Saturday, December 26, 2009

Novelties and Gifts

Since we are in relax mode now that Christmas Day is over, I’ll just give you a quick recap of our week. It was marked by novelties, busyness and, not surprisingly, the giving and receiving of gifts.

Novelty #1: Darth Vader type helmet in Mozambican bush

This photo speaks largely for itself. My cousin Murray, who motorbiked his way back here from South Africa last week, shows some of the guys his motorbike and helmet. Clearly, the bikes and helmets they’ve seen locally are not quite like this!

Novelty #2: Skype

Mateus, one of our sponsored students, gets to chat on skype to his sponsor in Canada. Carey (left) set things up so a bit of Mozambique-Canada chat could take place. I think Dwight and I were about as impressed by the live conversation capability as Mateus was.

Novelty #3: Puff Adder in the yard

We discovered this little guy hanging out by our back door just after turkey dinner last night. He was very cute when he huffed and puffed (hence the name), but he’s also poisonous. It was quite the commotion as we all gathered around to take photos of him. From a safe spot, of course.

And then, some gifts. There were many kinds of gifts this week--both those that were wrapped and set under the tree and actions that were done.

I was very grateful when Carey and Keren helped me out and did a splendid job, I might add, of decorating my Christmas tree. It was one of those jobs last week that I found neither the time nor the gumption to tackle.

Murray and Dwight worked on finishing the kitchen island counter top. It's beautiful and I can’t wait 'til it's ready to use.

Here I am, checking on my Christmas baking (well, ok, I paused to take a photo too). The reflection in the oven glass tells the story of my unfinished, rather chaotic home in the background! It was made even more chaotic by bringing in armloads of items long since stored in our shipping container, like Tupperware, baking pans and platters that I needed for preparing and serving a Christmas meal or two! I’m looking forward to a bit of a change of pace while the mission staff have the next week off. They’ll use the time to tend to their fields at home, and I’m hoping to get a bit of uninterrupted work done.

Anyway, let me sign off by mentioning just one last special gift we got this week:

A photo from Canada of our kids. ☺

Blessings on you all as you enjoy this special time.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sick Bay, Party Day

For a number of reasons, I’ve worked at maintaining a well-defined scope of nursing practice here in the African bush. For one thing, I knew that if I jumped into all the health tasks that came my way, I’d end up being the local dentist, vet, etc. and that would make getting other work done more difficult.

You see, in the past my husband has rescued and taken in a wide assortment of creatures. Some were cute and warm blooded like orphaned duiker

bush rabbits and mongoose. But then there were the snakes, both the constrictors

and the poisonous. And there was even a crocodile once too. The day we were bandaging a neck wound on one of Africa’s protected and most poisonous snakes

(“Gabby", the Gaboon Viper)

I decided it was time to put my foot down and define the boundaries of my role as nurse/missionary/mom/wife! (By the way, the wound healed and the snake was eventually released to lead a fat, happy, productive life.)

One of the other creatures to be rescued several years ago was a female sheep (named “Andreas” after the guy who brought her condition to our attention). She was destined for the staff celebration stew pot until the original Andreas discovered that she was pregnant. Lucky her! She gave birth to “Adam” and thus begat the mission’s current herd (I refer to them as a rabble) of 180 rapidly multiplying sheep. Some cattle have also been bought over the years. The sheep and cattle now form vital elements of the mission farm’s sustainable agriculture and animal traction program. And although in the past I have brought premature or sick lambs to my home to be cared for, for the most part, I have maintained my nursing practice boundaries and let the men and herdsmen do the “vet-ing”. But there are always the exceptions.

This week we had several busy sick bays—both for animals and machines. First, a bull got sick on our shepherd/vet’s day off. So out came the medicine vials, needles and syringes, and the “Merck Veterinary Manual” (not as helpful as the human Merck Manual). I gave my input on possible treatment and dosages for antibiotics on hand, then Keren graciously and willingly stepped in to prepare and give the shot.

Sterilizing and preparing the our kitchen. Where else?

Samuel rounding the herd to get the bull in the squeeze (sick bay).

Keren giving the bull his shot. (Check out her account of the event here.)

We had a few sick dogs this week too, one of which had a nasty allergic reaction to something and proceeded to swell greatly and get wheals just about everywhere except on his tail! Keren and I had just sat down to discuss progress on the health manual when we got the urgent call. So out came the medicine vials, needles and syringes, and the “Merck Veterinary Manual” again, and off we went to make our house call. All ended well and by the next day Magnum was down to normal proportions again.

Evidence of the chaos.

Also in the sick bay this week were the health bikes. First, Keren’s motorbike “The General” had a few hiccups that had it laid up for several weeks. Thankfully, after replacing/repairing a few parts, it seems to be back up and running again. Secondly, the new health bike’s pedal broke when on its maiden voyage! All the bolts had been tightened and it was deemed ready for use, but I guess there was a defect in manufacturing. Let’s hope it won’t sit stationary for too long!

Here Keren peels away its new-bike wrapper before heading to her meeting with local birth attendants.

And last but by far not least this week, we had the annual Christmas Party Day for the orphans and widows in the mission program.

There was lots of fun to be had, but first order of the event: food!

Here, the Christmas story is told.

Dancing in a circle and singing to express joy. And in my opinion, there is no finer time for a joyous celebration than Christmas!

Widowed grannies, who care for orphans, get to hang out together for awhile.

There was face painting...

For everyone

The limbo

And many other fun activities, finally, the gift opening!

And with all this happening, my Christmas baking and tree decorating have taken a back seat.

Hoping to tackle those today though with a little help from my friends!

I better run for now. Blessings on you all as we celebrate our saviour’s birth and all this means to us! And in the words of Simon, one of the health care workers, “Celebrate, but stay healthy!”

Saturday, December 12, 2009

It'll be a greeeen Chrissstmassss without snow...

It’s a good thing there are other reminders that it’s soon Christmas time, otherwise it may pass me by completely. I have spent most of my life’s Christmases in the tropics but even so, unless it’s white, it really doesn’t feel all that much like Christmas! A few odd events this week got me humming Christmas carols though.

The first was, “Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!”

I was doing a routine morning sweep of the house since we had been inundated with a gazillion flying ants the night before. We had a heavy rainfall and, as always happens after it rains here, flying ants emerged in droves from the ground. Because they’re drawn to light, and our house is lit at night, they descended on our house beating their translucent wings in a frenzy around our lights. They do this until their wings detach and they fall to the ground. Multiply 1 ant and 4 detached wings times 100 or more! It’s always a laborious task sweeping up ant wings the following morning. I imagine it’s a bit like trying to sweep downy feathers--you almost can’t because even the tiniest air current picks up your “dust pile” and carries it where you don’t want it to go! And then there are the bugs, that are still alive, trying to crawl out of the dust pile at the same time. Oh the joys. Anyway, turns out that this week, Edmonton had 4 foot snow drifts from a blizzard and they’re told to expect -40C temperatures. ☹ Maybe heat, rain and sweeping ant wings isn’t so bad afterall…

Then a few things got me singing “The twelve days of Christmas” even though it’s a bit early for that.

The first was that we managed to catch those pesky pigeons that had decided to move into and nest on our veranda. Poor shot here, but there they are nestled in "their" corner.

The song mentions gifts of a variety of birds so it seemed an appropriate enough song at the time. Catching the pigeons took a bit of climbing and risking of life and limb in the dark when they couldn’t see us

Chasing them down off the roof

Ebony, the cat, waits wistfully

but in the end we were victorious. (Dwight did most of the climbing and the actual catching of the birds, just didn't have my camera ready at the time.)

Here the pigeons are, safely in our kitchen in a “gift box” (read: any box big enough to hold them til morning). They were given to a very happy Raimundo the next day.

The next event was when Dwight started building a closet in our fairly-bare house. The closet is far enough along now so we can hang our clothes rather than stack them on the floor.

Many things are gifts. In fact, every day is a gift, Christmas or no Christmas.

A few other items this week:

Here Bero, a student who is doing summer volunteer work, helps me gather information on health post consults. While he does hours of counting and adding of figures for me, I will be putting together a brochure about him to help raise the funds needed for his corrective surgery.

Roof sheeting was picked up in town this week. Its job will be to cover latrines at the school, guardhouse and training center.

The health work finally got to purchase this bike and bring it “home” to be used. Its job will be to facilitate home visits by health care workers in villages when needed. But first, all the nuts and bolts need to be tightened and the headlight needs to be checked. Oh yes, and the gift wrap removed ☺

“It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas”…if only there were a little snow.


PS: Check out the Unique Christmas Gift donation opportunities.
PPPS: If you're on facebook, we are too. Look up S.A.M. Ministries Inc.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Pairs, tools, and working together

A pair of pigeons was left at the mission in June this year as a thank you gift from a local family to the Prairie team. Of course, when the Prairie team left to go back to Canada, the pigeons stayed here in a cage beside the guinea fowl.

I’ve never kept pigeons before though and, as with anything new, there’s been a learning curve.

Lesson #1: Just because pigeons come together as a pair does not mean they’re a “pigeon pair”.

Turns out we had 2 males, so we had to look for a female. Oddly enough, there is a shortage of females and the nearest we could find was from someone who lived beyond our road, across the highway, down a footpath, past several villages, across the valley and over some hills. I didn’t hike there myself but a kind staff member brought the female pigeon on his bicycle for me.

Lesson #2: Pigeons don’t understand “personal space”.

Some of the staff felt it would be best to move the pigeons into a proper pigeon house in our yard. “They do better when they live by people,” they said. So we got them a house and moved them down.

“Perfect for pigeons”

As soon as they got moved, they promptly hopped down off their stand and set about exploring our yard. I wondered exactly where all they felt they needed to explore so decided to keep an eye on them. Turns out they needed to explore everywhere including the car-port, window ledge,
veranda, ironing board, table and pile of clean, folded laundry.

If I'd let them, they would have even been inside the house!

Um, no guys, “shoo, shoo, shoo…” I gently chased them away. “No exploring MY house, thank you very much. Go back to your own home.”

Lesson #3: Pigeons are more stubborn then me. (I think)

They went away only to come back later, while I was gone. I shooed them away again. Then they came back again, and on and on this went. This morning they were up several hours before I was, sitting on the veranda, making their pigeon noise and making it really hard to sleep in on an otherwise peaceful Saturday.


Anyway, onto more important things.

This week was Intensive Seminar week at the mission. We host two of these each year here at the mission then the remaining seminars are held in remote areas at other times of the year. It’s always a great time to get together to learn,

...To get to know each other better

...To exchange ideas

and of course enjoy good food!

Keren shared a session on women’s health since she's developing that part of the health manual right now.

She used the illustration of a truck that needs all its tires in good condition (good health) in order to get the job done. She also talked about men and women being equal but unique in their gifting and purpose. She illustrated this by showing how tools are used for specific jobs too. It was a good session and one to remember, often. (But we couldn’t help but chuckle about the tool illustration on the way home. The sessions were held in Portuguese so it meant nothing to the monitors, but in English referring to someone as a tool carries a rather different sort of meaning).

Actually, unique jobs and working together characterized this week since as the seminar was running, the routine work of the mission carried on.

Rick had to make an emergency trip to town to get diesel for the generator. Last month’s use was heavier than usual so we ran out of our supply a bit early. No fuel = no generator = no work and no water!

Alta and the litchi orchard staff harvested some of the first litchis and Jeff hauled them to Chimoio to sell. He and a team of guys also dug loads of dirt and hauled it for backfill at construction sites.

Here, high school students who are sponsored by the mission help with meal preparation.

Besides contributing with a few of his skills, including his IT savvy to revive a dying computer and taking photos and video footage of the week, here Carey demonstrates one of duct tape's many uses :)

Joao (to Keren's right), a sponsored student who attends university, interprets for Keren. He spends his school breaks here at the mission and helps us with his skills in administrative work. We appreciate his servant heart.

So what unique job did I do this week? Well, besides editing the Portuguese handout for the women’s health session, organizing my house some more, meeting with health staff, treating a few sick people and a smattering of other tasks, I’ve been chasing stubborn pigeons off my veranda.

Sorry to say it, but the pigeons may have to go. At least I know they’ll likely make someone else happy. After all, they come with a cute little pigeon house, and since we managed to track down that rare female, they are now a proper pair.