Friday, February 27, 2009

Newcomers in our neighbourhood

We’ve been planning Mr. Swero’s move to a plot nearby for quite some time already. He’s the man with leprosy that I’ve blogged about before who lived very, very far back in the bush on the old farm. Getting to his place was a trek that took several hours. Here is one such trek that I made back in August with Steve, George and a guide. Thankfully, there are no lions in this tall grass. Well, there usually aren't.

This man was only just barely coping on his own since, over time, he has lost all his fingers and toes due to leprosy. A local church and the mission worked together to provide him with monthly food supply, medical treatment, and care for other needs he had.

(Bush-style dressing for a deep foot wound--Socorrista Ernesto and I)

When we realized how far out he lived we knew how difficult it would be to check in on him regularly, so decided together with him to build a new home for him that was closer to the mission.

I think that in his mind the building process was quite slow because even before the doors and windows were ready, he wanted to move in. “I’ll just hang cloth over the windows and a mat in the doorway. It’ll be fine. I'm ready to move now!” So we set a day last week and loaded up all his earthly belongings which consisted of 5 goats, 2 small suitcases, a bucket, some pots, a few bags of ground maize (white corn) and a handful of other small items. The sight of his few humble possessions made me embarrassed about the seeming glut of stuff I have which requires a large shipping container to relocate.

As he got settled into his new home he absolutely beamed with pride. He smiled and smiled and smiled. It was what I consider to be one of those gift-moments for us all.

He is now part of a community with caring neighbours. The widow next door, who receives help from the orphan program, helps him cook and do some of his activities of daily living. He also receives a daily home visit by the socorristas who change his foot dressing and ensure he has an uninterrupted supply of anti-leprosy drugs (which will not repair past damage but will halt disease progression).

Other newcomers who arrived this week were visitors from the U.S.

Here they are in the camp kitchen:

Nat and Salena (above left), who have both served the mission previously (as single missionaries) and “found each other” right here in this very place, have returned for a month-long visit to serve and reconnect with everyone here again.

Tom and Mary (above right), have come up with Ron and Barb Wayner—Mercy Air (they are family of theirs, in fact). They are here for about a week and will be involved in some of the work, home visits, and whatever else pops up during their stay!

Tom entertains neighbourhood kids by showing them digital pictures of themselves. It's quite a novelty and always evokes squeals and peals of laughter!

And last but not least, here is another newcomer to our small neighbourhood.

His name is Magnum and he’s Rick and Heather’s new 8 week old Boerbull/Great Dane cross puppy. I “got to” puppy-sit him once already this week. It was very fun even though there were a few puddles to clean up! He’ll grow into a fine guard dog one day. In the meantime, we all agree that he’s just plain cute.

Well, we all--except our little dog Mushu, that is, who greets Magnum’s friendliness with a curled lip and grouchy snarls. I guess he figures Magnum is annoying with all that bouncy, boundless energy, silly playfulness and adorable-cutie-cuteness that has the humans going all ga-ga. Now, had it been up to Mushu, he would have arranged for a more mature, serious neighbour-dog to help shoulder the responsibility of guarding against (read: barking at) both (few) real and (many, many) imaginary threats. It’s a tough job for one dog to do alone.

Anyway, I better close for now since much work and some fancy packing awaits me! Dwight and I leave here next week to begin our trek to Canada where we’ll be itinerating until our return in July.

As for posts on this blog, they will continue ☺. And even though there will be stories of our travels, wherever they may take us in the next few months, there will always be tales of this our life in Mozambique as well! 

PS: I don’t have a reptile/repulsive insect paragraph in this post, but here’s a link to a great story by a Mercy Air pilot that I’m sure everyone will enjoy.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Good gets Great!

Seeing the school kids’ excitement this week when their new desks arrived reminded me of how much these kids love school. Years ago, when friends of ours paid the school a visit, they asked the kids if they liked school. They probably were expecting the usual chorus of sighs and groans but were taken aback (and captured the moment on video) as the kids in perfect unison shouted “We LIKE school!” But I digress.

It was quite the procession yesterday at the mission school as the students lined up to wave, clap, dance and sing as the truck loaded with new desks slowly approached.

These desks were purchased with funds raised by students at Thorsby Elementary School in Canada. Initially, they hoped to be able to raise funds for several desks, but as the kids, their families and in fact the whole community caught the vision, they were able to fund raise for many more. Both they and we were excited to hear that in the end, they were able to raise funds for more than just several--twenty-two to be exact. But the surprises in this story don’t end here. When we placed our order a few weeks ago, we realized that based on the current price, we in fact had enough for 24 desks! How cool is that?! It’s wonderful and certainly the perfect way to wrap up a story that went from good to great. Amazing, actually.

Some of the students even had new uniforms on which they were so very proud of. We were too! A lot of work goes into the running of a school, but the reward—helping to give children hope and a future—is worth every minute of it.

Everyone pitches in to unload that precious cargo.

Hmmm, the challenge of fitting big things and bodies through a doorway at the same time.

Hand waves to say thank you from older kids above and very cute preschoolers below.

Last week, Ron and Barb (Mercy Air founders/directors) came to stay at the mission for about a week since they had a flight to bring a work team to Chimoio. Usually, accommodations, etc. are provided for the pilots while whoever chartered the flight goes about their business, but Ron and Barb decided that since they were in the area, they would rather come out here to the mission farm to work and spend time with us. While they were here, Ron got busy putting one of my kitchen cupboards together and did some unique handcrafting of some log off-cuts that no one saw much potential for. It’s not quite finished yet but it’s beautiful already and very fitting for a kitchen in the African bush!

They will be returning next week on another flight. This time they’ll bring visiting family members along to spend time with us. The ladies want to paint the walls at our house and the guys would like to carry on working on my kitchen cupboards while they’re here. More power to ‘em, I say!

We decided we’d better get the kitchen floor tiled and ready for cupboards next week. Nice, huh? ☺

Some newcomers:

A guy came to sell wild guinea fowl chicks to us this week. They’re very young and we don’t really expect they’ll survive, but the guy was very hungry and was obviously hoping to sell them so he could buy food. They’re sure are cute though.

Some sort of mud-wasp obviously figured the keyhole on our veranda door was the perfect place to build his nest. Ummmm, buddy? Not a good plan!

I should run for now since I have a campsite to finish setting up for arriving guests, a course assignment to finish, and I really need to get packing/preparing for our upcoming furlough. We leave March 10th for Canada (via Brazil) and will be traveling and sharing about the work here with the many who take the seemingly innumerable needs presented to heart and give so faithfully.

The added perk, of course, will be seeing our kids and family again. Yes. Good gets great!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Candid shots

I’m always amused by the photos I get back when we hand a camera over to one of our staff to take photos of an event because they get photos that I could never get. It's not easy to get such candid shots. And that’s why some of these are special...they're just a bit more real (or hammed up, perhaps?) than mine. ☺

The two on the right are the woodshop guys, Gabriel and Marcos. Pastor Ricardo, on the left, heads up the Monitor/Church leader training program. That’s his specialty. He’s holding a hammer for this photo, but, it’s really just for the photo!

Here are a few other photos, that I didn't take, of a pastor’s seminar.

This is Simon, stealing a quiet moment, I guess (if I'd taken the picture, he would have stood straight and smiled at the camera). The new preschool just opened this week and he figures he’ll have anywhere from 50-80 kids for several hours each day. Hopefully, he’ll have a few parent-volunteers too. He works in the health post as a “Socorrista” (first aid worker) while he’s not in the preschool.

Here’s a cute picture taken of one of the preschoolers.

This week’s events:

The truck picked up 24 new school desks. That’s several more than we thought we could get with the amount donated towards desks. What a bonus! They're beautiful.

(Below: awaiting delivery to the school)

The orphan home in Chitundo got doors and windows, which are the last touches pretty much. This house (and the previous few) has gone up overnight it seems AND it's straight and solid. God sent an amazing builder our way.

Pearson, cooking maize meal for people who come to work hungry. This week we had several grannies coming to work who claimed to have gone several days with no food. 

Update on house construction:

Front veranda

Kitchen ceiling goes in and base coat of paint goes on the walls. Progress!

I’ll close this time with a photo of our dog, Mushu, begging. That’s what he does best and he tends to do it alot. So, this is not really a very special photo at all. Anyone could get a shot like this,  as long as you have some meat left over on your plate.


Thursday, February 05, 2009

Try the berries and get smart

It’s time to update my blog, but it’s hard to be creative today since my brain’s been immersed in “Management Control in Nonprofit Organizations” mode all week. It’s one of the electives I’m doing toward my BN and although it has been informative and highly challenging, it has not been particularly fun. Accounting was not a pre-requisite for this course but it should have been--and I’m no accountant. Every inch of progress I've made so far has been through much stress and hours of researching accounting terms and principles and their application. Ugh!

I’d like to complain about how difficult this course is, but I can’t. My family won’t let me. You see, I home-schooled our kids from Grades 1 and 2 to 12, which gave me plenty of time to hammer certain ideals into their minds, like:

“There are few truly smart people. Some just try harder than others.” Or:

“Math (or whatever) isn’t difficult, it’s just different.” (Paraphrased quote from Saxon Math textbook)

My favourites, which I made up myself, were:

“If you can get a D, then you can get a C. And if you can get a C, then you can get a B. And if you can get a B, then you can get an A.”

But my favourite of all times was:

“If you aspire to be something besides a street-sweeper one day, hit the books. If not, you can get to work on your sweeping skills right now. And, boy, this house could SURE use a good cleaning!” (I have to admit, I could get right into this one. It’s a tough one to cut short. Worked every time, too. Heh, heh.)

These are the kinds of things home-schooling moms use to prod their I’d-rather-be-outside-playing kids along with. And now that our kids are in university, do you think they keep those famous quotes tucked away in their subconscious minds? Nope. If I so much as breathe the word “difficult” in relation to any new concept, I’m reminded by them (and by Dwight who also has this quote well memorized): “It’s not difficult, it’s just different.”

So please bear with me while I try to pull my mind out of “different” long enough to post an entry here.

On Saturday, ASAM (the Mozambique mission) held its annual general meeting where we presented all the reports, budgets, etc. that we had all been working on feverishly for weeks. We decided to hold the meeting at Selva rather than cater it ourselves.

It was a great day. Here’s the board:

On our way to the AGM, we dropped Francisco and Mibia off at Chitundo (about ½ hour away) where they will attend Grade 6. These are among the first orphan children to take this step and that feels like a big stretch to us and their granny (middle) who accompanied them to help them get settled. They were your typical teenagers away from home for the first time—excited!

They will share this new home (that is now even further along and nearly complete) with a caregiver-granny and her own younger orphan grandchildren.

I couldn’t resist getting a photo today of this elderly woman who is doing work-for-food.

She washed up some camp dishes in preparation for visitors we’re expecting in a few weeks, then discovered the berry tree nearby and got tucked into them. I snapped a few photos, which she laughed and clapped her hands at when she saw them. Then we had an interesting little conversation…she spoke local dialect and I spoke Portuguese. We had no clue what the other was saying but we had a great laugh anyway. It’s nice that laughter is universal ☺ She motioned me to the berries on the tree. I’d never tasted these before, but decided to brave the experience since she and others who are familiar with indigenous trees were eating them with no ill-effects. They are a bit tart and taste, well, berryish. I’m calling them “Query Berries” until I can figure out what they are. I'm secretly hoping they'll make me smarter for my course...

Here, another work-for-food lady helps weed the pineapple patch. When I showed her this picture of herself she also laughed and clapped her hands. And again, I laughed along.

This is how pineapples grow. Cute.

Okay, shall we end with a creepy-crawly photo?

There are tons of these in our backyard and I don’t know what they are called either. But don’t worry, I won’t touch them.

Anyway, I should run for now. I still have 2 chapters, one more assignment and a final exam to go, and I really should live up to all those great ideals while I wait for the Query Berry effect to kick in!