Friday, January 30, 2009

Pictures Talk

I follow quite a few blogs. Some are personal, others are medical. Some have lots of pictures (like mine) on each post, others have only one or two, then there are a surprising amount that have no photos at all. That’s surprising for me because I can’t imagine using that many words without pictures to help say what needs to be said! Maybe I’m just a lazy reader, (I KNOW I'm a lazy reader), but those lo-o-o-ng text-only entries, especially if they relate to U.S. politics/health-care, from people I don’t know personally? Yeah. Those require a great deal of discipline for me to read. I usually just don’t bother. I need pictures. 

Anyway, back to this blog post.

This has been one of those ridiculously busy weeks, and it is now Friday afternoon and my week’s “to do” list is far from being done. I thought I’d let these pictures tell the tale of my week, but I know I'll have to throw some words in as well.

Tomorrow is our Annual General Meeting for the Mozambican mission entity (A.S.A.M.), so we’ve been busy as bees getting our (for me, health and orphan ministries) 2008 reports done up and budgets prepared for 2009.

Wow, a lot has happened! Try doing your own year-end review, you’ll probably find the same thing.

This week, schools officially re-opened for the year so we attended orientation day at our school.  There were many items on the agenda, but one of the fun parts was to tell the kids the good news about the extra desks they'll be receiving this year because of Thorsby Elementary School's "Dollars for Desks" fundraiser. Very good news indeed!

Francois tried to get them all to pronounce "Thorsby". It sounded more like "Toes-be". Hmm, good try. Anyway, we're getting more desks...yay! A big thank you goes out from this school to Thorsby Elementary!

School kids.

Some kids signing their names on a list since they will be going away to boarding school for grades 6, 7 & 8. We're sure proud of the kids who stick it out and stay in school.

This is Memory and Eunice. Eunice is our Women's Ministry coordinator. She also teaches arts and crafts at the mission school. She first came to us as a women's literacy program participant. Memory was a baby then and was failing to thrive, so she received milk from the health post. Eunice kept attending classes then eventually got involved in teaching the women herself. As you can see, things have changed a lot for them both. I love success stories.

Eunice (along with others) has been instrumental in helping the school by making uniforms for the school kids this year. They'll be distributed to the kids as soon as they're all done. Wow...more benches AND uniforms!

Here's this year's school staff (both full-time and part-time) with Francois (school director) in the middle. 

Moving right along here--today was orphan food delivery day. And since they too start school this week in their respective villages, they received school supplies as well. Oh, and there are guinea fowl in the box for one of the homes. Pretty full eh? Can you believe a student still crawled in on top of all that to get a ride?

New clothes for school. 

Filipe's not in school yet, but he got new clothes anyway. Here he's admiring his new yellow shoes.

More guinea fowl got distributed today too. It's nice to see 'em come, but it's nice to see 'em go too.

The widow who got them had made a dandy fine cage. (Dwight getting video coverage of the event :))

Prayer time. Yes, I should have my eyes closed too, but I couldn't pass up this cute shot. You know, me and pictures.

So that was more or less my week. Now, I really have to get going on a managerial accounting course (NOT my strong suite) that I'm under pressure to finish by February. I'm stuck on a concept though--the "Step-down" method of cost allocation. I've googled the term for added instructions and can find lots of lengthy written explanations about how to do this. But *sigh*, what I was really looking for was pictures of how it's done. 

Pictures? Anyone?

Friday, January 23, 2009

About bites and feeling badly (or not)

Ok, I have to start off by confessing that I had a small pity party for myself this week. It began with a handful or so of insanely itchy insect bites on my ankles that looked rather nasty and nearly drove me to distraction whenever they'd start itching. To make things worse, I got a blister on one foot from walking too far on our muddy road in my Havaianas. Then, to add to my misery, I stubbed a toe on the other foot! My feet were quite a sight, all decorated with band-aids and red spots. I was not having a very good foot-week at all.

It must be Murphy’s law in my case but whenever I start feeling sorry for myself, I see or have to treat someone else who’s much worse off than I am. Like the time, nearly 10 years ago, when I was very sick with a virus. There was no treatment and I was told that my recovery would be slow and likely interrupted by relapses over the 2 or so years that followed. I felt pretty bad for myself right then. I felt bad, that is, until we were on an outing one day and I saw a young paraplegic mother being pushed around in a wheelchair by her kids who were about the age of mine at the time. Then I felt ashamed and much better all at the same time.

This week was sort of similar in that while I was facing my small troubles, much bigger ones were underway for others. First, Dwight came down with malaria. (Yes we are on prophylaxis, but when you find a capsule like this in your batch, you kind of have to wonder at what’s in the rest of them, no?)

Then, just as he was recovering from malaria, he developed cellulitis accompanied by fever, and the characteristic redness and swelling in his one leg (it was decidedly worse looking than my ankles/feet). Cellulitis isn’t the kind of thing you try to treat at home, even if you’re a nurse. But we don’t have much choice here, so I got to work with some of the great antibiotics and dressing supplies that the Prairie nursing team left with us in June.

And then, as if just to make sure I got the point, a young boy hobbled here with his friend for help the other day.

He’d been bitten by a snake two days previously and had carefully tied not one, but two tourniquets above his ankle to stop the venom from spreading. This practice is outdated since most times, it simply makes things worse. He didn’t know that, of course, and the poor little guy had a fairly swollen, sore foot. My own right then, felt pretty fine by comparison.

As I was thinking about all this, I remembered an incident that we heard about a month ago. Apparently, a guy who was bathing in the river near our property was bitten by a crocodile. Crocs seldom let go of their prey, and this one was no different. The guy was with two friends at the time who held him by the arms and fought to save his life for 2 solid hours. In the end, the croc won. I can’t even fathom such an event as a rescuer, much less as a victim. My troubles right now seem very small indeed.

Other moments of the week:

This is how our morning devotional time looks these days. Usually, we’re a group of 30-40 people, but with the addition of work-for-food program participants, the number of those showing up at morning devotions has mushroomed to almost 100 on some mornings.

The man in the photo below came to work for food this week, but apparently he hadn’t eaten in 3 days so he was too weak from hunger to actually do any work. (Below, Pearson hands him a plate of food). He is not the only one we’ve seen in this condition. In fact, yesterday a very thin crippled widow came to us saying she and her children hadn’t eaten in 5 days. I can’t fathom that either since I can barely skip snacks between meals without feeling famished. (We took the woman home with food for her family and a follow-up assessment will be done to determine how we can best help her.)

The number of guinea fowl for distribution is growing too. I think when there are more than 10 of them together they change from a flock to a rabble! They're kind of noisy. But yeah--I still like 'em.

Last paragraph stuff (aka the bug part--for new readers):

Mud wasps made themselves at home in some sandals on our veranda while we were gone last week. What a mess! Couldn't they have waited a while longer to make sure we weren't coming back??

In closing, I’m happy to report that the little boy’s leg (that was bitten by a snake) is improving, and Dwight is much better too. And my own ankles and feet, well, they're just fine.☺

Tchau for now. And take care.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Home Jones

The trip home is always long and bumpy and it's great when it's finally over. I’ve blogged about Mozambique’s EN1 (National Highway #1) on other occasions, and every time we travel it, I can’t help but include at least one photo of the event. Every trip on the EN1 is an event because:

1. The bad and deteriorating asphalt can be downright dangerous.
2. The trip from Chimoio to Nelspruit is a 2-day marathon with few facilities along the way.
3. Every trip here is an adventure in itself.

You know the highway is bad when vehicles straddle the asphalt and the dirt shoulder in an attempt to find the good spots.

Passing slower traffic ahead of you is always very tricky because at the last minute, the car you’re passing may swerve to miss a huge hole. A “beep-beep” warning is advisable!

Negotiating a road like this is like picking your way through a life-sized maze. It’s a constant challenge to calculate where the deepest holes are, then to weave to and fro trying to miss them in order to minimize damage and stress on the tires, on the stuff we’re hauling that gets jostled around, and on us too ☺

Oddly enough, there are parts of this trip we rather enjoy, like the captivating scenery along the way or just seeing how time changes things. Or, in the case of the potholes, how it doesn’t!

Some of the exciting changes back home are:

The arrival of the floor tile for our house! The ceiling is up in our bedroom and still needs to be put up in the rest of the house. Door and window frames are going in and several of our homemade doors are ready as well. There’s lots of other work going on around here, so progress on the house is rather slow. But hey, progress is progress!

We have a growing number of guinea fowl, both for distribution to needy homes as well as for the mission’s own breeding stock, which will be used for the same purpose—distribution. Several of the guinea fowl hens are already laying eggs and I now have a broody chicken hen whose job is to hatch them. 

I called her "Chiquinha" because she's small. She could be a pretty busy lady since the average guinea fowl hen will lay 50-150 eggs per laying season! I'm presently looking for other, preferably larger, hens to help her out. 

The guinea fowl eggs are rather cute. They’re a bit smaller than chicken eggs. The chicken egg is the one on the far left.

I’ve decided that we need a proper pen now to keep them in, one with a good roof, perches and nests. So that has been one of this week’s projects for me, and a fun one at that!

This is the new A frame pen. Nice thing is, we can roof it with the twisted and otherwise useless  sheets of tin roofing that were torn off an orphan home during a storm a few weeks ago. 

Here's Liria's house with a new and improved roof. Our sincere thanks to all who have given to help those whose homes suffered storm damage.

So the orphan home gets a new roof, and the birds’ home does too. I love it when a plan comes together. 

P.S. "What's with the 'Jones' in the title?" you ask. It's just one of those little family sayings I picked up from, most memorably, mom Lagore, and it basically meant "Time to go home." It may have its origins in "Bring home Jones", which I think is a baseball term that is synonymous with a home run. Don't quote me on that though. I know much more about going home than I do about baseball.  

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Clear vision

I guess it’s part of aging, this not being able to see things up close. Apparently it’s going to keep getting worse until I’m in my 60’s. This is not good since I’m not even 50 yet and already find that when things get too close, as in 18” or less in front of my eyes, they’re mostly a blur. That’s where reading glasses come into the picture. They're a lifesaver, but I have sort of a love/hate relationship with them. Yes, they clear up the blur, but they also introduce a host of issues you didn’t have to contend with before, like:

1. finding your glasses before doing most things (this can take quite awhile sometimes)
2. breaking your favorite pair, then
3. duct taping them back together again repeatedly (this would not be among the 101 best uses for duct tape because it really doesn't work very well)
4. remembering to take them off your face when you won’t need them right away again (cause they can sure mess up distance vision), or
5. learning special eye-neck gymnastics so you can line up those lenses just so when you need them, then tilt them out of the way again as soon as you don’t anymore. (That peering-over-reading-glasses-rims is a charming look but it really is a tough skill to learn.)

This is why I was very happy this week when an optometrist fitted me with a reading contact lens. Not a set of contact lenses, just one singular lens. It’s odd, I know. The optometrist’s explanation went sort of like this, “The way it works is that your brain learns to use the eye with the lens for near-vision, and the naked eye for distance. Your vision will be hazy for a few weeks while your brain sorts the near and distant images out, but in time, you’ll see clearly again.” When he finished talking I jokingly suggested that things should go well so long as I have a flexible mind. He smiled. I was only partly joking.

If this works, can’t say I’ll miss my reading glasses much. But for now, it’s hard getting used to the perpetually hazy vision. And let me say that the skill required to insert and remove the contact lens from my eye far surpasses the aforementioned peering-over-reading-glasses-rims trick. Somehow, there’s just something unnatural about sticking one’s fingers in one’s own eye. So it would seem that contact lenses come with their own host of issues that need to be dealt with as well. At least initially.

I’m not the only one having things checked and fitted, though. Dwight had to do his bi-annual commercial pilot’s medical and is still adjusting to the new lenses in his glasses. Our pick-up also had to have its 30,000 km maintenance check, hence the current trip to South Africa.

Here are some of the week's moments:

We’ve been having A LOT of rain in our area of Mozambique…too much, unfortunately. First, it was drought, now it’s flood. We go from feast to famine rain-wise it seems. We’ve had some dandy storms. (Heather blogged about the damage one storm caused to an orphan home, click here to read about it.)

This shot was taken as we left Chimoio on our 2 day trip south. We always say, “When it doesn’t want to rain, it simply won't rain. But when it does, look out!”

Sunset in Inhambane Province at the end of day 1 of our trip.

We’re staying at Mercy Air now because that’s always where we stay when we’re in South Africa. We’ve had a bit of weather here as too. This is a hail-stone from a storm that passed through last week.

Here we are having a coffee break with Ron and Barb.

Dwight’s flying medical has to be done in Johannesburg, so we drive up there one day, then back the next. (Don’t we already travel enough?) Oh well, the beautiful scenery helps make the trip enjoyable.

Awhile back, Ron offered to help us get our kitchen cupboards built. He does amazing woodwork and we were delighted to have his help. This week, while we were here, Ron and Dwight (below) tackled building the first couple of units. What a wonderful sight! We’ll be taking these back with us when we head home in a few days. I’m very excited about this because I had visions (clear ones) of living in a cupboard-less house for quite awhile when we eventually move. I’ve done that before. It’s not very fun.

These cupboards will be among the first things loaded in the vehicle--they and my stove. Oh, and of course the leadership trainings books. And the building supplies and groceries we need to take back as well.

I think the last thing to go in, lest we run short on packing space, may well be this new contact lens of mine. Just joking, of course. (Really.) That is, unless, my brain clears up this hazy vision and I can refine my contact lens handling skills. In that case I'll consider packing my old reading glasses last instead.