Sunday, November 29, 2009

Ready for stuff

1. Sometimes, you’re ready for stuff.
2. Sometimes you’re not, but stuff seems ready for you.
3. In that case, take a deep breath.

After a wonderful week of anniversary celebrations with the people of Mercy Air S.A., U.S.A. and Switzerland,

Dwight shares our appreciation and a bit of our history with Mercy Air.

Everyone enjoyed good fellowship and food!

...and after a flight to Maputo with the Cessna for an inspection by Mozambican authorities, then some mad dashing around here and there to attend to and pick up last minute things, it was hugs all around and we were ready to head back home Friday morning.

Return trips can be a mix of us being both ready and not-quite-ready, usually due to an unforeseen last-minute-dash to do something. Our trips to South Africa are characteristically busy with things that need to be done for the various mission programs. Things need to be dropped off, repaired, looked for or picked up, people need to be seen, calls need to be made, etc. It’s a tight schedule. And then just about the time we think we’re done and we’re packing up to return, there may be that urgent call or email from home. Something needs to be picked up, if at all possible, before we leave. A critical machine burned out and needs replacement or parts, a rare (in Mozambique) fuse or pipe-fitting is desperately needed for a job to continue. The possibilities are endless and any of us who travel from Moz to the land of plenty (South Africa) face the same thing. It seems that no matter how much time you have on these trips, last minute issues follow you right up to the moment of take-off.

I love take-off because it’s that silent (except for the hum of the engine) invisible cut off point where there is no longer anything “to do” except watch clouds float by.

It's nice to leave but it's nice to come home, and I was quite ready to be back home again. Especially since we had just moved into our house 2 days before we left on this trip and furniture (sparse as it is) needed to be rearranged, books needed to be put away in shelves, and so on. Somehow though, I’d forgotten just how much finishing work remained to be done as well.

A moment back inside, especially a glance at the corner (below) stock piled with tools, paint and electrical/plumbing fittings, told me that our house was quite ready for us too! Ready and waiting for the work to continue.

Carey and Jeff (photo compliments of their facebook group page)

Short termers, Carey and Jeff, who are here for a few months had arrived just the day before us so we took the chance yesterday to meet with them and have them over for supper. They expressed their readiness to tackle the work they’ve come to do, so we decided there’s no time like the present ☺

Carey organizes a light on the veranda for us to dine (and attract bugs) by.

Jeff and Dwight get the hot water "donkey" hooked up to the house (and pose for the shot).

But I don’t think they (or we) were ready to face the likes of these critters:

We found this big scorpion nestled in our doorway last night. Guess he figured he’d just come in and check things out.

And as if that wasn't bad enough...

This morning Dwight found another one while he was looking for something in his drawer. “Aaaaagggghh!”

Take a deep breath, and hope that:

1. they were a couple (to me this seems better than 2 singles looking for 2 others)
2. there’s only ONE such couple
3. if there are more of them, that they decide to hang out somewhere else.

And on this exciting note, let me wrap up this post. On Monday we begin a week-long intensive seminar with pastors, so there’s a lot more getting ready to do!


Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our Oasis

It’s supposed to be hot in November, even real hot. And it was, one day last week, when temperatures reached the high 40’s (Celsius) while we were in Kruger park. That kind of heat is suffocating! In the bush in Mozambique when it gets that hot, people start saying, “Eeeesh, with this heat, it’s ‘cooking up some rain’.” Then we usually get a torrential thunder-clapping downpour that threatens to wash us out to sea, and everyone is proven right.

Last week was no different. After a few days of stifling heat, loaded storm clouds moved in and we had some good rain. That would have been fine, long as we weren’t washed away with it, because it cools things off a bit and then the sun comes out again and life goes on. But no, last week things went bizarre when it poured for nearly 3 days straight and our temperatures dropped by 30 degrees. At one point it was colder here than it was in Edmonton, Canada. And that’s not so far from the North Pole! Mind you, they were having unseasonably warm weather at the time. Either way, it is supposed to be summer here and that’s what we packed for. We thought we would freeze, or get washed away—all that splashing through puddles of water and getting repeatedly doused by sheets of rain every time we stepped outside. As my mom would say, it was real duck weather! But strange weather aside, we couldn’t really complain since we were staying (as we always do when here) at Mercy Air—our home away from home—which means we could soak in a hot tub to warm up and crawl under cozy blankets to sleep at night. Ah yes, an oasis is a wonderful thing!

I’m glad to say that we survived the whole weather event thing and now the sun is out heating things up again. And it has since snowed in Edmonton too, so things are as they should be. Hot here, cold there.

I mention Mercy Air especially because this coming week they’ll be celebrating 20 years of service in Southern Africa. When we first moved to war-torn Mozambique and life for us was up-side-down and very difficult, we connected with the folks here at Mercy Air. It was in its early years too and we used to come here to get important business done, for doctor & dentist visits and last but not least, to recover and catch our breath before heading back to “the big M” (Maputo).
(Maputo 1993)
Above: the highway between Maputo and Nelspruit (close to Mercy Air) 1993
Below: map showing Maputo-Nelspruit routes.

In time, our new acquaintances became good friends and very dear to us.

(The Mercy Air family has grown and I don't have pictures of everyone--hopefully this week--but this one below is of our kids with Mercy Air founders, Ron and Barb Wayner.)

In the early years, Mercy Air was (and even now still is) an oasis for us. It was not unusual for us to arrive here weary or sick and in need of a number of things, and we were always blessed by this place and by the people and left here recovered and ready to go back.

We have often wondered if, all these long years, we could have coped without them. Maybe, but it’s hard to imagine how.

The original Mercy Air main house that had a very much appreciated guest flat in the back.

This week we will share in Mercy Air’s 20th anniversary celebrations as we wrap up our time here. The plane’s annual is nearly complete (after one more check in Maputo), and we’ve done and picked up just about everything on our list, even picked up boxes of training materials in the pouring rain without getting them wet. It’s been good, as usual, to be here, but we’re anxious to get back home again too. We still have a house we barely got moved into that needs to be settled, and of course, all the other work that awaits us.


Oh, I’m adding Keren’s blog to my blogroll, so check it out if you have time.

Above: Us and some of our family with Ron and Barb and some of their family too!

Bye for now.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Wow Factor

When you think about it, we all have new experiences in some shape or form every day of our lives. It’s just that some of those moments have a much higher “wow factor” than others and therefore stand out.

This past week held many memorable “wow” moments for Bero, one of the mission’s sponsored students, as he experienced some major firsts like

flying in a small plane,

getting an international stamp in his first ever passport,

staying in a house with electricity, riding an escalator—in general, visiting the developed world.

The reason for Bero’s trip to South Africa was to consult a plastic surgeon regarding possible (post-burn) contracture repairs to both arms and hands. Bero, who is now 20 years old, was badly burned as an infant during Mozambique’s protracted civil war when an incendiary round was fired at his village and his family’s home caught fire. Although he received skin grafts and follow-up treatment, he has spent his life crippled by the resulting contractures. Compassionate, generous responses from people to his life’s story enabled us to bring Bero for a Dr’s appointment last week.

The surgeon felt that he could restore quite a bit of movement for Bero, so we were all happy to hear that. So it looks like Bero will be back in March 2010 for a 2nd stamp in his passport, a few more escalator rides just for fun, and to meet more of the medical team. Wow!

While Bero had his appointment, the Cessna 182 had its annual maintenance check as well at Mercy Air. This is the time when the plane gets pretty much entirely gutted and dismantled to make sure everything is running as it should be. This process always amuses me because if I were to totally dismantle then reassemble a huge machine, I can guarantee there would be spare parts left over. I’m also no engineer ☺ so, of course, I’m thankful for the competent people who tackle this job. Especially since we get back in the thing to fly it home again!

Other news:

After a great 2 weeks full of activities and fun for the mission’s school kids, VBS finally wrapped up on Friday. I take my hat off to Rick and Heather (blog) for organizing and conducting this event once again, and to this year’s volunteer help, Glenn and Keren. These two weeks actually concluded Glenn’s time in Mozambique and on Sunday he caught his flight from Beira back home to Canada again. We enjoyed having him with us and it seemed he enjoyed his unusual experience in the bush (because bush experiences are always unusual). But I can imagine his joy at being back home with family, friends and modern conveniences again. And who knows, maybe even a random escalator ride too, just for fun. ☺

To wrap up our own week we decided that while we were down here so close to Kruger Park, and since life has been so hectic for the past few months, we’d take a weekend in the park. I’ll close this post with a few photos of the beautiful beasts who live there.


Cape Buffalo

A baboon on the car's hood...he was after the snack bag.

Curious vervet monkey and her baby in one of the camps.

Lizards fighting. Never seen that before.

Male Kudu

Leopard in a tree. Always incredibly beautiful therefore always wow.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Pumulani: "Rest" after a busy week

A tree frog, that I think is ugly, creepy even, rests in his favorite spot on our veranda on top of the dartboard. He doesn’t hang out on the floor with the cute but ordinary frogs because, after all, he’s a “tree frog”. He hunts where it’s high. The thought of leaving him behind when we move to our new house has been a pleasant one for me.

It's been a crazy week, here's a recap:

One morning this week during devotions we were asked to pray for a child who, it sounded like, was in a coma. He had been treated for malaria at the health post the previous day but had deteriorated during the night. As soon as prayer time was over we headed to where the child lived. Getting there was like making my way through a maze since all I had to follow was a footpath that meandered through the bush. Vehicles don't like bush footpaths.

and through village yards.
At one point we could go no further by car so I parked and we got out to walk the rest of the way. As we started off down the path we were met by 2 young men who brought the sad news that the child had just passed away.

This week we received our first lot of the new malaria treatment, Coartem, that the Health Department recently added to the socorrista kits (Ernesto and his kit).

The socorristas will now also be doing finger-prick testing in order to diagnose before treating, whereas before, treatment was based solely on symptoms. This is a huge step toward improved health care for rural communities.

This was the first week of VBS (Vacation Bible School) at the mission school. I only popped in for a brief moment but from what I could tell, they were having a great deal of fun.

The puppet show (above though hard to see well here) was a bit of a job behind the scenes (below: Keren and Glenn),

but clearly a success even with little Tendai.

This is Bero with his suitcase. He will be making the trip to South Africa with us next week to consult a plastic surgeon re possible correction of burn contractures. He’s pretty excited about the trip!

A few of the week's critters:

Yesterday, while we were packing, this same tree frog sat perched on a shoe shelf we had to move. One of the guys scooped him up and flung him into the grass. There are plenty trees out there and he needed to find a new home anyway. So long "buddy.

Here's one of the ordinary frogs. Cute huh?

For the last few nights we’ve had an extraordinary number of Cicadas beating around our lights. Here, Murray “braves” the doorway to our place. I think he's actually starting to like them.

And last but not least in the week’s events, we moved! Well, at this point we’re halfway there anyway. Emptying the big cupboard (above) so we have cupboard space at the new house (the cupboards there are, as yet, unfinished by a long shot). But a big cupboard like this doesn’t do bush footpaths well either. All those trees get in the way! So the guys had to take the road. That in itself was kind of funny, at least from where I stood.

I told Dwight that in order to move into a house with unfinished cupboards, I at least needed a counter top.
Here, he, Murray and Gabriel do an amazing job with some local hardwood.

The almost finished product is installed with a gas stove-top. It’s beautiful and I feel very blessed!

This move called for a celebration since the house has been under construction for 3 years now, so we butchered 2 sheep and threw a staff party.

Here, rice and sheep stew gets dished up for almost 60 people.

For fun, we put Amanda’s (our daughter’s) old CD player on the veranda and popped in a CD of “Charamba”, a popular Zimbabwean-Christian singer who sings to upbeat, ethnic music. While we waited for everyone to arrive, some of our more demonstrative-in-dance staff (teacher, socorristas, office administrator) decided to practice a few local dance moves.

That had great appeal, and soon, different groups were being called up to show their moves as well.

This is the group of brick-layers. Peter (center) has been with us pretty much since day one when we moved here back in 1996. He’s built a few homes for us. Let’s hope this is the last!

The heads of departments dance

The “anyone who wants to” group, which meant, really, those who were least inhibited. They were pretty good.

Bero shows us a move only he can do!

I just knew we missionaries/volunteers would get called up to dance too, it was just a matter of time.
We did so bravely and not too badly either. Thankfully we had Simon to lead us while everyone clapped.

Dwight gave a short word of thanks for everyone’s hard work and participation with getting the building done. He also announced the name of the house, suggested by his dad, “Pumulani”, a Zulu word which means “rest”. This is the name Dwight’s parents gave their first family home in Transkei many years ago. It seemed very fitting to use it again.

And I guess that pretty much sums up the week. Last night, as we sat on our old veranda and rehashed the day’s events, we noticed that the ugly tree frog had found his way back onto the veranda and sat, perched, atop the dartboard, watching us. Almost defiant.

Yes, this is the same frog as the one at the beginning of this post. During the day he’s white and at night he goes dark. Like I said before, he’s a little freaky. Anyway, as he watched us and we watched him, we wondered what he’d do for a home when we move that dartboard to the new house. We felt kind of sorry for him so we decided that when the dartboard moves down, a stubborn tree frog will get moved down as well. Crazy, I know.

Let me close for now since there is still some moving/settling to do. On Monday we head for Mercy Air, South Africa, to do the Cessna's annual maintenance among other things that need to be done there.

Until then.