Saturday, March 28, 2009

Late Christmas, Late Spring

Christmas, for most rural Mozambicans, isn’t any more special than any other time of year. So when these Unique Christmas Gifts were handed out in March to orphan children in a local church orphan program, they weren’t disappointed at the timing at all…they were thrilled! Heather and Rick took on the job of purchasing, preparing and delivering the gifts. Click here to read her blog post about the event. Nat and Salena, who both served and met each other at the mission a few years back, returned for a visit and short term of service last month. They got involved in this project (as well as others) and did a post related to the Orphan Gift Pack distribution as well. You can check their blog by clicking here.

A warm, heart-felt thanks to all you who contributed to this Unique Christmas Gift item to make this possible!

Back to our current Canada experience:

Roger's Pass, Canadian Rockies

Somehow I expected to see more green grass and flowers when we got to B.C., since it’s the end of March, but it's been a long, cold winter and the scene most everywhere was either snow white, mud brown, or a combination of the two. Except of course for the mountain peaks, which are stunning year round.

Here’s a shot of the mounds of snow at Roger’s Pass. This has been melting for awhile so I’m sure it was much higher than this. When there is no snow, you can walk straight across flat pavement from this parking lot into the lodge beyond.

A top priority whenever we come home is to find a vehicle to use, and this time a very kind uncle of mine gave us his 1992 Acura. Here, Dwight and dad are doing a few last minute under-the-hood checks before we head out on our 10 hour trip (through the Rocky Mountains and across some prairie) to Edmonton.

We got a late start on our trip so ended up only arriving home at 1:30 a.m. We were very tired but very glad to see our kids again! Dwight's folks worked hard to set up a bedroom (by hanging a dividing curtain) for us in the small front room in the basement since our old bedroom is now occupied by our son. It's very comfy and I can't help but joke that it feels like we sleep in the "holy of holies". 

An unexpected perk of being home was that we got to attend an engineering project presentation event that our son, Russell, participated in today at the University of Alberta. His group engineered a Curling Stone Speedometer and there's a good chance the unit may go into production for retail. I was a very proud mom as I sat and watched the presentation. Most of it was electrical engineering mumbo jumbo to me, but what was crystal clear in my mind as I watched was the fact that no matter how small your steps may be--even if the resources for your task are scarce indeed--if you consistently work toward a goal, you can reach it. Crystal clear also were the memories of coaxing said son to stay focused on his studies (instead of playing on computer or making back-yard fireworks displays) while homeschooling in the Mozambican bush so he could one day attend university.

Russell and his group doing the presentation of their project and fielding questions.

Russ and Dwight by the poster Russ created for the project. I guess sometimes all that computer-play can be put to good use.

I should close for this time. We will be in and out quite a bit during our few months here and our schedule is filling up quickly, but if you'd like to get together with us give us a call, we'd love to too. You can reach us at 780-966-2034.

I will leave you with this teensy reminder that spring is, in fact, on its way regardless of how slow it is in coming.

Crocuses in mom's flower bed in B.C.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Goodbye Brazil. Hello Canada.

The time you give to something signals to others how important it is

I came across this in my textbook this week while studying for my final exam (which I write on the 27th). It made me wonder if what I spend time on is a good reflection of what is really important to me, and who are those “others” observing me anyway?! I’m ashamed to say that, worked out time-wise, sleeping ranks right up there. The disqualifier (thankfully) is that no one’s watching me then. Phew!

Moving right alone here, we’re now in snowy but not-too-cold Salmon Arm B.C. Our week in Brazil was GREAT. When we go there, it feels like we’ve come home and the time to leave always comes too soon.

Here are some pictures of the people and things we visited during our last few days in Brazil:

This is Sirley and I. When I was 16, we were as thick as thieves. Here we are laughing at Sirley's solution to the difference in height (see below) between the two of us that neither of us remembers being there before. I guess we just remembered the more important stuff about each other.

Sirley and her husband and their family run an orphanage outside of Curitiba. They are wholeheartedly committed to needy kids and have adopted several of the orphaned children themselves. I’m proud to say that the one girl in the front row in the orange bottoms, who they adopted, was named after me.

This is Bea, me, Dwight and Paulinho. Paulinho is one of the many Brazilians I share my parents with. He came to the orphanage in Brazil when I was still a teenager at home. Paulinho and Bea have 2 daughters and are active members in their church. Interestingly, they recently hosted a Mozambican pastor in their home for 2 weeks.

Below is an interesting attraction I discovered in downtown Curitiba. I’m really not sure of the significance of this and it could take me a long time to come up with something!

I love horses and all, but...yeah. This is a bit odd.

We left Brazil on March 20th for Vancouver via Atlanta, GA. At least the routing made sense this time. We had an entire day in Atlanta so decided to get a hotel room so we could shower and catch up on sleep before catching our next flight that evening. Our hotel room overlooked the airport and with all the air traffic, it was rather like a super-large screen TV. I’m sure Atlanta’s airport isn’t the busiest in the world, but it was still staggering to see the steady stream of aircraft coming to land, one after another and sometimes simultaneously on parallel runways, hour after hour after hour. Once again we were aware that Mozambique must be on a totally different planet!

And the good news is that our luggage didn't get lost, not one single piece. Yay!

Well, I should run along for now since we have so little time here and some important people to spend it with. Then there's that exam to study for too. 

Next blog post will be from our final (sort of) destination: Edmonton. TTYL

Saturday, March 14, 2009

En route to the Great White North

It felt like quite an accomplishment for us when finally, after the mad rush of the past few weeks, we reached the Johannesburg International airport and felt fairly ready to leave. Things felt organized until we had to get through airport and airline security, that is. All our stuff that we had so neatly tucked away in snug places had to be pulled out, splayed on conveyor belts, sent through the scanner and repacked. Thankfully we were deemed “safe”--and anything that hinted otherwise was securely sealed in 1 liter sized zip locks. I guess zip lock bags really are as secure as the ads have always claimed.

We left for Sao Paulo, Brazil via Atlanta, U.S.A. There is nothing logical about this route, but apparently (and for a reason I have yet to understand), it was more economical. Yep. A 17 hour flight with 3 meals to Atlanta (here we are in Atlanta after the 17 hour flight)

then a 9 hour flight to SP, Brazil with 2 meals (on Delta Airlines) somehow was cheaper than a 10 hour flight (with 2 meals) from Johannesburg direct to SP, Brazil. Let’s try the condensed version of that: cost of 26 hours in flight + 5 meals < cost of 9 or so hours in flight + 2 meals.

Thankfully all our flights were uneventful and our luggage didn’t get lost, which is saying a lot when you consider the ground we covered and the number of times we had to change flights. And almost more importantly is the fact that despite our pre-security check anxiety, we came out “safe” every time. Oh, except that there was a long-forgotten pocket knife in Dwight’s computer bag that they found (ahem, on only the 2nd flight’s check), so that got taken away. Oh well, it’s all good if it means we’re safer, right? When we finally arrived in Curitiba, Brazil we were weary and sleep-deprived, but otherwise very happy to get here.

(view of Curitiba from our bedroom window)

We spent the first night with my cousin and his wife (Stan and Ruth) with the added bonus that we got to see my aunt Alma who is here for a few weeks as well. Sometimes family reunions happen in the strangest places! In fact, about 17 years ago on a return trip from furlough, we were with these same special people in Kenya for about a week. We’re now at Mount Horeb (SAM Ministries’ Brazil mission) for the next few days where we will contribute in several ways including participate in their annual general meeting.

Here are a few shots of Stan, Ruth, Auntie Alma and us doing the Mount Horeb tour.

Mount Horeb runs a dental cinic, so no one escapes toothbrushing time.

One of the classes. The kids were very sweet and smiled and waved at the camera for me.

Having lunch after our little tour...feijoada, rice, chuchu and salad.

We’re staying with my parents in what’s been dubbed “The Wooden Hotel”.

This lovely little shack, with its close quarters and thin walls, is situated in a rather shabby neighborhood where drug lords and violence abound. But, hey, we’re not complaining—the company is GREAT, our feet are on firm ground, and we can lie flat to sleep once again.

We leave here next Thursday to continue our trek to the Great White North which apparently is still quite white, sad to say. I don't think we'll cope very well with the reported -20 to -30 temperatures so I've requested a special favour to get the place warmed up in time for our arrival. One kind soul has assured us that she will certainly do what she can and I'm secretly hoping she can pull it off.

I'll let you know how that goes :)


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Inspiration

What kind of mind, after a long day’s work, needs to unwind late at night by processing one’s week in story form? My mind, that’s what kind. I’m not sure if it’s just the late night hour in general, the bedtime routine or what, but that’s often when I feel most inspired to sit down and write. I've found out though that midnight comes very quickly when you’re not watching.

So here are some photos and last night's midnight notes.

Our visitors and friends did some awesome work this week.

Barb and Mary pretty much finished painting the interior of our house with the base coats. It looks wonderful! They cooked up a storm too each evening, so we all ate like kings.

Ron, giving Gabriel (far right) a few extra tips on using the chain saw. Ron and Tom (center) worked on more of my kitchen cupboards which means that when we move into the house, I'll actually get to store stuff in cupboards instead of in boxes!

For pretty much this entire week, I’ve been pre-packing. A few years back I wrote about what I called the stages of departure, and I think of that now as I prepare for this trip. When you go on a trip, there is always much more to organize than just clothes in a suitcase (although that can be a bun fight on its own). This past week has been spent doing just that: pre-packing organization. I sorted through my medicine cupboard so it doesn’t look so much like Fibber McGee’s closet (my mom’s saying). I labeled the boxes so it’s easier to find the treatment boxes for general skin, tummy, breathing or infection troubles, and I pre-packed medication baggies for those on specific treatments.

Another important task was to organize the correspondence from students to sponsors.

 Getting these letters from the school kids is quite the process. First, you have to help the kids think of what to write. Like most kids, their minds go blank when you hand them a pen and paper and ask them to write their thoughts down. So they need help with a few ideas (mostly just to remember what they were thinking before they were handed the intimidating white paper). When the kids are done, they sign their names. Most of them have what I’ll call “alternate name spellings” though, so we have to make sure they’re using the name they’re registered under to avoid name-chaos. Once the writing and labeling is done, the letters are ready to be deciphered and translated into English. Phew, what a job! I love these letters though, each and every one. I love that these kids can now read and write, even if they struggle with the odd misspelling.

I’ve also been gearing up for the team of nursing students who will be here again for their practicum in June. I won’t be here to pull things together myself, so right now there’s lots of emailing, phoning, schedule jostling and event planning going on.

I’ve also been getting our socorristas to adopt a few new things into their routine while I’m gone to make sure things run a bit more smoothly. There are sick people who need to be seen and health classes that need to be taught. The guinea fowl project needs to be followed up on too. The last of the birds will be sent to their new homes as soon as the pens are ready.

So finally I'm in one of the later stages of packing because today, I’m actually packing my suitcase.

Dwight is still in pre-packing stage though—working on presentations, organizing finances and doing 101 other things he has to do to wrap things up. He may well be up until midnight too tonight, but I doubt it’ll be due to any inspiration to write :|

Next post will come from Brazil. I'll kiss the ground for all you homesick Brazilians/quasi-Brazilians (like myself)!

Gotta run. ttyl