a ride on small motorbike “taxi’s” (luggage and all) along the narrow pedestrian walk across the 3.9 km bridge. I’ll try to post a video clip of the adventure for you to see. There's a croc story too, but I'll leave that for next time.

And last but not least, I had to show you this furry friend who I discovered by our door last night. The fact that he’s out hunting signals that springtime is just around the corner. Having hot, sunny days around the corner is one thing, having this guy there doesn’t elicit quite the same response!

Saturday, July 05, 2008


Had I set my camera on “forced flash” for the shot just before this one, it would have been perfect. I would have caught Dwight, my dad and the gentleman behind them reading their newspapers while lined up at O.R. Tambo Airport in Johannesburg. As it was, I got dad tucking his newspaper away. Anyway, you get the point. A boring wait in a long line up. At least the news in the papers was captivating, what with the whole Zimbabwean saga unfolding as it is (

Dad, thanks for being such a bold and willing soul, coming to serve out here and facing the challenges of the Mozambican bush AND your daughter’s cooking :P

After seeing dad off and getting some business done in Joburg, we returned to Nelspruit to do some power shopping for building supplies and other business before heading home. But first, we thought we’d try to squeeze in a few days break at a nearby park to get some much-needed R&R. I guess it wasn’t meant to be since Kruger Park accommodations were booked solid. We went for the next-best option: a few days doing business at a slow pace. For the following 3 wonderful days, we didn’t rush up in the morning and hit the ground running. That is the norm when we come to “civilization”. Rather, we began our mornings at a leisurely pace, then took our time getting to the paint shops, tile centres, building warehouses, farmer’s co-op, vet, pharmacy, post office, bank, office supply stores, etc.
"Taking time" in traffic...

We have a number of construction projects underway at the mission in Mozambique, but two major ones on our minds right now are the main mission (“our”) house, and the training centre. Both of these need decisions, one sooner than the other thankfully, regarding finishing details like flooring, paint colour, light fixtures, and so on. And if there weren’t quite so many great options out there, decision making would be much easier. As it was, it took literally hours to look at, price, compare, and decide something about every item on our extensive shopping list!

One of the cartloads of supplies we picked up this week.

At the end of each shopping day the number of bags and boxes of goods, waiting patiently by the door to be loaded for our return trip, increased.

Among the maze of packages is this Perkins Brailler (a Braille typewriter).

Picking up this machine in Joburg was one of the highlights of my week because I know the compassion with which it was given, and the immense gratitude with which it will be received. It is earmarked for a blind young man (click here for link to story) who desperately wants finish school, but who is having a hard time keeping up with note-taking in a normal classroom setting. I’ll try to get a good shot of his initial reaction when he’s presented with the Brailler. It should be priceless. IF I remember to set my camera on “forced flash”, that is.