Sunday, June 28, 2009

Fitting It All In

It’s hard to believe that our furlough is nearly over and it’s now time to flip the Africa/Canada switch in our brains back to “Africa” mode, pack up and head back! Although we’re really not looking forward to saying goodbye to our family ☹ we are looking forward to getting back “home”. It’s kind of funny because when you think about it, we’re leaving one home to head for another. That’s one of the benefits of having grown up and lived in several places on the globe…some or other home is never too far away!

One of the big tasks that remains is packing our suitcases. For someone who’s had to pack and move many, many times over the past 40 years, you’d think packing would be 2nd nature to me by now. But it’s not. I really dislike packing. It always feels like I’m trying to fit the whole world into a suitcase and we all know that doesn’t work!

For example, besides the normal stuff we need to pack (clothes and shoes, books, cameras, laptops, medicine—being a nurse, I’m big on that one, favorite spice mixes, my math course, and so on), we have some other items we’d REALLY like to take back as well.

Such as…

A suitcase full of lovely baby clothes that someone donated. These would make quite a few Mozambican moms smile and clap loudly with delight.

And medical supplies...

Oh my, how I love medical supplies! Wherever I go I have a personal first aid kit that is sort of a mini-hospital-on-the-go. The above supplies will be like gold in Moz so are vying for prime space in our suitcases.

School supplies plus these ID cards for the over 200 children in the mission’s grade school. They love these cards because for most, it’s the only photo they have of themselves.

12 volt water sanitation device that converts salt water into a chlorine solution which is then used to disinfect contaminated water. We’ll make sure this goes in the suitcases for sure…can’t see this set up making it through the passenger security check point!

And last but not least,

Walkers and canes, enough for 3 people. And we have 3 crippled women right now in the orphan/widow program who could really use these. Obviously these won’t fit in our suitcases. I half-seriously suggested that we could “use” them on the return flights. You know, push them. Through the airports. Loaded down with our carry on luggage. I had to smile at the thought. Now THAT would be worth a photo.

Yes, the next few days could be very interesting with us trying to fit this all in our suitcases. A bit like trying to fit in all the visits we'd hoped we could while here. We managed to do a lot, but some we'll have to do on our next trip home.

And so wraps up my last blog post from Canada for now. The next post will be from South Africa. Wow. Where did the time go??

A few other photos:

Dwight with his great niece. It was too cute a photo to pass up (taken by Kristen).

Our kids, whom we are loathe to leave behind. Sadly, I think our suitcases are too full to fit them in. ☹

As I write this, the PCAAT (Prairie) nursing team is in Beira and will soon be boarding their flight home. We pray for safe travels for them. Their final update has been sent out, so click here if you’d like to read it.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

We're Buffalo?

Or at least, as Dwight said in his motivational speech to walkers at the Global Care A Thon this morning, we should be like them. I can’t think of many ways that I want to be like a buffalo though. Really I can’t. They’re just not THAT beautiful and they can be quite cranky. And besides, I’m just not that into standing around chewing on grass.

But I guess Dwight was referring to one particular instance (click here to watch) in which a herd of buffalo displayed amazing and very uncharacteristic behaviour when they faced their worst fear--a pride of lions--to save the life of one of their young. 

Phew…it had nothing to do with their looks, being cranky or eating too many greens. It had to do with (in point form--my favourite):

Facing their fears (or whatever).
Doing something they didn’t necessarily “want” (or feel safe) to in order to...
Help (and give hope to) someone else.

The cool thing is that this very morning we witnessed just this type of behaviour when a whole lot of people gave up their Saturday morning sleep-in-and-kick-back-awhile-time to come and participate in a walk to raise funds for feeding hungry children. Here are shots of the event.

This is where walkers started the 8 km hike. You can't see it very well, but the sign states that this is its 34th annual walk! 

Flags of Mozambique, Romania and India: destination countries where funds raised will be sent.

Eight kilometers is a fairly long walk. Good thing the sun was shining!

Willing walkers :)

Distance markers with a reminder.

At the end of the walk, all the walkers gathered under this big tent to hear some singing, greetings from representatives of the recipient entities, and a word of encouragement.

Dwight sharing the buffalo story and a challenge.

It took a lot of planning, cooperation, work and yes, getting up early for the walk. But knowing that these efforts help, for our part, to feed more than 200 school kids in Mozambique a full meal once a day…for an entire year. Well, what can I say? It’s amazing!

The buffalo would be proud ☺

PS: Check out the Prairie Team's updates blog at

Sunday, June 14, 2009

No Excuses

There are some times in life when excuses just don’t cut it. One of those times happened to me this week. We were going through airport security (to catch our flight to Manitoba) and after coming through the scanner, my purse was taken off the conveyor belt to be searched. Immediately, I remembered that in my barely-awake-haste to get ready at 4:30 that morning I’d forgotten to pack my little folding travel scissors in my suitcase instead. My excuse mattered very little right now. I groaned and kicked myself.

I hate that pending-guilty feeling you get when they rifle through your personal effects (for what seems an inordinate amount of time) in search of some long-forgotten item that could be used to wreak havoc--given it were in the possession of someone with wrong motives. But my motives were not in question. It was those little scissors on the other hand, the ones that had gone just about everywhere in life with me, that were. And they were about to be confiscated, regardless. No excuses.

In Mozambique this week:

The Prairie team continues with their activities and cross-cultural experience. A professional photographer from Prairie is there this week taking photos, and having a bit of fun as well. Heather is gleaning as many photography tips (which I’m anxious to learn once I get back) as she can while he’s there. Here’s some of the stuff she posted this week.

Taking pictures.
Caring for sick people in the clinic.

Helping a local family with the work of harvesting and preparation for storage of grain.

Enjoying some smiles.

A 2 month old baby weighing less than 2 kg was brought to the mission for help.

The downside this week was the passing of Fred, who suffered the complications of a recent compound hip fracture. He was a long-time friend and prior employee whose quiet spirit, good sense of humour and hard work brought joy not only to our lives but to all who came to stay at the mission. We will miss Fred, but we rejoice in knowing that his joy and peace are now complete.

One of the upsides of the week is that spring has finally sprung, even in Manitoba, and fruit trees are all in beautiful bloom. After about 5 days here, we head back to Edmonton to wrap up our last few remaining weeks in Canada. Here’s hoping we can pack the remaining work into the remaining time.

And here’s also hoping that maybe, just maybe, I’ll make it through airport security without the kerfuffle of being searched again.

PPS: I do understand and appreciate the need for airport security :)

Friday, June 05, 2009

All things strange

I read something in a blog this week that made me think about the Prairie group who is in Mozambique right now. Actually, I not only thought of the current team engaging in an other-worldish, cross-cultural experience, but I thought of everyone—ourselves included—who has experienced a reality so different from his/her own.

The blog post I’m referring to essentially highlighted the (often) stark contrast between health care in developed nations compared to that in developing nations. (I’ll add the link to the blog post at the end of this one for those of you who are interested in reading it.) The statement was made by a surgeon in Africa, and this is the one that hit home for me, "we live in a very strange place. we work with very strange things. we are strange people."

How very true that is for us too, and for the many who have come to visit and work in the Mozambican bush context. The world as we know it in North America, really only is—here. I thought of the Prairie group who, I know because it happens to all who come, is experiencing that same dawning reality. They’re in a strange place, working with strange things and the people are pretty different too!

Apparently, shortly after their arrival, news came of a nearby emergency. Fred, an elderly gentleman who had worked for us for many years, had fallen, fractured his hip and lay on the bare ground in need of help. Where we are, there is no 911 to call in a critical situation. If you need help, you have to find your own way, so Fred sent someone to the mission to get help. I marvel at the timing of it, since two of the team members were Emergency Medical Technicians and the nursing instructor has many years of Emergency Room experience.

Strange experience #1

Applying Canadian health care practice in a bush setting far from home is a challenge to one’s creativity!

I imagine the team was wishing for their ambulance stretchers here, but with a few tree poles and strips of cloth, they found a solution.

Fred was taken to hospital, x-rayed, treated conservatively (ankle-to-waist cast without surgery) and discharged home. He has none of the easy chairs, beds or sophisticated equipment that most have in order to better cope with this level of immobility, so more creativity is in order. Creativity, and love, that is.

Strange experience #2

Holding preventive health classes with women in a local church with mud block walls and a mud floor. The mat they're standing on is also their "bench" for sitting on...nothing to lean on and nowhere to dangle the legs from. That's always a little hard for me to do for more than a few minutes at a time.

Strange experience #3

Orientation being given, by the local hospital’s administrator, to nursing students regarding Mobile Immunization Clinic forms, the process, etc. There are throngs of women and children, and the entire event takes place outdoors under the shade of mango trees. These immunization events are certainly nothing like the ones “back home”! The team will accompany the mobile clinic to 3 separate remote locations.

Strange (or maybe not so strange) experience #4

Playing wild and crazy games with school kids. Actually, that just looks like fun!

For us, back home in Canada: Besides the usual activities that come with being here, like travelling and speaking (and that encompasses A LOT), renewing licenses, etc., we’ve also been meeting with people who are interested in coming to visit, or on short term missions trips, to our part of Mozambique. It’s great to see such interest, and of those who come, few return without feeling that they’ve been both challenged and, in some way, changed for the better. So I guess there’s something to be said for going to a strange place and working with strange things and different people. But if you come, don’t forget to bring your creativity. And bring your love, too!


PS: Credit goes to Heather for all the photos. Thanks Heather! Keep your eye on her blog as well this week for an update on the Prairie team's visit and other news.)

(Click here for the link to the blog post I mentioned above. Please note that this is a factual medical blog and the details and descriptions it contains may not be suitable for sensitive readers.)